by Sharon Lindbloom
23 February 2022
On February 6th (2022) Brad Wilcox spoke at a church fireside event for young Latter-day Saints in Alpine, Utah. Dr. Wilcox is the 2nd counselor in the Young Men general presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a professor at church-owned Brigham Young University. In his talk, he said quite a few things that caused controversy and no small amount of angst among Mormons and non-Mormons alike (see “Mormon leader’s apology for racist remarks does not go far enough” by LDS author and researcher Jana Riess). The fireside event was clearly tailored to dissuade young Latter-day Saints from abandoning Mormonism; therefore, it has been dubbed by some as the Alpine Rescue.
Dr. Wilcox’s strategy had him repeatedly saying that those who walk away from Mormonism “lose everything.” They lose everything that would “count or matter.” Their purpose in life “becomes empty” and they live a life wherein “anything good has an end.”
Using the acronym G-O-S-P-E-L, Dr. Wilcox presented six of Mormonism’s unique and essential teachings that cannot be found outside of Mormonism:
- Only True Church
- Everyone (i.e., ordinances done in the temple for the dead)
- Living Prophets
For Dr. Wilcox (who I believe accurately conveys the official positions of the LDS church on these matters), these unique doctrines/blessings comprise the core of “everything that matters most” for a person’s life. In his words to the youth of the church:
- “So you want to walk away from the Church? Say goodbye to your whole concept of God.”
- “You walk away from the Church, say goodbye to the whole piano [i.e., the fullness of truth]. Have fun playing Chopsticks the rest of your life.”
- “Now you want to leave the Church? … Say goodbye to the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
- “You want to walk away from the Church? Walk away from anything that lets anything in your life count or matter beyond this life. You’re walking away from priesthood, and I don’t want to live in that land where purpose becomes empty and where anything good has an end.”
- “You want to walk away from the Church? Walk away from temples. And I don’t want to walk away from temples, because that’s where not only can we find salvation, but we can offer it to everyone.”
- “You want to walk away from the Church? Well, say goodbye to living prophets. Say goodbye. You have to see Christ through a pretty small window when you’re stuck with just the Bible, so say goodbye to the larger window that we have because of living prophets.” (Alpine Rescue quotes in this article are taken from a transcript posted online by Gileriodekel. I have changed some emphasis and punctuation upon comparison with the fireside video).
Dr. Wilcox began the main part of his talk with this:
“Maybe some people can leave some churches and they don’t miss that much. But you leave this church? You miss everything. You miss everything.”
And ended with this:
“I hope you realize that if you walk away from this religion, you lose everything. You lose everything. Everything that truly matters most.”
While there are a lot of things that could be discussed regarding Dr. Wilcox’s talk, I want to talk about just two of them here. One is his message of hopelessness for Latter-day Saints struggling with their faith. Dr. Wilcox relentlessly hammers home his assertion that there is no happy life or enduring purpose outside of Mormonism. He tells his audience that they would be “stupid” to think they could stop believing in Joseph Smith but retain a belief in Jesus. He insists that non-Mormon people of faith are merely “playing church,” spending their lives on things that ultimately have no meaning. The reasonable conclusion to be drawn from Dr. Wilcox’s presentation is that life outside of the LDS church is not a life worth living. For any Latter-day Saint youth who may be questioning or doubting their faith, the situation – and the future – is hopeless.
The second thing I want to mention is what the fireside talk reveals about priorities in the LDS church. In taking Dr. Wilcox at his word, the things that “truly matter most” in Mormonism are Joseph Smith as a true prophet, LDS temples, church ordinances, priesthood authority, and Mormon church leaders. Strikingly absent from Dr. Wilcox’s list is the priority of loving God — the heart of what Jesus said is the first and greatest commandment:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:37)
Loving God with all your heart and mind doesn’t make Mormonism’s list of what matters, yet throughout millennia, Christians have lived and died for the sake of Christ. Long before Mormonism came on the scene, Christians surrendered their lives and their livelihoods to honor and obey God, loving Him and taking the hope of Christ to the ends of the earth. Indeed, while “playing church,” their dedication to living their lives for God has changed the world.
Biblically, the purpose of the church that Jesus is building is three-fold: the exaltation of God, the equipping of believers, and the evangelization of the world. These are the things to which Christians have devoted their lives throughout history.
Mormonism, on the other hand, holds that ultimately, the role of the church is to be the vehicle that will exalt people to Godhood. Joseph Smith, temples, church ordinances, priesthood authority, and Mormon church leaders are necessary to the achievement of that goal, which is why they are defined by Dr. Wilcox as “everything that matters.”
Put another way, Christianity stresses doing all for the glory of God; Mormonism stresses doing all for the advancement of self. Everything that truly matters in Mormonism (based on the fireside talk) is for personal attainment of greater knowledge and power that leads to a superior status in eternity.
Put another way still, in Mormonism, the LDS church is everything; but for Christians, Jesus is our priceless treasure, our strength, our heart, and our hope.
The biblical message for Latter-day Saint youth is remarkably different from that of the LDS church. God’s message is that there is life – abundant life, purposeful life, hope-filled life – outside of the Mormon church. It’s not found in ordinances or priesthood or LDS leaders. It is found in Jesus alone.
Jesus, our living hope (1 Peter 1:3).
Jesus, our deliverer (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
Jesus, our peace (Ephesians 2:14).
Jesus, our strength (1 Timothy 1:12).
Jesus, our everything.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
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