The battle lines of doctrine are two blocks apart in Mesa now that a missionary organization aimed at "exposing the lies of Mormonism" has moved near the Arizona Temple. Concerned Christians is run by Jim and Judy Robertson, two former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They say they have brought more than 1,600 people out of the church in the past 29 years by telling them the truth about Jesus.
"We saw that the teachings of the Bible did not line up with their own teachings," Judy Robertson said about why they left the LDS church and joined a non-denominational Christian church.
"The people are wonderful people," she said. "They are all kind and loving, clean-cut and wholesome people but deceived, as we were deceived. A lot of people think we are Mormon haters, but if we hated the Mormon people, we would not be doing what we're doing."
The move out of the office in their home means an expanded presence in the community, and they are thrilled with a location so close to the temple, they said.
Wilford Andersen, an LDS stake president and Arizona church spokesman, said the church has faced persecution since its founding by people who did not believe its teachings. He is familiar with the work of Concerned Christians, he said.
"Anyone given enough time could construct a definition of Christianity that would eliminate everyone in the whole world but themselves," said Andersen, a Mesa resident. "I think the real disservice that sometimes is done is the misinformation that is spread about the church by those whose interest is to criticize it. The only appropriate response to criticism from others is to live our religion." Andersen is more concerned about increased visibility in the community than such a close location to the temple, a sacred place for the church, he said.
"Welcome to the neighborhood," Andersen said. "Our 11th Article of Faith says 'We claim the privilege of worshiping almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all men the same privilege. Let them worship how, where or what they may.' We support all people in all churches and their sincere worship of God."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has 11 million members worldwide and 5 million in the United States. Maricopa County has about 154,000 church members.
The LDS church teaches that it is not a Protestant church but the restoration of the original Christian church after revelations to prophet and founder Joseph Smith. In 1820, the 14-year-old Smith prayed and asked God to know which church was true. According to church teaching, God and Jesus appeared to him and said all the creeds were wrong and an abomination and he was to join none of them.
Concerned Christians has been a full-time job for the Robertsons since 1984. Support for the organization is included in the mission budget of a number of evangelical Protestant churches in the Valley and throughout the United States. The mailing list is about 6,700, and Jim Robertson is booked for speaking engagements by Protestant churches across the country. Judy Robertson's book, Out of Mormonism, will be released in August by Bethany House Publishers. The book is an account of the couple's experience in the church, why they left and how they started Concerned Christians.
For 29 years, the Robertsons operated Concerned Christians out of a spare room in their Mesa home, but in May, they moved into offices in a converted home on an acre at Broadway Road and Pioneer Avenue, two blocks south of the temple.
The new location at 525 E. Broadway Road will provide a place for study, for volunteers to work and a place for the support group of former church members to meet. They hope curious church members will stop by to read the books, some written by church members, and watch videos, Jim Robertson said.
"I want them to understand who Jesus really is," he said.
The property cost about $240,000. Supporters sent enough for a sizeable down payment and have pledged to support the higher expenses.