By Rosemary Pollock
Missionaries At Work In Tennessee
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE -- Over 160 missionaries are currently serving
proselyting missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints in the West Tennessee, East Arkansas and North Mississippi
areas. Two of those young men are Elder Nicholas Ludwig and Elder
Nathan Bleak. Dressed in crisp white shirts, neckties, riding bikes
and carrying backpacks, the two elders often walk or ride long
distances to go from door to door.
"I don't think the Jesus you serve is the same one I believe,"
responds the woman at the door. "That's typical," Elder Bleak said.
"People can be pretty strong in their faiths." It is a daunting task
to preach the gospel in a town where the entire Mormon community
could barely fill the sanctuary at Bellevue Baptist Church. "We're
normal 19 and 20-year-old guys trying to live our religion," another
Yet the Mormon Church is one of the fastest growing denominations in
the country. With a membership of over 11 million members, the
membership in Tennessee has nearly doubled since 1980 from 15,800 to
currently about 31,000. Shelby County has 3,200 members.
Coke Newell is a convert to the Mormon faith and author of the book
"Latter Days". "Church growth has been steady. Membership has
increased about 40 percent in the last decade," he said. Newell
attributes this to the church's "appealing message."
State prosecutor John Tibbetts of Shelby County District Attorney's
Office recently joined the church. "When I read the Book of Mormon I
was surprised at how familiar the lessons were. I was shocked about
how shocked I wasn't. I knew it was true the first time I read it."
Memphis Stake President, Robert McBride, believes that relations with
the community have gotten better. "The normal reception among people
today is usually very warm, but it wasn't that way 25 years ago,"
McBride said. "Many, particularly Southern Baptists, come across as
tolerant of the church, but intolerant of our beliefs."
Men on a mission
Memphis TN Commercial Appeal 10Dec00 N1
By Jacinthia Jones: The Commercial Appeal
Mormons walk the walk, talk the talk of their faith