“I see you’re from Utah. Are you a Mormon?”
Marv Cowan was checking into a motel in St. Louis when he was asked that question by the desk attendant, Bill. As a Christian missionary to the Latter-Day Saints (LDS), he was used to being the one who asked that question. “I used to be. I’m not anymore because I became a Bible believing Christian,” Marv replied.
Bill looked surprised at his answer. “Why did you leave Mormonism?” he asked. Marv began to explain how the LDS historical stories aren’t accurate and how Mormon doctrine is unbiblical. The desk attendant listened attentively. “I’ve been meeting with LDS missionaries and am scheduled to be baptized in a couple of days,” Bill revealed.
“Do you know what LDS doctrine teaches about the Black race?” Marv questioned. He asked because Bill was African American. Bill didn’t know, so Marv explained how until 1978, Black people were not able to be priests in the Mormon church or attend temple ceremonies. These ceremonies were crucial for entering the Celestial heaven according to Mormon doctrine, meaning Black people were barred from the highest level of heaven. The Mormon church taught black skin was a curse because according to the LDS creation story, Black people in the pre-mortal spiritual world didn’t help Jesus or Lucifer in the war in heaven. Bill continued to listen.
Learning the Truth About Mormonism
Marv grew up Mormon in Colorado in the 1940s and 50’s. Like all Mormons, he was supposed to go on a mission trip after high school. But the Christians in his high school challenged him to examine and study his own faith to see if he was right. He did, and his findings disturbed him. Mormon literature like the Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine of Covenants contradicted each other. The Book of Mormon itself conflicted with Mormon doctrine. And the prophet Joseph Smith never had a single true prophesy. Marv read the bible for a year and a half and was realizing Mormonism wasn’t biblical at all.
1 John 5:12, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
How could Marv believe Mormon doctrine that taught salvation was attained by Christ’s atonement plus works like baptism and temple work, when this verse stared him right in the face? It was so evident – salvation was by grace through faith in Christ alone. In 1950 at seventeen years old, Marv received the true Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
Meeting Missions Door
Marv entered ministry after high school, but not through the Mormon mission trip he’d been waiting all his life to do. Instead, he went to bible college and became a student pastor. When he finished college, he enrolled in Denver Seminary where he heard Dr. Rufus Jones speak in 1960. Dr. Jones was the director of Missions Door at the time. Marv had one question for him: “Have you considered Utah as a mission field?” And in 1961, Marv was appointed as the first Missions Door missionary to Utah, a state that’s over 68% Mormon.
Through Mission Doors, Marv planted many churches in Utah and started a ministry called Utah Christian Publications. His ministry offers tracts and DVDs about Mormonism, and he published a book called, “Mormon Claims Answered.” Utah Christian Publications does door to door evangelism where they hand out flyers and witness to anyone they run into. Marv also teaches seminars on witnessing to Mormons.
Bringing Mormons to Christ
That evening in the St. Louis motel, Marv asked Bill another question. “Have you ever put your trust in Jesus Christ for salvation?” Bill didn’t understand, so Marv presented the gospel. He explained that 1 Timothy 2:25 says Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and man, so works like baptism and church membership can’t save us.
“No one’s ever explained it to me like that before,” Bill confessed. They spoke for five hours and that night, Bill trusted repented of his sins and trusted Christ alone for salvation.
Over the years, Marv has evangelized to many Mormons and watched them come to Christ. One example would be a fundamentalist second plural wife who believed the wedding Jesus performed a miracle at was His own. Another was a couple who left Mormonism because of his book. What’s beautiful is often, these ex-Mormons witness to other Mormons. The former fundamentalist shared the true gospel with her polygamist Mormon friends, and they came to Christ. The couple became involved in Mormon outreach and witnessed to their friend who became a Christian and even designed the cover of Marv’s book.
Marv understands Mormons and Mormonism because he came from that background. And he’s dedicated his life to the Utah mission field. If you’re interested in supporting him, you can do so at his page. You can also visit his website to buy his books, DVDs, and tracts about witnessing to Mormons. Pray for his mission field, and learn to witness to Mormons, too.