I visited my son this last week. He lives in an interesting place – Salt Lake City. As we walked through downtown Salt Lake City last night, we followed the crowd toward the Christmas lights. And soon, we found ourselves entering a gate that brought us onto the Temple grounds of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

We were in awe of the display. The lights, the Nativity displays, the Temple lit up stretching into the black night sky, with the Angel Moroni standing as herald on the very pinnacle. The people were nice. Everyone was most polite.

But the whole while, I had the feeling that I was in a spiritual Disneyland. In fact, I said to Michael, the temple reminded me of Cinderella’s castle. It seemed like a set, a backdrop, it was not real. It’s a facade. As we walked around, we stopped at the various statues and read the stories of angels, visitations, baptisms and ordinations. And yet they all seemed so fairy-tale like, empty. There is no root in what God had been doing in the past.

From what I could see last night, the core premise of Mormonism is that for 1800 years the truth of God and the gospel were not available on earth… until God spoke to Joseph Smith. I can’t imagine God, who sent His Son, wouldn’t also maintain a witness on earth, as He promised.

What I saw was:
1) Devotion to a system of beliefs delivered by a prophet.
2) Commitment to a mission.
3) Sacrifice for a set of ideals.

There are many doctrines that the Mormon church teach that are not taught in the Bible. But beyond that, I was trying to understand what I was sensing as I walked those immaculate grounds. As I walked around, I had to ask, “What was missing?”
1) A devotion to the sacrificed Christ – he is merely an example, not one with whom we share communion.
2) A grasp of the central message of the Scriptures; the Bible – a message of grace alone.
3) A connection to the the salvation history of God through the ages.

As you celebrate this Christmas season, it is important to get beyond the lights and the form of religious celebration. We need to grasp the heart of the matter; a relationship with the Savior who came, became our redemption and is now delivering his message of the gospel of grace, through the church.

Only that is real.