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Street Preachers Prepare for LDS Conference

Street Preachers Prepare for LDS Conference

Posted - Mar. 29, 2004 at 7:09 p.m.



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Carole Mikita reportingA fellowship of self-described "street preachers" will once again descend on Temple Square this weekend, when LDS Conference convenes.

To some, they are obnoxious and offensive. But they say their style and their passion has deep roots in American religious culture.

Every six months, members of the Street Preachers Fellowship, a national organization, can be found holding signs, and in loud voices calling attention to their form of Christianity.

In an effort to separate and protect Latter-day Saints and the preachers, the city has created speech zones. The preachers are now suing the city.

Lonnie Pursifull/ World Wide Street Preachers Fellowship: "Time and time again the Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to limit any preacher anywhere to be able to spread his message."

Their message is a specific interpretation of the Bible, the King James Version.

They are Baptists, headquartered in Pennsylvania. Lonnie Pursipull is the pastor of a small group here. About 15 people meet now in a home for weekly services, they are building a church. And they don't only pick on Mormons.

Lonnie Pursipull: "Mormons just happen to be one of hte people on the hit list. We preach Catholics, we preach Jews, we preach Muslims. We preach bars and concerts and evangelicals."

They are not paid, and they use their own money to travel and preach in a way they say was common once in America. Preachers of all faiths, they say, used to stand on street corners and raise their voices like trumpets.

This weekend, Pursifull says, he and his fellow preachers will probably offend Latter-day Saints by holding up Books of Mormon or garments -- shock value being part of their style of preaching.

Pursifull has more than one religious connection to Utah. Although he has been a life-long Baptist, his ancestors were not.

Lonnie Pursipull: "My family were the original Mormons. Matter of fact, the land that was traded for Main Street, my family donated to the Mormon church. My family built the temple, and my family's burning in hell."

Pursifull and company will be out there, once again, they believe serving God. They are now as much a part of the landscape on Conference weekend as Latter-day Saints who see and hear them.

A hearing on the street preachers versus Salt Lake City lawsuit is scheduled for tomorrow morning in U.S District Court.

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