Archive

Archive for January, 2012

This is My Story, This is My Song

January 18, 2012 11 comments

While sitting at my desk this morning I looked at my calendar and realized that today is my 3rd Birthday. January 18, 2009 was the day I became a Christian and more specifically, the day I stopped running from God and gave Him control of my life.

In a previous post, I wrote about the need to have a definitive salvation experience. I don’t believe it is necessary to remember the date, time and where you where when it happened but I do think everyone should be able to say without a doubt that they have received the gift of grace Jesus offers you and be able to articulate the ways in which it has changed your life. Sharing such a story is what Christians call a testimony. A testimony is not so much a statement of beliefs but rather a declaration of God’s faithfulness, how we came to accept Jesus as Lord and the tangible results exhibited in our lives as a result of forgiveness and grace given by Him. This is my testimony.

I was born and raised in an LDS home and Mormonism was the only religious system I would really experience for the first nineteen years of my life when I would spend 2 years on a LDS mission in Spain which is predominantly Catholic. As a result of this, I grew up really only knowing what Mormonism teaches, and even then I only knew what LDS leaders wanted me to know. The works-based aspect of the religion makes life as a Mormon not easy by any stretch of the imagination. To some, this is a badge of honor but to others like me, it is more like wearing weights around our ankles…it makes it hard to run the good race and fight the good fight. When you are leaden down with a littanany of “to-do’s” it is hard to find time and energy to work on a true relationship of Jesus.

There is so much I could say about my 30 years as a Mormon but let me fast-forward to 2007. It was in this year that my exhaustion got to the point where I basically gave up on the Mormon system. No matter what I did, it was never good enough and at no point did I feel close to God. In fact, it was just the opposite, God felt more distant every day. It was not until just a few months ago that I realized this was due to pride. Every work performed as a Latter-day Saint was done in an attempt to earn my own salvation, which is presumptuous to say the least. James 4:6 says “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” I was distancing myself from God because of this attitude of pride that had been imbedded in me from birth. I perceived the space between Him and me to be so big that I began to doubt His very existence.

Needless to say, I was tired, distant, lost and miserable. It was in that state of mind that my LDS Bishop approached me. In no uncertain terms, he made it very clear that unless I got my act together and started to tow the company line, I would not be able to baptize my daughter that following year when she turned 8. This got me to look back at my life as a Mormon and ask the serious question of, “if I had to do it all over again, would I?” The answer was a resounding “NO!” If that was the case for me, why on earth would I put my daughter into that same position?

In December of 2007 I walked out of the local LDS church building and never went back.

I would be lying if I said that decision made things better. In truth, it made things worse. I became Agnostic in my beliefs on God and I searched in just about every place I could think of for peace and truth. It was a very hard year. I must say here that if it were not for some outspoken Christian friends, neighbors and acquaintances that God put in my life, I would have continued down that path.

One of these people sent me a video called The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon which opened my eyes to not only the validity and trustworthiness of the Bible but also a side of Mormonism I had not seen before or at least did not dare question. It was pivotal in both my desire to read and learn more about the Bible and Christianity as well as my quest to learn everything I could about Mormonism, good and bad.

For the next 6 months I ate, slept and breathed Mormonism. I read everything I could get my hands on supporting and disagreeing with doctrine and history. My mind was blown away. I could not believe so many teachings and historical facts were withheld from me. I felt hurt, angry, sad and vengeful. I had come to understand that for 30 years I had been lied to directly and indirectly. I had not been entrusted with facts that were questionable because no one respected me enough to present information and let me make my own informed decision. As a result of the hurt, I lashed out. I’m not proud of that but none the less, it happened. I created a blog (not this one) where I posted all of the disparaging or “non faith promoting” things I found. I was abrasive and at times purposefully antagonistic which in turn hurt a lot of people and burned some bridges I would love to re-build today.

Why do I bother writing about this? Because I firmly believe that it is an integral part of my story. I look back at some of those old blog posts and at my heart in this period of time and can see how spiteful I was.

Let me move on to January 18, 2009. By this time I had been going to church with Amy who was amazingly supportive in this difficult stage. After visiting a few churches for a number of months, we had settled in at Gateway Church where we are still to this day. I woke up that Sunday morning with this pulling in my heart. I don’t know how else to say it but I felt compelled to go to church even though we had already gone Saturday. I woke Amy and told her I needed to go to church and went alone. I arrived just before the 10:45 service and sat in the back row. Worship started and God stated to work on my heart as well. I had been running from Him for a few months now but He met me right where I was. The second song that day was “Beautiful” sung by Kari Jobe. The words could not have been more perfect for my situation. Having spent years in pride and self-reliance I broke as I sang and confessed these words to God.

Here, before Your altar, I am letting go of all I am
Of every motive, every burden
Everything that’s of myself
And I just wanna wait on You, my God
I just wanna dwell on who You are

Beautiful, beautiful, O, I am lost for more to say
Beautiful, beautiful, O, Lord, You’re beautiful to me

Here, in Your presence
I am not afraid of brokenness
To wash Your feet with humble tears
O, I would be poured out ‘til nothing’s left
And I just wanna wait on You, my God
I just wanna dwell on who You are

Holy, holy, holy, You are

I remember this day so vividly that even as I write this I can see, feel and sense it all over again. While singing, it was as if God stood right before me, put His hands on my shoulders and spoke clearly into my heart. “If you will lay down your life, your pride and your reliance on your own works, I will take care of you. I want to be your source. I want to be who you come to first. I know all the junk in your past and I still love you and want you to be my son. I have great plans for you if you will follow Me.” Without hesitation, I said YES! Who could resist such a promise from such a great God. I did just what the song said and laid all my baggage at the altar and in brokenness cried till I had nothing left. I gave my life to Jesus.

To this day I am still surprised at how much joy I felt. What a weight lifted off my shoulders when I realized that Jesus took everything I gave him and in return gave me peace and assurance of my right standing before God. Because of that moment, I no longer have to question my eternal destiny. I know that I will be with God because when He looks at me, He sees that I have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus.

It has been 3 years and the Christian journey is a wild one. I have had trials and I have had great successes. Through it all, I have had peace and joy. No matter the circumstance I know that God is for me. That He is faithful to fulfill His promise to me despite my failures.

As I have walked in this new life filled with grace and the Holy Spirit, the Bible has come alive. I have new eyes and ears to hear His voice more clearly. What a difference that has made.

My heart used to be calloused and hard as a rock. Now I am filled with compassion, forgiveness and empathy toward others. I see this manifested as I read through my old blog about Mormonism in comparison to this one. I no longer feel bitter or angry toward the LDS church or those who follow that religious system. Instead, my heart breaks for them. Many are in the same situation I found myself in with no real hope.

God has redeemed my time in the LDS church and I now spend as much of my time as possible educating others about the teachings of Mormonism from a Christian point of view. It is my hope that other Christians will feel equipped enough to reach out to their LDS friends and family around them just as someone did for me.

Advertisements

A Reasoned Response to Amanda – Part 2

January 17, 2012 3 comments

The second thing I said in my post called “Premature Platform” that Amanda took issue with was this statement.

”In fact, if a LDS person does have a genuine salvation experience and continues to allow God to renew his mind and grows in understanding of what the Bible teaches, they will not remain Mormon for long. Eventually their spirit will not be able to coexist in an environment where incorrect doctrine is taught and a false god is worshipped and that person will be lead by God to a place where truth is taught and the One True God is worshipped. I realize that this last statement may make some of you uncomfortable but rather than apologize, I would challenge you to take some time to honestly study LDS doctrine to better understand where I come from when I say that.”

To that she said:
“I in every way disagree with this. Who is to say whether someone’s salvation experience is genuine enough? When Christ atoned for my sins, my weakness, my shortcomings, my trials, my pains, all of my mortal experiences, and for those of every other person created, that was a salvation experience. And I have been being experiencing salvation every day of my life because of it. It is not just one moment. I need His atonement to constantly save me. If by a salvation experience you mean when I fully accepted Christ as my Savior, well I don’t know that there was one exact moment in my life when I did that, I always have. I have always believed in Christ and relied on Him. Does that mean I have not been “born-again”? The way I hear “Orthodox Christians” speak of their salvation experience it is as though Christ chose them to have it. Why would He not choose everyone? I believe He has chosen everyone, that He saved all of us, and He invites ALL of us to come to Him, and the closer we draw to Him the more we can feel of His love and a greater understanding of His salvation we receive. I do not believe the God I worship is false – I believe in God, the eternal Father, my literal Father, the creator of my spirit, the creator of this world – I believe He is all powerful, all knowing, perfectly and completely and endlessly loving, and ever-present. I believe He loves me enough that he provided a way for me to live with Him through eternity – He sent His Son to make this possible. I believe that even if Muslims and Jews and Hindus and any one else that believes in God believes in the same God that I do – they may not have as complete an understanding or a complete knowledge, but we still believe in the same God. I also believe that as I have continued to all God to renew my mind and the more I learn and understand what the Bible teaches I find my testimony of the Mormon church strengthened, and others do as well. I do not believe our doctrine is incorrect or that we worship a false god, and my spirit is very happy as a member of His church.”

Amanda, you are right, only God is the Judge of our hearts and He knows for sure if someone truly believes He is LORD. In your statement you actually bring up a lot of interesting theological questions like predestination and free will that are too lengthy to address here. Perhaps I will tackle them in the future.

What I would like to address is the need of a defining salvation experience that can be traced to a moment in time when you exercised your will and confessed that Jesus is Lord. Jesus equates the salvation experience with birth which is an experience which happens in a defining moment in time. In the natural it is a one-time occurrence and the same is true in the spiritual. I have heard many LDS come to an improper conclusion about this passage in John 3 so let me point something out that is important.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and of the Spirit.”

Most LDS I know like to stop there and draw a premature correlation between the “water and Spirit” spoken here and LDS baptism and confirmation/receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. When not in its full context that appears to be a plausible conclusion. It is however dangerous to not consider the full context of scripture so we must move on to see what verse 6 says.

“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

Why is this verse so important? Because it is what Jesus uses to clarify the previous one.
Water = Flesh              Spirit = spirit

Thinking of natural birth, while a baby is still in the mother’s womb it is surrounded by…water. In order for birth to happen, the water must “break” beginning the birthing process that comes to completion with the baby entering a new environment, forever changing what he knew to be true existence and opening his eyes to a whole new world around him. That is the fleshly birth Jesus is speaking of.

Looking at the same idea spiritually, many of the same parallels can be made. There is a moment of conception in all of us, when God plants in us a seed of faith. We carry that faith and hopefully care for it as a mother would her unborn child. While the gestation period varies in length, we all have one. Then, there comes a time when spiritual birth happens. When it does, we are transformed spiritually and nothing is ever the same as it was…and we can not go back. Our eyes truly open for the first time and we see a world around us that we never knew existed. It is only after we are born again of the Spirit that we can truly live the life God created us for. It is a defining moment in time that all true believers in Christ can look back at with rejoicing, acknowledging the change that took place.

Elsewhere, such as in Ephesians 2:8-9 phrases like “for it is by grace you have been saved…”
Colossians 2:13 says it this way, “God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins…”

Notice the definitive and past tense used. Does this moment mean that we no longer have to improve upon our understanding of who God is and ever establish a greater relationship with Him? Of course not; to say that would be ridiculous. So much so that I have not met a Christian yet that thought that or that looked at this free gift of salvation as justification to be in blatant sin.

According to Mormon teaching, a child is not even capable of making such a decision to receive the gift of salvation Jesus offers to everyone. It is not until they are 8 years old that they are even capable of sinning and therefore need baptism to at least momentarily cleanse them of that sin. But as I pointed out at the beginning, baptism is not this born again experience, but it should be the result of such an encounter with God.

Amanda, if you can not say with conviction that you have had such an experience I would encourage you to study it out and try to gain an understanding of why this is so important. Nurture the seed God has obviously placed in your heart until it gives life to your spirit and brings forth the indescribable fruit of salvation.

I know this idea is foreign to mainstream Mormonism but it is at the very core of the Christian life.

A Reasoned Response to Amanda – Part 1

January 9, 2012 1 comment

In my last post an old friend took exception to some of the points I made about Mormonism. She is LDS so that is understandable. She wrote a lengthy comment that I think needs some attention. She made 3 main points so in order to keep my blog posts manageable, I am going to respond in 3 separate posts, all of which will be this week. Her intro and first point I will respond to follows:

“I did not hear Glen Beck’s talk that this blog post is about…I can’t comment directly on anything he said, but based on what you wrote Doug I disagree with almost every point you made. I have been Mormon for 32 years. I have a pretty good understanding of the principles and doctrine of the church. I have studied extensively and while I don’t have a perfect knowledge or understanding I do feel like the understanding that you have of the church is very incomplete and in some cases wrong. I know you studied a lot, but I think that your testimony was never founded on Christ while you were a member of the church, and because of this you were unable to really understand what the church teaches. I don’t think that is uncommon. I think many people have an incomplete understanding, and not only in the Mormon church. We are all growing in our understanding and knowledge; learning is a principle of life. But as someone who has both complete faith in the Saving power of Jesus Christ and someone who believes strongly in the truths taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I would like to address some of the points you have made and why I disagree with them.

1) “Glenn speaks of being saved in the context of being baptized into the LDS church. If I have made the correct assumption based on what he said, than this is a 100% LDS statement.” – I can’t say what Glenn said, but I disagree that that is a 100% LDS statement. I don’t know anyone that thinks that their baptism saved them. Through baptism we are able to follow the example of our Savior, we are able to keep a commandment of our Heavenly Father, and we are able to receive forgiveness – but the saving comes through Christ.”

Amanda,
While I don’t doubt your devotion to the LDS church I do call into question your understanding of the doctrines and teaching of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as compared to Biblical Christianity. That is not in any way an insult. It is quite normal for LDS to carry with them many misconceptions about the doctrines and practices of Christian churches. Because of this, I want to show you what each faith system teaches about baptism and how it relates to salvation. We will start with Mormonism.

Here is the official statement under the “Baptism” heading in the “Gospel Topics” section on LDS.org.
“Baptism by immersion in water by one having authority is the first saving ordinance of the gospel and is necessary for an individual to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to receive eternal salvation. All who seek eternal life must follow the example of the Savior by being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

In addition to this, baptism is necessary to enter the celestial kingdom which is equivalent to what Christians would call heaven…living in God’s presence. Without LDS baptism there is no getting into Heaven. Here is a quote from page 131 of the Gospel Principles manual used to teach new members or those investigating the LDS faith.
It is under the heading, We Must Be Baptized to Enter the Celestial Kingdom.
“Jesus said, ‘Whoso believeth in me, and is baptized…shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.’ (3 Nephi 11:33-34). Baptism is the gateway through which we enter the celestial kingdom.”

If we put those two things together it tells us that if we want to be “saved”, which to a Mormon this may only mean resurrected depending on the context but has a much greater meaning to a Christian, we must be baptized. In addition to that, without this baptism into the LDS church, it will be impossible to reach LDS “exaltation” which is what Christians would say salvation is…minus the assumed godhood, planets and countless spiritual offspring.

If you still don’t see how the LDS church equates baptism to a person’s salvation ask yourself why you perform baptisms for the dead in temples. If it was really all about what Jesus did, then no ordinance would be required, only complete reliance on the work and merit of Christ.

The Christian doctrine of baptism is very different. For us it is seen as something a person should do but in no way required to receive God’s grace and forgiveness. In fact, there are many examples of people who were promised salvation without it. I will share two such instances with you in hopes that they will cause you to think about them.

The first would be Abraham. There are a number of places that speak of Abraham being counted as righteous or “justified” because of his faith, not any ordinance or work.

Romans 4:2-5 “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness”

This is echoed again in Galatians 3:5-7 “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
6 Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.

Another easily seen example is the thief on the cross in Luke 23. There, hanging and inches from death, he makes a declaration of belief in who Jesus is and without a baptism performed He tells the thief, ““I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Biblical Christianity always has and always will hold to the teaching that we are justified by faith (Romans 5:1; Eph 2:8-9). So instead of the ritual of baptism being a requirement for salvation, it is actually a result of a true confession of belief in Christ. It is a natural fruit of salvation, demonstrating to the world that you no longer live, but that Christ lives in you. It comes after, not before or even at the same time, eternal salvation has been secured.

So if a Mormon speaks of Jesus saving him in the waters of baptism, it is reasonable to assume that the context in which he speaks is that of baptism being the first, and perhaps most important, of the many steps in the LDS salvation process.

Categories: Jesus, Mormonism, Salvation