Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Comments from a Convert Who Faced Serious Anti-Mormon Pressure

In a previous post, "Have Anti-Mormons Won the War?," I received a recent comment from Jim, a convert who faced a lot of opposition when he decided to join the Church. His story might give some hope to others going through similar experiences now. I especially enjoy the encounter he had with his Pastor - one of those entertaining episodes when the the wise men of the world are confounded by the young and untrained who are touched by the Spirit to remember the right thing at the right moment.
I converted to the church at 18 years of age in rural Mississippi after 3 years of trying to disprove the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, because that is what my preacher wanted me to do, and so I dug in and studied all the lit I could get my hands on. I found that when harmonized, the scriptures indeed testify of him and his church..... The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The testimony I gained at age 17, by reading, pondering and praying about the Book of Mormon and than getting baptized just before my 18th birthday led me to serve a highly successful mission in Japan. Think of it, the worst educational state in the union, where I hated Spanish class, Mississippi, from a Southern Baptist Family, to still being fluent in Japanese and the Gospel today some 34 years later, some 7 kids later, and now living in Utah....well it just is hard to imagine. I had to tell you since reading your eloquent words and fine research that it has given me even more ammo for testifying. Thanks!

Just to give you a hint of what a young kid in 1972 had to face from loving parents that thought I wanted to join a cult and no, a girl was not driving the issue, it was hard. I remember specifically and as vivid as it was yesterday when my Mom spoke with me and said well Jim, if you are bent on trying to join the Mormons, would you please speak with our Pastor and Preacher as he has helped many get out of the cult of Mormonism. I said sure Mom, if he has some new info, some exciting revelations and I laughed, bring it on. We had great relationship and my Dad was sort of non committal, so that I could joke around and not feel threatened. The preacher wanted to prep me by giving me some anti-Mormon lit a week in advance, you know, Adam God Theory, Polygamy doctrines, to being saved by grace etc.etc.etc.

The day came and we invited him in. Me and the Preacher! He had graduated from Seminary, University and me a senior in High School, gave great fire and brimstone sermons, and invited many to come to Christ....and by the way, pass the offering plate and you don't want to go to the other Baptist Church down the road he would say as they don't have a real good youth program.

For some reason, even today, I remember listening to his pleas, and hearing the nasty things he said about the Church, and how that they don't even believe in Jesus, and that there was no need for Prophets today as we have the Bible....and as the conversation continued and me smiling, as I absorbed all that he had to give and I had a rebuttal for each and everyone . He said in finality....you know Jim, when the Mormon Missionaries tell you about a burning in your heart....well that is of the devil....and that we should never, never let the missionaries in your home again.

I had a bright light go on in my head and had the Preacher turn to Luke 24 in his KJV Bible.
13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. 16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. . . . 28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. 29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. 30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. 32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
Jeff, the look on his face was priceless! I felt sorry for the man! He couldn't say another word and did not say much. Of course I was baptized the next week.

Well, just a couple days ago, my Mom from Mississippi called and she said that she had a couple of things for me. My 35th year high school reunion invite came in the mail as all they(reunion committee) had prior was my BYU address from late 70's. She said that there was one other thing that she wanted to say or read to me. Oh yeah she said, I have the local Sun Herald paper for Gulfport and Biloxi that had a letter to the editor and she started to cry. It went something like this as she read it. To our LDS friends! We want to send our condolences to all of you in regards to your great loss of President Hinckley. As Hurricane Katrina was so devastating to our community, it was the LDS (Mormons) with truckload after truckload of relief for our community that arrived first on the scene. You surely showed Christlike love to our community and we want to thank you! My Mom wept through the whole thing and I was just paraphrasing. Than the moment of truth! Jim, you are in the right place! The feeling of love and testimony came all over me! Your testimony comes through that way as well and I thank you.
Thank you, Jim!

16 comments:

Hans said...

Good story and it is good to hear that there are such successful experiences out there.

If only those who do not like the church were to focus on the basics and the teachings of living a Christ-like life, we could accomplish so much more. I know that cuts both ways, but the Tanners and others are willfully ignore the good that we are encouraged to do while focusing on what seems odd.

Thanks for sharing your story Jim!

Ardis said...

Really, really nice, Jim. Thanks.

Tim Malone said...

Thank you Jim for sharing this and thank you Jeff for posting it. That was indeed classic to have that scripture come to mind, "Did not our hearts burn within us?" I have read others who have written the exact same thing this pastor said, that we cannot trust our feelings because man is unstable and they could be from the devil.

But if we can't trust our own feelings about a truth when we ponder or pray about it, we'll never have the motivation to do something about it. Those feelings are telling us that it is something good and worth pursuing. We want more of that sweet feeling that comes from the Lord, and we can have it if we act upon the thoughts and impressions that accompany the feelings.

Good stuff - edifying.

it's me, andrea. said...

Ok, I'm sure I'll get attacked and that's fine...but hopefully someone will see that I'm being sincere and that I'm in a tough place in my life and am just seeking truth. I live in Utah and have for 26 of my 28 years. I was raised LDS and for 6 months have been investigating other churches, reading books, watching videos, meeting with countless professors and pastors from all over the Salt Lake area. Clearly Evangelicals are different in Utah than they are, say in the south. Just like LDS people are different outside of Utah. I've felt a lot of love for the LDS people from everyone I've had the privilege of meeting with.

Here are a couple simple and honest questions to those completely converted to the LDS faith.

How do you get past the questionable things Joseph Smith did? I struggle with polygamy, the temple ceremony, all the different accounts of the first vision that are on record. When I call these "questionable" I don't mean to sound disrespectful, I just have a hard time when I see dates of these revelations and dates of his marriages to multiple women as well as his involvement with the Masons in relation to the temple. etc.

Is it concerning that there are no cities or archaeological evidence of anything recorded in the Book of Mormon? I can get on a plane and visit just about anywhere I want that is taught about in the bible, but that's not the case with the BOM.

I agree with focusing on the basics and the teachings of living a Christ-like life, but Evangelical Christianity teaches that too.

And about trusting feelings. I received my endowment 5 years ago and I remember feeling good, but I feel like I can say that I've had the same good feelings in evangelical worship services as well. Is that feeling telling me that it is something good and worth pursuing?

And, is it really possible to belong to a church solely based on faith and feelings?

I apologize if this offends or makes waves, but I guess it can be deleted if that is the case. I'm just humbly seeking truth and peace in my heart and my life.

Deseret Dawg said...

Andrea - In answer to your first question, I fall back on the Second Article of Faith, "Men are responsible for their own sins, and not for Adam's trangressions". To me, this means by extension, that we are not responsible for anyone else's sins except our own, and those for who we're directly responsible, such as our children. This frees us of such burdens as ancestral sin, historical guilt, etc. It's also a great argument to use against those who advocate reparations for slavery.

What this means is if Joseph Smith committed any sins, they are strictly between him and the Lord, and do NOT involve me in any way. Besides, prophets don't have to perfect; only saviors need to be perfect.

Why do you get "good" feelings at an evangelical Church? Because the Holy Spirit is present. The Holy Spirit is non-denominational; it will go wherever it feels welcome. All churches possess a portion of the light, but like the stars of the sky, they are of different magnitudes. We Mormons possess the greatest light, but we are not the only ones who possess light. There are many pastors and priests of other denominations who are humble servants of God and who do the best they can with what they have. The Lord loves them, too.

Jon said...

Andrea,
I enjoyed your post, it was very respectful. By reading your post, I realize that I don't know much about you or your search for truth. I did feel, however, constrained by The Spirit to encourage you to continue your search.

If you are searching, then search until you have found what you are looking for.

It will not be easy, but that is good because, that which is struggled for is highly valued. I also searched and searched for years and finally found that which I believe to be true, so I know exactly how you feel. I won't bother telling you what I found because it is you that must do the finding on your own, and this is all about you. It is the most important thing you will do in your whole life.

You believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Study His words and the words of those that know Him. Feel the witness of the Holy Spirit.

You will know when your search is over.

And then the real work begins, taking what you have learned and sharing it with others as well as living what you have found to be true.

Don said...

What a great conversion story. I agree with Hans ... all churches need to focus on the basics and teach living a Christ-like life rather than arguing the definition of a true Christian church.

Thanks to Jim for sharing and Jeff for posting to his blog!

Anonymous said...

Andrea,

Thanks for your comment. You were respectful. It is ok to question. I will share my thoughts.

As for Joseph Smith--I honestly have questions about polygamy. Nevertheless as I've pondered his seemingly questionable actions concerning this a couple of thoughts come to my mind. The first is that we don't have both sides of the story. We can't talk to Joseph about why he did what he did nor can we fully understand the circumstances he found himself in. We can only guess at his motivations. Second, I feel like there is a lot that has not been fully reveled about so many things. For now I'm reserving judgment on Joseph and his relationship to polygamy until the day that I understand the full story.

The third and most important though I have on Joseph is that I have gained a testimony that he restored the Priesthood and translated the Book of Mormon. I do not however have a testimony of everything Joseph was purported to have said or done. I'm sure he made many other mistakes, but the Spirit has whispered to me that he was a true prophet despite his shortcomings.

I pray that you will be able to resolve this through your own prayer and study and come up with your own answer. This is my two cents worth.

Josh said...

Nice story! Reminds me of what Elder Oaks said recently in conference: "Anyone can disagree with our personal testimony but no one can refute it."

To Andrea: I don't know you, but I've seen your recent comments here. I appreciate your questions and sincerity and wish you peace in your spiritual journey.

Regarding some of the uncomfortable things in church history: For me, the interesting thing about history is that there are always ambiguities, and room for interpretation. With the same data in hand (plural marriage, first vision accounts, you name it), two people can come to opposite conclusions about Joseph Smith, or anything else for that matter.

What works for me it the belief that a loving Father in Heaven allows me to face these uncomfortable issues to see whether I'll choose to believe even when the available data can plausibly be interpreted in another way. Maybe it doesn't suit His purposes to have everything so spelled out completely that it's impossible not to believe. For example, I'm not sure knowing the precise details of Book of Mormon geography would help anyone believe the message of the book any more than they already do (how many people have been to Bethlehem and Jerusalem without believing that Jesus is the Christ?).

So, when faced with a dilemma of faith, I try to look at what the gospel has done for me in my life, I remember the spiritual experiences I've had, I seek for the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and then I choose to believe, even if I can't nail down all the details.

Bookslinger said...

> I struggle with polygamy,

It's in the Bible. The Lord commanded the patriarchs to do it, so it's not entirely without precedent. The question is: Did God tell Joseph Smith to reinstitute polygamy or did JS do it on his own?

Like any other question about whether JS was a prophet, the answer can come through prayer and revelatory answers. You can pray about this question, just as you can pray "Did JS really see God the Father and the Son?"

> the temple ceremony,

(as it relates to Masonic rites, I assume) The question one has to ask here is: Is God necessarily restricted to using only newly invented things to reveal/teach his principles? The obvious answer should be "No, God can use whatever he wants, old things or new things, to reveal his principles and teachings."

> all the different accounts of the first vision that are on record.

I've heard there are 5. Why does JS have to tell the story exactly the same way each time? Why can't he a) tailor it for his audience, b) reveal it piecemeal like many prophets told their stories before, c) emphasize difference aspects at difference times?

I had a very powerful and miraculous spiritual experience when I was 14. It eventually let to me joining the church when I was 24.

I don't always tell my experience as a 14-year-old the same way. When I tell that story, I don't have time to tell every detail of that story, because it would take about 15 minutes, and many conversations only have time for a sound-bite or two.

Something very sacred happened, so I don't always mention the most sacred part of it. It depends on the audience and setting.

If you had a sacred 15 minute story about a transcendent hard-to-describe experience, would you _only_ tell it when you had the full 15 minutes available? What if you only had a sound-bite or 2 minutes to tell it, would you give 2 minutes worth?

What if you were to sometimes tell that story to believers, and sometimes to non-believers, and sometimes to luke-warm believers, would you give all three of those audiences the full details?

No, you wouldn't. Just like I'm not, at this point in time and on this particular blog, giving you all the details of that particular spiritual experience that I had when I was a 14 year-old.

You'd have different versions of your story depending on circumstance, mood of the conversation, and faith level of the people listening. And maybe you'd only tell parts of it at a time.

So why expect a 14 year old Joseph Smith to write his "script" at age 14 or 15, and never tell anything else except that one scripted version?

And if he HAD only one scripted version to tell, then people would be saying it was TOO scripted and TOO prepared, and that he was trying TOO hard.

So, OF COURSE 14 year olds and even 30 year olds are going to have several versions, just like WE ALL DO, of very important complicated events in our lives.

Angela said...

Andrea - "How do you get past the questionable things Joseph Smith did?" I too struggle with the concept of plural marriage; it's not a principle for our time, so I'm not sure it's important to truly understand it or even accept it. As for the temple ceremony, it is simply a ritual to help us make covenants with God. IMO, the form doesn't necessarily matter; the covenants are what is important - voluntarily binding us to each other and to God. Was the ceremony influenced by JS's involvement with Masons? IMO, yes, in addition to being influenced by the Books of Moses & Abraham translations he did. Does that make it ineffective at teaching what it needs to teach? Not in my experience. To me, the first vision is mostly important in that it was a catalyst for JS to understand the need for a restoration and to begin to see that he would have a role in that. No account was written until many many years later, and different accounts emphasized different elements. To me, a good analogy would be trying to remember a dream that was very significant to you that you had 10 years ago. That may be an unorthodox view, but again, it's just my opinion that the most important aspect of it was its significance to JS, not to the church. He had many visions and he didn't specifically single out the First Vision in the way it is often done today.

"Is it concerning that there are no cities or archaeological evidence of anything recorded in the Book of Mormon?" You mention that the sites of the Bible are all readily accessible. You have to realize that most of those sites and relics are not verifiable. There are enough 'pieces of the cross' in cathedrals throughout Europe to build an ark, and enough pieces of the crown of thorns to make a briar patch. The church of the holy sepulchre is highly unlikely to be the site of the burial of Christ. The supposed site of the birth of Christ is again, not verifiable in any way. Mt. Ararat is the name of a mountain range, but is considered by almost all Biblical scholars to be one of half a dozen possible sites of the resting place of the ark (which has never been found, BTW, nor has the ark of the covenant which was lost centuries ago). There are only theories about where the Garden of Eden was located. Christianity didn't even really begin to try to find these sites or artefacts until 400 years after Christ's death, at which point, fraudsters got a whiff of the potential and created many artefacts. We have only known about the BOM for 150 years, and while the sites aren't known, there are many plausible theories for locations and other evidences, certainly on equal footing with most of the Biblical sites which a little research will reveal to be highly speculative, just older.

"And, is it really possible to belong to a church solely based on faith and feelings?" IMO, spiritual experiences are the only valid basis for joining a church. No one can prove the most basic religious belief--that God exists. Basing one's faith on evidence is the slippery slope. The spiritual experiences are the real witness.

Good luck in your search. As JS said, we should all treasure up the good of other faiths. There is much good out there.

For me, I can't imagine not having the gift of the HG that I have received and has helped me throughout my life. It is the greatest gift I could have, and while other churches have much good, none (and I have experienced many other churches) have given me the experiences I have had as a member of the LDS church. I wish you the best!

Anonymous said...

At 11:59 PM, July 11, 2008, it's me, andrea. said…


Andrea ,
I will try to take each of your points one by one. I am not sure I can relate because I am a convert of 30 plus years but I will try, however, before I do and because you are honestly studying to know the truth Jeff has gone into detail with all the topics that you have questions on and you can get it without reading a 1000 books.



*"How do you get past the questionable things Joseph Smith did? I struggle with polygamy, the temple ceremony, all the different accounts of the first vision that are on record. When I call these "questionable" I don't mean to sound disrespectful, I just have a hard time when I see dates of these revelations and dates of his marriages to multiple women as well as his involvement with the Masons in relation to the temple. etc."
My question to you would be, what part of polygamy do you have a problem with? God commanded him to follow it as King David did as stated in the Old Testament. If you take the time to read all the stories of those that were asked to do this they did not enter into it willingly. There was only one of the woman's story that truly moved me to know that it was of God. Joseph told one man that he needed to start practicing polygamy but he was not to tell his wife. When he got home he could not eat, sleep, and became a basket case. His wife kept asking him what was wrong but he refused to tell his wife as Joseph had instructed him. His wife decided to go into the woods to pray about what was wrong. She reported that she had a vision of heaven where she saw this principle and how it was part of the true economy of God. She told her husband that it was ok and that she understood and about the vision she had. For the life of me I can never understand why God would put people through such things, other than this is what they needed to come to the truth. If Joseph had invited her and her husband to his office as he did with so many others she may have rejected it forever and never prayed about it to find out the truth. This is the only case where I have ever felt the spirit confirm that this was true.
I am not sure what problem you have with the temple ceremony or your dates of these revelations so I will not be able to address them without more detail.
As far as the (differing) accounts of the first vision: I have had many moving spiritual experiences in my years before and during my time in the church. There have been times when I felt I should tell others one part of one experience and leave out other parts that was not needed or the spirit moved me to leave them out. Other times the spirit moved me to tell the whole experience. When looking at Joseph's different accounts you have to ask the question, "to whom was Joseph telling the story?" What was the spirit telling him to tell them? I am sure he was not worried about what you or I, 200 years later would be thinking about, as to why he had written down different versions to different people.

Masons in relation to the temple: I have never had to much trouble with this one unless you are thinking that he took ideas from the Masons. Just from my view point most of the time when people take parts from other religions they embellish them more and more to show they have greater and greater power and knowledge. If he borrowed some ideas he was not very good at it because the temple is very watered down version. You would need to really dig into both to see these things, but as an example the Masons have 33 degrees and the Mormons have 3.
*"Is it concerning that there are no cities or archaeological evidence of anything recorded in the Book of Mormon? I can get on a plane and visit just about anywhere I want that is taught about in the bible, but that's not the case with the BOM."

The quick way is to read Jeff's web page "proof on the Book of Mormon" or type in "utube Book of Mormon evidences".
From my understanding I have no idea why archaeology is such a problem for people unless they just don't understand that you can only report on or comment on what you find in archeology field studies but you cannot report on what you do not find. What if it is still there but it is just not found yet?
So my question is what archeology proof do you want to prove your testimony? Does the Bible archeology hold the key to your testimony of the Bible or is it of the spirit?

*"I agree with focusing on the basics and the teachings of living a Christ-like life, but Evangelical Christianity teaches that too."
Here you must know that there is more than just living a Christ-like life. Having the proper authority to do the proper ordnance is critical.

*"And about trusting feelings. I received my endowment 5 years ago and I remember feeling good, but I feel like I can say that I've had the same good feelings in evangelical worship services as well. Is that feeling telling me that it is something good and worth pursuing?"
*"And, is it really possible to belong to a church solely based on faith and feelings?"

Now I will try to get down to the message of Jeff's post, and your seeking the confirmation of truth by a "burning in your heart."
A couple of years before I joined the church I was a very bad gentile and was at a cross roads in my life as to where my life was going. I was at a point where my life was going to get worse or I was going to find out if there was a God, and if so I had a very compelling reason to change my life. I prayed with a promise in my heart that if God was there and wanted me to follow Him, then I would do all I could to do His will. I was blessed with a burning in my heart as promised in the scriptures. About a year later during my studying a book of some personal experiences people had with Christ in their lives then again I obtained this same powerful experience that came into me from outside my body. I say this only to let you know that it was not a human emotion or a human personal experience but something supernatural and is not to be confused with human emotions. Then years later when I first heard the First Vision Story of Joseph Smith I again had this supernatural experience of a burning in my spirit. When I joined the LDS church I have had many of these humbling experiences.
Having said this I have known some members that told have me they have never had a spiritual experience but they are some of the greatest any saints I have ever know or read about. Each must find Christ in their own way, but I know if you desire God will to bless you with an undeniable witness of a burning in your heart.


"*I apologize if this offends or makes waves, but I guess it can be deleted if that is the case. I'm just humbly seeking truth and peace in my heart and my life."
No apologize necessary.

Aric said...

Andrea--

A thought about the geography of the Book of Mormon:

In the bible there are known cities and places that we know of today. (Jerusalem, etc)

However, does that convince the Jew that Jesus is the Christ? Nope.

There are evidences of geographical locations from the Book of Mormon that exist today--but again, will that convince you of the truth of the book? Again, nope.

That witness only comes from the Spirit of God, and comes to those who diligently seek it, doubting not.

It sounds like you have been given a lot of "anti" information, much of which is unfounded.

I personally question ANY church who makes it a goal to destroy one's faith or belief. How far will that church get you if it teaches you to hate, and to treat cruelly those that do not belong to their faith?

I could write volumes of "anti" literature about other denominations--but why? It mauy convince a few--but that is not how God works.

God convinces not by destroying someone's faith, but by building it up. It is Satan who is the great destroyer.

I know of a convert to the LDS church who got there THROUGH other churches. They followed the spiritual promptings they got, and started with a little light (local baptist church), which grew to a greater light, and the continued to follow it until they found all the light.

That is how God works. He won't destroy, but create.

Be careful of any church or group who teaches "anti" or hate, or discrimination in any form.

Drew said...

An inspiring story, thanks for posting it. I think it's amazing how much resistance one gets when trying to join the LDS Church, but it's relatively much less when converting AWAY from the Church, or into another. That goes to show a few things, I guess. Anyway, I admire people who can climb mountains of anti prior to baptism, and hold strong after. Nothing hurt me worse on the mission than to discover someone I had interviewed for baptism had immediately dropped off the charts because of some new lie they had heard or read somewhere.

lehislibrary said...

Here Andrea!

http://lehislibrary.wordpress.com/bom-evidences/

it's me, andrea. said...

Thanks everyone. I really appreciate all the time put into answering my questions. I have a lot of questions, some new and some about answers from you to my questions. I feel kinda bad taking up space on this blog...I might still post every once in a while if my questions apply to a post. But if anyone would like to get more in depth about this stuff, send me an email: andrea.greenhalgh@gmail.com