The day I hit the mission field, it was February 5th and the snow was going sideways instead of straight down. Three weeks before that I was surfing North side Pier in Oceanside wondering how I was going to pull off serving a mission. I never dreamed my first step into the mission field would be into a full blown blizzard.
I said to my first companion, “We’re going to hang out inside til this goes away… right?”
“Nah”…he said, “drop your bags and grab your scriptures” and into the storm we went.
The snow eventually stopped but the theological storm raged on. I spent ten and a half months in Grand Rapids Michigan, home of Calvin College and the Zondervan Press. Without explaining too much, I’ll just tell you that this city is not too fond of Mormon missionaries. I was tricked, lured, and almost forced into places with people that were prepared to rip my testimony to shreds. One day while knocking on some doors, a few men invited us to come back to their office. We thought they were interested in hearing our message! Nope! On the contrary. They had a message for me! When I walked into that office…I was shocked. I looked around and saw a Joseph Smith death mask, Kirtland Bank money signed by Joseph Smith, full volumes of the Journal of Discourses, Church History, and almost every video the LDS church had ever produced. They had current copies of the Ensign and New Era sitting out and marked up. I said, “what the heck do you guys have all this stuff for? Why don’t you give it to me!” I must admit I was jealous of all of their memorabilia. Then they opened up their copies of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants and they had it marked up more than I had seen most active members. I tell you…these guys amazed me! I loved it! We had a few laughs at each others expense and finally got down to the nitty gritty.
They were kind enough to give me the first word and away I went with the message of the restored church. I’m sure they had heard it a million times. It seemed to me as if they were in the crouching position just waiting to pounce the second I mentioned Joseph Smith…and then Boom! Here it came! The onslaught began with every known claim thrown against the prophet. “What about this and what about that”. These guys were good. They hit him with a left, and a right, and an upper cut. After awhile, I said to them, “Look, everything you’ve just said, I understand differently and there is really no way for us to agree on the nature of his character because none of us were there to observe him ourselves. So…would it be cool if we just left the character of Joseph Smith out of it just this one time and focused on his fruits?” They obliged. [Besides the fact that we had totally different agendas, I actually really liked these guys]
We left the Book of Mormon out of it as well for the moment and just focused on LDS doctrines as they were found in the Bible. The discussion was one I’ll never forget and it laid the groundwork for so many discussions I’d have with other people in the future. I attended multiple other churches each week. I’d go to everything from large non denominational mega churches to small Pentecostal churches. I’d go to Catholic mass on one corner and Lutheran mass on the other. Many times I could visit 4 churches without even leaving an intersection. [We did this many times to get out of the bitter Michigan cold] I met with Christians and their pastors on a daily basis and the discussions went much the same as the one I described from above. We talked…they’d pray for my soul, we’d shake hands, and we’d wish each other a happy day.
After talking to all of these wonderful people, and witnessing all of the prayers on my behalf, I was left with one outstanding and prominent question in my mind; Can anyone give me something better than the Mormon church? I’ve been told I’m part of a cult, or that Joseph Smith was lazy and indolent or that I don’t worship the correct Jesus…but never had anyone offered me a better understanding of God or a logical explanation of various key passages found within the same Bible that sat upon their nightstands. I could walk into 4 different churches on one intersection and not one of them even would attempt to show me that they are the Church that Christ established when he was on the earth. Isn’t that the church you would want to be part of?
What does that Church even look like and is there anyone that can offer any similarities to that ancient Christian church found in the New Testament?
Christ’s church was a living church, meaning it was lead by Christ himself through revelation. When a prophet or apostle got out of line, Christ put him back on track! [Acts 10:10-16]
The church was built upon apostles and prophets [Eph 2:19-20] but I’ve never had anyone tell me of another church with apostles and prophets. The Bible says we’d have apostles and prophets “until we all came to a unity of faith” [Eph 4:11-14]. Does it look like we’re united?
When Judas was gone, the apostles chose someone to take his spot as an apostle. Did someone authorize the discontinuance of that practice? [Acts 1:22-25]
In addition to 12 apostles, Christ also had a body of administrators called the “seventy”. [Luke 10] Is there any other church on the planet that has not only a quorum of 12 but the office of “seventy”? If that wasn’t enough, he also sent them out “two by two”. [Mark 6:7] Sound familiar?
There were bishops, elders, pastors, deacons, patriarchs, and most certainly some sort of identifiable priesthood power that was not up for sale or available at a local university. [Acts 8, 1 Tim 3, Titus 1:7, Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5, Philippians 1:1] Degrees don’t buy keys…if you will. Christ chose men…they didn’t choose Him. [John 15:16] They had jobs that provided a livelihood making each of them volunteers. Just your average humble fisherman or tentmaker. Layman at their core.
The name of Christ’s Church should be named after him…right? Doesn’t that make sense? Tad Callister once said,
It has always seemed miraculous to me that the Reformation had been in existence for over 300 years before the time of Joseph Smith and no one thought to name his church after Jesus Christ. Of course, since the time of Joseph Smith, others have followed suit, but in some marvelous way the Lord preserved the use of His name until the time of Joseph Smith and the Restoration of Christ’s Church.” [Callister]
Christ was literally resurrected and has a body of flesh and bone in accordance with Luke 24:36-39. To drive the point home, Christ in effect said “gimmie some fish” so that he could prove His body was real. Reason leads us to believe that Heavenly Father would also have a body of flesh and bones if Christ said, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do” [John 5:19] To deny it is to deny the purpose of Christ’s mission.
The Father and The Son are separate and distinct individuals. Christ exclaims that “My Father is greater than I” [John 14:28] on one occasion, and on another He looks to heaven and says “Father…I thank thee that thou hast heard me.” [John 11:41] In his last moments on the cross He asks His Father why He has forsaken Him. Why on earth in this hour of extreme pain and fatigue would He ask himself why He has forsaken Himself? He also asks His Father to “forgive them for they know not what they do” and finally relents, “into Thy hands I commend my Spirit”. To think that Christ is speaking to himself or some distant manifestation of himself just doesn’t do justice to the character of Christ. The water, gas, and ice or 3 in 1 egg example used to define the trinitarian concept of God doesn’t hold up and is nowhere to be found in the New Testament.
Never in the Bible does it mention children being baptized, and never is baptism performed without an accompanying large body of water. The children were blessed and baptisms were done by immersion in the New Testament.
What church on earth has an answer for children that have died in infancy or those that have never heard the name of Christ? If belief in Christ and baptism by immersion is a requirement for salvation, then there ought to be a provision made by a just and loving God. Peter taught that the gospel was preached to them that are dead [1 Pet 4:6] and it follows that Christ’s church would perform baptisms for the dead or for those that didn’t have the opportunity to be baptized. [1 Cor 15:29]
What about degrees of glory in heaven or multiple kingdoms? Paul said he visited or saw in vision a “third heaven” [2 Cor 12:2-4] Does that mean there is a first and second? What church today talks about these things?
What about eternal marriage? Why would you want to be with your sweetheart “until death do you part” when [1 Cor 11:11] Paul says that the man and the woman are together “in the Lord”.
What church echo’s Paul’s teachings about the “body being a temple” [1 Cor3:16-17] more so than the Mormon church and its Word of Wisdom? Studies have confirmed that Mormon’s are among the healthiest people in the world because of this code of living.
The list is endless…but If I go past 2000 words here, no one will read it. Friends have asked me to leave the Church I have described above. My reply is similar to Peter’s. “To whom will I go” [John 6:68] Honestly…where can I go that I can learn about all of these things found within the Bible that no one else is talking about? But you say…the temple is weird, and Joseph Smith was bad, and some strange practices have taken place in the past and in the present. That is what they said of Peter and the apostles when they walked the earth. Can you imagine what the Lord taught the 12 apostles during his “40 day ministry” when he taught them “things pertaining to the Kingdom of God”? [Acts 1] Does anyone know what those things were that he taught…and why it took 40 days to discuss?
My question is simple and honest; Can anyone give me something better than the Mormon Church…and if so what is it and how does it stack up against the structure of the original Christian church that Christ established?