I grew up in a splinter group of Mormonism called the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Community of Christ or RLDS). It taught a “feel good” spirituality. When they could not answer my questions, I gave up on “religion” altogether and believed that nobody had answers. But God had other plans. Through Bob, a Christian who took his faith seriously, I found what being “saved” and “born-again” is all about.
I grew up in a splinter group of Mormonism called the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Community of Christ or RLDS). At age 14, I was baptized into this church, but I was not saved at that time because being baptized into a church and being “born-again” are not the same thing.
The RLDS splintered off Mormonism when Brigham Young took the Mormons to Utah after the death of LDS (Mormon) founder, Joseph Smith, Jr. This group refused to follow Young and took Joseph Smith’s son (Joseph Smith III) to be its leader. Up until 1996 when the last male descendant of Joseph Smith, Jr. died, they had not ceased to have one of his descendants serve as president and prophet of the group.
Although the RLDS religion claims Joseph Smith, Jr. as its founder, there are several differences that distinguish it from the Utah Mormon Church. In regard to Scripture, the RLDS accept the Book of Mormon as a companion to the Bible, but they view it as a nineteenth-century product. Their Doctrine and Covenants Scripture also varies from the LDS version by removing certain revelations in regard to eternal marriage and polygamy, and including other revelations from their own prophets. They also reject the LDS Pearl of Great Price and use Joseph Smith’s version of the Bible instead of the King James Version used by Utah Mormons. Unlike the LDS Church that adopted polygamy in its early years, RLDS leaders have never practiced polygamy. RLDS do not marry for time and eternity, nor do they believe the Mormon view that men can become “gods.” And although they believe in baptism for salvation, they do not perform baptism for the dead.
The RLDS Church is a “feel good” church that avoids subjects such as hell, damnation and sin, in an attempt not to offend people. When a person does ask hard questions, they either have no answers, or the answers they give would change with the wind of popular opinion. Because I wasn’t getting solid answers to my questions, I left at 17, thinking that religious people have no answers.
I wandered in the spiritual wilderness for many years until I moved out to Wyoming with my wife-to-be. Her dad (Bob) was a man of God. At first, I figured that I would find what I had found before, but Bob was unlike anyone I had ever met. Instead of allowing his spiritual views to change with the ideas of the scientific community, he stood with the Bible and gave Biblical answers to my questions that made sense, even when they disagreed with popular opinion.
Now, that sounds bad at first, but time has proven the Bible to be true, even when Christians could not explain why its teachings did not match that of scientific opinion at first. In the end, the scientist would come to the conclusion that the Bible was right, and they were wrong. Since God wrote the Bible, it makes sense that it would be right all the time. So, when Bob and I got together, his answers stood with the Bible and that was it, and the answers made sense. While Bob’s reasonable answers to my questions made the Bible possible, it did not quite make it the Word of God for me. So, I began to research on the Bible by reading a book entitled Don’t Know Much About the Bible. I could identify with that title because that was me. Even though I had spent a lot of my youth in church, I did not know what the Bible said.
Looking back, I can see how I was led of God in amazing ways. I can’t recall what the sermon was about that day, but the Pastor started to talk about cults, and it hit a button with me. While I had problems with the RLDS church, I was still quite sensitive about them and when he hit a thing about Mormons being a “cult,” I was very upset. I felt it was the single most offensive thing I had ever heard.
Bob patiently helped me work though my issues with the church. He had me watch a series of videos called “Word Pictures” that demonstrates what Christianity is all about. One of the first things I learned through “Word Pictures” is the distinction between the truth and one’s opinion of the truth. I looked at the definition of both words in Webster’s dictionary, and I found that “opinion” is merely “a belief not based on certainty or knowledge,” while “truth” is defined as “the quality or state of being true … in agreement with reality or facts … a standard … an established or verified fact.” Thus, I found that truth does not change, no matter what people’s opinion is of it.
Growing up, I had the very wrong impression that God would overlook my sin, but that is simply not true. I learned that justice will be met to the full extent because God cannot allow sin to go unpunished forever. This is why He sent Jesus to die to pay the penalty for our sins. Romans 3:25-26 states, “God presented Him [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.” So again, we see that the law will be met to the full extent. Sin must be paid for. The only question that remains is, who is paying your sin-debt – you or Jesus? If you choose to pay your debt, you will do so for eternity because you are incapable of completely paying off the debt. So, if you choose to pay the debt of your sin, you will suffer torment forever as Revelation 14:11 describes, “And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever.”
At the time of watching this series, I did not know what the term, “born-again” meant. I don’t remember ever hearing it growing up, but through the videos, I was convicted that I was not saved and in the current condition I was in, I would end up going to Hell. Now, that was a pretty hard admission to make. I realized that all the things that I had been doing to make myself worthy were not helping. So, I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and to come into my life so that He could change my life from the inside out. At that point, I became “born-again” and I started a new life according to 2 Corinthians 5:17-18.
At John 3:3, Jesus proclaimed, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” So, what does it mean to be “born” twice? Jesus answered this question by saying that one must be born of both the water and the Spirit (see John 3:5-6). We all know what “water” (physical, fleshly) birth is, but what is spiritual birth? To be born of the Spirit, one must have the Spirit of God dwelling in him, right? So, how do we obtain the Spirit of God? Luke 11:13 says that the “Heavenly Father [will] give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” So, the first step is to ask the Father for His Spirit. Next, we read at John 6:29 that the “work” of God is to “believe” in the One whom the Father has sent — that is Jesus! So, we must believe that God sent his Son Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins so that we can be forgiven. The following verses emphasize how we can’t be saved without “faith” (belief or trust) in what Jesus has done for us:
- Romans 3:22 – Through “faith” we receive God’s righteousness.
- Luke 7:50 – A woman was saved through her simple “faith.”
- Luke 5:20 – Sins were forgiven through “faith.”
- John 11:26 – “Faith” in Christ defies spiritual death and grants eternal life.
To sum it all up, we’ve learned that we need to believe to receive righteousness. Faith in Christ is the only thing that will save us and give us forgiveness, coupled with repentance, which simply means to turn away from sin. Finally, we read Christ’s claim at John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me.” So, apart from Jesus, we cannot come to the Father to have eternal life.
Now, for those of us who are born-again, we read this promise at John 14:17, “But you know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you.” So, if you are born again, you have the Holy Spirit in you and you should be able to know that you are saved and will see the Kingdom of God. But if you are unsure of this, then follow the admonition at 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ is in you unless, of course, you fail the test?”
So let me ask, have you been born-again? Do you remember a time in your life when you asked Christ to take away all of your sins? Have you invited the Holy Spirit to live inside of you to lead and to guide you in all that you do? Is there a distinct time when you became a new creation in Christ and saw the old life pass away?
“Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)
When I gave my life to Christ, I began reading the Bible instead of watching TV, and my wife began to ask questions to get her own relationship with the Lord back on track. Together we are learning how to live with Jesus in the center of our lives. The preacher that I had mentioned before, the one who had offended me so badly, has become a real tool in this process. We have grown to really enjoy his teaching. He is honest, even when it hurts (and with him it does a lot). He tells you the truth for your own good. This is what I needed to get over what I had grown up with. The RLDS theory was to not hurt anyone’s feelings. Even if it needed to be done, they just wouldn’t say anything to correct anyone, and that is not right. I learned with Bob and others how to do Bible study to find the answers to questions I have. Through the Grace of our Lord, my wife and I have made this an integral part of our daily lives.
Now that I have a firm foundation for my faith, I desire to reach others that are in Mormonism or the RLDS faith. I have also made it my mission to help people looking for answers (as I had been). I desire not only to answer questions that people have, but to also help them learn how to find answers for themselves.
I have seen that the foundation of Mormonism is quite shaky. It is built on the stories of Joseph Smith, many of which are unverified or can be proven fraudulent. For example, the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith claimed is the keystone of the LDS faith, declares to be the record of the ancient inhabitants of America, yet nothing in archeology, geography or DNA sampling has been found to solidify any of its statements concerning the origin of the Native Americans and where they settled. The Book of Abraham and the Kinderhook plates Joseph translated have been proven false, and many of the tenets of Mormon doctrine are in stark contrast to the teachings of the Bible and must be looked at very carefully.
Knowing what I know now, I have to wonder, did Joseph Smith make the whole thing up? Or did he actually see what he said he did? If that is so, from where did he get the visions? Was it from “another spirit” spoken of in 2 Corinthians 11:4? Since the Bible warns against false “spirits” (2 Corinthians 11:4 and 1 Timothy 4:1), false “apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:13) and “angels” that manifest with a different “gospel” (Galatians 1:8), was this the source of Joseph Smith’s visions? Did he in fact accept another spirit?
Galatians 1:8 states, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we have preached to you let him be eternally condemned!” This is a strong statement and whenever I have asked this question of Mormons, the answer has always been that this verse would condemn Mormonism if indeed Joseph Smith taught a “different gospel.” Given the fact that various LDS leaders (like President Gordon B. Hinkley) admit that the Jesus of Mormonism is a different Jesus from the one traditionally worshipped in Christianity (see LDS Church News, June 20, 1998, p. 7), we must admit that, if indeed the Mormon Jesus is a different Jesus, then surely there is a problem. It can’t be the same gospel if it has a different Jesus.
Despite what the RLDS and LDS religions are telling you, there is a very real hell to which your soul hangs in the balance. Hell is not just a period of time, but is forever! So, please be very sure that you have embraced the truth and have in fact accepted the REAL Jesus – the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Brothers and sisters, know that it is not an easy path. Yes, it does hurt to know that you have been lied to all this time, but know this: The hurt will pass with time. It is better to fix your beliefs now, before it is too late. May God richly bless you for your time reading my story, and may you find the Joy that comes with the salvation that God has planned for you.