Not My Jesus
Not My Jesus
As I walked along Snake River in downtown Idaho Falls, Idaho gazing at the manmade but still beautiful Idaho Falls, I noticed a young couple strolling hand in hand. “We’re newly weds,” they said, beaming at each other. We started talking about why I was there.
“We belong to the LDS church,” the husband said. “Idaho Falls is about 80% LDS.” I knew LDS was an abbreviation for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or the more common nickname, Mormon.
“Are you a Christian?” I asked.
“Absolutely,” they said. “We have asked Jesus into our life, just like you.”
“My understanding of your faith is that you do not believe that Jesus and God are one and the same,” I probed.
“That’s right,” the husband answered. “We don’t believe in the Trinity. We believe God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are three different beings and that there is only 1 Heavenly Father.”
“We both agree that the way to heaven is Jesus,” I said, looking for common ground. “However, the Jesus I worship and love is fully God. I wouldn’t know Him any other way.”
I met a young mother chasing her 2 year old, up and down the hill, and tickling and cuddling her infant, while laughing with both of them. It was a perfect picture of motherhood. As I walked closer, the 2-year-old pointed to Belle and giggled. I had Belle sit so he could pet her. “I’ve been enjoying watching you play with your children,” I said.
“We manage apartments,” she said. “I had to come in town to check on some apartments so I decided to have a picnic and make the most of this lovely day. We want a dog but we have to wait until we have a yard.”
“I’ll bet you are LDS,” I said.
“Yes,” she said. “Most of us are here.”
“Have you been LDS all of your life?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “My father was a convert but I’ve always been a member of this church.”
“You live in an area where being LDS is common. Here, you probably don’t experience some of the prejudice that exists in other parts of the country,” I commented.
“That’s right,” she said. “But we also don’t know much about other religions. My friend’s infant was baptized last week so I went. It was the first time I’d been in any other church.”
“On the surface, our churches look like they have a lot of common,” I said. “I’m sure you will say that Jesus is your savior and that you are follower of Christ. You were probably baptized at age 8.” She nodded.
“If you take out the teachings of Joseph Smith, which obviously the rest of us don’t believe, there is still a big difference,” I said. “The Jesus I know is fully God and fully man. While the LDS believe He was the son of God, I don’t think they believe He is God.”
“No,” she admitted. “But we’re still Christians because we accept Jesus as our savior.”
I nodded, wanting desperately to believe this sweet woman knew the Jesus I knew. I said something like, “I guess God will fill in the details when we get to heaven.”
I went on to tell her a little more about Christianity. “We don’t all baptize babies. The church I go to believes in what we call ‘believer’s baptism.’ When a child is old enough to make a choice, they personally can say yes or no to inviting Jesus into their life. When they make the decision to become a Christian, they tell the church and are baptized. Like you, we baptize by immersion.”
I continued. “Again, like your church, many of our children are around the age 8 when they make a decision. One difference is that we let the child decide on the age. Some do it older, some younger, and sadly, some never do. My daughter loved Jesus at the early age of 5 when she said, ‘Mommy, I love Him and want Him to be a part of my life.’ We prayed together and she has loved Jesus her entire life. I worried that she was too young but I shouldn’t have. She’s in the ministry now.”
“I’m glad that you all don’t baptize babies,” this mother said, looking at the infant she was holding. “I have a hard time thinking parents can make that decision for their children. It was interesting being in my friends church.”
“Did it make you question any of your beliefs?” I asked.
She hesitated. “No,” she said finally. “I’m pretty sure of what I believe.”
At Wal * Mart, I met Barbara and Dave. Barbara is a Christian and a Baptist. “It was a shock when I moved here,” she said. “I was surrounded by LDS.”
“Have you ever been tempted to visit their services?” I asked.
“Oh no,” she said. “They’re certainly honest and family oriented but they aren’t Christians.” I winced at her pronouncement.
In the produce section, I met Dave, who is LDS. “I hear Idaho Falls is 80% LDS,” I said.
“Well,” said Dave, smiling. “Not 80% but probably 60%. We aren’t all that different you know. We are Christians, just like you.”
“I’ve been hearing almost those exact words from every LDS I’ve met.” I said. “That’s a change from what I’ve heard from LDS in the past. Your church must be educating people about what to say.”
“Well yes,” he said. “There is a lot of misinformation and we are trying to work on it. We’ve been having joint events with the other Christian faiths in our area to educate them. We agree on what’s important, Jesus Christ.”
I liked this clean-cut, friendly man, with kind eyes and I wanted to agree with him. “The Bible says all we have to do to be saved is to believe in Jesus and if you say you’ve done that, I guess that’s the important part.” He nodded.
On the top of Cedar Break National Monument in Utah, looking over at the orange, yellow, and red rocks, I met another LDS family. This athletic and tan family was traveling and hiking with their 6 children. All of them had been LDS for their entire life. “We’re Christians,” the father insisted. “Just like you, we invited Jesus into our life and believe He died and rose for our sin. The Book of Mormon is only the appearing of Jesus on this continent. It makes sense that Jesus would have appeared again,” he said logically.
I knew the Book of Mormon was much more to the LDS than just the appearing of Jesus on this continent and I wondered why he downplayed it. Tempted to debate doctrine, I felt the Holy Spirit whisper, No!
“For a moment, I was tempted to debate doctrine with you but God has told me not to do that. I’m just a witness,” I said. “My job is to travel the country and testify about what I see and about my personal relationship with the God of the Bible. I personally worship a God of three parts. God the Heavenly Father is my creator. When I stand here and look out on this beauty, I want to fall on my knees before Him. God the Son loved me enough to come to earth and teach me how to live. My relationship with God the Son involves accepting His grace and learning from His example. Perhaps the sweetest part of my relationship with God is with the Holy Spirit. When Jesus went to heaven, He left me the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus the Son walks with me all the time.” I looked over at their oldest daughter, who was listening quietly, but intently.
“We feel the same way,” this man said. “We just believe that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are different beings, with the Heavenly Father at the head.”
“What about me?” I asked this father. “I’ve asked Jesus into my life and He is my savior. Do you believe I’m going to heaven?”
“Certainly,” he said. “Do I think you are going to go through a more arduous route in the after life? The answer to that is yes but do I think you’re going to hell? Absolutely not! We have a merciful Heavenly Father.”
Jesus, I prayed that night. Your word says that all someone has to do to be saved is to believe in You. These LDS families say they’ve done that. These were sweet and sincere people. I want to believe they’re Christians. Is it enough to accept your sacrifice without accepting your deity? For their sake, I want it to be enough but what is the truth?
I felt the voice of God gently whisper, read John 1. In the beginning is the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Jesus is the Word. I opened my Bible and read the first 5 verses of John before going to sleep.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. NASU
I continued to pray for a clear answer to my question about their Christianity. On Sunday morning, in St. George Utah, I worshipped with Southland Bible Church. The focus scripture was 2 Corinthians 11:2-4.
2 Cor 11:2-4
For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. NASU
As the pastor, Rev. Tim Miles, spoke, God answered my question and I felt grief for these LDS families filling my heart. 2 Corinthians 11:2-4 speaks of the simplicity of the gospel. I thought about that father talking about my arduous path in the afterlife. There is nothing simple about the LDS gospel.
2 Corinthains 11:2-4 warns us to be suspicious of anyone:
1. Preaching another Jesus
2. Receiving a different spirit
3. Or preaching a different gospel
The Jesus the LDS invite into their life is a different Jesus than the one I know and love. Their Jesus isn’t “The Word” because “The Word” is God and the LDS don’t believe Jesus is God. Also, by adding the Book of Mormon, they preach a different gospel. If their Holy Spirit isn’t God, then they are receiving a different spirit. Their Jesus is not my Jesus.
My shallow words of “I guess God will fill in the details when we get to heaven,” came back to haunt me. He has already told us the Truth. Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Light. The only way to the Father is through Jesus, “The Word.” The Word is God.
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. NASU
After church, I asked a church member, “Your pastor’s message was so clear and straight forward. Is it reaching people of the LDS faith? Do you have converts to Christianity?”
“Oh yes,” she said enthusiastically. “All the time. My husband is one of them. He grew up Mormon and this church helped him find the true Jesus.”
“So he doesn’t believe he was Christian before he came to this church?” I asked.
“He knows he wasn’t. He’s pretty angry at the Mormon faith for confusing him. The relationship he has now is with the true Jesus and it has changed his whole life.”
For pictures, go to the Photo Gallery and look under Idaho – Idaho Falls.