Things were getting dicey. You know me—push, push, push.
“So what you’re telling me,” I said to the well-scrubbed missionaries, “is that you can become a God.”
“Yes, that’s true,” the thinner of the two missionaries said. “It’s in the Bible.”
I could see the beefier of the two missionaries looking at my bookcase filled with “anti-Mormon” books and videos. Anything written about Mormonism by non-Mormons is by default anti-Mormon and to be avoided as a product of—for all practical purposes—Satan Himself, prolific trickster.
The beefier missionary narrowed his eyes.
“Yes,” the thinner of the two missionaries said, pulling his mega-scriptures from his backpack—not just the Book of Mormon but the Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants. All three Standard Works. And the King James Version of the Old and New testaments, included because the authorities back in Salt Lake knew the missionaries would encounter gentiles like me. It looked more like a CARE package than a book.
He knew just where to go. Romans 8:16-17. He began to read: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”
“Yeah, what about it?”
I actually had been waiting for him to use that verse—or any of the Verses Mormons Use that I had researched online.
“Well,” he said, “Heavenly Father has a plan for us. He wants us to have everything He has—so, yes, that includes becoming a God.”
“If this was really something the Bible taught, becoming a God, then the Bible would likely have more to say about it than this one verse. Much has to be read into this passage to make it say something the original author never intended. Read this verse for me: Isaiah 45:5.”
He obviously didn’t know where to find the book of Isaiah.
“It’s in the Old Testament. To your left.”
I’m not proud of this now, but I was enjoying it then.
When he finally got there, he read aloud: “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me.”
This really was unfair. By that time, I’d been a devout Christian for 34 years. If these two followed the typical routine for Mormon missionaries, they’d grown serious about their religion only when the time for their mission arrived. They’d heard the Book of Mormon read on Sunday, and they’d never cracked a Bible. Stupid Mormons.
“See? You don’t know what you’re talking about, do you?”
I talked as if the meaning of the verse was plain to any fool. Truth was, when I was first “saved” and studying the Bible in college, I had absolutely no idea what a “joint heir” was. At the time, I was a member of Campus Crusade for Christ, and we were taught that any biblical conundrum could be solved with a Greek-to-English Bible, a Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, a concordance, and a couple of commentaries. And prayer. If everything else failed, pray. And if you still didn’t understand the verse, it was just one of those “unsolved mysteries of the faith.”
I could tell the thinner of the two missionaries was thinking to himself, This isn’t working like they told me at the Missionary Training Center.
The beefier of the two missionaries glared at me as if I had just made an obscure joke about his Motherland that he didn’t really understand.
“You and your frickin’ videos!” he barked. “You have no concern for the things of God!”
Frickin’. That’s pretty darn-diddly harsh for a missionary. Usually, the closest they get to an F-bomb is flippin’. It was righteous indignation, I guess. His was the biblical view: The fool hath said in his heart, “There is no God.” Fools aren’t just dumb. They’re evil. Morally fatuous, if you will—all because they don’t orbit their existence around God and his One Holy Church and are left with no recourse but self-centeredness. Stupid is as stupid does.
And I was one of them, in his mind: a frickin’ degenerate.
Little did he know. I was actually on a mission from God at the time. I was an evangelical hellbent on skewering Mormonism through my debut novel—every bit as zealous as he was. Joke was on him. I wasn’t godless. I was, I guess, god-ful.
The beefy missionary narrowed his eyes. Here it comes.
He stood up as he said, “I testify to you that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and restored the gospel upon the earth in 1830 after the gospel was lost shortly after the death of the last apostle in the first century, and I testify to you that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the One True Church on the Earth today, and this Church is led by a living prophet who receives revelation by speaking directly to God.”
He grabbed his backpack and turned to the thinner missionary, “C’mon, let’s go. This jackass isn’t ready for the gospel.”
And, once again, another meeting with Mormon missionaries had spun down the crapper like your morning McMuffin. Usually they stormed out of my house after declaring that I had a “Spirit of Contention.”
They were probably right. It was fun to see them squirm. They had come to a gunfight only to find they had been issued a peashooter by High Command. Mine went kablammo! and theirs went . . . pip.
I knew my Bible. I was right.
As I watched them walk away—the beefy missionary looking at the ground because he was ashamed the “natural man” had gotten the better of him, again, and he had blown up—a niggling thought occurred to me. So I suppressed it.
But as I met with more missionaries, and then when I started going to a Mormon church “under cover,” the thought kept coming up.
These people are just like me. They are me.
They had a passion for serving Christ—they strove to be like Him, sold out—but they believed what they believed because they had been told to believe it.
Likewise, we approached scripture in the same way, bowing to authority instead of using our brains. We believed the interpretation that was bequeathed to us as being the “plain meaning of the text” and comforted ourselves knowing that scholars had adjudicated on these matters and confirmed our cherished beliefs. We thought our point of view was the view that Any Smart Person would arrive at if they just studied the Bible hard enough.
Truth is, I believed the Party Line. So did they. Stupid me and stupid Mormons.
They regurgitated to me, and I regurgitated to them.
The truth is that the Bible contains multiple depictions of God. There is no one biblical view of God. That’s because it was written by men who were all over the map, both geographically and figuratively, over several hundred years.
How could it not contradict itself?
I learned all that when I started reading books by people who disagreed with me—that is, allowed my brain full rein. If you are of the mind to lose your religion, I advise the tactic. It’s surefire. Eventually, you see things aren’t as cut and dried as you thought they were—that you didn’t reason your way into your faith.
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