On Friday, April 17, 2015, Mormon missionaries were visiting the Teaching & Sharing Center. There were five of us present. The two missionaries sisters (title relating to being in the family of Christ), two Mormon brothers, one baptized over a year ago, the other less than a year, and me. The first one had not recently been attending church, but had offered to sit down with the missionaries at the Center. Various Mormon missionaries came to the Center on a weekly basis throughout 2014, so I was well acquainted with them. Since I came into the Center while they were there, Brother K pulled another chair up to the table as an invitation to join them. As a person who writes better than he speaks, I put together the below letter the day before the missionaries were scheduled to return on the next Friday to meet with the brothers. 

 

April 23, 2015

I honor both the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day (Sunday), but my stronger emphasis is on the original Sabbath from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. The time frame Jesus, and all of His apostles, as Jews, would have set aside as their day of rest. Therefore, Saturday is when I spend more time than normal in my opening morning prayers and devotionals. You met here on Friday. That very next morning, in my quiet time, a couple of the things you said stuck in my mind to ponder. Normally I spend just over an hour or so in prayer and meditation on Saturday mornings, but it turned into over four hours of thinking, listening, and writing down some of the thoughts. I have decided to share those notes with you. 

After hearing Brother K’s concerns, Sister V quoted from both the Bible and the book of Mormon. She ended with a phrase I have often heard from Mormons. She said, “I know this to be true.” One of my pages of notes had these thoughts written upon it. In my mind I saw it as a question for Sister V, but it could be a question for any of us. 

If God appeared to you as he did to Joseph Smith, and said the Mormon Church has gotten off track with its focus on rules, rituals, doctrines, and covenants. If He told you He has chosen you to bring it back to the path He intended when he started the church through Joseph Smith . . . how would you respond? 

No, Lord. It is not possible. We have continuously had prophets since Joseph Smith, who have guided us to where we are. I know this to be true. You must be mistaken. 

– Or would it be –

Yes, Lord. I am Your servant. I do not know what I can accomplish as one individual, but I am willing to do whatever You ask of me. 

The last response is basically the one that Joseph Smith gave to God. After some struggle, since God did not personally appear to me tangibly in a vision, it was also my response more than twenty years ago. One of the outgrowths of that response was the creation of the Teaching & Sharing Center of Grand Ledge, and eventually the nonprofit organization which serves here. Which brings me to another note and question. I envisioned this one directed to Sister K, who scoffed at any comparison between a Mormon temple, and the Center here. It had just been explained to me that the temples in Michigan had limited times when they were available because of the small group of volunteers to draw from for staffing them. I joked that it was just like the Center, because we too have few volunteers, and therefore limited regular open hours. When she scoffed at the sheer mention of any comparison, I reiterated that my sole reference was to the lack of daily open hours. But it was this that came to mind on Saturday, and led to my next question found in my notes. Again, it could be a question for any of us.  

Do you think God is impressed by the size of a building? Or, perhaps the ornateness of its decor? I do not own this building, or the contents. They have been placed into a trust. The Teaching & Sharing Centers, which operates this place, is a non-profit corporation, as is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And, like the Mormon Church, both this place and the organization here were established by a servant who offered his life to God, daily for over twenty years (and still counting), showing up every day with no pay and asking God, “What would you have me do today?” What you see here, is a piece of what grew out of those questions. You say the Mormon temples are dedicated to God. OK. I personally ceremonially dedicated this place to God twenty some years ago. And whenever a doubt might enter my mind, I reaffirm the dedication in a simple ceremony. It also has consecrated (by others) items built into it.  I suspect you might say, but you do not have priesthood powers. It is not my power that makes this place Holy or not, it is God’s power. Yet, if a tree is known by its fruit, as you so often quote in defense of the Mormon Church, then I would think your own experiences here would make a strong statement to you. All are welcomed here. You were welcomed, even though I knew you would be going over the same things the first Mormon missionaries covered twenty years ago. In spite of the fact you would need eighteen more years as unpaid missionaries to stand on level ground with me by that standard alone, I have always accepted you on equal footing, welcoming your viewpoints and visits. You were invited, and welcomed to our table, and have share meals with us. You have been welcomed whenever you have asked to use this place for your gatherings and celebrations. I have made suggestions and tried to help you to be more effective on your missions, even though many Christian denominations still see you as a cult. When Brother K volunteered to hold open the Center several mornings a week, he was not asked if his beliefs or affiliations had changed, he was simply given a key. You profess to serve Jesus, the Christ. As far as I am concerned, that puts us on the same team.  We all need to be careful, by whatever criteria we might choose, about personally judging what is holy, or holier than something else, in God’s eyes. The most important covenant to ever take place between God and man was born in a stable which most likely smelled like animal dung. Few would have deemed it holy ground. The Pharisees and the Sadducees, who were the most learned in all of Israel, spent much of their time in the temple of all temples in Jerusalem, but completely missed the Temple standing before them in His bodily form.

Some other thoughts among my notes . . .

God asked Joseph Smith to start a church. I believe God guided me to start an organization. It is not a church. I believe the world has enough denominations. This organization will work with and serve any who seek the Truth without prejudice. We will work across all denominational lines, and with denominations or individuals, wherever we are welcomed. 

When I first embarked on this journey, I never intended to have a gift shop be a part of what I do here. Then, initially, Cherokee Bill’s Trade Center had no prices on items. Everything was available on a free will offering basis. This made people very uncomfortable however. Some worried they would pay too much. Some struggled with the guilt that they were giving too little. I finally acquiesced and put prices on everything. Similarly, most people find it easier to function within a set of “do this” and “do not do that” rules, than to follow a less detailed admonition from Jesus to love one another as he has loved us. The trappings of religion, its rules, or religion in itself, can become a false idol as easily as money, things, or any addiction. It is an easy hole to fall into for any of us who are serious about our walk with God.

Brother K asks legitimate questions. He has legitimate concerns. Quoting Scripture back to him is a part of the problem, not the solution. He is not a robot you can simply reboot, if only you could find the right scriptural button to push. He is a human being. If you wish to be effective, you need to respond at the human level. Automated and practiced responses are not helpful in this circumstance.  This is not a chastisement. It is just to get you to think. I do not know if I have twenty minutes, or twenty years, left on this planet. But the odds are you will have three times as much time here as I have left. Part of my job is to help you become the best servants of God you can possibly be, with love.  The issue is a deep desire for seeking after Truth. If you wish to help, it is a journey you must walk along with him on. Not just try and steer him back to where you think he should be. But there is a big caution here. Because you will be entering into a place of doubts and exploration, you could potentially find them drawing you into troubling waters as well. You either need to be very certain of your own faith foundation, or be willing to journey into a land of legitimate questioning wherever it might lead you. Rest assured, in this place, I teach no dogma or doctrines. I do not believe it is my place to tell anyone what to believe, or to influence anyone about where to worship. My job is simply to help each person grow and become more effective at whatever they do for Jesus, the Christ. 

Beyond basic discussion, my suggestion to Brother K has always been to just speak whatever is his truth.  And, to take any decisions to God in prayer, seeking His will. The sign in front of the Center asks, “What would Jesus do?” It can be another form of prayer.  Asking Jesus what He would do, if He were you? Someone can be coerced, cajoled, or otherwise pushed into professing something, but not into believing it. Though our viewpoints might change, belief is still always what is inside of our own hearts, regardless of what comes out of our mouth. Indeed, our actions often do a better job of revealing our true beliefs than our words. This is not secret nor personal instruction. It is simply my perspective at the moment. I am about as open a person as you are likely to meet in your lifetime. You are welcome to share this with others. Particularly with anyone in the LDS church who might think Brother K is specifically being influenced away from Mormonism by me (a concern he personally voiced some might think). I will likely place a dated copy of it on my website as a part of sharing my own progression in understanding and seeking the Truth.  Be well. In Christ’s love. 

  God’s peace,
 

 

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