We all have a story. And this is one reason I went looking for God outside of main stream Christianity. You see, my first memories are of attending a Presbyterian church while studying at a Catholic school. Then, my family moved to a Methodist church and I studied at a Southern Baptist school. I converted to Mormonism later is my life, after a brief stint with Atheism.
And, there was one thing I learned that has stuck with me throughout the years: Interpretation is a major part of the different beliefs among the same religion. I always hear from Christians that they never interpret. They just take the words as they mean on that page (this is basic Structuralism Interpretation). Or, they claim that they study hard and put the verses in context (this is a combination of Cultural Interpretation, New Criticism, and Structuralism). The stories, poetry, parables, prophecies, etc in the Bible stay the same. It’s how we read them and ascertain meaning from the Bible is the reason there are so many denominations, viewpoints, readings, opinions, and ideas about the Bible.
Here are a list of things I was taught or learned second handed from ministers, deacons, and pastors of various Christian denominations (and the non-denominationals and those believers who say they don’t believe in denominations and just read the Word of God) before I converted to Mormonism:
- The superiority of the white race was justified through the verse Genesis 9: 27.
- The commonly held belief that Ham was the father of the African race, Shem: The Asians, and Japheth: The Europeans. Through their lineage, it is mentioned that their ancestors were of their own tongues and lands. (Genesis 10: 15-20)
- The Book of Job mentions dinosaurs (Job 40: 15-24)
- There are unforgivable sins that will send you to Hell, regardless of the any repentance. (Matthew 12: 31-32)
- Mother Teresa is in Hell because she was Catholic.
- Jesus was white, because Jesus was a descendent of David who had a light complexion (1 Samuel 17:42)
- Cain and Abel were two of the first Homo Sapiens and their wives were not Homo Sapiens (they were probably Homo Erectus). This would account for the ability to breed, but since Homo Erectus were not ‘human,’ they didn’t have a Soul.
- The Book of Revelation is literal, and sometime in the future, everything will happen exactly as it is written in Revelation in all its surrealistic oddness.
- Jesus could feed the 5,000 so easily because there were probably many in the crowd who brought fish and bread with them.
- Buddha was Satan.
- Joseph Smith (young, illiterate, drug addicted) found a cave in his backyard. In this cave, an angel gave him some magic sunglasses to help him read some tablets.
- The 911 was predicted in the Bible.
- Mormons worship Joseph Smith.
- The Rapture is Biblical (1 First Thessalonians 4:17, et al.)
- The Jews don’t accept Jesus as their Savior, so they are going to Hell. But, the Jews are God’s chosen people so they are going to Heaven.
- The Asians came from aliens.
- “Thou shalt not kill” really meant “thou shalt not kill unjustly.”
- Believing in God because you are scared of going to Hell is perfectly fine.
- Salvation starts by praying the Sinner’s Prayer when you want to accept Jesus into your life.
- The Once Saved Always Saved doctrine was held by the Southern Baptists, and it someone did something wrong or evil after being saved then, “They weren’t really saved in the first place.”
- Methodists: People can fall from Grace.
- The Southern Baptists said that all churches and beliefs were wrong except for the Southern Baptists.
- Goliath had six fingers on each hand and he was a descendent of the Nephilim.
These were all taught to me directly, or I heard them directly from pastors, ministers, teachers, and deacons from other churches around the area. Plus, discussions from teachers and among students revolved around some of these points.
I’ve been told by many Christians that I am lying about this list and that I misunderstood what people were saying. But, I am an extrovert and not afraid to ask questions, which I did often during that time. Religion has always been fascinating to me.
From a Presbyterian church to a Methodist church to a Southern Baptist church, my family moved. It wasn’t because of disagreement with doctrine or because of Spiritual shopping but more to do with having to move for my father’s job and ending up in small towns. I went to Catholic schools and Southern Baptist schools while attending these churches. At the time, I was a kid and a young teenager, so I was still impressionable and not at that stage where I had formed my identity and came to terms with my own worldview.
These points all had ‘Biblical backup’ and valid explanations from the pastors and ministers who are got their calling to be a Minister from God. They were all using some form of interpretation to get meaning out of the Bible. And, they all claimed that this is what the Bible meant and that I needed to listen to them.
You go to one Christian church and there is some unique doctrinal point taught. You go to a different Christian church and there is another unique doctrinal point taught. All the ministers and pastors and deacons had Scriptural, textual, spiritual, devotional, ‘historical’ (and I use that term lightly in this context), and authoritative backup for what they taught as doctrine and as ‘from Christ.’
The reason I searched out Mormonism was not because of weird doctrine taught by individual churches. It was the holes that remained when I started to question all these different perspectives, read the Bible for myself, read other religious texts, and read up on Christian theology, philosophy, and history. It was the gaps that I needed to fill and it was the Spirit that I needed to understand. It was the change in views among all the churches and denominations, and the wildly varying views of the individuals who refused the label of ‘denomination.’ “This church is right. That denomination is wrong.” “You don’t need a church. Just come to our study group.” “I am not religious, I am spiritual….”
I decided one day that I would go directly to the source: God. I prayed to Him often, asking for the best way to glorify Him as He deserves to be glorified. I asked for answers and direction.
Then, after many months of this, the epiphanies and revelations in Blooms and Stencils started to come to me, followed by The Book of Lehi and then The Book of Heavenly Mother.
This is how it all began.