Erin Martin, Nursing Student
Every chamber of my heart is drawn to Utah. I cannot help but want to drag everyone I know with me. So, for this team, I grabbed four friends who are mildly to somewhat seriously interested in living in Utah in the future. Nine days and three churches. Every time I arrive in Utah, my respirations (temporarily) plummet to zero from encountering the breath-taking beauty of Utah’s towering mountains. But, after a few days, the view was not its most magnetic aspect for the five of us. Utah, Mormons, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I don’t think I actually realized how deep the veins of the LDS church run in Utah until we arrived at our first location – an Airbnb in Provo (the home of BYU) – where there was no coffee maker. Odd, but not really a big deal, right? Until I remembered – true, devout, and very practicing Mormons don’t drink coffee. (Don’t worry; we found plenty of phenomenal little coffee shops scattered throughout.) According to our Christian friends in the Salt Lake area, some cities would have over ninety percent claim to be part of the LDS church, while the other ten percent is predominantly non-religious, most likely completely turned off by the deception of the LDS church that has been exposed to them. Other areas are more fifty-fifty. Still, the great majority does not know our true God.
As we toured the temple square, we were prompted to consider the true difference between the five of us in our twenties and the two sisters, also about the same age, who gave us the tour. We and the sisters both would say that we are spending our lives serving God. We would both want to be distinct from other non-religious people. We would both serve our local church and have been taught stories about Jesus since we were knee high to a grasshopper. Our religion has been part of who we are and has shaped how we think and what we do. How do I even have the right to say that I am right? How can this even be determined? Through faithfulness to our respective causes? Well, honestly, I believe that some very serious LDS are much more faithful to their set of religious beliefs than I am to mine. And, all of the very serious Mormons go on their mission for a year and a half to two years. That’s so much more than some little, two-month, summer mission team (or, in the case of the Salt Lake City team, nine days). Is it following more rules? They again would totally trump me in the ability to memorize and apply all the rules in their handbook. The real difference is the faith behind our faithfulness. To a Latter Day Saint, their faithfulness is faithless. Their salvation is not “by grace . . . through faith . . . the gift of God,” but by good works through following the rules of the church (Ephesians 2:8). As with many religions, a Mormon’s righteousness, and, therefore, his eternal destiny, is based completely on his relationship with the temple – being baptized in the temple, being sealed (married) in the temple, making promises in the temple – and on living a relatively moral life.
What makes us different? As we spoke to the pastors, one truth became incredibly clear: personal righteousness has nothing to do with the person himself at all. Personal righteousness is only ever from Christ. I know; you already knew that. I mean, really, 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Romans 5:17 pretty much spell that out for us. But, we do get to have a friendship with the One who created us, who gave us life. A friendship with the One who we reject (no not just in the past tense). A friendship with One who still begs us to bring our anxieties to Him and exchange them for inexpressible peace (Philippians 4:6-7). He rescued us from ourselves, from trying to be good enough. You know? The One who created the entire universe. He created all those things that I could barely even begin to comprehend in biology class. He is the One who wants to be my personal best friend and chases after me even when I am sprinting away from Him! Because He loves me. That’s the difference. It is not at all my being a good kid. It is totally God’s being the incredible Father and Friend. He also takes the position of being in control of my life with His kind wisdom that graciously gives me what He knows is good and best (instead of what I think I need or deserve).
While I may know these truths in my head, living with my thoughts and actions affected by them is a little more challenging. I can be pretty good at acting like I am more righteous than you because I do all these super-duper good things and do not do the really bad things. Am I a slave to myself, too? Or am I just another religious girl in her twenties that has a bunch of rules and likes to tell you that I am right and you are wrong or that you should follow my rules and act like me?
Utah begs me to stay because of the people who are hopelessly obliged, bound, enslaved to their religion or to the absolute abhorrence of it. I know that what I have is not just religion but a Lord and Friend who has overwhelmingly shown His love and personal care for me. While my eyes are perpetually glued to the majestic scenes around me, my heart is even more passionate about sharing the light I have in a place filled with darkness.
“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” Romans 6:6-7
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.