Last time I described how I learned about Mormonism, and how, after a long period of discussions the Missionaries had suggested that I try prayer and fasting. As I said, I failed miserably, but they were nice about it and suggested that I try again. And again I agreed.
This time I took it more seriously. Working on Minuteman missiles does not have a regular work week, so I picked a time where I could devote my three days to prayer and fasting. This time things went a lot better. As I approached the end the fast, I found it was a much more positive experience than my first attempt because I was not rebelling against it.
I was reading the Bible, Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God, not the result of works, that no one should boast.” That is when it happened. God spoke to my heart again, as clear if not clearer than the first time.
The best way to describe it is to imagine yourself in a darken room. Your eyes have adjusted and you think you can see everything pretty clearly, and pretty much know what is around you. Then somebody comes in and turns on the light. Suddenly you can see clearly and you realize that nothing is what you thought it was.
This is what happened to me, the Holy Spirit turned on the light, and suddenly I could see clearly. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God; not the result of works, that no one should boast.” Suddenly in the light of the Holy Spirit, those words were very clear.
Just as the Holy Spirit had touched my heart to confirming that God existed, He touched my heart to show me that the Bible was the word of God. Also in that instant I knew that Joseph Smith was not a prophet, and that the Book of Mormon was not God’s word. God had answered my prayer. It was at that moment that I accepted the gift of God spoken of in Ephesians 2:8-9; I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
Being the sort of person I am, when the Missionaries returned to see how my prayer and fasting had gone, I did literally tell them, “I have good news and some bad news. The good news is that I had an answer to my prayer. The bad news is that it was not the one that you wanted.”
So we sat down and I began to describe what had happened. Quickly the discussion turned to salvation by grace. Starting from Eph 2:8-9 we began to discuss the Biblical plan of salvation. Mormonism teaches that grace comes into play only after you have worked; that grace sort of makes up the difference between your works and what you need to be saved, but that the works are required for salvation. This conflicted with Eph which say that salvation is not of works, but by grace through faith.
The discussion lasted several hours. Eventually we came back to Eph 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith” One of the Missionaries said “Yes, that is what we believe!” But I said that it wasn’t and picked up one of the books he had loaned me on the writings of their prophets. I read him the statement of a Mormon prophet that the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith came out of the pit of hell. He got very quiet, and the discussion ended a short time later.
He was transferred out of the area later that week, which is what can happen when a missionary gets into spiritual or moral trouble, and I never saw him again. However, though a very strange coincidence I was talking to a friend of mine just after this and he mentioned how his wife was depressed because her brother was suddenly transferred. It turns out her brother had been the missionary, and I was able to get his new address, and wrote him a long letter.
Not too long after this my enlistment was up and I returned to California, losing contact with those who had played such an important role in my spiritual life.
In some respects my spiritual odyssey was over. I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I had finally become a Christian. A week after my conversion, I led my wife to the Lord. But in many respects this was not the end of my journey, but the beginning. While I had accepted the Lord as my savior, there was still a lot of baggage left over from my life to that point that had to be dealt with. There were also issues such as finding a church to attend, as clearly continuing to attend the Mormon Church was not an option.
And while I have clearly come a long way since first becoming a Christian, I certainly wouldn’t say I have yet reached my destination of really knowing God and really seeking to follow him. That is, quite literally, I believe, an eternal process. But through it all two things remain constant: God is not done with me, and He is very patient.
This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.