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Understanding the Mormon Journey: Do Theology Interview, Pt. 1

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October 4, 2021 8:41 am

Understanding the Mormon Journey: Do Theology Interview, Pt. 1

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October 4, 2021 8:41 am

Matthew the Nuclear Calvinist and the Apostate Paul were invited by our friend Jeremy Howard to go on the Do Theology Podcast to answer some blunt questions. This is the first part of that interview. In this installment, Jeremy asks us to revisit our transitions out of the LDS Church, and then asks us if we really experienced a burning in the bosom in our efforts to gain a testimony of the LDS Church and the Book of Mormon. 

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You're entering outer brightness.

Hey, Fireflies. Recently, Matthew the Nuclear Calvinist and I went on the Do Theology podcast where our friend Jeremy Howard interviewed us. The way he put it to us was that he wanted to ask us some blunt questions, and indeed he did. He shared with us the recording so that we can also publish it to our podcast. Here comes part one. Hope you enjoy.

All right. Well, I am joined today by Paul Nurnberg and Matthew Eklund from the Outer Brightness Podcast, guys that I feel like I know because I listen to their podcast quite frequently. Don't miss too many episodes, especially being a Christian, being a pastor in Utah. It's very helpful for me to hear their content as they talk about their transition from being in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to being members of biblical Christian churches now and confessing the biblical gospel. I learned something new in almost every episode. I feel like I've studied almost everything there is to study within Mormonism and then I'll be listening to an Outer Brightness episode and it'll be like, oh, wow, I've never heard of that before, but it's great content for me to take and then share with my Latter-day Saint friends and say, hey, I was listening to these guys talk about this.

Can you explain that to me? I appreciate you guys for your content that you make in your podcast and appreciate you joining me, Paul and Matthew. Thanks so much for being here. Yeah, glad to be on.

Thanks, Jeremy. Thank you for having us. Now, I want to start out with just your backstories. I imagine we do have some overlap with our listener base, but probably minimal overlap. So people who are hearing you guys for the first time and would be interested in going and checking out the Outer Brightness podcast, just give me your background one at a time, a few minutes each.

Paul, if you want to start, we'll just start with how you were raised and get into your quote unquote faith journey from Mormonism to Jesus. Your story is exciting. I was listening on one of your recent episodes. There's a chocolate factory involved, which always perks my attention. So go ahead, Paul, share your story.

Sure. The chocolate factory was only a couple of months, but- Very influential. It's true.

It's true. That time was influential. So yeah, I was born and raised in the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. My dad was a convert to Mormonism. He joined the church at the age of 26. After his father died, he was kind of drawn in by the whole eternal families thing, because he was grieving the loss of his dad, which was sudden.

On my mom's side, we go back to pioneer stock. I have a great, great grandmother on that side who left Denmark and with several of her daughters pulled a handcart across the plains. And so she eventually settled in Pleasant Grove, Utah, and then other parts of that family settled in Idaho, which is where my mom was born. During my growing up years, I was pretty active in the LDS church. My family was mostly active.

I wouldn't say we were... My mom was definitely more active than my dad, but we were probably three out of four week attenders each month. And I was baptized at the age of eight in the baptistry in the tabernacle there on Temple Square. I remember early going to priesthood sessions of general conference with my dad when I was just a young boy. And then as I got into my teenage years, I kind of drifted away. Many of my friends were either not LDS or were lapsed LDS, and I was a bit of a troublemaker myself.

So that got me a kind of a negative reputation in the ward. I did still participate in like boy Scouts and that type of thing, but I definitely wasn't as a frequent attender during my early teenage years. Then in the senior year of my high school experience, I transferred to a new high school that they had built that year, Copper Hills High School, for those who may be in Utah and are aware.

I happened to live in the boundaries for that high school and my junior varsity basketball coach got the head coaching job at Copper Hills and he invited me to come play for him there. So I made that transition my senior year and kind of got more serious about the LDS church at that time. Several of my teammates there at Copper Hills were very influential in kind of being close to me and shepherding me back into activity in the LDS church. I attended seminary more regularly than I had in the past during that year and was working with my bishop in my LDS ward on getting ready to submit papers for my mission. So I ended up going on a mission to Budapest, Hungary from 1997 to 1999 and really enjoyed that experience. It was great to experience another part of the world, learn a new language.

It was challenging, of course. I was going to mention another thing I learned from your podcast geographically, that those are actually two different cities. I didn't know that before I was listening to that episode and was like, oh wow, I thought Budapest is just one town, but it's two towns.

Yeah, exactly. Interesting little things about Hungary, but it's a beautiful area. The Buddha side of the river, there's a lot of hills on that side.

The Pest side is more flat, but the Danube river runs through there and I really enjoyed everything about living in a central European city that has had very important aspects of history related to it. So got to see a lot of castles and that kind of thing, really enjoyed my time there. But then towards the end of my mission, I started to wrestle with some questions. I had made a goal for myself to read through all of what Latter-day Saints called the standard works, which are their canon of scripture, which includes the Bible, the book of Mormon and doctrine of covenants and pearl of great price. And the last one that I was reading through, because I started with the LDS scriptures, the last one I was reading through was the new Testament. And I started to see how much of the book of Mormon narrative and text itself relies upon the letters of Paul and some of the other writings in the new Testament like acts and Paul's experience with his road to Damascus experience. So those kinds of things started to bother me. I had already had, I had already struggled as a teenager to kind of really believe that the book of Mormon came about as Joseph Smith said it came about. And so as those things started to bother me, I started to look into LDS apologetics when I returned from my mission. And that's where the chocolate factory comes in. I went to work pulling orders of the Hershey chocolate factory and spent my lunches reading apologetics works from farms, the foundation for ancient research and Mormon studies, which is now the Maxwell Institute at BYU.

And, um, a lot of those apologetics articles challenged me even more. Um, but, uh, met my wife online. Uh, she lived out here in the Cincinnati area where we live now. And, um, she convinced me because I wasn't yet, uh, uh, registered to go to the university of Utah. She convinced me to come out here and go to go to college. So I moved out here, went to university of Cincinnati, um, started a pre-law degree there, uh, and then, um, finished up a business degree at a small Catholic, uh, college that's near where we live.

And that was very influential. Um, but early on in my married years, uh, continued to struggle with questions that I had about Latter-day Saint, uh, doctrine and history. And, um, after 10 years of marriage, uh, we made a decision together to leave the LDS church. Uh, we no longer believed it was true and we didn't feel like we were growing in Christ there. So we made a decision to leave and try to find a church where we could grow in Christ.

Amen. What, uh, through your experience there, Paul, what, what was your relationship like with your parents as you were very obviously exiting the church through those, I'm assuming it was a couple of period of couple of years where you were wrestling with things and then finally making the decision to leave. What was your relationship like with your parents and your family?

Yeah, it was tough. Um, my, my parents actually ended up moving out here, uh, in 2004. So I had been out here right about four years when my dad moved out here, he worked, uh, he worked in the electronics industry for many years out there in Utah and the company that he had been working for was struggling and, um, ended up going out of business. And so he, he lost his job and, um, he decided to come look out here, um, primarily because my mom said, Hey, you know, Paul's got grandkids.

None of my other siblings had grandkids for them yet. So she said, let's see, let's see about going and living near Paul where, where we can see the grandkids more often. So they moved out here. Uh, he got a job and, and so they were here, um, through the years that we were really struggling and we had a lot of conversations with them. Um, thankfully my parents were pretty good.

It definitely, um, shook them. Uh, my mom, especially, uh, my dad, I think already had his own questions that he was working through. Um, but they were, uh, I would say unlike some other LDS parents, they never tried to shun me or, or do anything like that. Um, they were concerned and they expressed their concerns and we had some difficult conversations, but, uh, nothing, nothing like what some other people go through. How old were your kids when you left the LDS church?

Let's see. Uh, our oldest was 14. Oh, wow. And our youngest was, uh, three. So yeah, pretty young. It's easy to forget just how old you are, Paul. Um, so, well, was, was that difficult with your kids as you were exiting, uh, were, I'm assuming that three-year-old, you know, wasn't latching onto a lot, probably didn't affect your three-year-old's life very much through those years, but what about the older kids?

How did that go? Yeah, initially our oldest, um, I'm sorry, she was 16. So she had been attending early Mormons early morning seminary at the LDS church for a few years. Um, and, uh, initially when we decided to leave, she told us that she wanted to stay. Um, it was a big, um, I think cultural and social shock for her, the idea of leaving because she had made a lot of friends in the LDS church. And, um, you know, especially out here where there are fewer Mormons than maybe in Utah, it it's really important for them socially, um, as school, uh, you know, so they feel like kind of outsiders.

So that group really coheres for them and becomes really important to them. So she initially told us she wanted to wanted to stay. Um, we told her we would support her in that.

Um, if that's what she wanted to do, um, you know, we would drive her to church and that kind of thing. And, um, she stayed for a couple of weeks and then, um, there was a fast and testimony meeting in which, uh, one of the Bishop members of the Bishopric stood up and made a comment that that was referencing our family, uh, in his testimony, just kind of talking about how he, um, he felt bad that, that such good people would fall away. And, um, she heard that and it brought her to tears. He came over to her and apologized and said, he didn't realize she was in the audience that day. And he wouldn't have said that if she, if he knew she was and, um, but it, it made her think, you know, she thought she said, uh, you know, she came home from church that day upset. And she said, uh, you know, to us, I know you all are trying to follow Jesus. And so that comment just didn't make sense to me. Um, and from that, from that day on, she didn't go to the LDS church anymore.

She started going to the Christian church with us. Wow. Yeah. For those who don't know, a fast and testimony Sunday is like open mic night, uh, for a church service. And it's, uh, the, I think first Sunday of the month, is that right? Uh, or last Sunday of the month. Okay. First Sunday of the month. So if you're looking at visiting a Mormon church service, go on the first Sunday, you're going to have fun.

Uh, or he might cry depending on what they say. So, okay. That's great. Thanks for sharing that.

Paul. I appreciate that. Matthew, uh, your story. So I was born and raised in Northern Utah, so around the North dog and Pleasant view area. And, um, so my parents were both, uh, raised in the church, I believe. And, um, we had, uh, so we had grown up in a family where my, so my mother had already been divorced, so she had a son from her previous marriage.

So he's my half brother. And so he was my older brother. And um, and then there was me and then I have one sister and so that's, that's kind of where I grew up and we were not always active in the church. So we would, I remember attending a lot when I was really, really young. Uh, I don't remember a whole lot about what I learned, but, you know, I remember being in the church, uh, and then it seemed like when I was kind of around the age of nine, 10, 11, uh, that's kind of when we started going less often, you know, my family was never really strong in the LDS church in terms of, you know, practicing everything that the church requires. Like, you know, I'm not saying my parents are bad people of course, by any means, you know, but I'm just saying that, you know, they have certain standards, like the word of wisdom where you're not supposed to drink tea or coffee or alcohol. And so like when I was young, I did remember my parents, coffee and, um, and beer occasionally. So it's not like, it's not like they would, you know, take it to excess, but you know, unless the horn teachers came over, then you hide the coffee pot. Right. You know, I don't remember us actually having really any home home teachers come over.

So yeah, they didn't really even have to do that. Um, but yeah, so we would, we would attend, but it was less frequent. And then, you know, my parents started having marital troubles when I was around 11, 12. And that's, and so my parents were divorced at 12. Um, and it was kind of then where, I mean, I still attended church, but my affections for the church kind of started to get weaker and weaker over time. So I was ordained to the Aaronic priesthood at 12, which is standard for, um, for most of the day, St men, young men. Um, and then at 14 year old, being a teacher and a 16 year old in a priest. Uh, so I was already in a teacher or a deacon at 12 and a teacher at 14, but then I kind of went inactive around high school. So 15, 16, so I was never ordained a priest.

Um, I should back up and say that, uh, I technically am a current, I was a convert to the LDS church because I was not baptized at eight. So if you're baptized at eight, um, you, you basically just have to, you know, if you're attending church and you just pass the questions with your Bishop and state president, then, you know, then you can be signed off to be baptized. But I was not baptized at eight.

It was nothing. My parents really pushed me into, and I kind of asked about it. I'm like, well, you know, don't have to go to, you know, don't have to be baptized to go to heaven. And my parents were like, well, I mean, that's what the church teaches, you know?

So I was like, oh, shoot. So I was like, well, I want to get to heaven. So, you know, um, so I was baptized. So I met with missionaries. I received what was then the seven, uh, I don't know if it was seven Paul, you did, you did them, right. The, uh, not the, not the, uh, preach my gospel lessons, but they're the, uh, oh yeah.

Gospel principles. Yeah. No, it was, uh, what was it called? The, uh, the discussions. Yeah. Discussions.

That's the word. It was like literally scripts to a film, you know, and the missionary would have their lines and then the investigator would supposedly have their lines. And if the investigator, my, my dad was telling me like, or, or I can't refer as my dad or someone else told me, but they're like, sometimes if they didn't answer the question, you may want it to, you would just repeat the same lines till you get the answer you want.

That's kind of what some people do. So that's kind of what I always thought was the, the, uh, the discussions, but I think they watered it down a bit because I was a kid. I think that's, um, that's what I got in this really old, you probably see me posted on social media, this really old missionary manual where you had the teaching principles, um, where it goes through and yeah, for discussion number one, here's your outline discussion too. And it's got the script and everything. Yeah.

Real, real goofy. Yeah. I forget the elders like in the scripts, they were like elder Brown and Brown or something.

Yep. Um, so by the time I started a mission, uh, they had already gone to teach my gospel. So they don't do those anymore, but yeah, when I was, so I took them to the missionary discussions and I was baptized at 10, the same day as my sister. Um, so yeah, so going back to, you know, I kind of went to inactivity around 15, 16, and then kind of felt convicted, you know, uh, around college. So I started going to college and I had made some moral mistakes in my life and I felt really guilty about not like serious ones, but we're like, we're, you know, I had a falling out with certain people. And so that kind of really pricked my conscience. And so I started kind of feeling like I needed changes in my life. And so I started investigating the church again and started, you know, going active again and, you know, thinking to myself, no, if I can get a testimony, like everybody talks about of the book of Mormon, then I'll serve a mission. And so, um, so I started attending and that was, that was around, yeah, it was around 2005. I started reattending and I think that was the year that, uh, the LDS, uh, prophet Gordon McKinley was doing the book of Mormon challenge where you're supposed to read the book of Mormon in a year.

And, uh, everybody was asking me, so how far are you? And I'm like, what are you talking about? Like, what are we with the challenge?

I'm like, what challenge? Like, you know, like, like I haven't gone that long. Like, what does that, what does it have to you know, and they're like, Oh, the prophet, he said, you know, read the book of Mormon.

Like, Oh, okay. So I was, I had a late start, but you know, I did read the book of Mormon and I was really studying a lot of stuff. I even studied, you know, like other books like Talmadge.

I really loved Talmadge. I loved his great apostasy and Jesus Christ. I didn't read all Jesus Christ, but I did read all the great apostasy. Um, I read parts of his, uh, the articles of faith. Uh, I liked McConkie also. So I liked his, uh, Mormon doctrine in particular.

Um, excuse me. So basically, you know, I, I, I felt like I was reading and praying the book of Mormon and really desire to testimony. And I felt like I got, you know, this kind of burning into bosom at a certain point that they confirmed to me, the book of Mormon was true. And so at that point I felt like, well, you know, that's what I've been looking for.

So that's evidence. I need to go on a mission. So, you know, I kind of been already preparing. Um, I took some time off of school and, uh, just worked to save money and, uh, put in my mission papers. And so I was called to the Belgium Brussels, Netherlands mission 2007. So that mission comprised at the time, all of the Netherlands, most of Belgium to a very tiny part and part of Northern France.

And it was a dual speaking mission, a dual language vision. So the Northern half and the West, the West side of Belgium, they spoke Dutch and then the East side of Belgium and the Southern part of France, or, you know, the Northern part of France, French, obviously. So I was called to the French speaking side. Um, so I served mostly in Belgium, uh, for the city as I was called in, but I did, uh, go to some French cities. I was in a tiny town called bay tune and I called Amiens and, uh, yeah. And so Belgium, I spent a time in the biggest cities I spent time in were the edge Brussels and Charlotte, which are like the big three biggest French speaking cities in Belgium.

And, um, well, Brussels is weird because a lot of people speak English there. So that was a good mission. You know, I, I, uh, worked the hardest and, you know, fully prepared to come home and, you know, get married in the temple and all that good stuff. So I came home and then I went back to college and continued my studies and then university. So I finished a bachelor's degree in engineering at university Utah, and then I continued on to my masters.

And so when I was working and kind of finishing my master's degree, that's kind of, I started a question and it's weird. Uh, the moment that I started question was, I was, uh, at the time my calling was a Sunday school teacher and I talked, um, I think it was, I think it was gospel principles, maybe I forget, but, um, we talked about the temple work. And so I was asking people, you know, like, so what kind of ordinances they do in the temple? And, you know, sometimes when you get on the topic of temples, they'll just get very skittish.

They get very hesitant to want to mention anything sacred, not secret, sacred, not secret. Yep. Um, so I was like, come on guys.

I mean, like, you don't have to tell me like, what happens in the template or something, tell me the ordinances. Right. And they're like, okay, well, you start raising their hand. Well, that does with the dead.

I'm like, yeah, great. So the board confirmation for the dead, and then, you know, they do, uh, uh, endowments and, uh, marriages. And then someone mentioned, uh, the second endowment and I was like, Hmm, second endowment, that sounds familiar.

I remember reading something about that, but I told him, I don't know about that one, but I'll get back to you. And so that kind of like, uh, that was kind of like what cracked the door open, I guess, like starting to, you know, really dig into more church history. And I ran into a lot of like Dan Vogel's work. And also it was right around the time too, where, uh, was it Tom Phillips?

Is that his name? He was a former, uh, general authority or maybe as an area authority in the church in England. And, uh, he had described his experience of the second anointing, uh, ceremony on, uh, on the Mormon stories, uh, program. So like reading that and, uh, you know, it just didn't feel right to me that only certain people had access to the special ceremony to guarantee eternal life and there. And then, uh, you know, with Dan Vogel's work, I also looked into the three and eight witnesses and the restoration of the priesthood and how, you know, there's different, different accounts and dates have been changed and the differing accounts of Joseph Smith's first vision and like, you know, the, the book of Abraham, you know, compared to the, the grammar and alphabet of the Egyptian language and how tie the different characters up to, uh, the papyri that he had. So, you know, that he got it from those papyri.

It's not like there's some missing papyri. He got it from those ones and he claimed they said these things and it was just a rabbit hole that was going down further and further and further. And I thought that I was going to get out of it on the other end of the stronger testimony. And it turns out that, uh, I didn't like, it just kept getting worse and worse. And I kept your show was unable to hold all of it. Your shelf wasn't strong enough.

Exactly. I guess you could just say, maybe I just didn't have enough faith, but, uh, but yeah, so long. So that, yeah, it's a long story, but basically, yeah, just started the doubt. And then I really kind of had like that, you know, a shelf crash moment at the time I was preparing to get married in the temple. I was here in New York.

So I had left Utah after my masters and came to New York, particularly my studies in engineering. And I was preparing to get married in the temple. And then I kind of had that shelf crashing moment and just felt like I couldn't do it anymore. You know, I'm just like, I'm done, I'm done. Um, so, uh, engagement ended and like, I was kind of trying to pick up the pieces and trying to salvage testimony somehow.

I was like, okay, I don't have to believe the church is completely true. I can pick and choose what I want. So I tried to make that work, but, you know, I, I also got into watching debates. So in particular, I got into James White's debates because, uh, you know, I just, I just did debates on the priesthood or something on YouTube. And so then I, I picked up the one with him and Ms. Pacwa, and then also the debate on him with the papacy. So I, I just loved, you know, debates. I just ate them up because Mormons don't really debate that way.

Typically. I mean, they're starting to get into that now, you know, the certain young apologists, but they don't really engage that much in that way. So the fact that there's this intellectual debate and then you could actually look at the Bible and say, Oh, there's answers there. It's as literally saying, you kind of figured the Bible was just a mishmash of missing documents and just, you know, corrupted texts and things like that, but you can actually look at it and get reliable answers from like really kind of surprised me a bit. So, um, through that, you know, God kind of used that process and, you know, with James White, with his program, the dividing line, I would, I would read my, my, you know, my LDS, you know, quad, my, my King James version of the Bible while he's exegeting, uh, John chapter six, and he's going through, you know, verse by verse talking about how, you know, using that to reference to Roman Catholics. And he's just talking about how Jesus says, no one can come to me unless the father who sent me draws him and I'll lift him up the last day.

And he was talking about it. And I was just really struggling with it because I couldn't, I just couldn't refute the words on the page. You know, I was like, well, that's what Jesus said, you know?

So how am I, you know, how am I going to go against that? So I tried to integrate that into my Mormon faith at some point. I was like, well, maybe I can be a Trinitarian Mormon kind of thing. I was reading his forgotten Trinity on the bus ride. Like Joseph originally was.

Yeah, exactly. So I was trying, I was trying to make that work and, you know, I kind of just got to a point where I was also reading his, uh, the God who justifies along alongside while reading Romans chapters one through five, you know, really trying to digest it. And I was on the church court and I was on, I was on the street corner waiting for the bus again to go to church while reading that.

And I really like just slap, you know, like when you read something several times, it doesn't make sense or it doesn't really hit you. But like, for some reason that day, like when I was reading Romans three and four, I was like, yeah, there's really nothing I can do to be justified. So why do I need the temple ordinances? Why do I need the priests?

Why do we need all of these other things? LDS church claims that you need to return to live with God when it says Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. So I felt like at that point, I really had to make a choice. I was like, well, I've either got to side with the Bible or I've got to side with what I've been taught my entire life. And I was just thinking about, okay, if I stand before God, you know, I'm going to be judged and I'm going to either, you know, side with the LDS church or the Bible.

I'm like, well, if the Bible is wrong, then I'll be wrong with kind of the thing. So it was, that was kind of like the turning point where I officially, you know, decided, well, I'm not, I'm just not going to go anymore. So I think I went that day, but I was like, just really not into it.

And so I left and I officially resigned in 2017. It also started attending several churches. So there was a Presbyterian church nearby, an OPC church that started attending and a Reformed Baptist church.

So I attended both kind of trying to figure out which ones I would line up with more. So I eventually decided to join the Reformed Baptist church. So that's the church I'm a member of now since 2019 when I was baptized there. So and then Paul and Michael Fornoy bring me into this whole outer brightness thing at some point.

I forget when that was 2019, probably when they kind of broke me into it. So yeah, and it's been great ever since. Yeah. You've grown a lot in a very short amount of time in your theological knowledge and I mean, evolved again, using a word that's more of a cultural word than a word I would like to use, I guess, but in a very short amount of time, I mean, we're talking about you left the LDS church during Donald Trump's presidency.

And you know, Paul, it was what Jimmy Carter's presidency when you left. So but you know, it's very fresh. Everything's very fresh for you still, I imagine. What's your family dynamic like? How have they been through the last few years for you changing so much in such a short amount of time?

Yeah. So for my mom so like I said, my mom and my dad had divorce and they had both remarried. So my mom and my stepdad, they're really great. They're, they're not very religious, so they don't really attend church. So they were just more confused about why I canceled the wedding kind of a thing. You know, they were kind of left in the dark. I wasn't telling them about all the struggles I was going through. So they're out of the blue. They just saw that, you know, the weddings canceled and they were completely, so that was the thing that kind of shocked them the most. But as far as the religious thing, you know, my mom is kind of like, well, you know, you're smart, you can figure it out, you know, do, do what you think is right. It's kind of how she handled it.

So she's been supportive that way. And my dad, yeah, we've had some, we've had some difficult conversations, but I kind of just had to lay it on him and say, you know, like, I just don't believe like I used to. And, you know, I don't, you know, I just don't think the biblical ones inspire word of God and kind of shared within the gospel that, you know, we trust in Christ alone and it's him and his finished work that justifies us.

Not anything we do or any, you know, or any works we do for the dead or for ourselves, those don't do anything for us. And so we've had some conversations since then. And thankfully he's, he's been supportive, you know, I think it's just the fact that he's just happy that, you know, that, you know, I haven't gone atheist or, you know, I haven't turned to drugs or whatever. So he's, he's just happy that, you know, I'm doing something, you know, to, you know, positive, I guess he doesn't like, I've, I've been in an English standard version of the Bible convention to me once that he struggles to understand the Bible, to read it and understand it. And so that's why he reads the Book of Mormon. And I'm like, well, you know, you don't have to read the King James version.

I mean, it's a great version, but there's plenty of other versions out there that are also, so I give him an English standard version. So yeah. So thankfully it's been pretty, it's been pretty good. And I feel very blessed by God and, and to know, you know, there are some people that, and, you know, I wasn't fortunate to not be married, but I think in the long run, you know, I thank God that, you know, that she was able to find somebody else that was, you know, a Latter-day Saint, because that can be very messy, you know, relationships. So we see it all the time out here where people get into a mixed religion marriage, where the person's a Christian, just really naive, or maybe, you know, at the time of marriage, neither one of them were Christians. And then one of them becomes a Christian.

And that is, I think one of the great, just non biblical, extra biblical, I should say, not non-biblical, extra biblical evidences that Christianity and Mormonism are different. You get two of them married. It doesn't work out very well.

They're not the same. So, wow. Okay. Well, appreciate you guys, Sharon, appreciate that a lot. Really, really just appreciate you guys and what the Lord's done through your lives. You know, we see each other interact in these Facebook groups we're part of and stuff, and I just really respect the way you guys go about your dialogue. I respect the way you present things in your podcast. I just have a lot of respect for both of you. And as someone who benefits from your content, just I'm thankful for what the Lord's done in your lives. So, you're listening to Outer Brightness, a podcast for post Mormons who are drawn by God to walk with Jesus rather than turn away. Outer Brightness, Outer Brightness, Outer Brightness.

There's no weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth here. We were all born and raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, more commonly referred to as the Mormon faith. All of us have left that religion and have been drawn to faith in Jesus Christ based on biblical teachings. The name of our podcast, Outer Brightness, reflects John 1-9, which calls Jesus the true light, which gives light to everyone. We have found life beyond Mormonism to be brighter than we were told it would be. And the light we have is not our own. It comes to us from without.

Thus, Outer Brightness. Our purpose is to share our journeys of faith and what God has done in drawing us to His Son. We have conversations about all aspects of that transition, the fears, challenges, joys, and everything in between.

We're glad you found us and we hope you'll stick around. I want now to transition to imagine maybe next to you in the room is your peak Mormon self from years gone by. The peak Mormon version of you from the past. I want to interact with that person a little bit now that you are where you are.

This is a conversation I've wanted to have for quite some time and I think you guys are perfect for this. Matthew, you mentioned the phrase and even said that you experienced this burning in your bosom for both of you. I want both of you to comment on this just whenever, but did you really have a burning in your bosom when you were in that mode, when you were seeking to get confirmation from God that the Book of Mormon was true and that Mormonism was right overall? How do you process that experience now? How do you process that as a Christian looking back? I'll go. Did I have a burning in the bosom?

Yes. When I started to really prepare for my mission, which was in that year post-graduation from high school and prior to my 19th birthday, I started to realize that, okay, I'm a Latter-day Saint by birth and everybody talks about these testimonies. I've, of course, had stood up and borne testimonies and fastened testimony meeting, but I realized that I had some work to do to determine if I really believed it enough to go out and preach it. I started reading the Book of Mormon. I had never read it all the way through before. There's kind of a cliche among Mormons that you start reading and you get to the Isaiah passages in 2 Nephi and you stop reading because it's kind of hard to understand. If you make it through that, the quicksand of Alma will sink you.

The war chapters are pretty bad. I had never read it all the way through and started doing that. I was working at the same electronics firm that my dad was working at. The guy who co-founded that company and was the CEO was a stake president. They had me programming microchips to put into different components. They used to build the ratings boxes for AC Nielsen. They used to build other health equipment that was used in hospitals and that kind of thing.

They had me programming microchips and the process was I'd stick a microchip in the machine, pull a little lever down so it would lock it in and hit the enter button on the computer and it would run a process to program it over about five minutes. I would use that five minutes to read the Book of Mormon. I never got in trouble because like I said, the CEO, he'd walk by and he'd see me and he'd encourage me because he was a stake president and knew I was preparing for a mission. Really started to fall in love with the Book of Mormon. Enjoyed its narrative. It's not a boring book. It has an interesting story that it tells if you're into fiction. I'm not trying to be offensive and say it's fiction. I'm just saying the narrative flows well and it's interesting. It has some characters that you can connect with and that kind of thing.

Enjoyed all of that about it. I hadn't really ever read the Bible all the way through either. Had read portions and memorized certain passages as part of my seminary curriculum in high school, but the Book of Mormon was what I measured scripture by. I just adopted the idea that, yeah, that's how scripture comes about. You know, a prophet gets some plates or some hidden writings and brings them forth. That was kind of my idea of how scripture worked.

I didn't have a very sophisticated view of revelation and inspiration at all. Really started to enjoy the Book of Mormon, but knew that if I was going to go out and preach it, I'd have to pray about it. One night I was up late by myself in my parents' living room doing some reading in the Book of Mormon and decided that was the night I was going to kneel down and pray about it. I knelt down by the side of the couch and started to pray and ask God, is the Book of Mormon true? Is Joseph Smith a true prophet? The way I've always described it is it's kind of like a simultaneously warm water was being poured over me, but also a radiating of warmth out from the center of my chest. That whole scene that you just painted there is very similar to the First Vision account that Joseph describes, where he goes to kneel and pray in the woods asking which church to join, and he feels like a warmth.

He feels some sort of, I don't know, he has an out-of-body experience, an existential kind of thing. I mean, was that in your mind as you were doing that? That you were doing what Joseph originally did? No, I don't think Joseph's crossed my mind, but the fact that I had been taught in the LDS church setting so many times from like, what section is it, D&C 10, I think where Oliver Cowdery is trying to translate because he was serving as Joseph Smith's scribe and he was trying to translate portions of the Book of Mormon and it didn't work out for him. There's this revelation supposedly given to him through Joseph Smith where it says, you're kind of doing it wrong is kind of the message.

You have to search it out in your heart and in your mind, and then I'll let you know by a burning in your bosom. That's where that language comes from, whether or not it's true, whether or not you have the translation correct, right? So they use that to kind of teach you that that's the way you know truth is through this burning in the bosom. So it did, that night even, it did cross my mind, I'm experiencing this thing, but it's exactly what I've been told over and over and over and over again that I would experience.

So it did kind of trouble me a little bit. I don't know that I would have been sophisticated enough to think I've been conditioned to feel this, but that's kind of what I was thinking is like, man, am I only experiencing this because I've been told that's what will happen? And I did stay on my knees for a long time that night and just kind of like I would slow my breathing and focus on my chest, the center of my chest. And I realized that by doing that, I could kind of bring about a similar feeling of elevation. And that bothered me because it was like, well, if I can kind of make it happen just by meditating or slowing my breathing or doing whatever, then how can I be certain that that was God speaking to me? So that question rattled in my head the entire time that I was on my mission. When I was in the MTC, I was still on my knees late at night after my companion was asleep in the dark of our dorm room, just pleading that I would have an experience that I couldn't deny and never got anything other than that first time. Because it is built up as this is the thing that you have to have. I mean, that is your, that's your rock as a Mormon, basically.

I mean, because you can always fall back on, I had that experience and that confirms to me that this is true. And in, yeah, and if you're questioning that, then you can be swept away by anything, I guess, is how they, how they would teach that. Matthew, similar type of burning.

Yeah, it was very similar. I just wanted to really, to quote, it was section nine, I think that Paul's alluding to in the Doctrine and Covenants. Yeah, in reference to when he was trying to translate and couldn't do it. It says, do not remember my son, verse six, for is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner. Behold, you have not understood. You have supposed that I would give it unto you when you took no thought, save it was to ask. But behold, I say unto you that you must study it out in your mind, that you must ask me if it be right. And if it be right, I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you. Therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right, you shall not have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong. So yeah, that's, that's kind of like the, yeah, that's like, I don't know what you want to say.

That's like the crux of how revelation is supposed to work, getting testimony. So it was very similar. You know, I felt like, yeah, just like warm tingling, you know, comforting sensation. I felt like that was confirming what I was, what I was feeling. And to be honest, the fever I've had is actually kind of felt like a warm burning in the bosom. But yeah, like I kind of started have doubts just general when I was, you know, just doubting in the church, you know, based on its history, because even before then, you know, it was confusing to me that the same experience, like Paul had said, you could have that same experience in other ways.

And for me, it would be like, if you're watching Disney movies or something with like really emotional music, you know, or, or like, you know, here's someone giving a story that's not even religious in any way. And, you know, you feel that same warm burning in the bosom and I'm like, okay, well, how do you know, my brain kicks in and things like, okay, well, how am I discerning whether this is God trying to tell me truth versus just my feelings? And I think, and I think, wasn't it, it was either Joseph Smith or Brigham Young that said that revelations either come from God or from man or from the devil.

And, and I know for certain that Brigham Young said that, you know, even the devil can mimic the burning in the bosom. And so it's like, well, okay, well, you know, it really started planting seeds in doubt in my mind, like, okay, well, how do I really know it's God, you know? And there were experiences on my mission, like, you know, you would, we were always told to pray to know where to go to talk to. And there was one time where I just felt, I felt really confident, felt really good that God was leading me and my companion at the time to go down to certain street and my companion at the time was like, okay, let's do that. He hesitated a bit, but he went, but he went with me. So he went down the street and we started knocking on doors.

One of the houses we saw had like a, you know, the, the star of David, Jewish star of David outside and knocked on the door. Nobody answered, but some guy just came outside. And so we were going to start talking to him, but he just charges right at my companion.

Right. And we're like, okay, I don't know what to do in this situation. So we started hurrying, walking outside, you know, past his fence. He gave a very hard kick to my companion in the rear end. And he sucker punched me in the face and it was raining really hard that night.

So it was kind of hard to see anyways. And he sucker punched me and my glasses flew off and we're like on the ground somewhere. And I'm like, okay, this is weird. And I was like, well, that's so weird. You know, I felt like God was telling us to go that way. And my companion was like, actually, you know, I didn't want to tell you, but I felt, I felt a really sick feeling in my stomach, you know, not to go down that way.

So why didn't you want to tell me? Hindsight's 2020 companion. Exactly. So there were experiences like that, where it felt like, okay, God was telling me one thing, God was telling somebody another thing, you know what I mean? And like those experiences just didn't really begin to doubt the reliability of trust for truth.

Yeah. Have you guys ever looked back at those experiences and thought demons? I mean, how much have you entertained that idea on this side of your understanding of who God is and who man is and angels and demons and all that? Have you thought that could have been a demon messing with me? Uh, personally, I never really thought about that. Um, I just figured it was, you know, just the flesh wanting to seek after religious affections or religious experiences through, you know, through carnal means, I guess, you know, that's kind of always seen it, but I mean, that's something to consider. It's certainly possible. Yeah.

I haven't given that too, too much serious thought either. I've always just kind of understood it to have been pressure I was putting on myself. Um, you know, I, when I was in high school, basketball was my life and, um, had a difficulty at the first high school where I was, um, there was a changeover and coaches there.

And so, uh, my, my skills were less valued than, than others. And so it wasn't a hard decision for me to make, to go to the new school. And then that, uh, like I said, it, it brought me into a whole group, a whole new group of friends and kind of a whole new relationship with the LDS church.

And so I was in this situation where it was like, um, my dreams of playing college basketball weren't coming to fruition. So it was time for me to turn my attention to serving a mission. And, and in that pressure, I think I really wanted to believe. And I think, you know, that that was why I experienced what I did. Sure.

Yeah. Thinking about, um, you know, again, going back to peak Mormon, Matthew and peak Mormon, Paul, uh, at that time, you would have said, of course, that you believed in the Bible. The Bible's in the standard works. It's in the quad and everything else that you use as a Latter-day Saint.

And you would have said the Bible is from God, even that it it's, it's God has given the Bible to us yet. You didn't really think that, right? I mean, that's the way I feel whenever I'm interacting with Latter-day Saints today. It's like, okay. Yeah.

You say that, but you don't believe that. I mean, I don't know, as you look back, how do you process that? Yeah, definitely. I grew up in the, in the, um, time when Spencer W. Kimball and then Ezra Taft Benson was the prophet. Um, and he, you know, he had, he made a big, he's known for making a big push on the book of Mormon and really pushing the, uh, the, the, the quote, uh, from Joseph Smith, that it's the Keystone of our religion.

And, you know, we talked about it, you know, what it means that, that it's a Keystone and an arch a lot in, in, in church. So definitely kind of had the, in my mind, the book of Mormon, uh, on a higher, uh, shelf on the bookshelf than, than the Bible. I know a lot of Latter-day Saints will say, no, they go side by side, but in my mind, it was, it was in a higher place because I grew up in a time when the teaching from the LDS church was it, it clarifies the Bible. Um, and so anything I would have read in the Bible that was troublesome to me, that maybe made me question some aspect of LDS doctrine, I would have immediately subsumed that to where it's more clear in the book of Mormon. Right.

So that's, that's how I would have seen it. Nothing clarifies the book of Mormon. I mean, book of Mormon needs no clarification. Right. Right.

Well, I mean, the only thing that in LDS teaching, the only thing that can clarify the book of Mormon or rightly interpret any scripture is, is the word of the prophet. Right. Um, and that's been even, uh, reduced now to the word of the, the prophet and the, and the 12 apostles, uh, as they're speaking in unison, right. So, uh, it's, it's no longer that a prophet can clarify, which, which allows them to kind of get off the hook with, uh, prior understandings of like second, 25, 25, 23, and that kind of thing. Yeah. It's, it's very, in very specific context is the, their word official anymore.

Uh, yeah, that's been narrowed down. Matthew, what, what did you think of the Bible? Uh, what would it peak, peak Mormon Matthew really think of the Bible? Well, I kind of agreed with Joseph Smith when he said that as scripture was penned by the apostles, it was pure and uncorrupted, but through the machinations of sinful men, it was corrupted over time or parts were lost. And so the parts that were original, um, are correct, but that which was corrupted is not correct. So it's kind of a strange, uh, kind of like they kind of hold to like a distorted or a different sense of the inerrancy of scripture that, you know, Protestants would hold to, you know, it's inerrancy, but, but they reject that any of that has been well, okay. They reject that all of it has been correctly transmitted through time. You know, they would say that much of it, or, or maybe even significant or very crucial parts of the Bible have not been transmitted correctly. And so that was part of Joseph's, this, you know, Bible translation process was restoring that, um, restoring those lost parts. At least that's how I considered it. But most of the latter-day States today, uh, they see it as more of a commentary on the Bible, but I was never taught that.

I never believed that. Yeah. Your recent episodes that you guys did with Steve James on the inerrancy of scripture, uh, those would be helpful for people to check out. Um, just a week or two ago, those, I think there were three parts, right.

That came out. So, um, if you guys want to hear Paul and Matthew talk to a current latter-day Saint about specifically the inerrancy issue, that's a great conversation to have, uh, going back to your missions, did you ever lie on your mission? Was there a time where you lied? Uh, I can imagine there would be opportunities for lying as a missionary. Uh, but yeah, whether it was embellishing stories, whenever you were sharing your testimony or trying to get conversions or however, how you counted stats or were you, were you honest upfront, good guys on your missions?

I tried, I tried to be as honest as I could be, you know? Um, there was, there's not really any times I can remember where like I fudged any numbers. Uh, I remember a lot of times where I felt like I screwed up, you know, I said something I shouldn't have or insulted somebody, or there was one time, uh, we were doing training. I don't know why I remember this experience, but, uh, I felt like what we were training with other missionaries and not getting example situations when you're talking to somebody on the street. And I said something that I thought was very manipulative afterward.

I'm like, yeah, why would you say that? You know, like, uh, we're, you know, it was a, it was a mock situation where you're teaching an investigator and you're trying to challenge them to baptism. And I said, and I said something along the lines of, well, you know, baptism is pleasing to Heavenly Father and you really don't want to let your Heavenly Father down. And, uh, they're like, well, no, you know, I'm like, so we want to be baptized. And I don't know, I, at the time I felt like didn't feel good about that.

I was like, yeah, you know, you kind of probably don't want to manipulate people into baptism. Uh, but as far as like actual outright lying, I don't really, there's not really any situation. I'm sure I did, you know, people lie all the time.

So, um, I'm sure I did, but there wasn't any egregious things that I can remember. Um, looking back, I would say that yes, I did because I, I, I knew that I harbored doubts about the veracity of my experience praying about the book of Mormon. Um, and yet I would in Hungarian say, you know, I would say, I know that the book of Mormon is true.

Right. And, um, so that, that ate at me, uh, towards the end of my mission, although I, I started to change my language and I would say, I believe rather than I know, um, because I felt like belief was a choice even though, and it allowed me the, the, the leeway to continue to study and, and, and see if I actually did believe rather than saying I know, uh, because of the spiritual experience that I, that I had reservations about. We'll be back next week with more of our interview with Jeremy Howard on the Do Theology podcast. We encourage our listeners to check out that podcast as it's very good, uh, from a sound theological perspective. We thank you for tuning into this episode of the outer brightness podcast.

We'd love to hear from you. Please visit the outer brightness podcast page on Facebook. Feel free to send us a message there with comments or questions by clicking send a message at the top of the page. And we would appreciate it if you give the page a like, we also have an outer brightness group on Facebook where you can join and interact with us and others. As we've discussed the podcast, past episodes and suggestions for future episodes, et cetera. You can also send us an email at outer brightness at

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You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit that notification bell. Music for outer brightness is graciously provided by the talented Brianna Flournoy and Adam's road. You can learn more about Adam's road by visiting their ministry page at In the past, I believed in my own righteousness and hope that I was worthy of the blood that Jesus shed. But now I know that all the works I did were meaningless, compared with Jesus' lonely death on the cross where he bore sin. And now I have the righteousness that is by faith in Jesus' name. I consider everything a loss compared to knowing Jesus. For the sake I have lost all things, oh, because of the cross. On the cross, Jesus took away the written code, the law of words that stood opposed, and nailed it there for me.

And through the cross, he put to death hostility, and did his body reconcile us to God and brought us peace. And I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but he lives in me. I consider everything a loss compared to knowing Jesus. For the sake I have lost all things, oh, for when I gained Jesus, it was worth the cost. All my righteousness I count as a loss because of the cross.

Some demand a sign and some seek to be wise, but we preach Christ crucified. A stumbling bottle of sun, the foolishness of God, but wiser than the wisest man, the power of the cross. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord through which the world has been crucified to me. And I tell the world so I take up my cross and follow where Jesus leads, oh, I consider everything a loss compared to knowing Jesus. For the sake I have lost all things, oh, for when I gained Jesus, it was worth the cost. All my righteousness I count as a loss because of the cross. Because of the cross. Because of the cross.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-14 06:57:22 / 2023-08-14 07:21:21 / 24

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