Several years ago I witnessed a miracle that was so unimaginable to me it couldn’t have been farther from my thoughts. And if I hadn’t experienced it myself I never would have dreamt it possble.
I was a young single adult in Los Angeles and our ward had, through a series of events, built a relationship with a Baptist congregation in an underprivileged part of the city. As with our church I found many of the positions were filled by members of their congregation who were otherwise gainfully employed but whose faith led them to give a hand of service to their church. This included their sound engineer. When we first established contact one of the things they needed help with was managing and running their sound equipment and training their engineer how to do so. So at the request of my bishop I stepped in to lend a hand. This included attending several of their worship services to fine tune their set up and teach their sound engineer as much as I could about how to keep it running well. In this process and over the course of several months I became familiar with their pastor, their manner of worship (which can at times be dramatically different from my own), and several members of their congregation – especially the band members. To this day their drummer is one of my favorite people and someone I hold dear to my heart. They were just good people and it was a pleasure to serve among them!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the history of things, Baptists typically don’t think too kindly on Mormon theology and often times this transfers to the Mormons themselves. At least that was my experience as a teenager growing up in the Bible Belt. I routinely felt the heat of that animosity in my middle school and high school experiences. It wasn’t pleasant.
These unkind feelings typically manifest themselves in some proclamation of Mormons being “un-Christian.” Many who share this belief about Mormons feel so strongly that they write and share literature which attempts to discredit and undermine our doctrine and faith. They also routinely send delegations to Salt Lake City to protest at our annual and semi-annual General Conferences, even to the point of openly mocking things we hold to be sacred. It’s astonishing to me, sometimes, the lengths to which many of their faith will go to oppose and attempt to tear down Mormons and our doctrine!
So imagine my shock one Sunday morning when I was serving at their worship service to hear that the guest pastor invited to preach to them was none other than my bishop! I was floored! It was shocking and exciting to me to see a bridge crossed which I had previously thought to be an impenetrable wall. In the months that followed, with an ever deepening interfaith relationship, I also saw Mormons worship with Baptists, Baptists worship with Mormons, and a Baptist pastor preach from a Mormon pulpit. I even heard my stake president – again invited to be the guest pastor in their worship services – teach our theology regarding the Godhead from their pulpit. This, their pastor said, he had requested our stake president to do in order to highlight that although the two churches have our theological differences we could still come together to serve in unity under our common faith in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What a miracle to see theological boundaries – some of which are fueled by anger and hate – be transcended through a common belief in Jesus as our personal Savior!
The first time we worshipped with the Baptists happened to be our fast Sunday. It was a great day! In the midst of the loudest moment of their praise team’s music the Holy Ghost (who usually communicates through a still, small voice) managed to impress upon my soul something I had always understood logically, but which I hadn’t yet understood spiritually: I was amongst a group of individuals who truly believed in and worshipped Jesus Christ! This was a key moment of spiritual growth for me because it prepared my mind to later receive a truth to which I had previously been blind.
In our own fast and testimony meeting later that day a young man who had once been Baptist spoke about how familiar it felt to be in their services and all the fond memories it brought up to be there. Yet in spite of that he explained that even with all the excitement and desire created in him by being at their worship services he knew he had found greater truth in our church that he would never give up – not even to be somewhere more familiar. As he testified to the truth of the restored gospel found in the LDS church a scripture passage came to mind in a way I had never before considered.
Before I explain further I have to say that I have since read this passage in nearly every translation of the Bible that I can comprehend on biblegateway.com, and in no other translation can you come to the understanding that the Spirit impressed upon me that day except in the King James Version of the Bible (which is the translation used by the LDS church). It reads as follows:
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:11-13)
What I realized in that moment is this: Jesus did give to some people apostles and to some prophets. And to others He gave pastors and teachers. And on that particular day I had been witness to this truth: to each of us Jesus gives as much truth as we are personally able to accept and receive. And I have since come to understand that because it comes from Him, to Him it is all considered the body of Christ. In other words: He is actively working every single day with each of us to help us be more perfect in Him – no matter where we fall in the scope of our beliefs or the Christian sect to which we adhere.
The body of Christ is not limited to one particular Christian sect or another and to each of us He has given the truths and knowledge we are ready and able to accept for the purpose of helping us become perfect beings as He is. This process of receiving what we can accept will continue until we as individuals are able to receive all truth and until all of us collectively are able to come together in a “unity of the faith” under Jesus Christ our Eternal Head.
We aren’t ready for it yet. We still have some perfecting to do. But I personally believe that we will all one day be able to be united together in our faith in Christ because we will finally all be ready and able to let go of what we think is true in order to receive the “fulness of Christ” “unto a perfect man [or woman]” as given to us directly by Jesus Christ Himself.