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Review of From Baptist Preacher to Mormon Teacher by Wain Myers
Published by CFI (Springville, UT, 2015), 134 pages
Even though I strongly disagree on many points with Myers’s testimony, I really enjoyed reading this book. This isn’t a scholarly work. However, Myers is very personable and very honest. He admits his problems and even his problems with the LDS Church, but he is convinced that God spoke to him and that is how he knows the Church is true. What especially made this an interesting read is not simply that it is a conversion story of a Baptist, but a Black Baptist. So of course all the issues surrounding the LDS Church and their tawdry race history had to be dealt with and Myers does not shy away from them.
What really made me sympathize with Myers was his account of being raised by a single parent who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and how he always was looking forward to spending time with his dad who didn’t care to be with him. His mom had way too much on her plate without the help of a husband and a father to her kids. Myers went into a very emotional story of being a young boy waiting for visits from his dad who promised he would come, but almost always, he never came. The young Myers’s heart broke looking out the window “with every passing car and eventually stopped hoping” (39). How tragic! This really made me appreciate the stable home that I grew up in and am privileged to give my kids today.
With this as a background, however, it becomes easy to see why Myers was and still is so given over to his feelings. I’m no therapist, but the way Myers determines what to believe and do is largely through the way he feels. He simply assumes that this is the ultimate way God speaks to individuals today. This is clear throughout the book--both prior to as well as after converting to Mormonism. For example, he determined that preachers taking money to support their callings “felt wrong… like dirty money” (23).
He also went on to talk about meeting his now wife Sebrina. He said, “I felt my Father in Heaven direct me. ...I got a feeling I never had before. ...I felt virtue go into my body as she walked by. ...I couldn’t help but think that after years of looking for the girl of my dreams, maybe I should have been feeling for her instead” (27-8). Myers went on to say that the Father in Heaven spoke to his mind that this particular woman was going to be his wife even though he was already married to someone else! Then Myers said something many religious adulterers caught up in lust say. He claimed the Lord spoke to him and said, “The wife you have now is the one you chose. ...This is the wife I chose for you!” (28).
With this as Myers’s modus operandi, it is not difficult to see how he bought into Sebrina’s Mormonism. She also had the same mindset as Myers when she was first introduced to Mormonism. After her first appointment with the LDS missionaries, she prayed to know if what they shared was true. “The Spirit spoke to her clearly, testifying that what the young men taught her was true. She recognized the feeling of warmth and love she felt during that prayer” (32). This occurred despite the fact that she was troubled by the fact that the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 5:21 taught that certain people were cursed with dark skin so as to not be enticing to the people of the Lord. She recalled Proverbs 3:5 commanding us to trust the Lord with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding, so “she was willing to put all of her trust in the feelings of the Spirit” (33, emphasis added). Sebrina eventually introduced Myers to the LDS missionaries, and he had a very similar experience.
As he began learning from the missionaries, he said he “felt the Holy Spirit in a fullness that [he] never felt before” (36). Myers sympathized with Joseph Smith’s First Vision story, since Myers had also asked long before about which church he should join. Myers encouraged the reader to read Smith’s full story, but Myers conspicuously leaves out the severe condemnation that Jesus supposedly gave to Smith that he should join no other church “for they were all wrong... that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof’” (Joseph Smith--History 1:19).
However, what really upset Myers was when after the missionaries left Sebrina told him that there was a time in the LDS Church that they did not allow black men to hold the priesthood. He was hurt to find out that God “was at one point a racist and had only changed His way of thinking about people of color like me in the not-too distant past” (40). He asked Sebrina how she dealt with it, and she told him that “man’s ways are not God’s ways” and “I believe those racist teachings came from man and not God” (Ibid.).
This doesn’t explain why the Book of Mormon scripture cited above has God doing this cursing. Either that really happened or it didn’t. If the latter, then this cannot be the word of God, since God doesn’t lie. If the former, then this racist teaching of course came from God and He would thus be a racist.
When the missionaries came back for their subsequent appointment, Myers asked them about the 2 Nephi passage and asked if “black people are cursed” (41). One missionary immediately shot back, “Yes!” (Ibid.). Myers had heard enough. He went home and for hours asked God about this situation. Myers could not deny his experience of God confirming to him that the Father and Son had both appeared to Joseph Smith. Myers knew God was answering his prayer about this racism issue when God told him that he had already received a witness that it is true, so just accept that for now and you will learn more later (42). So Myers ended up getting baptized by his missionary, and they both “felt the Spirit and knew we had been friends in premortality” (48).
At this point, one has to ask whether God was really speaking to Myers or was it his infatuation for Sebrina. Of course Myers is convinced it was the former, but that is not very convincing to everyone else. Myers would simply tell everyone else to ask God directly. If God speaks to them, then they will know for themselves and that is all that matters. How will they know? Obviously by the good feelings.
As an example of Myers determining what to do after his conversion, he talked about how he knew it was the right time for him to start preparing to go to the temple. This was in the context of learning about the sacred undergarments Mormons wear. Myers said, “I do remember the feelings the conversations stirred within me. The Spirit was so strong while we spoke of the temple, and then it happened--my heart fluttered. With the fluttering came a sense of happiness and a strong desire to attend the temple” (67, emphasis added). A couple paragraphs after this, he said that when his pushy fellow Mormons attempt to move him, he should just roll with it and trust his Father.
However, is Myers really trusting the Father or is Myers simply trusting his own feelings, and do these feelings really originate from the Father? Myers says much later in the book that we learn the difference between right and wrong in the “same way we gained our testimonies about the [LDS] gospel in the first place: pray about it. The Spirit will never lead us astray. As we live worthily and keep our heart and mind pure, He will whisper to us, ever so sweetly, about what is right and true” (116). The Bible, though, teaches, “The heart is deceitful above all else; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Satan knows how to play on one’s heartstrings, and may even appear as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Further, even if God really spoke to Myers, God could always send him a strong delusion to believe a lie due to Myers’s refusal to love the truth and be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11). The Bible offers itself a much more sure word of prophecy (2 Peter 1:19) by which we may know God and keep our way pure (Psalm 119:9). The word of God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8) despite wherever our fallible feelings lead us.
In the remainder of this review, I want to look at some of the claims Myers makes to justify the LDS Church on the issue of race. In his response to a Christian who was attempting to preach to Myers and warn him (this is in the chapter entitled “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing”), Myers excused Brigham Young’s racist statements by saying that though he was a prophet, he was “also a product of his time and society” (75). We all assumed a prophet is one who speaks for God despite the time and society. However, in the next chapter specifically focusing on the issue of race, Myers attempts to get prophets off the hook by claiming he never expected them to be perfect (82). He even quoted from a late apostle--Bruce R. McConkie--who basically said all that matters is current revelation. All the views of the past “don’t matter any more” (83). Myers admits that he still hasn’t got over the pain of the priesthood ban, and that he hopes he never will. Nonetheless, he said, “This pain and confusion fuel my testimony and further solidify my knowledge that God is great and that His work will go forth no matter the weaknesses of mortal man” (84).
So in other words, this isn’t something to worry about. God is still leading His only true Church via these latter-day prophets and apostles. We all make mistakes, even prophets and apostles. However, this amounts to a straw man fallacy, since no one claims they must be perfect for us to follow. Of course prophets and apostles may have their own opinions on particular matters and when those are given, these prophets and apostles are not claiming to be speaking in the name of the Lord. What the Bible has always taught is that when they claim to speak in the name of the Lord and what they say is not what God has commanded or doesn’t come to pass, or if they claim to speak for other gods, then we know they really are not prophets of the only true God (Deuteronomy 18:17-22). God says He will hold them responsible for not listening to the words of His prophets (Deut. 18:19). Mormons with so-called “further light” from their current leadership that contradicts what the “previous light” commanded in their scriptures and other so-called inspired sources (e.g., Brigham Young claimed every sermon he ever preached was to be considered scripture--i.e., the words of God--in Journal of Discourses 13:95) are following false prophets and God will judge them for it.
Myers also claimed that the priesthood ban “was never officially Church doctrine and that God had never given revelation to any prophet for the ban in the first place. It was a practice started by Brigham Young after Joseph Smith died” (90). So it was a flawed, uninspired move.
Myers never tells what counts as official. Does that mean it can be tied to a specific revelation or is taught in the official standard works--the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, or the Bible? It seems rather obvious, though, that the sacred garments and the LDS temple rituals would have to be unofficial then. However, these things are accepted as part of the Church just as much as the priesthood ban was.
Further, a more authoritative source than Myers claimed the priesthood ban was started under Joseph Smith and not Brigham Young. Late President Joseph Fielding Smith affirms this in his work The Way to Perfection, 110. Of course Myers and other Mormons would claim this was a mistaken opinion, since Joseph Smith conferred the priesthood on a black man Elijah Able. But just because that happened doesn’t entail Smith could not have started the practice. Smith’s theology progressed just like the “further light” mentioned previously.
Regardless of all this, an August 17, 1949 Statement of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirmed that this priesthood ban was not a mere policy decision, “but of direct commandment of the Lord.” The statement even quotes Young that blacks may not receive the priesthood until all other descendants of Adam have the opportunity. That obviously did not happen in 1978 when the LDS Church gave its “Official Declaration --2,” which rescinded the priesthood ban.
Finally, there is a scriptural basis for this ban that all LDS leadership prior to 1978 affirmed. Abraham 1:21-7 in the Pearl of Great Price (PGP) says that Pharaoh was descended through Ham, which “sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land” of Egypt and that curse was identified as not having the priesthood (26-7). In addition, Moses 7:8, 21, and 22 earlier in the PGP talks about this preservation of the curse in more detail. It says that there was a curse of heat that came upon those living in Canaan, and a blackness came upon the people so that they were despised. They were so despised that the faithful Enoch preached to everyone except the people of Canaan. The Lord showed him the future of Zion in heaven, which consisted of all people except the seed of Cain, “for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them” (22).
These facts don’t care about Myers’s feelings, my feelings, or anyone else’s feelings. Facts must take priority over feelings. In the absence of facts, like what of the many options should I eat for lunch, feelings are great. However, when my feelings refuse to acknowledge facts, like observing Joe poison my lunch, then I will soon be dead if I act on my strong desire to eat that lunch anyway. The facts of the matter clearly indicate that the Mormon Church was racist and their scripture still is racist, white-supremacist literature, and thus cannot be from the God who knows no partiality (cf. Acts 10:34-5, Romans 2:9-11, Galatians 3:28, and James 2:1-4, 8-9). “There is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the end thereof is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
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