Testimony of BOM by Lynn Ridenhour
I’m a licensed Southern Baptist minister who for these past sixteen years has been preaching out of both the Book of Mormon and the Bible. No, I’m not a convert to the Mormon faith, nor am I a member of any particular "spin off" group such as the RLDS (The Community of Christ) or the Restoration Branch. I’m still a Baptist minister. To be exact, I’m "charismatic Baptist," for my wife and I embrace and practice the spiritual gifts as recorded in I Corinthians 12.
I’m often asked, "…but surely you don’t believe the Book of Mormon is the Word of God, do you?" I do. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me give you some background.
I consider myself a conservative (if not moderate) evangelical Christian. Back in the mid 1960s I attended William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, a Southern Baptist school, as a ministerial student. My major was religion. Some of my favorite writers are: the late Francis Schaeffer, the late C.S. Lewis (my favorite), George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, Clark Pinnock, Rick Joyner, Richard Wumbrandt, Watchman Nee, Kenyon, E.M. Bounds, Andrew Murray, Hudson Taylor, R.A. Torrey, Charles Finney, Rees Howell, Leonard Ravenhill, Oswald Chambers, Winkie Pratney, and Derek Prince.
They say, you can tell a lot about a man by the books he reads. I believe that.
While a ministerial student, I was very active in Campus Crusade for Christ, the Navigators, and Youth for Christ. After thirty-five years in the ministry, I still support the above youth organizations, and believe that the youth of America are indeed the future of our country. We must lead our young people to Christ.
I have been in Christian service now as a Southern Baptist minister for nearly forty years. I’ve served as youth director, youth evangelist, pastor and evangelist. I’ve also taught in Christian universities, including Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Baptist University and William Jewell College, my alma mater. My wife and I have also run and operated a non-denominational Christian halfway house and are presently active in the house church movement.
The Lord called me at the age of seventeen; I’m presently fifty-eight. I love the Lord with all my heart. He is my very life. Surely the hymn writer was right, "…every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before…" I love serving Him. And count it all joy to be one of his chosen ones. We’re all His chosen ones. For He chose us first.
"You did not choose me, but I chose you…" (Jn.16:16).
I have found--there is no greater joy than serving the Lord.
Kept My Roots
Down through the years I have remained true to my Baptist roots. I still embrace those cardinal Protestant/Baptist doctrines; i.e., the born again experience, salvation through grace by faith, salvation by the finished work of Calvary, and faith in his shed blood.
Discovering the Book of Mormon
Then some would say, "how did you come to believe in the Book of Mormon? That’s like a Protestant Pope." No it’s not. It’s not a contradiction. I discovered—the Book of Mormon is full of Protestant themes!
In fact, I discovered, the Book of Mormon is more "Baptist" than the Baptist hymnal in places. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s so. I read the Book from cover to cover and found as a Baptist minister, there is absolutely nothing in it that contradicts the Bible.
For example, the book uplifts the blood of Christ (Mosiah 1:118), declares that salvation is only by God’s grace (2 Nephi 7:42), defends the grand theme of salvation (Mosiah 1:108), and proclaims that salvation comes only through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ (Mosiah 3:8,9). Other themes such as repentance, atonement by Christ’s blood, redemption, and forgiveness run like a scarlet thread through the book as well (Alma 3:86, Helaman 2:71, Alma 13:13, Mosiah 2:3,4). I’m telling you, the grand themes of Protestantism are found recorded through and through. From cover to cover.
But again I’m getting ahead of myself.
A Word about My Background…
Reared in a small conservative Baptist church back in the hills of the Ozarks, I was taught with strong convictions that Mormons were no different from Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Scientists, or Armstrong followers. They all sooner or later knocked on your door. We were instructed by our parents to "…let none of them in the house. And don’t buy their materials…" All were cults. Certainly the Mormons were not within mainstream Christianity.
I was taught that the Book of Mormon was a lie. We have the Bible and no man was to add to the scriptures lest his soul be damned. And I was taught that the rapture could occur any minute. Establishing a literal kingdom on this earth was pure nonsense. And I believe my convictions were typical. Most protestant/pentecostal Christians today share similar sentiments.
The Lord directs I believe every minute detail of our lives. I transferred from teaching at Jerry Falwell’s university to Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois—twenty minutes from Carthage. In fact, my wife, Linda, taught in Carthage at Robert Morris College. Every day she would drive back and forth. On my non-teaching days I would drive her to work. On the way I noticed a big billboard "Visit historical Mormon site." As we would drive past the Carthage jail I watched tourists get out of their buses and walk inside. Of course, in my Protestant audacity I would always say a prayer for those poor deluded souls. I was also pastoring a Protestant church in Fandon, just a few miles outside of Carthage.
As a typical subdivision family, we were busy settling in. With a three-year old daughter, and with both of us working, I was aspiring that coveted university position tenure track. I would be quite happy publishing articles, writing a few books, teaching my classes and preaching on the weekends. But the Lord had other plans. One afternoon He spoke to me, "I want you to move to Kansas City." It didn’t make a lick of sense so I quite frankly ignored His instruction.
A year goes by and the Lord wouldn’t leave me alone.
"I want you to move to Kansas City."
I couldn’t shake it. But it seemed so off the wall that I never told my wife, Linda. One evening while grading composition papers, my wife walked into my study.
"Hon, may I talk with you."
"I know this sounds a little strange but I think the Lord wants us to move."
She had my attention. I put down my red pencil.
"And not only does He want us to move; I thinks He wants us to move to Kansas City."
I’m telling you—you could have knocked me over with a feather.
"Hon, I can’t believe this. I haven’t said anything because it sounded so ridiculous, but for the past year the Lord has been dealing with me for us to move to Kansas City. It didn’t make sense so I didn’t say anything."
Well, needless to say, we moved to Kansas City. Actually Independence. I had my confirmation. That was in 1985. Actually I moved down first. For Linda couldn’t get out of her teaching contract until early winter. She was on a tri-semester schedule. I told her, out of obedience to the Lord, I would drive down to Kansas City and start looking for us a place to live. So I did. I resigned my teaching position at the university and headed for KC.
I had to do some business with a chiropractor in a little town just outside of KC. I had never met the man, but when I walked into his office the Lord spoke and told me to tell him that I was a Christian. We transacted our business and started to leave, but remembered, "Sir, I almost forgot. I’m really down here looking for housing to move my family. And I know this perhaps sounds a bit strange, but the Lord told me to tell you that I was a Christian."
"O, I’m a Christian too. And we have one apartment available where I live."
"Where do you live?"
"Harvest Hills? That sounds Christian."
"It is. There’s fifty-five of us families that live together on about 200 acres."
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. For sometime I had been interested in the concept of Christian community. We Baptists simply go to church. I felt as though there were more to Christianity than church going.
"Sir, I’m a Baptist minister and I’ve always been interested in a Christian community. Could you take me there?"
"Sure, we can take a lunch break, then drive out."
I bought him lunch and we visited Harvest Hills. It was beautiful. There were houses in a circle with an Olympic-size swimming pool out on the common green. Mothers could stand at their kitchen windows and watch the children play. Perfect. There was a community garden, a basketball court, and a big red barn for horses. I was very excited and called my wife.
"Hon, you’re not going to believe this. I have found us a place to live in a Christian community."
Harvest Hills was in Independence. I borrowed a coffee table, a chair, and a lamp from a friendly neighbor. No use to buy furniture since I would be moving our family down in the fall. It was May of ’85. Linda and Lori were back in Illinois and I drove back and forth on the weekends to continue preaching.
I had been at Harvest Hills less than a week when the doorbell rang. It was my neighbor, Dr. Kenneth Brown. Dr. Brown had a Ph.D in Psychology. I had a Ph.D in literature so we told old war stories about teaching, and had a wonderful visit. When he got ready to leave he remarked, "I almost forgot," and handed me a book. I looked at it and was shocked. It was a Book of Mormon! Sometimes we say the darndest things.
"That’s a Book of Mormon! I thought this was a Christian community?!"
He chuckled. "We are but we also believe in this book."
"Sir, I’m a Baptist minister."
I had the book in my hand, so out of courtesy I didn’t give it back. But I had no intention of reading the book. There I was—in an empty apartment with time on my hands and a Book of Mormon lying on the floor. A wrestling match began in my head. I was a literature professor with over 5,000 books in my personal library. I loved to read. But here was a book that I was intimated by. I must say, that felt a bit odd. I didn’t mind reading Milton or Shakespeare or William James. But I was afraid to read a book written by a twenty-three year old lad who was unschooled. Finally, I talked myself into it. I picked the book up, sat down in my chair, and began reading. What can I say…
I had an instant conversion. I didn’t get out of the first page—I Nephi chapter one, page one.
"I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents…"
The Spirit of God bore strong witness from the start. The same Jesus I met in the Bible was in the Book of Mormon. You must remember, I taught at Jerry Falwell’s. We used Dr. Walter Martin’s "The Kingdoms of the Cults" as a textbook. It was part of our curriculum. Joseph Smith was listed as the founder of a cult. I believed it too. Two of my favorite apologists were Josh McDowell (Evidence That Demands A Verdict) and John Ankerberg (World Religions & Cults). I was steeped in deep "Anti-Mormon" materials. I was prejudiced emotionally, theologically, and spiritually. I just knew this book was "of the devil" and that Joseph Smith was a great imposter. In other words, I came with a lot of baggage. I had initially set out reading to prove how stupid my neighbor was for falling for this stuff. After all, he did have a Ph.D. He should know better.
That night as I kept reading, I was unexpectedly caught off guard. Where was all the weird stuff?! I would read a passage and say to myself, "…but I believe that." I would read another passage. "I believe that." I ran into such passages as:
"…Now I say unto you, that ye must repent, and be born again: for the Spirit saith, If ye are not born again, ye can not inherit the kingdom of heaven…" --Alma 5:24
Any Baptist would agree with that.
As we say where I came from, "now that’s good preaching!"
"…Yea, behold, I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven, save it be this Jesus Christ of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved…" --II Nephi 11:39
And again, sound Baptist doctrine. Where’s the weird stuff?
Here’s another "Baptist" verse:
"…O remember, remember, my sons, the words which King Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world…" --Helaman 2:71
We Baptists are emphatic on the matter of the shed blood of Christ. Salvation is in the atoning blood of Christ.
"…And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things, from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary. And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men, even through faith, on his name…" --Mosiah 1:102,103
We Baptists are also emphatic regarding the centrality of the person of Jesus Christ. To my great delight, I discovered--like the Bible, the central theme of the Book of Mormon is the Lordship of Jesus Christ. There are over 160 passages in the Book of Mormon that speak of the Lord Jesus Christ. There were 22 men named in the Book of Mormon who saw Christ. Some form of Christ’s name is mentioned on an average of every 1.7 verses. The New Testament mentions a form of Christ’s name on an average of every 2.1 verses. The name of the Savior appears nearly 25 percent more frequently in the Book of Mormon than in the New Testament. When we realize that a verse usually consists of one sentence, we cannot on the average read two sentences in the Book of Mormon without seeing some form of Christ’s name.
"He is Lord" rings loud and clear from its pages like a London cathedral choir harmonizing on a Sunday morning. The sound is resonant throughout the book’s pages. The Spirit’s witness is there.
I couldn’t put the book down!
Four evenings & three days later I put it down. I read spellbound. I read through the night. I read with tears in my eyes. I read nonstop.
Four evenings & three days later I put it down. I read spellbound. I read through the night. I read with tears in my eyes. I read nonstop. I understood what Parley P. Pratt was saying:
"…I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep...I esteemed the Book, or the information contained in it, more than all the riches of the world."
Perhaps George Cannon said it best: "…No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so."
My sentiments exactly.
Finally, I knocked on my neighbor’s door. Dr. Brown opened the door.
"Ken, is there any church on the face of this earth that believes this stuff?!"
He left me standing in the doorway and said, "I’ll be right back." Five minutes later he handed me eight volumes of church history.
I fell in love with Joseph Smith. Here’s my kind of guy! He accomplished so much with so little. His resources were limited. His time was limited. His education was limited. His freedom was limited, yet in his 38 short years he managed to squeeze in a city, a book, a university, a new religion, and a run at the Presidency.
I don’t think my people have ever researched firsthand Joseph Smith. I know I hadn’t. I simply took my pastor’s word for it that he was the founder of a cult. And I was against the Book of Mormon yet had never read it.
I thought the mayor of a prominent Illinois city, a contemporary with Joseph, said it well:
"It is by no means improbable that some future text book, for the use of generations yet unborn, will contain a question something like this: What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countryman? And it by no means impossible that the answer to that interrogatory may be thus written: Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet…Fanatics and imposters are living and dying every day, and their memory is buried with them; but the wonderful influence which this founder of a religion exerted and still exerts throws him into relief before us, not as a rogue to be criminated, but as a phenomenon to be explained." "Figures of the Past," p.376, Hon. Josiah Quincy
Moroni, the angelic visitor, said it correctly:
Joseph Smith, in his own diary, wrote, "He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni. That God had a work for me to do, and that my name should be had for good and evil, among all nations, kindreds, and tongues; of that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people."
That prophecy has truly come to pass.
The Man of God will make you mad or glad. It depends upon the soil of your heart—if it’s fertile or fallow.
Joseph Smith made people mad or glad. To some he was a prophet; to others he was a plagiarist. To some he was humble; to others he was an egotist. Some knew him to be kind and generous; others said he was lazy and a gold digger.
Two people looking at the same thing can, and often do, arrive at exact opposite views. One sees an angel; the other, a demon. (Ever watch Hannity & Colmes?)
I have found him to be exactly as he said he was—a modern-day prophet sent from God. I have also found the Book of Mormon to be what it said it was—an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites…to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting Himself unto all nations. (Introduction)
I bear testimony—the same Jesus I discovered in the Bible, I found in the Book of Mormon.
May the Spirit of God bear the same witness with you.
Visit our website: http://www.lynnridenhour.com