Though I was never a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I did grow up in an area of southern California that has a high Mormon population. Many of the friends I had in school were members of the LDS Church so it was natural that I would have close contact with them. I don’t recall a single negative experience growing up with my LDS friends.
What is interesting is that none of them really tried to convert me to their church until after I became a Christian in 1973. I did not know much about Mormon doctrine nor did I really care during my school years. It wasn’t until after I graduated and moved to Montana to work at a saw mill that I remember a co-worker and friend telling me that the Mormon Church was a “cult.” In my religious ignorance I didn’t even know what that was (I figured it had four letters so it must not have been good). I eventually moved back to California and it was then that the Lord graciously opened my eyes to the fact that I was a sinner who had deeply offended Him and needed His forgiveness. By His grace I came to Him, asking for His mercy, which He abundantly gave. My newfound faith gave me a huge appetite to learn more about this wonderful God who “sought me, and bought me” with His redeeming blood. I couldn’t get enough Bible study.
Remembering what my friend in Montana had said about the Mormon Church, I decided to start doing some studying on this subject. I wanted to know why such a negative term would be attached to this church, especially since all of my experiences with my LDS friends were only positive.
I purchased a book by Dr. Gordon Fraser titled Is Mormonism Christian? Hopefully this man’s expertise would help me to understand what exactly it was that this organization taught. My main purpose in getting this book was for the quotes and references he supplied. I am a firm believer in researching primary sources and I figured that if anyone should know and understand what the teachings of Mormonism were, it should be those leaders who have put those ideas on paper. Eventually, my library of LDS books and periodicals began to get larger and larger. In the meantime, I was also talking with new LDS acquaintances I came in contact through my work. Many of the LDS churches in the area had an account with my place of employment and often when their employees would come into the store and if the situation permitted, I would ask them questions regarding their faith.
One of them had mentioned that he had a set of Journal of Discourses and since I had explained that I had never seen a set of this oft-quoted source, he invited me to come over to his house and look through them. As his family ate their Sunday meal, I was in the den looking up all of the references I had previously put together. To my surprise, my list of questionable statements really were authentic and they were not taken out of context as many Mormons insist. When I was asked if I was finding what I was looking for, I, with mixed emotions, said yes. I explained that I was very concerned by what I read since I could not find any biblical justification for the teachings in those books. I’ll never forget his reaction. Immediately, his friendly countenance changed and he proceeded to tell me how he was going to be a God when he died and that he would be in charge of his own world. He then asked, “What do you have to offer me?” Feeling a bit put on the spot, I merely responded, “All I have is Jesus,” to which he replied, “That’s not good enough!” He then opened the front door and motioned for me to leave. This was my first negative experience in confronting a Mormon with my concerns.
Not all of my talks with Mormons were so bad. I had come to know another Mormon through work that was quite friendly to me. I remember one Saturday we decided to get together to discuss our doctrinal differences. We had several talks about doctrine and he was quite honest when he really didn’t have an answer. I had a great respect for him then as I do now. For some reason we lost contact with each other and it would be several years later before I would see him again. As far as I know, he is still a faithful member of the LDS Church.
During this time I had also met a couple who were pioneers in the field of evangelizing the LDS people. I had visited a local Christian bookstore to look for a book titled The Book of Mormon Examined, by Arthur Budvarson. The owner of the bookstore did some checking and found that the book was no longer in print (I found out later that it was retitled and was available through a different publisher). Though she couldn’t supply the book, she did say that Mr. Budvarson lived in the area and that I should try and give him a call. That phone call began a close friendship that would last several years.
Both Art and his wife Edna were a big help to me as I eagerly studied this fascinating religion. Edna came to know the Jesus of the Bible through a single Christian tract that was handed to her as she and Art visited a friend at a hospital. The Bible verses in that pamphlet led her to discover that Mormonism was not Christian. It would take Art several years before he would come to the same conclusion.
They founded the Utah Christian Tract Society in the mid-1950s and produced scores of blue-inked tracts dealing with different topics of Mormonism. Through their mentoring I was able to learn things about Mormonism and the LDS people that would be difficult for me to know never having been a member. Art didn’t have a huge library, but what books he had were all of the important ones. I was especially impressed with his original 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. Art would make photocopies for me whenever I asked, and he would take the time to answer any question I came up with (believe me, I had many). Despite the 40 some odd year’s difference in our ages, I cherish the close friendship my wife and I had with Art and Edna. Both had a genuine concern for truth, and a genuine love for the Mormon people.
There were times when Art would ask if I would someday like to take over Utah Christian Tract Society. Although honored by the request, I always had a sense that I was inadequate for such a task. The more I was learning the more there seemed to learn. Eventually the time came when I felt that I should “officially” get involved in such a ministry. When I expressed my idea to Art he was pleased, but they were not quite ready to retire. I understood completely and asked if they would pray for me as I felt to start a similar ministry to the Mormon people. The Budvarson’s were more than supportive. They offered advice, printed material, and even financial support to get started. In 1979 Mormonism Research Ministry was incorporated for the purpose of reaching out to the LDS people and to inform the Christian community about the error of Mormonism. That same year we sent out about 50 newsletters to primarily friends and relatives letting them know of our plans. It didn’t take long before the news spread and interest in this work began to grow.
When Art’s health began to seriously deteriorate in the late 1980s, I was asked if Mormonism Research Ministry would be willing to take over their work. In February of 1990, Utah Christian Tract Society merged with MRM. Art would pass away in 1991. Edna would eventually go to be with the Lord in 1997.
For over four decades Mormonism Research Ministry has been educating Christians about the teachings of Mormonism as well as trying to show the LDS people why Mormonism does not represent Christianity. To be sure this type of work can be very frustrating and it is not uncommon that many LDS members see us as an enemy rather than a friend. Many see no problem with their leader’s harsh and critical comments regarding the things Christians hold dear, yet these same Mormons think it is somehow “unchristian” for those who feel a response to their claims are in order. I don’t know if I will ever get over this glaring contradiction other than to realize we should expect this type of behavior from the unregenerated. Having said this, let me say that such incidents are offset by the many opportunities we have to dialogue with serious Latter-day Saints who want to discuss the important issues involving things eternal.
I would be remiss if I failed to give the Lord honor for the way He has blessed this work. We have seen numerous people come to faith in the biblical Jesus and scores of Christians who have said our material has given them a boldness to share their faith with the LDS people. The Lord has blessed my family as well. I have a great wife and three grown children who make their parents very proud. All of them are serving the Lord in various capacities. I have no doubt that this is where the Lord wants me to be.
We have found that many of those who leave Mormonism do so by studying their way out. The prompting of the Holy Spirit compels them to look beyond the one-sided, “faith-promoting” material given to them by their church. In doing so they see the myriad of inconsistencies associated with LDS teaching when compared with that of the Bible. My prayer for the LDS people is that they take the time to look beyond their subjective “testimony” and look closely at the history and teachings of their church. In doing so, they will see that all is not well in “Zion.”
For video testimony of Bill McKeever, go here.