Authored by Bryan Ready
Reviewed by Eric Johnson
Posted October 29, 2021
Several books have been written during the past few years by authors who make a claim of being Christian pastors before converting to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, I have previously reviewed these two books:
From Baptist Preacher to Mormon Teacher (Wain Myers)
In neither testimony did I believe these men were authentic Christian pastors nor did I feel their stories were valid. They were nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing.
In September 2021, Bryan Ready—a graduate of Southern Baptist Seminary and a Baptist pastor before he converted to Mormonism— released a book titled Crossing the Divide: From Baptist to a Latter-day Saint through LDS publisher Cedar Fort in September 2021. (This sounds very close to the title given above by Wain Myers, which Ready acknowledged to me in a personal email but said this was an editor’s decision.)
Ready was baptized into the LDS Church in 2016 after serving 25 years as a Christian pastor, including 15 years as the senior pastor of a small Southern Baptist church in Illinois. Yet even with his experience and credentials, I think integrity issues diminish the author’s credibility Let’s consider the reasons for why he, as a Baptist pastor, converted to the LDS religion.
The story of Bryan Ready
From an early age, Ready says he was drawn to the LDS Church. He jokingly blames his parents, writing on the book’s dedication page: “Dedicated to my parents, Raymond (Gene) Ready and Pamela Ready, whose family visits to Temple Square, Nauvoo, and Osmond concerts began this journey.” When he was an adolescent in 1979, his mother took him to an LDS fireside meeting featuring singers Donny and Marie Osmond along with LDS baseball player Harmon Killebrew. The event made an impact on his impressionable early life, as he writes:
I remember sitting about halfway back in the cultural hall listening to the Osmonds bear their testimonies. They talked about their faith in Jesus Christ, their belief in the restored gospel and the miracles that they had experienced. I was as impressed as a ten-year-old could be. I remember on the car ride home I was sitting in the back seat. I turned to my mother and said, “Mom, I want to be a Mormon.” . . . The answer was, “No!” (16)
His mother immediately contacted Presbyterian pastor Wesley P. Walters who had done important primary research on the historical story of Mormonism. Walters mailed her some pamphlets on problems with Mormonism, which she promptly gave to her son. (MRM distributes his booklet on the timing of the revival in Palymra, which can be purchased here.) Ready wrote, “Mom made me read a few of them to reinforce her ‘No!’ We both thought that would be the end of my interest in the restored gospel.”
Yet the parents continued to fan the boy’s fascination by visiting Nauvoo, Illinois the following summer. Of course, Nauvoo is the place where Joseph Smith and Mormonism thrived during the late 1830s and early 1840s. Many historical buildings were remodeled and a new temple was rebuilt on the very site where the previous one had been destroyed almost a century and a half earlier. Ready wrote,
It was obvious that Nauvoo was a special place. It would become a very special place to me personally and play a significant role in my conversion. Looking back on it all, I guess you could say that joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was all my mother’s fault. (17)
A few years later in 1983, Ready became involved with the youth group at Parker Road Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation located in a suburb of St. Louis, MO. It was here where the 14-year-old Ready says he prayed the “Sinner’s Prayer.”
In 1984, an Evangelical Christian book and movie called The God Makers was published; these resources quickly became popular Christian responses to Mormonism, energizing the young Ready and
reigniting what would become a lifelong fascination and study of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Soon I subscribed to every anti-Mormon newsletter that I could find. But I didn’t just read the opposing literature; I wanted to read both sides. (21)
When he sent a letter to the LDS Church, he was sent materials written by LDS general authorities such as A Marvelous Work and a Wonder (LeGrand Richards) and Truth Restored (Gordon B. Hinckley). An accompanying letter recommended that he read Jesus the Christ and The Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage, which he did. On page 21 he described his experience:
By this time, I was hooked. Studying the Restoration and history of the Church became a huge hobby for me. I began checking out books from the high school and community libraries. And I would take every opportunity I could to bash with Church missionaries.
This is not the only time he used the word “bash” to describe his encounters with LDS missionaries, though he never explains what this word means to him. Did he merely discuss the differences with the missionaries? Or was he rude to them? If he was polite and the purpose was to compare and contrast the faiths, no offense should be taken. But if he argued with the missionaries just to win arguments, I agree that this is not a “gentle and respectful” attitude as commanded by 1 Peter 3:16. Because the word “bash” can mean disagreement in discussions, he needed to have provided more details about his encounters.
After graduating from high school, Ready attended Missouri Baptist College to major in religion. He thought that he might like to become an associate pastor. During his college years, he wrote his first paper on the LDS Church titled “Mormonism: Christian Church or Cult.” He explains on page 23, “I quickly gained a reputation among my friends as someone who was knowledgeable (some would say obsessed) about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
It was during this time that he read the Book of Mormon for the first time. He states,
When I finished, I attempted to take up Moroni’s promise and prayed as sincerely as I could. Nothing happened. Dead silence. . . . I often wondered why I got the answer I did. I’ve come to the conclusion that I just wasn’t ready (ellipsis mine).
The Bible never teaches that a person should rely on a prayer about a religion or its scriptural book. Instead, 1 Thess. 5:21 says to “test all things,” which certainly goes beyond gaining a good feeling following a prayer. After all, millions of people convert to other religions who may have prayed and were convinced about their decision. Meanwhile, 1 John 4:1-2 says that it is important to “test the spirits to see if they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (See Is Praying about the Book of Mormon biblical?)
Ready received his Bachelor of Arts religion degree from Union University in Tennessee in 1990 and became the youth and music minister at a Baptist church in Illinois. In the summer of 1992, he traveled to Nauvoo to watch the City of Joseph Pageant and visit Carthage Jail. It was there where he purchased a book on credit titled Carthage Conspiracy and began a pen pal relationship with a female LDS missionary who served at the jail; this relationship continued for two decades, which is ethically questionable since he was married for most of those years. Responding to me, Ready wrote in a 11/7/21 personal email:
. . . you will be happy to know that the sister missionary I corresponded with from Nauvoo was old enough to be my grandmother. So, there were no ethical issues there. And yes, my wife was aware of our correspondence. I laughed out loud when I read what you wrote about that. You’d make ole Rita Skeeter proud.
In his book, Ready never provided the name of this missionary or how old she was, another area where more information would have been helpful. However, does the age difference really matter? Integrity would have said that Rita Skeeter should have handed off this potential convert to her husband or another qualified male. And Ready should have asked that Rita–as nice as she was–should have handed over the responsibility to someone else to protect his own integrity.
Ready then decided to get a post-graduate education at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City before transferring to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY in 1994. Much of his attention was focused on Mormonism, as he states on page 27, “Just about every paper I wrote had something to do with the restored Church. If there were any way I could relate the topic of the paper to the Church, I did” (italics in original).
Needless to say, his fascination with the Mormon religion seems extremely unhealthy. Instead of finding ways to serve his congregation, including the youth, he became obsessed with a church that was not his own. When a public open house took place at the St. Louis LDS temple before it opened to worthy Mormons in 1997, Ready decided to drive from Kentucky with several other seminary students to attend.
“I was so excited,” Ready wrote, because “it would be my first experience entering a modern temple.” During that open house, he and the other students met with representatives of the LDS Church so they could get academic credit. As the discussion turned to eternal marriage, the sister missionary
pointed out if you believe that Adam and Eve were married before the ‘Fall,’ then you must believe in marriage for eternity. . . . If Adam and Eve were married in Eden 1.0, why couldn’t others be married in Eden 2.0? It was a powerful argument; and for the first time my mind was open to the possibility of eternal marriage (28).
How was the relationship that Adam and Eve had a good precedent and even a “powerful argument” for the possibility for eternal marriage? No explanation is given. Remember, however, that this was a man who already had a degree in religion from a Christian college and was currently attending an evangelical Christian seminary. It almost feels like Ready never fully embraced the Christian faith as he seemingly searched for hope through the LDS religion.
An event at the church where he worked ended up causing great consternation and, he says, began a decade of doubt that he refers to as “my Dark Night of the Soul.” In 1998, a guest preacher at the church gave a strange teaching: “If you didn’t feel a deep sorrow for your sins,” he taught, “if you had never wept over your sins before you put your faith in Christ, then you weren’t really a Christian.” Ready regretted that he
didn’t cry over my sins or feel an overwhelming power of remorse. Had I missed something? Had the past fifteen years been a fraud? I didn’t believe that they were. But I really didn’t know. The very foundation of my faith had been called into question. (32)
Even when Ready read the Bible and realized that what the preacher taught was not biblical, this preacher’s words continued to reverberate through the young pastor’s mind, which caused him to doubt his own salvation over the next ten years. As Ready explained,
But even that realization was not enough to pull me out of the whirlpool of doubt. You see, once the adversary plants the seeds of doubt into your mind, they spread like weeds. You think you have them all pulled up, but a few days later they have re-sprouted. (32)
He describes the result on page 36,
Though the crisis of faith would continue for some time, the combination of the church conflict and my crisis of faith made me very miserable for several months. Finally, I could take it no longer and I surrendered to be a pastor.
He does not do a good job explaining why his so-called “dark night of his soul” led him to “surrender” to become a pastor. Instead of becoming a pastor, Ready appears to have been in serious need of counseling and discipleship, things that he never intimates was sought. Even still, in 2001 he became the sole pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Piasa, Illinois—a small rural single-building church next to a small 2-lane highway. Becoming a pastor did not end Ready’s fascination with Mormonism.
For instance, he wrote, “Throughout my tenure as pastor, I continued to study the history and doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” He even “dedicated two bookcases to my studies on the Restoration and soon decorated them with pictures and souvenirs from my trips to Nauvoo and visits to Latter-day Saint historic sites” (42).
Ready’s wife and children had to endure their husband/dad’s obsession with Mormon history on family outings:
Whenever we went on family vacations, if there was a Church historic site along the way, we would stop. We stopped at Palmyra, Fayette, Harmony, Kirtland, Independence, Liberty . . . just about every major historic site from Palmyra to Nauvoo. Many times, folks would look at my library (or vacation pictures) and ask, “Why are you so interested in the Mormons?” My response was still, “I don’t know. Why do some people collect stamps? It’s just a weird hobby” (42, ellipsis mine).
The obsession had no rhyme or reason:
Why was I so interested in the theology and history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Why was I spending so much time and money on something that really wasn’t useful in my current ministry? It just didn’t make sense. And I had no answers. (42)
As he continued pastoring the congregation at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in 2012, he scheduled regular visits with LDS missionaries. In addition, Ready had reached out to Dr. Robert Millet, a Mormon apologist who was involved in ecumenical relationships with several scholarly Christians. Claiming that he was burning the candle at both ends, Millet introduced Ready to BYU professor Dr. Shon Hopkin.
After multiple conversations with the Mormon missionaries along with his developing relationship with Hopkin, Ready decided to get baptized into the LDS Church in July 2015. However, his Baptist church where he served required four weeks notice in order to resign his position. On June 7th, 2015—he calls it his “D-day”—Ready read a letter to the congregation written by Dr. Hopkin that said in part,
I speak as a committed Latter-day Saint that I don’t believe Bryan will need to give any of those central convictions up to become LDS. If he thought that were the case, he would never do it (and I wouldn’t want him to). If he ever becomes convinced that those central convictions are incompatible with life as a Mormon, I’m confident he will leave. (57)
Although he read the letter, he decided not to resign that day and continued as pastor. Part of his reasoning is that he was not going to be allowed by the LDS Church to get baptized as long as his wife—who was not willing to convert—did not give him permission. Finally, she gave in, so Ready gave his resignation on October 18, 2015 and remained the pastor until December 27, 2015. He had been at the church for 15 years.
The next Sunday–the first in many years that he was not the pastor of this Baptist church–Ready attended a local LDS congregation’s fast and testimony meeting as he “bore my testimony of the Church and the Lord’s timing. As part of my testimony, I confessed the critical spirit I had toward the Church for most of my life and asked for forgiveness.” (57)
4 Problematic Issues with this Story of Conversion
For the rest of this review, allow me to share my four main concerns with Ready’s conversion to Mormonism.
- The author had an abnormal obsession with the LDS Church during his time as a Christian
Beginning when he was a young child and continuing through his college/seminary years as well as two and a half decades in pastoral ministry, Ready had an ongoing (almost bizarre) fascination with the Mormon religion, as he admits that he wanted to join it at an early age. This desire seemed to continue through his middle-age years.
Please understand, I do realize that it is possible to be a Christian while having an interest in studying a religion like Mormonism. After Jim Jones led a thousand people to their suicidal deaths in the fall of 1978, I began to doggedly do research and talk to adherents of other religions during my high school years. For me, discovering the authentic teachings of these faiths so they could be compared to what I had been taught had a purpose related to the Bible’s admonition to “test” all things and prove that which is right. I also had a compassion for those who were religious but were devoid of a personal relationship with the Jesus of the Bible. Eventually I graduated from seminary and even taught classes on American and World Religions at the post-graduate level.
Over the years I have placed a lot of effort into properly understanding LDS teaching. But there has been a purpose, not a secret fascination to some day join this religion. Today, I continue to study this religion, sharing gathered information with Christian audiences while sharing my faith with Latter-day Saints at a variety of events.
For Ready, however, there seems to be no end-game to his fascination. Why was he was enamored with this religion and its people? In the book, he brings up this question several times but admits to having no answer. Perhaps it goes back to remembering his childhood days watching pop stars Donny and Marie while reminiscing about fun family vacations at LDS tourist sites. After he graduated from seminary, he decided to return to school to complete a second master’s degree in theology, with the main reason (he admits) so that he could write another major paper on Mormonism (“William Heth Whitsitt: Insights into Early Mormonism”).
I have not read all of that paper, but what I have read appears to be well written, though it certainly includes sympathy for the LDS position. For instance, he attacks the view of LDS critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner. He also has relates to the LDS people of earlier days. This is what he wrote on page 56 of that paper:
Throughout my experience of studying the early history of Mormonism, there has been one question in my mind that I have had a hard time answering. It is a question that Christian apologists have often asked in defense of the rise of early Christianity; namely, why would someone suffer and die for something they knew was a fraud? The leaders of early Mormonism were beaten, tarred and feathered, and imprisoned. They were driven from their homes on more than one occasion. Some were even killed. Granted, they brought a lot of this “persecution” on themselves, but why would they go through it if they knew they were perpetrating a fraud?
One of the things that keeps the fire lit for many Latter-day Saints is a belief that many early members were persecuted for their faith. As Ready wrote in his paper, “Why would someone suffer and die for something they knew was a fraud?” Those who have roots going back to the pioneer days like to point out how their ancestors paid a great price—sometimes even with their lives—to cross the United States in an attempt to reach Zion (Utah). But to say that suffering proves the religion to be true is a non sequitur. People often suffer for what they know is a fraud.
Other leaders may have sincerely believed in their faith even if Joseph Smith (and others?) knew the religion was based on deception. Still, it’s a weak argument to suggest that a religion is true just because some kept their faith through hard times And certainly this is not true for many other early leaders who criticized Joseph Smith for being a false prophet–what should we do with their testimonies?
In the final two chapters, Ready describes at great length how he and his family participated in two recent Nauvoo pageants, as they volunteered as cast members for two weeks at personal sacrifice (time and money). He gives in-depth details about his experience that, to be honest, were unnecessary for the reader to better understand why a Baptist pastor converted to Mormonism. Participating in these events with his family is nothing less than a spiritual experience for them, as his love affair with all things Mormon certainly shows through the details.
- Serving as a Christian pastor while apparently believing in Mormonism
When Ready began his 15-year senior pastoral career at Mt. Zion Baptist in Illinois, he readily admits that he was entering a decade of spiritual doubt before he took the position. With so much Christian training in college and seminary, it seems strange that he let the teaching of a heretic get under his skin. He should have been more mature and known better. Besides his bachelor’s degree and two master degrees, he already had 10 years of service as a music/youth pastor. How could a guest preacher who taught false doctrine cause Ready so much angst and doubt? Had he not learned to “own his own faith” during those many years of Christian education and church service?
I also question the efficacy of Ready taking on the senior leadership of a church when he admits his serious doubts about his own faith that apparently lasted the majority of this pastorate. When he ended up taking the senior pastoral position in 2001, he described his fascination with Mormonism, even proudly acknowledging that he had two bookcases full of LDS materials sitting in his church office.
What was the purpose of having so many resources on Mormonism when he lived in a state not considered an LDS hotbed? His church was about three hours away from Nauvoo, probably the place in his state where the most Latter-day Saints live. He talked about his extensive LDS literary collection, but he does not mention if he had a healthy collection of Bible commentaries, counseling books, and other resources that could have helped him better serve the congregation to whom he was called to serve.
Another bothersome admission is when he described how he was planning to resign his pastorate in June 2015 so that he could get baptized four weeks later in the LDS Church. At that church meeting, one of his sons came forward to whisper encouragement for his father to read a letter written about him by a BYU professor. When Ready read it, he decided not to resign as he had planned. Remaining as the pastor (shepherd) of a church while knowing that he had mentally checked out of his position is not ethical. For the next six months, then, he continued to cash the payroll checks he received from the church while neglecting a proper spiritual care of the faithful parishioners, which only a dedicated Christian pastor who believed in the historical faith could have done. If he had already mentally converted to Mormonism, going through the motions as a pastor who no longer believed in Evangelical Christianity seems to even contradict the teachings of the Book of Mormon (i.e., 2 Ne. 26:31; Mos. 18:26).
He responds to the question of why he wanted to become a Mormon at the beginning of his final chapter titled “Concluding Thoughts”:
To be honest, I don’t know all the reasons. I feel like these people—the Latter-day Saints—are my people. These are the people to whom and among whom God has called me to minister, and I feel assured that God has called me to join them (81).
Notice these words: “I feel like these people [i.e., the Mormons] are my people.” This is a betrayal to the people who had entrusted him as their leader for years. In fact, Ready remained the church’s pastor until the end of 2015. He then attended the local LDS ward on the first Sunday in January, giving his testimony and apologizing to the Mormon people. Instead of apologizing to those in the audience that day, he owed an apology to his former Christian congregation and the people whom he had abandoned. There appears to be no remorse for how he betrayed the people in his church.
- Providing little information about the feelings of his wife
Although their children are mentioned throughout the story, very little focus is given to Ready’s wife Jennifer and her views/opinions. For the most part, she remains anonymous in the story of how her husband converted to Mormonism.
We do learn that the couple met during Ready’s seminary years, so we can assume that she was a Christian. (Maybe she still is, but he never says.) The next time we hear about Jennifer is when she refuses to allow her husband to get baptized into the LDS Church, which puts the kibosh on his desire to join the “restored” church. In late 2015, however, she agrees to let him get baptized if that is what he wanted to do.
The couple continues to remain married even though she has not converted to Mormonism. Of course, some privacy in their relationship should be allowed, and I fully understand that. At the same time, Ready is writing an autobiography telling the story of how he, as a Baptist pastor, converted to Mormonism. His wife plays a major role in this story, so to ignore most of the details about their relationship does a disservice to the reader. He was not forced to write this story and had every ability to keep the family’s privacy by not making his story public.
Here are some of the details that needed to have been included:
- How did his conversion affect the marriage and family? This question is not addressed.
- Why did Jennifer not convert to Mormonism with her husband? How difficult was it to convert to a religion that your spouse doesn’t support?
- Does Jennifer consider herself a Christian today? Or has she gone the atheist/agnostic route?
I understand these are personal questions, but ignoring this information is unfair to the reader who has paid money to read the full accounting of how/why a Baptist pastor became a Mormon.
In a personal email Ready sent to me in response to this review, he wrote,
I didn’t include more of my wife’s side of the story basically because she didn’t want me to. If you want to know her side of things you are welcome to reach out to her. But I don’t know if she would respond.
The point is that every reader, not just me, should have been told more about her story. That is my criticism and I hold to it. Having your wife respond to me now is a moot point since any information she could give me would not be included in the book for the rest of your readers to see. Thus, I do not need to talk to your wife, as I’m sure you’re right: Why would she tell me her story when she wasn’t willing to have anyone else hear it? Honestly, if she wasn’t willing to have her side of the story told, I wonder if this book should have even been written. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think your marriage should be more important (as your story is, essentially, hers as well) than publicly giving your conversion story.
Perhaps the biggest reason I see for why he converted to Mormonism is Ready has a high regard for temple work. He explains how he longs for the day when he will be sealed for eternity to his spouse. On page 78, he talked about the “eternal” marriages taking place in these buildings around the world:
One of the greatest blessings he gave me was the blessing that I would be sealed in the temple if I am faithful. A few well-meaning members have asked me if I was worried about missing out on the blessing of a temple marriage since my wife is not a member of the Church. Because of my patriarchal blessing, I am not worried. The Lord told me I would be sealed in the temple as long as I’m faithful.
He continued on the next page:
Some Latter-day Saints may see these experiences and ordinances as a list of things that they need to accomplish in order to enter the celestial kingdom. It is easy to see the principles of the gospel—faith, repentance, baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, endowments, temple marriage, enduring to the end—as a heavenly checklist. But I view them differently. I do not see these steps on a checklist. I see them as checkpoints on a map.
He feels that all things will work out in the end. I get that. But imagine what pressure has been put on his wife! Jennifer married a man whom she believed would be a Christian pastor for the rest of his life; having him leave Christianity for Mormonism was certainly not part of this “happily ever after” plan.
Because marriage in the temple is a requirement for Mormons to enter the celestial kingdom, there are limited scenarios possible for Bryan to attain celestial glory: 1) Jennifer joins the church and they get sealed in the temple; 2) she dies or the couple gets divorced and Bryan marries a faithful/eligible woman who had not been sealed previously in the LDS temple (unless she was married but received a temple divorce); or 3) he dies unmarried in the temple and hopes that vicarious work is done for him at a later time (though this idea certainly contradicts the teaching of Alma 34:32-35). It must be a difficult position for both husband and wife to have a marriage thrive with such different beliefs and the expectations the Mormon spouse might have.
- Limited description of theological issues
First, let’s explain how important the city of Nauvoo is to Ready and how he reflects positively on all that took place there during the lifetime of Joseph Smith. Does he not realize how these events are an affront to his own scriptures? After all, this city was the place where Joseph Smith
- gave the Sermon at the Grove and the King Follett Discourse in 1844 where Smith preached a contradictory perspective of God and the Godhead when compared to his church’s ancient scriptures (the Bible and the Book of Mormon);
- betrayed his wife by marrying multiple women, including girls as young as 14 and women already married to living husbands, in direct contradiction of Jacob chapter 2 as detailed in the Book of Mormon;
- illegally destroyed a printing press because the producers of the Nauvoo Expositor, a one-time newspaper, reported on his polygamous ways.
Much more could be written about what took place in Nauvoo. Yet Ready fawns over the LDS Church founder and the place where many important events occurred. He writes, “Over time, my perspective on Joseph radically changed. I now believe that he was a prophet called by God to establish The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (85). The reasons he gives are superficial. For instance, he says that Smith had a capacity to forgive, citing a story when Smith allowed former members who had left on bad terms to return. He added on the next page, “Joseph’s capacity for forgiveness is a strong testimony to his divine calling.”
He contrasts Smith’s murder to radically extreme cult leaders like Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Marshall Applewhite (look them up), saying “in contrast to these men, Joseph Smith’s story is very different. How is Joseph different? He died for his people” (italics in original). I think this is taking the events at the Carthage Jail too far. For one, Smith might not have been killed had he not shot at his attackers, though we will never know.
Still, Ready wants Smith to be considered a martyr despite his use of a smuggled pistol “to defend himself and the other men in the upper room of Carthage Jail” (88). I explain in another article why Smith should not be considered a martyr (“The Marytrdom” of Joseph Smith).
Rarely does Ready use biblical passages to support his exit from Evangelical Christianity. But when he does, he disappoints. For instance, on page 89, he writes,
Countless discussions and numerous debates have been held between Baptists and Latter-day Saints on the role of grace and works in salvation. Baptists proclaim, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). To which Latter-day Saints respond with “faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).
The use of James 2 in connection with Ephesians 2:8-9 has been responded to many times by Christians. (For more on this issue, see Doesn’t the book of James say that “faith without works is dead”?) Remember, Ready claims to have once subscribed to “every anti-Mormon” newsletter and spent many years in post-graduate and pastoral ministry. This is why I am unclear why he chose to use James 2 to respond to Ephesians 2. Down deep, he has to know that James and Paul can be reconciled, so throwing out James 2 in response to salvation by grace through faith seems to be intellectually lazy.
Ready also does not give a clear idea about how his theology has changed, claiming on page 81 that he holds
to many of the truths that I learned as a Southern Baptist. I still believe in the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. No man comes to the Father but through Jesus. I still believe in justification by grace alone, through faith alone.
This statement seems odd, especially when he had cited James 2 as an answer to “salvation by grace through faith.” For the most part, Ready hardly discusses theological reasons that caused him to exchange Christianity for Mormonism. Because he almost seems to minimize any differences between the two faiths, it feels as if the author truly feels that his past beliefs as an Evangelical can be synchronized with Mormonism. If there is an accurate understanding of the doctrines of the two faiths, then there is no synchronization. After all,
- Either justification comes by grace or it comes by works
- Either God has a body of flesh and bones or he does not
- Either Jesus is fully God (and fully man) or He is a created being, the “first born” of Heavenly Parents
- Either the Trinity is true or it is not
- Either the Book of Mormon is true scripture or it is not.
For each point, I rhetorically ask, which is it? It is extremely frustrating because Ready does show a good understanding of biblical Christianity’s view of justification, sanctification, and glorification. His biblical schooling is evident when he describes these teachings in detail on pages 90 to 94.
He then describes the Trinity and answers some of the arguments given against this important teaching, fairly reporting:
. . . I want to clarify a common misconception that many have about the Trinity. The historic understanding of the Trinity does not teach that God the Father and Jesus are the same person. They are different persons! . . . The belief in that oneness is the essence of the Trinity—three different persons united in an eternal, ontological, and metaphysical oneness (96-97, italics in original).
Ready is absolutely right on his analysis when it comes to Evangelical Christianity. It is rare to find a Mormon who speaks with such preciseness. This is why I was shocked when Ready wrote in a personal email to me (11/7/21) saying he still holds to essential Christian doctrinal teachings.
Your review seems to imply that if one joins the LDS church they must embrace all the theological and historical baggage that goes with it. But that’s simply not true. I still believe in the Trinity and I still believe in justification by faith alone. I had very direct discussions with Mission Presidents and BYU professors about various theological positions held by the LDS Church that I disagreed with. I was told directly, without exception, that I did not have to believe x…y…z… to join the LDS Church.
This begs the question, is is possible for Latter-day Saints to hold to the Trinity and justification by faith alone while saying they belong to the “restored church”? After all, consider what Joseph Smith had to say about the Trinity:
Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God! I say that is a strange God anyhow—three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization. All are to be crammed into one God, according to sectarianism. It would make the biggest God in all the world. He would be a wonderfully big God —he would be a giant or a monster (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 372.)
Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the First Presidency, contrasted the view of the Trinity when he explained at a general conference:
In common with the rest of Christianity, we believe in a Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. However, we testify that these three members of the Godhead are three separate and distinct beings. We also testify that God the Father is not just a spirit but is a glorified person with a tangible body, as is his resurrected Son, Jesus Christ. (“Apostasy and Restoration, Ensign (Conference Edition, May 1995, 84)
And Robert Millet, who I mentioned earlier helped in converting Ready to Mormonism, wrote,
If an acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity makes one a Christian, then of course Latter-day Saints are not Christians, for they believe the doctrine of the Trinity as expressed in modern Protestant and Catholic theology is the product of the reconciliation of Christian theology with Greek philosophy (A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints, 171).
Notice what Millet says in the second half of his statement. The Trinity came about as the “product” of “Christian theology with Greek philosophy”! It would seem that holding on to the Trinity would not be compatible with a person who claims to a Latter-day Saint.
Ready mentions that he has his temple recommend and enjoys going to the temple. Consider three of the questions he had to answer in order to qualify for this privilege.
First, he was asked:
1. Do you have faith in and a testimony of God, the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost?
Here is the third question:
3. Do you have a testimony of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Since Bryan Ready has his temple recommend, he had to answer this question affirmatively. But the very need of the Restoration comes with an understanding that all of the teachings of biblical Christianity are false. After all, when Joseph Smith asked “which of all the sects was right” “and which I should join” at the First Vision in 1820, he was supposedly told by God the Father and Jesus:
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong: and the Personage who addressed me said 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.”
Wouldn’t the “creeds” that “were an abomination in his sight” taught by “corrupt” “professors” include the doctrines of the Trinity and salvation by grace alone?
Finally, question #6 states,
6. Do you follow the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ in your private and public behavior with members of your family and others?
If Ready still holds to the Trinity and salvation by grace alone (sola gracia), then it does not seem that he should have been able to answer this question in the affirmative. I wonder if the bishop/stake president who conducted the interview understood that Ready’s beliefs on these two major issues more aligns with Christianity, not Mormonism.
For more on the differences, start with an article found in Crash Course Mormonism on Jesus.
Although I believe Bryan Ready was, at one time, very sincere about a desire to serve in Christian ministry, his story of converting to Mormonism remains such a disappointment. As an Evangelical Christian, I am open to hear why a person would abandon the pastorate and join the LDS Church. To be convinced, though, I need sound reasons for the conversion, something that Ready does not deliver. I believe he needs biblical support to show how the Christianity he once held is inferior to the “restored gospel,” as he put it.
It is bothersome that he wants the reader to think that, somehow, his conversion to Mormonism is not a big deal. He writes on page 36:
The story of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been woven in such a way that if you don’t want to believe, you can find plenty of reasons not to believe. But! If you do want to believe, you can find even more reasons to believe. It boils down to what you want to do.
By not giving more specific details about why he felt led to convert to another religion, Ready did not make it easy for the outsider to understand his decision. It is possible for someone to pretend that Mormonism and biblical Christianity are the same faith, but the very fact that he gets rebaptized into the LDS Church shows that he understands the differences are great.
That is why it was astonishing to see how Dr. Shon Hopkin’s letter read to Ready’s Baptist congregation in June 2015 said, in part, that if “he [Ready] ever becomes convinced that those central convictions [of his Evangelical Christian past] are incompatible with life as a Mormon, I’m confident he will leave.” Hopkin certainly understands how the biblical Christianity once claimed by Ready is diametrically opposed to the teachings of Mormonism, making this (at least to me) an disingenuous claim. (For 10 reasons, click here.)
Meanwhile, Ready make an attempt to convert the reader to Mormonism when he provides this invitation (most likely aimed at Evangelical Christians) on page 82:
I believe the Lord is getting ready to do a mighty work through this Church. I would love for you to be a part of it. I can now testify to you of the truthfulness of the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Bring with you all that you have of good and truth which you have received from whatever source, and come and let us see if we may add to it.” Come on in. The water’s fine.
Was Bryan Ready ever a Christian? I am not the one to judge. Is there hope for him? I think there is. Ready knows about this review and has agreed to go to lunch with us at MRM the next time we are in Illinois or the next time he is Utah. We look forward to sitting down and buying his lunch in order to further discuss his conversion.