By Aaron Shafovaloff
Created April 23, 2023
Updated September 13, 2023
David Alexander’s story within the Mormon community has generated significant interest, warranting an article and a collection of relevant quotes for reference.
David claims to have been an evangelical for 47 years and to have pastored 3 different times. He says he sought his entire evangelical life for a church that has true authority. He claims to have found that authority in the LDS Church. However, his strange comments raise questions about whether he understood the evangelical faith.
Evangelicals are left to do whatever is right in their own eyes
“Basically, you believe in Jesus but you’re pretty much left to do whatever’s right in your own eyes that you can justify from the Bible. The problem is you can justify pretty much anything from the Bible.” (YT 3:52)
Evangelicals have “no common witness”
“What I was involved in was just this confusing mess, basically. You know, no common witness.” (YT 4:53)
On being a pastor (three times) trying to attract tithing families
“The vast majority of the ministry in Evangelical Christianity is professional; it’s a career path. So, you know, everyone is trying to be God’s man of faith and power and attract as many of the tithing families to their churches as they can by pretending to be God’s man of faith and power… I say this from experience I was actually a pastor three different times.” (YT 19:00)
Contrasting his own LDS bishop
“He’s not trying to prove anything to anybody; he just is what he is, and he’s a really wonderful man, and that’s good enough. He’s a real wonderful man with faults, just like all of us, and that’s good enough. He doesn’t have to pretend to be something he’s not. He works in a steel mill all week, so he doesn’t need to convince people to give him enough money so that he can make a hundred thousand a year or 150,000 a year being God’s man of faith and power.” (YT 20:00)
On the Bible’s inadequacy
“The Bible without the Book of Mormon is like a really weird old bachelor that never got married. It’s like, without a wife, you know? It’s like the Bible really needs the Book of Mormon to straighten it out.” (YT 26:42)
On evangelicalism being chaos
“I made it out of the madness. I escaped the whirlpool.” (YT 25:39)
On dying of spiritual thirst as an evangelical
“It never even occurred to me, going around in circles dying of thirst in the desert for what you have, and I never even thought of visiting a Mormon, a Latter-Day Saint Church.” (YT 9:08)
“You know how mirages work, right? It’s like you’re on the road and it looks like there’s water up there and you get close, and it just disappears. You know, this was my life for 47 years. I’m like, maybe God’s over here, maybe there’s some authority over here. Then I get close and I get involved in the church. Oh man, this is, it’s like, I don’t mean this to be insulting because maybe some of you really do, but if you haven’t experienced what it’s like in this environment that I’m talking about to try to find the genuine path towards achieving your potential as a child of God where you’re on solid ground. And there’s real authority and real boundaries and real grace to walk on that path with one another.” (YT 22:31)
“I spent 10 years practically killing myself at street level urban ministry. I did all sorts of things, I did everything imaginable trying to find or bring about a life that measured up in some way to what I saw in the word of God. And a life to bring forth fruit that would actually remain. Where people’s lives could actually be brought onto something solid. And I couldn’t find any anything solid to climb up onto. And I didn’t have anything solid to bring anybody else onto. And so I spent 47 years trying with all my heart to bear fruit and failing, failing and failing, and failing, and failing, and failing for 47 years straight. It broke me.” (YT 43:26)
On the futility of memorizing the Gospel of John without the LDS Church
“I’m memorizing the Gospel of John but it’s like an exercise in futility because I’ve got no place to go with this.” (YT 33:24)
On the inability to be certain or holy apart from the LDS Church
“My 47 years of having the devil eat my lunch, because I had no authority to become the holy man that I wanted to be, and I didn’t have the kind of leadership I needed. I didn’t have the kind of certainty that anything was true or not true, because I mean, I know the Bible, and you know, pretty much anything you say you believe from the Bible, I could find a way to prove the opposite, and vice versa.” (YT 26:16)
“I wanted to become a holy man. I didn’t have the power to become a holy man. Because there wasn’t the authority there. And there wasn’t a covenant path to walk.” (YT 17:48)
On General Conference talks
“I mean I looked for leaders like you have everywhere on Earth for almost half a century. And I didn’t even know that your people of the quality of your leaders even existed. I found nothing like them anywhere. And then I started listening to these Conference talks. It’s just stunning.” (YT 16:49)
“President Nelson can say more in 17 minutes than I can say in seven hours.” (YT 17:16)
“They wouldn’t have swiftly become substantial enough to not be utterly destroyed and wiped off the face of the Earth. And then, of course, the other thing is, it’s easy to overlook: In order to practice polygamy, you need something that the frontier naturally never had. Any place on the frontier or out in the wilderness, what you had was like 10 men for every woman. That was the norm, okay? But somehow, the Latter-Day Saints have more women than men… If you don’t have more women than men and you practice polygamy, you end up with three single men wondering why Joe has four wives and you didn’t have any. And that, that is not, you can’t establish a sustainable culture on that basis. But there were women that desperately needed to be cared for and desperately needed to not be barren in a time when our Heavenly Father was making sure that the Latter-day Saints actually became a nation swiftly.” (YT 1:12:17)
Did he believe evangelical doctrine?
David claims that he didn’t have to give up one thing he had learned and tested as as evangelical,
“Everything I’d spent 47 years learning just like lined up with everything that I was hearing and just melted into it seamlessly… I didn’t have to give up one thing that I’d learned. Because all that 47 years wandering through Christianity… there’s a place where Paul gives the command, he says, look, test all things and hold fast to what is good. So that’s what I’ve been doing.” (YT 31:58)
A note on authority
A prominent theme in David’s presentations is finding true authority in the LDS Church. Unfortunately, he misunderstands the nature of authority in the Christian life. If he had eyes to see it, the Biblical idea of authority is right in front of him. Consider what he says about LDS sister missionaries:
“I’m meeting with these sister missionaries and they just blew my mind — the authority that they had. They’re just regular sister missionaries, 19-year-old girls. But because they’d received the apostles and prophets, they weren’t there on their own, they weren’t speaking their own words. They were presenting the Plan of Salvation that has a power of its own. And they were sent from the only church on Earth that actually has restored apostolic and prophetic authority. It’s like I was talking to Jesus.” (YT 27:47)
These sister missionaries did not have inherent authority. They certainly didn’t have the male LDS priesthood authority. But they did appear to have a kind of authority that amazed David: they spoke words that were not their own. They had, according to him, operated with apostolic authority by receiving and relaying the words of apostolic authority. They had an authoritative message. That message had a power of its own.
How David views the message of living LDS prophets is (by analogy) how evangelicals think of the Bible. All believers today are of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). We don’t speak on our own authority when we share the gospel. We appeal to God’s own authority delivered by foundational apostles who spoke living, enduring, repeatable words for permanent use. We are to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3)
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
Precisely because God’s word endures as the very voice of God, and because the power and authority of God’s word are not ephemeral, we can speak of God’s transmissible word with even more amazement than David spoke of LDS sister missionaries or living LDS prophets.
What God’s word says, God says. The preserved, inerrant, infallible word of God in the Bible is the very voice of God, even when communicated through weak Christians.
David claims that reading the Gospel of John was an exercise in futility without the LDS Church. He says the missing key to bearing spiritual fruit was having modern prophets, modern apostles, and the authority of the LDS Church. Knowing Christ through the Gospel of John — he considers this insufficient for eternal life and real sanctification. With these alone David says he would still be “dying of thirst in the desert.”
This is strange to Christian ears. The Gospel of John is written “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31) In that same book, Jesus says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” (7:37-38)
One can encounter the person of Christ, have living water, receive eternal life, and enjoy a saving relationship with Jesus Christ by reading and believing the Gospel of John. What David lacked wasn’t the LDS Church. He lacked saving faith.
Exit narratives can scratch itching ears. They need to be tested for the marks of true Christianity. David Alexander evidently did not understand the transformative gospel of salvation by grace. He also did not enjoy the unity that Christians enjoy across denominational lines. This unity comes from a shared belief in Jesus of the Bible.
Update (September 13, 2023)
David Alexander went by “Daveed Derush” and spent over 15 years with the “Twelve Tribes” group. See his name mentioned in the following:
- “Twelve Tribes Christian community lives as an example of its faith” (San Diego Union-Tribune)
- Twelve Tribes Community, Vista (San Diego Reader)
- Twelve Tribes Christian community lives as an example of its faith Religious group farms in Valley Center, sells goods in farmers markets (North County Times)
- “Been here ever since… 15 years now.” (Reddit)