My name is Jeff and I am a recovering Mormon. Basher let me explain. If you don’t know who I am, I’m a pastor. And I started this channel because I’m on a quest to understand everything I can about the Church of Jesus Christ of Life, Latterday Saints, because in large part my entire life, mormonism has been very foreign to me and I’ve never taken the time to learn about it. And I’ve been trying an approach that is atypical from what you find on YouTube.
And that is, rather than trying to prove why I’m right and why Latterday Saints or Mormons are wrong I’ve been trying to take a more relational approach, a kinder approach an approach where I can come to the table with a desire to truly understand and to fight criticism with curiosity. Even if I don’t agree to still disagree with dignity and respect. And that’s what I always attempt to do on this channel. And yet today something happened that reminded me that it hasn’t always been this way. I haven’t always been this way.
In fact, in a recent video I made with someone who’s becoming a friend, his name is David Snell. He’s a Latterday Saint from the Channel Saints. Unscripted. He recently asked this question have you always been this open minded and curious about other religions? And the answer I gave was no.
And today I received a sobering email that was a reminder that things haven’t always been this way for me. Someone who watches Hello Saints found a sermon that I preached well before I’ve launched this channel, when I was still in this state of mind as an evangelical pastor who was holding so firmly to the idea of the Great Commission, seeing anyone who believes differently as someone who’s getting in the way of that mission. And as a result, in this sermon, I was saying some things about Latterday Saints, I said some things about the Book of Mormon. I said some things about Joseph Smith that all beliefs aside, the way I said them was incredibly harsh and abrasive. And the person who’s been watching these Hello Saints videos saw me saying these things in the sermon.
And it was hurtful and it caused disillusionment. And it caused dissonance. They were seeing a version of me that was so antithetical to what this channel stands for. Because the reality is some of the things that I said I probably, in a sense, still believe regarding the differences between Latterday Saint belief and evangelical belief. But it wasn’t what I was saying.
It was how I was saying it. Knowing that I was communicating honest beliefs, but doing it in a way that was hurtful is a sobering reminder as to why this channel is so important. It was also sobering, as I was reminded of the sermon, thinking about who I was standing in front of at the time that I delivered the sermon. I was standing in front of a group of evangelicals that, yes, in that echo chamber probably agreed with a lot of the things that I was saying. But here’s the question was I really setting a proper example for the people in my congregation to take such a harsh and abrasive tone?
Now, if you go and try to find the sermon, you’re not going to be able to find it because I’ve unlisted it. And it’s not because I’m even trying to protect myself, because again, I can very easily explain it away because it was so long before I even launched telosains. But the reason why I enlisted it is because I don’t want to be that guy anymore. I don’t even want to be that kind of pastor anymore. In fact, ever since I launched this channel, I’ve frequently been referencing a passage out of One Peter, chapter three, as to why I’m taking the approach that I’m taking.
And it says here in verse 15 and One Peter, always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. So I’ve been wanting to have conversations where I can understand from Latter day Saints what they believe and why they believe it, but to also give an answer to and to explain what I believe and why I believe it. Because the word in this passage, in the original Greek is actually a word tied to apologetics, being able to give that defense and that answer to religious beliefs. But what a lot of people ignore in this passage is the sentence that comes next, and that is this but do this with gentleness and respect. See, this is what I’ve been trying to do with every video I release on Hello Saints to not just talk about the beliefs, but to talk about beliefs with gentleness and respect.
And when I pair that next to the sermon that I preach, that was not gentle, it was harsh, that was not respectful, it was actually disrespectful. I find myself all these months into this journey on Halloween just being reminded how important this is, that when I say I’m fighting criticism with curiosity, I’m using the word fight for a reason because it is a fight. I’m having to literally fight the criticism that comes so naturally to me and so many of us when it comes to defending what we believe. The irony of all this is that just a few days before this person emailed me and pointed the sermon out to me, I had posted on the hospital’s Instagram account a quote from this evangelical that I respect named Francis Schaefer, who said, biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world. And when I went back and looked at the sermon that this person pointed out to me, it looked like the ugliest thing in the world.
Now, I have spoken with the individual and she was incredibly gracious and we were able to smooth things over. And I was able to apologize that she had to see that version of me prior to launching Hello, Saints. So why am I sharing this with you? Why am I taking the time to capture this moment? This clearly isn’t a normal type of Hello, Saints video.
In fact, this setup right here exists because I’m getting ready to release the series where I read through the Book of Mormon for the first time. I wasn’t planning on using the setup for this video, but I share this with you because this is an important moment for me where I’m just reminded that Hello Saints is more than a YouTube channel for me. It’s more than just an idea that creates cool content. This is a reality. It is a journey for me.
That is a reality of not wanting to be who I was. As I pursue this path of curiosity, because I truly am enjoying getting to know Latterday Saints. I’m developing relationships and friendships with Latterday Saints, many of which that I believe will be lifelong. That never would have happened had I just come to the table with the normal, adversarial, apologetics approach. This is a reminder to me that kindness is a choice that, at least for me, it doesn’t come natural.
I have to intentionally make the decision to be kind, and that as I’m led by the spirit, as I’m pursuing truth and wanting to do so in love and wanting to reflect the Savior Himself, I have to make the choice to be kind. And I have to remember that respect requires intentionality. Because you my new friends that I’m making here on Hello, Saints, you are worthy of kindness, and you are worthy of respect. And I don’t want to be that pastor anymore. I want to continue on this journey with you.
And I wanted to share this moment with you because this is not just my journey. It’s our journey. I believe many of you have joined me in this quest of understanding and doing so with respect and with generosity. And it’s a reminder that when we’re around people who agree with us to still be careful about what we say and more importantly, sometimes how we say it. Because we don’t know who’s listening and we don’t know how.
That’s going to translate into future opportunities we might have in relation to people and in relationship to our faith and in relationship to the way in which we are called to love the people around us. And that’s what we’re going to continue to do on this channel. So thanks for for letting me share this moment with you. And thank you for hearing me out. And until next time, I’ll see you later, Saints.