Sitting on a cliff overlooking Big Cottonwood Canyon, I closed my eyes and just listened to the wind blowing through the pine trees. There’s just something really special about enjoying creation with the One who formed it out of nothing. There’s also something really special about feeling a deep-rooted freedom that only those in Christ get to truly experience. A freedom to just be. At this point in time, I was reflecting on where I was 3 months ago to where I was at that present time. Spiritually, mentally, and even physically I was in a drastically different place than where I am currently, and I spent that time praising God for delivering me from deep rooted fears and bondage, radically changing my life (again), and for knowing my heart so well to lead me to a place that was exactly what I needed. Walking away from that sweet time with the Lord, I put the memory away in my heart, not anticipating retrieving it until I approached another time of reflection. A week since that moment, the Lord has brought it out again to reveal something to me. We all crave authentic freedom and to feel the presence of the Lord. Now, let me explain why that is a very significant truth the Lord wanted me to know.
Coming out to Salt Lake City, I thought that I would relate to the people of the counter-LDS culture more so than the LDS community. I desired to get a job as a barista to immerse myself into the increasing opposing LDS culture. I was very intrigued by the LDS faith and was eager to learn more about it, but I let stereotypes cloud my heart to the point that I didn’t want to interact with these people. I couldn’t understand why God would allow this false religion that severely distorted the Bible and Him to even exist. When LDS missionaries started coming to my apartment complex and began to speak with a man from a country in Asia, I was filled with rage. I had let my heart become so hardened that I saw these people as enemies.
I deserved some major discipline from the Lord, as those are His people too and I was looking down on them with shame and disgrace…just as the Pharisees did to the tax collectors and sinners of their time. But God has lovingly and patiently helped me to realize that these people are more like me than I originally thought.
The LDS faith is the epitome of a works-based religion. These people are stuck in the bondage of toiling to earn their salvation, so fearful of messing up or failing because that puts their salvation, well-being, and worth on the line. Grace, receiving what you don’t deserve, is foreign concept to them. And I can relate to that so much. I grew up in the Catholic church, being taught that I must be a good person and do all these good deeds so that I may get to heaven one day. I had to work endlessly to earn the love of the Lord. Grace was absent from my home life/religion; there was no room to make mistakes. How much different is what I believed while growing up different to what those in the LDS church believe? There isn’t much of a difference at all. These people are in shackles, searching and working for the freedom they subconsciously dream of, just as I had done once.
Beautiful and elegant LDS temples are scattered across the valley. The LDS faith believes that their temples are where one can experience the presence of Heavenly Father. These people want to feel the presence of God, and they build these temples because they are searching for ways to experience and commune with the Lord. And how much I searched for ways to experience the presence of the Lord, just as these people do. I went to concerts, mega conferences, and worship services as I exhaustedly sought to feel the Lord’s presence. Only until this summer did I truly understand what it meant to genuinely experience the Lord and realized that I had been searching in all the wrong places. These people crave for community with the Father and are actively searching for it in false ways, just like I did.
We all crave authentic freedom and to feel the presence of the Lord. So, these people are more similar to me than I once thought. While their journey in this life looks different than mine, God is beckoning them into a relationship with Him, just as He once did for me. They are loved and cherished by Him, for they are His people too. Praise the Lord for morphing my Pharisee-like heart towards these people into a heart that’s full of Christ’s love and affection for them. And I can’t wait for the opportunity to love, serve, and speak truth to these forgotten people.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does you teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” |Matthew 9:10-13|
SLF Class of 17-18
Salt Lake Fellows Collaborative