Date: November 29, 2018 08:38PM
The Golden Convert
Based on a true story - the names of the innocent have been changed
by Meg the Greekling
Fall Semester 2007
As Meg sat at the library, pouring over her Greek homework, she reflected on what a long semester it had already been - and midterms were still looming around the corner. She had entered her last year at Multnomah Bible College expecting it to be at least somewhat of a downward slope, but although her class work had tapered off, emotionally and spiritually she was exhausted.
Meg had come to Multnomah seeking truth, and to that end she threw herself headlong into her studies, taking both Koine Greek and Biblical Hebrew in addition to the many Theology and Bibliology classes Multnomah required for graduation. For the most part, she had enjoyed her studies. Certainly she treasured the knowledge that her efforts were bringing her closer to the true meaning of God's inerrant word, the Bible, and therefore God Himself. That, after all, was the entire point.
From the time she was small, Meg had been fascinated by the "true" meaning of the Bible and was tantalized every time their pastor had quoted from the Greek in his sermons. So, when the time came to decide what to study, Meg's choice was clear: she wanted to learn the true meaning of the Word of God.
And so here she was, with two semesters left to go, still unshakably optimistic that her hard work would pay off. The semester was not without its disappointments, though. A few weeks earlier, heartache had shattered Meg's world. At nearly five months of pregnancy, Adelaide, Meg's sister, had unexpectedly miscarried her first child. Meg was inconsolable and had left school for a long weekend to grieve the profound loss. Adelaide had married when Meg was just thirteen and she had been waiting to be made an aunt ever since. The loss of the baby so long waited for and intensely wanted had left a deep wound in her heart that would not be quickly healed.
Megan glanced down at her watch - 12:35. She still had twenty-five minutes or so before her next class, Systematic Theology. She was just considering whether or not to pop to the mail room to see if her latest test had been graded when she heard a quiet, but familiar voice say, "Hey, Meg."
She looked up beaming at her boyfriend, Erik. Erik was everything Meg could have dreamed of in a good, Christian boyfriend: he was kindhearted, good looking, passionate about theology, a year ahead of her in Greek and had the most incredibly sexy shoulders known to man, or rather woman, kind. They had only been dating since the start of the semester, but Meg was completely head over heels, and she liked to think Erik was as well.
They didn't get to see as much of each other as they would have liked, what with their class loads, the weekly demands of Multnomah's intensive student ministry requirement and Erik's part time job, but they did spend as much time as possible with each other. In some ways, it was a blessing that they didn't have more time together, because it helped their relationship stay pure and focused on Christ.
"Hey you" Meg replied "How's it going?"
"Oh, you know, just working on a paper for Gurney's class"
"Sounds interesting. I can't wait to read it."
"Well, you won't have to. It's due tomorrow."
Meg chuckled to herself. She never could bring herself to cut deadlines so fine, but Erik seemed to thrive on last minute pressure.
"You want to go to Palio's tonight?" She asked absentmindedly as she started to pack up her messenger bag.
"We could or we could always stay in." Erik tried to hide his boyish grin. Staying in meant privacy if Erik's roommates were out, and privacy meant... Meg blushed at the thought and tried to push the carnal thoughts from her mind.
"Whichever you think is best, dear." Meg said, leaning in and softly planting a kiss on Erik's cheek. "I have to head to my next class. Call me?"
"Always." Erik said, and Meg couldn't help smiling to herself as she walked from the library across the grounds to the seminary building.
Systematic Theology was a required class for all seniors and was taught by the Dean of Students, Dr. Wayne Strickland. Although Meg took all of her classes seriously, she approached this one with especial gravity. Systematic Theology was more or less supposed to be the point at which all of a student's other studies, convictions and beliefs coalesced into an overarching world view - a comprehensive lens through which any part of life, any question, any hardship and any challenge to one's faith might be quickly dispatched and fit into the framework of true faith.
Over the past few weeks, Dr. Strickland had been lecturing on some of the bigger life issues that, although covered by other classes, hadn't really gotten a chance to be explored on an emotional level. Last class they had discussed the reality of a literal hell for unbelievers, no matter how "righteous" or "good" they might otherwise be.
Dr. Strickland had told them about his grandfather, a Buddhist and unrepentant idolator. With tears in his eyes, Dr. Strickland told them of what a loving man his grandfather had been, but how this fact in no way saved him from the burning fires of hell. No matter how loving or "good" someone was, without faith in Jesus Christ, the only destiny that awaits was one of hellfire. The class had left Meg feeling vaguely uneasy, but who was she to question Dr. Strickland?
Today's class opened, as usual, with a prayer. After the "amen" rippled throughout the class, Dr. Strickland soberly surveyed the room.
"Today," he said, in slow, somber tones "I'd like to talk to you about a doctrine so sensitive, it should never be discussed with non-believers. In fact, it shouldn't be discussed with new believers either - only those who are mature enough in the faith to accept it as the Gospel Truth it is."
"I know you all are aware that Scripture states 'Whosoever believes' on Christ shall inherit eternal life and by now we've talked in detail about what a true confession of faith should look, or rather sound, like. We know that even a simple prayer can make the difference between heaven and hell, eternal life or everlasting torment and suffering.
"However, there's one aspect of this vital doctrine that is too often glossed over by well-meaning, but misled believers: the fate of those too young or mentally unable to pray in faith upon the name of Jesus Christ.
"Well meaning but deceived teachers would have you believe that such "innocents" are exactly that: innocent and not in need of Christ's salvific work. I am here to tell you today that this is a pernicious lie, and nothing but deception by the evil one.
"Those who die without confessing Christ are bound to the fires of hell, irregardless of age or mental capacity."
An electric charge seemed to spread throughout the room. Meg gingerly moved her head from one side to the other, surveying the class. Most seemed to be wearing blank expressions, but here and there some of her fellow students were nodding. A pit settled and then began to grow in Meg's stomach. How could God damn children to hell? What kind of God would condemn the unborn or mentally challenged to eternal suffering? The very thought sickened her and she felt as if she might be ill.
Dr. Strickland was still speaking, but all Meg could hear were her own thoughts, racing back and forth at the speed of light, each one more panicked than the last. How could Dr. Strickland believe this? Who would want to serve such a cruel god? Is this who God really was? And, if he was, did she want any part of Him?
Later on that night, she cried while Erik held her. He understood why she was upset, but not why she was taking it so hard.
"You knew this is what Calvinists believe, right?" He said gently.
Meg nodded. Calvinism believed, among other things, in predestination. In short, if God wanted you saved He saved you, and if He didn't, there was nothing - absolutely nothing - you could do to attain grace and salvation. There was no free will, there was no choice. Just spiritual rape by a monster god.
Meg gulped hard, "I just didn't realize Dr. Strickland believed that. He's the Dean of Students. How could such a nice man believe such an ugly thing?"
Erik shrugged. "You know Gurney's a Calvinist too, right? And Professor Hauff? I actually think about half of our professors are."
Meg narrowed her eyes, scowling. "So you're telling me half of our professors believe we don't have free will?"
Erik shrugged. "I guess so."
"Doesn't that bug you?"
"Not really. They're entitled their own opinions just like we are."
"But they're wrong! If we don't have free will nothing matters - there's no sin, no virtue, no love - nothing. Nothing is real. Nothing matters." And with this Meg dissolved into a fresh torrent of tears.
Erik pulled her closer, still puzzled as to why Meg was taking this so hard. And then it hit him: of course Meg was taking it hard; her sister had only just miscarried.
December 14, 2007
The second half of the semester flew by, and before they knew it finals week was at a close. Meg's last final finished at 11:00 and as she exited the classroom Erik was there to surprise her.
"How'd it go?" Erik said, taking Meg's hand.
"I think it went ok. I only needed to get a 70% or so to keep my A." Meg blushed, suddenly self-conscious.
"You know it's OK to get an A-, right?" Erik said, teasingly. "You don't have to be perfect all the time."
"I know, I know. It's just how I hold myself accountable. Plus, there's grad school..." Meg trailed off. Her heart had been sent on grad school since junior high, but the future wasn't something she and Erik had talked about much. She knew most couples their age would be getting married after graduation, but she wasn't sure that was the best choice for them - not yet at least.
"Well, the semester is officially over. How do you feel about getting lunch downtown? Maybe a drink too?"
Meg laughed. Multnomah's honor code was very strict about not consuming alcohol "during the school year," but in between semesters the slightly less legalistic students took the liberty of drinking.
"Sure, why not." Meg said, squeezing his hand.
The afternoon flew by in a rose-tinted blur. At lunch Erik indulged in a beer and Meg in pear cider. She didn't know whether it was the relief of being done with the semester or the alcohol, but Meg felt happier and more content than she had for weeks, maybe months. The war that had been raging in her heart over the question of Calvinism felt like a distant memory and for the first time in a long time, the future seemed to hold nothing but bright things.
After walking around Portland for a couple of hours after lunch, chatting hand in hand, they drove back to campus and Erik dropped Meg off at her car.
"Call me when you get home safe, OK?" Erik asked, with genuine concern in his voice. Meg blushed. It was only a three hour drive to her home in Washington, but Erik was always so thoughtful. Sometimes she felt she didn't deserve him.
"Sure thing," she said "and you have a great time at the ministry retreat this weekend."
"Oh, you know it." Erik said with just a tinge of sarcasm in his voice. "If I wasn't driving everyone, I'd just sneak in your car and follow you home."
Meg laughed and suddenly Erik's arms were around her, his mouth on hers. After a moment, the kiss turned more passionate and dutifully Meg pulled away, fumbling for her keys.
"I'd better get going." she said, while Erik looked down and idly kicked at the pavement. Meg hated having to pull away, but her mother had ingrained in her that true love - and good girls - wait.
"Ok," Erik said almost absentmindedly "talk to you soon."
Meg leaned in to kiss him on the cheek and then got into her car. The drive home was uneventful and a little after eight she pulled into her mother's driveway. Meg killed the engine, pulled out her pink flip phone and dialed Erik's number. After a few rings, an unfamiliar and gruff voice answered.
"Hello, who's this?" said the voice.
"Who's this?" asked Meg, confused.
"This is Officer O'Brien. Are you related to Erik Bachman?"
Meg froze and a huge lump began to form in her throat.
"No, this is Meg. I'm his girlfriend..." she weakly replied. "Is Erik OK?"
"Ma'am, can you please provide us with the name and phone numbers of either or both of Mr. Bachman's parents?"
"Is Erik OK?" Meg asked again, half stunned.
"Ma'am, I'm not at liberty to disclose..."
"IS ERIK OK?" demanded Meg, trying not to scream.
"Ma'am, please settle down. Mr. Bachman is in... stable condition. Can you please provide us his parents' information?"
Meg racked her brain. "Umm... I don't have their numbers, but... umm... his father's name in John. His mother's name is Tess, short for Theresa. I think."
"Thank you, ma'am, that's of great help."
Meg's head was swimming and Officer O'Brien's voice sounded far away. She forced herself to think.
"Can you please ask Mr. or Mrs. Bachman to call me?"
"Is this 360 number the best number to reach you at?"
"Yes, that's my cell number."
"I'll pass that along" Officer O'Brien said, almost casually. "Thank you for your assistance."
It wasn't until after midnight that Meg's phone finally rang. She grabbed it halfway through the first ring and frantically flipped it open.
"Erik?" she said, trying to sound calm.
"Hey, Meg." Erik said in a small, far-away voice.
"Are you OK?" Meg asked, relief flooding her body.
"Yeah, I'm OK." Erik replied, unconvincingly.
There was a long pause.
"There was an accident." Erik sighed and paused for what felt like an eternity. "One minute I was driving and the next thing I knew there was... it sounded like an explosion. I blacked out after that and Pastor Tim had to pull me from the car."
"Is everyone OK?"
There was a long pause and Erik sobbed.
"I don't think the other car made it. The police think I must have fallen asleep at the wheel."
Meg was stunned. Her mind raced, trying to find something - anything - comforting to say, but everything she thought of sounded hollow and unfeeling.
"I don't know what to say." Meg finally said. "Do you want me to drive down? What hospital are you at?"
More sobs came from the other end of the line.
"Umm... I..." Erik faltered. "I think I've got to go. They need to run some more tests."
"Call me when you can." Meg said, pleadingly.
"OK." Erik said quietly, and with that the line went dead.
Spring Semester 2007
Outwardly, Meg's last semester began like every other semester: with a new schedule to adjust to, new textbooks to buy and new course work to manage. Inwardly, however, her soul felt like a compound fracture. Even though she and Erik had spoken every day since the crash and were technically still together, he had chosen not to come back to school for their last semester.
Rationally, Meg understood why. According the police report, Erik had fallen asleep at the wheel, drifted into oncoming traffic and hit an oncoming vehicle, killing both occupants instantly. Erik was, to put it mildly, shattered.
Viscerally, however, Meg felt abandoned and a little betrayed, not just by Erik but by God. Erik was such a good Christian. How could God allow this to happen? Why would He allow this to happen?
This year, it seemed the more she progressed in her studies, the less she understood and the further away God seemed. The question of Calvinism still gnawed at her. How could all her professors, such brilliant men, men whom she loved and respected, have such incompatible world views? How could it be that those who humbly sought to understand the Word of God and studied diligently came up with such divergent beliefs? Although Meg didn't want to even entertain the thought, in the back of her mind she wondered if perhaps the whole methodology was flawed. Perhaps the Bible didn't hold all the answers. Maybe that's not how answers were supposed to be found. Maybe Meg had been doing it all wrong. Maybe they all had.
Her first weekend back at school, Meg holed herself up at her favorite coffee house, Palio's. Being a Greek nerd had never made her "Miss Popular" to begin with, but being the girlfriend of a guy who had "killed" two people didn't make things easier. Meg really didn't care what people thought, she just wished they would keep their whispers and stares to themselves.
Meg stared at the stack of syllabuses in front of her and grabbed the first one. Meticulously she copied all reading assignments and test dates into her planner. Next, she wrote down the due date for each paper, along with when she wanted to have the final draft done by (usually a week beforehand), when she wanted the rough draft done by and, finally, when she needed to start her initial research.
After she had finished with the last syllabus, she opened her calendar to the upcoming week. She had some translation work in Josephus for fourth year Greek, translating the Psalms for second year Hebrew, a couple chapters to read for her Old Testament Prophets class, a Pauline epistle to read for New Testament Studies, and a paper to start on for Hermeneutics.
Meg pulled out her Hermeneutics syllabus and scanned the various term paper topics she could choose from. Towards the bottom of the page, one prompt caught her eye:
Explore how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church) misuses and misapplies scripture to further their heretical and unorthodox doctrines.
Interesting, Meg thought to herself. She had heard Dr. Koivisto, her Hermeneutics professor, had dated a Mormon girl in college and that it hadn't worked out, but she didn't realize he had such an axe to grind. Meg thought about all the Mormons she had known growing up: The Sorensons down the street, who were nothing but good neighbors, Cody, her brother's med school study buddy, and the missionaries who had once taught her mother as she was, in turn, trying to convert them away from "the Church" and towards a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
All of them seemed like genuinely nice people; friendly, kind and polite. It didn't sit well with Meg that Dr. Koivisto seemed to be singling them out either. Meg stared off into space. The more she thought about it, the more she wondered what Mormons actually did believe.
"Well, that settles that." Meg thought to herself and with that, she packed up her bag, and started off for the library.
Very soon it became painfully clear that almost every book in Multnomah's library purporting to be on Mormonism was far from objective and failed to approach basic academic standards. Most of the books seemed to be written either by bitter ex-Mormons or frantic, vitriolic Evangelicals whose real aim seemed to be warning the reader against the "deceptive pitfall" that was Mormonism.
Meg inwardly sighed. All she wanted was a baseline understanding of Mormon theology, so she could understand how they misinterpreted scripture. She thought back to the missionaries her mom had met with. They certainly seemed knowledgeable enough. Perhaps she could meet with some as well?
She wandered over to a computer and typed "meet with Mormon missionaries" into the search bar. She clicked on the first hit and found herself on LDS.org. Meg scanned the page and there, in the right hand column towards the bottom of their homepage was what she was looking for, the words "Meet with the Missionaries." Meg quickly filled in her information into the contact form and hit send. With any luck, she'd hear from the missionaries soon.
On August 14, 2008 Meg was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The decision had cost her nearly every friendship she had and strained the relationships that remained almost to the breaking point. Her relationship with her mother had suffered most of all, but Meg knew she was making the right decision, not only for herself but for her mother also. Meg fervently believed that one day, if she had faith and kept the covenants she had made with her Heavenly Father, she would be able to be sealed to her mother in the Temple, even the House of the Lord.
Truly, the Gospel of Jesus Christ had brought such incredible peace and comfort into Meg's heart, she felt as if she would nearly burst. The doctrine of ongoing revelation, the blessing of a living prophet, and the presence of additional scripture to clarify the Bible and bear additional witness to Jesus Christ all blessed her more than she could ever express.
Of all the sacrifices she had made to become a member, only one still caused her sorrow: the loss of her relationship with Erik. As much as she tried not to, Meg still missed Erik tremendously and thought about him all the time. But, as with all things, she trusted that Heavenly Father would work it for good and maybe, just maybe, someday Erik would join her in the waters of baptism.
- THE END -
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