Recently I attended a multi-faith event at Griffith University in Brisbane Australia. The event was organised by Prof. Swee Hin Toh, the director of the Multi-Faith Centre at that university. At the event, I met a fellow academic whom I had not seen for some time, and we arranged to sit together at the multi-faith luncheon. My name tag which I was given for the day showed that I was a representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the luncheon, my academic friend, Rev. Prof. James Haire, commented to me, “How can a Scotsman and an academic like yourself ever become a Mormon?” James and I had met some years earlier at university council meetings, when he was head of the School of Divinity at Griffith University and I was head of the School of Accounting. He commented that he had never known that I was a Mormon, and wanted to know how I had decided to become a member of that faith. James is now professor at the University of Canberra and Chairman of the Australian Council of Churches. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (despite its name) is not recognised by the Australian Council of Churches as a Christian faith, and is therefore not entitled to be a member of that Council. James was therefore curious about my conversion process.
He explained that he had first met Mormon missionaries in England at the end of his divinity studies, and had been impressed with what they had to say. He said that, as he viewed the experience a few years later, he saw it as a test to see if he was ready to assume his responsibilities as a Protestant minister like his father in Northern Ireland. It was now my turn to explain my experiences with the Mormons.
I am a Scotsman and, by tradition, I was raised as a member of the Church of Scotland. From early childhood, I attended Sunday school and would go to church with my maternal grandmother. In effect, my early childhood was much like that of James Haire, who grew up in Northern Ireland. Both of us were Protestants and gained our early religious training in Sunday Schools. This comfortable traditional approach to religion changed when my parents immigrated to Australia in the early 1950s. Australia is a land where Jack is as good as his master, and the social norms of Great Britain really are not strong there. So the opportunity for the abandonment of traditional belief now existed. My mother had given birth to my younger brother shortly after arriving in Australia, and she missed daily contact with her own mother, and so she was ready for some new social interaction. The local Presbyterian Church seemed cold and uninviting to my mother, although I went to Sunday school there with my brother and sister. One day, two Mormon missionaries knocked on the door of our home while my mother was washing clothes and baby diapers. She suggested that they come back that evening to talk to her husband, as she was too busy. When my father came home from work and heard what my mother had arranged, he was not happy and said he would soon send these American Mormons on their way. When the missionaries arrived, they introduced themselves as Canadians, and my father let them in as he was interested in Canada at the time and thought there might be something of interest in their conversation. So began a two-year interaction between Mormon missionaries and the Glen family that culminated with the eventual baptism of our whole family into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As a family, we were united in our view that this new religious experience was the right course to take. There was a realisation that there was nothing to offer in the religious traditions of the past. The Protestant-Roman Catholic divide was gone, to be replaced by a genuine belief that bigotry had no place in the Church of God. None of my immediate family has varied from that observation since the day we became members of the Mormon Church. When we became members in 1953, there was no large Mormon Church base in Australia, and the members attended meeting in rather humble circumstances. However, the social contact between members was strong, and as a family we were all involved in the lay member aspects of Church administration. This was a Church where we felt wanted and needed and where we could participate in administration and religious debate in the various auxiliary organisations with the Church structure. Here was a Church where every member could at some time or other be asked to take up a broad range of religious responsibilities. As a member, you did not promote yourself for a position nor did you seek relief from a position in the Church. You were called to serve by others who observed your worthiness to serve. In 1962, I was asked to serve as a missionary for the Church. This service was to be in the same capacity as the two young men who had first knocked on our family door, years earlier. I had no knowledge as to where I would serve, or with whom I would serve. My missionary call was to Scotland.
On my mission, I learned to study and defend the doctrine of the Church. There is no question in my mind that the doctrine taught to investigators of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), is soundly based on the principles of Christianity outlined in the Old and New Testaments. Criticism of the LDS Church is usually centred around the Book of Mormon. This “Book” does not introduce any new Christian doctrine; indeed, it is viewed by the LDS Church as a second witness of Jesus Christ. The real criticism of the LDS Church is based on the view that God no longer directly communicates to mankind through prophets as he did in times past. On my mission, when this view was expressed to me that God no longer communicates to man, I would answer, “Why not?” Today, as in times past, there is a prophet on this earth to guide God’s Church. Traditional Christianity states that God no longer communicates to man by prophets. No explanation can be given as to why this doctrinal policy exists. However, as a Latter-day Saint I believe that a prophet of God has always directed the LDS Church. Many Christian churches are now declining in number, because their traditional message does not satisfy an inquiring mind. My work life has trained me to inquire and question every issue that I face. I could never go back to traditional religion because it does not answer life’s questions adequately. Since my day of baptism into the LDS Church, I have continued to learn about God’s plan for his children and his creation. The LDS Church is a Christian Church, as Jesus Christ is the foundation of that Church as taught in the doctrine of the Church. I am at peace with myself with what I have learned, and I have no doubts at all about any doctrine of the LDS Church.
James Haire and I had a long lunch and we promised to keep in touch. I have sent him some academic material on the position that the LDS Church takes on certain issues. He has not responded. I hope he reads this email and reflects on our discussion and on the gospel principles he heard from Mormon missionaries all those years ago.
For those who are interested, my work experience has been a mix of business and university life. By profession, I am a CPA, and I hold a B.Sc.(Econ) cum laude, from BYU; an MBA from the University of Utah; and a Ph.D. (Econ. Studies) from the University of New England in Australia. Twenty years of my work life have been spent in academic teaching and administrative positions, and the remainder in corporate management and public practice as a CPA.
In regards to my service in the LDS Church, I have served in nearly all the auxiliaries of the Church, including the Public Affairs Department where I have worked for fifteen years. During my membership, I have been a full-time and part-time missionary on three occasions. In addition, I have served as a bishop, stake president, and regional representative of the Council of Twelve, and I now serve in the presidency of the Brisbane Australia Temple.
Posted February 2010