Bryan Ready: From Critic to Convert

Wed Apr 21 10:00:36 EDT 2021
Episode 127

From the time he was a young boy, Bryan Ready felt drawn to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Initially he studied everything he could find about it, determined to prove it wasn't the restored church on the earth today. But while working as a Southern Baptist pastor, he allowed himself to consider that it might actually be true. Over the course of five years, he went from tearing down the Church to joining it. On this week’s episode, we talk with Ready about why he eventually concluded that the Church is where he is meant to be, and why it is now his home.

Stop trying to tear down Mormonism and just lift up Jesus.
Bryan Ready

General conference talk that Bryan mentioned: "Blessed and Happy Are Those Who Keep the Commandments of God," Elder Von G. Keetch

1:49- A Simple Child’s Prayer
5:01- Osmondmania and a Lifelong Study
8:40- Thesis
1:21- From Interested to Critic
12:49- Advice to Those With Doubt
15:45- Guided as a Baptist Pastor
18:58- Where People Go When They Leave
22:18- Dialogue and Friendships Across the Aisle
26:10- Dropped
30:50- Unseen Dangers and Timing
33:44- Respect in a Family with Different Beliefs
37:00- “Where I Was Meant To Be”
41:07- What Does It Mean To Be All In the Gospel of Jesus Christ?


Morgan Jones 0:00
In 1979, after attending a fireside featuring members of the Osmond family, Bryan Ready told his mother he wanted to be a Mormon. The answer was a firm, "No." As a student at Missouri Baptist College, Bryan Ready wrote his first paper on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The paper was titled, "Mormonism–Christian church, or Cult?" The paper consisted of many criticisms of the Church, and from then on, if there was ever an opportunity to study the Church, Ready took it. Ready says in retrospect, that deep down he felt there was something more.

He writes, "I could walk away from my studies of the Restored Church, but the Church was always lurking there, deep down. I remember there were times when I would be reading a book about some bit of Church history and my spirit would just soar. 'This was just amazing!' I would say to myself, and then shake my head, there is no way it could be true." But then a funny thing happened, Ready joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is his story.

Bryan Ready was a Southern Baptist minister for 25 years and a pastor for 15 of those years. He received a bachelor's degree in religion from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. He has a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones and I am so excited to have Bryan Ready on the line with me today. Bryan , welcome.

Bryan Ready 1:46
It's good to be with you. I'm excited to have this conversation.

Morgan Jones 1:49
So first of all, Bryan, my first question for you, is you were not initially raised religious, so could you tell me a little bit about your childhood religious background?

Bryan Ready 2:02
We were a . . . I would say, Christmas and Easter family. We would go to church on those two days and a few other days. I had a fundamental understanding of who Jesus was, and of course my mother taught me to pray when I was a child, but we really weren't active or involved in any kind of church growing up, really not until I turned about 14 years old, then we start getting active at that time in the Baptist Church.

Morgan Jones 2:30
Okay. And then you–once you became active in church, you eventually went on to study religion in school. So obviously, something shifted between you becoming more active in church to then deciding to study religion–what led to that?

Bryan Ready 2:51
When I was 14 years old, a music director–I used to love to sing when I was a kid–a music director at school invited me to join his churches youth choir. And so I did. And the youth choir began with, like a fireside, or a devotion with the pastor there. And he challenged us, he said, "If you have never placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, if you've never repented of your sins, you need to do that. And one way to begin that process is just to pray to Heavenly Father and ask Him to forgive you. Tell him you're sorry for your sins and tell him that you believe that Jesus is His son, that He suffered and died for you, and that you want to follow Him. You want to commit your life to Him."

And I did that. Just a simple, childlike prayer. And my life changed at that moment. And, and there were no . . . there wasn't a, it was not a Damascus Road experience. There were no lights or flashes or epiphanies, but my life changed. And it was like God really got ahold of my life. And I started attending that church. After about a year or so, through personal scripture reading and praying, I began to feel that God was calling me to be a minister. I didn't know exactly what, but I just felt he was calling me to be a minister and I felt he was calling me to prepare to be a minister.

So when I graduated from high school, I enrolled at Missouri Baptist–was College, now–University to begin studying religion. And this is a kind of a crazy thing. The St. Louis, Latter-day Saint temple is built right next door to–and on land that used to be owned by–Missouri Baptist University. So it's kind of interesting how those things came back to intersect after all these years.

Morgan Jones 4:49
That is super interesting. It's interesting, I wonder–I'm sure there's like a story behind that. But maybe that's a story for another day, but that's really interesting that the school used to own that land.

So, Bryan, tell me this. I know that you, growing up, you had this ongoing fascination with what then was called Mormonism, with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And it sounds like it kind of started with the Osmond’s? So can you tell me about that interest and where you think it stemmed from, and kind of how it progressed as you grew older?

Bryan Ready 5:28
Sure. Well, it did begin with the Osmond family. When I was a kid, which is back in the 1970's, they were very famous, and they were very famous Latter-day Saints. As I said, this was before I committed my life to Christ. This is probably when I was about nine or ten.

We had a friend of mine–a friend of my mom's actually–that was a member of the Church, and she invited me and my mother to attend a fireside being held in St. Louis, which isn't that far from where we live. And that fireside featured the Osmond family, Harmon Killebrew and Paul H. Dunn. Well, I went to the fireside, I remember we were sitting way back, and about halfway back in the cultural hall, and listened to the testimonies and I was just completely enamored by it. And I was sitting in the car next to my mother on the way home, I turned to her–I still remember this–and I said, "Mom, I want to be a Mormon." And she like, "We'll talk about that when you get home,” and of course, when we got home, the answer was, "No."

So that's the seed that was planted–that was one of the seeds that was planted. There were, there were several. But the next major one was shortly after I became a Christian and after I committed my life to Christ. I was around 14, I was listening to Christian radio, and they were talking about a new book that had come out that was an expose of what the quote, unquote "Mormon church really believed,” and a little bell went off in the back of my head, I'm like, oh, I remember those guys. And so I went out and I bought the book. And it was such a sensationalistic book, it was so written so sensationalistic-ally, that it really captured my imagination. And within a couple months, I was subscribed to every anti-Mormon newsletter I could get my hands on. And so those two things really got me going.

A third thing was I only live about three hours south of Nauvoo, Illinois. So my parents took me up there, and I really kind of fell in love with the history of the Church. And when you live in Illinois, if you study–if you take Illinois history in high school, they have a unit on Nauvoo and the Church in Illinois at that time. And so my fascination in the history really took off. So I started reading historical books, I started reading the anti-stuff. And I also wrote to the Church and asked them for books. And he sent me copies of A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, of course, they sent me a Book of Mormon, they sent me Jesus the Christ, Articles of Faith–books like that that I could read.

So I really was trying to understand both sides. But it was those combination of things that ignited what would become a lifelong study of the Church, its history and theology. I really didn't understand why I was so fascinated with it. People would ask me, "Why are you into this?" I'm like, "Well, it's a hobby, I guess. Why do you like to collect stamps? I like to study the Church."

Morgan Jones 8:31
Well, and correct me if I'm wrong, Bryan, but I think you even wrote your thesis on one man's attempt at explaining the origin of the Book of Mormon and kind of disproving the Book of Mormon. Can you tell me why you chose to do that?

Bryan Ready 8:47
That would happen later on when I got to graduate school, which Baptist's refer to as a seminary. But even before that, if there was a paper when I was in college, or even graduate school, if I could somehow tie it into my study to the Church, I wrote about the Church. It was just something that fascinated me.

But my first day at graduate school, there was a lecture–they had a faculty lecture, they had a chapel, and the lecture was on the second president, or the third president of the school, it was a man named William Whitsitt. And the lecture had mentioned that Whitsitt had written an unpublished biography about Sidney Rigdon. And I'm like, "Wow, I got to get my hands on that." And that's eventually what became the foundation of my thesis. And the intriguing thing about Whitsitt's perspective, he lived–you know, he was writing this in the late 19th, early 20th century, he was the first scholar that actually tried to look at the Church from a scholarly perspective, not to try to disprove it. He actually believed Joseph Smith was sincere, he believed Sidney Rigdon was sincere, obviously he didn't agree with them, but he believed they were sincere men. And he was literally the first scholarly attempt to try to understand and explain the origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I felt that had some merit, so that's what became my thesis.

Morgan Jones 10:17
Okay, and then can you tell us a little bit about what you found as you kind of dug into that for your thesis?

Bryan Ready 10:26
Oh, well, again, I was . . . really appreciated Whitsitt's attempt to try to understand it from a scholarly perspective. Now, during his era the number one theory for explanation of the Book of Mormon was something that was known as the Spalding theory, that Solomon Spalding had a manuscript, said that Sidney Rigdon got a hold of it, turned it into the Book of Mormon, so he spent a lot of time discussing that.

He spent a lot of time looking at–Sydney Rigdon was a Church of Christ minister before he became a Latter-day Saint–so he spent a lot of time comparing those. He was one of the first persons that I'm aware of, that tried to argue for a South American or Central American context for the Book of Mormon. Those were some really interesting things.

Morgan Jones 11:20
Bryan, one thing that I found interesting was that you say that your attitude toward the Church turned from being interested, to then becoming kind of a critic of the Church. When would you say that that happened? And what kind of spurred that?

Bryan Ready 11:38
So we're going from interested to critic?

Morgan Jones 11:41
Right. Correct.

Bryan Ready 11:43
That happened pretty much when I got a hold of that book. And so that's when I really started becoming a critic. Again, subscribing to the, all of the anti-Mormon stuff. And so, so I guess you could say, on the one hand, you could fully lump me in the anti-Mormon category for most of my life, a critic of the Church for most of my life, but I also had a really deep interest in history, because the Nauvoo period happened so close to where I live, so it was a combination of those things. But I became a critic–it was almost like, I couldn't join the Church, so I wrote a title of them, "If you can't join them, beat them." So then that was kind of my approach, I guess.

Morgan Jones 12:32
That's so funny, because I literally was going to say that when you were just describing–I was gonna say, "Oh, so it's kind of like the reverse, of if you can't beat them, join them."

Bryan Ready 12:39

Morgan Jones 12:40
But, I love that. And one thing I love, Bryan, is you talk about your own faith, and kind of your own faith journey, even prior to joining the Church, and you talk about how you had to overcome doubt, even just in the space of being a Christian. And I think sometimes we as Latter-day Saints think that we have like a market on doubt. And we think, "Oh, like, we're the only ones that have reason to doubt." But I love that you outline the work that you put in to work through those doubts. Can you talk to me a little bit about that?

Bryan Ready 13:19
Yeah, it started when I was actually just out of my first round of graduate school. I was serving at a church in Kentucky. And there are a number of things that led up to it that we'll get into, but I just began . . . all of a sudden these doubts about my relationship with God started peeping into my mind. And it really, it really threw me because before the previous 10-15 years, I'd never had any doubts. I'd never had any lack of faith whatsoever. And all of a sudden, here I am really questioning my faith. And really, you know, wondering, where I stood with God, you know . . . it was a very difficult time.

And quite frankly, the peak of it lasted about 10 years. Still to this day, every once in a while, I'll have questions, though it's . . . they're fleeting. And so it's just one of those things where you really have to wrestle with and I think, sometimes God allows us to go through those periods, because once you emerge from those periods, your faith is so much stronger. And that's kind of what happened to me. After I fought through all that and emerged from that, my faith was a lot stronger. And my advice to anybody going through that is understand that God isn't gonna let you go. That you might have doubts, but God is still going to be there for you and if you just trust Him, with whatever you have–the smallest seed of faith that you have–if you trust Him with that, He will get you through it, and you'll be better off the other side.

It's not to say it's going to be easy. I was miserable sometimes. I remember just crying in prayer at times, saying, "Lord," You know, "What's going on?" but in time, the Lord brought me through it, and I think I'm stronger for it on the other side. That's not to say I still don't have doubts, I do. But, that–what I would refer to as, "My dark night of the soul," has passed. And it passed really shortly before I joined the Church, to be quite frank.

Morgan Jones 15:36
Yeah, I love that. I love that you say, you know, just bring that little bit of faith that you have, and God can work with that. I think that that is so, so true. I also love Bryan, how you talk about how you felt the Spirit guided you in your efforts as a preacher. And I think I love that kind of for the same reason that I love the, the comments on doubt, because I think sometimes because we believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be the true church, the restored Church of Jesus Christ on the earth, we think, "Oh, God must not be helping people in other churches." But I personally believe that He absolutely is, and that He wants to help anyone who is seeking to draw closer to Jesus Christ. And I say that because I have felt God work in my life through people of other faiths. And so I wondered if you have any thoughts on that about how you believe, you know, that the spirit did guide you in your efforts to be a good preacher?

Bryan Ready 16:40
Sure. I felt God calling me to be a pastor. One of the reasons I went through the dark night, one of the things that happened during that was kind of my Jonah experience, where I felt God was saying, "Bryan, I want you to be a pastor." And I'm like, "Lord, I don't want to be a pastor." I was content doing other things.

At the time, I was working with youth and music programs within the church, in that type of ministry, and the Lord started calling me to pastor. And the reason I . . . He started calling me through the spirit, He would speak to me through scriptures, and other people who were ministers would come up to me and said, "Hey, Bryan, you might want to think about this. I think God might be calling you to be a pastor."

I had no desire to be a pastor, I now did not want to be a pastor, and God's like, "Okay. I want you to get pastor, so you can take a ride in the belly of a stinky old fish until you're ready to do what I told you to do." And that was part of that dark night of the soul. Now that did not–the dark night of the soul–did not end when I became a pastor, it continued for a few more years. But that was one of the things that got me to say, "Okay, Lord, if this is what you want me to do, then I'll do it." Just out of . . . "Fine, I'll do it."

Now, I believed that since God called me to pastor, there is a level of authority in that calling. Now, I'm not talking about the Melchizedek or Aaronic priesthood, Baptists make no claims to having any type of those priesthood. I did not believe I held that. But because God called me to be a pastor, I believe he gave me a level, a level of authority–little “A”–to serve and to minister and I felt his presence at times when I was preaching, I felt the spirit. I would preach a sermon, and sometimes people would come up to me afterwards and say, "Well, I really appreciated what you said, and you said this," and I know darn good and well I never said that. But the Lord was using my voice to communicate something to that person. And that's one of the things that I had to deal with before joining this Church, I felt God calling me to pastor, so I felt that he needed to release me from that calling before I could join the Church, and eventually, I felt He did.

Morgan Jones 18:57
Yeah. So you wrote this, "I began reading the posts of those who had left the Church and noticed that most of the people who left the Church didn't become Evangelical Christians, they became agnostic or atheist. This was troubling." And I found this super interesting I think, because I have observed this in my own life in people that I have loved and cared about, but I love that you say it, because you were hoping that you could save these members of the Church, right? And that they would become evangelical Christians, and so it was troubling to you. Why do you think that is, that people who leave the Church typically don't become evangelical Christians, but rather become agnostic or atheist?

Bryan Ready 19:47
That's a tough question, and I don't want to put words in anybody's mouth. What I was doing at the, at the time, my mindset, there was a certain level of–I don't know if it's naivete or, or arrogance among groups that are critical of the Church, especially evangelical Christian groups that are critical of the Church–what they're thinking is, "Okay, if we can destroy this person's foundation for their faith, they'll become one of us."

And that was . . . and some did, but that wasn't the case with the majority. And when that happened, when I realized that, "Hey, there's a lot of people, that when they, when they lose their faith, when their faith is destroyed, they don't become another type of Christian, sometimes they lose their faith all together." And the Lord really spoke to me, and there's a version in, in Matthew, where Jesus says, "If you cause someone to stumble"–I'm paraphrasing here–"You cause someone to stumble, you're in a world of hurt." So that really, that was one of the moments that kind of shifted my paradigm for the Church, if you will.

And a verse came to my mind, where the Lord's like, "Okay," Jesus said about 2000 years ago in the Gospel of John, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me." And I can tell a spirit telling me, "Bryan, stop trying to tear down quote, unquote 'Mormonism' and just lift up Jesus." And that was a turning point in my attitude toward the Church.

As far as why that happens, that's a good question. I, sometimes I think, for when your culture and your religion are so tightly tied together, that you can't separate the two. So when, you know, you feel like those things have let you down, you have to jettison everything that's connected to it. That's my theory, I don't want to put my words in anybody's mouth, but um, that's my speculation on that issue. And if I'm wrong, I'll welcome any correction.

Morgan Jones 21:55
Yeah. Well, and I think, I think there probably is some truth to that. And regardless, I think, I think that it's a neat realization that you had that, you know, maybe instead of tearing down the faith of other people, we should just seek to lift up Jesus, like you said. I know that at some point, Bryan, you were connected with some scholars at BYU. And those scholars began to correspond back and forth with you, specifically one scholar– and I don't know, how do you say his name?

Bryan Ready 22:35
Shon Hopkin.

Morgan Jones 22:37
Okay. So Shon Hopkin, you begin corresponding with him, and tell me a little bit about that friendship that was built and kind of what you learned as you were . . . had this, this relationship with Shon.

Bryan Ready 22:54
Around 2011 is when I started getting serious with the missionaries. And after a few months, I really began to feel that God was calling me to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But I had grown up Southern Baptist, and I had been theologically trained as a Southern Baptist. And there are a few significant theological differences–important–between the two groups. And so I was wondering, okay, how can I maintain some of my core convictions, convictions that I think are important, especially regarding salvation, and become a member of the Church?

I don't want to come in and be any type of a fraud or a fake. And so I knew I needed to talk to somebody, besides the missionaries, who I could dialogue with. So I knew BYU had an interfaith program. So I wrote to Dr. Millet, just as he was the name that I recognized, and he referred me to one of his associates, Dr. Shon Hopkin, and Shon agreed to correspond with me. So we had a correspondence for about four years through this process where I could ask theological questions of him, and he could bounce and . . . and he helped me process through that.

And quite frankly, I'm still processing some of that, even to this day. You know, I've been a member since 2016, I'm still working through some things. But one of the cool things about it was that Shon, Dr. Hopkin, was the guy that baptized me. So I feel comfortable knowing if he thought my, some of my beliefs were outside the parameters of Orthodoxy in the, in the Church, he would have told me and we had those conversations, but he was the one that baptized me. So, by him agreeing to do that, I felt like as if he was saying, "Yes, you might have some different ideas, but those ideas are still within the realm of Latter-day Saint orthodoxy, and you're, you're a person that's fully committed to this belief system." And so that's kind of . . . Shon really helped me a lot through that.

Morgan Jones 25:14
That's really neat. And you wrote something that I really loved, you said–and I think this was in regard to that correspondence–you said, "For the first time, I could see that some" and then you had in parentheses "Most, many, Latter-day Saints were genuine Christians. Are all Latter-day Saints Christians? No. Are all Baptists Christians? No. Being part of an organization does not make you a Christian. What makes you a Christian is becoming a committed disciple of Jesus Christ."

And I just think that statement, Bryan, is so powerful and makes, at least for me, when I read it, I was like, trying to look inside myself and be like, would somebody refer to me as a Christian? And I sure hope so, but I think that that's a statement that makes people think. You talk about how, at some point, the missionaries had been teaching you and eventually they "dropped you," quote, unquote. And that's something that I think a lot of missionaries, returned missionaries listening to this podcast are familiar with that idea of, of "dropping investigators," because they said that you weren't making progress. What would you say to missionaries, or to anyone trying to share the gospel about what progress looks like, and also why that was so hurtful to you?

Bryan Ready 26:41
Well, there are two things I would say to missionaries about that. Number one, listen to the spirit. If you still feel the spirit, even if your investigator–or whatever language you're using now–doesn't meet all the key indicators, if you still feel the spirit when you're conversing with this person, don't drop them. You might not be able to meet with them every week, but once a month, give them a phone call. If you feel the spirit when you're talking to this person, do not drop them, no matter what progress you may or may not see because . . . my problem was, I had to get things to align in order to join the Church.

I had to find a new job that I was looking for, I needed God to tell me it was okay for me to resign as a Baptist minister, and I needed my wife's consent to be baptized. And I had none of those at the time. And for about four or five years, I was in that type of a limbo. And it was very, very frustrating. One of the frustrating parts of it is the missionaries would come to me, or a well-meaning member, and they would come up to me and they'd say, "Hey, Bryan, what you need to do is take a leap of faith." "Take a leap of faith, resign your church, do all this, and God will work everything out."

So I would go, and I would go to the Lord, and I would say, "Lord, do you want me to resign?" and He would say no. So I would go back to the missionaries and say, "God said no." "Well, Bryan, you just need to take a leap of faith." "Well, God told me no," so that's the second thing, is listen to your investigator. If you want to teach agency and you want to teach the right to personal revelation–if an investigator does personal revelation that contradicts what you think it should be, it better have a really good scriptural reason for not agreeing with them. Listen to them.

And the reason it was so hurtful to me is because the missionaries and a couple of members are really the only connection I had to the Church. My Church services on Sunday morning were the same time as sacrament meeting. So I couldn't go to sacrament meeting, I couldn't go to Sunday school, I could go to activities, I could come to general conference, but as far as worshiping with the Saints, I didn't have any opportunities to do that. My only solid connection to the Church, the only connection to Church teaching that I had–other than General Conference–was the missionaries.

And when they left, it's like kinking up a water hose, you just . . . or an oxygen tank. You just feel completely alone. And if it weren't for a couple of members, Brother Lin Ennis, and Brother Don Dupree, I would have lost all contact with the Church. And it wasn't that I wasn't trying to progress, it was just . . . I couldn't get past these points, because once the Lord worked those things out, I took the leap of faith and everything worked out. But if I would have done it earlier, when the missionaries were pressuring me to do it, it would have been a horrible mess. So listen to your investigator, listen to the spirit.

Morgan Jones 29:54
Yeah, well, I think you make a couple of really important points there, Bryan. I think, one, you know that . . . even just the verbiage of "being dropped" feels kind of harsh, and I think that it's important that whatever that looks like, that it's done delicately. And like you said, you know, maybe you can't visit as often as you had been visiting, but don't give up on that person entirely, because it's hurtful to anybody to feel like they're being given up on.

And I also love what you said about, you know, if it were not for several members, and I think, even if the missionaries are not able to keep visiting, they need to make sure that there are other people in place to be a support and to continue to work with that person, and so I love that, and I appreciate you being honest and sharing those things.

So you said that eventually things did work out and were able to move forward. So can you tell us a little bit about what ultimately led you to be baptized as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Bryan Ready 31:04
Well, a couple . . . there were several events, moments that took place, I'll try to just hit a couple highlights. I had made and failed three baptismal appointments. And I was really getting to the point–I had been studying with the missionaries for about four or five years at this point. Intently studying, not bashing, but studying with the intent of moving forward.

And I couldn't understand why I wasn't making any progress. And then it was October 2015, general conference. Elder Von G. Keetch of the Seventy told the story about the sharks in Australia. And most of your listeners should probably heard it, it was a wonderful story. He talked about the reason some things don't happen the way we think they should, it's because there are unseen dangers. There are, there are dangers that are lurking out there that you don't know about. And that just kind of hit me between the eyes with a two by four, the Lord just–His way of saying, "Hey, I'm working things out. Things aren't quite ready yet, but just, just trust me. There's stuff going on back there that you don't know about, trust me."

So I'm like, "Okay, Lord," and I had peace. And it was almost as if I needed to learn that lesson. Because the very next Saturday, as I was preaching, I felt the Lord in very strong terms, telling me that I needed to resign.

Well, at that point, my wife was completely opposed to me resigning–at least so I thought. So about a week later, I did a lot of praying and fasting. And I had a conversation with my wife and told her what I felt. And she said, "Well, I could have saved you a week of praying and fasting. Two weeks ago, God told me you were going to resign, and it would be okay."

So there you go. So I resigned, I stayed on through Christmas, I started attending the Church, and at that point, everything had fallen into place except for baptism. My wife was at peace about me, resigning from the Church, resigning from the pastorate, but she was not ready for me to be baptized yet. And it would take another six months until June 2016, where she finally said, "If you feel this is what God wants you to do, I won't stop you." And so that's the abbreviated version of how all that came to be.

Morgan Jones 33:46
I think it's such a, it's such a great story. And I love your wife's role in it and her saying, "I could have saved you a week of praying and fasting." Bryan, your wife is still not a member of the Church, is that right?

Bryan Ready 33:59
That is correct.

Morgan Jones 34:02
And so I wondered–because I imagine that there are a good number of people that listen to this podcast that either their spouse is not a member of the Church or their spouse is an inactive member of the Church and may be facing kind of differences in beliefs, what has that been like in your marriage, and how do you make that work?

Bryan Ready 34:23
It has been a struggle, to be honest with you. My wife was very gracious in allowing me and giving me permission because that's the thing, the missionaries wouldn't baptize me without her consent. And she did that–she exercised her faith and did that. Having said that, she wasn't very happy that I felt that God was calling me to do that. So there has been some strain there, but she's been able to get involved in another congregation and so she takes the kids to that for the most part. My oldest son eventually joined the Church. He joined a couple years ago so he goes with me, but the rest of the family goes to another Church. One of my sons still goes to the Baptist Church we used to pastor.

So my . . . as the leader of the family, if you will, my concern is that everybody's going to Church and following Christ. That's, that's the key. And I respect that that's what she's doing. And we've kind of, I guess, boiled down to a, an amicable ceasefire on the issue of my being a Latter-day Saint. She still has some concerns about that. So I've been thinking about that, for the first 20 years of our marriage, you know, I believe that the Latter-day Saints were wrong, and that they were all going to hell. And, and that's what I believed and that's what I said.

So, even though it was a process of five years, it was a bit of a shock for her to have to go through all that and then see me go through that. So right now, I'd say we're kind of–I respect her views, she respects mine, she's happy in the congregation that she's ministering in, and so that's kind of where we're at, at the moment.

Morgan Jones 36:09
Well and I love, I love that, you know, you mentioned respect, and I think that that is so huge in a marriage, you know, even when you belong to the same faith community, I think that there can be differences of belief and showing that mutual respect and recognizing that we're all on our individual journeys to become closer to Jesus Christ, I think that is crucial and so, so important. And so I appreciate you sharing that experience. Before I get to my last question, Bryan, I just wondered if you could share with us why you are grateful that you joined the Church, and how the gospel of Jesus Christ has blessed your life.

Bryan Ready 37:02
I'm grateful that I joined the Church, because it just feels like it's where I was meant to be. I studied this Church for so many years not understanding why. I went to school, to become a Baptist pastor, it just feels like I am home. It feels–you know, for most of my life, once I was a Baptist, I never ever thought I would be anything besides a Southern Baptist. I thought I would spend my whole life–because that's the community that was formative to me in my faith. But–and I still have a lot of respect, I still have a lot of friends, I still have a great deal of love for Southern Baptists, and especially the schools that I went to and the friends that I have there, a lot of love and respect. But when I joined the Church, I just felt like, this is where you're supposed to be. This is, this is home. And just like a weight was lifted off my shoulders when I did that.

And living the Gospel is, in my mind, about developing your relationship with Christ. Following Christ. And so . . . I've seen my relationship with Christ deepen significantly going through this process, and as I've become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Morgan Jones 38:37
Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that. I actually, I lied, I do have one more question that I just would love to get your thoughts on if you're up for it. I think people will, people will look at your story, and they'll be like, wow, here's this person that was dead set on being a critic of the Church, of drawing people away from the Church, and it reminds me a little bit of Alma the Younger, and obviously Alma the Younger saw an angel and that's what changed his heart. For you, what would you say changed your heart and made you turn toward the Church, rather than turn away from it and even try to draw people away from it?

Bryan Ready 39:21
I would say there were two things. The first thing was that paradigm shift when the Lord said, "Stop trying to tear down Mormonism, and start lifting up Jesus." That was a major shift. And the second thing was, it just wouldn't leave me alone. It just would not leave me alone. You know, starting as a high school kid all the way through adulthood, I would just have this fascination with the Church. And I would go for a few months and just really pour myself into it, and then I could put it on a shelf for a bit, and then something would happen, it would keep crossing my path again, just like, like the temple being built on Baptist land, like going to chapel and hearing the story about William Whitsitt or learning these other things, or missionaries coming, it just wouldn't leave me alone. and I'm like, "Okay, Lord, why can't I stop? Why can't I put this on the shelf?" I spent more time studying LDS history and theology than I did Baptist history and theology. It was just a . . . such an all-consuming passion for me to study these things.

And finally, I tried getting involved in anti-Mormon groups, I thought maybe I could go out and become a pastor in Utah, and none of that panned out. And finally, it just got to the point where I was, well, the reason you won't leave me alone is because this is where you need to be.

Morgan Jones 40:54
It's kind of a an act of surrender.

Bryan Ready 40:58

Morgan Jones 40:59
Well, Bryan, I am so appreciative to you for sharing your story. And I just have one last question for you, and that is, what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Bryan Ready 41:11
For me, it means to be a committed follower of Jesus. When I was still a pastor, I would have missionaries come over and they would, we would bash most of the time before I got serious. And one time somebody asked me, "Well, Brother Ready, what if we're right and you're wrong?"

And I'm like, "Well, here's the thing, guys. When I was 14 years old, I made a commitment. I repented of my sins–I still repent–but I repented of my sins, I made a faith commitment to Jesus Christ. I promised to follow Him and do my best to follow Him. And so I have failed Him many times, He's never failed me. If God wants me, if Jesus wants me to become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, He'll get me there. If He don't, I won't. So I'm not worried about who's right or who's wrong at this point. My concern is following Jesus, becoming a committed follower of Jesus Christ."

And you can, you can be the nicest person in the world, you can do all these wonderful things, but deep down inside, if you're not trying to follow Jesus, you're missing the big . . . first part of the gospel is faith, and then repentance. That is the foundation of the gospel. And if you've never placed your faith in Jesus, if you've never repented, you're missing the foundation of the gospel. And in my mind, that is what it means to be all in.

Morgan Jones 42:35
Well, thank you so much. It's been a treat to talk with you.

Bryan Ready 42:38
Likewise, I really appreciate the opportunity.

Morgan Jones 42:42
We are so grateful to Bryan Ready for joining us on today's episode, and as always, we express thanks to Derek Campbell of Mix at Six studios for his help with this episode. We will be back again next week with another great interview. But until then, we hope you have a great week. Thank you for listening.

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