The Unexpected Journey: Conversations with People Who Turned from Other Beliefs to Jesus

(Hardback - Sep 2005)
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Following Jesus is a journey none of the people in this book ever expected to take. Why did they? What difference did it make? The book you re holding is dangerous. If you read it, you ll see that God is still active in saving even the most unexpected people: An atheist woman who viewed Christians as idiots. A married couple high in the leadership ranks of the Mormon church. An African-American man who became a Black Muslim out of hatred for white Christians. You ll be amazed, moved, and encouraged as you read their compelling stories and the stories of nine others who made The Unexpected Journey from non-Christian beliefs to faith in Jesus Christ. You ll rediscover the power of the gospel. You might even be emboldened to tell others about Christ yourself. Unexpected journeys beyond Mormonism Judaism Hinduism Atheism Jehovah s Witness Agnosticism Wiccan Paganism Buddhism Unitarianism Astrology Islam Satanism"


  • SKU: 9780310257417
  • UPC: 025986257415
  • SKU10: 0310257417
  • Title: The Unexpected Journey: Conversations with People Who Turned from Other Beliefs to Jesus
  • Publisher: Zondervan Publishing Company
  • Date Published: Sep 2005
  • Pages: 208
  • Weight lbs: 0.71
  • Dimensions: 8.72" L x 6.32" W x 0.81" H
  • Features: Table of Contents, Price on Product, Dust Cover
  • Themes: Theometrics | Evangelical;
  • Subject: Religious

Chapter Excerpt

Chapter One



April 12 Salt Lake City, Utah

My wife, Nellie Jo, and I boarded the plane leaving Louisville with mixed emotions. On the one hand, we still were not fully rested from our trip to Uganda that had ended just three days earlier. On the other hand, we were energized with anticipation of the interview that would soon take place. My research assistant, Stuart Swicegood, had worked very hard to find the people we would soon meet. A former Mormon couple, Dennis and Rauni Higley, would be waiting to tell us about their amazing pilgrimage from Mormonism to faith in Jesus Christ.

The connection in Atlanta went without a hitch. We arrived late at a hotel in downtown Salt Lake City, and sleep came quickly. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, we were getting ready the next morning to travel to the Higleys' home in a suburb of Salt Lake City.

A cloudless day with a bright blue sky greeted us as we left the hotel. We both breathed in the fresh air and felt the warmth of the mild spring day. If the weather was to be a sign of the hours ahead, the day would be good indeed.

My wife and I discussed our strategy for this interview-the first for this book-because we wanted to be ready for any contingency. I had a list of numerous questions I would be prepared to ask. Nellie Jo would keep the conversation going smoothly in the event that the discussion came to a lull.

The fifteen-minute drive to Sandy, Utah, was filled with constant conversation and the occasional interruption of the navigation computer in the rental car. I commented to Nellie Jo that every navigation system I used had a female voice, and I wondered why. My bride of twenty-seven years did not respond verbally, but her smile said it all.

As we pulled into the driveway of the Higley home, I looked at the mountains framing their home and neighborhood. The scene was postcard perfect.

A sign on the door of their home told us of a Finnish custom that asked all guests to remove their shoes. We rang the doorbell and were quickly greeted by a smiling couple.

Rauni Higley welcomed us with an accent that I did not recognize immediately. She would soon tell us that her native homeland was Finland. Her husband, Dennis, was a native of Idaho. Nellie Jo has a clear Alabama accent, and I have been told that I speak with a mix of midwestern twang and southern drawl. The interview recording of the four of us would prove to be a cacophony of voices!

Rauni's Story

Rauni and Dennis led us into their impeccably clean home, and we made ourselves comfortable. The digital recorder was set. After some introductory and casual conversation, I asked the first interview question: "Tell us about your background." I got the impression that Rauni could not wait to talk, so we all looked at her for the first response.

"I was born in Finland. My father died when I was eleven, and my mother died when I was seventeen. My grandparents had also passed away. I was an only child, so I was left with no family, just some aunts and uncles," she told us with a pause. We could tell that the years since their deaths had not removed all her pain.

Rauni continued, "I met a young lady who had joined the Mormon Church about a year earlier. She found out about all the deaths in my family, and she explained how my parents, grandparents, and I could be sealed together for eternity. She told me that through the Mormon Church I could get all my family back when this life is over."

The official name of Mormonism is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With 12 million members and more than 300,000 converts a year, this movement is among the fastest-growing in the world. Mormons are also one of the wealthiest religious groups in the world, with assets estimated at between 25 and 30 billion dollars.

There was little need to persuade Rauni further. "I didn't have any spiritual foundations," she told us. "They told me that everyone who had not heard the Mormon gospel would get a second chance after death. The names of my parents and grandparents could be taken to the temple, and they could be baptized. It all sounded so great to me."

Mormons became Rauni's family as she joined their church in 1963. "I met with a small group in an apartment. It was a really nice and friendly group of people. We all called each other 'brother and sister.' I never had a brother or sister, and I had no family," she explained.

Rauni became an enthusiastic Mormon. "I read everything in Finland published by the Mormon Church. I read the Book of Mormon right away. I didn't detect any errors in it because I was not that familiar with the Bible. So it sounded just like the Bible to me." I wish everyone could meet Rauni. As we sat in her family room that day, Nellie Jo and I were mesmerized by her enthusiasm. She spoke with excitement and sparkling eyes. We could easily see how that same enthusiasm could have been directed toward her new religion.

"The mission president in Helsinki heard I was excited about being a new convert," she affirmed. "He came to visit me even though I had been a member for only nine months. He told me that the president of the Mormon Church, David O. McKay, had called me to be a missionary for the church in Finland. I was so impressed. The prophet of God of the Mormon Church had called me to be a missionary!"

Rauni would serve two years as a missionary gladly. But she knew what her next goal would be. "I wanted to be where everybody is a Mormon; that's my family," she recalled. "So I moved to Salt Lake City and started working for the Mormon Church as a translator and interpreter. The church had just started a translation department, but the only translators were Spanish translators. I was hired to translate English to Finnish."

Dennis Responds

Nellie Jo was curious about another issue. How did Dennis and Rauni meet? To this point Dennis had remained quiet. But you could see the love and pride in his eyes as Rauni told her story. We asked him to answer the question.

"I was a sixth-generation Mormon," Dennis told us. "The Mormon Church had always been my life, and I knew nothing else. I was serving as a missionary to Finland for two and a half years. I met Rauni there. When she moved to Salt Lake City, we started courting seriously and, of course, eventually got married in the Salt Lake Mormon Temple."

Dennis continued, "My family was very active in the church, and I never thought about any life outside the church. And when I met Rauni and married her, we wanted to be the perfect Mormon couple. I had a long history and heritage in the church, and I would rise quickly to leadership positions in my ward and stake. [A stake is a Mormon territorial jurisdiction comprising a group of wards.] And Rauni was working in the middle of all the action at the Salt Lake City headquarters."

Nellie Jo and I had traveled across country to hear how two devout Mormons had become Christians. I tried to be patient as I heard their backgrounds, but I was grateful when my wife asked the question straightforwardly: "So what made the two of you leave Mormonism?" We couldn't wait to hear the response, and Rauni was more than happy to tell us that story.

"Mormonism Just Doesn't Make Sense"

"I ended up working in the translation department of the Mormon Church for over fourteen years," Rauni began. "Translation involves a lot of research. The church is always trying to prove that Mormonism is unchanging from Joseph Smith's time to this day."

In 1823 Joseph Smith claimed to receive a revelation from God that all churches were corrupt. He said that the angel Moroni appeared to him in upstate New York and revealed to him the location of gold plates that contained the history of God's people on this American continent and the fullness of the true gospel. Mormonism began with teachings of the Book of Mormon that Smith claimed he had "translated" from the Reformed Egyptian hieroglyphic characters on the plates.

Rauni continued to explain her work for the Mormon Church. "Most of the literature I was assigned to translate had quotes from different Mormon prophets, such as Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and others. Even though the quotes were generally only small paragraphs, I wanted to read them from their original texts to make sure I understood the context clearly.



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