From Atheism to LDS to the Truth: Roger Sherrer Interview

Pastor Sherrer is one of the newest members of the Missouri Baptist Apologetics Network. Dave and Adam were able to sit down with him this Monday and hear his testimony and journey to the truth of the gospel. 

TAG: Roger, share with us a little bit about yourself. Tell us about your ministry, family, and current role in the church.

Roger: I am currently a youth pastor at FBC Lebanon, MO. My assignment is 6th-8th grade, while our other youth pastor is 9th-12th. I am unmarried, and none of my immediate family members are Christian. I had no intention of becoming a full-time minister this soon as I was previously a detective with the Laclede County Sheriff’s Office. The Lead Pastor called me in November of last year and told me to pray about it, and the response I received was overwhelming. The date of our podcast will actually be my 1st anniversary as a pastor. 

TAG: What current projects are you working on and excited about?

Roger: Youth ministry is nonstop, especially our youth group, which averages 150 students a week. This week, I’m beginning the 3rd semester of my master’s degree on the apologetics side of things. My MA is in Christian Apologetics from Liberty University. 

TAG: Tell us a little bit about your life as an atheist. Were you an aggressive atheist? What was the appeal of atheism? 

Roger: Atheism was more than just a belief for me; it was my identity. After 11 years of being Christian, there were still those within the church who were confused about my hire due to how loud of an atheist I was. My copy of “God is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens is still at my parents’ house on a bookshelf, and that book was marked up like a lifelong Christian’s King James Bible. Sadly, I led many Christians from their faith and have only had the opportunity to follow up with a handful of those. I was very good at speech and debate and studied the Bible, knowing that I could recite it better than any Christian I came across at Lebanon High School. 

TAG: What drew you to the LDS faith? How involved were you with that?

Roger: As previously mentioned, my family is extremely nonreligious. Because of this, the disconnect I’ve had towards my family has led me to yearn for replacements. Even though I accepted Jesus in November of 2009 at 17, I wasn’t baptized as a Mormon until 19. A couple of missionaries knocked on my door and gave me a Book of Mormon. I read it in 48 hours. While I didn’t really receive a “burning in the bosom” feeling, I was immediately intrigued by my Sunday visits to the LDS church. The family atmosphere was something I had prayed for every single day since becoming a Christian. I feared that the theology was inconsistent, but I couldn’t have cared less about theology at that point in my life. I wanted to have my cake and eat it too – or to be able to love what I thought was the Christian God while also growing in a family atmosphere that I had always lacked. 

TAG: What became some of the issues that you began to identify as problematic?

Roger: Once becoming a Mormon, I had just received my Melchizedek Priesthood. I planned my mission papers to go on a two-year mission at 20. At this point, I really began to study the theological implications of LDS theology that I had compartmentalized up until then. One of the sad epiphanies that I had revealed was the aspect of working towards salvation. The Book of Romans was my favorite book in the Bible. Yet, my newly formed LDS beliefs were the antithesis of what Paul was describing as justification by faith. I didn’t panic but felt I needed to schedule a meeting with my bishop. During this conversation, the bishop essentially told me, “well, of course, works are required to enter into the celestial kingdom.” It was as if I asked him if 2+2 equals 4. At that moment, I realized I was so wilfully naive that I had ignored the core foundation of the LDS Church not being compatible with my relationship with Jesus Christ. 

TAG:How did the gospel of Jesus Christ pull you from the LDS faith?

Roger: It sounds incredibly simplistic, but I started reading the Bible for the first time, not as an antagonizer or someone trying to fulfill a presupposition, but through more precise lenses. I eliminated all of my biases and my previously held agendas. I just started underlining my Bible as I had never done before. I read the four gospels consecutively in a couple of nights, and it just hit me like a ton of bricks. 

I think a confirmation was given about a year and a half ago when I started pulpit supply preaching while still in law enforcement. I had received a phone call from the newly called local LDS bishop. Halfway expecting him to congratulate me for my calling to preach the gospel, he instead coldly told me that I needed to resign my membership immediately or risk ex-communication. About an hour later, I sent him a typed-up letter, and just like that, my life as a Mormon was erased entirely. It’s as if I never existed. A part of me still wonders, “what if I would have refused to send a letter?” Excommunicated all because I was preaching? I suppose it was seen as rejecting their theology to the church. 

TAG: How would you instruct individuals to engage members of the LDS faith? Why is it important to be familiar with what the LDS believes?

Roger: With the utmost love and kindness. Even though they believe and preach a false gospel, I genuinely believe that most practicing Mormons do so out of sheer ignorance. Because it is so family-oriented, many of their members were born into the church and genuinely have not received an alternative viewpoint of scripture. Since becoming a youth pastor, I have counseled more than one LDS student who has been able to attend an FBC church service because of a friend and is wanting to get out. On one occasion, there’s a possible baptism on the horizon!

As important as it is to live out 1st Peter 3:15 – to share with them the hope in us and to do so with gentleness and respect – we must also have at least a foundation on what Mormons believe. The typical Protestants in the 21st century might only know what they hear on the news about the LDS Church – Mitt Romney, polygamy, and BYU. Instead of addressing stereotypes like “don’t you people practice polygamy?” We must initiate discussions with knowledge and discernment as Paul instructs. LDS theology can be very complicated and confusing as you get deeper into it. Still, the basic principles and precepts are not difficult to understand. Just as it is essential to know what Latter-Day Saints believe, we must also grasp what we believe. 

TAG: How has your unique background shaped how you do ministry and approach apologetics?

Roger: It is truly a blessing because it allows me to reach a wide variety of students and adults who do not have the typical story. Few Christians are former Mormons, and even fewer Christians are former Mormons AND former atheists. Part of me wishes I would have been a Buddhist as well, but I digress. When Paul says that he became a Jew to win the Jews, I think it’s just as relevant today as it was to the church in Corinth. 

TAG: What are some things that you wish Christians would have done differently when engaging you as an atheist and as a Mormon?

Roger: When I was an atheist, I was always shocked at how dismissive Christians were towards me once they found out I didn’t have a faith. It almost sounds like a cliche, but I heard “I’ll pray for you” maybe 100 times, if not more. I was also shocked at how few Christians actually knew the Bible, and sometimes it was the loudest Christians of all who knew the least. My conversion to Christianity happened shortly after a pastor befriended me due to our conversations on faith vs. reason. As badly as I needed God, I needed a friend even more. 

As for when I was a Mormon, I would go back to the previous question regarding Mormon stereotypes. Some of the most well-meaning Protestants that I engaged with knew absolutely nothing about Mormon theology other than what they had read on Reddit or Wikipedia. For every 1 Christian who asked me, “what do Mormons believe about Jesus?”I had 10 people ask me, “do Mormons still have multiple wives?” It’s not proactive, and it only drives Mormons away from hearing the truth. Why should they trust you are having the true gospel if they can’t even trust you to know the basic tenets of their faith? 

TAG: Share with us some resources that you feel are particularly helpful to the study and application of apologetics?

Roger: A book that I keep on my bookshelf is “Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?” by Jerald and Sandra Tanner. The Tanners started Utah Lighthouse Ministries (UTLM) in Salt Lake City and are former devout Mormons like me. Their website is filled with an insane amount of resources regarding LDS theology and history. Another one I recommend is by Shawn McCraney, who has become somewhat of a celebrity on YouTube due to his call-in show “Heart of the Matter.” McCraney is also a former Mormon who pastors a church when he’s not ministering to Mormons in Utah. McCraney’s book “When Mormonism Meets Biblical Christianity Face to Face” is another one I highly recommend and have read several times. 

It was a blessing to get to sit down with Roger. Feel free to follow the link to the TAG You’re It! Podcast and listen to the full interview.

Roger can be reached at: https://mobaptist.org/apologetics/mban/mban-member/?smid=93233

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