I appreciate all the thoughtful questions and comments people have posted and emailed this past week. This week, I respond to your questions. Please keep them coming - I love hearing from you!
Question: How do you as a "church" turn anyone away, didn’t Jesus die to save everyone? How are they any different than a person off of the street? If they are not baptized, what difference does it make? If someone wants to try to "follow" the Bible in the same fashion, how are they not allowed? Is that even legal? Seeing that a church is tax exempt, therefore needs to benefit the whole community
Answer: The “church” began to turn people away after Walter White died in 1969 because they believed his death marked the end of baptism and that anyone not baptized by that point had lost their opportunity. Walter had prophesied the end of time three years before his death (he believed his vision meant time would end in three years) but it was actually a prophesy of the end of his own life. The Followers continued on believing time would end soon. As time went on and the end didn’t come, nor did another “anointed” prophet appear, the belief spread that the children of the baptized people (and eventually grandchildren) were “born holy” because of their parents. The issue became a bit murky when some people adopted children from “the world” and that issue is not resolved. For thirty or so years, the church got away with disallowing outsiders, but it caught up with them and they lost their non-profit tax exemption.
Question: Do followers read the Bible?
Answer: It wasn’t emphasized when I was there. There are about two dozen Bible verses are important to the religion. The key verses, out of context and largely misinterpreted, that dictate the actions and beliefs of the Followers. Our Bibles consisted of the New Testament and Psalms only. And we were told that the only true Bibles were in King James Version. This was because of the verse in Revelation 22:19: “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” I’m not saying other Followers were as naïve as me, but I always believed that English was the Biblical language. When I became a born again Christian and showed up to a family function (where members of the Idaho FOC church were also present) carrying my NIV Bible, I was cast as a heretic for reading a false Bible.
Question: I have heard of a few different people doing public confessions. What’s that all about?
Answer: This practice has disappeared. In the days of Walter White, I’m told he would preach about a specific sin and then call out people who were guilty of that sin during his sermons. Also when people were caught in sin they had to confess it from the pulpit and ask for the church’s forgiveness. This practice continued after Walter’s death until 1986 when the last church elder died and the church stopped having bible teaching.
Question: I'm curious, how long does the shunning happen? Months? Years?
Answer: I always thought it was a year, but my mom says that it could go on much longer and sometimes shorter, depending on the circumstances (including family influence). Sometimes people are intentionally shunned out of church. I write about this much more specifically in my memoir.
Question: Why not go blind too? Is it not Gods will if you have rotten teeth or poor eye sight?
Answer: Good question! Followers haven’t always gotten dental care. This changed when Walter was alive and he instructed the church to get dental care because it was the law for children. I have old photographs of men in the original group that came to Oregon from Idaho and there was one older man wearing glasses. I think that Followers don’t consider optometry to be medicine. It is seen more along the line of a walking stick or a wheelchair for someone who cannot walk.
Question: Is it okay for them to associate with us at work but not anywhere else?
Answer: Yes, Followers are allowed to be friendly with worldly people while doing business, but that ends when work is over. I’m sure they would stop and say hello to a work acquaintance if they bumped into you in public, but they would not invite you to their home or make social plans with you.
Question: But what about Jesus? What about His sacrifice on the cross for us... for all of us?? John 14:6 Jesus says that He is the only way to heaven...to the Father- His Father - God. Read all of the gospel of John to learn about who Jesus is.
Answer: The most important thing on this subject, from the FOC interpretation, was the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus in John, chapter three. Followers believe that when Jesus says: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:5)” that Jesus is referring to a water baptism, not our water birth. So thus, you cannot go to heaven unless you are baptized with water. Further, they believe you cannot be baptized except by a man who is called by God with miracles and signs to preach. Since there is no such person available to baptize people, there is no assurance of salvation.
Question: Are you still worried that you will go to hell because you left?
Answer: Yes, I worry about Hell. Not because I left, but because I was a part of that church to begin with. I spent my formative years convinced any misstep would send me to Hell and I’ve spent my adult years trying to reason, work, pray, and justify my way out. I know what the Bible says about Salvation, the Good News of Jesus. I believe it…I try to believe it…I want to believe it. But the voices of doubt and substance of my heritage haunt me.
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love."
-1 John 4:18