This is an updated version of my previous post (which was unfortunately a rough draft.)

Evangelicals and Mormons often fight about theological issues, but Rick Bennett & Steve Pynakker have proved that a good, friendly relationship can happen. Steve asked Rick about his good and bad relationships with evangelicals.

God Bless These Damned Souls!

Steve: Of course, you served a mission in the Bible Belt. And, of course, you even wanted to maybe tell a story that I’ve been meaning to have Rick tell on my channel for the last two times I’ve had him on. And I always forget. And so I thought maybe we can open with that story. Because to me, it’s one of the greatest stories ever told that I’ve heard you say.

GT 04:37 Yeah, I was. I mean, I feel like I was just up the road because South Carolina– it’s not quite as nice as Florida, but it’s nice in the wintertime. I remember it was 60 degrees Christmas day. My first Christmas in South Carolina was awesome. My first area, in fact my companion has actually passed away, when this happened. I remember I was training at three months, which in my mission was very common. I was trained for about three months and then I became the trainer. Talk about throwing you into the fire. That’s a great way to do it. You learn a lot in those first six months. I remember, we were knocking on doors in Georgia. It was a similar neighborhood to this, it seems like. People were [telling us,] “Oh, there’s a guy down the street. He’s a real jerk. He’s a pastor.”

GT 05:28 I don’t even know what denomination, probably Baptist, but I don’t know what it was. But anyway, he’s like, “You should avoid him. And I’m like, we’re going straight there. We’re going straight there.” And I plus I’m with my greenie. Literally, like he was just brand new. He didn’t know anything. And I was one of those guys, on my mission, I was one of the guys who was a good Bible basher. I memorized–I think we had 180 scriptures to memorize. I had 90 of them memorized, by the time my companion came out. And so I was like, I’m ready. I’m ready for bear. Anyway, so we go to this guy. He wanted this to say, is it called the sinner’s prayer?

Steve 06:08 Yeah. Yeah.

GT 06:11 And, you know, thinking back on it, I was just a dumb 19-year-old missionary. I should have said it, like, what harm would it have done? But he was like, “You’ve got to say this prayer, and you’ll be saved here, right on the spot.”

GT 06:24 And I was like, “I’m not saying that stupid thing. What are you talking about? I’m a Mormon. I don’t need to do that.” Anyway, I wouldn’t say it. And he had actually invited us in for a minute. And then we walked out. And I remember, as we were walking to our bikes, he was standing in the doorway, and he just shouted this prayer, “God bless these damned souls.” I just [shook my head.]

GT 06:58 I remember saying to my companion, I was like, “Oh, we left a Book of Mormon there. I didn’t mean to. But, who cares? Whatever.

GT 07:02 And then he comes out like, “You left your book.” Anyway, that was kind of my experience with evangelicals. Now, there were some nice ones. I baptized a lot of nice ones. They were the nice ones. And even there were some that we didn’t baptize that were nice. But there just seems to be this conflict.

Evangelical Dream

Steve 10:26 Well, actually there’s one more mission story, because I want us to talk about all the characters that you and I have been talking to you and meeting and evangelicals and stuff. But there was another story that you were going to talk about in the first interview. And you said, “Now are Southern Baptists evangelicals?” Yeah, they are. You said, “Well, let me tell you this story about, this baptism story of a Southern Baptist.” Why don’t you talk about that?

GT 10:47 Yeah, this will be the first time on camera [that] I’ve told this story. This is a very dear story. So I hope I don’t get too emotional. I was transferred to a little town called Lexington, South Carolina, right outside Columbia, right in the middle of state. And I remember, at the time, it was kind of–it has a couple of different plot twists to it. I was only there for like two weeks. And I got transferred to West Columbia, not far away. Basically, the reason why was they had reorganized the stake boundaries. And so our zones follow the stake boundaries. And so I had to be in a new [location.] It was just weird. Anyway. It’s just weird.

GT 11:37 So I was [thinking], “Why didn’t they just send me to West Columbia in the first place? Well, in those two weeks that I was in Lexington, there was a girl. I think she was about 18 at the time, and her name was Kim. I’ll leave it at that. And one of the things that we found was she had wanted to join the LDS Church since she was 15. And her mom wouldn’t let her, and I just heard horrible things about her mom. She was a Baptist. She hated Mormons. Anyway, Kim was 18. I think at the time she hadn’t joined the church. I just thought we should soften up the mom. But I was only there two weeks. What can you do in two weeks? There’s nothing you can do. But I knew Kim and I knew that her mom was this ogre, this horrible person, because she wouldn’t let Kimberly join the church.

GT 12:34 I get transferred to West Columbia. And I remember thinking, Why was I ever in Lexington? That was stupid. Why didn’t my mission president just sent me that was Colombia? Why wasn’t he inspired? But he was inspired to send me there. And there was a reason I was there for two weeks. And so a few months later, I remember we were in a car. And missionaries you have to [limit miles they drive each month.] At the time, I remember thinking this was stupid. But now I understand why they make missionaries limit the number of miles to drive because they would just drive all over, like crazy. And we don’t plan very well.

Steve 13:10 Teenage boys, young kids.

GT 12:12 Anyway, I remember, it was the end of the month, we were checking back on some big Books of Mormon that we’d given away. And so, we were trying to stay close to home and not waste a lot of miles. So this is when I was inspired, but I didn’t know that I was inspired. It didn’t feel like any [spiritual event.] There was no bolt of lightning. That stuff doesn’t happen to me. It was like, well, we were trying to save miles, and this is all we could do.

GT 13:36 So we go to this apartment building. And I ran into Kimberly. Well, she had moved with her mom to West Columbia. And, she’s like, “Hey, missionaries, good to see you.”

GT 13:49 And then her mom, and she told us this later. She [thought,] “Ugh. Not the Mormon missionaries. I don’t want to talk to them.”

GT 14:00 And I just thought, “My goal is just to make friends with the mom.” And so now that we knew where she lived, we would just come over. We had had no intention to teach a lesson or anything. Well, I remember sitting there and I’d heard these horrible things about this mother; she was terrible, a horrible person. And I’m like, she’s really nice us like. This is not what I was expecting. And her name was Beverly. I said, “Beverly, would you would you like to take the discussions?”

GT 14:35 And she said yes. And I was like, “What is going on here? Nothing is going according to plan.”

Steve 14:41 Right and didn’t she have a reputation to yell at missionaries and cause trouble with them or anything like that?

GT 14:46 No, not like that. Just that…

Steve 14:48 She just had a reputation.

GT 14:49 We just didn’t like her because she wouldn’t let Kimberly be baptized. But anyway, so we became friends with Beverly, and we were teaching her. On the second discussion is when you’re supposed to ask them to be baptized. And normally I was really nervous, but I was like, “I think she’s going to say yes.” And so I asked her to be baptized. And she said no. And I [thought,] that was weird. We did the third discussion. I did it again. She said no again. And I was [confused.] Well, then the fourth discussion came up, which was about the Word of Wisdom. Beverly was a smoker. And so, I asked her. I said, “Is the reason why you said no, was it because you’re a smoker?”

GT 15:33 And she said, “Yes, that’s the reason I said no.” Because she knew all about the Word of Wisdom, long before we taught her.=

GT 15:40 And then I found out I was getting transferred. And so I called up Beverly, and I said, “I’m getting transferred in a week. “

GT 15:50 And she said, “No, you’re supposed to baptize me.”

GT 15:53 And I said, “Well, you’ve got to quit smoking in a week, then.” And she told us that she had had a brother that had cancer. And she had been praying. And she said that she saw these two Mormon missionaries sitting on her couch. And she thought, “Well, that’s a weird dream. I don’t like Mormon missionaries.”

Steve 16:19 Interesting.

GT 16:20 And, and so when we were there that day, that day that I didn’t feel inspired. We were like, “We’ve just got to do something close to the house. Here’s this apartment building. There’s a lot of [copies of the] Book of Mormon here.” When we were sitting on her couch, she said that me and my companion were the missionaries in that dream. And I was like, “You are kidding me.” Because I did not feel inspired to be there at all. I was just seriously thinking, “We’ve got to do something close to home.” So that was really it.

GT 16:52 A lot of times in the MTC, you’ll hear that you’re called for a specific person. I was called to be there with Beverly. And so she quit smoking that week. I baptized her the night before I got transferred out. And it was so amazing to me to hear this. Because nothing went according to what I thought. Nothing made any sense. And she’s still a good member of the Church. I still talk to her on occasion. And so I will send this to you, Beverly, I’m sure. This is the first time I’ve told this publicly, although I did tell them my missionary homecoming. But yeah, it’s just amazing. That’s a special story to me.

Chris Thomas Blesses Rick

GT 20:27 Well, I will tell you another story. Chris Thomas is amazing, a man of God, a man of God. I mean, and I will say there were a few experiences I had with Pentecostals that were really cool. And so, maybe it’s the Pentecostals who are the cool ones? I’m not sure. Although Jeff [McCullough] and Kyle [Beshears] aren’t, I guess. But Chris has become a dear friend. And my mom passed away in June, this past year. And there was about–well, we thought she was going to pass away two weeks before she did. And my brother had flown out from New York, because we thought she was going to die that day. She got COVID, and it sounded like we weren’t going to get to the hospital in time to say goodbye. And so, literally, my brother ran off the plane and I gave him a big hug. And he’s like, “I don’t care about my bag. We’re going to the hospital. We’re going now.” And so, we got to my car, we left his bag at the airport. He’s like, “I’ll get it later. I don’t care.” We just zoomed up to the hospital up in Ogden, which is about 45 minutes away. And Chris called me. And I had it on my car phone. And I don’t think I’ve told you this story. And Chris, I don’t know how he found out, because it was a new thing. I hadn’t told a lot of people, but somehow he [knew. He] must have talked to you.

Steve 22:17 I think I told him, yeah.

GT 22:19 And so he called and I just put it on the speakerphone in my car. And Chris said, “I’m going to pray for you.” And I didn’t know that he meant, “I’m going to pray for you right now.” And he just launched into this prayer. And it was a beautiful thing. I was so touched. I was so touched. And, you know, honestly, it was really one of the most Christian, Christ-like things that’s ever happened to me on my show, ever. I love you, Chris. I love you. I just I’ve never been so touched by an evangelical, and it was just beautiful. It was beautiful. And, anyway, my mom made it for two weeks. And then she died about two weeks later. But that is just such a treasured memory. Chris, I love you. I love you. So thank you so much. It really means a lot to me.

Steve 23:29 That’s great. I should have had Kleenex.

GT 23:32 I didn’t know where we’re going this direction. I’m all about non-emotions, Steve!

Steve 23:37 Sorry, it happens all the time. I have Mormons say, “I watch your show because the Holy Ghost can show up at any minute.” And this is beautiful, dude. And this is a thing. You know, this is not an academic thing. It doesn’t always have to be.

GT 23:54 That’s where I’m comfortable, though.

Steve 23:55 That’s where you’re comfortable. And I tell people I’m comfortable where most people are uncomfortable.
Rick then turned the tables and asked Steve about his interactions with Mormons.

Evangelical is Mormon Missionary!

GT 08:43 Well tell us some of your other stories about dealing with Mormons. Well, before you do that, President David o. McKay said every member a missionary. Well, Steve has played missionary for the Mormon Church. Do you remember? I think it was the first time I met you, the first time you came to Salt Lake. You got off the plane. I think you were wearing the same shirt. And you were like, “Oh, I sat next to this woman.” Can you tell that story?

Steve 09:10 Oh, yeah. Oh, my goodness. Yeah. That was the first time [we met in person.] It’s been a while. Yeah, I sat next to this woman. I was literally going to Utah. This is the thing. See this is where I think God’s in the matter. Because things like this happen all the time. I’m like, oh, good. Window seat. I’m going to grab this window seat. And this girl just comes in, gets right in there. I’m like, “Oh, geez.”

GT 09:31 It’s Southwest, so you have no assigned seats.

Steve 09:33 Yeah. So I Okay. I guess unfortunately [no row by myself.] Unusually we had a middle seat [open.] We didn’t have anybody sitting in the middle seat. And so we have this interesting conversation. Actually I had to change planes in Nashville, Tennessee. I was coming from Tampa or Jacksonville, actually. And she was coming from Chicago. Right?. And we started talking. She said, “I’m from Utah and I’m active in the Church,” and all this kind of stuff.

GT 10:04 Was this from Chicago to Salt Lake?

Steve 10:06 No, this was going to be the flight where our stop-over was in Nashville. So we switched planes and got on the plane in Nashville.

GT 10:15 She was coming Chicago-Nashville-Salt Lake. That makes a lot of sense [sarcastically.] But it’s Southwest.

Steve 10:19 Right. So, she’s just coming back from Chicago. She’s heading back home to Utah. And we started talking. And I said, “What brought to the Chicago?”

Steve 10:31 She said she’s in a very busy occupation/job, an important one. “I just heard from my friend. her husband is in the bishopric. And she just contacted me recently and said “I’m losing my faith. I don’t know if I believe anymore. I think I’m going to leave the church.” Right? And, she’s telling me the story.

Steve 10:52 She said, “Steve, I literally, from the moment she told me that I literally booked the flight, headed there,` and showed up to the door unannounced whether it was that day or the next day. She’s like, “I’m going to go and I’ve got to save her,” or I’ve got to help her. Right? It’s my first trip to Utah. I’m sitting there talking to her. And so she’s just telling me the story.

GT 11:14 She’s on her way home now.

Steve 11:15 She’s on her way home. So we’re talking. And she’s asking me questions like, “Okay, what about the seer stone? Okay, tell me about…”

GT 11:23 Had her friend read CES letters or something like that.

Steve 11:25 Yes, she got all this stuff. And then she was like, “What about polyandry?” And it was funny, because I was actually giving [answers] like, “Well, some have speculated the polyandry was actually Joseph Smith was in the process. He was going to seal everybody together, the whole church body was going to be sealed and that the assassination prevented it from happening.

Steve 11:41 “Oh, I feel a lot better about it.”

Steve 11:42 So I’m like, “Oh, man.” That’s fine. But that was a theory that I think Brian Hales has put out, and it’s an interesting theory.
Steve goes on to tell a story about having a beer with both a Mormon fundamentalist. (Mild barley drinks are ok with them.) And he also shared a beer with a Muslim man who attended LDS Seminary in Nevada during high school! Both of these occurred in Florida where Steve lives, and he thought was quite an amazing experience.

What do you think of Evangelical-Mormon conversations? Are they too heated, or are they getting better? Should Mormons quit triying to get into the Christian club? What do you think of Steve’s attempts to cover Mormonism from an evangelical point of view? Have you listened to his podcast?