Meet Michael McAlpine

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One of the best parts of having a website like this I am finding is not what goes on, on the site itself, but actually the contacts I make as a result of having this web presence. Every now and then someone gets in touch who is some way through their journey of going from being in Mormonism to knowing Christ, these contacts can come from all over the world. 

In the last few months I have had email contact with Michael McAlpine from New Zealand. He has recently left the LDS faith despite many members if his close family including his wife still being active in the LDS Church. In the coming weeks and months some of his journey and thoughts are going to be appearing on here. Please see the first part below and feel free to leave any comments or thoughts.

I was enjoying a quiet evening in the garden. It was one of those more unusual spring evenings here in Dunedin. Up on the hill over-looking the ocean and the city, we often have anything from a breeze to a strong wind. This evening as I worked around the strawberries and my recently planted potatoes there was only a soft warm breeze complimented by filtered sunlight. Perhaps it was the rhythmical digging with my hand spade that focused my thoughts as I contemplated my Christian experience.

In 2011 the LDS church Sunday School cycle had rotated to the New Testament. I had looked forward to studying the New Testament and relished having the time to read and study in advance of the Sunday lessons.

As I dug, a thought came to me that fully described my enthusiasm for the study. I not only wanted to understand the New Testament, I wanted to meet Jesus in its pages. I wanted to know who Jesus was, what he did and to understand what these things should mean to me. A question immediately came to mind: How could I have spent my life in the LDS church, a church with a large cannon of scripture, even new revelations, and at the age of nearly 45 still see Jesus as a mystery to be discovered? I had been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all my life and not really known Jesus.

The 2011 year was certainly momentous for me leading to freedom in September 2012 and new commitments in 2013. Studying is something that I have always enjoyed and even excelled at. At university, I could prepare for an exam and quote the page numbers from text books to reference exam questions. I could take a full semester paper and summarise it into four A4 size pages, double sided mind you. Each word or phrase on the page standing in place of so much more, ready to be unpacked to answer a question. I had more recently spent a couple of years studying French after work and on Sunday afternoons for relaxation. So, it was nothing for me to enthusiastically pursue a study of the readings for Sunday School.

I started by reading the given text but realised that it was often beyond my own ability to understand or to unpack the words I was reading. What was the gospel writer trying to tell me? What was the meaning of the story? What message was the first century Jew to understand and how would I know what it was? I realised, that the helps in the LDS scriptures and usual resources were lacking in completeness and other qualitative terms and I turned to the commentaries of John Calvin.

Calvin’s commentaries are remarkable and opened my mind to a new understanding and a new way of reading the Bible. I devoured the reading each week spending up to 10 hours in study prior to the lesson on a Sunday. My enthusiasm lead to disappointment, not only for me, but for the teacher. On my side, I learned that the Sunday School class, though called Gospel Doctrine, was not about an in depth study of the Gospel, but a more pedestrian stroll through selected readings, addressing the usual questions that solicited the expected answers. There was little to be learned and less to be received from the fellow class members, most of which had not read much if any of the material prior to class. The teacher was disappointed in that though she had prepared, she had not prepared as much as I had and only relied on the Institute manual or teacher manual.

During the year, I had come across the podcast of the St Andrew’s church in Peebles, Scotland. Frequently when visiting Sydney, Australia, I would attend the Thursday Evensong service at St Andrews Anglican Cathedral. In looking up podcasts for the Sydney church, I came across the Peebles church and started to listen to new sermons and those located in the archives delivered by Jim Wallace, the then minister. There was also one particular sermon delivered by David Torrance, the younger brother of Thomas F. Torrance and James B. Torrance. I had never heard messages delivered like those delivered by Jim Wallace or David Torrance.

I had my favourite sermons and the one preached by David Torrance was particularly important to me. I laid in bed one night listening to his sermon on Psalm 23. I laid very still listening to the sermon and coming to understand for myself so very clearly, that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and declares himself thus in John 10:11 and us to be the sheep. The Good Shepherd who lays his life down for the sheep. He is the Great Shepherd who conquers death (Hebrews 13:20). He is the Chief Shepherd who will come again (1 Peter 5:4). Jesus as Lord has taken all the care, and what he has won, he has won me and he has won you, will never be taken from him.

I was so taken with the David Torrance’s sermon that I listened to it over and over for many months. In my search for other resources featuring David, I discovered a series of interviews he completed with Grace Communion International. These series of interviews on the practical implications of Trinitarian theology informed my understanding of the Love that is God.

I listened and I read, I prayed too and wondered. I then met with one of the Chaplains at the university where I work. It was in our first or second meeting that Greg referred to me as a Christian. He helped me to explore my developing faith and I felt encouraged to have a look in from time to time at different churches in town.

During 2012 I looked in on a couple of the Anglican churches here, leaving the family at the LDS church after the main service and then traveling to a local church nearby. It was noticed that I would leave from time to time and feeling awkward about it left off from my visits to reduce the attention I had drawn from the LDS congregational leadership.

However, events were quickly overtaking me. I had come to understand from my reading and study of Romans, that in Jesus we have everything. We enjoy communion, or rather we share that communion that is shared by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, through Jesus, and in the Spirit. United in Jesus, reconciled and not only me, but all, and all creation. The Mormon temple ordinances became to me a bleak denial of Jesus.

In September 2012 I was away at a conference and missed church. The following weekend I went hunting for the first time and also missed church. However, late on the Sunday afternoon, the Elders’ Quorum President came to my house to see how I was. We talked nicely for some time and then he said he really wanted me to teach the Elders’ Quorum on Sundays. My polite redirections and hints went unnoticed and I felt I had no option but to speak up and say that I didn’t believe it. This was a response that caught him completely off guard, but at the same time, once I got started I couldn’t stop. I felt such freedom in my declarations that from that Sunday on, to today, I have been to the LDS church only once.

I attended the local Presbyterian church for some months by myself, and accompanied by one of my children from time to time, but in February 2013, I went to All Saints Anglican church in town, near where I work. By the time communion came, I felt I had an undeniable obligation to heed the God who had been calling me for some time. I stood up from my seat, walked to the alter and knelt, as an outsider, but also as someone who now claimed Jesus wholeheartedly. When Father Michael came to offer me the communion wafer, I declined, as I did not consider I was a baptised Christian and instead received blessing.

I started studying with Father Michael, preparing for baptism. It seemed it was always meant to be as it was discovered that Father Michael had a picture of me on his fridge. I had been to the Cathedral for the ordination of a new Priest. Father Michael’s son had participated in the service and I appeared in a picture that had been taken of his son. We found a light moment considering this coincidence.

While my decision has posed significant challenges to my family relationships, I find it hard to consider any alternative course of action. God had been calling me as I searched, he had come to me, he is the Good Shepherd who searches for and does everything for me and to whom all I can say or do in response, is to say thank-you.

More to come from Michael, as I was sorting this post out I was listening to the song below, I think catches a lot of the heart of what has been going on in Michael and so many others please give it a listen and just open your heart to God, as this was for you as well, if you will just trust Him.

Categorised in: Ex Mormon Stories, Michael McAlpine

2 Responses »

  1. Thanks for sharing this Michael. Praise God for the journey he has led you on. Keep strong!

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