By: Shaylena Marie
The people we allow closest to us usually have the most influence within our lives. As we grow up the social habits, religion, language, and traditions that our families hold typically influence who we become as adults and the way we choose to live our lives. But how can we be sure what the truth is? As we venture into the world, being exposed to many other cultures and belief systems we have the choice to either cling to what we were raised knowing and make those beliefs our own, or choose to hold to a new set of beliefs. Some people grow up and are not satisfied with what they have been taught. They still have a longing; a need that has not been fulfilled. They typically have many unanswered questions and are searching to find something that can fill the void they feel inside. They have the opportunity to go on a journey of seeking to discover for themselves a truth that can sufficiently give them a foundation and satisfy this void they feel.This has been part of Russ East’s story. He’s the founder of Utah Partnerships for Christ and The Truth radio station manager in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was raised in a culture that taught him the importance of being a good person. He was taught that if he was a good person, following all of the rituals that his religion required then he could earn his salvation. As a young boy he was searching to learn what was true. He wanted to have the same experience the founder of his religion had had, but it didn’t happen. He was left feeling confused and frustrated thinking that this “god” he was raised believing in didn’t consider him important or special. Soon after this experience he met someone who reached out to him sharing a truth he had never heard before. This truth, known as the Gospel, has forever changed his whole life. It has given him abundant joy, peace that passes understanding and a solid identity that he had never known before.
East shared his experiences being raised in rules of the Mormon religion saying:
“People like to have a measuring stick on their own accord for their own personal righteousness. They like to create their own set of standards, instead of following God’s will for their lives. It’s human nature. Just like Adam and Eve wanted to eat the fruit so that they could be wise, having the same authority that God had in the universe. They wanted to claim that for themselves. So Mormonism is just an off-shoot upholding some of the values that Christianity offers but [Mormonism]taints it [Christianity] and plays with it adding all of these unbiblical rules and regulations. When you become saved you realize that they [Mormons] don’t have the same Jesus. They’ve created a whole new theology. They’ve elevated Joseph Smith as the one to look to, the one who is going to judge you. Men like to have power and say so. That’s what Adam and Eve ultimately did. It just carries on in different expressions of allegiance to different tenants, different religions. It becomes a religion rather than a relationship with Christ. The strict restrictions of this religion instill fear. You become afraid of losing everything, including hope. When you have been taught that the Mormon church is the one true church it creates you to become very narrow-minded, stubborn and stuck in your ways. When presented with the truth from the Bible you become fearful for your own soul because you are told to not to leave or hang out with people who are against Mormonism. Mormons are very fearful-controlled people. There is a lot of secrecy. You can’t talk about what happens in the temple. That is considered to be taboo. It doesn’t make any sense. Mormons are a group of people that do not see the majesty in Christ alone, they cloud it with thinking that works can somehow be what satisfies God’s wrath and his holiness. It just doesn’t.
Growing up under this religion East experienced living a life filled with doubt and fear. He desired to honor his family following the traditions they had kept for many generations, but there was this consistent longing for something more. As he learned about God’s grace and mercy he began to realize that all of his hard work could not attain his salvation. He acknowledged that he could never earn a righteousness that was sufficient for his own salvation. For the only way he could be declared righteous was through accepting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. [2 Corinthians 5:21-22].
It was clear to East that he was nothing without Christ [John 15:5]. He needed a Savior. His search was now complete. The void he had felt for so long was fulfilled. He no longer needed to live under the pressure of unrealistic demands. Instead, now as a Christian he has experienced regeneration that has transformed his heart with a desire to know the Lord, obey God’s law and do good works — not out of a requirement — but out of the overflow of the love he has for God and all He has done for him.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7 [Bible, ESV]
To read Risen’s interview with Russ East, Click here
To learn more about Russ East’s ministries: www.upfc.org or www.truthnetwork.com