Tom welcomes the ministry team of Dennis and Rauni Higley of H.I.S. (He Is Savior) Ministries International, which is dedicated to helping Mormons who have questions about whether their belief system is Christian or not.
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call with T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could tune in. In today’s program, Tom welcomes the husband-and-wife team of Dennis and Rauni Higley to discuss their outreach ministry to Mormons. Now along with his guests, here’s TBC executive director, Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary! Today and next week I have the privilege of interviewing a husband and wife team to whom the Lord has given a ministry of witnessing to Mormons as well as informing evangelicals about the doctrines and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are Dennis and Rauni Higley. And we at The Berean Call--well, we’ve been associated with them for more than, well, about a dozen years.
So, Dennis, Rauni, welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7!
Rauni: Thank you!
Dennis: Thank you!
Tom: You know, I mentioned that the Lord had given you two a ministry to Mormons, and I wanted to get into how that came about--I mean, I don’t think you guys just woke up one morning and said, “Well, how about let’s just start evangelizing those in bondage to the Mormon Church!” You know I’m kidding, of course, but I want you to give your testimony, which is more a testimony to the Lord of guiding your lives--even before you came to know Him, I would imagine, and then commit your lives to Him. So, what’s the story?
Dennis: Well, it all started with Rauni and her work for the Mormon Church as a translator. So, let’s start with her telling her story, and then I’ll bring up the latter part of it and how we got to where we are today.
Rauni: Yes, as you can probably detect that I have a little bit of an accent. I’m not from America. I was born and raised in Finland in a non-religious home. I never saw an open Bible in my home, and my parents didn’t go to church, so I had very little biblical understanding. My mother passed away when I was 11, and my father when I was 17. And both of my grandmothers died by the time I was 18. So I really didn’t have a family, being an only child. I was very, very lonely.
A few years after my father’s passing, I met a young lady who had joined the Mormon Church just about a year before, and when she learned that I didn’t have parents, I didn’t have brothers or sisters or grandparents, she got really excited for me. She said, “The Mormon Church will be absolutely a perfect place for you to get your family back because they do work for the dead.” And when I didn’t know the spiritual condition of my parents, she was so excited. She said, “If you just join the Mormon Church and do the genealogy work and get their name submitted in the temple, and then you go and do the temple work for them, you get sealed to them, and you have your parents, your grandparents, all your family for eternity in the Kingdom of God.”
That was really what it took for me to get totally interested in Mormonism. So I met missionaries immediately after that, and then in three weeks I was baptized a Mormon. I could not argue against it in any other…I had a couple of questions, like “How come the Gold Plates of the Book of Mormon are nowhere to be seen?” And “How do I then believe that the Book of Mormon is true?”
They said, “Well, the archaeology has proven Book of Mormon. There’s all kinds of evidence. Of course, I in Finland didn’t know anything about that, and I accepted their word for the truth. And so I was so excited about being a Mormon. So just nine months after I had become a member of the Mormon Church, the Mission President in Oulu, the city where I lived, asked me to become a missionary for the Mormon Church in Finland, because I was just so full of enthusiasm about…having my family later. And so, anyway, I served a mission in Finland, and I took a trip with 120 missionaries to Swiss Temple, where we all went to do the temple work for my family and relatives. That was really the plan, but that’s where my first doubts about Mormonism began…but that’s too long of a story to tell now.
But anyway, that was what happened in my life. After I had served the mission for the Mormon Church, I came to Salt Lake City. I didn’t have any reason to stay in Finland. I wanted to be where other Mormons lived, so I came to Salt Lake City and the Mormon Church hired me as a translator, interpreter, and language coordinator, and I worked in that capacity over 14 years. And that is where the real problem started for me, because the translation work is largely research work--translating doctrinal materials, manuals, books, everything that Mormon doctrine presented to the people in every country. But those books have quotes from …starting from Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, and so forth, all the more in present, they tried to prove that the doctrine is the same from the beginning to an end. And when they are quoting from these different books, I always went to those books or the manuscript with the quote in context so that I would understand better what they were trying to say, and that’s where my problems started. I found Mormonism that was not Mormonism that was taught to me by the missionaries or what I taught to other people in Finland. I found totally different doctrine--doctrine of…that included Adam being God, blood atonement, all kinds of doctrine that is not openly taught in the Church, but they have not necessarily been denied either.
So that was the problem. I worked in that capacity over 14 years, and it seems like I was in a constant shock treatment because it was those doctrines that I was finding there shocked me, and then also the fact that the Book of Mormon actually does not teach any of the Mormon doctrine that is currently taught in the Mormon Church. Those doctrines come from Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price and other teachings of Joseph Smith.
So there was a big conflict in my heart. But because I didn’t have any biblical background, and I had bought the idea and the belief that the Mormon Church is the only true church on the face of the whole earth, so I...my heart was telling me that this can’t be truth, but then, if this is not truth, then there is no truth.
So I hung on there, and finally after 14½ years I quit working for the Church, but I still lingered as an active member of the Church because of my husband and because of our children that we had adopted--all three of them from Finland--so I felt responsible for them and [thought] that if I can’t give them anything else as truth, then we might as well stick with the Mormon Church that teaches good morals and good…surface good lifestyle. It’s kind of like “here and now” religion, in that sense, that life can be very good among the Mormon community.
So finally, when I quit and I then started telling Dennis that I really didn’t believe in Mormonism, that’s when our troubles started as a husband and wife, because he was a very, very strong Mormon—and maybe you can take it from there, Dennis.
Dennis: Sure! Just a little bit of background on myself: I come from a sixth-generation background. The first Higleys joined the Mormon Church in upstate New York in 1830 and moved West as they did, and then came to Utah with the Mormon pioneers, and they were assigned where they were to settle, and then they branched out from there.
But I was always active in the Mormon Church. I started into the Mormon Aaronic priesthood at age 12 and went on through that, and at age 18 I was ordained into the Melchizedek priesthood and called to a 2½ year mission in Finland. At that time, they didn’t have the language training centers that they do today, and we were given an extra six months to learn the language. I spent 2½ years there in Finland, and that’s where Rauni and I met when she became a missionary. And then, she left Finland and came here, like she mentioned, to work for the Church, and I finished my mission and came back. We courted and got married in the Salt Lake Temple and just started out as any young couple in the Mormon Church, and within a year of me returning I was called to be an Elders Quorum President, and during the next ten years, I served as president three different times in different wards, or I was always in the Elders Quorum Presidency as one of the counselors or another calling.
I was called from that--being president of the Elders Quorum President--to the Stake High Council, where I served for 3½ years, and that led…Rauni mentioned that’s when she stopped going to church, and that really frustrated me. She finally came clean and said, “Well, there’s some things that you don’t know about the Mormon Church that you really need to look into.”
And I said, “Okay, let’s look into it, because I know the Church is true.” I had the well-known Mormon testimony of the truthfulness of the Mormon Church.
So we had a fairly sizable Mormon library that was all written by Mormons, but there were some of the older books that we didn’t have that she had been translating and getting quotes from that caused her to question. So we bought all of those books and started into an in-depth study of Mormonism. And we sat down one night after I had bought all of these books from the local Mormon bookstore, and it was a Tuesday evening--we sat down at our dining room table, and we started going through the books, you know, book by book, quote by quote, and volume by volume. And at 2:30 in the morning, I stood up and slammed them all shut and said, “That’s enough!” And I was really upset that I had been deceived by these leaders of the Church because they hadn’t told me the whole truth about Mormonism. So from that point on, I resigned from my positions in the Mormon Church; we continued in our in-depth study of Mormonism, and finally had to separate ourselves from the Mormon Church.
Back in those days, “the old days,” as we say, you couldn’t just resign. You had to be excommunicated. We asked our names to be removed, and they called a court. We chose not to attend. They excommunicated us, and as part of that excommunication, they read a letter to the Melchizedek priesthood holders in their Sunday morning priesthood meeting that myself and Rauni and our children had all been excommunicated from the Mormon Church.
There’s usually only two reasons why people are excommunicated, and that’s because of adultery or they have become a polygamist--left mainstream Mormonism and gone into the fundamental lifestyle.
Well, by Monday morning that was the rumor in town--that I had committed adultery, and by the end of the week I had six and possibly even seven wives there in town, which was very humorous. But we decided, “We’ll start telling people why we left the church,” and that word, of course, got back to the leadership. They were very upset that we were exposing their doctrine, so they announced in their stake conference a boycott of our businesses and literally put us out of business. We lost everything. But it was during that period of losing everything that we came to know the Lord in a miraculous way.
Tom: Yeah, tell us about that. This is absolutely fascinating, by the way, you guys.
Rauni: Yes, we had had a lady working in our business that we had always thought that she was a very active LDS. She had moved…this all was happening now in eastern Utah--Vernal--where we had moved and where we had more than one business. We had a construction and a real estate business, plus a retail store.
And so, anyway, we had this lady working there, and she had moved to Vernal from Coalville, Utah, which is another very, very LDS town like Vernal was, too, about 85 percent LDS. So she was telling me how she had been Relief Society president, how she had been married in the temple. Her husband had passed away and she, with her boys, had moved to Vernal.
So I assumed that she was LDS, because our discussion was always going around what was happening in the Mormon Church.
Well, one day she asked me, “Now, Rauni, what are you doing in a church now?” She had known that I was in a stake Relief Society board, which is about as high as a woman can go in the Mormon Church--to be in a stake…to be called into a stake Relief Society position, and Dennis was a stake High Councilman, so we were really considered the "uppity up" Mormons. So she asked me, “What are you doing in a church now?”
That was when I had already announced to Dennis, “I’m not going there anymore.” So I said to her that I don’t believe in Mormonism anymore. I’m not involved any longer, even though Dennis was. A couple of days later, she came ringing my doorbell, and she brought me a “John” study by Chuck Missler--just three tapes. (Those were cassette tapes--that’s the olden days way to listen to Bible studies.) And so she [told] me that if I would listen to those she felt that that would really be a good thing for me.
I was not really even interested at that point, but she was such a nice lady that finally I decided…and so I said, “I will listen to them.” I started listening to them, and, you know, I was just doing some housework, dusting or whatever I was doing, while I had the tape playing, and after a few minutes, he said something that all of a sudden made me stop. And I rewound the tape and sat down and took the Bible and notebook and started listening, and it was absolutely amazing!
He spent about nearly an hour on John:1:1 explaining who God is, who Jesus is. And I had never in my previous life as a Lutheran (that was just nominal, nothing really religiously or teaching-wise I learned from there) but, and of course, as a Mormon I had believed that Jesus is my brother and created being just like I was in a preexistence. Now I realized that Jesus is GOD! He is actually God who became a man! And that just absolutely lifted me up, like “There is hope! There is hope! There’s God!”
And so I listened to those three tapes--they were 90-minute tapes that only got me to the Gospel of John chapter 3. So I called Linda, and I said, “Linda, can I get the rest of the tapes?”
And she said, “I don’t have any more. I just had those three.”
But there was an address on the back of a tape where they had come from, and that was in California--Firefighters for Christ were actually the ones that were producing those tapes. I wrote to them in a letter, and I said, “Could you please send me…send me a bill and I’ll send in the money and you can send me all of the tapes.” They came within just a few days, and there were twenty-two 90-minute tapes, and it was written on top of the package, “Ask, and ye shall receive. There’s no charge!” And that was the beginning of our understanding of who God is, who Jesus is, and finally I was able to convince Dennis to listen to these tapes.
And he--at first, it was kind of humorous--he finally, when he agreed, he had told me first, “I’m not going to get involved in religion.” (Maybe he can tell you that part, how he objected to my approaching him.)
Dennis: Yeah, from the time that we left the Mormon Church, I went into what I called “Nothingism.” From Mormonism into Nothingism. We were there for about a year and a half, where we were just studying, studying, studying Mormonism, and then once we had our names removed, then I was more or less “free and clear.” I didn’t have any religious responsibilities. I knew there was a God, but I had no idea where to find Him, and I wasn’t really interested in searching at that time. And that’s when Rauni started listening to these tapes, and she asked me to listen to them. And I said, “Nope! Once burned, twice smart. I’m not going to get involved in religion again.”
And she kept pestering me, “Just listen to the first one.”
Well, at that time, photography was my hobby, and Sunday was my day to go shoot pictures, so this one particular Sunday, it was just a horrible snowstorm, so I decided to stay home, so of course, she approached me again and said, “Here, listen to this while you’re sitting around today.”
So I did. I took the tape recorder and put the tape in it, and she said, “You’ve got to follow along in your Bible!” And so I took my missionary Bible and sat with my back to the tape player, because I really wasn’t interested. And of course, she mentioned how…the introduction and John:1:1, and how well Missler explained that, I sat there and listened to that, and a whole new world opened up to me! Things that I had never, ever heard in my 40 years as a Mormon were coming to life, just right out of the Bible!
I listened to that first one, and I went and told Rauni, “Where’s the second one?” So I sat down and listened to it, and I listened to the third one that day, and I went to Rauni, and I said, “We’ve got to start doing a Bible study with our daughters.” So every Sunday we had a 90-minute Bible study. We went through one tape at a time with our girls, and then we studied, of course, individually during the evenings and the rest of the week.
That was our “church” for the next year and a half--that’s all we did. We studied the Bible. We went through John, and he [Missler] mentions, of course, the Book of Daniel. So we ordered the Book of Daniel [series], and in that he mentions--makes a connection to--the Book of Revelation. So went to that, the Book of Revelation.
And then we decided, “Well, maybe we’d better start from the beginning, so we started at Genesis--we’d do one study in the Old Testament and then come back to the New Testament and do another study. And so we’d bounce back and forth from study to study through the whole Bible, and it was just an amazing, eye-opening experience to know who God really was! And it was through our study of the Book of John that we realized that we need to be born again! And it was through that that we went on our faces before God and asked Him to be our Lord and Savior. And then we just continued studying, and in the Book of Hebrews it said that fellow believers ought to fellowship together, so we decided we’d go church shopping. So we visited several of the really small Christian churches in Vernal. Like Rauni said, it’s 85 percent Mormon. We finally ended up at a First Baptist Church, which is a Southern Baptist denominational church. And they had a brand new pastor and he taught the Bible just like we had learned the Bible all this past year and a half from Missler, book by book and verse by verse. (He was not your typical Southern Baptist pastor.)
It was just a marvelous, growing experience to know who God is, how we are saved, and why we need God in our life. And that pastor asked us one Sunday, “Would you teach us how to witness to Mormons?”
And we said, “We don’t know how to witness to Mormons. We just studied ourselves out of it!”
And he said, “Well, put together some of their doctrines so we can compare it against the Bible. And if you would start teaching this on Sunday evenings during the church training time, that would be very appreciated.”
So we put together a bunch of information on comparing the God of Mormonism with the God of the Bible, and we did it in a three-month period, step by step--who God is, who Jesus is, how to be saved, where Mormonism came from, and so forth. And those people in that little church that only had 75 members that was started in 1947, they went out and they started witnessing! And in the following year and a half, that little church went from 75 to 250 members! It was just an amazing revival!”
Tom: You know, Dennis, I want to interrupt here. We’ve got--well, we’ve got no time left in this session.
Tom: Absolutely fantastic! I mean you’ve just laid out…both of you’ve laid out how God orchestrates a life, even before you knew Him, how He guided and directed your life. Even when you didn’t know Him!
Dennis: That’s right!
Tom: Because He knew how you guys were going to respond to it. So it’s just a great encouragement. Now, next week we’re going to get into some questions, some details about…certainly the doctrines of Mormonism, and maybe even some more of your experiences with it. So thank you so much! We look forward to, and I know our listeners will look forward to the program next week. Thank you, guys!
Dennis: You’re welcome.
Rauni: Thank you!
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 featuring T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter contact us at PO Box 7019 Bend, Oregon 97708. Call us at 800.937.6638. Or visit our website at the bereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael, we’re glad you could join us, and we hope you can tune in again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.