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SALT LAKE CITY — “Thankfully, God has a plan.”
This favorite phrase of Maggie Scott, wife of former evangelical pastor Tom Scott, has seen the Utah couple through a most unexpected spiritual journey.
Tom and Maggie haven’t always lived in Utah and they haven’t always been Mormons. Tom grew up in Rock Chapel, Ga., just outside of Atlanta. The Sundays of his youth were spent in the Methodist church. As a teen he started dating a girl who belonged to the local Church of the Nazarene and began attending services with her. Something resonated within him at the Nazarene church. He felt at home and was soon baptized a member.
The Church of the Nazarene had a wonderful choir of which he was a part, and Tom remembers their choir tours fondly. He said, “It was on one of these trips that I felt the presence of God come over me, and I sensed that I had been called to full-time ministry.”
Tom received a football scholarship to Mid-America Nazarene University in Olatha, Kan. He knew he was following God’s plan for him. However, his path had a few detours ahead.
After joining a Christian singing group, “Faith, Hope and Love,” he transferred to Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Ohio where the group was based. The more Tom studied, the more questions he had.
Tom felt the presence of God so strongly during one concert that he said he knew he had been moved by the Holy Spirit. He asked his professor about the experience. When his professor insisted that what Tom had experienced was the work of the devil, Tom withdrew from the university, though it did not deter him in his quest to be in the ministry.
He taught and believed that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a cult. He had no experience with the church's members and no reason to assume otherwise.
Although the ensuing years would take him from one position to another and even from one church to another, he was happy to be doing God’s work. Tom married while in college and went on to hold nearly every ministerial position there is, including pastor, evangelist, youth pastor, children’s minister, Christian education director and more. During this time he taught and believed that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — referred to as the Mormon Church — was a cult. He had no experience with the church's members and no reason to assume otherwise.
All the years Tom spent tending to his flock, preparing his sermons, going from one denomination to another and seeking the spirit took a huge toll on his family life. After 27 years, his marriage ended and he was no longer received among those to whom he had ministered. It was a painful period of his life.
In the meantime, Maggie was growing up in a Catholic home. Her family joined an evangelical church when she was 12. Maggie became a registered nurse, married and had her own family only to see her marriage also end in divorce. Little did Tom and Maggie know that they would soon find each other and build a friendship that could sustain them during the rough times ahead. They soon married.
No longer a pastor, Tom worried about their future, but Maggie would always say, “Thankfully, God has a plan.” The couple suffered one financial setback after another, difficulties with the children and other challenges. Because of Tom's divorce, they were not made welcome in the churches where he had previously been a pastor.
Tom finally found a place where he could preach once more. However, as soon as he began, Tom encountered health problems. Then, Maggie was expecting a child, but the doctor predicted problems severe enough that he advised them to abort.
Putting their trust in God, they continued with the pregnancy. Tom got better and Maggie gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby girl.
But their journey wasn't over. Tom started work as a product distributor and got to know the owners of his company, located in Utah. He found the owners to be men of integrity and, despite warnings from others not to deal with "those Mormons," he relocated his family to Utah to take a new job.
The Scotts never expected to live in Utah, but upon arrival they were surprised by the genuine welcome given them. Not long after pulling in the driveway, neighbors showed up, bringing plates of cookies, meals, furniture, whatever they found the Scott family needed. Tom’s teenage son commented, “These people cannot be for real.” But they were.
They acted like Christians to him. He was determined to find out.
These initial acts of kindness made Tom question all the negative things he had heard about members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They acted like Christians to him. He was determined to find out.
The Scotts began attending the LDS Church and eventually took lessons from LDS missionaries. They had all of their questions answered and felt completely at peace with their decision to join the Mormon Church. One of their sons even joined with them.
Tom says that before, he never really knew the Mormons, making it easy for him to assume the false things he heard about them were true. He and Maggie now have a desire to share their love of the Mormon Church and their newfound happiness with others. To this end, Tom has written a book called "It's True: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey to Truth in the Mormon Church," published by Inglestone Publishing.
Tom never served a full-time mission. Instead, he invites people to read his blog, tomscottitstrue.blogspot.com, where he shares his experiences.
“By writing this book and giving talks about our journey to truth, I am serving a mission,” Tom said.
In his talks he frequently quotes the Bible verse from Matthew 5:13: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?” He loves to end his comments with an admonition to “stay salty.”
Tom and Maggie Scott no longer worry about what the future may bring because they know that God has a plan for them.
Stephanie Abney, an eternal optimist, retired teacher and freelance writer, lives in Mesa, Ariz., with her husband Jim. They have five children and 18 grandchildren. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org and she blogs at stephaniesaysso.blogspot.com.