If you spend any amount of time on YouTube watching religious content about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there’s a good chance the algorithm has tried to feed you videos from the channel Hello Saints. This article seeks to help you understand the intention of that channel.
Hello Saints was started by Christian pastor, Jeff McCullough, in his attempt to learn everything he can about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The description of his YouTube channel states:
This channel is devoted to fighting criticism with curiosity as I invite dialogue between Christians and Mormons. Are Mormons Christians? What do Christians and Latter Day-saints agree and disagree about? Join me as I compare and contrast the lifestyle, culture and beliefs of Mormons and other the rest of the Christian community.
While this description is compelling (especially since Jeff is respectful and doesn’t openly call us devils like man do) we need to be cautious of Jeff’s real intent which he revealed in one of his videos. In his video, “Pastor’s HONEST Reason for Exploring Mormonism” he states:
“I’m going to continue to drive it understanding and sharing what I understand, so that we can drive at an understanding of Jesus that’s rooted in truth. That’s the why behind Hello Saints.”
The YouTube channel was created in early 2022, and in his first published video on his channel, McCullough is standing on the roof of a building in his town pointing out the various churches that can be seen from the rooftop. In a visit he made to Utah before releasing the video, he noticed a great number of churches and was told that they were all Latter-day Saint chapels.
Recently, David Alexander, a new convert to the Latter-day Saint faith who came from an evangelical background shared his thoughts on his thoughts of Pastor Jeff. While he acknowledges that Jeff is a very compelling and likeable person, his could create off-ramps from the covenant path for Latter-day Saints. His perspective is well worth the listen below.
He also posted another video that was more pointed in trying to warn us of Jeff’s motives.
Hello Saints Thoughts on Joseph Smith
McCullough dedicated one of his early videos to the topic of Joseph Smith and discusses five takeaways after he spent time reading Richard Bushman’s biography of Joseph Smith called Rough Stone Rolling.
His first takeaway dealt with the fact that Joseph Smith was a man of his time. A lot of the criticism cast upon Joseph Smith deals with his treasure seeking, and also failed business ventures, but McCullough extends some grace and explains that treasure seeking was fairly common in that culture and leaders at this time were very innovative in attempting to set up these communities.
Interestingly enough, McCullough acknowledges that one of his concerns regarding Joseph Smith has to do with the multiple accounts of the First Vision and perceived inconsistencies there. If anyone reading this is in the same boat, you would do well to listen to the six-episode podcast series entitled The First Vision: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast by Spencer McBride.
Each episode features insights from Church historians and scholars and is designed to help people see this theophany in a new way. (The multiple accounts of the First Vision is actually one of the things I love most about that event and cements in my mind the veracity of the experience.)
Hello Saints Goes to General Conference
Every YouTube channel that makes a mark always has one video that catapults them into relevance. For Hello Saints that video was titled Pastor’s raw REACTION at Latter-day Saint Conference. As of the date this article was written, the video has over 617,000 views and over 5,500 comments.
In this video, McCullough traveled to the October 2022 General Conference in Salt Lake City and was able to attend a session thanks to a friend who was able to hook him up with some tickets. In an email that I sent to McCullough, I congratulated him on the success of that video and he remarked that a lot of individuals in his audience ask about General Conference. Making a video about that topic just made sense.
The success of this video is also due, in large part, to the fact that because McCullough is informative and fair, he can appeal to multiple audiences. He even noted to me, “I also get the sense that Latter-day Saints are super intrigued by interfaith conversations with someone who is inquiring rather than attacking. I think that plays pretty big in the grand scheme of things.”
As you read the comments on this video, and his other videos as well, you can see that many of his viewers are Latter-day Saints who appreciate the way that he is speaking about their faith. It is always in a fair manner.
Tackling the Book of Mormon
McCullough has multiple videos on his channel about the Book of Mormon, the first one being a reaction video where he watches a church-produced YouTube video on what the Book of Mormon is. He watches and then pauses every now to share his thoughts and commentary.
At one point in the video, it references the scripture from John 10:16 when talking about Christ’s resurrection:
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
McCullough objects to the usage of the scripture in this context, explaining that according to his tradition this wouldn’t be speaking about a visit to Christ in the Americas. Later on, he then states that, while interesting, the idea that Christ would appear in the Americas and other scripture be made available isn’t something that is spoken of in the Bible. (Even though he rejected one of the scriptures from the Bible that does speak of these events according to Latter-day Saint interpretation)
Many facets of the Book of Mormon McCullough does find interesting, but he does point out another hesitancy he has – that there is “proof” of the historicity of the Book of Mormon, meaning identification of peoples, places, and archaeological evidence that would corroborate with the book of scripture.
Keep in mind, that up to this point in his truth-seeking journey, he has not read the Book of Mormon for himself and hasn’t spent any time digging into Book of Mormon evidences that would prove it’s validity to an extent.
In his other videos that feature the Book of Mormon, McCullough spends time summarizing the things that he is reading and providing his commentary on what he has read. As of the release of this article, he has read the introduction to the Book of Mormon and in another video he shares his thoughts on 1 Nephi.
Hello Saints Discovers Doctrines and Destinations
In his 25+ videos that are on the Hello Saints YouTube channel, McCullough also delves into some doctrines and practices that are unique to Latter-day Saints, like the ordinances of baptism for the dead and eternal marriage.
He also has traveled to Nauvoo, Illinois, Independence, Missouri, and Palmyra, New York to learn some of the early history of the Church.
My Closing Thoughts
Having spent a great chunk of the last 13 years online with Called to Share dealing with attacks on my faith and calls to “leave that cult or burn in hell”, I agree with McCullough that it is very refreshing to have someone who is interacting with our faith in a respectful manner, because that’s all we ask of people.
We spend so much time online defending our beliefs, our history, and our scripture from some pretty disgusting attacks so to hear from someone that they are “willing to dig into it” without just calling us cultists is very refreshing.
I know there are some that have concerns with what McCullough is doing, perhaps feeling that his version of “real intent” is misguided. One reader opined that “he seems to want to fold his intellectual background into the mix far too much and it is clouding what real intent actually is. I sense an underlining effort to set up his following, which he knows are mostly members of the church, for an encounter with doubts about their beliefs rather than his greater understanding of those beliefs.”
Obviously this is something that we need to be aware of, but at the same time, understanding someone’s intent is difficult. I’m hoping that McCullough’s search for truth is sincere and that he is open to receive whatever the Lord feels fit to reveal to him.
What are your thoughts about Hello Saints? Have you watched any of Pastor Jeff’s videos? Tell me what you think about his project in the comment section below.