This last week I was on vacation to see my cousin off on his mission. For those that don’t know a mission is a 2 year journey in which you live a basic life and spend all day knocking on doors to give the Latter Day Saint version of god(lower case on purpose) out, preach the book of Mormon, and gather as many converts as possible This cousin is more like a brother to me, and his mom more motherly than any person I have ever met. As a teenager she took me under her wing when my own mom did not have the capabilities. They have always been good to me, and I hope they will continue to be good to me after this.
I am going to tell a story, this is not really about news, but it is about my life and my journey that lead me to salvation.
When I left my mom at the age of 13 to live with my aunt it was a gift. My mom had recently been arrested for 30 days, I don’t know why, and probably never will. My 2 sisters and I were sent to live with my aunt in Idaho for the month. Despite having no parental rights, my aunt fought to get all 3 of us in school there for the month, took us to church every Sunday, and made sure we had 3 square meals a day, something my own mother never did. (I want to be clear, for a long time I resented my mother for many many sins she committed against me, my wife, and my sisters, but I am now at peace with all of that).
For the first time in my life I had friends(I mean this nearly literally the only friends in my whole life I had was a girl in Helena named Heather who I was ripped from due to my families need to relocate to dodge debt bad guys and the law, and the other a dysfunctional boy from Whitefish that rocked the most epic adhd I to this day have ever seen), I played Magic The Gathering before class with some kind guys who gave me my first deck. I actually learned stuff in school, and was filled with hope, and the people in the LDS church my aunt attended were very willing to take us under their wing, and provided us with cloths, beds, and a chance to be engaged in scouting.
Those 30 days passed quickly, and when my mom came for us I asked to stay until the semester was over. I do not recall a lot of protest, and the rest of the semester played out very well. Afterward my mom moved to Texas from Montana, and I followed as I promised. Being promised that her new boyfriend was better than the last, and the fact that I was in High school now I had hope, but nothing was different, she was still full of anger, an emotion that trickled down to her children, and her boyfriend was emotional damaged, possibly due to his military service, maybe because he was just a bad dude, I am not sure. After one beating from this man, who was stronger then, than I am now(and I work out a bit now) I called the police, reported the incident, and they (the police) said it was my fault. So I boarded a bus back to my aunts in Idaho.
There for a while at least I was overwhelmed with love, by my aunt and by her church. I decided to join not because I felt this burning feeling in my chest that is so often described, but because it was the religion of my aunt, of my friends, and if I had to take a guess of 75 percent of the city we lived in.
I followed all their little rules for a while, never really understanding why they were rules. No tea or coffee, I didn’t date until 16, and never(that my aunt knew) alone. In reality I only ever went on solo dates with one girl, and nothing ever happened between us, not even the elusive kiss. I even performed baptisms for the dead in the temple, an action that reeked of Masonic thievery, and to this day confuses me.
My junior and senior year I even attended seminary, desiring a greater understanding of why I just didn’t seem to connect with this religion like others say they do. I sang in choir, I went to some scouting activities(the achievement of badges never really interested me, I have 3 to this day) and I went on home teaching duties (a task that was always weird). For a while I even blessed their sacrament (their version of communion) after I had received the priesthood, but I never felt anything. I watched people sleeping, texting, eating snacks, on occasion I would even see a grown man fold his tie up and put it on the back of the pew in front of him so the wood would not leave an indent on his forehead as he napped. This made me question if any one around me felt anything as well.
By the age of 17 only 3 years into my conversion I had pretty much stopped in my duties, I still went to church, mostly to help the sanity of my aunt, her husband at the time was a cop, and was rarely available to get her 5 kids ready.
The straw that totally destroyed the camels back for me was when the summer after my junior year I had sex with a girl, who I almost married 3 years later( a girl I still love quite a bit). I could not and still do not grasp, why my aunt was so outraged, I never lied to her about anything, even when I was asked directly if I had sex, the first time I told the truth. Despite all the doubts she had, despite having my privacy raided, being accused of using drugs,(to date I have never done anything illegal that I can think of) and even once having my personal email hacked by my uncle to find porn in my spam box and being accused of living a secret indecent life. Sure just like any teenager with access to the internet I watched a video or 2, but I never subscribed to anything, and it was legitimately spam.
I stopped going to church after I was grounded for an in determinant amount of time. I was basically forced to go, an act that I believe results from a failure of an understanding of Jesus and his goals. When I graduated I left my aunt, and minus the wedding of one LDS friend, I never stepped into an LDS church again for 9 years, the most recent time being the 27th of October to send my cousin off, and 3 days later to officially denounce the religion.
The path that lead me to that action was a long one, taking 9 years as I have stated. I spent the first 4 years as a quasi atheist, never being quite able to resolve how everything came to be, and for a while (and mistakenly) adopted a Nietzschian philosophy that God must be dead.
It wasn’t until my wife was diagnosed with a tumor in her brain that I began questioning the Godless life I had been practicing. I prayed and contemplated, I plead with my wife’s family for assistance in treatments, and when no one was able or willing to help, I was forced to enlist in the Navy, a task that probably saved my marriage, my wife’s life, and my soul. EDIT: when I say forced, I do mean that options were available, I could take out loans, go bankrupt, or just wait for it to get bad enough that the hospitals would have to admit her, but the Navy was the best way, the way I was being prompted to follow.
After boot camp, the first friend I made was a fellow who was from Tennessee. His wife and he were baptists as far as I can tell, though they never outright said it. I went to church with them a few times, and they honestly outwardly were the happiest couple I have ever known. I only say outwardly because you never know what goes on behind closed doors, but I suspect that when their doors are closed, they loved each other even more.
We never really talked religion, but because of his life style, his peace with the world, the love he had for his kid and wife, I really wanted to live a life like his, so for the first time I picked up the Bible and started reading the Old and New Testament. It floored me the differences in what I saw, from what I knew from the old Mormon days. At this point, I would not say my soul was saved, but I definitely believed in the power of God, and his existence.
I lost a few friends to suicide while enlisted, combine that with my wife having surgery to remove tumors from her ovaries, and loosing one of those friends the same day, extreme sleep issues and a wicked chest injury I struggled to hang on, and eventually was given an honorable discharge for medical reasons.
I spent the next year holed up in my apartment in Montana, unable to work, and waiting on VA treatment for my issues. The stress of everything lead up to some marriage issues, that were mostly my fault, I began seeking out churches that brought me the warm and fuzzies that the LDS people promised I should have felt long ago. I realized that the issues I experienced were self inflicted because during our entire marriage I had been hiding a secret. Right before we were married I had cheated on my wife, I carried this burden for 6 years. It was a meaningless act born out of fear of commitment, and question of love(I still at the time missed my ex fiance very much, and no she is not who I cheated with). In my exploration of God/Jesus I had become truly aware of repentance, and realized that it was my secret, not my act that would destroy our marriage, and so one day I confessed to my wife, gave her an out and asked her forgiveness. She did not take the out, and pressured me for details of which I supplied the least hurtful of them. She eventually forgave me for the act, an action I am eternally grateful for, and this only goes to show how great of a person I found. I have friends who refuse to this day to forgive me for mistakes in friendship I have made and none of them even come close to the scale of mistake I made with my wife.
I eventually found a church that gave me those warm and fuzzies, and realized it was not the church that really matter, but Jesus. This church preaches the Bible, practices the values laid out in the Bible by Jesus, and I do truly believe the pastor is in tune with the Word. The reason I say this is because after going there for 4 months, I in short demanded my wife take a Sunday off from work to go to church with me(the first time in our marriage, and the first time quite possibly in her life). EDIT: This was another prompting I received and listened to.
There the pastor preached to us a message so profound so directed at our life issues that my wife asked me honestly if I had asked him to give that particular sermon, which I had not. Our transition into baptism and true salvation was a relatively slow one, my wife insisted on reading the Bible, and wanted to learn about Jesus. She had had some uncomfortable experiences with the LDS people and their missionaries (she was not a member but they had tried before to convert her), and she did not want these experiences repeated.
We decided to be baptized in the summer this year, and literally the day after we were baptized the LDS church started contacting us, a task I found disturbing at best. Due to the nature of my work with the Navy, I had made a rather epic effort to remove my digital foot print, my credit report still reports a job I had 7 years ago, our phone numbers changed when I enlisted in the Navy, and again when I left, I had deleted all social media, requested no one that I gave my information to share it with any one even family members, and I never requested my records leave my high school town. Needless to say I informed the bishop that contacted me I was not a member of their church any more, and that I would not tell him my current address(fearing some sort of scam). The contacts continued even though we requested they end, and eventually I agreed to drive 5 hours to meet the man in person and sign whatever he needed to have my records removed (a task I achieved while seeing my cousin off, kind of poetic I thought).
The interview was not nearly as bad as I had expected, but it was insulting. The bishop told me my actions were not needed, that my soul would no longer be saved despite the fact I was not forsaking Jesus but their church. He then bore his testimony(the general I know this church to be true speal that any person born into the church had been practicing their whole life) to me, and asked if I had been offended by a member. I informed him again, that I was saved through Jesus not the church, that I had been baptized as a Southern Baptist, and that in fact no one except maybe my aunt and the childhood incident I described have ever offended me when it comes to issues of religion. The idea that some person would forsake God, damn their soul, and risk the fiery depths of hell because of the actions of one man is so insulting to me I almost slapped the man for asking the question.
That is the end of the story, keep on reading if you want some analysis of everything.
I joined the church because I was a lonely sheep, something missionaries hone in on.
In my 4 years of activity I never once felt the spirit fill my body, something promised and spoken about by many. I have been told that this is due to my sinful life, of which I have enlightened you all to. My response to this is that Mankind is born into sin, we are sinful by nature, and Jesus actually made it a point to not roll with Pharisees and scholars who saw themselves as better, less sinful than others.
Some others will say that I never received the spirit because of the conflict in my life, the duality I experienced between my life with my aunt and my life with my mom. To this there is no response it is simply wrong. I still experience this duality today, but I have felt the spirit many times since joining my current church, and while deciding what actions to take due to my wife’s illness.
Others yet will say that I was not listening, or that the spirit some times manifests itself in a quiet manner. To this I say, that I may not have listened all the time, but there have been moments in my whole life that I prayed selflessly with true intent, true need, true questions, and never received any answer. What good is having a messenger that cannot be heard?
One friend in particular asked me why I did stuff like pass the sacrament and perform baptisms for the dead if I did not feel the spirit or believe in the act I was performing. One I had hoped the acts would fill me with the spirit, two they were acts I saw no harm in performing. Many times people argue why live a Godless life, if you follow God and are wrong the worst that happens is that you live a good life, if you don’t follow God, your soul may be lost. These people do not understand who Jesus is, and I once was one of them.
Many ask why I officially denounced the church, why even recognize their authority to remove my name from their registrar. My response is two fold, one its a numbers game. The LDS church claims to have 15 million or so members, so long as they hold my records they count me among their followers. If I had to take a guess, maybe 30 percent of the church is actually active and I am not OK being counted among a church that I truly believe leads people astray. The second reason is that this action allows me to follow Jesus, never again having to worry about explain to some sheep why I do not believe their ways, and how the Mormons are not real Christians.
Why now do I believe they lead people astray? This is a question of rather lengthy and epic implication but I will try to be brief. They believe that Jesus and God are separate entities, this is exemplified by the experience Joseph Smith claims to have had in the grove were he saw Jesus and God, side by side. Seeing God the father as far as I know(I am no scholar) is something no living man has achieved. Secondly and this is something I did not want to believe until I had my interview with the bishop who removed my records, but they really do believe the only people saved are those baptized into their church, this simply is not what Jesus preached. Finally there is a plethora of scientific evidence showing that Jesus was a real man, and that many of the stories of the Bible may have happened. There is no scientific evidence that anything in the book of Mormon is true. I will refer those interested in the science to read some of these personal accounts http://www.exmormon.org/stories.htm . Finally the evolution of how the religion is practiced always bugged me. From the cheating Joseph Smith proclaiming polygamy a godly desire, to the denouncing of that desire. The blacks and the burden of their hereditary sin, to their acceptance into the priesthood. The changing of their marriage ceremonies to fit in line with current day values(some of the stories in the previous link address that). Then there is the issue that I briefly spoke about earlier, concerning their better-than-you practice. You must be a baptized member to be saved, and in good standing, this seems highly reminiscent of the pharisees of Jesus’ day. Finally the fact that one of their books is proven to be based on a parchment that in no way shape or form was translated by Joseph Smith. If the text they base their religion on is false, the the religion falls on its face, it is that simple.
There are also the masonic over tones and the practice of Idolatry. Almost every home I visited during my home teaching exercises had a picture of Jesus in their house, and for those that don’t know the 10 commandments “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” As far as I am aware Jesus now resides in heaven above. There is also issue with the temples, these places that only the purest and cleanest can lie their way into, and the practices that go on in them. I am not aware of all that goes on seeing as how I left at 18, but the one thing I am aware of the baptismal fonts they use, upon the back of 8 oxen if I recall, seemed like a very cultist symbol. Here is a YouTube video of it, though I cannot say to the claims the man makes in the video, this is the official ceremony as I remember it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NL3M-ZI1XxM
The final straw, is the belief that man can become Gods, this flies in the face of all old and new testament beliefs. God is supposed to be the only God, not just the most powerful, or the just oldest, or the just the creator of all things. If you dive deep enough into the church (my 4 years was enough to learn about this, it is in fact something taught in their seminary) you will learn this first hand.
I really hope that my Mormon friends that read this (the whole 4 of them) and my family will still be my friends, but I felt compelled to write this, to share my experience, and to maybe help those who struggle with their own religion/salvation.
Feel free to comment, argue, preach, whatever. Let it be known, I believe I am saved, through my believe in Jesus Christ, not through my church, not through your church, and certainly not through your testimony. I do not need to be saved, and am not looking to be saved, because as previously stated, I am.