How the “Other Woman” Led Me to Christ
A Relief Society President’s Journey Out of Mormonism
I grew up as an only child until age ten, raised by my mother, aunt, and maternal grandparents. As such, I was precocious, spoiled, and spiritually inclined. My mother had me baptized in a Methodist Church when I was four, but we only attended for a couple of months. Without formal religious training or example from my family, I was left to my own devices on how to find spiritual truth.
Intrinsically, I knew there was a God and that He was All-Powerful. I believed He could do anything. When a beloved pet would die, be it a turtle, lizard, parakeet, chicken, or duck, I would run to my room, drop to my knees, and pray to God that He would keep them safe and let me see them again in Heaven. Only twice did I briefly worry that there was no God; the first time was at age eight when my mother confessed that Santa Claus was a hoax; and the second time at age thirty-nine after realizing that the Mormon Church was a hoax.
As I grew, so did my sensitivity to the unseen world — the spiritual dimension. I could almost read my aunt’s mind; describing in detail dreams she had, places she had been, things she had done. Once when I was eight I had prayed or performed some ritual that a favorite stuffed toy would come to life on a certain day and when the appointed day came, the plush animal leapt off the hassock onto my lap!
At age ten I was introduced to a Ouiji Board, at age eleven occult games such as “Light as a Feather,” and “Bloody Mary,” age twelve, palmistry and fortune telling, and at age thirteen astrology. I was looking for answers. Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me to look in “The Good Book!” God was a little scary to me. My mother had bought me a book of Bible stories with pencil-sketched drawings in it. The drawing of the Flood showed terrified naked people crawling over each other to escape the rising waters. One story told about a sick boy in the hospital who saw Jesus by his bedside before dying. The couple of times I had been to a Catholic Church as a wedding guest, I saw the figure of a bruised, broken, and bloody Jesus hanging on a cross. Frankly, as a child with no formal religious background, those pictures and stories were frightening to me.
Even though it was the status quo in my family to drink beer, use expletives to make a point, smoke, and be taught that pre-marital sex was okay as long as you loved the person, I felt no desire to do those things. Consequently, I felt different from family and friends alike and sensed that I didn’t quite fit in. Those feelings were even more pronounced after my mother re-married when I was nine.
I was fairly sheltered before my teenage years and only became aware of the Vietnam War when I entered junior high school in 1972. Bumper stickers were as abundant as hip-huggers and bell-bottoms. Almost every locker had one plastered to the front reading “Bring Home our P.O.W.’S” or “God Bless the M.I.A.s.” About that time one of my good friends began asking me to attend the Mormon Church with her. Every Wednesday Liz would invite me to a mysterious meeting called “M.I.A.” I asked her what the acronym stood for and she didn’t know. The only thing I knew was that M.I.A. meant Missing In Action! I wasn’t about to go to some strange church meeting and never return home!
Eventually though, common sense won out, and when Liz invited me to a square dance at her church my love for dancing prompted me to accept the invitation. It was incredible! It felt like I was coming home! The people were warm and friendly; the kids my age were accepting and not driven by worldly mores. Here were people – LOTS of them – who were just like me! I felt like I fit in for the first time in my life.
That night when I got home I excitedly told my mother that I wanted to get baptized. She advised me to wait until I knew more about the church. Disappointed, I answered that all I wanted for my fourteenth birthday was to be baptized a Mormon. I jumped into full activity with my whole heart and soul, becoming the darling of the Canoga Park Second Ward. During the following four months I asked every adult in the ward who would listen, all about the “gospel.” By the time my birthday approached I was just a “dry Mormon.” The bishop informed me I was required to take the formal missionary discussions. The Stake changed their whole baptism schedule so that I could be baptized on my birthday. It meant a lot to me to be “spiritually re-born” on the day I celebrated my physical birth.
While the missionaries, Elder Peterson and Elder Backsendale, taught me the basics of LDS doctrine, I kept plying them with meatier questions; “When is the Second Coming?” “How can I get my ‘Calling in Election?’” “What is the ‘white stone’ we’re given in the next life?” Much to my dismay they insisted on sticking to the official lessons stating that they really weren’t supposed to be teaching me the mysteries.
In retrospect I think it is interesting that I accepted all the false doctrines in the discussions and found it difficult to accept the one true doctrine; that Jesus Christ created the world!
On the morning of my fourteenth birthday after months of abstaining from reading my daily horoscope, I turned to the astrology section of our local newspaper out of curiosity. The fortune ominously warned against making a major change in religion at that time! I almost called off the baptism, but my mother had already prepared a buffet-style supper and invitations had been issued for an open house. I decided that the devil was trying to scare me out of joining the church.
My baptism was held on a sunny Saturday afternoon with about 40 people in attendance. There were nine of us getting baptized, four “children of record” and five converts. When the group began to sing “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning,” the air became electrified to me. It sounded like angels had joined in the chorus to celebrate the occasion.
As a True Blue Latter-day Saint I began to have longings to join the bulk of church membership in Zion, Happy Valley Utah, also known as the Wasatch Front and specifically Provo. Provo . . . the name was music to my ears. I remember a young man in my California ward being called to serve a mission in Provo, Utah. The whole congregation burst out laughing when the call was read over the pulpit; it took almost ten minutes for the bishop to get everyone under control. We all “knew” that the only people living in Utah were Saints! Who was this poor boy going proselyte? Farm animals?
My dreams of Utah, meeting Donny Osmond, and living happily ever after were about to come to fruition. Or so I thought. In August of 1975 my grandparents and parents put their houses up for sale and by the end of September we were all living in Zion! I soon found out that there was a big difference between “Utah Mormons” and “Mission-Field Mormons” when I began attending Provo High School and the difference was not a positive one.
My ward was great though. Of course, my perceptions may have been colored by the fact that I attended the same ward as the Osmond family. Every Sunday was a thrill, especially sitting as close to the front as possible hoping to catch the eye of Donny as he sat at the Sacrament table. Once in a while I would be rewarded by his captivating smile.
Soon though, as Donny was often on tour and the opportunity for him to fall in love with me didn’t arise, I met the returned missionary (eight years my senior) who would later become my husband. Having ambitions to become a rich and famous recording artists we moved to Las Vegas two years later, where Scott and I married when I turned nineteen.
We strove diligently the first year we were married to prepare for getting “sealed” in the temple. I already had been forewarned that the endowment session was somewhat unusual and that some people felt uncomfortable the first time through, so I felt like I could handle it. I kept praying that neither one of us would die before we got to the temple, lest we spend an eternity apart from each other.
The much-anticipated time arrived. I took out my endowments in the Salt Lake Temple so that I could see a “live” session and the next day we were “sealed” for eternity in the Provo Temple. I didn’t like the blood oaths and wondered why we needed to learn signs and tokens to pass by the angels. Did that mean that if an outsider found out what these signs and tokens were that he could sneak into heaven? Would an Omniscient God really need these signs and our “new name” in order to recognize us? What if during the End Times someone tried to torture us into revealing the secrets of the temple? The thought certainly carried an element of fear with it!
Over the following 20 years of our marriage, Scott and I were fully immersed in church service, sometimes holding up to five callings at a time. It was a challenge, but we were glad to serve and felt honored and humbled that the Lord found us worthy to contribute in various capacities. Besides regular temple attendance (traveling two hours each way until a temple was built locally), I served in the children’s Primary for over seven years, was involved in the Cub-Scouting program, sang in the choir and a local LDS community choir, sang special numbers for Sacrament Meetings, assisted in the library, taught in Relief Society for six years and my last year in the church I served as Relief Society President.
My husband played the organ or piano for meetings, led the choir, was a ward financial clerk, taught in the Primary, was a counselor in the Elder’s Quorum Presidency, and taught in the High Priest group.
Our experience as members of the church was very positive and we enjoyed the fellowship we had with other members. We took church membership and the gospel seriously, raising our children to walk uprightly before the Lord. I had six children by the time I was a twenty-nine and nine children by age thirty-eight. We had decided when we got married that we would not limit the size of our family for personal or selfish reasons and that as long as my health was good, we would welcome all the “spirit children” of our Heavenly Father that He wanted to send to our home. At times Scott worked two jobs so that I could be a full-time mother as the prophets taught that good Latter-day Saint women should be.
To Scott’s credit he was not an authoritarian type and never exercised “unrighteous priesthood dominion.” Whatever I wanted to do he would encourage and support me in those decisions, even getting my G.E.D. (high school equivalency diploma) and a two-year college degree while pregnant with our fourth child. The times when he didn’t approve of something I wanted to do, he would state his concerns and leave the decision up to me. Unfortunately for a few of my friends, their husbands were not as lenient and were physically and verbally abusive in the name of “priesthood authority.”
The closest I ever got to a “burning in the bosom” was when leaning over a hot stove. Although disappointed, I always figured my gift was to believe on the testimony of others and I did so wholeheartedly. I frequently bore my testimony in “Fast Meetings” and in private to my children. After the first few years of marriage however, I noticed that Scott rarely got up to bear his testimony in church. He started a job where the only radio station with good reception at night was a Christian station. Everyday Walter Martin, in his role as the “Bible Answer Man,” would come on. Often his program would revolve around the Mormon Church. From what Scott told me several times a week, Dr. Martin would spew all kinds of vitriolic blasphemy from his mouth about the LDS church, The LORD’S Church. I couldn’t stand the guy – this misinformed heathen. “Just wait till he gets to the other side,” I would tell Scott, “boy, will he be embarrassed when he finds out he was wrong all these years and that he won’t be going to the Celestial Kingdom!”
One day while Scott was on a “pokey-stick” walk (that’s “dumpster-diving” for you uninitiated folk); he found the book entitled, “By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus” by Charles M. Larsen. Scott began reading the book and reported to me what he was discovering. I was really shaken up by the information and even shed a few tears over it. Could it be possible that the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price was a fraud? How could Joseph Smith have gotten things so wrong? What if he wasn’t really a prophet? That would mean that the church is not true! The concept was too hard to deal with. I told Scott that I didn’t know how to explain Joseph’s botching up the Book of Abraham, but deep inside I knew the church was true and just had to press on in faith. There must be a logical reason for it or maybe it was a test of our faith.
Over the years it grated on me that Scott wouldn’t get up in church to bear his testimony. He also never really talked about his mission. His mission was a real eye-opener for him. There were lots of politics and brown-nosing in his particular mission and it disillusioned him greatly. I wanted our sons to go on missions and felt that they needed their father’s example and encouragement. How can I help them develop strong testimonies when their own father would not express his own? Scott finally admitted that he didn’t have a sure testimony. He HOPED the church was true, he WANTED it to be true, he BELIEVED it was probably true, but he said he would feel like a hypocrite getting up in front of all those people to testify that he KNEW it was true. He confessed that it kind of irritated him that the LDS always use the word “know” when there is no way anyone can really know without being an eyewitness.
I had always been diligent to follow the prophet’s counsel to prepare for the End Times, often sacrificing comfort and extravagance to make sure we had food storage. As it got closer to the year 2000 (and a possible Y2K computer disaster) and I was doing all I could to finish getting our year supply of food and emergency items, I became increasingly interested in prophecies regarding the Last Days, and even dreams and visions that people were having. I had an LDS woman’s story about her dreams of a devastating earthquake that would put Utah and Salt Lake Valleys into economic and physical chaos. She wrote about her deceased sister coming to her in a vision to warn her of these things. What disturbed me about her story was that she said the leaders of the church would call in everyone’s food storage and then turn it over to the United Nations. Of course I didn’t believe that part and was amazed that someone could be so deceived. I began to pray quite often that I would not be led astray. A scripture in Matthew foretells that in the End Times many would be deceived and I did not want to be one of them; I wanted to hold fast to the faith until the Second Coming of Christ.
In November of 1999 I was called to be the Relief Society President. I knew it six weeks before the Bishop asked. It was the oddest thing. Our Relief Society President had passed away, and as I was sitting at the luncheon after the funeral, I got the distinct impression that I would be the next president. I tried to avoid the bishop from that point on! What in the world could the bishop be thinking? Or the Lord for that matter! I was not Relief Society President material – we were in the lower economic class, had nine children at the time, home schooled, wore the same clothes to church every week, didn’t have little cutesy crafts all over the house, nor did I shop at Deseret Industries! However, I was diligent about putting family first and lived by the “K.I.S.S. Principle,” Keep It Simple Sister, which later became our motto as a Relief Society presidency.
Being called to a leadership position was a serious matter not to be taken lightly or unworthily. Even though being a member of the church had been a good experience overall, I somehow always felt like I did not measure up. I often doubted my standing before the Lord. Was I doing enough? Could I be trying harder? Would I really make it to the Celestial Kingdom? What about the times I raised my voice at the kids or didn’t feel like going to church (even though I went anyway)? What about drinking caffeinated sodas while driving on long trips? Would it count against me? Was I really “valiant in the testimony of Jesus” or would I only go to the Terrestrial Kingdom? Did Heavenly Father really want someone like me as a leader over the sisters in the ward?
Furthermore, I was discouraged and mad at the Lord for slowly killing my son’s fish. It was autumn of 1999 and my 11-year-old son had worked hard all summer for the neighborhood ice cream man to buy an expensive, but ugly (actually it was butt ugly!) fish – an Oscar.
He had the fish for about two weeks when we decided to go to the park as a family. We were gone for a couple of hours and when we came home our son declared that the fish was gone! A diligent fish-hunt ensued and the Oscar was found floundering on the windowsill. The poor fish had taken a swimming leap to capture its gold fish dinner and with no lid to stop him, kept sailing right out of the tank. Amazingly, it was still alive, though barely.
I knew my son was heart-broken as he came to me asking what he should do. I recommended putting it back into the tank to see if it would revive. The Oscar sunk to the bottom and lay there, its great sides heaving with every “breath.” I wanted to tell him to pray for the life of his fish, but I was afraid that if Heavenly Father let it die, it would shake my boy’s faith in prayer and in the Lord.
Privately I shut the door to my room, kneeled at my bedside and wept before the Lord in behalf of the Oscar. “Please,” I prayed, “please heal the fish miraculously so that my son’s faith in Thee will be strengthened, but if not, then please make it die quickly so it doesn’t have to suffer.” I checked on my son and his fish. Curran had propped the Oscar up against the plastic undulating pirate ship that gave the aquarium a nice, homey feel for its residents. It seemed to be recuperating.
The next day brought no change in the Oscar’s condition. As a matter of fact, there was no change at all in the ensuing days other than the wretched creature would sometimes flop over and have to be propped back up. Daily I prayed for that fish, anticipating the great miracle Heavenly Father was going to perform. It would be a defining moment in our lives, something Curran would look back on when he when he was a General Authority giving a talk in General Conference;
“Yes, brothers and sisters,” he would testify at the grand pulpit, “I knew there was a God in Heaven the day He healed my fish. That was the moment I determined to serve the Lord for the rest of my life. That was the moment I gained a testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints…blah, blah, blah.” And I would beam proudly from the front row, nudging the Saint sitting next to me, “That’s my boy up there! The Miracle of the Fish happened over 30 years ago and now see what he’s become! Yes, that’s my boy!”
Secretly I harbored the thought, “If the fish revives, then I will absolutely KNOW that the church is true.” Sadly, the fish lingered in that netherland between life and death for almost two weeks. I became depressed. What kind of pleasure did God take in the suffering of this fish? Didn’t He love us enough? I’d heard of other miracles; pet dogs squashed by Monster Trucks, miraculously regenerated after being prayed over by a child. Were we so unworthy as to not merit this one favor? Was my child’s testimony not as important as the one whose dog was re-inflated and reanimated?
Finally the day came that we either had to bury, flush, or barbeque the Oscar. We buried it. I was still mad at the Lord. It was about this time that I was called to be the Relief Society President. I was eagerly awaiting a call from the Oprah Winfrey Show, telling me that I was one of the chosen few who would be getting a “Millennial Make-Over.” I’d already sent pictures and the days were crawling by. The phone rang as I was heading out the door for a class. I wouldn’t have answered it at all had it not been for my hope of quasi-stardom. It was the bishop.
“Sister C.,” he greeted, “do you know what the Relief Society Emblem is?” I’d been teaching the lessons for 6 years, but I really hadn’t the foggiest notion. “Two stalks of wheat,” he answered. He then asked if I knew what the RS flower was. I didn’t know there was a RS flower. He asked if I knew the Relief Society colors. Boy, was I batting a thousand! I was sure he thought I must be a complete dunderhead. I took a wild guess, reasoning that the Cub Scout colors were blue and gold, so maybe there was a connection. I got the answer right. His next question was regarding the motto of the Relief Society. I didn’t know it, but I supposed it had something to do with charity and said as much. He replied, “Yes. Charity never faileth.”
“Really,” I said, afraid of where this conversation was heading, “Well, I’ve learned something today.” The bishop then asked me about my philosophy on home schooling, probably trying to ascertain whether I was a zealot, and what I thought about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. He asked about my family. I was getting antsy to get to my class as it was the last one for the semester and the teacher was bringing Krispy Crème doughnuts. I told the bishop that I hated to cut short this scintillating conversation, but I was going to be late.
Driving to class I sat a little straighter, walked a little taller, and began to feel a little “presidential.” If people were going to begin looking to me as a leader, I had better start acting leaderly. It was hard to look “leaderly” though in holey jeans, a toddler-stained tee shirt, and my uncombed hair in a ponytail. How embarrassing.
The next day I checked Oprah’s website and saw that they already had the guests lined up for the makeover show. I was really disappointed, but took it as a sign that I would not be called as the next Relief Society president. If my greatest dream wasn’t going to come true, I reasoned, then neither would my worst nightmare. Besides, if I wasn’t good enough to be on Oprah, then what made me think I could be a leader? It was depressing.
Three days later the bishop called from out-of-state where he was vacationing with his family. He asked if I would serve in the capacity of Relief Society president. Of course I accepted; that’s what good church members are supposed to do. The bishop later confessed that he had reservations, but that the Lord made clear to him that if he did not call me to be the next president he would be under condemnation.
I truly felt like a fish out of water! My only hope was that God would not let me flounder like the Oscar. I chose two counselors who were almost as unorthodox as I was. We all home schooled, we all felt like the Second Coming was near, and we all felt that the sisters needed more focus in their lives on the simple things. We often joked among ourselves that we must have been the most dysfunctional presidency that the ward had ever had!
A few months later, in February of 2000, I again attempted to get on the Oprah Winfrey Show. The theme was changing your frumpy clothing wardrobe into something more stylish. Well, I could do frumpy — that was right up my alley. I had my daughter video tape me sing “Frumpy Clothes Blues,” changing the words to the old standard “Ballin’ the Jack.” It was just hokey enough that two days after sending the tape by overnight mail someone on Oprah’s staff called me and asked how I would like to visit Chicago! It was quite an experience.
Well the Lord works in mysterious ways. The evening that the show aired (February 11) I got a phone call from an unusual and unforgettable friend. This friend had once been my mortal enemy — the “other woman” in a love triangle when we were both dating the man I ended up marrying, 20 years before! Becky had lost track of us over the years. On the day that the Oprah Show aired, she came home early, turned on the TV and hit the VCR record button — something that she usually didn’t do. She hardly ever watched television! In that exact moment I came out onto the stage. Becky took a double take. The guest wardrobe designer mentioned my first name, number of children, and the city I lived in. Becky looked me up and called.
We had a pleasant conversation, although I was shocked to learn that Becky had left the church. She was a several generation LDS and as True Blue as they came; never an R-rated movie or a cola. I thought, “The Lord has arranged this so I can bring her back into the church.” She explained that she had been reading the Bible and was led out of the church. I made a commitment to read the Bible myself to see what was in there that would lead her astray.
Over the following months we kept up a correspondence and Becky would always tell me about what the Lord was doing in her life. She kept expressing that she had never felt as close to the Savior as she did then and that truly the “truth had set her free.” It certainly puzzled me as to why Heavenly Father would lead her out of His “true church.” Not only that, but apostates were supposed to lose the Spirit completely and become dark, bitter, empty individuals. Instead, quite the opposite had happened; she was calm, peaceful, and had an assurance about her standing with God. I kept looking for a chink in her new armor, evidence that she was being led astray by the devil, but could find none.
As the summer wore on I began to pray to know the truth. Not that I doubted the Church — I just wanted know how it could be that Becky and many other good people everywhere could have a close relationship with the Lord outside of the church, especially as “apostates!” Could it be that there was more than one way to the Celestial Kingdom?
On one of our evening walks my husband posed an intriguing question; what if the truth was that the church was not true? After pondering for a moment I responded that I would not want to know. If the church wasn’t true, then what was? The very foundation of the world as we knew it — our lifestyle, belief system, and way of thinking — would crumble. The mere thought of it was frightening to me!
In August I attended BYU’s Education Week. It was inspirational as always. While in Provo I arranged to meet with the woman who had visions concerning the End Times and claimed to have had a visitation from the spirit of her deceased sister. I wanted to see what kind of person she was. If she and Becky and others could be deceived, then it was possible that I was also at risk.
After an intense five-hour discussion I ascertained that she was indeed sincere and did not appear to be a charlatan. That was when I decided that I had to know the truth at all costs. I prayed that Heavenly Father would reveal the truth to me. I told him that if the church was true I had to know beyond any shadow of doubt so that I could continue to press forward in faith in preparation for the Second Coming, and if it wasnot true, then I needed to know that too so that I could be on the correct side when Jesus came again. When I prayed I wouldn’t be deceived I, never considered the possibility that I already had been deceived by the LDS church!
Well, God took me at my word and a few weeks later prompted me to ask my sister-in-law about a paper she had mentioned in the past that if it were true, she said, was the scariest thing she had ever read. She said she was reluctant to send it to me because she did not want to be responsible for “shaking my testimony.” She would only tell me was that it was about the temple ceremony. I assured her that I had my free agency and that I absolved her from all blame. If what was written was true, I needed to know! If it were not true, then the Lord would give me discernment.
A few days before October General Conference, the long-anticipated “paper” arrived. It was about seven or eight pages long written by a man in Southern Utah who quoted early church leader David Whitmer saying that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet. It also made references to the temple ceremony being copied from Masonic Temple rites. That information was interesting, but for the most part I dismissed it as the exaggerated ranting of a very deceived individual. What did grab my attention though, were some alleged quotes by Brigham Young concerning blood atonement.
According to this paper Brigham said, “Suppose you found your brother in bed with your wife, and put a javelin through both of them, you would be justified and they would atone for their sins, and be received into the kingdom of God. I would at once do so in such a case; and under such circumstances, I have no wife whom I love so well that I would not put a javelin through her heart, and I would do it with clean hands…” Young goes on to say that “the blood of Christ will never wipe that out [adultery], your own blood must atone for it…” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 247). I was absolutely incredulous. This obviously had to be misquoted or taken out of context.
Right away I began calling people in my ward to see who had the Journal of Discourses in their personal library. I had tried using Gospel Link but it did not contain the full text. As soon as the books were found I jumped into my van and headed for a member’s home. I had written down some references and began a mad search through several volumes. To my amazement and shock I found that the quotes were genuine and not taken out of context. I looked up other topics as well; Adam-God, blacks and the priesthood, polygamy. I got quite a belly full of outrageous doctrines before leaving. Brother B___ asked me before I left if I found what I was looking for. I replied that I had and a whole lot more. He looked at me quizzically and I brought up the Adam-God doctrine, to which he replied that President Young had only speculated on it and brought it up as his opinion once or twice. After researching further, I learned that he taught it as a revelation for over twenty-five years!
I came home quite shaken. What President Young taught was not the gospel as I knew it. What about the woman taken in adultery who Jesus forgave and comforted, “Neither do I condemn thee, go your way and sin no more?” He did not say, “Okay, folks, go ahead and stone her! There seems to be a shortage of javelins here and I cannot atone for her sin.”
I called my friend, Becky, and asked her the web address that she had recommended months before to have my questions answered; a web address that I blew off because I already “had the truth.” Along with the Internet I checked out some books from the library, Mormon America by Richard Ostling, In Sacred Loneliness by Todd Compton (LDS author and researcher), and Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power by Michael D. Quinn (Former BYU History Professor, now an Independent Scholar). My husband and I read voraciously for weeks checking every reference we could with church records and histories to verify the many deceptions, contradictions, and inconsistencies. All the while I prayed fervently that God would guide me and not let me be led astray; I only wanted to know the truth. I emailed several Ex-Mormon websites asking for answers to my questions. I sent away for pamphlets. I visited with Institute teachers and relatives active in the church whose opinions I respected.
When I read for myself the almost word for word similarities between the temple endowment oaths and the oaths taken in Masonic rites and Satanic rituals, I removed my temple garments. I figured that if I was wrong that the Lord would forgive me as my intentions were pure, but if I was right, perhaps the garments were actually shielding me from receiving the truth.
The final straw was when I learned that Joseph Smith had married several women who were already married to men still living. Incredibly, he had also threatened teenage girls with eternal damnation for them and their families if they refused to become his plural wives and exaltation for them and their families if they consented. I decided that if that bit of history could indeed be verified, then I would know that Joseph Smith was not true prophet of God. It was verified through the church’s own records.
The foundation of Mormonism quickly unraveled from there. I learned that half the time Joseph Smith did not even have the gold plates in his view while “translating” them. Instead he had a “peep stone” in his hat, which he claimed gave him revelations – not the Urim and Thummim allegedly found with the plates, but a stone he had dug up in his neighbor’s well! Because of my knowledge of the occult, I recognized the practices of “channeling” and “automatic writing” and knew they were of a demonic nature.
I began a concentrated study of the Bible in earnest, reading commentaries, listening to study tapes, learning the background of the individual books of the Bible and the Hebrew culture of those days. There were many Bible verses that had been taken completely out of context by the LDS Church. The Lord was removing the scales from my eyes and peeling back the layers of years worth of indoctrination in false teachings.
This was probably the most difficult period of my life. There was so much at stake! Whatever decision I made would affect generations. If I left the church and was wrong, I would be responsible for the spiritual demise of most of my posterity. I couldn’t take the chance of being wrong in either direction. Whether I stayed in the church or left the church I had to know for sure that it was God’s will and that I was not being deceived.
Day and night these spiritual matters weighed upon my mind. There was scarcely a moment that I was not thinking about it, discussing it, studying, praying, and even dreaming about it at night! I was scared over the implications of my quest, yet underneath I felt a peaceful assurance that this path – wherever it ended – was God’s will. Oh how I wanted the church to be true! “Please, please let the church be true,” my breaking heart cried out, “nevertheless, not my will be done, but thine oh Lord. Just lead me to the truth and I will follow it.”
There were so many questions to be answered and finding the answer to one of them seemed to spawn a dozen more. I had new friends (oh, how I thank God for their patience and long-suffering) from the Internet – some who had not yet met me – who I emailed daily asking questions, demanding proof, rehashing subjects already covered. They made me a part of their daily prayers, pleading with the Lord to remove the scales of spiritual blindness from my eyes and give me new sight.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, visiting family would be a good excuse to travel to Salt Lake City for further investigation. Scott and I were up until two or three a.m. discussing the issues with relatives. Although I had tried to hide my doubts from our children, just in case I was wrong, they noticed I was no longer wearing my temple garments and were quite concerned. It was an emotionally tumultuous week. We were being told by extended family members that we just needed more faith and to rely on the good feelings we had about the church prior to all of this. One of Scott’s brothers went so far as to tell him that his doubts were arising from unworthiness and if he would just repent he would know that the Church was true. Scott replied that his worthiness had no bearing on whether or not Joseph Smith practiced polyandry or repeatedly lied to Emma about his plural marriages. Scott asked his sister-in-law what it would take for her to leave the church if it could be proven that these things were historically accurate. She admitted that she didn’t know. Some people seem to think that if you only believe in something hard enough, it will become true.
I set up an appointment to meet with Dennis and Rauni Higley of H.I.S. Ministries, an outreach for Mormons questioning and/or leaving the church. They had been devoted Mormons until Rauni discovered that the church’s doctrines and histories had been revised many times over the last century. She had full access to church archives through her work of 14 years as a translator for the LDS Church. Scott and I were at their home for over seven hours bombarding them with questions, looking up the facts in the many church publications that filled their bookshelves. It was truly a “spiritual warfare” that left them exhausted. The thin veneer of Mormonism split open as I saw for myself that it was not “God’s Restored Church” as it claimed to be.
I was devastated and jubilant at the same time; relieved that the search for the truth about Mormonism was over, yet saddened by the realization that I had been worshiping a God who did not exist – a glorified man who had worked his way to godhood and whose wife birthed my spirit. Who was I? Did I have a purpose? Who was this new God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that I knew nothing about? Did He love me? Did anything really matter anymore? If the LDS Church wasn’t true, then what was? I had to go back to square one; I knew there was a God; the absolute miracle and intricacies of life on earth could not have come about by mere happenstance. I also knew that God sent His Son that we might have eternal life; the historical, archaeological, prophetical, and spiritual evidence was overwhelming. On the hour-long drive back to my brother-in-law’s house I gave my heart and life to the Jesus Christ of the Bible, crying and singing praises to His name. It was going to be bittersweet journey, but I looked forward to getting to know my Savior.
The following day my nephew set up an interview for us with his Institute Director who had once worked in the Church Historical Department. We asked him if we could record the conversation so we could later reflect on his words. He told us he would rather not be recorded because of whom he worked for. We brought up some of the major issues. The following was just the tip of the ice berg that sank the “LDS TITANIC“:
* Why was it okay for Joseph Smith to marry and have sexual relations with other men’s wives?
* Why did the church send out a survey to a small percentage of recommend holders before changing the temple endowment in 1990? Did the Lord really need an opinion poll taken before issuing a revelation to the prophet?
* Why was there no hard archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon? If two great civilizations with hundreds of thousands of people came to their end at the Hill Cumorah, why have no bones or weapons been found?
* If Joseph Smith was a true prophet, why did 53 of his specific prophecies not come true?
* If Joseph was prophet, seer, and revelator, how could he have gotten the Book of Abraham so wrong? He claimed it was written by Abraham’s own hand, and contains the revelation which the church now has in the “Pearl of Great Price.” Modern scholars and Egyptologists have discovered that the papyrus is nothing more than a pagan funerary document on preparing dead bodies for the afterlife.
* Why did Brigham Young say by way of revelation that black men were never to hold the priesthood until after the Millennium and Spencer W. Kimball gave them the priesthood in 1978? Did God change His mind (again?) Did Joseph not know this was a decree of heaven when he ordained a black man to the priesthood?
* Why did Joseph partially “translate” the metal plates found in Kinderhook, Illinois proclaiming them to be the ancient writings of a Lamanite when in actuality the plates were a hoax, made and buried locally by men seeking to expose Joseph Smith as a fraud?
These were just a few of questions we had for the Institute Director. He conceded that those things really happened, but that it did not matter to him. God allowed it all to happen, probably to test our faith. Then, in the same pattern of every other active Mormon we spoke with, he proceeded to attack the Bible. We said, “Whether the Bible is translated correctly or not is not relevant to the issues we brought up.” Our nephew had come with us, and left smiling – his testimony strengthened by the blind faith of his mentor. I left more convinced than ever that it was more important to be loyal to the truth than to be loyal to an organization.
This intense process of searching for and discovering truth took place over a period of about seven weeks. I could hardly stand to continue attending church. I was supposed to teach a Relief Society lesson in November and decided to go out with a bang. I could not leave the church until I had an opportunity to teach truth. The lesson I gave was “Beware of False Prophets.” I gave the lesson in such a way that those who had ears to hear would hear and those who did not would not be offended. The bishop already had an idea I was leaving the church because my counselors had told him I was acting strange. When the first counselor in the bishopric came in and sat in the back, I knew the bishop had figured it out. I decided to soft-pedal the points because I did not want to be excommunicated and lose my credibility with church members. They generally don’t listen to or associate with “apostates.” When I left I wanted everyone to know I was a member in good standing and that I requested that my name be removed from church records. The lesson went over well with the women (it didn’t go over so well with the First Counselor; I cracked some of my best jokes and he didn’t even crack a smile!), but I don’t think anyone had “ears to hear.” Perhaps some seeds were planted.
That afternoon I told the bishop I needed to be released as Relief Society President because I found out that the church is not true as it claims. By the end of November I turned in my resignation letter to officially terminate my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Then began my quest for a new church home, one whose teachings were strictly biblical, which I found in December of 2000 after much prayer and visiting a variety of Christian churches. I was baptized unto the Lord, the Jesus Christ of the Bible, in February of 2001. Over the ensuing months I have come to understand the true gospel of Jesus Christ as set forth in His Holy Word. I have learned that Satan leads people down many paths that all end in spiritual destruction. Probably his most insidious trap is to lead sincere people who love goodness to the worshiping of false gods. He gets close enough to the truth that it is difficult to recognize it as counterfeit Christianity.
To those of you who are questioning, have courage! There is life after Mormonism! It is not easy to lose friends, your standing with your LDS peers, and the respect of those you love, however, the pain is but a small moment and is soon swallowed up in the joy of a personal relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth. I know my standing before God. Nothing in my experience as a Mormon compares to the incredible peace and joy I have now. Jesus Christ lives!
“…if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.’” (Romans 10:9-11)