Preston and I were both born and raised in Vernal, Utah. My great grandparents had settled in this valley. My great grandfather was the first bishop, built the first frame home and was a pillar of the community. All our family were Mormons, we knew nothing else, but we thought we had the truth, so we didn’t search for anything else. Preston’s great grandparents were both polygamists. Preston’s mother tells us stories of the terrible conditions that her grandmother (the 1st wife) and mother lived under. Preston’s grandmother tried to live as the church dictated, but she was a very bright woman and educated and she knew that something was wrong. She lived her life in the church bothered by the inconsistencies she saw.
When I was in high school my parents knew some people that went to the Assembly of God church. After they had built their church building they invited us to the dedication. I went with great interest for I’d never been to a different church before. What I saw amazed me. The music was loud and they sang with great enthusiasm clapping their hands to the beat. During the message the people responded with hearty ‘Amens’ and ‘Hallelujahs’ and ‘Praise the Lord’. It was quite a startling shock to me. We had always been taught that we were to be reverent and quiet, always folding our arms for prayer and singing only hymns with subdued respect to organ or piano accompaniment only. At home that night my sister and I laughed hysterically as we mimicked the service. The next day at school I couldn’t wait to tell my friends what a crazy church I had been to. We decided we all needed to go and visit the church to see how funny they were. The congregation probably had no idea of our purpose there that next week. Although we were snickering under our breath, we participated with feigned excitement and sang the songs copying their excitement. To this day I still remember a line of the song we sang that went: “then my Savior found me, washed away my sins, and I have found the sunshine of His life within.” That was the first seed planted. Although I had not gone to that church looking for God, a seed had been sown that would later produce fruit.
Out at college people were really getting serious and it seemed that seeing only one boy at a time was the only thing to do. I met a guy that lived across the street who was in his last year of school at BYU. He was nice enough, took me to fancy restaurants and gave me rides to school in his car. We often stayed out late at night and one of my roommates reported us to BYU standards. After we had both been called in and chastised by our bishops I began to feel the church was trying to exert too much control over a newly liberated teen!
My boyfriend and I were married that next spring. I agreed to get married because all of my friends were either married already or engaged. That fall we moved to Arizona. The Mormons there were quite different. As soon as we moved in they were at our door to help and offer us rides to all the different meetings. We quickly became heavily involved in our new ward and made many good friends. Our friends at church encouraged us to take the “Temple Classes” that would prepare us to go to the temple and have our new daughter ‘sealed’ to us. That meant that we would be a family together in heaven after we died. The temple classes in no way prepared us for what went on in the temple. When we went it was much different than anything I had even imagined. A sweet little lady show me to the locker room and gave me a cloth ‘shield’ and explained that I was to remove all my clothes and put on the cloth. I was in shock as two women ‘washed and anointed’ me but finally I was able to get clothes back on and proceed into the next part of the program. Since I had been taught both by the church and my family to do what I was told and not question I kept all thoughts to myself. We were not allowed to speak even to our spouse about temple rituals except in the temple so I kept it all to myself. We learned several ‘secret’ handshakes and their names. These would be asked to us by God ‘through the veil’ after we died and if we correctly answered we would be allowed to come in to heaven. We went back time after time doing this same work for people who had died and I learned all the handshakes and the names so that when I got to heaven I would be able to get in. The church teaches that you must be married in the temple AND live exemplary lives to be worthy to become gods and goddesses over our own worlds and have your family all be with you there. I knew that I would never make it, my life was not that good, and I hated the fact that I had gone through the temple and covenanted to wear the temple garments the rest of my life. I disliked wearing the garments, they were ugly and uncomfortable but now I had to wear them the rest of my life.
After 4 years of marriage, my husband asked for a divorce. I was shocked, devastated and humiliated. I was miles away from my family, with no close friends nearby. I turned to my bishop. He heard my sad tale and reassured me that everything would be okay for he would talk to my husband. Confident that things were taken care of I went home only to learn a few weeks later that my husband was NOT about to change his mind and still wanted out of the marriage. I called home and my Dad told me to get everything and come home so I did.
I was finally really on my own. I had to find a job and raise my daughter on my own. It was a struggle to get my life together. My goal was to get married again but the men I met were nearly all jerks or ones that I felt only a friendship with. As the years past I concluded that ALL men ESPECIALLY if they were good looking were so stuck on themselves that I wanted nothing to do with them. I had nearly resigned myself to life alone.
About this time my sister called and said Preston Stewart wanted to ask me out. He was one of the cutest guys I could remember from high school and I seriously contemplated turning him down if he called. However after a few weeks of getting to know him I decided that maybe he was really as nice as he seemed. As I began to see more and more of him I realized that he was truly nice, good, caring and quite wonderful! In a few months he asked me to marry him and I joyfully accepted.
My mother had terminal cancer at this time, so we felt an urgency to get married quickly. We had a small ceremony and a quick honeymoon then Preston returned to work and I went back to Salt Lake where I was taking classes for a new job. The next weekend I returned home to terrible news. My father who was an alcoholic had been found dead at his home where he had been living alone while my mother was in the hospital. Six weeks later my mother’s cancer killed her. It was a terribly sad time in my life and I was so grateful for Preston’s love and support.
Just over one year later we had another daughter and Preston adopted my first child. My life then became all I had hoped for. I felt like I had regained everything that I had lost with interest! Since I had been through the temple to have Megan sealed to me in my first marriage I wanted to have Preston go through with me so we could have both girls sealed to us. (Evidently I had forgotten my earlier conclusion that I had gone through the temple only to realize I would never make it to ‘godhood’!) Preston went to church with us but when I pressed him about going through the temple he was noncommittal.
The next summer we went to Salt Lake City and saw the “Days of 47” parade on July 24th a Utah state holiday. That was the day that Brigham Young had ridden into the Salt Lake Valley and declared “this is the place” that the Mormons were to settle. Joseph Smith had been killed by an angry mob and the Mormons had been driven out of Illinois and Missouri because of their strange beliefs. Brigham Young made the majority of them believe he was to be the next prophet and follow him to a new land God had in store for them. As we sat on the curb waiting for the parade to start a woman came by handing out tracts for us to read while we waited. She was a Christian and the tract she gave us was a tract that pointed out many of the errors of Mormonism. I blew it off, but Preston was intrigued and kept it to study later. His grandmother had always been bothered by so many things in the church and his parents, although Mormon, were also confused by several things. Later Preston got more information and soon he was deep in study with books and tapes. I couldn’t understand why he was so interested in all this information and wasn’t worried until he began to show me all the things he was discovering. I knew the Mormon church was true, and I wouldn’t believe that there was any evidence to prove otherwise. Later I became frightened because I thought that if the Mormon church was not true that there was no truth. One day when he tried to show me some more information I was so distressed that I told him I didn’t want to read any more of his books or hear any more of his tapes. He calmly replied that would be fine but he would no longer be going to church with me any more. Having had one failed marriage I determined I would do whatever it took to keep peace and have a happy family. Although I agreed to continue to listen I knew that NOTHING would ever convince me that the Mormon church was not the only true church and Preston kept reminding me, ‘If the Mormon church IS true what do you have to worry about?” In desperation probably, Preston arraigned for me to meet with a couple of women and his mother and sister. I was more than reluctant to go because his family had been talking recently of the silly things that Joseph Smith or Brigham Young had said or done. Although I never said anything to them it made me very angry. But once again to keep peace I agreed and went to the meeting. I anticipated another evening of enduring listening to disparaging remarks but what happened was totally different. The women were very cordial and simply shared with me why they had made the decision they had. These two women had both been very high in the Mormon church and both had gone through the temple numerous times. Many of the things they talked about were things that happened in the temple ceremonies. When these women spoke, I knew that they spoke that truth, for I had been through those same ceremonies numerous times myself. As they pointed out various things that were said or portrayed in the temple ceremonies, I realized with horror that the things Preston had been showing me were true. The scales dropped from my eyes and the truth was revealed. The Mormon church was not true and I had been betrayed my whole life. The Mormons taught a different God, a different gospel and trusted a different Jesus who could not save anyone. The real Jesus died on the cross for all of our sins and we could not be saved by any of our works. As I left that night I could not wait to get home and take off those horrible temple garments that had upon them Satan’s marks. The next day I wept, but they were tears of joy because I had found the truth and had indeed been set free from bondage.
I was so excited to share what I had found with my family, and I was certain that they would be thrilled to hear. How wrong I was. I was so zealous trying to convert EVERYONE I came on much too strong and they were as horrified as I had been when Preston had shown me. However I was so anxious that they learn the truth that I kept pressing the issue and they soon refused to speak to me about any topic concerning religion. To this day I can only pray for them that someday they too might experience the joy and peace a new birth in Jesus Christ can give.
For several years I was angry with the Mormon church because they had deceived me. Even though I knew most Mormons were as deceived as I, I was angry with them all. It took me years to let Christ wash away that bitterness and fill me with His love for them.
We have been to several Christian churches. At first we thought they all believed the same and we were all one big happy family. When we discovered the different positions each one held we were confused. After many years, we have finally learned that there are only a few issues that we need to be dogmatic about. With the other issues we have realized that they were not relevant enough to make a difference in the gospel that Jesus brought us. No matter how knowledgeable we are or how much faith we have or how much we might give to others if we do not have the love of Christ we are nothing nor will we have His Peace and Joy.
Our prayer is that we may all have love for each other and love for those we meet for if we have love we show we are Christ’s disciples.