6th Generation Mormon (both sides) — His mission changed his life forever
To begin with, I was raised as a 6th generation Mormon (on both sides) in Layton, Utah. All of my family members on both my mother and father’s sides were all Mormons. At family reunions there were surely dozens of people I had little or no recollection of, but I could be assured, they were all Mormons. Very nearly every friend I ever had growing up from the time I was four years old to the age of nineteen, were all Mormon. I was truly a product of the “Utah Mormon bubble.”
For one reason or another, I seemed to always be selected for church youth leadership positions, despite my internal objections. First deacon's quorum president, then teacher’s quorum president, and then I became the first assistant to the bishop when I was made a priest at sixteen.
My father was a returned missionary, and as far back as I can remember I had been told to prepare to serve a mission, and there was never a time that I can remember where I ever doubted that I would. I received my mission call on my 19th birthday, I was “called” to Rochester, NY for the next two years of my life. Even if I had not been so willing to go, staying home would have been out of the question; there was a large stigma attached to young men who would not serve a mission in Utahan Mormon culture, plus all of my friends were leaving on their missions, so there wasn’t much for me to stay home for. Little did I know my mission would change my life forever.
The first year or so of my mission left me very worn out and frustrated that people would not hear our message. I felt very lonely and depressed. I couldn’t stand confrontation, and we were faced with it continuously. But these confrontations, particularly with “born-again Christians,” really started me thinking. I could simply not wrap my head around the reasons why any Christian could look at my religion as “evil,” because in my way of thinking, the church was responsible only for compelling people to do good! How could such an organization possibly be evil?!?
When I had been on my mission for about a year, a Mormon Church member handed me an old article on the topic of the temple “second anointing” ordinance. You may not have ever heard of it, at the time I certainly had not; the church has all but discontinued the practice, but the article clearly showed Joseph Smith’s teaching that the second anointing was a requirement for exaltation. I felt very confused, almost betrayed that there was more temple ceremony I had not been told about, more requirements for exaltation. I wondered why I had never been told. Digging deeper and learning more about the history behind the temple ceremony I found out about its roots in freemasonry. I read a Mormon apologetic book about the temple-freemasonry connection, but it left me with far more questions than it answered. I really began questioning many aspects about Mormonism and about Joseph Smith.
The biggest issue I began to face while on my mission was the Mormon concept of God. I found it difficult to put my full faith in a being confined by space and time in a physical body; a body living who knows how many millions of light years away on some distant planet rotating around the star “Kolob.” I thought, “If he’s there…and I’m here… truly he cannot be a personal god! There was no way a being such as that could know the thoughts and struggles in my heart, one heart among billions of other humans.” The assertion that a mere man, glorified or not, created the earth and the stars and the vastness of the universe seemed to me to border the ridiculous. To put it simply, the Mormon god lacked majesty. He was not creator, but merely the created. If I were to believe in God, it would have to follow that God would have to be more majestic than His creation. He could not be bound by natural laws, space, or time as is the Mormon god is, He must be the originator of them. After a great deal of reflection about God, the temple, and other issues, I began to face a reality: if the Mormon concept of God is an impossibility, then the truthfulness of the church was an impossibility as well.
Unfortunately I held the position that if truth did not lie in Mormonism, then there simply was no truth. Because of my conclusions about the Mormon god, I turned to atheism instead, and I broke the news to my friends and family a few months after returning home from my “honorable mission” in 2001. I began my new life as an atheist, actively seeking after whatever indulgences the world had to offer.
Back to my mission story: the experiences of my mission did change my life, but none so much as meeting a certain Christian girl, Annette. I had never seen anyone so serious and dedicated in her faith. She really did seem to be “in love” with Jesus. This confused me, because up to this point I was certain that non-Mormons could not really have a genuine fervor for their faith (I was actually that naïve). I continued talking to her upon returning home from my mission, and went to visit her three months later. Eventually our relationship came to a dead end because of our incompatible faiths, and we discontinued talking for about a year. It was at this time I began seeking after the world.
After this period of non-communication, I contacted Annette again to tell her that I missed her and still had strong feelings for her. But because of the worldly person I had become, and because of fear of losing her again, I lied to her about my new worldly identity, and through time and careful omissions of the truth, convinced her that marriage to me would be a good idea. So I packed up and moved back to Rochester to be with her.
At the time I moved back to Rochester (January 2005), I began rekindling a belief in deity, and began attending a Baptist church with Annette. But, mostly out of fear, I was still toying with the possibility that the Mormon Church might actually be true after all. At this point I wasn’t sure if the Mormons or the Christians had it right, but I also didn’t really feel that it mattered, mostly because I didn’t truly understand how wide the divide really was. True to my pattern, I hid from her that I was secretly entertaining the belief that the Mormon Church might still be true.
Eventually the fake world I created began crumbling down around me, along with everything else. Living unequally yoked with a real Christian was unbearable. I just couldn’t fake it. My lies were exposed, and I deeply hurt my wife. Our marriage held on by threads; at times I desperately wanted to divorce, other times all I could think of was staying together. I was torn in equally in three different directions; I wanted a divorce and to go back to worldly living, but I also wanted to be a Christian and be married to Annette, but also wanted to be a Mormon! That sentence must sound so strange but that’s really how I felt. Clearly, one path had to be chosen. You can’t be those three things anymore than you can travel North, East, and West all at the same time. My indecision, combined with the tremendous tension rising in my marriage left me in ruins. I was contemplating suicide, fearing living the rest of my life never really knowing what truth was.
It was finally in this broken state that God could now work with me. It was July 2006, 3 a.m. I had just finished a screaming match with my wife; she was in the bedroom I was in the living room. I decided to pray, a prayer unlike any prayer I had ever prayed. I remember saying something like this, “Dear God, I have no idea what is true. I have no idea who you really are, I’ve heard so many different things; but I do know this: if I don’t find out, I will probably find a way to die. So I come to you now on your terms, with no preconceived notions of my own. Everything I’ve done without you thus far has left my life in devastation. Please show me the way, I will follow. Show me what you want me to do, I will do it. Please God, just show me who You are.” I then got online and began to search.
The Lord completely guided me that night. I had been so certain it would be a lifelong struggle to figure out if the Mormon Church was right or wrong, and after a life of searching I would still probably die never really knowing. But then, in one night, in the clearest and plainest of ways, God lead me to the knowledge I was so desperately seeking. He showed me how the Mormon Church was founded by a false prophet following a false god. Then God, through His word, taught me who He really was. I immediately fell to my knees thanking Him for opening my eyes. I prayed again, and admitted to Him that I was a sinner deserving hell, unable to save myself, and I plead with Him for forgiveness. I told Him I believed in the divinity, the death, the burial and the resurrection of His Son, and that I would then turn from my sin to Him, as the only way of salvation. I asked Him into my heart and asked Him to be the Lord of my life.
That moment I was given a new life in Jesus. That night God gave me the greatest gifts ever given, the gift of forgiveness from a holy God, and the assurance of my salvation. Nothing has or ever will give me more hope or more joy, or more peace than knowing I am forever and ever in God’s grace through His Son, and that nothing could ever change that. The experience of freedom I have been given from the bonds of the world and the bonds of Mormonism has been beyond words. Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Truer words have never been spoken.
My life since salvation stands as a witness to 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Jesus truly gave me new life when I was born again. My entire outlook on life and my priorities have all changed; I am now free to live for Him! Life has been infinitely more meaningful since coming to Jesus. God is blessing me with awesome opportunities to share the gospel with others, particularly to those still inside Mormonism (most especially my family). Relationships with them were very strained when they learned of my decision for Christ and I began witnessing to them, but I have seen great evidence of the Lord working in their hearts. I hope the Lord might continue to use me as a witness, and I continue to pray for their salvation. As for my marriage, the wounds I have inflicted have been powerfully destructive and painful, but the Lord has done an amazing work in restoring our relationship, and He continues that healing process in us day by day. Relationships are so dramatically improved when Jesus Christ becomes the foundation and center.
Certainly, I still face the storms of life as do the rest of us; but the knowledge that God will always be there to carry me through gives me the most unspeakable joy. I want everyone who ever may read this to know I will forever praise His name for the forgiveness He has given me; for releasing me from sin and from the bondage of Mormon theology.