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"Born under the covenant" in Utah, She Was Troubled to Discover How LDS Leaders Have Covered Up Embarrassing Parts of Mormon History

"Born under the covenant" in Utah, She Was Troubled to Discover How LDS Leaders Have Covered Up Embarrassing Parts of Mormon History

 

I was born in Logan, Utah, and lived there until I was just about to go into 6th grade. My parents were Mormons in good standing, and both came from long lines of LDS (Mormon) people. I was "born under the covenant," as my parents had been married in the temple and thus received their endowments and were married for all eternity. I was raised in the Mormon Church and baptized at age 8. 

"My husband raised his hand and asked, 'When in the history of God’s people has He ever changed a law to bow to political pressure?'"

Starting in 6th grade, my family started moving around in the West. Everywhere we went, I would become involved in the Mormon Church and I grew up being taught about the pre-existence of our spirits as literal offspring of God the Father and how if we went to the celestial kingdom we could become gods and goddesses and have our own spirit children to people worlds.

I learned that God was once a man, and that it was because of the principle of eternal progression that we could become gods like him. I also learned I had a Mother in Heaven somewhere along the way — whether I learned this as a child or an adult, I don’t know. I learned that the Book of Mormon was the word of God and that the Bible was so far as it was translated correctly.

I also learned over time that there had been polygamy in the family. My grandma on my father’s side was the product of a polygamous marriage. I was always embarrassed by this. (I learned later that there was polygamy on the other side of the family, as well, and I have a family history detailing the hardships the polygamous families, especially women, went through.)

When I was just a girl, I saw the facsimile to the Pearl of Great Price, which is a drawing from a papyrus that Joseph Smith acquired along with some Egyptian mummies. A hovering, birdlike creature in the drawing was said to be "an angel of God." I took a good look and thought, "It can’t be," but immediately suppressed the thought. (The papyrus has since been rediscovered and is actually a part of an Egyptian Book of Breathings, although the LDS still will not admit that.)

My home was not a happy one, and I suffered both physical and emotional abuse as a youth. One of the most damaging things to me was when as a girl of fifteen I wondered why other girls were dating and I wasn’t, and my mother said, "Some girls have it and some girls don’t. You don’t." This was devastating to me not only then but through my adulthood, until I dealt with it. As a result of such abuse, I clung to the Mormon Church and believed that my parents just weren’t "living the gospel." I didn’t recognize the pressures the Mormon Church was putting on them as individuals.

I went to BYU (Brigham Young University) for a semester, but was unable to stay longer as my parents were in financial straits. I came home and went to work and met the man who became my husband. He was a brand new convert to the church. We were married in the temple just less than a year after he had joined (fudging the one-year waiting period a little). I was horrified by the death oaths of the temple ceremony at the time we went through, thinking that it was like a pagan ceremony, and I had trouble going back to do the proxy work for the dead. (Due to publicity about them, the death oaths were removed several years ago.)

We started our family right away, and had three sons in five years. We attended regularly in our little branch that grew to become a ward (a small geographical division that grew in population and thus deserved official "ward" status from the church). We served in church callings whenever and wherever the bishopric decided we should serve. I was Jr. Sunday School coordinator and served in the Primary (the children's’ organization) as a teacher, as well as teaching Sunday School and in the Young Women's program (teenagers) and Cub Scouts as a den mother. Steve also served in varying callings, often working with the scouts. Before we left the church, I was public relations coordinator.

At one point, a lesson was being taught in our adult Sunday School class about polygamy — not only its' early existence in the church but how God outlawed it by revelation. My husband raised his hand and asked, "When in the history of God’s people has He ever changed a law to bow to political pressure?" The teacher sputtered and asked, "Why do you ask that? Why do you ask that?" Steve was nearly ostracized for a while after that. Still we kept on, and our boys went through scouts, and the first two passed twelve years of age and held the Aaronic Priesthood. 

Steve and I had had problems in our marriage, and in the process of counseling began to allow ourselves to acknowledge thoughts we had suppressed before. We both confronted our abusive pasts (Steve’s at the hand of Christian parents — by the way, he went on to see remorse in his Dad and to combat abuse in his church of birth after we left the Mormon Church, which had a lasting impact; my parents denied my abuse). He began to face his negative feelings about Mormon authority (and I, mine) and I committed myself to reading the New Testament without Mormon preconceptions. In doing so, I was struck by the first few chapters of Romans, in which I read about Abraham’s faith being credited to him as righteousness. Having been raised with the idea that the only way to attain righteousness was to strive for it, I was struck by what was said. I told Steve, "If this is right, the Mormon Church is wrong." The more I read, the more my perception changed.

We stopped one evening not long after that at Steve’s old church and asked a question about prophesy. The pastor patiently looked up the information and considered the question. Such a change from the threatened and angry way Steve’s questions were handled in the Mormon Church! We decided to attend once there, as perhaps the first of many churches we might visit until we found the right one for us. 

Before we did so, however, we made our decision to leave the Mormon Church, and make it a clean break. We didn’t want our names left on the records of the church, to swell the ranks, as they count the "inactive" members. We requested our names be removed and were told we would have to go through a high council court and be excommunicated because my husband was an elder. We did so and were asked to reconsider; we bore our witness of Jesus. Some Mormons have been convinced that we must have committed some major infraction such as adultery, which is a reason many Mormons are excommunicated, but it wasn’t so. We protested having to go through that to change churches, and the rules may have been changed since then. Our sons also wrote letters asking that their names be removed.

It was after making our decision that we read "No Man Knows My History," by Fawn Brodie, and "Joseph Smith, the First Mormon," by Donna Hill, and discovered the wealth of documentation that indicated the Mormons weren’t getting the whole story from their leaders. The facts told by the documentation about the origins of the church and many other aspects, including polygamy, are far different than the official Mormon versions!

We began speaking about our experiences in the Mormon Church at Christian churches, and we especially told about the temple ceremony and the special clothes we wore there and the undergarments we wore as a result of going through the temple. Over time, though, my family’s extremely negative reactions, including a letter from my mother saying she had "lost a beautiful daughter," left me depressed. We had decided to stay with the church of my husband’s youth, a rather liberal Mennonite Church (liberal for Mennonites, that is), and we had been baptized there. I fell from the high of our speaking engagements to a low. I rebelled against the idea of organized religion altogether, even the rather-unorganized Mennonite Church. I stopped attending church and focused on working to help support the family. I lived a moral life, but saw no need for church attendance. I believed I could worship Jesus on my own. 

My husband developed a terminal disease, and he eventually passed away in 1995, after 11 years out of the Mormon Church. Towards the end of his illness (about 9 months before), I attended a church Ladies Night Out and the speaker talked about the importance of getting in the Word. I had read the Bible off and on and prayed at times, with the feeling that my prayers weren’t answered, but this time I decided to start reading the Bible and not stop. I had a One-Year Bible (NIV) with selections from the OT, NT, Psalms and Proverbs for each day, and I started reading it. I continued reading, no matter what, and my attitude of rebelliousness began to abate. Three months later, a friend from church saw me in the store and invited me to go to Bible Study Fellowship a nondenominational Bible study, with her. I went and enjoyed it immensely. We were studying the life of Moses. With each week’s lesson, I learned more of how the Old Testament pointed toward Jesus. The subject matter was rich and I was growing spiritually. It helped me be strong as my husband’s health continued to deteriorate.

He passed away, and I was faced with life without him. He had always been a dominant and extremely strong person, and now I was even faced with taking over his business. The Lord gave me strength and I was able to do so successfully.

People at church were so loving and supportive at the time of his death that I was led to begin attending Zion Mennonite again. Not long after, I started a new year of BSF again, studying the Book of John. (I am no longer in BSF.) Then I was asked to co-edit the church newsletter, and later become church reporter to the regional newspaper. I was given a choice in the matter in both instances! Both have brought me a great amount of joy. I also edit the Oregon Mennonite Historical and Genealogical Society newsletter and am on the Society’s executive board as a result. I can testify that reading the scriptures daily changed my life. 

The business continues to do well, benefiting me and my sons. I give thanks to God for His goodness and His grace in bringing me to where I am today.

— Suzanne