A Former LDS Missionary and BYU Graduate
I left the LDS church in September 1985. I had been LDS for 12 years, having been baptized into the church in August 1973.
There were really two kinds of reasons that I left the LDS church: personal and intellectual.
Personally, I was a failure as an LDS. The LDS church teaches that people ought to share that they know that the LDS church is true. They call this obtaining and sharing one's testimony. Although I had asked God hundreds and perhaps a few thousand times, during my 12 years as an LDS, whether or not the LDS church were true, I did not know it was true. Presumably, on an LDS understanding of these facts, there was something wrong with me spiritually. I was spiritually deaf for some reason, perhaps to due wilful or accidental sin. Or, I was refusing to hear and obey God.
Prior to and during my mission for the LDS church, a friend of mine named Brad Thompson, made wonderful prophecies about what I was to do for God as a missionary. These prophecies were not fulfilled, other than one instance of fulfillment of a sentence that I would be hated.
During my mission for the LDS church, there were some times that I said that I knew that the LDS church was true, but I felt I was lying to make such statements. I made them, partly because I had been taught it was my duty to so testify, and partly because some LDS somewhat persuaded me that I did know the LDS church was true, but I was not fully aware that I knew it.
After my mission ended in March 1981, I felt very badly about my relationship with God. I was defeated and confused. I wondered if I had failed God, or if — perish the thought — God had failed me, or if, I had somehow misunderstood what God was saying through Brad, or if, God was not speaking at all. Emotionally I was lost.
Around this time, LDS church services ceased to draw me. According to the gospel of John, at one point Jesus says, "No man comes to me, except the Father draw him." As a predestinationist, I believe that God gives people a nature such that they are bound to seek and find Jesus. God draws people to Jesus, by making them hungry for Him. However, even those who do not believe in Calvinism, when they read and consider this verse, acknowledge that God is behind the scenes, orchestrating events, to bring some people to His Son. God may frustrate human desires or plans of some men, so that those who are frustrated can only find their satisfaction in Him and through Him.
Humanly speaking, God sometimes extract from us a decision to walk with God, by casting us into the belly of a great sea fish. The belly of the fish for me, was 1) I did not know that the LDS church was true; And 2) I was emotionally and intellectually at a lost for understanding the failure of Brad Thompson's prophesies about my mission.
At this point, in the spring of 1981 I had been LDS for nearly eight years. Now, LDS church services ceased to "draw" me. Intellectually, due to my wide reading, I generally knew more than the teachers. Spiritually, I did not feel to worship God. Rather, I prayed that I would either know God or die. Moreover, LDS church services did little or nothing to helping me solve the two personal problems I have described above.
I stopped attending LDS church services for about a month, and then a "priesthood leader" threatened me, on God's behalf, about my nonattendance. Not wishing to irritate or offend God any more than whatever was causing my deafness and confusion, I continued to attend LDS church. Generally, I brought a book from the library or bookstore and read it during church.
At this time, though, I assumed that the "problems" I had were my fault, and did not lie in Mormonism itself. I believed that Mormonism was true, but assumed that I was somehow spiritually deaf or not hearing from God.
In 1983 I graduated from BYU with a degree in history. I returned to Seattle and worked for a time as a canvasser for a construction company. As I began to knock doors in South King County, I found that one person every few days came to their door with a clear smile and joy. After asking about their home, I would also ask, "You seem awfully happy. Is there any particular reason why?" In each case, they said they were happy because they knew God.
At this time, I was not looking for another church. I had no intention or plan of leaving the LDS church. I was not expecting spiritual answers to come from anywhere other than from God to me. I did want to be happy, though. I knew I was not happy and I could see that these people were happy. I learned that all of these people went to one particular church, called Community Chapel.
After different invitations, I began to visit the Chapel worship services. After several visits, I began to visit/attend regularly. I found that I liked the church. People were loving and kind and prayed for me. They hugged me and knew their Bibles enough to answer questions that I had. Although I was not a member, I gradually became a "permanent visitor."
For the next year and a half, I attended both the LDS church and this Chapel. (The Chapel had services three times a week.) I attended LDS church on Sunday mornings or afternoons, and the Chapel on Friday and Sunday evenings.
It was very peculiar that this would happen. Although I believed in Mormonism, I attended this other church for six to eight hours a week. However, I felt that my spiritual life, and my life as a whole, was ruined. Here were people who loved God and seemed to be having experiences with God. It seemed that God was answering their prayers — and He was not mine! — and they were warm, loving, friendly and accepted me even though I was "still" LDS. My life seemed ruined and frustrated; why not give eight hours a week to be with people who loved God and me?
As I attended the Chapel, I found that I was learning the Bible much more. As I learned the Bible better, the wider the gulf was becoming between what I understood from the Bible and what the LDS church taught. For one simple example, Paul encourages speaking in tongues, while the LDS church discourages it, as I understood them. (Paul says, "I would that you all spoke with tongues," and "He who prays in a tongue edifies himself.")
There were other cases. At the Chapel, I learned that a person could trust God for forgiveness immediately upon repentance. In contrast, one LDS "prophet" had written, "It is unthinkable that God would forgive serious sins upon a few requests. He is likely to wait until there has been long-sustained repentance …"
The LDS prophet Spencer Kimball taught that forgiveness must be earned by arduous effort: "spend the balance of your lives trying to live the commandments of the Lord, so he can eventually pardon you and cleanse you," (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 200). As I learned more of the Bible from the Chapel people, I realized that forgiveness did not depend in any way on the number of requests or the length of time of "repentance." The publican went home justified, Jesus says. Forgiveness did not depend on fasting enough, suffering enough and praying enough, as Spencer Kimball had said it did. Moreover, I also learned that, in church history, the debate over this kind of question had already been fought (and won) under Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.
If Spencer Kimball really were God's prophet, why was he teaching contrary to the Bible about forgiveness of sins? Why was he resurrecting a long-dead doctrine of forgiveness by time and/or prayer and/or fasting and/or suffering?
As I learned more and more of the Bible, less and less could I believe Mormonism.
How did I leave the LDS Church? God drafted me and He enforced the draft!
— David Zaitzeff