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God Reached Out to Me

God Reached Out to Me

 

I was born into a multi-generational LDS family. My grandfather was born in the polygamous Colonia Diaz of Mexico. His grandfather had five wives and 40 children. From the time I was born, I was taught LDS doctrine and nothing else. I was always taught that we believed much the same as all other Christians, but with more fullness. I was the fourth of six children and we lived in a tiny branch in southern Missouri. We read the Book of Mormon as a family every morning. We had Family Home Evenings every Monday night. We went to church on Sundays and carpooled to mutual (young women’s classes) on Wednesday nights. I was taught to bear my testimony from the time I could speak. I loved getting up in front of the congregation to tell them that I knew Joseph Smith was a true prophet and that the church was true. Seeing all those people smile back at me felt good. But repeating those words over and over my whole life also led me to wonder if the church really WAS true. How did I know? Why did we always tell each other that we KNEW Joseph Smith was a true prophet and KNEW the church was true? For all I knew, he could have made the whole story up. Those were the actual thoughts of my child’s mind. But, since I had already been telling everyone I KNEW the church was true, I never told anyone that I as thinking those things. It was just internal thinking then.

When I was eight years old, I was scheduled to be baptized. My parents had gone inactive for about 2 years. They had become friends with a lot of “hippies” in our area and didn’t like wearing garments, and wanted to enjoy a glass of wine now and then. So, when I was eight, our home teacher was the one who was chosen to baptize me. I didn’t know him well, and wondered why my parents would want me to be baptized when they weren’t even going to church. They assured me that they still believed in the church and that their inactivity was only temporary. Still, I was hesitant to be baptized. I went into the woods by our house and decided to pray. I’m sure I expected a revelation tantamount to that of young Joseph Smith. I poured my little heart out to God and begged him to tell me the truth and show me if I should be baptized, or if he even existed. I waited and prayed and cried and screamed at God for what felt like a long time. Finally, I told myself that it was just my own lack of faith and that I shouldn’t be asking God for a sign. I had every intention of being baptized anyway. The only kids who didn’t get baptized were the ones who were “afraid of water” and that certainly wasn’t me. I had just hoped to have a real testimony before I did it.

I don’t remember my baptism at all. It was completely unimportant to me. As I grew older, part of me became very bitter toward God. I resented that he had refused to respond to my sincere prayer. When I was in Young Women’s and we took a trip to the temple to be baptized for the dead, all the other girls claimed to have seen the spirits of people they were being baptized for smiling at them next to the font. All I felt was dizziness from going in and out of the water 15 times in a row with hardly a breath in between. Why did those girls have a spiritual experience and I felt nothing? Why were they always talking about feeling the spirit when I felt no burning in my bosom? Sure, there were times when a talk in Sacrament Meeting moved me to tears or gave me goose-bumps, but so did a good movie. I never equated that feeling to the Holy Ghost. If that was the Holy Ghost then it was a pretty weak way to show his presence. Anyone could mistake any good feeling for the Holy Ghost. In my opinion, Heavenly Father had abandoned me. He had refused my prayer when I was 8 and he had never spoken to me again. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in the Church – it was the only thing that had ever been explained to me thoroughly and therefore the only thing that made sense. It was just that God hated me.

As a teen, I went to seminary and got good grades. I tried to be friends with the LDS kids, but they just felt so phony to me. I tried dating all the LDS boys, but they were shallow and judgmental of me. At 16 I ended up with a boyfriend who was not a Mormon. He talked me into giving up my chastity, drinking and even smoking pot with him. Eventually, my guilt led me to tell my bishop about him. I was ordered to stop dating him and put on probation in the youth group. The probation singled me out among the LDS kids even more, and I didn’t stop dating my boyfriend. The next time I went to the bishop it was against my will. I was brought before a bishop’s court and required to tell the details of my sex life in front of 4 men (the bishopric and secretary) who I barely knew. My parents were not allowed in the room, but waited outside. This infuriated my mother, who I think felt compassion for me, but didn’t know what to do. She went inactive. I was told I could continue to come to church, but must be moved up to Relief Society. I was allowed to pay tithing, but not to pray in public or hold any callings or even associate with the girls my age. Parents must have been notified, because I was snubbed at school.

When I turned 18 I left the church with no intention of ever returning. I moved into an apartment with my boyfriend and became a party girl. I listened to punk rock and did all the drugs I could get my hands on. When my boyfriend started cheating on me, I also careened into a life of promiscuity. I had boyfriend overlapping boyfriend. I got pregnant and had an abortion, and then kept right on in the same manner. I lost jobs constantly for being too hung-over or drunk to work. My life was a disaster. All this time, I spent lots of energy telling people about the crazy LDS religion and how foolish it was. In the back of my head, I still thought I would probably go back to the Church some day and speak to kids about what not to do, and how the Church’s rules really make sense to keep you out of trouble. After all, if I ever did decide to clean up, the LDS church was the only thing I knew.

Eventually, my self-destructive lifestyle became too much for me to bear. At 24 I called my family and asked them to come and get me and bring me home. My parents agreed to let me move home if I would go back to church. So, that is what I did. I set up a bishop’s interview, knowing I was looking at another long, ostracizing probation for the life I had been living. I still hadn’t been able to quit smoking cigarettes, and because it was Christmas time many of my old friends were in town, calling me up to go to parties with them. Every time I went out, lied to my parents, and got drunk, I hated myself. Why was I continuing in this path after I had already admitted I hated it and wanted to quit? Why was I powerless to stop sinning even though I wanted to? Why did I feel just as far away from God as ever? My heart was crying out to God. I tried to read the Book of Mormon, but I was looking for a loophole. I was writing down every time that God forgave Laman and Lemuel, and gave them another chance. If God gave them another chance when they were so evil, why did I feel like God wasn’t giving me another chance? Why did I have to go through punishment and condemnation from all the people at church and prove myself worthy before God would forgive me and help me? On the other hand, my friends couldn’t understand what was going on. Why would I go back to a church that I had ridiculed and told them was insane and foolish? They knew that I didn’t believe it, but I couldn’t explain to them that it drew me back in because it was all I knew. Every day I told God “I just want to know who you really are.”

On New Years Eve I was at a girlfriend’s house. We were planning what we would do for the big night. We didn’t want to go to a big party, but wanted to have fun with a few of our friends. Problem was everyone had a date but me. As we sat discussing who I should call, my friend’s phone rang. It was Dane, a guy I had dated briefly after high school. I had dumped him when he became a born again Christian and his behavior after that – not doing drugs, having sex or listening to Led Zepelin any more – became too extreme for me. But I had always really liked him and I did need a date, so I invited him and we ended the night with a big kiss at midnight.

After that night, we started dating regularly. He started taking me with him to a home Bible study every Friday. I was still going to church with my parents, but putting off the inevitable bishop’s interview. After several weeks of going to the Bible study with him, one of the men at the study approached me about my beliefs. Immediately I grew defensive. I knew how foolish all the LDS teachings would sound to him, so I resorted to bearing my testimony. I said “The thing I love about the LDS Church is that even when it doesn’t seem to make sense, I just KNOW it is true.” His response blew me away. “The thing I love about the Bible is that everything it says makes so much sense, I don’t have to rely on my feelings to know it is true.” The conversation ended, but this really made me stop and think. Dane and I went out for coffee afterwards and I was crying and telling him “I can’t explain why I believe it, I just can’t help defending it. All I really want is to know for sure who God is and to have a second chance at life. I need to be forgiven and start over.” Right there Dane asked me if I trusted the Bible as the word of God. The article of faith about it not being translated correctly came to my head, so I said it, but Dane asked me “Well, which parts are translated incorrectly?” and I really didn’t know. I agreed to listen to the answers he had from the Bible, since I had never really been taught any particular verses that were translated incorrectly. At that point Dane opened up the Bible and showed me some verses that spoke directly to me. He showed me 1 John 1:9

 

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He explained to me that cleansing us of all unrighteousness means forgiving us for every sin we have committed in the past and every sin we will ever commit in the future all at one time. That blew me away! I had always been taught that if you repented of a sin and then did it again, all your old sins came back to you again and you were worse than before you repented. It was the thing that kept me from wanting to go to the bishop or from trying to change. Then he showed me 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” and Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” and explained to me that confessing my sins was between the Lord and I. No one but Jesus needed to mediate between me and the throne room of heaven. Confessing to a bishop was never the Lord’s plan for me. I had full access to the throne of grace. What an amazing thing to find out right from the Bible!

Eventually we ended up at his apartment and he was still explaining things to me, and I was listening, but still thinking to myself “This is the same as what the Mormons believe, we just have MORE.” When he asked me if I believed I was a sinner with no hope of saving myself, I had to concede. I had pretty much figured that out in the past few years and especially the most recent weeks of vainly trying to change. When he asked me if I believed Jesus died on the cross for my sins I said “Of course.” Then he showed me a verse that blew my mind. Romans 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”There it was in black and white. Dane asked me “Did the LDS church ever teach you that this was the way to be saved?” No, they didn’t. “Why didn’t they ever teach you that this was the way to be saved, when it is so clear and straightforward right here in the Bible?” I had no idea, but I was beginning to feel indignant toward them for keeping me in the dark for so long. I mean, with all their lesson manuals detailing every part of God’s plan of salvation, they had left out the most clear verse on the topic? Then Dane showed me one more verse and asked me a question that changed my life forever. The verse was Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” And the question was “Will you pray right now and invite Jesus to live in your heart and be your savior and the Lord over your life?” When he said it, I thought he wanted me to prove to HIM what I already had told him I believed. I thought I was doing this to make Dane believe that I really was a Christian even though I was a Mormon. We began to pray, and almost immediately I realized that wasn’t what this was about. As Dane told me what I should say to God and I repeated it, I realized that God was listening to me. I realized that what I was confessing and what I was asking for was something entirely different from the religion that had filled my life since birth. It was a relationship with a real, living God who was hearing me and cleansing me from the inside out. I was being forgiven in those very moments and I KNEW it. I didn’t just FEEL it like shivers up my spine. I saw what God had said in his word and I believed he was able to do it and willing to do it, and I KNEW that he was actually doing it. Forgiving me, changing me, accepting me – he was saving me. Looking back, I realize now that God did answer the prayer of my eight year old heart. He answered it by not allowing me to feel that counterfeit burning in the bosom that gives so many Mormons their “testimony” of the church. He answered my prayer with silence, so that when I was really ready to know him, there would be no conflict within me. There would be no confusion about what was happening to me. I would KNOW.

A week later, Dane asked me to marry him. I had no idea he was considering marriage, but I was totally willing to follow him as he followed Christ, so I said yes. He then told me that he had already asked my father for my hand in marriage. My Dad had tried to persuade him to take the missionary discussions so he would know what I believed. He had told my Dad “That won’t be necessary, because Tasha no longer believes it and I will never believe it.” That was how my family found out that I was born again. Later in our engagement, Dane told me that he had been praying for my salvation for years. He had asked his mother and aunts and grandmother all to add me to their prayer lists. Their excitement over my salvation was almost as enthusiastic as his. He also told me that in the weeks before I was saved, he had told God that he wanted to marry me, but that if I refused to receive Christ he would break up with me. If I did receive Christ, that would be his sign that he should marry me. Well, I was so glad that this “arrangement” was between he and God only. I had seen my sisters draw people in to Mormonism by using conversion as an ultimatum. The fact that he had the faith to just quietly wait and see what God would do, instead of pressuring me into becoming a Christian for HIM was a huge difference in my eyes, even though my family thought my decision was made mainly for Dane.

Dane gave me a new Bible. I was hungry for it. I read it constantly and every verse seemed to jump off the page with so much meaning, I couldn’t believe it was the same King James Bible I had read from all my life. I moved out of my parents house and started to go to church with Dane. I took notebooks and notebooks of notes from the sermon and my brand new Bible was getting marked with yellow highlighter and I was learning so much and so excited about the Lord. I still hadn’t really given much thought to the LDS church and how different it was from what I was learning. Once in a while a topic would come up that I never realized was unbiblical, like the pre-existence of spirits, and Dane would patiently explain to me that no other Christians believed that doctrine. About a month after my rebirth, we had to discuss who Jesus really is. At that point I faced the fact that the Mormon Church worshipped another Jesus than the Jesus of the Bible. It was a hard thing for me to swallow. Knowing my parents and siblings were wrong about how to be saved was hard enough. But realizing that they worshipped a false Christ was very heavy for me. I started to despair over their souls and really get depressed about them. The sadness for them was increased every time one of them would write me a letter rebuking me for my apostasy. Their letters were so venomous and angry that it became more and more obvious to me that they were fighting for my soul – but not from the loving side of heaven that I had experienced so clearly. As I lamented this issue to Dane, he said “If God can save you, he can save every one of your family members, too.” For some reason, those words became like a promise from God for me, and my prayers for them were filled with joy and hope after that. Four years later I was blessed with the opportunity to lead my older sister in a prayer of salvation. Being joined in the family of God by my sister was wonderfully refreshing. Knowing that we are both praying for our family to be saved made it so much easier for me to believe that they will all some day be saved. Shortly after she was saved, we decided to officially have our names removed from the membership of the church at the same time. It took about 4 letters and 6 weeks for me to receive confirmation of this, but it has been worth it. Knowing that I am completely free from the bondage of that man-made religion. Knowing that when the Church boasts of being the largest growing church on the earth, I am not part of their astronomical number. And finally, being able to tell elders who knock on my door that I used to be a member, but chose to leave when I found out it wasn’t true. All these reasons have made my decision to “make it official well” worth the trouble it took.

My family has tried many times to change my mind about the Church, but those chains are gone. I have been set free by the son of God. And “Who the son sets free is free indeed.”

— Tasha