A "good" Mormon and bishop's daughter, her quest for intimacy with God lead her to Jesus Christ
First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Jennifer. I'm 24 years old. I was born and raised in the Mormon church. My entire family and extended family are all active Mormons. Up until about three years ago, so was I. All of that ended when I had the "opportunity" to go through the temple and realized that there were a lot of things about the church I had been a part of all my life that were seriously wrong.
Growing up, I was the daughter of a Mormon bishop for twelve years. I went to Ricks College (a Mormon University), held many prominent positions within the church, and was well-known within "Mormon circles." I tell you this because I was, for most of my young adult life, a very "good" Mormon. I had been taught all my life that the Mormon church was the "true Gospel" and I had never questioned it. However, I always felt there was something missing from my Spiritual life and religious faith. I figured it meant that I just needed to "dig deeper" into Mormon doctrine to find the answer, but the deeper I dug, the more discontent I felt.
Eventually I started looking outside Mormonism to find answers. I took three long years to conduct my research, and read everything I could find from other religions that they could possibly offer. While I had access to many books and historical documentation disproving Mormonism's basic claims, my decision to leave the Mormon Church was not prompted by a testimonial against Joseph Smith's character, or an explanation of the changes that have been made to the Book of Mormon over the years that are in glaring contrast to the original work, or some other grudge against discrepancies in Mormon History. My decision to leave was based in my discovery of God's Grace; something that Mormonism had never offered me.
While my original investigation of Mormonism as a belief system came about as a result of some personal experiences in the church that caused me to question it's doctrine as a whole, my exit came about as the result of my education in one particular principle that was exempt from my Mormon upbringing: God's Grace. As a Mormon, I had always been taught that God's forgiveness, love and acceptance had to be "earned". While the doctrine was softened with carefully chosen words, my concept of God was that I would never be good enough to be accepted by Him until I was "perfect". After all, Mormons believe that they will someday be gods themselves, and so perfection is their ultimate expectation. According to their teachings, God was really only willing to grant forgiveness to those who never committed the same sin more than once. I could hardly live up to that ideal. There was no personal relationship with their deity; no communication with the heavens, no proof of revelation. It was only their story of Joseph Smith, a boy they claimed talked to God, that offered evidence of their god's existence.
During my time as a Mormon, I exhausted myself trying to be perfect. And I fell short in so many areas that I ended up sinking into a long depression. You see, my whole life I was taught that the way to be close to God was to be perfect. To live the commandments perfectly and feel constantly sorry for every wrong thing I was doing. Never once did anyone tell me that the way to develop a personal relationship with God was to accept His Grace; to admit that I could never begin to repay His sacrifice; to fully love Him, rest in Him, depend on Him, give everything I had over to Him and trust in His promise that He WILL save all who believe; and to worship and praise Him with my mouth, body, mind, heart, and soul. I was never told that my best effort is enough because His love for me is more than enough.
The life-changing moment came for me when I walked into the sanctuary of a local Pentecostal church and felt God's presence pressing down on the entire place. As a Mormon, I had never known the concept of worship. I had never openly praised, sung or danced in God's glory. I had never realized that the "confessing" Jesus as my personal Savior did not mean to simply say "I know" or "I believe He exists", but that it meant to give full credit to Him. When I came to the Lord, I realized for the first time that simply saying "I believe in Jesus" is not enough; I was required to admit full dependence, full honor, full glory, full praise to His name and His personage. And that to believe with my heart did not mean to just believe Jesus existed—it meant to believe He is who He professed to be, and to actively and wholeheartedly believe I was saved. For the first time I KNEW that the work had been done my behalf, and that Jesus' Blood had thoroughly cleansed me from all sin through no virtue of my own. For the first time I knew that Salvation is not a "work in progress" or something that must be earned, and that believing Jesus does not mean that we believe He has the power to save us if we are good enough or obedient enough. I finally knew that Salvation is a gift given readily to those who are truly willing to ask for it. And it was available to me, as long as I wanted it.
I cannot explain what I believe to the extent that I feel it in my heart. I know the only way to really know the nature of God, the awesome beauty of His love for us; to even begin to comprehend His holiness, His personality, His magnificence is to truly worship and spend time with Him. Not just with His scriptures, not just talking at Him in prayer, but to spend time with HIM. As a Mormon I never had the opportunity to do that. And when I finally did, I was blown away by the God that met me there. He is so much more unfathomable than any Mormon or other man-made doctrine could explain. Reducing His capacity as the Creator of all things, the Ultimate Power and Awesome Being that God is, to fit into something finite or tangible only limits His relevance and relationship with us. Limiting His power and His role as our Maker by placing boundaries on His capabilities according to our capacity to comprehend Him only prevents us from coming to a point where we can put all pride aside and come to Him in true meekness and humility, as creatures who are nothing in comparison to His glory and His power.
As a result of my decision to leave the church, my family asked me to discontinue relations with them. This was a silence that lasted for almost a year. It was a very difficult time for me, as they had always been my closest, dearest friends. I know they see my choice to leave the church as a desertion of my relationship with them. I cannot tell you how many nights I have spent crying, praying, and hurting, but I also cannot tell you how secure and sure I feel in my decision.
All my life I wanted an intimate relationship with God. I wanted to KNOW Him, not just know about Him. Mormonism was never able to give me that. The night I left home at my parent's request, my Mom sat on the floor of my room with me as I packed and asked, with tears in her eyes, what it was about my "new church" that caused me to feel justified in the pain I was causing at home. It broke my heart to hear her say that. My answer came immediately: The first time I really WORSHIPPED God, I suddenly knew that was what I had been missing. That was what I'd tried to attain my entire life. That was the feeling of intimacy and relationship with God I had been looking for, but never achieved. It was the level of communion with Him I had thought I'd find in the Mormon Temple, where I had been met with something completely different. Looking back into the Word, I realized that God never intended a "church" as an organized religion to be the way to Him. The only way to the Father is through a relationship with Jesus. God is not seeking people who will join an institution, but rather those who will be believers, worshippers, His children.
— Jennifer Kerr