Lengthy Transition Process Leads to Genuine Freedom
I subscribed to Mormons in Transition.org several months ago. I appreciate the posts. As a "Mormon In Transition" I was very frustrated. I asked God to help me with the scriptural and emotional conflicts I had with Mormonism versus Biblical Christianity that were tormenting me. Shortly after my prayer for help I found this site. This non-organization, you folks, has helped heal the incomprehensible pain that this Mormon (used as a term of heritage versus belief) has had to live with since he went BORN AGAIN in 1986!
I was born into The LDS Church, (referred to hereafter as “The Church”) in 1949 and into a Mormon heritage that traces back to ancestors that were converted in England. My ancestors pushed and pulled handcarts from Nauvoo to Cash Valley, Utah. I was active during the 36 years of my association with “The Church” due to my love for the Lord and in spite of my not so consistently active Mormon parents. And though they had their shortcomings, they were, as Nephi wrote, “goodly parents”. My father ordained me to the Office of Elder; and I was married and “sealed for time and all eternity” in the Los Angeles Mormon Temple to my beloved wife and friend.
Following in my father’s footsteps as a trombone player and while active in the LDS Church, a fellow high school band trombonist invited me to sit in a rehearsal of the Sacramento Citadel Salvation Army Church Band. At the first note of the 22 member British style brass band ensemble, I felt the touch of God as the music swelled and filled the sanctuary.
From that point on, I would shuttle between “First Ward” priesthood meeting, Sunday school, choir practice, Sacrament meeting, and The Salvation Army Band performances including their Sunday School, Open Air, Holiness, and Salvation Meetings (In 1968 LDS meetings were split up with the other wards that occupied the multi-ward house, so there would be-in some cases-hours between meetings). At the end of the Holiness/Salvation Services, Captain Morelock would invite the congregation in an altar call. It was during those times that I found myself very uncomfortable. I felt I was being pulled to the penitent form as I could imagine myself going forward to give my life to Jesus. Yet the life-long teachings of “The Church” had taught me that other churches were wrong and their practices foolish. So there I sat, shaking quietly in my pew wishing the altar call would end.
To my parent’s chagrin, a wise new friend, an Eb (E flat) Tuba player (today Salvation Army Officer “pastor” Captain Eric Sholin), I found in the Sacramento Citadel Band did lend me a recording titled “The Holy War” performed by the International Staff Band of The Salvation Army. The album title was a major brass band work inspired by John Henry’sPilgrims Progress. The motive was based on Martin Luther’s text, A Mighty Fortress is Our God (at that time the third hymn in the Mormon hymnal). Also, on the album was a piece entitled Concerto for Pianoforte and Band which was based on the chorus Christ is the Answer to My Every Need. Little did I or my tuba friend know that the reel-to-reel tape copy I made of the Holy War album would be my only contact with The Salvation Army for 17 years.
After high school, I entered US Army Basic Training for Reserve Duty at Fort Ord, California. I was assigned to the 22nd Army Band for my advanced individual training (Military Occupational Specialty “MOS” Trombone). Prior to leaving for Fort Ord, the principal cornetist of the Sacramento Citadel Band, and Songster Brigade (choir) Leader, Eric Loveless, gave me some editions of the Musical Salvationist, a publication of choral works by Salvation Army composers.
For some reason I had those editions of the Musical Salvationist in my hand when I reported to the 22nd Army Band. The band was in formation when I walked into the rehearsal hall. Without me knowing, standing in formation was Salvation Army composer Bruce Broughton. One of his compositions was among those in the editions of the Musical Salvationist I held in my hand! It was like a divine appointment! I had the privilege of spending many hours with Spc5 Bruce Broughton in the piano practice room as he would compose, not knowing who he was or his prominent standing in Salvation Army music circles. It was decades later when I saw his name in the credits as musical composer for the films Silverado, andYoung Sherlock Holmes.
While I was in basic training, my parents moved to San Luis Obispo a small central coast town of California. While assigned to the 59th Army National Guard Band in Sacramento, due to my parents moving to San Luis Obispo, I lived with my grandparents in a near-by small farming town called Elk Grove, California. While attending the Elk Grove Ward with my beloved grandparents, I met, what I thought to be the love of my life, a petite, beautiful, and vivacious LDS girl. There went my Christian focus and back to the LDS Church I ran ... for good ... I thought.
The LDS Elk Grove Ward “girl of my dreams,” the “first love of my life” was not to be. However, the damage was done. Though we broke up, I was back in the fellowship of the LDS faith. After working a few years in Stockton, I transferred to San Luis Obispo to attend college. While attending the college branch of the San Luis Obispo Ward, I met the girl that I married in the Los Angeles Temple. I later joined the United States Air Force Band of the Golden West which then stationed at March Air Force Base near Riverside, California.
During those twelve years at Riverside First Ward, I had the calling of choir director, and congregational music leader. As the Sacrament Meetings would sleepily pass, I would sit on the stand and listen in my head to segments of the Holy War album my long ago friend had lent to me. One of the passages that would repeat in my mind’s ear was the male choral section of Concerto for Pianoforte and Band singing the simple words, “Christ is the answer to my every need, Christ is the answer He is my friend indeed ...”
Thinking back, I was in transition since the first note I heard at that first rehearsal with the Sacramento Citadel Band. As the ward congregational music leader, I would select hymns that would reflect items I had played and listened to during my short introduction to Salvation Army Brass Band music culture. Thus I would select congregational hymns that would lean towards the gift of grace, and the greatness of God versus the potential greatness of self (i.e. "Praise to the Man"). I would select hymns such as A Mighty Fortress and I Stand All Amazed at the Love Jesus Offered Me ... Ironically, the Sacrament Service hymns helped focus where my heart should be… on Jesus Christ. However, the real point of Jesus to live in my heart, was missed.
About that time, my wife and I, shopping at a garage sale, came across an issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. During our subsequent subscription to Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought there was much written about the uncomfortable blacks and the priesthood issue and the dilemma “The Church” was facing. However, the dilemma as we saw it was not the blacks and the priesthood issue; it was how to resolve a practice with a revelation that should not have been required. And a revelation came forth!
Side bar: I chuckled at a MIT post regarding “revelation by committee.” Indeed!
Wait a minute. Blacks barred from the priesthood was an embarrassing practice that originated in the context of nineteenth century thought. We need a revelation from God to correct a practice? I suppose this was the beginning of my apostasy and the disillusionment of my wife with "The Church" brethren. By the way, not long after subscribing toDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, we were introduced to Tanner’s Shadow or Reality. Shadow or Reality did not help us maintain our faith in the “brethren” either. Shadow or Reality was perhaps the sword that was plunged into the throat of deceit. I later found The Sword of the Word of God to be the final weapon that would slice deceit into pieces I could discard.
Sidebar: I was at first repulsed by the antagonistic and argumentative bias of Shadow or Reality. I would say to myself, “Is this item or that item such big issues?” and then be apologetic about points I could not defend that were raised in Tanner’s monumental work. I would feel sinful as I would peruse its pages, especially when I would read about the Temple Ceremony. We were taught in “The Church” not to discuss the ceremony outside of the temple. Today, I use it as a sort of “standard work,” with major reservations, and as a reference when I feel compelled to relapse back to Mormonism. The point I found with Shadow or Reality and use is “The Church” being perfect, is required to be 100 percent doctrinally correct. If a blatant problem exists, it collapses on its own weight. Thus, as I read the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price I find myself saying, “Excuse me?” And, the more I get into and study the Word the more and more the BOM disintegrates ... becomes unnecessary. The PGP has also to me become absurd. Does God really write that poorly? Therefore, in my mind, “The Church” collapses just like the original church flannel board cut-out would dramatically be knocked off the missionary flannel board (first “discussion” 1963) ( I would go out and assist the missionaries when I was a deacon) to demonstrate the loss of priesthood authority of the ancient church due to the death of the original twelve apostles.
As disillusionment increased, the collective joy of my personal family attending the Riverside First Ward diminished. The joy decreased to the point I decided to take my family of a wife and three young children to The Salvation Army Church at Riverside, California. It was at that small Salvation Army Church at Riverside that I was inspired, when I got home, to get on my knees beside my bed and ask Jesus to come into my life. Immediately, a feeling of being embraced came over my entire person. The experience nearly blew me away! It was as if Jesus was saying, “It’s about time you asked!!!” Praise the LORD for His patience!!! YES???
This was the beginning of a very long and painful ten years of continuing recovery. My mind, which was tied to the “teachings of the prophets”, said one thing, and my heart that belongs to Jesus would say, throw all that stuff out. Fortunately, I had a long association with a dear Bandmaster, Lottie Anthony (82 years young, who has since gone to be with the Lord) of the Riverside Salvation Army Band. She was solidly grounded on “The Rock” of The Word of God (The Bible). Through the passage of time and grounding myself in The Word of God, through her influence, my mind was pried open to biblical Christianity. However, wool that has been dyed “true blue through and through” tends to have deep dyed spots that just will not come out. So like deeply-dyed wool, isolated enclaves of the “teachings of the prophets” remain buried in the recesses of my brain.
Even so, I had put my trust in Jesus, becoming truly a born again (BA) Christian and a uniformed Salvationist. My parents became alarmed and informed the local ward Bishop of my activities in The Salvation Army. In the Mormon attitude of perform or leave, I was called into the local Bishop’s office. I was given the choice of leaving The Salvation Army and coming back to “The Church” or to ask for my name to be removed from the records of “The Church.” I had no choice. I asked where do I sign. Six months later, after the wheels were in motion to have my name removed from the records of “The Church”, which was really to help the local ward statistics, I was on my way to Japan. And I was “FREE at last”! At my parents’ request, I did ask for a delay in having my name removed. The request was ignored ... A blessing.
Now I was assigned for a two-year unaccompanied tour to the United States Air Force Band of the Pacific stationed at Yokota Air Force Base, Tokyo, Japan. While there, I searched and found a Salvation Army Church in Kyose, Tokyo. I also joined the all-Japanese Territory Staff Band of the Kiyo Se Gunn (Salvation Army in Japan). Due to the fact that all services were in Japanese and translated into broken English by my friend Bandmaster Hajime Suzuki, I was forced to feed myself on God's Word (I was using the New International Version of the Bible). It was also in Japan that I was taken under the wings of a very godly couple, Colonels Ted and Louis Morris, Chief Secretary to the Commissioner (leader) of the Japan Territory. As a trombonist in the Japan Salvation Army Staff Band, I had the opportunity to perform at Territorial gatherings. The Commissioner was often the keynote speaker. In the broken translation of his sermons, I would say to myself, Yes! I want a closer relationship with Jesus Christ and would find myself at the penitent form to be discipled by Colonel Morris. During those times, Colonel Morris would wisely provide the basic tools, that would help and inspire me to continually reinforce the underpinnings of my vertical relationship with Jesus Christ. Those underpinnings were to enhance the delicate Babe in Christ environment for Jesus’ spirit to grow within me and for me to grow in Jesus.
However, though I am a born again Christian, I am still a “cultural” dyed-in-the wool (DITW) Mormon and thus I still have problems throwing off the teachings of the "prophets" and getting the dye out. I also look back at the dramatic healing that took place after my participation in anointing of the sick. I witnessed my father’s miraculous recovery from an eye injury, the healing of my mother, and the incredible almost instant healing of my former wife, mother of my children, and friend to this day. True, my robes are washed white due to the Blood of the Lamb; it’s those few deep-dyed spots I just can’t seem to get totally out. Perhaps this may be due to my mind being programmed to question everything due to having been burned by my 36 years of unquestioning regurgitation of Mormon doctrine and then coming to the realization that I believed in and have been regurgitating a lie. But I also cannot deny "the power" that was manifested as a bearer of the Priesthood. Also, as a young Mormon, I received a “testimony” of the Book of Mormon, received dynamic answers from questions I posed in the forum of prayer and cast out via the power of Jesus Christ, Satanic thoughts and desires that would harbor in my mind. Perhaps you may appreciate the wrenching I feel in my stomach when I write and say the things I have written and said to others that discredit “The Church.” Yet, it is so sweet – being in love, to have the one-on-One relationship with Jesus and now totally accepting the will for my life to be the will of, The One, Jesus Christ. Anyone relate?
Today I worship, “in spirit”, and fellowship at The Salvation Army Tustin Ranch Church. I play principal trombone, my style of worship, “My life style” as my DITW Mormon mother calls it with the world- traveled, thirty-four piece Tustin Ranch Church Salvation Army Band. Incidentally, the band is going on tour to northern California in February 2001. One of the highlights of the tour is performing a concert and worship service at the Sacramento Citadel Salvation Army Church ... the place where I began my prodigal journey. Thus lost, almost found, lost again, and finally found! Praise The Lord!
There is more to discuss that perhaps DITW-MITs may relate to. I’ve come across former LDS types that came into “The Church” from protestant backgrounds, became disenchanted and finally realized Jesus is Lord. As a point of note, I give trombone lessons to a friend at Tustin Ranch who came from a protestant background, joined “The Church”, and left “The Church” 18 years later. He wrote a tract and published a book regarding his sojourn in and out of “The Church”. It was through his spiritual exiting of “The Church,” he found, like me, that Jesus Christ is the only way, truth and life! Like me, he has come to the realization that The True and Living Church is we believers living in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ living in us. My friend also made The Salvation Army Tustin Ranch Church his church home. Unlike me, he does not have problems with the Godhead as defined by Protestantism. I, as a DITW, have had considerable problems with the three-in-one trinity. The trinity issue is perhaps that "drink" that may make this person in recovery relapse if I could accept the rest of Mormon doctrine. For the trinity issue is the foundation that justifies “The Church temple work,” the “preparatory ordinances” for the next life for those living and dead. It is the temples of “The Church” that gives “The Church” its purpose. For me, who has gone to the temple, endorsed the beauty of being “sealed” eternally to those I dearly love, the three-entity trinity has been very difficult for me to emotionally discard. Therefore, though I have let go of "The Church," "The Church" as an addiction will not let go of me.
However, writing this letter and reading the posts, has helped me distill those issues so at this time, I cannot go back. For the fundamental principle is an internal relationship with Jesus Christ and therefore three-in-one, or three distinct entities being “one-in-purpose,” is not nearly the concern it was when I began this letter. May I submit, being ONE with Jesus is my greatest concern and after that, for me, with faith in the infinite love of Agape Father God, and Jesus Christ as my KING and the LORD of my life, the rest will come.
I hope other DITW might share how they recovered from years of programming to finally immerge totally FREE. For totally Free in Jesus Christ I want to be.
Thus, thanks MIT for this forum that has been such a great help to me in my recovery. I welcome your feedback.
Yours in Christ,
Epilogue: I began this letter about August 22, 2000 the day I received my first post from MIT. As of October 22, 2000, the day I completed this letter, the "dyed-in-the-wool" spots are GONE! PRAISE THE LORD! AND GOD BLESS YOU MIT'rs!