Moving Beyond Anger and Disappointment
Perhaps my experience of 25 years in Mormonism can help someone. I have hesitated to write my story because it seems so many leave the LDS church and apparently altogether turn away from God. I certainly don’t want to be responsible for that happening in anyone’s life. Yet, clinging to error and confusion is never the answer. We must all move on with God.
My name is Katie. My initial reaction upon officially leaving the LDS church in 1986 was one of letting it all hang out because I was so angry at the deception perpetrated upon me by the organization to which I had faithfully dedicated such an important part of my life and into which I had brought my precious children. I am happy that I was able to move beyond that initial anger and find the excitement that I enjoy today of growing in the knowledge and experience with God. I now trust Him totally with my own life, and I know that He is involved in the lives of all His children, and intimately and miraculously involved with those who will yield their lives to Him.
I almost never write something that I wouldn’t choose to edit again each time I read it. Not so when I finally wrote our letter of resignation from the LDS church which my husband asked me to write for both of us. It just flowed out, directed, I know, by the Holy Spirit. Even reading it today, I would not change one word. It ended with this: “Sorry, it’s not the people, it’s the church,” reversing the phrase so familiar to Mormons who always blame unexplainable problems on the people (too often themselves) rather than the church.
Let me say at the outset that I believe that organized denominational religion is the world’s biggest spiritual problem today, and I believe this will become increasingly apparent in the very near future. There are many independent churches that are doing a good job of teaching their people, but few denominational churches allow their members to consider anything beyond their own rigid doctrine. Yet, it is possible to have “freedom FROM religion” and have a rewarding and satisfying relationship with God because there is total liberty, peace, power and great joy in Christ Jesus, something that God promises, not I, - something I, and many other believers, have come to know and experience. It has taken a long time for me. I am 73 years old, a widow.
Now for the story, in sincere hopes that it will be useful to someone. At the end, I will discuss briefly what I see as five of the greatest deceptions of the LDS religion, but I will not go into detail of the innumerable LDS church fallacies since that has been done so well elsewhere.
Jim and I were married in 1960, each for the second time. We may have been the original Brady Bunch, as he brought two children to the marriage and I, four. We both knew that we never wanted to go through divorce again, and felt we needed a church to help us in the challenges we faced. Our children were all in their teens during the turbulent 1960’s.
I had been reared Baptist up until age 12, when my parents moved their small family and we ceased attending church. My mother, the youngest daughter of a circuit rider preacher who died when she was eight, had committed the unthinkable when she married my father, a Catholic, albeit a non-practicing one. They quickly moved in 1928 from Texas to southern California to escape the criticism of their union.
My husband Jim was reared by his mother and step-father and he said he never saw the inside of a church except as he was instructed by kind and loving members of the Salvation Army when his parents were forced to seek help during the Great Depression. He always maintained a great respect for the Salvation Army. While a young man in the Army in the South Pacific for four years in World War II (he had turned 18 at Pearl Harbor only three weeks prior to the attack), he became what he often referred to as a “fox-hole” Catholic.
My first husband was a non-practicing Catholic and Jim’s first wife a Baptist from the south. We did not know each other then, but later, after each of us had divorced and met, we acknowledged to each other that we had rarely attended church during our first marriages and felt, as we were to ready to join our families together, that it was important to do so.
I had been severely injured as a young child, and was often ill, and had developed, with the help of my mother, a very close relationship with God. It diminished, however, when we stopped attending church. When I met my first husband, I tried very hard to become a Catholic, but was unable to accept the theology. Later, when we began having marital problems, I began reading everything I could find in the library, even delving into the metaphysical philosophies and religions long before they became the popular sources of deception that they are today. However, I never read my Bible again. For some reason, it seemed completely closed to me, and I had forgotten most of what I had learned as a child. Except, that is, that I knew God existed and I needed Him very much. Although I prayed, I just didn’t understand, at that point in my life, how to get Him to be an active part of my life.
Around that time I was visited by LDS missionaries who introduced me to the Book of Mormon. I found their story intriguing, but my Catholic husband, who was as bound by his Catholicism as I was later to be bound by Mormonism, refused to listen. Not wanting to further disturb our already troubled marriage, I asked the missionaries not to return. However, our closest friends joined the LDS church shortly after we divorced. I lost contact with them for several years, but after Jim and I had met and decided we wanted to be married and were looking for a church, we sought them out. Jim and I and our children subsequently attended our first LDS meeting — a fast and testimony meeting. Rather than being upset by it as some thought we would be, it had quite the opposite effect upon us. We were deeply moved by the love we saw as families testified of their love for one another. This had to be what we were looking for.
Keep in mind that we were both virtually Biblically illiterate. We went through several sets of missionaries, and I suspect that most thought we would never join. I think you could fairly say that we were quite worldly people at that point in our lives, but we were searching. I had great difficulty accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet, although I accepted what the missionaries said about the Book of Mormon allegedly validating Central American archeology (as they taught in those days). I had always been fascinated with archeology, and I finally accepted Joseph Smith’s “story” about the book’s source. I really believed that there were people on this continent who knew about God and Jesus Christ. (I still believe that since there is profoundly convincing evidence to prove there were both pre-Christian and post-Christian peoples here.)
Also, I rather readily accepted the concept of a “restored gospel” having long since recognized the confusion in the Christian community of churches, and rejected the Catholic church as the “original.” It seemed a logical conclusion, but, as we were to learn many years later, man’s logic is certainly not God’s wisdom.
We were baptized, followed by our six children, and I do have to say, that the church helped us get through some very difficult years. We were not as idyllic as the Brady Bunch, I fear. Membership in the LDS church gave us and our children a good support system during some troubled times. It gave us, however, only smidgens of truth wrapped in gross deception. It took us a while, however, to figure that out.
We were active in the church. My husband, who was a high priest, (he has been dead a little over seven years) was very interested in the function of the priesthood, and became quite an authority on it. I was especially interested in church doctrine and history, and I loved to read, ultimately ending up with a collection of many hundreds of LDS books. They included the church histories, journals, etc. and I did read them. Almost from the very beginning, I was asked to teach the women’s Spiritual Living classes, which I dearly loved to do, always wondering, however, why there was not a greater and more frequent focus for the women on scriptural teachings. I also substituted seminary and my husband and I both taught Gospel Doctrine classes.
After we joined the church, we didn’t go to the temple for six years, by our own choice. We took very seriously the commitment of eternal marriage, and because we had both been married before, there were children’s loyalties to consider. (Jim’s ex-wife had died, shortly after we married, of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was sealed to my husband as a second wife when we finally did go.) During those six years before the temple, I had read all the LDS books I could get my hands on, but I did not yet own the authorized histories and journals. I had a cherished friend who was equally serious about doctrine and history. We often studied together and we attended the temple together. I can recall sitting in the celestial room when we would try to talk about — increase our understanding of — things that could be discussed only in the temple. But we were always hurried out by the temple workers.
My friend helped to prepare me for the temple (there were no temple classes as such back then) by having me carefully read the Book of Moses. Before I had ever joined the LDS church, I had studied somewhat into freemasonry, but only vaguely remembered what I had read. I had already underlined Moses 5:30-31 and 49 in the Pearl of Great Price and had long ago puzzled over the fact that Cain’s genealogy is not included in Adam’s genealogy in the Bible, something I better understand now.
It was only many years after I left the LDS church that I realized that my (and my husband’s) reaction to the temple was quite typical. I had fasted and prayed in anticipation of my first visit to the “most sacred place on the face of the earth.” We were surrounded by those I respected most, my dear and faithful friend who went through with me, our bishop, our stake president, our former bishop and stake president and all their wives, and many others. I was devastated that I wanted to run out of the building. Why wasn’t I feeling the way I was supposed to feel? This was supposed to be the greatest experience on the face of the earth. What was wrong with me? What was missing? Why didn’t I get it? And why were some of the oaths so familiar and so ugly? But I looked around at the rapt expressions of my friends and thought surely I was not only less intelligent but certainly much less spiritual than they.
Over the years, I went to the temple many times, never without having fasted and prayed, always seeking that “wonderful spiritual experience” my friends said they had. I asked questions of the temple presidency and was told by the Los Angeles temple president “Now, sister, don’t bother yourself about such things.” To this day I don’t believe he knew the answers. But I continued to study LDS-approved books. I always believed I would find the answers to the questions in my mind by praying, fasting and studying more. (Now I praise God that I did so, because He gave me the answers, although they were not the answers I expected to hear.)
Later, after a plane collision that took the lives of our 21-year-old daughter and my mother, and because we really believed we were living in the last days, we felt that it was important to leave the densely populated area in southern California where we lived. We moved to this small southern Utah town - to “Zion.” We had prayed intently and asked God to show us where we should locate, and He did. We knew He told us to come here, and 27 years later, I know that we were not wrong. Even with my husband gone, I know that God brought us here and thus far keeps me here for whatever His purposes may be.
Shortly before arriving in Utah however, and about 13 years after joining the church, I had come upon a copy of one of the early editions of the Tanners’ “Mormonism - Shadow or Reality.” I remember reading it nervously, as though the bishop were watching over my shoulder. (I was obviously well into the typical fear of “what-will-other-members-think-if-I-doubt-what-I’m-taught” and the “everybody-just-wants-to-persecute-Mormons” syndrome.) I hid the book away and I put all my questions on a mental shelf. I didn’t even tell my husband about it; I didn’t want to contribute to what I perceived as his “weakening” faith. I simply went into denial. Besides, I knew those things had to be wrong. So I just studied more, believing that if I went deeper into church history and doctrine, I would find the answers. Instead, of course, I simply found more questions.
Let me say that I always prayed about what I read and I fasted frequently, asking God for guidance and the wisdom to understand. God never leaves us nor forsakes us and gently leads us along. Many times the Holy Spirit directed me to read the Bible, but each time I tried, it seemed closed to me. Of course, I had read it over the years, but never with the dedication I gave to LDS “scriptures.” Like all LDS, I always read the Bible within the context and understanding of Mormon theology and always with that insidious underlying doubt about its authenticity. I had never simply surrendered to the Holy Spirit, emptying myself of man’s doctrine so that the Word of God could teach me as I read.
Like all good Mormons, Jim and I never really talked to each other about the temple, certainly not about the secret portions. And probably the only thing we discussed as disappointing about the church in general was what we perceived as the “wrong” people being called to positions of leadership. Rather than those we saw as spiritual giants being called, it was always local professionals and successful business people, decent people, but often not very “spiritual”, we thought in a somewhat judgmental way, I suppose. We couldn’t figure out what God was doing, but then, we weren’t God, we would reassure ourselves.
I have to say that I was never called to a position in the LDS church that the Holy Spirit did not tell me about first; I always knew. It was those and other spiritual experiences that I interpreted as validating the church for me, when in reality, it was simply God validating Himself to me. Spiritual experiences take place, miracles happen, and answers come wherever and whenever faith operates. We must realize that God hears us, and that He is trying to do all that He can to help us, that He always has us in the place where we have the greatest opportunity for growth and then He will move us along, perhaps to go around the same mountain again, if we have still failed to learn.
In Utah in 1980, with our children long since grown and all but one married in the temple, my husband left to work out of Utah for several months because of financial necessity. I continued to teach the Gospel Doctrine lessons and Spiritual Living lessons, but would often come home and weep because I felt so empty and the lessons from the manual were so empty. I had the same reaction to Sacrament meetings. I was so spiritually hungry and I longed for more. I knew there was more. I had by then begun to learn some things I wanted desperately to teach, but I had to teach from the manual and stay away from the “mysteries.” I had many questions, and I knew that I couldn’t ask them, or discuss them with other church members. Nor could I have a group of friends over to meet together to discuss issues without official approval.
When my husband returned, he was feeling equally discouraged, and we seriously discussed some of our real feelings for the first time and decided not to go back to the LDS church.
Here in southern Utah, we were in business for almost twenty years in one LDS stake while living in another. An LDS “stake” is a division similar to a parish in which there are several LDS “wards” or congregations. We knew people all over our county, in an area that was, and is, probably 98 percent LDS. After we owned one business for five years, we sold it, and I went to work for the county newspaper where my husband joined me after four years. We worked there about ten years before my husband lost his eyesight. Shortly afterwards, we purchased the newspaper and moved it to our home town and I have since continued to operate the newspaper for another ten years with the help of my daughter and granddaughter both of whom also left the LDS church. The newspaper has afforded us continued association with many, many wonderful people, although we have missed that intimate fellowship that operates in a Mormon ward. We sincerely miss that closeness, and we still feel a great love for our LDS friends and neighbors.
When we stopped going to the LDS church, our hearts cry was, “If truth is not in the Mormon church, Father, where do we find it? Where do we go from here?” God is always eager to fill the hungry heart.
Little by little we began to learn as we listened by satellite to one or two very basic Bible preachers on television and we began to study our Bibles. We found a few friends who would gather in our home to discuss freely the things of God and we began to learn and share a little more. Then, we found a little non-denominational “no-bondage” church some 75 miles away that blessed us by teaching us more and helping us learn how to draw closer to God. Each step along the way, God provided, as our hearts sought Him. Always there have been people coming out of nowhere to briefly bless our lives and share with us, from many different backgrounds. Many of our Mormon friends who still respected us would come by to talk, often sharing their doubts and concerns with us and many others have, in love, asked us to return, but they know that we cannot.
We learned to recognize the point at which we could say no more to our Mormon friends, what we called the “Mormon window shade,” when their eyes would glaze over and look away, and we knew it was time to stop for the moment. They would be back. We were not unique. If God could bring us out, He can bring them out, and we learned to absolutely believe Him and trust Him. That is what God is doing - in Utah, and all over the nation, not just for Mormons, but for everyone trapped in any kind of religious bondage. They will not all come, only those deeply hungry for the Bread of Life and thirsty for the Living Waters.
Isn’t it interesting that when you say to a Mormon that you have left the LDS church, most are afraid to ask why, but will always ask, “What church did you join?” They cannot separate God from church. (Sadly, the same thing is true with some Christians.) To Mormons, God is the church. The church is right, therefore God must be right, but only if He agrees with their church doctrine.
However, God is still in control and He is building His own church. He loves His children, all His children. His church has no name over the door and no membership list and there is no one to please but Him. The freedom experienced in His church brings great knowledge, joy and peace. Jesus Christ, the head, is drawing God’s hungry children together to form His body, His church, and they are the temple in which He lives by His Holy Spirit. He is building His spiritual temple. They gather in small groups everywhere, fearless and hungry for more truth than they have received from their dry and dead churches.
I still weep over having sent my youngest son on an LDS mission to Italy twenty-nine years ago where he was vulnerable and ill-prepared to do what he was sent to do. As I read on the internet the many accounts of young missionaries experiencing the doubt and loneliness and hurt, I am so ashamed. I know he must have experienced so much of the same, but he is incredibly spiritual and strong and loyal and has borne many difficulties in his adult life, though I don’t exactly what they have been. Since he married our bishop’s lovely daughter and moved with them to another state, he has had virtually nothing to do with us. He is still a member, but I know that God loves him with an even greater love than mine, and God’s love can set them all free. My three living daughters have all left the church and two are Christians. They have all gone through divorces, directly traceable to the church. Another son never really accepted it all, but nonetheless was affected by all that happened to the rest of the family. It can take a terrible toll, but God is able to work it all out and He is doing so. It all comes down to how really important God is in our life.
I pray constantly for my Mormon friends, for my Mormon children and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren still in bondage, and for all others still in any kind of religious bondage. GOD IS NOT ANGRY WITH HIS SHEEP; HE IS ANGRY WITH HIS SHEPHERDS (Ezekiel 34). We are learning to totally trust Him, not just to believe IN Him, but to BELIEVE Him. We are learning to yield to HIS will and crush our own. The Bible is an open and trustworthy source for understanding all things by the Holy Spirit. Indeed it is the Word of God and Jesus is the living Word.
God focused on two trees in the Garden of Eden — the tree of knowledge of good and evil (the source of man’s knowledge and those who will listen to Satan) and the Tree of Life, (Jesus, to Whom we may go for God’s wisdom and knowledge). The world today functions almost solely from the wrong tree.
Which leads me to point out what I feel are several particularly deceptive LDS teachings:
1. The Bible. Mormons inherently mistrust the Bible, because they are taught to doubt it despite the fact that the church claims it as scripture. How many times have I heard someone say that that they have read and re-read the Book of Mormon. How many, however, have read and re-read the Bible except for excerpts allegedly supporting Mormon doctrine? Few Mormons or ex-Mormons know that the phrase “as far as it is translated correctly” as contained in the Mormon Articles of Faith in referring to the Bible was not in the original Wentworth letter from which these articles were taken. The phrase was added later.
One of the first things I had to do was to learn for myself whether I could trust the Bible. Actually, it was easy to do. There are many reliable sources that confirm its accuracy and the simplest is, of course, simply studying it prayerfully and asking God to give the reader His knowledge and wisdom. God promises and He follows through.
2. The Book of Mormon. Mormons are kept almost exclusively in the Book of Mormon and other LDS “scriptures” to the exclusion of a serious in-depth study of the Bible. It was three years after I left the church that God answered my prayer asking Him to show me the major problems with the Book of Mormon (other than its origins). I have found that it is typically the last thing that Mormons let go. Finally, the Holy Spirit revealed some important truths to me.
The Book of Mormon is missing the deep prophetic books of the Old Testament that tell us so much about the days in which we live. While the Book of Mormon contains excerpts from Isaiah, and points to the coming of Jesus Christ, it lacks the information contained, for example, in the minor prophets, which are like reading tomorrow’s newspaper. It is also missing the valuable prophetic books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Revelation etc., all of which pertain specifically to our day. (And the LDS church is supposed to be the church of the “latter days”?)
While the Book of Mormon has its own information about Christ’s alleged visit to this continent, it has none of the New Testament parables of Jesus Christ that reveal so much of the meat of His teachings, nor does it contain all the incredible promises that Jesus Christ made to all of us, brought out so clearly in the gospels and the teachings of Paul. The Book of Mormon is an empty shell, and it is no wonder that Mormons know so little of God and what He has for them and what they are missing. Time spent prayerfully in the New Testament will reveal the promises that are for all God’s children today who will turn to Him and believe on His Son Jesus.
3. The temple. Mormons believe that the temple ceremony (as well as freemasonry) comes from Solomon’s temple, when in reality, the origins of both lie in ancient Baal worship out of which God brought Abraham to teach him about Himself, the one and only God. So Mormons do not understand (as well as many Christians) that it was not the Jews who killed Jesus Christ, it was the corrupt temple priests in collaboration with the politicians. What has changed about that today? Nothing. The LDS temple oaths have been changed over the years, and watered down as necessary for wider acceptance. Much about the temple is made clear the ex-mormon.org website. God says that He does not dwell in temples made with hands; He says we ARE His temple, He is building that spiritual temple today.
4. Egypt. The Mormons have sought knowledge from ancient Egypt, even though their Book of Abraham has been proven completely false. In Utah, when the Tutenkamen exhibit was taking place at Brigham Young University, children from schools all over Utah were bussed to the exhibit. Mormons look to Egypt for wisdom, when a simple Bible study on Egypt clearly shows how God felt about Egypt. He did not want His people involved with Egypt. Their love affair with Egypt is consistent with their concept that “the glory of God is intelligence”. The New Testament makes it very easy to understand the glory of God.
There is much for believers to learn, and God has always been eager to show us the way. He sent Jesus to show us the way. We must begin to think deeply about what God has revealed to us.
In the past, when God has revealed a truth, man in his weakness and in his own will, has built a church around it, a new dogma fettered with much of the same error and tradition out of which he just came. Rather than growing in truth and knowledge, that church becomes bogged down in its own traditions. That cycle has been perpetuated down through the centuries.
Satan managed successfully to compromise the power of the early Christian church. Man insisted on polluting the beautiful truth and power of the early church, that “former rain” that was poured forth, by bringing pagan traditions into it and by the failure of the traditional Jew to accept Jesus Christ as Messiah. All of this, of course, is addressed in the Bible, and foretold. The Bible tells us exactly what is happening today and what will happen tomorrow.
That “former rain” will pale in comparison to the “latter rain” about to be poured out, and it will not be found in the amalgamation of churches into the religious beast, the second beast of Revelation, that will soon arise. The “greater works” that Jesus promised will be found in those who follow after Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” We had better learn quickly what that means. If Christ is our Life — He said He is — then Satan is our death. Many of us have followed after the arm of flesh for much too long.
If “the whole world lies in wickedness” (I John 5:19), if there is darkness in the land, could it be that Satan has found his most formidable forum in the churches which keep their people in darkness because they fail to fully teach the Bible as the Word of God, substituting instead their own doctrines and traditions? Because “they which lead thee do cause thee to err” (Isaiah 3:12), whole congregations are kept from a clear understanding of the Bible. These leaders are “making the Word of God of none effect through your [their] tradition” (Matthew 15:6, Mark 7:13).
Our hope lies in the ability of the individual to be able to think for himself, to hunger after God, to read, to study, to pray, and to believe all that God, not man, has said. God will accomplish His work, how? “… not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah. 4:6)
— Katie Thomas