A Sixth Generation Latter-day Saint, an Unfulfilled Hunger for Jesus Led Her to Question the Faith In Which She Was Raised
My name is Patricia Bunnell. I was born and raised in Provo, Utah. I was a 6th generation Mormon. When I was 21 I was called to go on a mission to Hong Kong, but developed some health problems in the Missionary Training Center and was released to recover. I never did go on to finish any mission. In the church, I had various callings in all the various auxiliaries (except priesthood :o)). I was at one point, learning the endowment ceremony word for word so I could interpret it into tactile sign language to work with the deaf/blind patrons.
I met my husband to be shortly after he returned home from a mission to the Philippines. We married in the Provo Temple and shortly after that moved to Spokane, Washington. While we lived there, we had two boys and adopted a third. In our neighborhood, we had three different pastors of three different churches. I was always suspicious of them, because I thought they might "indoctrinate" me. Also because I was always told that they were preaching because of the money ... that was their "profession" so to speak. Also, as a temple believing Mormon, I was taught that they preached the philosophies of men ... mingled with scripture and were actually in cahoots with Satan but were too dumb to know it. (Yes, prior to 1990 they actually taught these kinds of concepts in their revered temples.) Also because in the Book of Mormon in 1 Nephi 14:10-11 it calls all churches other than the church of the lamb of God (the LDS church) "… the whore of all the earth." I believed that protestant religion was all corrupt, so naturally I was suspicious of their ministers. On the other hand ... the church wanted everyone to believe that they too were Christian. It was confusing to me. I felt that I had the "only true church" and they only had parts of the truth.
When my boys got old enough to want to play with the neighbor kids I felt this conflict within. I wanted them to have "good" playmates and well supervised activities. The LDS families in our neighborhood had kids near the same ages as my own, but their kids were awful! I reasoned within myself that "If we were Christian, and they were Christian ... but only had part of the truth, I would be smart enough to see their error." Also, we were encouraged by the LDS church to become involved with the community so that we could meet potential converts. If I were to only have LDS friends and associates, I would never have the opportunity to be a member missionary. So, I began to reach out, both into my community and to my neighborhood. None of the pastors or their wives tried to convert me to their church or religion. However, it was because of their examples that I began to hunger for this relationship that they had with Jesus. It was apparent in the way that they would pray, that they could talk to God as if He would listen. They also believed that He would answer their prayers and it was not predicated on their worthiness. This stumped me many times, and I would have to go home and think about this. My friend and pastor's wife, Cheryl, would often say "Praise Jesus." As a Mormon, I would think, "How irreverent." Doesn't she know that she shouldn't use Jesus name like that? On the other hand, I would go home and think, "Wow ... she was giving Jesus the praise that He was due, for the miracle He just did." It was confusing to me at times.
It would be because of circumstances like this that would cause me to think. Another friend named Cheryl (different from the pastor's wife) invited me to her house for "tea." She was trying to educate me on the problems of Mormonism. Then I thought she was bashing my religion. It kind of bothered me because she was doing this, but I also thought it was because she cared about me and my soul that she brought it up. At the end of our conversation, I asked her what her church said I had to do in order to gain salvation. She said that a person needed to believe in Jesus. Well ... I believed in Jesus. She said that they needed to trust in Him ... again, I thought I trusted in Him. She got a little frustrated and said ...You've got to have a relationship with Him. BINGO ... I knew I didn't have that relationship. I paid my tithing, went to church faithfully, supported my husband in his priesthood, had children, went to the temple, read my Mormon scriptures, had family home evening, in essence ... I did everything that was expected of me. And yet ... I knew I didn't have a relationship with Jesus.
I went home more determined than ever to gain this relationship. I threw myself into my efforts in the church. I prepared my lessons weeks in advance for any calling that I had. I would read and pray more than ever. I took on more callings, even more visiting teaching. One of the other pastors wives, Nancy, introduced me to Christian music. I didn't know what it was called then, but later learned that it was "Praise and Worship" music. I fell in love with it the first time I heard it. I would listen to it during the day, and turn it off before my husband would come home. I wasn't exactly sure how to explain it to him. Once I decided that I wanted to share it with him, I used the 13th article of faith to show him it was okay to listen to. At first, he seemed taken back by it. Then when I quoted the 13th article of faith to him, he couldn't say much against it. What I didn't know was that he was listening to Michael W. Smith at work. He also had some born again Christians that he worked with that was sharing music with him. All of these people were praying for us, we learned later. Eventually, we bought more Christian music. One artist had more of an impact on us than any other. That was Michael Card. His music wasn't just "good" lyrics put to music, he would sing bible stories. He had a way of making them come to life. It would make us go to our bible and read about the stories that he sang about.
We eventually moved from Spokane to the Seattle area. While we were there, we started in a regular ward, and then later helped to start a deaf branch in the Lynnwood, Washington Stake. I was so busy that year with the branch that I had little time for much else. This is when I started to memorize the endowment ceremony for the deaf/blind. While I would be reading parts of the endowment, I would see things in it that really bothered me. The part where Lucifer is asked about his clothing and he explains that he is wearing an apron that represents his power and priesthoods. Shortly after he says that, he tells Adam and Eve to make themselves an apron and then we all put one on. It is exactly like Lucifer's, except ours was green and his was black. I began to have questions about the whole ceremony.
My husband was working just as hard in the branch as I was. We each had 3 or 4 callings in the branch as well as caring for our children. It was easy to get burned out. During this time, we each started to wonder about God and if this was what he meant in the temple where he made us covenant to give everything to the building up of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. One day, while we were walking our dog at night, I asked my husband if he ever really felt that he was "worthy" enough to go to the Celestial kingdom. He laughed, because he was about to ask me the same question and I beat him to it. He said no and then asked me if I did. I told him that I didn't think anyone was capable. We decided that we would quit going to the deaf branch and start attending the ward again. We thought that maybe the stress of going to the branch was just too much. We were both hungering for Jesus. We wanted to learn about him. I remember my husband telling me that he decided to read the bible, because the people that wrote it, knew Jesus in person. They would tell the stories about His life that he wanted to hear.
The last Sunday we ever went to the LDS church was the Sunday before Christmas. I wanted to hear about the birth of Jesus. I was so excited to go and learn about Him. Instead, they had a typical "tithing settlement" talk. It was so disappointing to me. I could never understand why they would give a big talk on tithing settlement at the end of the year. If people hadn't paid a full tithe, it was too late by the end of the year! It would have been impossible for most people to make it up by then. Anyway ... I was so upset, that I went home and phoned a friend that was not LDS. I repeated the whole talk to her and she said...."You are mad, because you can't buy God's blessings. You are also mad, because you can't buy His love." This was exactly what I was feeling. Funny thing is, this particular friend was an atheist.
After leaving the church, I had many emotions to work through ... anger, fear, sorrow, betrayal, and finally ... unspeakable joy. At first, I was afraid that I was walking away from God. I can't begin to describe how that felt. Then, as I opened my mind and began to read, I learned about the lies and deception of the LDS church. This brought anger and betrayal. As I began to talk about these discrepancies to LDS people, they would discount the information and tell me that the problem wasn't the church, but it was me. I was flawed, never had a testimony, if I did have one it was weak. I wasn't praying, reading my Mormon scriptures, I was back biting the leaders of the church, listening to the enemy ... whatever. This is what they felt lead me out of the church. Not one of them, had actually read the church history. This brought feelings of sorrow. Family members would also turn away from us. The good news is that God did not abandon me. Through Christians that He brought into my life, He showed me that His way was different than the LDS way. He showed me His grace and love for me personally. I found Him in the bible. I learned about Him through bible studies. Yes, I lost a lot by leaving the LDS church, but I've gained more. The relationship I so desperately wanted for years was finally gained, not through religion but by placing my faith in Him. In His finished work on the cross. He didn't die for me because I was GOOD ... He died for me because I was BAD. He loved me enough to die for me ... even when I was bad. It took me years to learn, that this is what it means to have a "relationship" with Jesus. I praise God everyday that He chose me, with all my flaws. I love Him even more because He also brought my husband and children out of the grips of the LDS church as well.
I hope that this story has given you encouragement. If you have a friend or loved one in the LDS church, there is hope. His name is Jesus. Pray to Him, and let Him guide your loved ones out. I'm convinced that Jesus intervened on our behalf, because of our praying Christian friends.
In Christ's love,