A story guided by Grace
The journey to the Christian faith is often a long, painful process for a person who once belonged to the LDS Church. We recently met a young man who shared his story with us.
God Sees the Big Picture
Has God ever gotten your attention somehow? He has with me on occasion and one such time happened not long ago.
My Mother’s Faith
My mother passed away last year. She had Alzheimer’s – a dreadful disease. It robs people of their memories. It robs them of their personality. Eventually, it robs them of their lives.
A few months ago, I had the privilege of meeting a young lady who shared with me her story about growing up in the Mormon Church before finding the true Christ in God’s Word. The following is her story.
I was born and raised a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Mormon. My ancestors were there from the beginning. They were some of the first followers of Joseph Smith. They came across the plains and helped settle towns from Salt Lake City to St. George. We preached, ate, slept, breathed and lived every aspect of the Mormon culture and life. We were Mormons. Since the time that the church was started, there has not been one member of my family that has deviated from the teachings, not one of us that didn’t get married in the temple, not one of us that questioned the teachings of the church, until me. Until one day, when I met and fell in love with a Christian, a non-member, a blasphemy in the eyes of my religion.
I want to share my simple story for two reasons: one, for other Christians to be encouraged to share and to sow the seeds of what it means to be truly saved; two, for other members of the LDS faith that maybe feel like I did, and are hoping that they are not alone.
I was a good girl growing up. Did the typical teenage things, had the typical teenage thoughts. I made mistakes, sinned, and strived to do better every day. There were times of great self-hatred, deep depression and anger towards myself. I struggled with my self-worth daily. I went to bed often wondering if I did enough to be saved that day. I blamed myself for being weak when I sinned; I punished myself when I failed. I longed for love from my Heavenly Father and rarely felt it, and I always told myself that it was my fault. I was being punished for not doing enough, not being good enough. There was always the thought that tomorrow I would do better, and tomorrow I would feel the love that I longed for. I never did though. Not once did I drift off to sleep confident that I was saved, that I was loved that I was forgiven. The struggle continued, daily for the first 23 years of my life.
I met my husband when I was 16. He wasn’t a member of the church. I dated him anyway. It was bad. My family disapproved. My friends disapproved. My bishop disapproved. I was forbidden to take the sacrament on Sunday. People talked. My parents were so embarrassed.
Even after all that, all the self-hatred, the mean looks from people I loved, there was no doubt in my head that I would be anything ever, other than LDS. I was sure that one day I would convert him. One day he would take me through the temple. We would be that family that I was taught I should be. He would see that my church was the only true church on the earth. There was no doubt in my mind, so I continued to date him. Then after college, I married him.
We lived happily for about a year. The subject of religion rarely came up. Then the subject of kids, starting a family came to surface. Neither of us was comfortable bringing kids into a place that was so divided on religious matters. I agreed to take the adult information classes through his church if he would agree to take the lessons from the Mormon missionaries. The search then begun.
We started taking the classes simultaneously. Since there was not any doubt in my mind that in the end my religion would prevail, and I wanted this whole thing to end quickly, I decided to help the missionaries out a little and I started doing my own research on my religion. A little double team action would surely be just what he needed to convert over to the truth. I read the Doctrine of Covenants for the first time in my life, I studied, I read, and I prayed. A funny thing happened to me on my mission, as I was doing my own research and soul searching I started to have a lot of questions about the things that I had been taught my whole life. Suddenly everything wasn’t all black and white to me. When I would ask these questions to the missionaries, more time than not, they didn’t have the answers for me. I would always get the “pray about that, and your Heavenly Father will answer that for you in your heart.” That is a typical Mormon answer that I have heard at least 2000 times growing up. I would pray, I would feel nothing, which in the Mormon faith is a very bad thing. That means that I was not worthy to get the answer I sought. However, the next week when I went to the adult information classes at my husband’s church, the pastor answered my questions. He did it without even being asked. I remember the first time it happened. We sat down, we said our hellos, and the lesson started. The pastor answered my question within 3 minutes of the discussion. I never even asked it to him, yet he answered it. God was answering my prayers, and not with a burning in my heart or a feeling, but with a messenger with real words. This happened most weeks that we went through the lessons.
As the weeks went on, I grew farther and farther away from the foundation that I had built my whole life on and around. When I started on this journey I had no doubt that it would end the way I imagined it would. Nobody wanted my church to be proved true more than me. I wasn’t looking for another religion. I wasn’t seeking truth somewhere different then I had always found it in the past, but I did. I found it, and once I did, it would have been impossible for me to deny. If I wasn’t so happy and relieved I would have been heartbroken.
When the lessons were done from both sides, the prayers answered, the truth found, I realized that the things I knew were not the truth. They were not what God had in mind. They were false, they were empty. All my life I thought I knew God, I thought I walked in his path, but until I left the church I had no idea that I had no idea. To truly be loved, accepted, saved, that is a feeling that I as a Mormon never experienced. Once I accepted Jesus as my Savior, there was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, I cried tears of relief. This is what I had been longing for all my life. I no longer had to go to bed with guilt, shame, fear. Did I do enough today? NO, surely I did not, or cannot ever, but it didn’t matter because Jesus had done enough for me, and there was nothing I could do to match that, or compete with that, and it is such a relief knowing that I didn’t have to anymore. I was baptized when I was 23. I was a good Mormon all my life, I did all the things that were asked of me, but until that day, I had never had a true relationship with God. I had called myself a Christian for 23 years but until that day, I had no idea what it felt like to truly be saved.
My family took it pretty hard. They hated my husband for taking me away from the church. To them I was doomed to an eternal life in outer darkness (Hell). What they don’t understand is that all he did was plant the seeds, God did the rest. What happened to me was between God and myself. God changed my heart, God opened my eyes, all my husband did was plant the seeds.
That is why it is so important that we plant seeds. When we do, God will do the rest, and as an ex-Mormon converted to Christianity, I can say in the end, we are ever so thankful that someone took the time and effort to plant them.
Several years ago I had the opportunity to meet Susan in while making presentations in Salt Lake City. She shared with me her remarkable story of finding the true Jesus Christ.
Susan grew up in a family that was a direct descendent of a Mormon pioneer family who travelled to Salt Lake City using a handcart in the mid 19th century. When Brigham Young arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, he encouraged LDS converts in Great Britain to come to Utah. For the next eight years, approximately 16,000 European Mormons arrived in America. Most of the emigrants traveled to Salt Lake by rail or covered wagons pulled by strong oxen. Those who couldn’t afford to purchase a railroad ticket or a covered wagon gathered together in Iowa and Nebraska. To assist these families, Brigham Young helped organize handcart companies to make the final trek to Salt Lake City. From 1856-1860, three thousand pioneers from England, Scotland, and Wales placed their belongings on handcarts or over-sized wheel-barrows and walked all the way to Utah. Pioneer Days is an annual celebration rivaling Christmas and Thanksgiving that commemorates the early Mormon pioneers. Mormons who are direct descendants of these pioneers feel great pride in being associated with them.
The heritages of pioneer families is a strong pull to keep Mormons faithful to their religion. This was especially the case for Susan who was constantly taught the importance of being worthy of God’s blessings, valiant in her faith and CTR (choosing the right). Being a rebellious teenager, she struggled in her attempts to be worthy and valiant in her LDS faith.
Susan became pregnant and immediately married her teenage boyfriend. Back in the 60’s, marriage was a requirement to form a legitimate union and to move forward in the LDS process of repentance with the hope of someday receiving forgiveness. Determined to become a worthy Mormon, Susan carried out her part by being the perfect housewife, the perfect mother, fulfilling all her callings in the church, and having many babies. Exhaustion and feelings of being overwhelmed were her constant companions. She strove to become perfect, but knew she fell far short. Guilt plagued her life. Mormonism to her was like a demanding parent, she never felt like she was doing enough to receive its approval.
Nagging guilt convinced Susan that perhaps she didn’t understand Mormonism well enough. She enrolled in several college-level classes on Mormonism taught by LDS professors to learn more about her faith. However, the more she learned about LDS teachings, the more she doubted. Since worthy Mormons are not to question the teachings of the LDS church or its authorities, she did not inquire about her doubts and continued to play the role of a faithful Mormon.
Stress entered Susan’s marriage when she discovered that her husband had been unfaithful. She was strongly encouraged by the bishop to stay with her husband even though he was no longer considered worthy. If she didn’t stay with him, she would jeopardize her chance for salvation and would not be worthy enough for the highest kingdom of glory (the celestial kingdom). To be considered worthy, a woman must be married. Furthermore, a woman can only attain the celestial kingdom if she has a worthy husband and her marriage has been sealed for time and eternity in the temple. “If my husband isn’t worthy,” she thought, “and I know that I’m not worthy, than it just doesn’t matter anymore.” Inside, Susan broke. She left the Church she dearly loved, divorced her husband, and spent the next thirteen years as a very angry woman.
To fill the void in her life, Susan pursued New Age and other occult religions. Shamanism, card-reading, astrology, crystals – any kind of spiritualism seemed attractive since she couldn’t seem to find the truth she was seeking.
But the Lord moves in mysterious ways.
It started when she decided to find her birth mother. Knowing she was adopted, she always felt bad and unworthy because she thought to herself: “Even my own birth mother abandoned me.” While searching for her mother, she was shocked to learn that her adoption was not legal. Her adoptive mother didn’t know the circumstances or the details surrounding her birth. She only knew that a baby needed a good Mormon home. She decided to run a newspaper advertisement, which rarely works, but she was contacted by a birth family member who recognized her story.
She eventually found her birth mother living in California. Her mother had gone through a difficult period in her life and had to give up both Susan and her baby brother. When her mother’s life returned to normal, she was able to find her son. However, nobody seemed to know what had become of her little girl. Her mother came to faith in Christ, plus her brother had become a Lutheran pastor.
For the next several years their relationship grew. Her mother always told her that she was praying for Susan’s eternal welfare. However, it was the example of her mother’s life that gave the strongest testimony of a living and active faith in Jesus. When her mother was lying on her deathbed, Susan was touched by the comfort and assurance she displayed. By resting entirely on God’s promises, her mother was 100% certain that she was going to see Jesus in heaven, because she was freely and fully forgiven. Since Mormons are never certain if they are good enough to eternally progress in heaven, her mother’s approach to death had quite an impact on Susan.
She longed for the faith of her mother. Over the course of three years, she vigorously studied the Bible with the help of her brother. She worked through the false teachings of Mormonism that had been deeply ingrained in her. Finally, she completed her long journey and came to faith in her Savior. With any journey involving the heart, the length of time is overshadowed by the joy experienced in finally coming home and resting in the arms of Jesus.
From her experiences, she offers the following words of instruction and encouragement for us:
“Our attitude is very important. We must recognize Mormons, not as the enemy, but as deceived people trapped by the enemy. They are precious souls for whom Christ died. So we must not allow anger or frustration to seep into our witness, but convey love and patience.”
“We need to be concerned, authentic, and available for Mormons. Typically, Mormons are in some type of deep emotional pain. They will not be prone to open up to other Mormons, because to do so would be to reveal their unworthiness. As a result, they will be more open to talk to non-Mormons. A great first step is asking Mormons if you can pray for them.”
Mormons are not unreachable. For many, it’s a long process of wading through the false teachings of Mormonism to fully grasp the truth of God’s Word. When Susan left the Mormon Church, it took thirteen long, dark years of questioning before she finally came to faith. “If the Lord can work the miracle of faith in me,” Susan shared, “then God can work the miracle of faith in any Mormon, no matter what the circumstances may be.”
“A person dying of cancer needs the means of grace that his senses can respond to and enter his heart for faith to hold: the sound of the Word and perhaps that of another Christian’s voice.” (Martin Galstad)
The power of God’s Word is the source for miracles to happen. One of the greatest miracles is when a soul dead in sin comes alive in faith. They receive the promises God has given in Christ and their life radiates the peace and joy of being a new creation. Though its only through the power of God’s Word that a person comes to faith, God uses messengers to transmit it.
This was the case with my friend, Mark, who recently had the opportunity to share the gospel and witnessed an amazing miracle.
Across from the street from Mark, lived an older couple named Joe and Bev. Whenever they saw each other, a friendly wave and a remark about the weather was a customary greeting. Nothing special. No deep discussions on life and spiritual matters. They were just being friendly neighbors.
Mark’s next door neighbors were good friends of Joe and Bev. During the summer, they regularly enjoyed time in the outdoors and loved to ride their ATV’s in the mountain wilderness of Idaho. It was through their neighbors that they found out that John had terminal lung cancer. The diagnosis came only four to five weeks ago. The doctor gave the bad news that Joe only had about six months to live.
Throughout his life, Joe never stepped inside a church, nor ever opened up a Bible. He was a good, friendly man with a close-knit family, but never had a desire or felt a need to know God. He knew of the historical Christ, but didn’t really know the reasons behind his life, death, and resurrection.
Mark’s next door neighbors were troubled by the news of Joe’s cancer. He asked Mark if he and his wife could accompany him while he went over to visit Joe. The next day, the four of them visited with Joe and Bev and had a nice, friendly chat. Bothered by the fact that they didn’t talk about anything spiritual, Mark felt he needed to talk with Joe again privately. Though scared and full of trepidation, Mark picked up the phone and called. He asked if he could come over and talk about spiritual matters and Joe agreed to the visit.
For the next two hours, Joe peppered Mark with questions about faith and God. Though stricken with cancer, he was in good shape. It didn’t seem that he was on death’s door. He was perplexed how a loving God would allow so much evil in this world. He was puzzled at how God wouldn’t reward him since he lived a good life, a good citizen and kind to others. Mark didn’t try to argue, debate, sell or persuade. When Mark didn’t know the answers to his complex questions regarding life and God’s sovereignty, he was not afraid to say, “I don’t know the answer.”
However, over and over again, Mark told him, “Joe, trying to be good on earth is not good enough for God.” He shared with him the gospel message that Christ came to be righteous for us. There is no way we can save ourselves from eternal punishment as a result of our sins. Only through Christ, and his substitution on the cross can we be declared righteous. By faith in God, by placing our trust in His promises and accepting what Christ has already done for us, can we be declared perfect and fully forgiven. Mark left with him a Bible to read since Joe never owned one before.
This conversation took place on Sunday afternoon, January 13th, 2013. Two days later, Joe called Mark on the phone. He said, “Mark, come over right away. I have something to tell you.” When Mark arrived, Joe shared with him that he believed in Jesus Christ. Joe said, “It all just came so easily, so obviously. I couldn’t help but believe.”
Once thought impossible, Joe received and accepted the good news. He had never been happier or been filled with such joy! He couldn’t believe that he missed out on this joy and peace that he was experiencing throughout his life. With his family gathered around him, they were in shock and disbelief on what they were witnessing. Joe was a changed man.
On Wednesday evening, January 16th, two days after coming to faith in Christ, Joe died from lung cancer at his home. He is in heaven.
But the story doesn’t end here.
On Friday morning, January 18th, Joe’s daughter came over the house and asked if she could visit with Mark and his wife. She asked if he could say a few words at her father’s funeral. Unfortunately, Mark was going to be out of town. Then, she had a very unusual request. Family was flying in from around the country, and she was wondering if he could come over and visit with them.
In the last 48 hours before Joe’s sudden death, the family was amazed at the joy and peace that had transformed over him since his conversation with Mark about Jesus Christ and Joe’s confession of faith. Though his family did not own a Bible and never went to church, Joe kept asking his family members to read the Bible that Mark gave to him out loud. Flabbergasted at this change in their beloved husband and father, the family wanted to learn more about what happened. They wanted to hear the same message that Mark gave to Joe.
Thought feeling terribly inadequate and unprepared, Mark came over to the house and told them the message that he gave to Joe. His family was still in shock over his quick death. Yet, they listened with rapt attention.
Mark basically told them three things:
1. The comfort that we have as Christians that we know with 100% certainty that we will be with God in heaven because of what Christ has done, not based on what we have done.
2. Joe loved you and he knew that he was loved by you.
3. Joe was concerned that he wanted you to have the gospel message.
There is no doubt a miracle happened. It was not about how good of a “sales” job Mark carried out to convince people to follow Jesus, but relying on the power of God’s Word. Mark felt like a simple messenger who received a gift in being able to watch the miracle of a person coming to faith unveil before him.
What an amazing experience to be used by God to share an all-important message of saving faith in Jesus Christ.
“I can truly say that the Lord taught me because when I came to know the Lord I didn’t trust anyone.”
These were the words shared with me by Charlotte as she contemplated how she became a Christian. Her pathway to faith was not an easy one, especially for those who were once members of the Mormon Church.
For those who have come out of Mormonism, lack of trust is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome. When reaching the conclusion that the teachings of Mormonism are not true it becomes a dramatic shock to those who grew up in the Mormon Church. An unquestioning faith in the prophets and leaders of the Mormon church and its teachings are practically mandated and vigorously taught at a very early age. When Mormons are brought to the point that they must reject the teachings of Mormonism, it is heart-wrenching. The feeling of utter betrayal by the Mormon Church typically leads an ex-Mormon down the path of unbelief. Who can they trust to tell the truth?
Finding truth is the story of Charlotte’s journey from Mormonism to the Christian faith.
Charlotte was raised in the Mormons church and was a devoted follower. She was married in the Manti temple in Utah, but her husband left the church over an incident with an LDS bishop. Wanting to stay loyal to her husband, she also left the church and continued to fervently pray that if the Mormon Church was true, God would lead her back some day. Though she was torn and distressed in leaving her beloved church, she learned that the Lord used this event and other challenging circumstances in her life to lead her to the risen Christ of the Bible.
Her journey had already begun when she was a teenager. She said, “A Baptist preacher was preaching to me the truth of God’s Word, but I couldn’t understand a word of what he said. It was like listening to Greek. Ten years later I started attending a women’s Bible study… and I was very arrogant in my knowledge of the Bible. I couldn’t connect relationally and I felt like I was just a project to those ladies.” She then attended a church evangelism meeting. The Lord used that meeting to bring her to faith. She replies, “It has taken over fifteen years to sort out my thinking. The Lord has used a number of different circumstances to teach me first to trust the Bible to be true and then to understand what he really means in his Word and not what I was told it meant.”
Charlotte encourages Christians to be prayerful and patient when witnessing to Mormons. She says, “What many Christians don’t understand is that the enemy has taken the same word of God and put a distorted meaning to it in the LDS Church. The Word of God is essential as well as praying the ears will hear and the eyes will see. Just being a godly friend is most important. Let God work in their hearts and be in tune to Him so that he can use you to say and do just the right thing at just the right time. One of my favorite scriptures is, ‘Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ (John 8:32) That truth isn’t always pretty, but it is liberating in the Lord.”
We praise the Lord that the Holy Spirit has brought Charlotte to faith in the Jesus of the Bible. We are thankful that she can fully take him at his Word. Finally, we are encouraged again to see the power of God’s Word at work in people’s hearts – even those lost souls who have been terribly misguided in their perceptions of God. We are thankful that Charlotte found TILM (www.tilm.org) on the internet and expressed her appreciation on how this ministry is reaching out to Mormons with gentleness and love while relying on the truth of God’s Word.
After being born and raised in the LDS Church, Kathleen became an inactive member after a painful divorce with her Mormon husband. Even though she didn’t want anything to do with religion or God, she still wanted to believe in the LDS teachings. Then, the Lord led her to a Christian man and they began dating. He lovingly and patiently challenged her to compare the teachings of the LDS Church with what the Bible teaches. The comparison was startling. She came across teachings from the Bible that she never heard before.
The Lord led her on a long process of careful research and prayer. She told me, “God was very patient with me and showed me bits of truth from the Bible in small doses. It proved how loving God really is. He knew me so well and knew how traumatic it would have been to find out that my whole life I had believed false teachings. It had never occurred to me throughout my entire life that the Bible contradicts the Book of Mormon in many places.” When her Christian boyfriend showed her that nowhere in the Bible does it talk about the LDS teachings on the pre-existence, becoming a god, celestial marriage, etc…, she was terribly shocked. She had sincerely believed that these teachings were common knowledge to all Christians.
God eventually led Kathleen into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ only a few years ago. The same Christian man who helped her leave Mormonism is now her husband. She encourages Christians to be patient, loving, and persistent when witnessing to Mormons. A huge hurdle is discovering the contradiction between the Bible and 2 Nephi 25:23 (Book of Mormon) where it says that God’s grace is only sufficient after all you can do.
She told me, “Another thing that helped bring me out of Mormonism was learning how the Bible came about. This is not really something taught in the LDS church. I grew up in the Mormon Church believing the Bible to be good but very unreliable. Discovering just how God was able to preserve his precious Word over thousands of years is a miracle and certainly a tribute to how powerful God is (Matt. 24:35).”
Kathleen’s entire family is still Mormon. They are not very happy with her decision to leave the LDS faith. She continues to pray for them and reach out in love as much as possible. Her prayer is that one day that the powerful Word of God will break the chains the LDS Church has on them and set them free. She wrote, “The Word of God and Jesus’ unconditional love is what started the process of bringing me out of the LDS church and into a saving relationship with Jesus. My prayer is that God can use me to spread his love and word to all my LDS friends and family.”
If you would like to download a free Bible study on how to speak the truth in love to Mormons called, “Preparing for the Adventure” please click here.
The following are verses that helped Kathleen come to faith in the real Christ: Galatians 2:20-21, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 1:14-17, Psalms 103:12, Matthew 27:51, Matthew 10:37-38, Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 64:6, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:23, 3:28, 5:1-2, 11:6, Jeremiah 17:9.