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.”