One day at Sacrament meeting when the focus was on Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for us, I felt the Spirit of the Lord, but when I mentioned this to my Bishop, he rebuked me by saying that, because of my probation and inability to partake in Sacrament, it was not possible for me to feel the Spirit. In disillusionment, I left the LDS Church and everything that had to do with Christianity, but God in His Grace drew me to the REAL Jesus, and I have found the joy and freedom in a personal relationship with Him, without the control of authoritarian religion.
For the majority of my life on earth, I have been around the LDS Church. My father was born and raised Mormon, and his family has deep roots in Mormonism dating back to the Brigham Young days. I remember my grandmother’s stories of her family’s journey from back east to the Salt Lake Valley. Although we did attend Church occasionally for special Sundays like Easter, I was inactive from the Church for most of my youth. When I was 13, my father decided that his family needed to have the Word of God in the home, so he turned to Mormonism — the only religion he really knew and the only one I was familiar with as well.
I spent my teenage years doing all that the Church required of a young man up until I graduated from high school. At that time, I felt a stronger pull towards Patriotism than I did towards serving a mission. My father, being an ex-Marine with his own Patriotic call at that age, was just as happy that I joined the U.S. military as he would have been if I went on a mission. So, with my small scripture set in hand, I joined the Navy to serve my country. Up to that point, I had lived my whole life in a small Idaho town and had never been in any other Church but the LDS Church. The quiet reverent atmosphere and structure of Mormon Sundays was what I truly believed all churches were like. I guess you could say I was religiously naïve.
At Navy boot camp, my eyes were opened for the first time when I saw all the religious meetings on base taking place in one central location. As I walked each Sunday to the room where the LDS members congregated, I passed by a Baptist meeting that sounded like a rock concert. The whole place was singing praise, clapping, and rejoicing in the Lord. WOW! At that time, it came as a complete shock to me to witness. It was such a departure from what I knew of church that it sticks in my memory to this day.
Throughout my 20s, I bounced in and out of activity inside the LDS religion. My wife, a convert to the LDS Church, joined me in this yo-yo-like membership status. I think we had more home teacher visits than attendance records during the 1990s. After the birth of our son in 1999, we decided that we should become active members. Due to my inactivity, I had never been ordained an elder, but at this point we determined that this was something that needed to be done.
The first thing I had to do was a full confession to the Bishop. Finding that I led a highly unworthy life until then, he started me on my “repentance sentence.” At the time, my wife and I were career-oriented people. The Bishop heavily promoted the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. This did not settle well with my wife, and soon she was on her way back to an inactive status. I was still on my repentance probation and striving to do what was asked of me. Along with that, immense pressure was applied to get my wife back to the Church. This put a strain on my marriage, made me sit on Sundays having to explain to others the absence of my wife, and just put an overall bad taste in my mouth.
One Sunday in 2003, I was sitting in Sacrament meeting and felt the Spirit of the Lord with me. The talk that day was New Testament based and focused more on Christ and His sacrifice for our salvation than usual. It was followed by the song entitled, “I Stand All Amazed” (Hymns, number 193):
“I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me.”
At the conclusion of this hymn, I was filled with joy and happiness and had tears in my eyes. After Church, I had a meeting with the Bishop. Waiting outside his office, I overheard the Bishopric discussing how wonderfully filled the Church was with the Spirit that day. When my meeting started, I said, “I agree, I felt it too; it was a wonderful service today.”
The look I received in return was one of questioning and disbelief. The Bishop then informed me in no uncertain terms that I shouldn’t or couldn’t feel the Spirit because of my probation (which included not being able to partake in the Sacrament). Since I was unable to eat the bread and drink the water to renew my covenants in Christ, he told me that what I felt must have been something else.
We then went on to discuss my refusal to give up coffee (another story in itself). At the end of my meeting, I felt I lost all faith in what I was taught to believe in for all those years. I knew I felt the Lord with me that day, and I couldn’t believe the arrogance of a man to tell me otherwise. That was the last Sunday I worshiped in an LDS Church.
At that time, my loss of faith encompassed all of Christianity, as I believed then that what Mormons taught about Christ was the same as the Baptists, Nazarenes, Lutherans, etc. So, I turned away from all Christian teachings and spent the next few years dipping my spiritual toe in everything from Buddhism to Wicca. For a time, I even called myself a heathen. There was just no place in my heart for Christ (at least the Mormon-version Christ).
The problem was that, no matter what avenue I turned down, I still could not find that sense of peace and joy that I found that day at Sacrament meeting. During this journey, I started the process of deprogramming all that I had learned from Mormonism and researching the truths about Mormon history. This included having my name removed from LDS records. A couple of years ago, I decided to turn my ear back to Christianity and started attending a small Christian Fellowship Church near where I lived. Through personal study of the Bible and prayer, I started to find that joy again. This study has shown me the many holes and falsehoods of Mormonism. I feel Mormons are the Pharisees returned, putting faith in the Law and not in God. It has also shown me that I do not need to be a part of any church to invite Jesus into my life. He is with me at all times, and I have been shown the truth in the poem of “Footprints in the Sand.”
Every day, I wake up feeling free in the knowledge that all I need to do is believe on Jesus to be saved. What a wonderful feeling to know that our salvation is in His hands, and our personal walk is with Him! It is not in the hands of someone “having authority” over our spirituality. I pray that my story may help others who are struggling in the process of leaving Mormonism. I know so many good people who are Mormons and hope that they, too, will have their eyes opened to the Truth.