I have always had the ability to remember things from my very early childhood. This special gift has often brought me comfort at times of need, and it has also helped me through the most important decision I have ever made in my life.
I remember as a child learning of Jesus Christ in the nursery at Court Street Christian Church in Salem, Oregon. I remember the songs we sang about how Jesus loved us, and how he cared about every one of us. I have always known that He is my Savior and Redeemer and I have always felt like He has been part of every aspect of my life. I remember those times with much joy, and if I could describe them in simple terms, I would tell you that they were days of sunshine and happiness.
When I was five years old, my mother joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the "Mormons." She had a friend down the street who got her interested by sending the Missionaries over. My mother started taking us to church on a regular basis, but my father refused to join the church. From that point on, it's like a cloud came over me and blocked the "sunshine" of Jesus' love that I had in my life before the Mormon church. As a young child, I was taught about church history, I was told that I "wanted" to get married in the temple to a "good Mormon boy who had been on a mission," and that I should have a "large" family because of all of the spirit children waiting in Heaven to come to the Earth. Every Fast and Testimony Meeting I heard the same things, "I know the church is the only true church on the face of the earth, I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and I know that President so-and-so is a true prophet. I rarely heard testimonies about Jesus Christ, that He is our Savior. I didn't understand why the emphasis on Jesus Christ was so minute.
As I got older, there were more and more things I found that I disagreed with. I thought something must be wrong with me, because here are all of these adults telling me that the church is true and that they knew it was true. When I would ask questions about something said, I was told not to question the leaders of the church. If I didn't agree with something someone said, I was told that I just had to accept that it was from God and that it was His word. We were to never question or disagree with the leaders of the church.
Over the years I heard more and more things I didn't understand and didn't agree with, and I was constantly battling these feelings. Who was I to question the church? I remember when I was fourteen, a boy asked me if I was a Christian. I didn't know what to reply, as I had been told I was a "Mormon" not a Christian. This stuck in my mind for a long time, and recently I read that Mormons are claiming to be Christians. If they are Christian, why wasn't I taught that I was a Christian before? Is the church wrong now, or was it wrong when it taught that we were "Mormon" and not Christian?
In October of 1988, I married a wonderful man who had just been baptized. We move to a very affluent ward in Atlanta, Georgia, where we quickly felt less than adequate. Each Sunday we were surrounded by members that were driving Mercedes, Porches, etc., and we came in our 1978 Trans Am. After a few months, my husband quickly lost interest in the church and decided to stop attending. He didn't know exactly why, but he felt that something was wrong about the church. I continued to attend over the next seven and a half years, but each Sunday, leaving feeling very empty inside. I wanted to go to church to be filled with the teachings of Jesus Christ, and instead all I was told was what I had to do to be a "good" Mormon. Since my husband was inactive, I was obviously considered less than perfect, and everyone let me know this.
I had many callings in Primary, Sunday School and Relief Society (a so-called "perfect" organization like the LDS Church), but each one made me feel like I was going against something inside myself. I always felt that church should be different, but I didn't know how it should be.
We moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1990, and I found myself less than interested in attending church, but I did it anyway because I have always felt that going was important. Despite the lack of spiritual growth I experienced, I continued to go. Each week though, I felt less close to God, and began to question my own beliefs. I never broke any commandments, or did anything against the church or its teachings, yet I felt no comfort in this.
In March of 1996, I began to think very hard about this, and I decided that I should find out for myself exactly what I believed in. I started reading the Bible, and comparing the Book of Mormon to it. I found 19+ things in church doctrine that I disagreed with, but even with that many things wrong, it still wasn't enough for me to leave the church. I was terrified of the "great doom" that would come to me if I left the church. It tormented me for weeks, and into months. I finally decided that even though I didn't know why the church wasn't true, that because I felt in my heart that it wasn't true, that I should leave. It was the most frightening thing I have ever done in my life. Imagine, leaving a church would make someone terrified. I finally said a prayer to God, and told him that I was leaving the church because I felt that it wasn't true. I told him that I didn't know why it wasn't true, but that I could honestly look him in the face and say that I really didn't believe it was true, and that I was putting my life and my faith in his hands.
I wrote a letter to my Bishop telling of my desire to leave the church, and that I didn't want to have anyone in the church contact me regarding my decision. Of course, since I said for no one to contact me, no one did. But, no one removed my name from the church records, either. A few months later I sent another letter to the Bishop and to the Stake President threatening to take it to the local newspapers. Finally, four months after my initial letter, I called the records department in SLC and received confirmation that my name had been removed.
In the months that followed, I continued reading about the church, and it was if things were opened to my eyes as to the true meaning of church doctrine and the goals of the church, and the deceptive ways that the church is using to "convert" people all over the world.
The following list is just some of the many reasons why I don't believe in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and why I chose to end my membership with the church. Some of the reasons are personal, some are factual.
1. I believe that God wants all of his children to return to him in Heaven, not a select few who belong to a certain church, and practice the things in that church.
2. I believe that everyone who believes in Christ will return to Heaven and that we are all here at different levels of spiritual progression, hence the many churches around the world.
3. I don't believe that people who aren't married in the Mormon temples will be "servants" to those who are married in the Mormon temples.
4. I think that if I do what I think is right and what I believe, that is all I can do besides believe in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
5. I do not believe in polygamy, which the church teaches will be a part of the eternal plan in Heaven. (In the 80's, seminary lessons included this fact, now, as the church is ever-changing, they claim that information about this hasn't been "revealed" yet. This is from missionaries that I spoke with shortly before I left the church)
6. I do not believe that there was any reasonable explanation for blacks not having the Priesthood of the Mormon church until 1978, except that it is another example of the church "conforming" to fit in with the current times.
7. I do not believe that the Book of Mormon is more important than the Bible. I believe that the church I attend should base is principles on the Bible, which is the word of God.
8. I never had a "testimony" of Joseph Smith, or that the LDS Church is the "only" true church on the earth today. My testimony is in Jesus Christ, my Savior and Redeemer. I used to think that it wasn't important that I didn't believe in Joseph Smith, but as I got older, I realized that the church basically worships the church and Joseph Smith more than the Savior, and that isn't what I want to do.
9. I believe that the members should have say in certain things pertaining to the church and that they should be able to interpret things in the Bible to their own thinking, not be told what to believe on every subject.
10. I do not believe that I will be damned, as a woman, if I am not married in a Mormon temple to a Mormon man, even though I was told as a teenager that I wanted to be married in the temple.
11. I do not believe that my salvation lies in the hands of my husband, and I do not believe that if I am not married to a man in the temple, that I won't return to Heavenly Father.
12. I do not believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the Lord, because he was into digging for gold, using seeing stones to do so, and he wrote several letters talking about "clever spirits" and using black magic to find gold. He also was a member of the Masons, and was practicing polygamy long before he had the "revelation" that the Lord said it was okay for him to do so.
It was also very convenient to have a revelation telling Emma Smith that she would be "destroyed" if she didn't let Joseph Smith practice polygamy. The Lord has never "threatened" someone to keep his commandments.
13. As I read the Doctrine & Covenants, I found it rather strange that every time the people complained about something, or his wife complained, or there was a problems, Joseph Smith conveniently had a "revelation" that would shut them all up. I feel that it is all a lie.
14. I do not understand why, if the First Vision was the beginning of the church, Joseph Smith did not tell anyone about it for several years, and that it had been changed over the early years of the church.
15. I do not understand why there are so many similarities in the Mormon religion to Masonry, a secret organization, to which Joseph Smith belonged. (i.e. Aaronic & Melchizedek Priesthood, progression to godhood, etc.)
16. I disagree with the fact that the church says to listen and obey the leaders of the church and to never question what they say. I was taught that it was Satan who put thoughts in my brain that were contradictory to teachings of the church. As a teenager, I thought something was wrong with me when I disagreed with doctrine of the church, but as an adult, I know that is wrong. God gave me a thinking, reasoning, brain, and I have the right to question anything and everything.
17. I don't believe that we can become Gods, because there are too many scriptures in the Bible telling that there is only one God, that God is it and that God will be the only God. Besides, I don't want to become a God; God is my God.
18. I don't believe that the Jesus in the Bible and the Jesus in the Book of Mormon could possibly be the same Jesus because of several reasons, one being that in the Bible, when he died, he was very forgiving of the people, and said, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." In the Book of Mormon, he destroyed millions of people, and there was great destruction of cities and lands. I don't think that the same person would not harm anyone in his lands, but then turn around and destroy whole cities in the Americas.
19. I don't believe that the Garden of Eden was in Independence, Missouri, because in the Bible, it describes where it was, and it could not physically have been in America.
After realizing that there were too many things that didn't make sense to me, when everything in the Bible makes sense to me, that I had to leave. I said a prayer to God and told him that I couldn't be a member of the LDS church anymore because as a daughter of Him, I could not accept the answers I was finding in my searching. I told Him I was going to leave the church and find a place where I felt that the teachings of Jesus Christ were taught. I felt nothing less than total acceptance and love from Him, and started on my search to find what I was looking for.
My husband also left the church when I did, and we both felt very certain we were making the right decision. Soon after, I began to have doubts pop into my mind. I would think things like, "There really isn't a god," or "Are you crazy, you just destroyed your eternal life." At the same time, though, God told me that it wasn't me that was having those thoughts. I realized that someone was trying to get me to stray even farther from God than I already had when I went to the Mormon church. A good friend of ours suggested that we start looking for another church that taught the teachings of Jesus Christ. We were lucky and found a wonderful church that we leave each week feeling totally re-filled with the spirit of God, and the teachings of Jesus Christ.
I realize that I had been a prisoner of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and that now, after 21 years, am free. Free in the love of Jesus Christ. I had been scared before I left the church, of being lonely, not knowing where to turn for God, not knowing if I was going to go to hell for leaving the church. But, I have never felt so loved and protected before in my life. Jesus Christ has come into my life and given me more than I could ever ask for, His love and grace.
Questions or comments? Please send them to Bethany, the author of this story.