I Was a Mormon: Bonnie Ricks
My Journey Out of the "Slimy Pit"
I waited patiently for the LORD ;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.
I was raised in a "Sunday Christian" home. Although my parents were good, church-going people, there were many areas that I can see today that they fell short in their rearing of me. Let me illustrate. I was born while my father was attending Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He then transferred to Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, where he graduated with a B.A. in Religious Music. His first job after graduation was as music director for Newport High School in Newport, Arkansas. Shortly after we moved there, he was also hired as music director for First Baptist Church of Newport. During the seven years we lived in Newport, it was a rare time when the church doors were open and we were not inside. Sunday School, church services Sunday morning and evening, Wednesday night prayer meeting, and Vacation Bible School were a solid part of our lives. The year that I turned nine, a revival was held at the church. I know we attended every night, since my father was directing the choir. I vaguely remember the final night. An altar call was given, and all the kids around me got up and headed down the aisle. Realizing that I was the only one still sitting, I jumped up and followed, unwilling to stick out like a sore thumb as the only one still in my seat. After the service was over, the Pastor took me into a little room and asked me a few questions. I remember nodding my head and answering "Yes" to all his questions, but that's about it. I also know that I was baptized shortly thereafter, but I have no memory of that event.
When I was twelve, we moved to North Little Rock, Arkansas, where my father was employed at North Little Rock High School as music director. We joined Park Hill Baptist Church and became involved. A few months after our move, our church held a revival, which we faithfully attended. The revival preacher was an old-time "hellfire and brimstone" preacher, who shouted and banged the pulpit a lot. During one of his sermons, he said something that scared the wits out of me. I don't remember specifically what he said; I just remember being terrified. I went home that night in tears, unwilling to talk to anyone, and spent most of the night crying. The next morning, I woke up and, with all the confidence of a pre-teen who knows everything, I announced to my parents that I would never set foot in another Baptist Church again.
I'm sure my parents thought I was just going through a phase, because they ignored it. When they got dressed that night to go to the revival, I refused to join them. Instead of counseling with me, they shrugged their shoulders and allowed me to stay at home. Since this tactic worked once, I knew it would work again so, being the mule-headed kid that I was, I repeated it each and every time my parents tried to get me to attend church. And it worked for over a year. Every Sunday morning and evening and every Wednesday night, my parents would get dressed for church, and I would stubbornly refuse to join them. Since they were having their own marital crisis at the time (very nearly getting a divorce at one point), they took the easy way out and let me stay at home. The one thing that stands out in my mind is that neither my mother nor my father ever tried to help me understand what the preacher had said that frightened me so much. Instead, they basically ignored the situation. Finally, however, they became weary of my not attending church, so they asked me if I'd go to church if we changed denominations. I already had gained a sense of power where my family was concerned, so being given the option of deciding where we would attend church only added to my feelings of omnipotence. I had to maintain. I had to hold my position. This was not the time to falter! Quick thinking reminded me that some of my friends at school attended a Methodist Church in Sylvan Hills, just outside North Little Rock. They were "cool", so I figured that was a "cool" church. Intent on maintaining my power edge, I offered that church as an option. Grateful that I would agree to attend church, my parents acquiesced. We began attending services at that little Methodist Church the next Sunday. About a year later, my father was offered the paid position as tenor soloist with Second Presbyterian Church in Little Rock, which he accepted. Suddenly, we were Presbyterians. I didn't object to the church, since it was where many of Little Rock's upper echelon attended. It was a beautiful old building near downtown, with wonderful stained glass windows and a large sanctuary. I joined the adult choir, even though I was only fifteen, and we continued our regimen of regular church attendance that continued through my high school years until I left for college. Considering all of this, why do I contend that I was raised in a "Sunday Christian" home? Because I cannot recall one instance in my growing years when the Word of God was used to either guide or instruct me by either of my parents. Because when I went forward at the age of nine, neither of my parents spent one moment with me discussing my "decision". Because when I was frightened by the revival preacher, neither of my parents made any attempt to counsel with me about what had frightened me so much, nor to explain what the preacher had said. Because my parents allowed me--a teenager--to control our family, not only in this situation, but in every situation. Because "discipline" in our family meant being shouted at, then given totally unreasonable punishments for wrongdoings that were rescinded later when tempers cooled. Because, except for the Ten Commandments, the 23rd Psalm and John 3:16, I achieved the age of 20 without knowing anything of God's Word. Because neither of my parents, either through verbal instruction or through illustration with their own lives, ever taught me who Jesus Christ is or what He could mean in my life.
Does this anger me? No. Do I hate my parents? No! I love both of my parents deeply, even though both of them are gone now. My mother died in 1985 and my father in 1993, but I love them still. But I pity them for their lack of commitment to Christ. They were good people. They lived their lives pretty well, considering their lack of knowledge of what God wanted for them.
But there were many chinks in their armor. They taught me good values, all the while exhibiting bad values in their own lives. They didn't steal, but they did save every dime they could get their hands on, fearful of what tomorrow might bring, giving only what little they could "afford" to the church. They didn't kill, but they hated and held grudges until the day they died, unwilling to give up their anger even when facing eternity. They didn't commit adultery, but they did nothing in the way of commitment to their own marriage; rather, they lived in unpeaceful coexistence in the same house for thirty-nine years. Anger and bitterness were acceptable. Fear was also acceptable, as were vengefulness, spite and malice. Not once do I ever remember either of them trusting God for anything--anything at all.
No, I don't hate either of them. Rather, when I think of them, I am deeply saddened for all that they missed. It breaks my heart that neither of my parents truly had the abundant life that Jesus Christ promises to all of us who follow Him. Whether they are with Him at this moment, I do not know for certain. I do know that both of them professed to be Christian. I pray that I will see them both in heaven. I believe all of this was one of the contributing factors in my conversion to Mormonism in 1968. But I don't blame my parents. There's a lot more to the story of my journey into captivity.
When it came time for me to choose a college, I was filled with high hopes and ambitions. I wanted to be a journalist. My mother, on the other hand, wanted me to find a wealthy husband. She was of the school that believed that women became teachers, nurses or secretaries only long enough to find the right man. Writing was not an honorable profession; rather, it was something one did as a hobby. If I was going to go to college, and if my parents were going to foot the bill, I was going to attend the college of their choice.
Unwilling and uncourageous enough to stand up to my parents, I agreed to attend the college of their choice--a small church-supported school just thirty miles from home--a school noted for its lack of a football team, its emphasis on education, its high academic ranking, and the large number of doctors, lawyers, scientists and theologians who were its alumni. More expensive than most, it was, in my mother's opinion, the ideal environment for me to find that man she hoped would support me the rest of my days. To her, it represented the perfect, protected environment--a school where six hundred well-behaved students attended classes, studied faithfully, and graduated with degrees that would speak well of them and their families.
Since the college was supported by a church, it required that all students take six hours (two semesters) of "religion" and attend chapel services regularly. Intent on getting all of my basic requirements out of the way, I enrolled in my first semester of "religion" the fall of my freshman year. I remember very little about that first course. It was the second semester course that created the problem. The professor was a learned man, although young--probably in his thirties. It was his teaching style to drop a question upon the class and then sit back and watch what we did with it, interjecting comments and questions as we went along to guide the discussion in the direction he wanted it to go. One discussion I remember that went on for more than a week centered around his question, "Do you think Jesus was a homosexual, since he ran around with twelve men all the time?" By the end of the semester, any awareness that any of us had of the truth had gone out the window, replaced by great confusion and spiritual turmoil. College for me, in itself, was probably very like the college experiences of most people--four years of study, surrounded by a healthy dose of partying, drinking and general mayhem. In spite of my partying, however, I did manage to maintain a relatively good GPA and looked forward to graduation with glee. Unlike many who end up weeping through their graduation ceremonies, I anticipated my emancipation with great joy. Something else happened to me during that final year... increased spiritual turmoil. I had a lot of questions about God. Deep questions. Disturbing questions. Questions that made me crazy if I thought about them very hard. I was so disturbed, I had to find the answers, so I turned to the only source of authority I knew of--pastors and priests. One at a time, I made appointments with five Protestant ministers and one Catholic priest, hoping that one or more of these esteemed men could help me soothe the aching in my soul. Their responses to my questions were filled with vagaries, and emphasized by even more questions. During those six one-hour appointments, not one of those men opened a Bible in my presence and showed me what God had to say about what I wanted to know. One at a time, I walked away from those discussions feeling disappointed and even more confused than I had been before.
I was so desperate for answers, I turned to a fortune teller--a woman in town who would read your fortune for a mere five dollars. I liked visiting her. I always came away feeling a little mysterious and excited, with complete assurance that she knew what she was talking about--feelings much different, and to me, much better than those I experienced after my interviews with the clergy.
At this time, I knew a young man who was serving in Japan as a missionary for the Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). He and I had dated in high school and had struck up a correspondence after he left for his mission. I thought it was wonderful that he was so sure of his faith that he would dedicate two-and-a-half years of his life in the mission field for his church. I envied that assurance! So it is not at all surprising that, in the midst of my spiritual turmoil, when I spotted two Mormon missionaries walking down the sidewalk in front of the duplex where I lived, that I stopped them in their tracks and said, "I have a couple of questions I'd like to ask you, if you have time."
Those two were on me like two ducks on a junebug! It's not often LDS missionaries had someone approach them out of the blue like that--especially in 1968. The LDS church had not yet begun its new public relations campaign and was still held in total distrust by the majority of people. Eager to teach what they saw as the next convert "notch" on their belts, the two Elders were happy to come inside and sit down with me, happy to answer my questions.
And answer them they did. No matter what I threw at those two young men, they came back with confident answers, showing me "proof" of what they said in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. It didn't matter to me that what they said sounded strange. What mattered to me was that I had finally found two people with enough confidence in their faith to give me answers! After an hour or so, I was so enthused by their confident air that I agreed to begin the six missionary "discussions" the following week. They prayed with me, left me with a copy of the Book of Mormon and encouraged me to read it. They also encouraged me to ask God whether what I was reading was true and to seek His assurance of its truthfulness through a "burning in the bosom".
Excited by my newfound direction, I eagerly agreed, pleased beyond measure that someone was finally answering my questions. Never mind that their answers were strange! Never mind that what they said conflicted with what little I remembered of my Sunday School lessons. I only knew that here were two young men--young men with that same confidence and faith that I believed my friend who was serving a mission in Japan had--who were willing and eager to guide me in my spiritual search. During the following weeks, I tried to read the Book of Mormon. I gave it my most valiant effort. But even though I was capable of understanding the most difficult of studies at my tough, academically-oriented college, I found the Book of Mormon incomprehensible. To me, pure gibberish would have been easier to understand. Every night, I prayed for that "burning in the bosom", and every night I was disappointed.
"What is wrong with me?" I asked myself. Why was I having so much trouble with what seemed so simple to the two young missionaries? Neither of them had even attended college yet, much less graduated. I was an upper-half-of-my-class senior at one of the toughest schools in the nation. Why was I unable to either understand this book that they both saw as simple, or to receive the assurance--the "burning in the bosom"--that they said would come to me? Was I so unworthy that God didn't see fit to answer me? Was my faith so weak that I didn't deserve an answer? Shaken by my own perceived failings, I told the missionaries on the last visit that I was not yet ready for baptism because I didn't feel worthy yet. I promised them that I would continue to pray and to read the Book of Mormon, and that I would call them when I was ready. They continued to contact me over the next month or so until I graduated and went home to North Little Rock where I spent the summer working on a political campaign, reverting to my partying mentality and trying to ignore my feelings of inadequacy, unaware that in late summer, something would happen that would change the direction of my spiritual life forever.
In late summer, my friend came home from his mission. At that time, I was unaware of what young Mormon missionaries are told--to get married as soon as possible upon return from their missions. All I knew was that this very handsome and polished young man was intent upon dating me--whether I was interested or not. So intent, in fact, that he had his mother call me and keep me on the telephone until he could get to my house, making sure I couldn't put him off any longer. So we dated. We fell in love. We decided to get married. In the process, I began attending the Mormon Church with him since I wasn't particularly "connected" with any other church.
When I began to visit the LDS Church, I was overwhelmed with how "friendly" everyone was. They would nearly wear out my right hand and arm at every meeting. I had never been made to feel so welcome anywhere. Unlike some, this friendliness didn't change after I joined the church--probably because I was not "friendshipped" into the church. Instead, I married a return missionary whose family was already firmly established in the Little Rock First Ward.
Another thing that impressed me was that, as soon as I was a member, I was given something to do. No "pew warming" allowed for new members! It's been so long ago (nearly 30 years now), I can't remember what that first job was, but I do remember that it kept me busy. I didn't become active in Relief Society because I was completing my student teaching at the time of our civil marriage, and then went to work full time a couple of months later. But, because I am a good organizer, I was called upon often to organize special events--like the special dinner that was given when one of the General Authorities visited our Ward. With every job, I was made to feel important, being told by the Bishop that Heavenly Father had told him to give that job to me. Since I didn't have any children yet, it wasn't that much of a burden, so I gladly took on any assignment that was given to me, throwing myself wholeheartedly into it and doing my very best to make sure it went well. But all was not well in Mormondom where we were concerned. Before long, virtually every conversation I had with anyone in the Ward included the question, "When are you going to start your family?" This began to rankle me more and more with each asking of the question. I wasn't ready to have children yet. I wanted to enjoy my new marriage for a while. Children would come, but I wanted it to be a few years down the road. Although I had gained my "testimony" of the truthfulness of the gospel and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and that ours was the only true church on the earth, I hadn't delved deeply enough into the LDS doctrine to realize how "sinful" my attitude was.
When I told my mother-in-law that I was taking birth control pills, she was appalled. But, to her credit, rather than giving me a tongue-lashing for my "sin", she merely warned me not to let anyone at church know about it. It was some time later that I learned why everyone was so concerned with my lack of children. My "real" job in the church was to provide bodies for the spirit children of Heavenly Father. How irresponsible of me to delay their arrival on earth! How I must be grieving those who had chosen me as their mother! Denying them the opportunity to obtain their bodies and to continue their progression towards exaltation!
What I didn't tell anyone, including my own non-LDS parents, was that our marriage was a disaster from the beginning. We had married over the Thanksgiving weekend and, other than a very romantic wedding night, the rest of the honeymoon stunk. My groom spent the rainy weekend watching football games on television, while I read a book. We did go to a dinner theater one night, but it was so unimpressive, I don't remember what was playing.
Prior to the honeymoon, my husband had already fallen down on the pre-conceived image I had of him, concocting a beautifully detailed lie in order to get us into the apartment we had chosen. A month later, when we realized we couldn't afford the apartment, he concocted another tale to get us free from our lease. We moved to a horrible little duplex in North Little Rock, where the paint ran off the walls when the weather got too hot, where it was so noisy that our friends thought we were in a phone booth when we called them, and where I nicknamed the oven the "vulcanizer". It was while we were living in this duplex that my husband committed his first act of adultery. Beginning the pattern that would dominate our lives for the next eight years, he carefully wove a beautiful lie to convince me that I was imagining things. And it worked. I didn't want to believe that he was being unfaithful, so I readily believed his lie. In the fall of 1970, two years after our marriage began, two milestones occurred in our lives. First, I learned something about my husband that, at the time, I could not understand. He was unable to accept being anything less than perfect. This came to light when he returned from a sales conference. He had been working for Xerox Corporation since his return from Army Reserve Basic Training, and was doing very well with the company. At this national sales conference, a number of competitions were held. My husband won the majority of them. In the one he didn't win, he placed second. I was overjoyed! How great my husband was! What a prize I had been given--a man who was better than all his peers nationwide! I decorated the house and prepared a special, candlelight dinner to celebrate the occasion.
When he arrived home from his plane flight two hours late, I asked where he had been. Glaring at my carefully prepared celebration, he asked what all this was for. I told him it was to celebrate his success. He then informed me that he was late getting home because he'd gone by the office to resign his job! He was infuriated that he hadn't won all of the contests, saying that they had dangled a carrot in front of him long enough. He wasn't going to put up with their lies any more! I was devastated. Somehow, he had turned overwhelming success into failure. For many years, I blamed this inability my husband had to accept any form of defeat on his parents. I thought they had caused it all with the way they raised him. I'm not discounting his responsibility for his own actions. No matter where we came from, no matter what our upbringing, no matter what factors have come to play in our psychological development, we are each individually responsible for our own actions. However, after leaving the church and studying LDS doctrine with an objective eye, I have seen the destructive effect it can have on an individual such as my ex-husband. So, whether it was just the church, or it was the church teaching his parents who taught him, my husband's inability to accept anything except first place came directly from Mormon doctrine. He was trying to achieve the impossible--the Mormon concept of perfection. Living under the law of Mormonism, he was cursed by it, always falling short, never understanding that perfection is an impossible goal in this life.
In December of 1970, I discovered I was pregnant with our first son. I was a statistic, one of the four percent who get pregnant while taking the pill. By this time, I was past my desire to "wait" for children, so I was thrilled when the doctor confirmed what I had known for several weeks. My husband was less than thrilled, but finally accepted the inevitable. We announced my pregnancy with Christmas cards to our parents that were addressed to "Grandparents". Needless to say, both sets of grandparents-to-be were joyful. My non-LDS parents were excited as all expectant grandparents are. My LDS in-laws were exuberant. At last, I was fulfilling my role as a Mormon woman. Our first spirit child of Heavenly Father was on the way.
I remember the conversation I had with my mother-in-law about this time. She told me of the children she had lost--one stillbirth and (I believe) two miscarriages. With a look of peaceful confidence, she told me how comforted she was to know that during the millennium she would be allowed to raise these lost children to adulthood. Although I didn't express it, I couldn't understand this concept. The stillbirth didn't give me any problem. This child had a fully formed body. But what about the miscarried babies? Would she be impregnated with them once more, carry them to term, then raise them? Or would they somehow be "zapped" forward to fully-developed babies? And would she be given them one at a time, or all three at once? As much as this worried me, I kept my concerns to myself.
For several years, I was a typical LDS woman. I had a strong "testimony", as I said before, and for a while, thoroughly enjoyed the jobs I was given within the church. But after our first child arrived, I found that caring for him, plus keeping up with the many demands of my husband, plus keeping up with my church work were more than I could handle. I wanted to be perfect, but kept falling down on the job. It seemed that the harder I tried, the worse things got. My husband constantly reminded me of how poorly I was doing, finding fault with my housekeeping, my cooking, my inability to do things the way he insisted that I should. Never mind that he wasn't doing anything he was supposed to do as a husband and father or as a Mormon Elder. Never mind that he was sleeping with every woman who would let him. Never mind that he was neglecting his church duties. Never mind that he had started drinking like a fish. It was my fault. If I was a better wife, he wouldn't be having these problems. He wasn't the only one who told me this. The one and only time that I had the courage to talk to someone else about our problems (leaving out the adultery and alcohol consumption), I went to talk to our Bishop. He told me the same thing. If I was more faithful in my church duties, if I was a better, more loving wife, all these problems would stop. It was all up to me.
In the fall of 1972, we went to Salt Lake City to be sealed in the temple. I was pregnant with our second child at the time. I remember coming away from that experience greatly disappointed. I didn't feel the spiritual "high" I was told I would. While in the temple, I found everything much more disturbing than uplifting. But I didn't tell anyone. I was convinced it had to be me. I was the one with the problem. Maybe I just wasn't "worthy" enough yet to understand. Throughout my time in the Mormon Church, sometimes I was a "worthy" Mormon, sometimes I wasn't. At all times, even at those times of feeling pretty "worthy", I knew I wasn't doing all I could do. Frustration and depression came when I realized I couldn't. I knew there was no way I would ever be able to do everything the Church was telling me that I had to do in order to achieve perfection.
In 1974, I had to have a hysterectomy. I had wanted more children, but now that would be impossible. I was already suffering from post-surgical depression when my husband slammed in the worst blow of all. He informed me that I was no longer a woman. Again, I attributed that comment to his nature, not realizing at the time that, in his Mormon mind, I really wasn't a woman any more. I couldn't make any more bodies for spirit babies. I had lost my usefulness by being unable to perform my primary responsibility in this life.
From the time I got pregnant with our first child until our divorce in 1976, I recall very few moments that were good ones. I freely admit that I made my share of mistakes and did a lot of things wrong during our marriage. But those "wrong" things were a result of several factors. First of all, I was living the Mormon lie. When a person is working her way towards being a goddess, she certainly doesn't want anyone to know that she's failing miserably in her attempt, nor is it something one wants to admit to oneself. Second, I was dealing with a man who was an alcoholic, who was abusive and who was an adulterer. Even as strong as I have become over the years, I know I couldn't deal with that same situation any better without the help of Jesus Christ. That brings me to the third, and most important, factor--I did not have Jesus Christ in my life. I didn't know Who He really was. The Jesus I knew was rarely mentioned, much less worshipped. I didn't know anything about grace or unconditional love or what His blood meant to me.
After our divorce in 1976, I continued to actively attend Little Rock First Ward.
Although it was difficult seeing my ex-husband and his family in church, I didn't have any intention of leaving the church. I did have a conference with the Bishop at one point, asking how I might go about obtaining a temple divorce. He was a kind and gentle man, someone I really liked a lot. His greatest concern was whether I would be sealed to another man in the temple. At that point in my life, I really didn't care. I just wanted all ties with my ex-husband to be severed. I followed the Bishop's instructions for obtaining a temple divorce to the letter--and was ignored. Totally ignored. I finally assumed that my ex-father-in-law was somehow "blocking" my attempts, since the process would have caused his son to be excommunicated. About six months after our divorce, I retrieved my children from Sunday School one morning, only to find my oldest child near hysteria. I took him out to the car and, after helping him to calm down, discovered the reason for his tears. His Sunday School teacher had informed him that God didn't love us any more--that the only way God would love us again would be if I remarried their father. I couldn't get away from that church fast enough. I was furious. How dare she say something like that to a five-year-old child!
Without any sort of conscious decision, I became inactive in the Mormon Church. I never could bring myself to subject my children to that type of thing again. Without realizing it, that Sunday School teacher gave me and my children the greatest blessing any person could ever hope for. She shoved me out of the influence of the Mormons long enough for God to get my attention.
By August of 1977, I had become a "Jack Mormon", with no intention of ever going back to church. However, I also had no intention of ever renouncing the LDS Church. I had been told that was an unforgivable sin. The very idea scared me to death.
One Sunday morning, a friend called and invited me to go with her to an antique automobile auction, enticing me with the fact that a lot of men would be there. Since I was now single and wanted to be otherwise, it didn't take much convincing to get me to go. At the auction, I noticed a young man across the room, talking with a group of other men. My first thought was that he was quite handsome. On closer observation, I realized that I knew him. It had been years since I had seen him, but I remembered Pat Carraway as a "swinging single". From the looks of his left hand, he still was.
I ran over to him, gave him a big hug and asked him to come sit with me and my friend for a few moments. He agreed, then began to tell me about how his life had changed. He was studying for the ministry at Melodyland in California and was only in Little Rock for a few hours before heading back to school.
I kept looking at Pat, intrigued by what I saw. Actually, I couldn't figure out what it was that I was seeing, I just knew that there was something incredibly warm and beautiful and magnetic about him. The "male/female" thing went right out the window. This man had something I wanted that had nothing to do with dating or anything like that. I didn't know what it was, but I wanted it.
I now know that--for the first time that I can remember--I was seeing Jesus Christ in someone's eyes. Pat was so full of the Holy Spirit, he nearly glowed. But at the time, all I could see was that Pat had something--had found something--knew something--that I didn't. Whatever it was, I wanted it.
When Pat had to leave to catch his plane, I wanted to drag him back into his chair. I didn't want him to go away. But he did, telling me that he had some things he wanted to mail to me when he got home. I gave him my address, then watched him leave, noticing how cold and empty the room felt after he was gone.
About two weeks later, on August 13th, I called in sick to work. This was totally out of character for me, since I had become something of a "workaholic". But for some reason, I just didn't want to go to work. About 10:00, the mail came, and in it was a package from Pat.
I know now that it was the Holy Spirit urging me to stay at home. Normally, that package from Pat would have ended up shoved in a bookcase somewhere, left for "later when I have time". But since I wasn't sick and by 10:00 had gotten pretty bored, I opened the package and began to read. The first book on top was Mormonism by Walter Martin. Inside the front cover was written, "To Bonnie Wiggins from Pat Carraway, 8/8/77, John 8:32". I grabbed my Bible and looked up the referenced verse. "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." "Okay," I thought. "Well, let's see what this other stuff says." Four hours later, I was still sitting on my bed, surrounded by the books Pat had sent and all my Mormon books, reading and researching everything Dr. Martin and the other writers had to say about Mormon Doctrine. I stopped about 2:30 to go pick up my children. After I put them to bed that night, I stayed up reading until about 3:00 a.m. The next day, I called in "sick" again, unwilling to stop studying. While my children were at school, I read and researched more. As I studied, one thing overwhelmed me more than any other. For the first time in my life, I was reading the Bible and understanding what it said. And I was reading the Book of Mormon and recognizing the lies. At that time, I didn't know who the Holy Spirit was, but He was opening my eyes just the same.
About 1:00, I began to cry. I got up off the bed and removed my clothing, nearly ripping the temple garments from my body in my revulsion of what they really were. I dressed again, then went deliberately to my dresser, pulling open the drawers and dragging out all the other garments. I went to the kitchen and retrieved a large garbage bag, shoved the temple garments inside, then systematically searched the house for anything and everything I could find that was of Mormonism. I went to the back yard and emptied the contents of the garbage bag into a big heap, then went back inside for a box of matches. When I came outside, I pulled out a match and tried to strike it. But I was shaking so hard, I couldn't get it to work. An old tape kept playing in my head that said I was sentencing myself to hell ... that what I was doing would never be forgiven.
Finally, I stopped and looked up toward heaven. I said, "Lord, if what I'm trying to do here is wrong, please strike me dead now before I can do it. But if it is right, then please help me strike this match!" As I spoke the last word, peace--incredible, incomprehensible peace--washed over me like warm water. I was no longer shaking. I was no longer crying. I was calm, peaceful and filled with joy. Without another hesitation, I struck the match and set fire to the pile before me. As I watched it burn, I couldn't think of anything to say but, "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
It was nearly a year before I learned the word for what had happened to me. But on that day, I was saved. On that day, I was made a new creature. I was born again into the Kingdom of God. I was adopted into the family of God. I became one of the King's Kids. Praise God for His goodness and mercy and for loving me enough to make sure I got to know Him.