I Was a Mormon: Tricia Lynn B.
I was born and raised in an LDS family. Both my parents were Mormons and all of my relatives on my father's side were from Utah. My family was a very devout Mormon family. My great, great, great grandfather was Henry Grow, one of the architects for the Mormon tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah. My other great, great, great grandfather was James Walton Burton, a polygamist with 2 wives and 13 children. One of his brothers was William Walton Burton, a polygamist with 3 wives and 30 children (his wives were all sisters). And one of the other brothers was Robert Walton Burton, one of Joseph Smith's bodyguards, in the Quorum of the 70's, and also a polygamist with 2 wives and 19 children. These 3 Burton brothers had 10 other siblings. All the siblings were Mormons because their parents, Isabella and James Burton, were some of the first converts to the LDS Church in Yorkshire, England. Isabella and James were Methodists, and they heard the missionaries speak one day and they converted to the LDS Church in 1842. All the kids were soon baptized as Mormons and then they all headed for "Zion" in America.
From a very young age I believed in Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon and the Church. I loved the Church and its people. At eight years old I was baptized and confirmed into the Church. I remember being given a Bible at my baptism. My Primary teacher would make us put our Bibles into a shopping cart every week and we were supposed to keep them at the church for our Wednesday meetings. I didn't like having to leave "my" Bible at the church and yet I was allowed to take a
Tricia B.'s Testimony Out Of Mormonism to ChristBook of Mormon home with me. I took my Bible home and began to read it without my Sunday school teacher or my Primary teacher telling me what verses to look up to fit the Mormon lesson. I read from Genesis all the way thru the gospels on my own. During all this, I was still reading the Book of Mormon and growing in my understanding of the Mormon doctrines.
By ten years old I fully believed that if I obeyed all the laws and ordinances of the Church I could one day go to the temple, be married, and become a Goddess with my own planet. There were many verses in the Bible that bothered me though. I could not reconcile the humility of Jesus I saw in the gospels with the exaltation of self that I saw in the teachings of the Church (and practically, as I listened to many Church members give their talks on Sundays; it was all about self-achievement and self-accomplishments rather than the focus being on glorifying God). I could not fit all this pride in with what I was reading in the Bible.
There was a particular verse in the Bible that really bothered me... Luke 9:24: "For whosoever shall save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." My gears just jammed on that. I kept thinking that I haven't ever "lost" my life or surrendered my life to Jesus. I was too busy becoming exalted, not surrendering. This verse was talking about absolute surrender to Jesus, not to a church or a prophet, and it certainly wasn't talking about my agenda or my exaltation. That verse said it was all about Jesus' plan for my life, not my own.
I had this nagging feeling that I was not right with God, but at 10 years old I just remember thinking that I've got to be a better Mormon because that's what my church says God wants. From that point on I remember trying so hard to be obedient to the Church. The Church told me, "Be ye therefore perfect", and so I tried very hard to get straight "A's" in school, win all my ice skating competitions, never lie, never say a bad word, no coca-cola, no tea, never sin... etc. By the time I was 18, I was a very frustrated young woman because I could never seem to get it right! At night I would write letters to God in my room telling him how sorry I was for each sin I had committed and that I would try harder the next day. I had read Doctrine and Covenants 82:7 and I knew that every time I committed a sin in a certain area, all my former sins returned.
Both of my parents were very success oriented, active Mormons and they also put a lot of pressure on me to obey the Church and be perfect. By the time I was 17, I had made it to nationals in competitive figure skating, was a straight "A" student, and was trying to obey all the commandments of the Church faithfully. This was all fueling my pride. I remember looking down on Christians outside the LDS Church thinking all they do is give God lip service, but we LDS obey Heavenly Father. Although there was this nagging feeling that I was not right with God, at least I wasn't like those Christians.
I had also had a very powerful spiritual experience in the Church when I was 13 years old. Although I already believed with all my heart the Church and the Book of Mormon were true, I still had never had the "Holy Ghost reveal to me the truthfulness of these things." I was looking for an encounter with "the Spirit" and I got one. On my first day at M.I.A. (Mutual Improvement Association--which is when LDS graduate from Primary and are now going on to classes that teach you to become a good Mormon woman, i.e., Goddess-in-training), I was walking down the church hall and as soon as they opened the main doors to the sanctuary, the music began to play. There was this feeling of euphoria that came over me and a bright light above me telling me that if I "was faithful to the Church and its prophet I would one day be a Goddess and have my own planet." The feeling was incredible! I now had my witness from "the Spirit" and I knew beyond a doubt the Church was true.
I now know that this was a demon who came as a messenger of light to deceive me (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). I did not know that the Bible warns about seducing spirits that teach doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1), and that Satan was the first spirit that told a man and woman they could become Gods! Even though I had read much of the Bible, I was so conditioned to seek after this "witness of the Spirit" that I could not discern what was happening to me. I really thought it was the Holy Ghost; I now know, it was a very unholy ghost. Nonetheless, this experience put me on the fast track to trying to be the most perfect Mormon I could be.
Around the age of 20, my Mom kicked me out of the house. I could no longer keep up the hypocrisy of trying to be perfect and so I rebelled in a huge way. I was so frustrated! I can't please God... I quit! Also the pressures from competitive skating were enormous and I just threw in the towel on that too. I had nowhere to go and I was too prideful to ask for help, so I lived in my car. I was working as a hostess in a restaurant and showering at the gym. A lady I worked with saw all my stuff in my car and she asked me if I was okay. I broke down crying. She said I could move in with her and her roommate, so I did.
Her roommate was a devout Christian who loved the Lord. I wasn't happy about that, but I needed a place to stay. I thought, "I'll just put up with her even though I know she must be a hypocrite, and besides, I already know the truth... I'm just not living it right now, but I'll go back to the Church later." I was not interested in talking about God with her at all, but she would talk to me anyway. I kept looking for the hypocrisy in her life, and yet she was the real deal. I didn't have very much money, so I was eating all of her food. She never said a word to me. She just graciously replaced everything I ate. I know she knew it was me, but it didn't seem to bother her. She kept showing me verses in the Bible that I had never seen, but I was so prideful, I would just ignore her and say, "Well, I am a Mormon."
One night she said to me, "YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BECOME A GOD!!! YOU ARE GOING TO FRY LIKE BACON!!!" For me, a very self-righteous, prideful, Mormon hypocrite, that was exactly what I needed to hear... that got my attention! She showed me in the Bible where it said there was only one God and there would never be another (Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 44:6-8, and John 17:3). She told me I needed to surrender my life to Jesus Christ, not to some church or a prophet. I knew inside I was not right with God and that God hated pride. She spoke to me about the relationship I could have with Jesus if I would repent and surrender my life to him. I prayed a prayer with her to receive the one true God of the Bible and Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. When I prayed that prayer, I remember a tremendous burden being lifted and the Lord showed me I was now his child and that my sin was forgiven. I felt free and cleansed. I knew I had met the Savior, and now my testimony is of him and his transforming power!
After I became a born-again Christian, my roommate invited me to Calvary Chapel in Downey, California. This was sometime in 1984. I wanted to go with her because I knew that God had totally changed my life. I had been forgiven of my sin and had met Jesus personally. I loved the music my roommate used to play at the house. It was very contemporary worship music that was all about Jesus (not a prophet or a heavenly mother!). I was very drawn to the worship music and I just wanted to learn the Bible. My roommate had done a very good job of explaining what the service would be like as far as the worship and teaching of the Bible, but it still was a huge eye opener for me. My roommate was one of the worship music leaders at Calvary Chapel, so I was curious to see what she actually did at church. I thought I was going to see her play in a band like you would at a concert... I did not understand worship at the time. It was incredibly strange to see people singing from their hearts and lifting their hands in praise to him. I had always been told to "be reverent", which meant no show of emotion at all. No one in the Mormon Church ever lifted hands in praise to God. All of our Mormon hymns seemed to be so somber, almost drone like... like it was a duty. There seemed to be a genuine devotion and joy when these people at Calvary Chapel were singing to God.
As for other differences I noticed, there was the race issue. As a Mormon, it was only 6 years earlier (1978) that the Church had totally reversed its earlier "revelations" on the blacks. The Mormon Church taught that God cursed people with black skin. I was also taught as a child that anyone with brown skin was under the curse also. I grew up very racist. My father would use derogatory terms for African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. Of course having read the Book of Mormon, I believed that I was "white and delightsome" and more valiant that these other people with any form of dark skin (especially Negroes) who were extremely "dark and loathsome" (2 Nephi 5:21, 3 Nephi 2:14-15, and 2 Nephi 30:6, but in earlier editions of the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 30:6 said that the Lamanites, people with dark skin, who turned from their sin would become "white and delightsome." Apparently the Mormon leaders felt they needed to change that very racist verse in the Book of Mormon to say "pure and delightsome", since no one with dark skin, who turned from their sin, was getting any whiter.). I do not remember any Negro, Asian, or Hispanic people in my ward when I was a child.
My first time at a Christian church was an absolute shock. There were people from every race singing these beautiful worship songs to Jesus. On my right was a group of Hispanics. They looked like ex-gang members with tank shirts and tattoos. On my left was a group of black people. And directly in front of me there was a group of men with Harley Davidson vests on (from all races) that said "Bikers for CHRIST". Now, in 2004, Mormons have a diversity of races in their churches, but 20 years ago this was not true. I had mostly only seen white people who were always dressed up on Sundays. Seeing this mix of races had a huge impact on me. I had read in the Bible where it said that "God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him" (Acts 10:34-35). I had read where Jesus commanded his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Matthew 28:19, and Mark 16:15). I knew that the Mormon Church had not carried the Mormon gospel to the Negro for 149 years. I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit showing me how racist I truly was. How I had always looked down upon people of other races, especially blacks. I was so humbled by this. I felt so arrogant to have ever looked down on others when I couldn't find a single verse in the Bible that cursed any race. I had always been told that the flat nose, black skin, and kinky hair was the curse God put upon the seed of Cain for killing Abel. After I actually read the account in Genesis 4, I saw how evil my Mormon leaders had been for twisting the Bible to say that God had cursed the Negro.
Also, I had always seen people in my Mormon church who had nice clothes. To see males without suits and ties and females without dresses was a shock too. I had always looked down on people who did not dress up for God. I was amazed at how the Christians accepted anyone--shoes or no shoes, fine clothing or very poor clothing. In James chapter 2, the Bible talks about those who would treat the poor in a demeaning way simply because of the way they were dressed and yet for years I had looked down on the poor. I couldn't imagine as a Mormon ever treating a person with dignity who would have come into our church as a homeless person or someone who maybe didn't own a pair of shoes.
I was also so amazed that the Christian pastor spent the whole time teaching from the Bible. It was like water to my thirsty soul. As a Mormon, I only remember Sunday services being filled with "talks" that were usually nice stories and opinions from members of the congregation about the pioneers, Joseph Smith, quotes from all of our prophets, or some story from the Book of Mormon, usually with the goal being "how to be a better Mormon." But the Christian pastor taught the Bible as the word of God and not the opinions of men. It had a powerful transforming affect on my life. It was as if God would speak to me personally every time I heard it. I felt as if my thirsty soul was finally satisfied. There was a new joy in my life. I never felt that way when I left a Mormon church service. I only remember feeling like I've got to get busy and be an even better Mormon. It was a heavy burden.
Also, I had been told for years that the Christians churches are all divided and teach different things. I had this horrible lie in my head that all they do is fight with one another and argue about everything. Through a unique set of circumstances I was able to attend many Christian churches from all denominations and the overriding thing I saw was a unity between them, not division. They all believed in the one true God and no others, the trinity, the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, salvation by grace alone thru faith apart from any human works, etc. I did see diversity on non-essential things such as style of worship, gifts of the Holy Spirit, and method of baptism, but on the essentials they were all unified. That was a complete shock. I was looking for infighting. Instead when I would go to a different Christian church from the one that was my home church, Calvary Chapel, I was considered as much a Christian as my Baptist, Presbyterian, or Lutheran brothers and sisters. Our unity was based on who our Lord is, his word, and the work he did for us on the cross. As a Mormon, I had wrongly judged Christians without ever even stepping foot into a Christian church and finding out what they believed. I had been told the Christians couldn't get along and all they did was fight amongst themselves. Not only was this not true, but the opposite was the case. I was warmly embraced and loved by many Christians from many denominations.
My family did not react favorably to my leaving the Church and becoming a Christian. My father and others called me an "apostate" and a "son of perdition". My dad was extremely upset..."an apostate daughter". Most of my Mormon relatives would not speak to me anymore. I am no longer invited to most of the family functions. My grandmother, who is a Mormon and in her 90's, will still talk to me though. I love her very much and pray for her salvation.
Several years after I became a Christian, I believe the Lord sovereignty intervened. It was a miracle! My father left the Mormon Church and became a Christian through the witness of some Walter Martin tapes that a he had been given. He had been a devout Mormon for 55 years. My brother also left the Mormon Church and became a Christian a few years after my father left. My mother came out the Mormon Church also about the same time that my brother did. It was kind of a chain reaction. We had all tried to be "good Mormons" and yet we knew we were bankrupt and hypocrites. With my mother, I think seeing her children's changed lives had a big impact on her. My brother and I would give her Walter Martin tapes and she would listen and ask us questions. She later said to me, "You know, I always knew there was something wrong with the Mormon Church because of the way they treated the blacks. I never thought that was right." My mother is now a strong Christian and loves the Lord. Many of my other relatives have been quite nasty, but I am praying they will repent and turn from the horrible pursuit of trying to be a God and will believe the Bible. Please pray for my family and for all Mormons.
I love Matthew 11:28-30: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." The Mormon "gospel" is a big fat demonic lie, and it is impossible! It is my prayer that every Mormon's eyes will be opened to the true gospel... that eternal life with Heavenly Father is an absolutely free gift that could never be merited or earned as Ephesians 2:8-10 says.
May God bless you with his saving grace,
Tricia Lynn B.