I Was a Mormon: Rob Hamner

I joined the LDS Church in 1969 after becoming involved with the local scout troop. It was a wonderful experience, and I went to Boy Scout camp that summer. During those years, youth baptisms were very common, and the Mormon Church used its youth program as a missionary tool.

I realize years later, that growing up in a non-LDS alcoholic home, I was seeking a family. However, the LDS Church could never be the family I wanted, since it was based on lies, control and false claims. Although my own family was not perfect, I grew to accept the fact they were sick but still loved me unconditionally, even though they were not present for me during my youth.

As I tried to progress in Mormonism, I always felt as a round peg in square hole. I was taught to be ashamed of my birth family and encouraged to hold LDS leaders as perfect people. The "fellowshipping" soon stopped, and I found the Church harsh and judgmental.

I knew I had to leave when I learned the doctrine of "eternal progression" which teaches that man can become a God. When I heard that, I can vividly remember the picture of the serpent talking to Eve. I compartmentalized that teaching, as I did other offensive doctrines. However, it was a particular favorite of a priesthood teacher of mine, who used to go on and on about creating new worlds. I wonder if he felt he could do a better job than God. Finally, at age 16, I began to wonder why the Church was so afraid of its members reading "anti" LDS literature. There was always a sense of something sinister under the Church's exterior. I used to have nightmares about LDS things when I was active.

The first pamphlet I read was done by Utah Lighthouse Ministry and confronted LDS teachings against traditional Christianity. Needless to say, the offensive teaching of eternal progression was explored. As a young boy, I really was naive, and thought I could discuss that doctrine with my bishop. However, Mormons are taught that their leaders will sit at the right hand of Christ on judgment day, and that their priesthood power allows them to be Christ's judges on earth as well.

During the interview with my bishop, he proceeded to tell me that it was an excommunication trial, as I had dared to challenge a pivotal teaching of the Church. No other adult except his 2 counselors were there. I was 16 at the time. He also proceeded to say really derogatory things against my family. Needless to say, if my entire family were LDS, this would not have happened. Later he was reprimanded for this, and the Church volunteered to "overturn" the excommunication if I apologized and agreed to not read anti-LDS literature, especially that written by "Christians." I refused. I found out years later that my parents threatened the Church with a lawsuit. The Church had to have my parents' permission to baptize me since I was a minor, and since I was still a minor, they had a right to be part of any such proceedings that had a legalistic flair to it, much as parents of a child charged with a crime have to be present during questioning. My bishop was really furious and was later released as bishop.

I left and never went back. My spiritual journey began, and it became a joyful one. I taught for years in Catholic schools and always felt the most important thing to teach the children was that God loved them. Yes, during my 30s I slipped into my family's disease. However, God never abandoned me, nor did he stop loving me. Being a God of miracles, He gave me the gift of sobriety so that I may better serve Him. Sobering up taught me what salvation by grace was. It's not something we deserve, just something we need. Nothing we can ever do can make us worthy of those gifts, and whenever I need to strengthen my faith, I remember back to my prayers for sobriety that were eventually answered.

I began to study about the loving and forgiving God and about the true message of salvation, which is amazingly simple and does not require rule after rule. In retrospect, Mormonism is a ridiculous religion, and they often prey upon the vulnerable and the scripturally ignorant. It's a guilt driven religion, and that is due to the fact it does not rely entirely upon Jesus for salvation. You can never feel completely forgiven if your salvation is based on works, for all of our good works are "like stinking rags" (Isaiah 64:6). It's the same with recovery from alcoholism. It wasn't until I turned to God that I found relief.

I eventually became an Episcopalian. However, I am often dismayed at my own congregation's reluctance to claim Mormonism as non-Christian. Being a Christian is, among other things, holding to a common set of beliefs. Mormonism rejects many aspects of Christianity, and is actually quite harmful. It's hard to imagine anything being more offensive to God than Mormonism. For example, the doctrine of polygamy continues to harm children well over 100 years after it was abolished by the LDS Church based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

For me, Jesus is the cornerstone of my spiritual life. Others may have a better understanding of the Bible, others may have spiritual gifts I don't, but I do know what the pain feels like that only Christ can heal from. I am tolerant, I think, of my brothers and sisters in all denominations. I admire the fundamentalist Christians who work so tirelessly through their congregations to help prevent other weak, young people from falling victim to a cult that teaches blasphemy. My own congregation does not approve of such work, but I feel this warning is soul saving.

We combat darkness with light, and Mormonism screams foul all the time. However, Joseph Smith said all other churches were "of the devil" (1 Nephi 14:10 and Joseph Smith 1:19, History, Pearl of Great Price), and so I believe he started the antagonism.

So, my life today revolves around prayer and my attempts to lead a good Christian life.

Rob Hamner

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