Thursday, April 16, 2009
I was blind, but now I can see....
"For I have come unto this world, that they that see not might see." John 9:39
The years that followed my first prayer of salvation, were ones of gentle and gradual awakening. God proceeded to do an amazing work in my heart and life. He literally removed the scales from my eyes. Looking back now upon those years ( 2000-2007) I am absolutely amazed at how loving, compassionate and gentle my Lord was with me. He did not "pull me out of a burning building" but gently called me to HIM.... He truly is the good Shepherd and His sheep know His voice.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was not "looking" to leave the LDS or to "find" another Church for that matter. For the most part I did what I was counseled to do.... I put my concerns about polygamy and the historical data surrounding this doctrine aside. I figured, God would "work it" out when and "if" I had to live it in the "next life". It's important to note that although the LDS mainstream church does not live a polygamous life style -- they do still indeed believe in this teaching and allow LDS men to be sealed to more than one wife, if his first wife is deceased, or has the man has been divorced. So, in "theology" the LDS church still believe that plural marriage is of "god" and will be practiced in heaven/the next life. I think most LDS don't give it too much thought though, because it isn't part of their culture or lifestyle anymore.
I continued to attend my meetings, and serve faithfully in my "callings" in my ward. I "thought" things had been resolved about my concerns and doubts. I pressed forward and dove even deeper into the LDS faith. As much as I "wanted" to believe the LDS church was "the only true church", the Holy Spirit really began to work on my heart. In 2001, my husband and I chose to begin the process of adopting a child from Guatemala. I began to study about what the Bible said is "pure and undefiled religion". James 2:27 I realized God really had a heart for the orphans. I joined online support groups for families who were adopting . I "met"many families who really loved Jesus and who were also adopting. My heart wondered "why" the LDS church was not more actively involved in orphan ministry. I even went as far as to call the LDS church Social Services headquarters in SLC ( a LDS adoption placing agency that places babies of unwed mothers into LDS homes) and asked them what "the" church was doing with orphan work in the world. The response I received was shocking! I was told, ( very kindly, mind you) that there was no budget set aside for running orphanages or becoming involved in orphan work. I was stunned. It was obvious the LDS church has the financial resources to spend some of their tithing funds on orphans! The Bible speaks very clearly about the mandate to care for the orphans. I couldn't understand how the LDS church could spend millions on temples, and a conference center, and large church buildings, and money to run sports programs at their Universities and NO money to build orphanages? That stunned me.
Other things were brought to my attention, that had never bothered me before..... For example each month the LDS hold a "fast and testimony" meeting. The first Sunday of the Month - LDS are asked to fast for at least 2 meals a day and give the proceeds of the money they would have spent on food to the go towards the care of the needy in their congregations. I realized the LDS do not use these funds to run "soup kitchens" or other food ministries to help feed the poor and hungry. It deeply troubled me that their large welfare program was used primarily by LDS and is not open for the local poor in the community.
" For I was a hungered and you gave me meat, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in." Matt 25:35
Why didn't they set up soup kitchens? Why not use the proceeds of fast and testimony to be used to feed ALL the poor and not just the LDS that were hungry? I didn't understand. Many churches are involved in outreach programs to feed the hungry locally. When my husband and I attended General Conference, we noticed how many beggars there were on the streets of Salt Lake City -- I also noticed that all the conference attenders walked right past these begging souls......... what was wrong, I wondered as my husband and I ran around to get some food to hand out to the homeless.....why doesn't the LDS church set up a soup kitchen and homeless shelter right here in the City right next to their conference center ? We went to eat lunch at the plush "roof top" restaurant at the top of the J.Smith memorial building -- we were amazed at how luxurious and ornate this building was. Marble floors, huge statues of Joseph Smith -- beautiful appointments........ while waiting for our table to become available we toured the top story of the building and noticed a lovely room set up with a beautiful buffet...... we asked the help there if someone was having a wedding reception -- no, we were told, "this is the luncheon for the general authorities". ( that is the LDS leaders). I became sick, and upset. Here there were homeless going hungry outside and these men are having a buffet? How can this be.
My LDS readers reading this, may think I am being very judgemental.... and perhaps I am....... but I am merely sharing with you what was so deeply troubling to me. No money to build orphanage, no money to set up soup kitchens and homeless shelters.........but money to put on a lavish buffet for it's most prominent leaders? After lunch my husband and I checked out the chapel in the building where the locals meet.....including the President of the LDS church.... all I will say is goodness gracious........this is not some typical LDS chapel. I was amazingly appointed. Lavish is a word to describe it. It made me angry. Here LDS in latin america and other places hardly have shoes and food to eat and here their leaders were eating in style and worshipping in luxury. It hit me like a ton of bricks.... is this what our tithing money goes to? I was told it went to build temples....... not build memorials for Joseph Smith or to pay for lavish buffets for leaders. Something was wrong with this.
Another ephinay happened when I sat in our Sunday Ward Sacrament meeting and the song: Praise To the Man Was Sung...... as I sat there singing a song I had sung more times than I can count thru the years.... I audibly heard in my ear the whisperings of the Lord speak very clearly: PRAISE NO MAN BUT ME. I can't describe the bolt I experienced. I was made dumb literally --- from that moment on I never sang that song again, and told my children to not sing it either.
For those of you not familiar with this LDS hymn paying homage to their leader & founder Joseph Smith here are few lines from the song...
Praise to the man that communed with Jehovah.
Jesus anointed that prophet and seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation
Kings shall extol him and nations revere.
Hail to the prophet, ascended to heaven!
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.......
Mingling with gods he can plan for his brethren
Death cannot conquer that hero again.
Great is his glory and endless his priesthood
Ever and Ever the keys he will hold
Faithful and true he will enter *his* kingdom
Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old
I'll never ever forget that Sunday when so clearly I was commanded to speak NO more praises to the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith.
Then there was the experience when I was sitting in a Sunday School class, and the teacher asked what the difference was between the LDS's teaching on grace and the Christian's view on grace and why. I remember raising my hand and quietly and yes even nervously saying " I believe I am saved by grace... I really do believe... and I don't believe it's grace after all you can do...... but by grace we are saved, not of works. "....... oh the clamor that arose! People started speaking out and saying how wrong I was and how it's not grace that saves us, but "grace after al we have done" grace after being baptized mormon and grace after we have gone to the temple and done the work for the dead..... grace "after". I knew at that point that I was deeply treading on new ground..... I knew that I knew that I knew that I NO longer believed the LDS gospel.
Jesus had done a work, and I was beginning to see..... slowly the scales were starting to come off my eyes.
One of the final moments of 'awakening' was when I was sitting in the LDS temple, and watching the endowment movie that portrays the fall of adam and eve and creation -- and hearing the man who portrays satan say " put on your aprons, see you are naked, go hide..." and the movie is stopped at that time and you hear the words "brothers and sisters put on your aprons"....... I was gripped with the knowledge at that moment that the apron was being commanded to be put on by satan! In the Genesis account of Adam and Eve, Adam and Eve sewed themselves fig leaves together and made themselves aprons to cover themselves. Gen. 3:7 But in the LDS temple, it was "satan" who told them to do so...... God made adam and eve, "coats of skin" ..... Gen 3:21 not fig leaves.
As I look back now there were many many experiences and events I could share where the Lord was just opening my eyes and revealing truth and also falacies....... there are so many it would take too long to write them all, but these are some of the ones that stood out the most to me.
The most amazing of all work the Lord did on me though, was thru the reading of the Bible. In the winter of 2005-2006 I began to read the Bible from cover to cover in it's entirety. I had read sections of it in the past, but not the entire book from Genesis to Revelation. It took me approximately 2 yrs to complete the study -- but let me tell as I read it God did an amazing work on my mind and heart..... I began to see very clearly that not only was the Bible not mistranslated as I had been taught as a LDS, but it was God's word! As I made my way thru the Old Testament, I read thru the Jewish Temple ritual and realized that the Jewish temple experience was nothing like what the LDS did in their temples, I also noticed how everything in the OT pointed towards Jesus -- the I AM. As I read thru the Book of John, the most amazing thing happened -- my eyes began to open and I read over and over again that it was a belief in Jesus as Messiah that saves and grants eternal life...... NO where in the Bible did it teach that one was saved "by obedience to the laws and ordinances" but by the grace of our Lord Jesus alone! I made my way thru the New Testament gospels and the writings of Paul....... and then to the end to the book of Revelations...... I realized the New Jerusalem - the City of God, will descend from Heaven and not in Jackson Co. Missouri! So many thing jumped out at me........ it was if Jesus himself was showing me "look at this gloria, and look at this........and finally....... that it was by His grace and His grace alone that I receive eternal life!
Oh my! I can't recall the exact day I realized that NOTHING I could do - no good works, no temple ordinances, could grant me a place in eternity...... No nothing but the grace of our Lord.... it is not of "works lest I boast but a gift of God." Eph. 2: 8 & 9 Wow. What a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders. I didn't have to earn it........ I didn't have to endure to the end and hope that I did enough temple work, was faithful enough, etc to secure my eternal life....... No it had nothing to do with me! It had everything to do with HIM!
At the time, I was teaching the women in Relief Society, and I gave my final lesson the last Sunday of November of 2007. I came home and told my husband I would not be returning again to the LDS church. 1 month later I emailed my bishop and told him I would not be returning again. I never looked back. I completely surrendered to Jesus........ I told Him I wanted Him and Him alone. That I was tired of religion, tired of "good works" and tired of failing miserably and that I was a sinner, and knew that I would never be "perfect" or "good enough".......... what a weight was lifted. I just prayed and asked Jesus to please show me the way.... that I wanted Him more than anything.... that I didn't want to err, but be right with Him.
My husband was as you can imagine surprised. He didn't know really what to say. I had showed him the discrepancies in the Joseph Smith first vision, and initially this really troubled him. I won't lie and say it's been an easy road for him. We now have a interfaith marriage and family and that has posed some challenges, to say the least. But God in His grace is working on things and helping us to live a life of love and grace and forgiveness. In the next few months, we read thru the gospel of John. One by one the children gave their lives to Jesus......some sooner than others...... each of their experiences were unique and certainly a personal giving of their hearts to the King of Kings. Other than 2 of the younger ones, I wasn't even there when they were saved. From the beginning they were allowed to have the choice to remain LDS , or not. I fully expected my older kids to want to return to the LDS church -- after all it was all they had known. Given a chance to read the gospel of John and to hear the "good news" that Jesus is all they need - they chose Christ. Thru the past year or so, many of my children have shared with me how "burdened down'' they felt when they were LDS.... especially my teenage son , who was almost 15 yrs old when we left. He has expressed his relief with not having to have the pressure to be "perfect" and fall into the mold of the LDS man. At the time of his release he had been serving as his qurom president, and apparently he had felt a bit of pressure to lead, etc. I didn't even realize it until months after leaving and he opened up. I thank God each day my children were saved. God knew that they would be needed to encourage their mama down the challenging journey that lay ahead. They have been my greatest cheerleaders -- when things are hard, they are the first one to say " Go to Jesus, mom" or " remember don't let satan steal your joy"..... they are full of faith in the Lord and it blesses my heart so much!
Initially we stayed away from any church in general. Our family needed a time to heal and to adjust to our new found faith . We were for obvious reasons feeling "burned out" on religion..... and really to this day, the name "religion" conjures up less than positive emotions and feelings.
In the Spring of 2008 ( april) God began to lay in my heart a desire to fellowship with other believers. I was very concerned I would make a wrong choice again... so I really gave this step a huge amount of prayer and consideration....... I actually wrote a letter to God and wrote down all the things I was hoping to find in a church, and then left it in my Bible.
It wasn't too long afterwards that the Lord led us to a small non denominational church in our small rural town here. I'll never forget talking to the pastor for the first time and inquiring about the church's beliefs -- he basically said that they are all about Jesus and non denominational, and that they preach the Bible, God's word and that is it. I remembering weeping....... just so hungry for God's word..... I was like an orphan child that had not eaten for months..... just so hungry I could not get enough of the Word....... My husband and I began to attend the bible study and then the prayer meeting....... each time I would go it was as if someone was feeding me for the first time....... I was literally eating it all up. I loved every second of it. I am so glad that God led us to a congregation of believers that truly are sold out for Jesus , and where the Bible is preached each Sunday and not a "sermon" and where the only creed is Jesus! We continue to worship with this body of believers, and we have been richly blessed! Thank you Lord!
My husband did join us initially for Bible study and Sunday worship........but soon he chose to stop attending. We remain in prayer for his salvation, knowing God did begin a good work and will complete it. The work of salvation is truly the work of the Lord -- I am not called to be a "savior on mt. zion" ( an LDS saying) No, there is only ONE savior on Mt. Zion and that is Jesus! He is intimately involved in the work of salvation. My job is to love my husband, to serve him and to help him, but not to save Him. If Jesus wants him in the fold and in His kingdom, then it will happen in God's time, not mine. Meanwhile, we try to live a life of love one to another, although I will admit it can be challenging at times with our interfaith situation, but God is faithful to help us out each step of the way. I am learing to love and be the wife that God wants me to be ... not what I have been , but what He wants . So very different. The Lord is so patient with me and all my many screw ups a long the way.
After we came to the Lord..... God continued to work in our lives...... in such amazing and wonderful ways! I can not even believe how awesome a God we have! He is so faithful -- so faithful. He has been our provider, our protector, our shield, our refuge, our all in all. 4 of my children and I were baptized in Christ Jesus in August of 2008. Prior to our baptism, I sent in my formal resignation letter to the LDS Church. I simply stated that I believed Jesus was the ONLY WAY and all I needed to receive eternal life and to please remove my name. It was completed in a timely manner, and less than 2 weeks later I received my letter stating my name was removed. I can not tell you how much of a burden was lifted at that moment as well... I literally felt as if the doors of a prison had been opened up and I ran out screaming "I am free" I am free! Praise God I am free! Free at Last! The baptism was a very simple service, focused completely on Jesus. Baptism for the christian is not about "joining a church" it's about publically confessing that we are the Lord's. For my LDS readers, Christians believe that Jesus commissioned his disciples in Matt 28 to go and teach and baptize. Our authorization to baptize comes from Jesus. Not from a priesthood. But, from Jesus directly. It was a beautiful experience...... soooo different than being baptized as an LDS. My pastor prayed with me, and then he had me pray and I publically confessed the Lord in my prayer. Then I was immersed in the water and then my children followed........ I am baptized not because it is necessary for salvation, but because the Lord has asked me to do so and so I do. I count it a blessing and privelege to have publically confessed that I am the Lords!
His grace is amazing........and my chains are gone......... slowly, gently my Jesus wooed me , courted me and eventually guided me out of the LDS church and into the arms of His everlasting love. My exit out of mormonism, was a gradual process. I believe the Lord knew exactly what He needed to do for me individually. He did it ever so gently and lovingly..... showing me one step at a time, and opening my eyes to see the truth and also to see the lies.
Those first months after coming out of the LDS literally felt as if someone was taking off layers from my eyes....... literally........
I love the story of the blind man being healed. It has taken on such personal meaning to me.
Jesus truly does make the blind to see in more ways than one..........
Blessed be His name!