There were prisoners living in a cave. They have lived there since the days they were born. Each prisoner was tied to a rock so that they could only see the wall in front of them. Behind them were roaring fires and torches where their captors would pass by carrying different objects, statues of animals and so on. Some spoke, most were silent while their shadows were seen by the prisoners. One day, one prisoner was able to untie himself. Once he was free, he looked behind himself and was blinded by the fires. When his eyes adjusted, he could see the captors still carrying their objects, still passing by. He looked to his left and to his right to see that there were other men like him, tied up and their eyes glued to the wall showing the shadows. He then noticed there was an opening on the other side of the den of the cave that too held a light. He carefully made his way to that light until he was blinded by the world above. The sun’s rays were painful to his eyes that had only seen dim light and darkness. Once his eyes adjusted he could see everything. Water, grass, trees, animals, and the sky. When the day turned to night, the beauty of the moon and stores took his breath away. As he stood there transfixed by what he saw, he thought of his life in the cave. No, after all, that he has seen and learned, he cannot go back to that existence. He then thought of his other prisoners and pitied them. He decides that he needs to go back and free them. When the captors see him return and attempt to free the other prisoners, they kill him to prevent him from educating them and letting them escape the cave.
I am that prisoner. I was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for 8 years and 10 months. I first heard of Mormonism when I was 14 years old and two young men wearing nametags knocked on my door and gave me my first discussion on my front porch. They invited me to church, left their card and a Book of Mormon with me and moved on to the next house. My mother took the book from me and called the missionaries to tell them to never contact me again. A few weeks later I started High School and after school, I ran into those missionaries and apologized for what had happened. One put his hands on my shoulders and said, “Someday you will know the truth for yourself”.
A few months later, I met a man named Andrew when I co-founded a Venturing Crew in Prineville. Andrew had just turned 18 and was preparing to apply to be a missionary for the church as well as applying for his Eagle Scout rank. At first, we didn’t get along one bit. Then we were able to see that we had a few things in common. We made a truce and eventually, we even became friends. In August 2005, I proposed a relationship on the same day he received his mission call to the Peru Lima South mission. After a long discussion of what the mission would entail and what kind of relationship he felt I would be signing up for, we began dating. Before he left, he gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon that looked just like the one the missionaries gave me and he had me promise him two things: that I would consider reading the book and that I’ll be prayerful in all things. While he was in Peru, I read the book and took the missionary discussions. I was baptized as a member on February 26, 2006. Eventually, my relationship with Andrew ended, but I had gained my own testimony so it didn’t have an effect on my newly-founded faith.
I threw myself completely into the world of Mormonism. I went to early morning seminary on a daily basis, went on Temple trips, watched General Conference, and served part-time as a missionary. I tried to proselytize my friends and family. I was in love with Mormonism and everything about it. I planned to live and even die if necessary for the church and its good name.
In 2010, I met JB, an Evangelical studying in seminary in hopes of becoming a pastor. He was interested in Mormonism and wanted to speak to Mormons to get a better idea on what we believe. He introduced me to the world of Apologetics where I had fun defending my faith and speaking to Born Again Christians about theirs. From time to time, I was asked about certain doctrines of the church that I wasn’t familiar with. I started writing them down so that I could look into them. I began rereading the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price to find answers to my growing questions. I also read old Ensign Articles and sermons given by Prophets and Apostles. The more I read on subjects such as the nature of God, the Godhead, and the Plan of Salvation the more questions I had. It got to the point that I became troubled by what I had learned. Eventually, I decided to go to trusted friends within my ward with these questions. Some were willing to work me but most rebuked me. I was accused of reading anti-Mormon literature, being influenced by Satan and betraying my baptismal covenants.I was also accused of not wanting the church to be true and of being an Apostate. I was taken aback by the vitriol that I received from people I esteemed as close friends and people I looked up to. My Facebook page became a war zone as my Evangelical friends collided with the Mormon ones. I was accused of seeking attention and intentionally hurting people in order to achieve it. I eventually with the help of JB, placed my questions on my blog. These questions came from several months of study, discussion and church sermons from the Journal of Discourse.
I eventually sat down with my Bishop and my Stake President with these questions. But I received little answers and, even more questions as well as frustration. When I continued my pursuit, friends began writing me off. My inbox filled with more messages of condemnation. Eventually, my depression worsened until I tried to end my life October 2013. My best friends saved me and were kind enough to start reading my inbox and getting rid of the hurtful messages. They also took the liberty of removing those friends.
During this very dark time in my life, God was working me into something for His use. My aunt had me go to Women’s Bible Study with her and my cousin. She set up an appointment with the church’s Care Pastor so that I could talk to him. He listened to my concerns that had developed from my years in Mormonism and used biblical passages to assure me that my concerns were unfounded. When I told him about the covenants I made, he helped me to see that I made promises that I had no business making. He helped me to repent and I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior that day. I continued going to Bible Study and made friends with some very lovely and kind ladies who were aware of my situation. Both in the group and out they made it clear that they were thinking about me, praying for me and loved me. When I was baptized on the 6th of November, some of them were able to attend to support me.
As the months went on, I studied the Bible more and more. The Gospels gave me new hope in the relationship with God and my Savior. I began forming relationships with other Mormons who were just like me. With mentorship, I was able to find the support I needed which helped me to get through the pain of my experience and inspired me to become a mentor. A few months later, I was awarded acceptance into Northwest Christian University, a Bible College in Eugene. I entered campus August 23, 2014 and enrolled in the Christian Ministry program. Due to a promise I made, I tried going to the Young Single Adult ward a few blocks away from campus. It ended in heartbreak and even ended for a time a friendship I treasured. On November 24, 2014 I resigned my membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. On December 04, 2014, I received a letter from the Bishop of the YSA Ward telling me that my resignation not only ended my membership, it also ended my salvation. More to the point he said, “We are directed by the handbook of instructions to inform you that by having your name removed from the records of the church that your records are also being removed from the Book of Life.”
Since then, I have been spending a great deal of time in prayer with God and diving into His word. I have added History to my dual major and try to take as many Bible classes as I can. Reading the Church Fathers and other theologians has given me a greater understanding of theology and the Bible. I joined the Episcopal Church in May and am training to be a pastor in hopes that I will run a church in the future. I also minister to Mormons who question church doctrine or wants to leave. I listen to them, pray with them, cry with them and teach them. I also help them find other churches to attend with a church family that will help them with their walk with the Lord.
While the LDS church has caused me a great amount of pain, I am grateful for my years there. Because of my experiences, I have a greater love for the true God because the pain brought me closer to Him. I am also grateful for my remaining friends in the church that continually show me kindness. Their support has meant a lot and I truly hope that this story doesn’t make them feel attacked. They have no need to be ashamed. I would also like to thank Bishop Todd Sheldon of the Centennial Park Ward of the Redmond Oregon Stake for always being available for my questions and trying his best at helping me find answers. I value his friendship and would feel remiss in not mentioning that he has always been supportive of me. For those who are faithful members that read this, I want to make it clear that this isn’t an attack on them or their faith. It is my story and mine alone. I want to share it so others know that they are not alone and to explain why I made the decisions I have made.
It took pain and self-doubt for me to leave my cave. Once I got outside, I felt the sun of the Good News, I marveled at the stars of the friends I have made. All of these experiences were assigned to me for a reason. I believe that reason is so I can help others in their pain. There are some who are still in their caves and if I can help them, then I want to. I was a Mormon who found Jesus Christ in a way I hadn’t expected. I found God in His words that are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I am not ashamed to be the Christian I am today because Jesus isn’t ashamed of me.