24.5.11

The Hardest Blog I have had to write...

Right now, my stomach is turning.  It's turning because unlike other things I have wrote, this is not a light-hearted piece filled with humour and mirth.  I wish it was, because that would make it more palatable.  But what I am writing today is probably going to offend some people that I love and care for.  It is probably going to hurt the feelings of people whom I never want to offend.  God, I pray that my words are your words.  I pray that people read this with an open heart and a mind open to you...

Oliver Cowdery is a big part of Mormon History.  He was a scribe for Joseph Smith as Mr. Smith wrote the Book of Mormon.  He was there when various witnesses saw the Golden plates, as well as "heavenly visitations" from supposed angels confirming the "genuineness" of Joseph Smith's supposed visions.  He was an early apostle, and influential in the printing of the Book of Mormon.  He later left the LDS church, leaving his church membership behind.

After a period of years of animosity between him and the church leadership at the time, he came back.  Tail tucked firmly between his legs, he was rebaptised.  It is often quoted about how in spite of leaving the church, in spite of talking about against various leaders in the church, he never denied what he saw, nor that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.  And this vision of the believing apostate seems permanently burned into the mind of every believing member of the L.D.S. church.

Ever since then, there is this strange belief among many LDS members that people rarely leave because of the LDS doctrine, or that they rarely deny the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith as a prophet.  It is almost as if Cowdery's "apostasy" is the template for every other person who leaves the Mormon ranks.  Rather than accept that people come to the conclusion that the church can't be true, they believe that most people leave because they were offended by something someone said, or because it was "too hard" to live the L.D.S. lifestyle.  This then escalates into a belief that people leave the Mormon church because of issues of pride.  And that if one were more humble, then he would never have left the Mormon church in the first place.

Oh how I wish this were the case!  LOL!  My parents went inactive for years because of offense.  My parents used to help out with a Luau that our church held every year as a fundraiser (this was before the church banned local fundraisers...)  for youth to go to E.F.Y.  That Sunday, our bishop stood up and gave a list of all the people he was thankful for, as they did so much for the Luau.  In that list, my parent's names were omitted.  My mother was furious!  My dad had driven around picking up papier mache palm trees, while my mom single-handedly led the kitchen in cooking and preparing all of the food.  My mom never forgave that bishop, and didn't return to church for years.  So yeah, some people do leave because of offence. 

So yes, some people do stop going to church because someone was rude to them, or because their pride was hurt.  But here's the thing: don't dismiss the stories of those who leave because of a few who left for the sake of their egos.  There are many who have left the church because they realised that the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not the church of God.  In fact, for some of us, leaving destroys our lives, and is done out of humility, not arrogance.

I left the church four years ago now.  I had just come back to Utah, after having destroyed my life thanks to pornography and lying.  I came back to reconnect with my family, and to reconnect with God.  One of the first things I did on coming back was attend church, and set up a meeting with the local bishop to try and make recompense for my transgressions.  I was prepared for excommunication, so that I might come back as a member of the Mormon church in good standing.  In a rare moment of courage for me, I was ready to take all the lumps I deserved.  As I attended church, I prayed to God to help me to change.  In return, I promised to do anything He asked of me.

While this was going on, I started dating a girl who was not LDS.  She was a Christian.  And for Easter, she invited me to her church.  I decided to go, not because I was seeking something else, but because I hoped that in turn she would come to church with me, and I could eventually invite her to take the discussions.  My intentions were to "flirt to convert", if you will...

On a sidenote, the girl I was dating had a very outspoken friend who desparately wanted me to leave the church and become a Christian.  We didn't talk that many times, but when we did, she bombarded me with the usual anti-Mormon rhetoric.  I patronised her, listening patiently.  But all the while, inside I felt sorry that she didn't know the "truth" about Joseph Smith and the Mormon church.  And every attack she had, I felt confident she was deluded.  Boy, was I arrogant!

And then, the Friday before Easter came.  I went to a church unlike anything I had every experienced!  Everyone was dressed casually, no suits, no dresses.  The music was loud and raucous.  People danced to the music, their arms held high in the air.  As the pastor spoke they shouted out "amens" and "hallelujahs".  I hated it.  But then the pastor talked about Christ's crucifixion, about his sacrifice for us.  He talked about the grace offered to all who believe.  He spoke in length about how faith in God alone was the terms of salvation.  And as much as my 34 years of Mormon indoctrination tried to fight against it, I knew there was something here.  I cried.  As I listened to this man describe God's love for us, I cried.

A few days later, as I was praying to confirm that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon was true, God showed me something I had never considered.  A Mormon Prophet has never apologised for making a mistake.  In fact, the church teaches that a prophet will be struck down before he could lead his people astray.  As I thought about this fact, I thought about how Moses killed a man.  I thought about how Abraham lied (at least twice!) about his wife being his sister.  I thought about how Jonah was swallowed by a whale because he was afraid to do what God commanded.  I thought about how David slept with another man's wife.  I thought about how Peter denied Christ.  I thought about the feud between Peter and Paul.  As I thought about God, I was reminded that the bible is the story of imperfect people, people who mess up and screw up, and go astray all the time.  But in spite of their mistakes, they are forgiven and loved by their God.

Then I thought about the Mormon church.  I thought about how vehemently we defend our prophets, giving them some sort of claim to infallability.  I thought about how the church never admitted to Mountain Meadows, how they never once admitted that previous prophets might have made big mistakes.  As the days went by, I tried to ignore this thought.  But it kept coming back.  Over and over.  And over again.  If the church really is true, then why does it go to such lengths to hide the mistakes of its leaders, when the bible goes to such great lengths to point out the mistakes of leaders from the past?

This led me to question other things: the need for Pharisee-like adherence when the sacrament was blessed, or when a baptism was performed.  Would God really reject a baptism because a single hair floated up?  Would God consider my sacramental covenant null and void because the sixteen year old reciting the blessing left out a "thee"?

Over the next few weeks, I found myself questioning the church more and more.  Why is adherence to the Word of Wisdom required for temple attendance, but eating meat in the summer is allowed?  This led to bigger questions: were blacks really forbidden the priesthood because of God, or was this a mistake of man's that the church hasn't admitted?  Why did the church wait until the I.R.S. threatened them before rescinding it?  If D&C teaches that polygamy is an eternal principle, then why did the L.D.S. church rescind it, right as they were told they had to, in order for Deseret to acheive statehood. 

And this led to the big question: was I willing to leave the church?  Was I willing to offend my family, my friends, my former mission colleagues, my neighbours?  Was I willing to leave behind everything I knew, in order to follow God?  Arrogant?  Prideful?  At that moment, I was broken, humbled, I was scared!  I begged God to show me that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon was true.  But God took that moment of humility (my natural state of being is pride, so this was truly a moment where I was humbled) and laid out that the Mormon church was not his church.  I was heart-broken.  I was scared.  And in terms of myself, I felt so alone!

But as I continued to pray, I felt peace.  God promised me that if I followed him, I would find joy.  He promised me that He would not leave me in the emotional ocean I was swimming in.  He would not let me drown.  A few days later, I met with the assistant Pastor to discuss the things I was feeling.  Over the course of a few months, and hundreds of questions, I came to the realisation of who God was.  God was an eternal being, not an exalted man.  He was without beginning or end, and was always God.  God loved me, even when I sinned, and was merely waiting for me to return to Him.  He showed me that I didn't have to earn heaven.  Things like works and baptism and such were the results of my growing faith in Him, not my pre-requisites to return to Him!  I found myself growing closer to God, my prayers becoming more intimate.  I stopped looking at God as some far-away perfect being, and started looking at Him as something real and tangible, something I felt everywhere I went!

And so I left the Mormon church to become a Christian.  My parents lectured me.  Former friends from my mission stopped talking to me.  I had to unlearn the habits of a lifetime.  I had to change how I thought about salvation, how I thought about others.  I had to change everything that had defined me for over thirty-four years.  It was difficult and painful and wonderful... and worth it!

I am so happy now!  I am so overjoyed and overwhelmed by God every day!  My heart breaks for all of my friends and family who are still Mormon.  I pray for them, hoping that God will reveal to them the same truth He revealed to me.  It breaks my heart when they politely refuse my invitations to church, or choose to ignore my pointed messages about the invalidity of the Mormon church.  It hurts when people tell me that when I humble myself, I will return.  It hurts when people talk about my being a Christian as a phase or a fad.  It is condescending and simple-minded.  As much as you pray for me, I am praying for you, too.

This post is for all my L.D.S. friends and family.  I am asking you to humbly and openly look at the Mormon church.  I am asking you to compare it to the bible, and ask yourself this question: does it fit?  Do the teachings of the bible and the teachings of the church mesh?  But before you answer that question, I have a challenge.  I challenge each of you to read the bible cover to cover.  Put down the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrine and Covenants.  Put down The Ensign and the New Era.  Read the bible by itself from beginning to end, without any study guides or other books.  Don't be afraid to find a bible in an understandable format!  Rather than read it in the King James version, feel free to pick up the New International Version, or the New King James, or the NLT.  I don't care, but find a copy of the bible you can understand, and read it.  As you do, pray about it.  Open your heart to God, and ask Him everyday about the things you have read.  When you are done, see if you still follow the Mormon prophets, or see if God opens your eyes up to something greater, something freeing, something life changing!

God has changed my life!  He has given me peace, and joy, and tranquility.  He has given me a new outlook on life, a greater capacity and desire to love others.  He has filled all the voids, and transformed who I am.  Because of Him, I love and live like I never did before!  God saved me from myself!

I know this post is going to offend.  I know it will be dismissed by some because of who I am, or their relationship with me.  But I truly pray that someone, somewhere will be affected by what I write, and humble themselves enough to hear what God is saying.  I hope this post is received as something I write in love.  I don't write this to boast, or to hurt, or to mock.  I write it because God has changed my life, and I want to share that with each and everyone of my Mormon friends.  I love you.

12 comments:

  1. Anonymous24/5/11 19:53

    Wayne, if nothing else, I pray that it plants a seed in someones heart. You may not see the outcome yourself but I know God is at work :)

    Brenda

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  2. Anonymous24/5/11 21:36

    As I said on your FB post, I would respond later when I got home. I am home now and so here goes.

    I now have a better understanding of where you are coming from in your faith. I have always respected your faith even though I neither follow it nor, to be perfectly honest, comprehend any faith. As I hope you know I think of myself as an agnostic atheist. While I can neither prove nor completely disprove the existence of a God, I have yet to find any system of faith that fully sits with me. I too was raised in a Mormon house, I left them at a much younger age than you. I spent several years looking at all the religions I could investigate, various christian and even the Hindu and Buddhist religions, none of them really sat well with my thinking.Finally I came to one conclusion. For me, faith is as much a mystery as lung breathing is to fish.

    Like I said earlier and every chance I get, I admire your faith and the strength of your convictions. I would enjoy sitting down with you at some point when we both have a free evening and hear more on your point of view.

    Til then, Take care my friend.

    Al

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  3. Robert Kershaw24/5/11 23:49

    wayne why cant i be more like you when discussing LDS doctrines with believers, all i can do i talk about my own experiences and the word and how it relates to life and whats going on but i can never get to the point, i avoid it because i dont know how not to offend, you have a way of putting things that i think even the most devout LDS follower would not be offended by, very well said brother.

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  4. Anonymous26/5/11 22:24

    We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all men this same privilege. Let them worship how, where, and what they may.

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  5. Wayne Feller27/5/11 09:25

    @Anonymous - Even Christ himself taught the truth to those who didn't want to hear it (John 8:26-32). And ANY true follower of Christ will always seek the truth, even if it means questioning their own beliefs (John 4:22-24, John 3:1`9-21). Look at Peter! He always thought that the gospel was for the Jew. But when God questioned that paradigm, Peter was ready to accept the truth (Acts 10). There is nothing in scripture that says we should teach anything but the truth (Proverbs 23:23; I Timothy 2:1-6). And sometimes the truth means having people question what they believe.

    Now having said that, nowhere in this article did I advocate that your right to worship God as you see fit be taken away. I merely questioned the truth of the Mormon church. Isn't that what Christ commissioned us all to do, to preach the truth to those who don't have it?

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  6. Anonymous27/5/11 12:17

    self righteous gobshite!

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  7. Anonymous1/6/11 11:06

    You speak of humility but I detect none in this entry of your blog.
    I'm sure there may have been a time when you spoke just as vehemently about the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as you do now about your current beliefs.
    The members of every religion on the planet believe that theirs is the one true religion and all proclaim it. Even athiests are positive that they are right. Everyone wants to be right and that's ok however I find it very patronising and condescending of anyone who tries to convince others to follow their way just because it's what they believe.
    You don't have to be a scholar or be taught by scholars to know God. You don't have to an expert on the scriptures to know Gods teachings. You simply need to know how to be a good human being.
    Most of the best people I know are people who do not attend or affiliate with any church. I sincerely believe that God will not turn them away because they did not find and belong to the one true church on the earth.
    Likewise I do not believe that someone who does not believe in God during this life will be turned away by him because of their non belief.
    Imagine... You spend your life believing there is nothing after death, Just the end.. You die... You arrive at the "pearly Gates" for want of a better phrase... and you think shit I was wrong! There IS a God, There IS something after death. So God sends you on your merry way to the pits of hell or purgatory or spirit prison or wherever it is you believe such souls should go. Never mind you were a good person during your lifetime.
    I know Wayne that's not exactly what you are saying, but that is the implication I derive from anyone who presumes to tell another that they are absolutely wrong in their religion and they should follow the TRUE religion.
    "Oh my goodness, you don't believe? we must pray for you, we must show you the way before it's too late!!?
    I think it would serve many of the worlds occupants very well if they would concentrate on their own actions, behaviours and beliefs rather than trying to persuade others they are wrong in theirs.
    Spend more time looking within because the more you look outwards the more you are missing the things within yourself which are in need of the utmost attention!!!
    You may reply to this post and be very clever with your words and even use a few scriptural references to back up your argument, and argument is what it is, But these things mean nothing to me. I'm a simple person with simple ideas and beliefs about the world. One of those beliefs is that each of us has the right to choose what we will. My choice is to always try to be the best I can be and accept others for what they are.
    Have a good day!

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  8. Wow! That is an amazingly awesome reply! I agree with a lot of what you say, and can not agree enough with the need to constantly look at ourselves and change what needs to be changed. My biggest fault is that I am often afraid to be honest with how deeps my own faults run. You are right, and I do try to do that, but appreciate your encouragement to do it more.
    And you are right that I was just as adamant that the LDS church was true. It was hard for me to write this post for just that reason. I felt like I must look like such a hypocrite right now. And in some ways, I am sure I am. I didn't want to write it, really. And as hard as this might seem to believe, I really felt prompted by God to write what I did. I know that that may seem like justification, and there is no way I can prove it. I can only say that it was hard for me to write.

    You know, I was inactive for a few years before I came back to the states. And during that time I devloped a real "live and let live" attitude towards other's faiths. I still believe that everyone should be allowed to believe what they like.

    But one of the hardest things I have learned from the bible is that not everyone is going to receive salvation, that some people are, in fact, going to hell. That is a cconept that scares me, I mean really frightens me. People that I know and love may spend eternity separated from God because they didn't know Him here. I see family members and friends dying, without every really knowing that Jesus is the Christ, and it saddens me. That was my purpose with this post, was to simply warn people that we must be actively engaged in seeking God's truth.

    Arrogant, I can see that it would seem that way. But if I believe the bible, I mean really believe everything it says, then I have to believe the warnings as well as the good news. And that is hard sometimes, I won't lie.

    Again, I appreciate your honesty and your candor. I may not agree with everything you said, but you do make some important points!

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  9. Anonymous1/6/11 22:16

    Ephesians 4:14-16 (The Message)
    14-16 No prolongedinfancies among us, please. We'll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

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  10. Joel Huntington5/6/11 18:48

    Wayne, I respect very much your point of view and commend you for having the courage to express a difficult thought. Religion aside, I'll never have a more fond memory than our time together in Vienna. Couldnt ask for a better friend, roommate, and companion!

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  11. Wayne,

    I do commend you on your bravery to come out and post what you did post. I do know you, but I will not post my name. I want you to know that I do admire your courage of trying to bring anyone to Christ it is a good thing. Now with that being said I have a question for you. The Bible teaches that god does not change and his church and principles do not change. Do you believe this? If you do, you need to look at what the LDS church has that no other church has or claims to have. 1. Priesthood. If god church had to have the Priesthood in the Bible era why would it not make sense that he would have the Priesthood in his modern day church? It doesn't make sense at all especially if you believe that god does not change. Also god teaches that anything that is not good, clean or wholesome is not of God but of the Devil. So Pornography, Murder, Rape, or any other unholy thing would all be justified in the end as long as you believe! That is hogwash and you know it. And also if at that last day and if it is all true and you look up at Christ and have to explain to him how you spent your life trying to lead his children away from the truth. I guess what I am trying to say is if you are willing to bring these people from what could possibly be the truth, you better know for a fact that it is not true because if it is I would hate to be in your shoes at that day! I know that the LDS Church is true probably more than you know that it is not, and even if I ever did leave I would be pretty scared to bring People away from the one religion on this earth today that has all the keys,and teachings and ordinances of the church when Jesus Christ established it. Good luck with that.

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  12. @Anonymous -

    I read and re-read your post, and I would like to suggest something, two things, actually.

    1 - Read up on what the priesthood was used for. Try Leviticus, and Hebrews. Really study who it was given to, and what it was used for. Then, compare it to how the LDS church claims to use the priesthood.

    2 - Take time to compare the church of the Old Testament to that of the New Testament. See if it is the same or different. Did they use the same feasts, the same rituals? Did they continue to use temples?

    God is unchangeable. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But, He is also sovereign. He can use whatever methods he chooses to bring about his plans. But, he never said this of the church. Nowhere in the bible does it say that the church is sovereign, nor does it say that the church doesn't change. That right it reserved for God alone.

    I don't want to have an argument with you. But, if you are really interested in the truth about the priesthood, about the structure of the church, then call me or e-mail me, or come see me. The bible is amazingly clear and transparent on these principles...

    Hope to hear from you,

    Wayne

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