I Used to Be a Mormon (Guest Post)
“I’d like to bear my testimony. I love the gospel [of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]: the organization, the leaders, the teachings, the blessings, the goose bumps, the warm feelings, the hugs, etc., but most of all I love how this gospel is not just a religion but a lifestyle. Ether 4:11 [Book of Mormon], ‘…For because of my spirit ye shall know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do good.’ I love this gospel because it wants the best for us. It teaches what our consequences will be if wrong paths are chosen. It persuades us to do good. Ether 4:12, ‘And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me…For behold I am…the truth of the world.’ And I write these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.” – My journal entry, July 3, 2001
I used to be a Mormon. I loved the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was inevitable that my life would be consumed by the institution and the culture since my father belongs to a legacy of early Mormon pioneers and my mother belongs to a family of recent converts. I grew up in northern Utah, too. Just weeks after my birth, my mother dressed me in white and my father officially introduced me to the world, by giving me a name and a blessing, which was his duty and rite as a father and as a Melchizedek priesthood holder in the Mormon church.
My parents taught me from a very young age about the peculiarity of my religion. I was taught to take pride in that peculiarity and present myself to the world as an outspoken, proselytizing, high-moral-striving Mormon. I was taught that since I had been born into my particular Mormon family, and thereby received all of the temporal blessings therein, I had done something in the pre-existence to merit these blessings and God’s esteem. I had plenty of self-confidence, certain that my diligence as a Mormon would reserve a spot for me in the Celestial Kingdom, the highest degree of heaven, where I would someday reside in the presence of my Heavenly Father.
I piously accepted church callings (leadership positions within my local congregation, or “ward” as we called it) and eagerly attended any and all programming offered outside of regular worship, such as youth group, summer retreats, family camp, general conference, and evening devotional lectures (also known as “firesides”).
My extended family regularly encouraged my testimony as a Mormon, too. I have sixty-six first cousins and forty-four aunts and uncles, most of whom reside in northern Utah and most of whom hold membership in the Mormon church. My greatest friends were Mormon. My greatest mentors were Mormon. Most of my school teachers were Mormon. My neighbors on either side of my childhood home were Mormon.
I grew up affirming “I know this church is true.” Ask most any Mormon for their testimony and they will probably give you a statement of faith that I most likely parroted, including other statements like, “I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that he restored the Lord’s church in these latter days” or “I know that my family will be together forever because of the eternal blessings that we have received in the temple.” These testimonies seem to be familiar and universally asserted by most Mormons.
The LDS church informed nearly all of my life. It divided my time. It shaped my social spheres. It guided my spiritual progression.
And then I met Jesus.
I was a “good” Mormon girl, doing the Mormon thing, and God let Himself into my life, where I did not invite Him. He supernaturally took reign over my heart and mind. He led me to His Holy Scriptures, which I had always had access to, but He met me here in a new and bold way. God confronted me that I did not know Jesus, even though I affirmed membership in His church. I thought that I knew plenty about Him and I knew plenty of other peripheral things, but I had missed the entire center and object of my supposed faith—Jesus. God pressed me here. I began a serious study of the Bible, my first ever. I had never honestly nor linearly studied God’s Word. God intervened and He sufficiently used His Holy Word to show me, a “good” Mormon girl, without the influence of any other person or any other literature, that I was not a Christian. In fact, He showed me that I did not stand on a firm foundation and that the Mormon church was a counterfeit gospel. Further, and for the first time, I began to understand who Jesus really was and that He was calling me to deny myself, confess my sins, pick up my cross, and follow Him, without the trappings of Mormonism. Most impacting was when I realized that Jesus was the last and final sacrifice needed to fulfill the Law and the prophets. This was significant because the Mormon church is founded on the abrogation of the Law and modern-day prophets. Having died and atoned for my sins, Jesus performed as my high priest, going before me and offering mediation between me and God. In this, Jesus took on my sin and I took on Jesus’ righteousness. All of this was new to me. Although the vocabulary was familiar, I had never considered these things like this before. As I continued to encounter these new truths, I began to understand that I could personally partake of God’s grace and mercy through the intervention of Jesus Christ. I found that I desired this above all other things. The crux of the gospel is communing with God, not following a methodology for proper living and piety, as I had done in the Mormon church. I also began to understand that God is sovereign. Sovereign over all things, and particularly, sovereign over me.
Jesus’ beckoning to me was so simply sweet, my only response was to fall on my face and worship the almighty God of this universe.
In the beginning, God’s appeals to my heart, conscience and reason were very strong, very bold, and very overwhelming for my circumstances. It would have been far more comfortable, socially and emotionally, to simply have remained a Mormon, but these new convictions reigned heavily on my conscience and I had to leave the Mormon church. I have had to count the cost of leaving. I have lost relationships, many with my greatest friends and mentors, many with my own family. This also sent me into a radical identity crisis. I have known depression. I have known loneliness. But God is good. He sovereignly removed me from a false foundation. He has benevolently given me a new identity in Jesus Christ. He has also given me a new community in His body where I am loved and embraced. He daily satisfies my needs. He has given me a life of joy that I could not have handcrafted for myself.
I formally left the Mormon church in the spring of 2004 by permanently removing my membership from the church’s records. I was baptized in a Protestant church, and I joined a former-Mormon Christian support group. I realize the magnitude of the decisions that I have made. I realize all of the “eternal blessings” that I “forfeit” by renouncing the Mormon church. I understand that many Mormons believe that the devil has won a great battle with me. To this I say: the true God is sovereign. There will come a day when He will separate the wheat from the chaff and the sheep from the goats. When I stand before the true God and answer His question, “Why ought I let you into My kingdom?” I can only respond, “There is no goodness in me. I have fallen short from the glory of God. My only comfort in life and death is that I am not my own, but belong to my faithful savior Jesus Christ who with His precious blood, has fully satisfied all my sin, and delivered me from all the power of the devil, and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head and that all things must be subservient to my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life and makes me sincerely willing and ready to live for His glory” (Heidelberg Catechism).
My testimony is simple: first, the Word of God is sufficient to inform people of their error and their need for Christ; second, the Holy Spirit is real and moves on behalf of the Father.
I do not believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. It is not the firm foundation it professes to be. I do not believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, but rather, a false prophet who came in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). The Mormon church only offers a method, like a “ten step program,” for pragmatic, helpful living dressed up in religious language. The biblical Jesus offers so much more. There is nothing that stands between me and the true God, except Jesus Christ alone, and He has already called me His. His death was not in vain. His death was sufficient. I have never experienced the joy of God until that first moment of self-denial and proclaiming Christ and Him crucified. I know a contentment that is real and satisfying. In this, there is no praise to man, no praise to me, but all praise and glory to God alone.
My fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord, please pray for the Mormon people. The Mormon culture suffers from naivety, suppression and denial. The misguided faith of the Mormon people largely goes unchallenged. The work here in Utah, in the mecca of Mormonism, is difficult. The churches here are small and few in number. Please pray that the Lord will raise up indigenous leaders who will lead many transitioning Mormons to the cross. Being a transitioning Mormon can be uncomfortable, discouraging, and even scary at times. Please pray that transitioning Mormons may blaze a new trail to glory, unashamedly and full of hope.
Natasha Weinstock is a former Mormon, committed to the mission to Utah and sharing the gospel with Mormon people everywhere. Her greatest loves are Jesus, her beloved husband, and her two little boys.