“The Faith I Tried to Avoid,” Ensign, Dec. 2004, 15
Up until a few years ago, I was a follower of the modern trend to take far too much liberty in the practice of religion. I tried to be self-sufficient and individualistic, and I denied that such a thing as “the true church” existed. Only by the grace of God am I now able to share my story of finding the truth.
I was raised in a very loving Christian home. Our family would spend the majority of our week either involved in church activities or preparing for upcoming opportunities to serve. For years I was involved in child and youth religious programs, preparing myself for eventual enrollment in Bible college. Given my aptitude for music and my love for the Lord, my desire to achieve a degree in music ministry came quite naturally. I completed the degree and accepted a position with a church congregation, where I was responsible for hundreds of church attendees each Sunday morning.
Over the course of time, I realized that while I knew God existed, I had a hard time believing that everything I knew about Him was accurate. Several years after accepting the calling to serve as a minister, I resigned my position. I knew that I could no longer lead a group of well-meaning members in a practice that I myself was unsure of. I would not be a hypocrite to God, my family, or the members of my church.
For the next several years, my life was a downward spiral. My wife decided to start a new life without me and took our daughter with her. I lost my job. I lost my home. My faith crumbled, and anger overtook me. I decided that the Lord could not possibly exist in the way I had always felt He did. This philosophy led me to an intense study of all world religions. This type of study was not new to me. I had taken numerous classes on multicultural worship practices, in which I had been shown why these religions were inaccurate according to the Bible. Yet new questions now rang in my head: What if the Bible was inaccurate? What if everything I had believed to be true was wrong?
From the earliest years of my religious training, my family, church, and professors had educated me on the danger of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I had seen almost every anti-Mormon movie, prayed for the lost souls giving tours of Temple Square, argued with LDS peers, and taken classes comparing the Book of Mormon with the Satanic bible. Decades of anti-Mormon training had equipped me with the tools and motivation to stay far away from any LDS affiliation. Although I wanted to open my mind to all religions as a form of truth, I did not allow room for the LDS Church.
While deeply involved in my study, I had the opportunity to start a new career. During my training period, I met several employees; one was a striking woman who immediately caught my attention. She accepted my awkward invitation to join me for dinner one night, and as we ate, we discussed religion and the fact that she was a Latter-day Saint. Realizing that my desire to accept all world religions should have extended even to this church, I decided to overlook our religious differences. I asked her out for another date. I was shocked when she told me that she didn’t feel it would be right, as dating outside of her church did not fit within her ethical standards. She told me, however, that she would love to consider me a friend.
At first this upset me greatly. I thought her decision to date only Church members seemed overly pious, lacking the love of Christ. I argued with her for some time about this, but to no avail. That night I spent many sleepless hours pondering and debating my position. After serious reflection, I decided that while I would never dedicate myself to a religious practice for the love of a person, this woman was worth at least investigating the one church I had sworn I would never consider.
As I thought about my coworker, I came to realize that the attraction I felt for her was focused on her morals and integrity. She was unlike women I knew who were desirous to live a carefree, unaccountable lifestyle. My Latter-day Saint friend had no false pretense, and her commitment to her faith was overwhelming. I decided that she had either found the best thing in the world or she was suffering from the worst case of brainwashing I had ever encountered.
A few days after our date, I spent my night at a 24-hour restaurant. I wrote six pages, front and back, of theological and ethical questions I had about the LDS Church. I was vehemently opposed to sitting down with missionaries, who I felt had been trained to twist the scriptures as a type of brainwashing technique. I had decided, however, that I would approach my Latter-day Saint friends with my list and ask for answers. I told the Lord that if this church was true, I would devote myself to it wholeheartedly; if I didn’t find this to be the case, I would walk away from it with no reservations. This would either be the easiest witnessing opportunity my friends had ever been given or the greatest challenge of their faith.
In fact, it proved to be both. I was not surprised when several of my LDS acquaintances told me that they couldn’t answer many of my questions. I was told on numerous occasions, “That’s just the way it is.” Although my conclusion that all Latter-day Saints had been brainwashed was in fact strengthening, I was, nevertheless, impressed with my friends’ concern for the fact that I needed answers. Never did anyone belittle me for asking. Never did any of them judge me for the fact that I didn’t agree. In reality, they encouraged me to seek out the answers for myself in prayer—a step which I found contrary to the notion of indoctrination.
Over time, the Lord led several friends into my life who were able to answer my questions. The Spirit spoke to me, and I felt that the truth had been revealed. But I did not want to accept it. I distanced myself from the woman who had piqued my interest, and I prayed. I begged the Lord for a sign, an answer. One particular afternoon, after driving home from work while repeating my frequent prayer, I laughed out loud as I pulled into my driveway and saw the LDS missionaries helping a neighbor move out of his house! That afternoon I scheduled my first missionary discussion.
I was baptized into the true Church two months later. I did this knowing that it might mean losing all ties with many of my friends, my parents and extended family, and maybe even my daughter. Through Church members, the missionaries, the stake presidency, and the bishop, I have been blessed to recognize that I now have the support of a new family. The Lord uses His Church to help provide for my needs both spiritually and temporally. While I still strive to maintain my family relationships and struggle to retain the right to see my daughter, I hold to the assurances God has given me through blessings and personal prayer that someday I will again have a complete family.
Through this experience I have learned two very valuable lessons. First, all Latter-day Saints have the responsibility of maintaining their integrity and letting their light shine for those around them (see 3 Ne. 12:16). After all, the Lord used one person’s example to change my heart. Second, we should all make the effort to learn what it is that we believe. If we live our lives as examples of God’s love, know how to answer difficult questions, and truly open our hearts to the promptings of the Spirit, we possess an overwhelming power to draw even the most calloused hearts to God’s throne.
I testify of the truthfulness of the Church. I testify that I now live a more complete life because of God’s faithfulness to a rebellious child, and I know that the Lord’s spirit can overcome any hardened heart. It is my blessing and privilege to be able to say that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.