Saturday, February 27, 2016

Finding Grace from Mormonism to Christianity

Good morning my sweet readers,

I feel the need to warn you that this will be a long post, but I felt it was necessary to convey everything I needed to write. Pull up a chair, grab a blanket and settle in…

God has woken me up several days in a row at 6AM with the urge to write. When posts like these come together, they are written quickly, efficiently and with barely any help from myself. Some other force takes over my hands on the keys, which tells me a reader needs my words, because this is not a post I've ever wanted to write. I have avoided this post for fear of judgment, rejection, and criticism.

However…

If those things happen, God will protect my heart.

If I offend, then God will heal it.

If I am scared, God will take my fear away.

If you are the one He is speaking to, then let Him guide my words.

I need you to know that this post has been prayed over, thought about, and avoided since I prayed my anything prayer while reading Jennie Allen's book.

I want to share with you how I found Christ as my Savior after leaving Mormonism. This is not written to offend, bash, or boast. This post is me connecting my story with God's story. Several months ago, many of you read Break Over and that was me gently dipping my toes into the waters. For fear of offending my LDS friends, who I dearly love from college and the local congregation, I wrote a sugary sweet post on our decision to leave the church.

That apparently wasn't good enough, often I wake up fighting with God over what to share and not to share. I tell Him daily, "I just want to live life as a Christian and leave it alone! Please leave this alone!!!" But there is a huge push on me to publish this post, even though I know many wish I would just leave it alone. God won't let it go. He wants me to share our story. And I need some sleep!

A belief in the Savior of the World saved my life.

Saved my marriage

and saved my family.

The LDS people believe that Satan will try and attack at every angle, so even this post further explaining our steps out of the church can cause defenses to arise. Any blogger or author writing why they left only further proves to them the righteousness of their beliefs. Hence the reason I’ve been tied up in knots over writing it. If you are LDS, please don't stop reading. I'm not attacking or out to hurt anybody, my intentions are from the kindness parts of my heart hoping to share how I found grace after leaving Mormonism.


I’d like to answer the top five reasons LDS members assume a person leaves the church (and this is written as a former member who thought all the reasons below about an inactive member or two or three…).

1.      They wanted to sin or break the Word of Wisdom

Christians believe we are all sinners, that's what makes us need Christ's sacrifice, because in God we are strengthened in our weaknesses. Because of the legalistic nature of Mormonism, one can get so caught up in what not to do to be worthy that they can lose sight of the Savior of the World. After completing all the musts, after going out with missionaries monthly to teach individuals and families in our community, after reading scriptures and being up to date on all church news, after going to the temple each month, after abiding by the Word of Wisdom… I still felt dead inside. I felt like I was doing everything asked of me and still felt far away from God.

Paul taught the philosophers of Athens that they were being so religious, so superstitious (as the KJV states) that they were not aware of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He also tells them that God’s spirit does not dwell in temples made with human hands. Read the full story in Acts 17:22-34

Grace changed my whole word, beautiful saving grace. Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT says "God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this, it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God's masterpiece He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago." If you are LDS you can read the KJV here

2.      They were offended

We were never offended by church members, we loved and still love that church family. I pray that if any of them want to talk more with me that they will. My husband and I loved many people in the church and that’s just another reason our leaving was so heartbreaking for both of us. We had a community, we had our support system, and God was calling us away from it.

3.      Never had a "real" testimony of the church

I did have a testimony of the church, I was a member for over 10 years and attended BYU. I was sealed to my husband in the temple and I visited the temple weekly when I lived in Utah. I was a huge believer in the time spent there. I was a full tithe payer and worthy to enter the temple. But what is a “real” testimony anyway? Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “Each time He said, ‘My grace is all you need My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I’ll never understand the level of testimony one would be required to obtain in order to have a “real” testimony. I’d rather focus my life on the Savior of the World instead.  As a Christian, I see that 3 hours spent on a Saturday can be better spent building a ramp for a disabled person, giving food at a homeless shelter, donating our time to the service of people on this earth right at this moment who need the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

It wasn't a lack of testimony that led me away. I was a hamster spinning on a wheel, trying every effort and command to feel closer to God and never feeling His power in my life. I never felt how BIG our God can be until I left. We were all on the same LDS track, the same LDS plan, and I kept trying with my mind set on legalism only to feel my salvation snatched away with yet another improvement I needed to make in my life. 

4.      Stopped doing the actions to keep the Holy Spirit, like daily scripture reading and prayer 

I was reading scripture, church talks, and praying. I read the Book of Mormon and conference talks the most because they made more sense to me than the KJV of the Bible. However I still felt empty and like my prayers were repetitive, since leaving the church I have heard some of the most beautiful prayers in our local church. Because of my new belief in Christ not only do I dig wholeheartedly into my Bible every single day, I do it with joy!

God is speaking to me through His word. Christians believe the Bible to be infallible that God breathed on each and every page, whereas LDS people believe in the KJV as long as it is translated correctly. Can I share with you dear reader that since rejecting that idea and taking up the Bible I have read some of the most beautiful translations the world has to offer and guess what? They only draw me closer to the Savior of the World, never pushing me away from His message. Always showing me His glory.

5.      Read Anti-Mormon literature

Yes! I did read Anti Mormon literature, however the literature I read was on the LDS church's official website. Topics like multiple first visions, Joseph Smith's wives, and becoming like gods were church historical events I was told were Anti-Mormon only to find the church publishing essays on those same topics. For a full list of the essays I read on LDS.org go here. While I was in the LDS church, I started reading the book Unveiling Grace about a BYU professor whose family left the church after 30 years. They found God’s grace because her son, while on his mission, read the New Testament and came to believe in the Jesus Christ of the Bible.

When that book first entered our library I glared at it for days and daydreamed of burning it. How dare someone write badly about the one true church. I was angry, peeved. Until that book started drawing me in for a closer look. Suddenly I wanted to read the Bible too, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29:13. I wanted to see what her entire family read that led them closer to God. Because of that book, I too read the New Testament as a little child and found the God I was looking for over the years. The God of the Bible and now the lover of my soul.

Leaving the church was a painful time in our lives. I was alone as I read those church essays and when my husband came home from work I confronted him asking if he knew all this church history, he looked at me with concern in his eyes and said, "why are you reading Anti-Mormon literature?! You need to stay away from it!" I looked at him with sadness in my eyes and pulled up the church's website, not some random Mormon bashing site on the internet. That was a tough day. Many tears and lots of confusion led me to rattle off email after email to close friends to gain explanations on these topics, only to read their replies and not feel any closer to my God.

The last time I entered a LDS temple was in July 2015, my husband and I entered the same temple we were sealed in over 6 years ago, both of us with huge questions on our hearts. We left with bitter sweet feelings, God spoke to us there. He said, “leave, this is not of Me.” The push was so strong, we prayed and cried in the parking lot, knowing what this decision would mean, the judgment we would receive, the rumors that would be spread if we left, the thoughts that would cross our LDS friends and family's minds. But God gave us comfort in our time of need.

Dearest reader, if you are still with me can I share with you some of the truths God has shown me over this life changing experience?

·         God is an all powerful, all knowing God. He has the power to snatch you from the power of the grave. (Psalm 49:15) God sees what we can’t see, His timing is perfect. He is a rescuer, He doesn’t wait for you to swim your way back upstream to Him, He dives into those deep waters and saves you (Psalm 18:16). He saves you.

·         God asks us to serve the least of these, there is no one unworthy of His undying love and sacrifice. “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1: 26-31

·         God has a plan set out for me, He doesn’t just want us to “come to earth and gain a body” there is so much good we can do in His name and Glory with that body. Once we declare a belief in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit enters us and we are His hands on the earth. God is working in my life. I recently stopped my gym membership for $43 a month because God put a boy who lives in Mexico in our lives who needed sponsors. I’m sponsoring him in the name of Jesus and saving $5 a month, that’s insane to me. I’m not working to gain God’s favor, because of God’s favor I’m working.

·         My scripture study has never been stronger. Over the past months, I have learned about more biblical characters than I’ve ever known in my entire life. For once the Bible makes sense, instead of being a confusing book I avoided, it’s my most favorite read of the day!

·         Paul has been by far one of most favorite Biblical references during this time in my life. I love his words in 1Timothy 1:15-16 ESV, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.”

·         My marriage has never been stronger and more relaxed. Now that we aren’t striving for perfection, we can actually focus on one another and truly give our time to each other. I no longer sit in church thinking of all the priestly duties my husband should be doing, instead I get to watch him minister to his guy friends about his love for the Savior of the World and that’s awesome!! I get to see him enjoy being around his family because he loves us and wants us to see Jesus at work in his life. With excitement we share scriptures and sermons with one another and with love we forgive each other for our faults. Our marriage has never been as happy as it is now!

I am a lucky girl, a richly blessed girl. The church did not tear apart my family when I joined it and now that I’ve left it has brought us even closer together. God is transforming our relationships in His Glory. I want to end with these beautiful scriptures because I fall in love more and more with the Bible every day and believe them to be so beautiful and speaking God’s truth.

“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13NLT

“That is why the Lord says, Turn to me now while there is time. Give me your hearts and with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in grief, but tear your hearts instead. Return to the Lord your God for He is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.” Joel 2: 12-13NLT

“Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.” Psalm 62:5 HCSB

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing but to use who are being saved it is the power of God… Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” 1 Corinthians 1:18,20

“The love of God toward you is like the Amazon River, flowing down to water a single daisy” F.B. Meyer

“Grace says you have nothing to give, nothing to earn, nothing to pay. You couldn’t if you tried! … Salvation is a free gift. You simple lay hold of what Christ has provided. Period. And yet the heretical doctrine of works goes on all around the world and always will. It is effective because the pride of men and women is so strong. We simple have to do something in order to feel right about it. It just doesn’t make good humanistic sense to get something valuable for nothing.”  - Chuck Swindoll

If you are having questions about what you’ve read here, please email me I would love to hear from you.
Yours Happily in Christ,
Whitney


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