We affectionately refer to these stories as "Portraits of Victory"
Here are some testimonies of people who have left the RLDS church. These are fascinating stories of the power of God's Spirit, giving each of them the courage to leave error behind, to go on to be embraced by the love, forgiveness and peace of Jesus alone, in His Truth alone. You can read the full testimony of each of the people below by simply clicking on the toggle box below their summary. After you read a few of these stories, you may begin asking yourself, "What am I waiting for?"
If you have a testimony you would like to share with others, we would invite you to submit it to us from our Contact Us page.
Jennifer (Benedict) Raines, attorney at law, had a wonderful time growing up in the “Centerplace” during the 1970’s and early 80’s. Nearly everything she did was “at church, for church, or with church members.” In her words she lived and breathed church. During the tumultuous conference of 1984 when delegates voted to accept the revelation admitting women into the priesthood, she actively participated in a march protesting the decision. It was about fifteen years later that she began seriously examining the faith she grew up in. She found many disturbing facts in her church’s history that caused her to doubt the validity of her beliefs. She accepted an invitation to visit a Baptist Church and began attending a class called “A Closer Look: Examining the RLDS Faith” where she viewed material she had not previously seen. It was during that time she read Peter Elliott’s book “Reasons for Disbelief” and as a result made the final decision to leave the church. She resigned her membership in the Community of Christ and in September 2011 was re-baptized. She is now a believer in the real and enduring God, Holy Spirit, and Jesus of the Bible.
I always believed that we were just like everyone else – just another protestant church – not some aberration. I grew up in Center Stake, in Independence. My father was a high priest and a pastor at two different churches in Independence. His father was an Elder and also a pastor at a congregation in Independence. At one time, my dad was even considered to go under church appointment where we would move and live somewhere for an extended period of time doing church work. My mother’s immediate family emigrated from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to Independence in the late 1950’s to be in the Center Place. My mother and her mother were the principal cooks for every church camp, retreat, and banquet for Center Stake as well as surrounding stakes. My grandmother was especially well known and respected in the church for her service and Christian presence. Wallace B. Smith personally delivered the message at her funeral and there were hundreds of people in attendance. I think I was probably 4th generation RLDS on both sides. We lived and breathed church as I was growing up in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Nearly everything we did was at church, for church, or with church members – we were at church Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights, and at the Campus (now the Family Life Center) swimming or playing sports every day. Literally, church was our life. Since we were in Independence it was rare for me to even have friends that weren’t church members. I had a wonderful time growing up. I remember at some point during my teen years, my best friend (and nearly only non-RLDS friend), attended Independence Christian School. I went to school functions with her and dated boys from that school – mostly Baptist but also Pentecostal. I went to church with them on dates. Their church services were mostly just like what I was used to so it didn’t occur to me that my faith was different. One of my friends from that school told me that in their religion class, they were being taught that the RLDS church was a “cult” because we followed a man who talks to God and we used the Book of Mormon as scripture. As a good little church member, I told them that was impossible – the Bible predicts both the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith as a prophet. They looked at me like I was nuts. I just figured they hadn’t read their Bibles. I checked my 3-in-1 and confirmed I was right. Of course. Then came the 1984 World Conference. I was there every day – I believe I was even a delegate that year. I was fourteen. I remember the debate over women in the priesthood and the talk of Wally B. being a false prophet. It was tumultuous. My mother and all of her church girlfriends, my dad’s mother, me and my church girlfriends, all participated in a march on the Auditorium and the Central Professional Building (where the church offices were located at the time), in protest against the revelation. I vividly remember making the protest signs. But, we stayed in the church until after 1986 when my father became terribly concerned with being “silenced” and losing his priesthood because of the things he was preaching. My understanding at the time was that the silencing was becoming imminent and as the Stake President was a close friend, he allowed my father to resign as pastor and just sort of slip away. We transferred our membership to Stone Church, the largest congregation at the time, and disappeared. We had church in our basement for a while until more organized Restoration groups emerged. However, even then we were afraid to attend any of the Restoration groups because of the potential consequences with the church. Eventually, we faded away and stopped going to church anywhere. This was a devastating loss for my entire family – we lost our church, our friends, parts of our family, and our security. The church still divides my family in many ways and I would venture to guess that since that time, no member of my immediate family has attended ANY church on a regular basis. It wasn’t until about 15 years later that I truly started examining my faith. Someone close to me made a comment about how foolish it was to belong to a made-up church founded by some guy named “Joe Smith.” Kind of funny I guess. But it started my questioning. I asked my father and surprisingly he directed me to several websites and provided other materials. Apparently, he had been searching for answers as well and had actually been in contact with the church historian. I learned that the Book of Mormon was not translated by use of the Urim and Thummim and the golden plates, but by Joseph putting a peep stone in his hat and conjuring up the words – most of which came from other sources. I learned that none of the three witnesses or the eight witnesses had ever physically seen the plates. And, I learned some pretty disturbing things in church history – that baptism for the dead and polygamy began with Joseph Smith, (which was the real reason for the destruction of the printing press in Nauvoo), the story of the Danites in northern Missouri and the fact that no matter where he went, Joseph Smith took a peaceful community and turned it deadly. What is amazing to me looking back is that there was still so much to learn! But that was enough for me to make a decision to find another church to attend – or I should say a church to attend since I wasn’t attending any church regularly. I church-hopped for a while and landed at a Lutheran church where I stayed for about five years. I became a member by attending membership classes. They accepted my baptism in the RLDS church, along with their classes, as sufficient for membership. Obviously, they knew nothing of the RLDS faith. At this point, I had rejected the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and the church, but it did not occur to me to give up my membership. Why did I have to? And what if Joseph Smith was right and it was the only true church? Giving up your membership meant falling away and being eternally damned. I resumed my previous research but at this point I didn’t know what to do about what I was finding, which was increasingly disturbing. I continued attending my Lutheran Church and occasionally went with my parents to visit friends at a Community of Christ or Restoration congregation. In the spring of 2011, I was having a difficult time in my life. One day, I felt an overwhelming need to pray for peace and guidance. I dropped my daughter off at daycare at Messiah Lutheran Church in Independence and went up to their sanctuary but it was not open. Where else could I go? I knew that the Community of Christ Temple had a chapel (my grandmother had been a tour guide there) that was open to the public for prayer and meditation. So, I went there. I signed the guest book and sat down to pray. An attendant asked if she could do anything for me and I said no. She left and I was alone. I sat and prayed for guidance. I felt nothing. So, I prayed some more. Still nothing. I looked at the paintings on the walls depicting the ordinances of the church. I prayed some more. Then it occurred to me what was going on – neither God nor the Holy Spirit was present there. Or, perhaps they were present and telling me I couldn’t find what I was looking for there. I left the Temple in tears. I sat in my car in the parking lot and prayed – what was I supposed to do? Where was I supposed to go? I have often heard that when you ask God a question, you must be prepared for the answer. My answer came that day. A new employee in my office invited me to visit her Baptist church. Wow I thought – that was fast! I looked at the church’s website – I really didn’t know anything about the Baptist church. I saw that there was a Sunday School class called “A Closer Look – Examining the RLDS Faith.” Surely this was my answer. I started attending that church and the class, and reviewed materials that I had not seen before. But, mostly I was amazed that there were so many other people in my situation! These people had left the church and/or the Restoration and they were all fine. Peter Elliott’s book, “Reasons for Disbelief” was instrumental in my final decision. I had never heard of The Position Papers until reading Peter’s book. When I asked my dad about them, he handed me a copy that had been bound and printed in 1969. What I learned was that the World Church had determined BEFORE I was even born that the foundation of the RLDS church was fraudulent and corrupt. Yet, at least until I stopped attending an RLDS church in the late 1980’s the church was still teaching the same materials! How could they perpetrate such a fraud?! They knew about the peep stone and hat; they knew the Inspired Version was a fabrication; they knew Joseph Smith founded (and practiced) the doctrines of baptism for the dead and polygamy and encouraged a belief in the plurality of gods. Quite simply – THEY KNEW!!! Over the ensuing months, I finalized my research and worked through some issues (with the help of a few hours of conversation with Carol Hansen) in August 2011. I resigned my membership in the Community of Christ Church and in September 2011, was re-baptized a believer in the real and enduring God, Holy Spirit, and the true Jesus Christ – not the one created by a man with a rock in a hat.
Paul Gouty, Jr. was baptized into the RLDS Church at eight years old and raised in a family dedicated to the Church and the teachings of Joseph Smith. Regular church attendance was a must with most RLDS faithful, and as was the expectation, Paul attended Graceland College. However, during the years of turmoil in the church in the late 70’s and 80’s Paul began to realize that the “one and only true church” was not so true to Christ’s teachings. His curiosity led him to research church history and the teachings of Joseph Smith and that in turn led to many questions. Due to a career change, Paul and his wife Jelene lived in several different cities and visited many non-RLDS churches where he was exposed to Biblical teachings and the real message of salvation as stated in Ephesians 2:8-9. As a result, he accepted the Lord as his Savior and was re-baptized. Grateful for the Bible, the infallible Word of God, he now shares the message of salvation with RLDS family and other RLDS faithful.
1. My experience growing up in the RLDS church.
2. Why I left “the church” and the fallout that followed.
3. My conversion experience—the five words the Lord spoke to me that changed my life.
4. My life since that moment.
5. My appeal to you.1. My experience growing up in the RLDS church As with most RLDS faithful, I was baptized at eight years old and raised in a fairly strict RLDS family. My parents were active members of “the church” in the Chicago area for most of my childhood. My father, Paul Gouty Sr., became a missionary in the early 1950’s and later pastored several congregations. My mother was involved in music ministry and taught Sunday school classes. Much of our family time was dedicated to church work, with prayer meetings every Wednesday evening and services every Sunday morning and night. I was active in Zion’s League, and most summers I went to Junior High and Senior High camps, and I attended Graceland College for two years. At an early age we were taught the story of the “vision in the grove”—that when Joseph Smith was 14 years old he was trying to find a church to join and how he went to the woods to pray. He said he saw God and Jesus descend from heaven in a pillar of light, and one turned to the other and said, “This is my beloved Son, hear Him.” Jesus then told him, “to join none of them, that all their creeds were abominations in His sight.” Later the angel Moroni visited Joseph and told him he was to restore Christ’s church on earth in the latter days. It was stressed we were the one and only true church, and only our church had the three sacred books of scripture: the Inspired Version of the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, but most important was the Book of Mormon. We were taught that Joseph was given the gold plates by the angel Moroni from which the Book of Mormon was translated by the use of the Urim and Thummim as the inspired word of God that restored many “plain and precious truths” that were left out of the Bible. According to Joseph this was “the most correct of any book on earth and the keystone of our religion” given only to our church as an account of the people on this continent (“the other sheep I have not of this fold”) that were visited by Jesus after His resurrection. The Doctrine and Covenants gave us God’s revelations to live by as given to the prophets of the church, and due to the many errors in translation, Joseph “corrected” the King James Bible to produce our own “Inspired Version.” As a young boy I felt our church was “better” because we had what no other church had. But, as I recall, most of our Sunday school classes were not about the Bible, but about Joseph, his teachings, and the struggles of the early church. Sunday morning sermons were generally personal testimonies by the priesthood exhorting the “Saints” to be steadfast in our beliefs; or from traveling missionaries sharing their experiences; or from the Elders about current issues in the church. I remember one of these issues included weeks of endless bickering about changing the name of our hymnal from the “The Saint’s Hymnal” to simply, “The Hymnal.” Except for Christmas and Easter, I remember very few Bible-based sermons regarding what Jesus did on the cross or the salvation message. The most important things taught were: to be baptized into “the church;” to be confirmed by “laying on of hands” by the Elders to receive the Holy Spirit; and to be a “faithful servant” by obeying all of the commandments. If you did these things you would surely go to heaven. As a pastor, Dad was always burdened with church issues—problems among church members; callings to the priesthood; promoting, and at times defending the RLDS doctrine; having to prepare a sermon because someone cancelled at the last minute; and always budget issues, to name a few. At one point he had to report to the General Church that our Stake President was having an affair with a married woman. Dad was especially disillusioned when he found out that the First Presidency simply “demoted” the man from High Priest to Elder, and that was the end of it. Sundays were not joyful. Those years were especially stressful for Dad and it affected our family as well—I know I had some serious doubts about what was going on. The gospel message seemed secondary to the problems not only in the local branches, but also in the general church, especially in the 70’s and 80’s. It was during this period that W. Wallace Smith, Prophet and President (1958 – 1978) by revelation announced that, “The demands of a growing church require that these principles [former revelations] shall be evaluated and subjected to further interpretation.” This gave him great latitude in changing previous doctrine. What we didn’t know at the time, in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, the “upper management” of the church was meeting secretly to outline the “Position Papers” that redefined some of Joseph’s teachings. As a result, this gave rise to great concern as Wallace led the church in a new direction, “…to acknowledge those organizations and movements which are recognizing the worth of persons.” As I remember, this was a time of disenchantment for the membership as the news spread that Wallace was moving the church away from some of the fundamental RLDS doctrine so our church would be more like mainstream Protestant Churches. This may have been why the removal of the word “Saints” from the hymnal was so important as it may have identified us with the Utah Mormons. Rumors also spread that we were opening the door to accepting the homosexual lifestyle. Then Wallace B. Smith, Prophet and President (1978 – 1996) took over and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. “Wally B.” would surely restore Joseph’s teachings. But this was not the case. He exercised “theocratic democracy” of which the church membership would vote on whether or not to accept the prophet’s (God’s) revelations. To my wife and me, voting on God’s Word made no sense. It led to a divisive time for the church, when in 1984 it was voted on and approved at General Conference that women should be allowed into the priesthood. This prompted a mass exodus from the church. My Dad, then a High Priest, was silenced along with many other dissenting priesthood members. Churches that objected had their doors padlocked and thousands of the faithful left to form splinter groups. The RLDS church as we knew it was gone and replaced by the Community of Christ Church (CoC). The CoC has recently approved gay marriage and gays in the priesthood. 2. Why I left “the church” and the fallout that followed It was during this tumultuous period in the RLDS church that my wife and I were trying to find a church home where we could raise our two sons. We didn’t consider the RLDS church as an option with so many doctrinal concerns—we agreed we didn’t need Joseph Smith and Jesus to be saved, we just needed Jesus, so we chose to look elsewhere for a Christ-based church. We visited many churches where we heard Bible teachings and the real message of salvation as stated in Ephesians 2: 8-9. I was so comforted to know we were saved by faith in Jesus alone, and we had the promise of God’s grace and mercy. When my family found out that I was not returning to “the church,” it resulted in a great deal of resentment and bitterness. My family told me I was wrong, and to “Get my fact’s straight!” and reminded me that “You need to find the truth!” Fortunately, while working at Family Bookstores, my wife, Jelene, met Carol Hansen who had written a book, Reorganized Latter Day Saint Church: Is It Christian? and we began studying the RLDS doctrine included in her book. We also read other authors including Fawn Brodie, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, and Paul Trask. The more I read, the more convinced I became that Joseph’s many changes, deletions, and additions to the Bible, his introduction of many new revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, and the new gospel of the Book of Mormon, led to much confusion. To me, the contradictions were staggering. So in my quest for “the truth,” as my family demanded, I proceeded to share my concerns and asked them and some other RLDS faithful about some concerns and questions I had. Here is a small sample. (References shown)
1. The three glories of heaven always baffled me. The 76th Section of the D&C describes them. (See D&C Section 76:6c,7f)
a. “Seek Celestial Glory” (the highest glory) was written on the back wall of the South Chrysler branch. How do you reach this level? b. The next two levels offer a second chance to accept the Lord, but the Bible says, “Today is the day of your salvation.” Will we have a second chance to accept the Lord? c. Jesus only resides in the Celestial Glory—a heaven without Jesus in the lower two levels? d. D&C 76:5h says “they are gods…” Will we be gods in heaven?
2. In the book of Moroni it says that the remission of sins is tied to keeping the commandments. (See BoM, Moroni 8:29) 3. In 2 Nephi it says that I am a fool for believing that the Bible is the only book that contains all of God’s Words. (See BoM, 2 Nephi 12:53, 64) 4. I asked an RLDS Pastor this question: In my experience growing up, we got baptized on Sunday and were to be confirmed the next Sunday. What if, when you were eight years old, you were baptized one Sunday, but tragically died before next Sunday’s confirmation by the “laying on of hands” to receive the Holy Spirit would you not go to heaven? I would encourage you to ask your pastor the same question. 5. Moroni was a general in the army in the Book of Mormon, but later appeared to Joseph as an angel. Can people become angels? (See Inspired Version and NLT Col. 1:16) 6. Was it okay to remove some of the sections from the Doctrine and Covenants? (Sections 107, 109, 110, 113, and 123 were moved to the Appendix—107 was a revelation.) 7. In the book of Alma it says, Jesus was born at Jerusalem but the Inspired Version says Bethlehem. (BoM, Alma 5: 19 and Inspired Version, Matt. 3:1) 8. In church history, Joseph said the angel that visited him in his bedroom regarding the golden plates was Nephi, but the Doctrine and Covenants said it was Moroni. Which is correct? (See RLDS Church History Vol. 1, p. 12 and D&C 26:2) 9. The Inspired Version says that all languages were confounded at the Tower of Babel, but the Book of Mormon says the language of the Jaredites was not confounded. Which is right? (See Inspired Version, Genesis 11:6 and BoM, Ether 1:11) 10. The French word “Adieu” is the last word in the Book of Jacob. How could it be written on the plates in 600 BC when the word was first created from Latin in 1350 AD? 11. In 559 BC Nephi quoted the prophet Malachi who hadn’t made the statement until 150 years later.You would be surprised at the responses. Many of the questions were answered with, “I’m not sure” or, “Where does it say that?”. As referenced above, I was prepared to show them in the “three sacred books” the verses from which these questions were raised, and with what verse(s) they contradicted not only within their own three books, but more importantly with the Bible. This led to more discussion, more questions, and more confusion as these apparent contradictions I had pointed out caused more frustrations for them as the contradictions just kept coming. My concluding statement to them was, “The more I read the three RLDS sacred books, the more questions I have, but the more I read the Bible, the more questions I have answered.” I’d hoped this would encourage them to study God’s Word to find His truth. A real problem for one RLDS faithful has been the notion that you are saved by doing good works. He told me, “If you lined up 80 people, with Billy Graham at one end, and ranked them downward according to works to Jeffrey Dahmer at the other end, you would have to draw a line somewhere between to decide who would go to heaven and who would go to hell.” This person hasn’t understood the message of salvation by grace through faith, as all three books of RLDS doctrine supported by comments of church leaders as well as RLDS publications, implies salvation is achieved by doing good works. The recurring message in my years in the RLDS church was if you “keep the commandments” and “do good works to the end” you’ll make it to the Celestial Kingdom—very much a works-based salvation message. This was taught by priesthood as well. F. Henry Edwards, renowned RLDS missionary stated, “Men are saved by working at worthy tasks.” (Herald Publishing House, 1960, p. 362) It begs the question: “How good is good enough?” While researching RLDS history, I spent considerable time studying the life of Joseph Smith. The good news is that virtually everything was recorded in church history or now documented online so it was easy to research topics. There are countless references to his activities that provided me with a close look at his teachings and legitimacy as a true prophet. As I reviewed the documentation and dozens of testimonies covering Joseph’s early life as a treasure hunter, at least five different versions of his “vision in the grove,” the questions regarding the translation and authenticity of the Book of Mormon, the many changes he made to the Doctrine and Covenants, his unfulfilled prophecies, the fraud in Kirtland, turmoil in Missouri that led to the “Mormon War,” and what many call “the evil in Nauvoo,” I became convinced that Joseph was a man of questionable moral character and certainly not trustworthy as a true prophet of God. I therefore have serious doubts about what he claimed to be revealed to him by God, especially regarding the doctrine in the three books of the church, and most notably his Book of Abraham which was later proved to be total fabrication—a complete lie to the Saints in Kirtland. In 2 Peter 2:1-3 the Bible accurately describes the behavior of a false prophet—in my opinion Joseph fits the description perfectly. I would encourage anyone that has been in the position to witness to an RLDS faithful to first become knowledgeable, not only of RLDS posits, but what the Bible has to say about each. I would recommend reading:
a. Reorganized Latter Day Saint Church: Is It Christian?, by Carol Hansen
b. Part Way to Utah and The Long Way Home, by Paul Trask
c. No Man Knows My History, by Fawn Brodie
d. Mormonism—Shadow or Reality?, by Jerald and Sandra Tanner
e. An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, by Grant PalmerFortunately, in my study of the Bible, I have found the exact scriptures that answer not only the above questions, but countless more. During this process of study I have been able to witness to one of my family (formerly a Mormon) which led them to be baptized into a Christian Church. However, another faithful member who has given his life to “the church” is still a firm believer. But recently, when we discussed some of the above questions, and identified contradictions within their three books and with what the Bible said, this person began to have doubts, even to the point of asking me, “Do you think I’ve been wrong all these years?” The seeds are planted. Eventually, the Bible, God’s infallible Word, will always prevail. 3. My conversion experience—the five words the Lord said to me that changed my life In the process of finding a church home, as I mentioned before, Jelene and I visited a number of churches, and we joined a few. However, in one church we attended for several years, the married pastor was found to be having an affair with a member so we left that church. Next, we joined a church only to find out that the pastor, and good friend, had stolen $80,000 from the new church building fund and left town, so we left. I became discouraged, and I put my church life on the back burner. When you distance yourself from the Lord you become closer to Satan and I became the poster child of this truth. My behaviors were shameful as my life was spinning out of control in a spiral downward—a classic case of “If you find yourself farther away from the Lord than you used to be, guess who moved?” I reached a new low during the summer of 2012. But thanks to my wife, we started attending East Side Baptist Church and the message of hope was slowly revived in me through the weekly gospel messages. However, it also magnified my guilt even more. By the end of 2012 I was at an all time low. I was disgusted with my pitiful lifestyle but couldn’t shake it. I was sacrificing my wife, loved ones, grandchildren, finances, and many things I held dear. I knew I had to make some changes and was trying to come up with some New Year’s resolutions to “fix things.” On January 3rd, 2013, around 5 pm I was driving down I-435 on my way to Costco to pick up some things before going home. As I was still wrestling with making decisions about my resolutions, a very vivid memory of my mom came to mind. On her birthday in November of 1996 she called her four children together for what she knew might be the last time—she was dying of cancer. When we got together in her bedroom, although she struggled with speaking, she looked at each one of us and said, “Trust in the Lord, He’ll always be there.” As I continued along I-435, almost oblivious to my surroundings, her words haunted me. As I pondered them, I had not what I’d call a vision, but an absolutely clear picture before me of Christ looking right at me as he hung on the cross. Although He was in unspeakable agony, all I saw was compassion in His eyes, as though I were the only thing that mattered to Him. He then asked, “What are you waiting for?” That question demanded an answer. I asked myself “What am I waiting for? I looked at him and answered with what I believe were words given to me by the Holy Spirit, “Ok Lord, let’s do this, what’s next.” This brief statement has three parts: “Okay Lord,” submission; “Let’s do this,” we’re in this together; and “What’s next?,” I’m yours, take me where you want me to go. 4. My life since that moment At that instant, I felt the Holy Spirit enter my life. The weight of my guilt was lifted, my hope was renewed, and a peace came over me that was comforting beyond description. “Total relief” best describes that moment. I truly felt “born again.” By this time I had arrived at Costco, I didn’t even go in. I threw my second master in a trash can and raced home to tell Jelene. We cried, we prayed, we rejoiced—she got her husband back, and I got my life back. D. L. Moody once said: “You may as well turn your life over to Christ because He can do a whole lot better job with it than you can.” Words don’t do justice to the excitement I had found in my new found walk with the Lord. My attitudes changed, my motivations changed as every part of my life became better—truly a spiritual rebirth. Three months later I was baptized at East Side and became a member in April 2013. Our marriage was the first thing that blossomed as we worshipped together. We began tithing and were blessed financially. I started teaching a middle school group of boys and realized the value of service through my time with these young men. Through our church family, especially our C-3 group, we are so blessed by the fellowship of other believers. I now have occasion to teach an adult men’s class which gives me a chance to study and learn with other Christian men. We so look forward to Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. I regret giving up on Him at times, but my Mom’s words are so true. I thank the Lord for never giving up on me. 5. My appeal to you I realize some of my comments and questions in this testimony might offend some, but the intent is not to offend or discredit, but to encourage you to search the Bible for the truth. Putting doctrinal differences aside, nothing is more important in this life than our salvation. It costs you nothing to accept Him but everything if you don’t. I recently spoke with a priesthood member of a Restoration Branch. I asked him why he felt so many had doubts and were leaving the church. He paused for a moment and said that many of the members felt “burdened.” I knew that feeling. For so many years I didn’t really know if I was good enough—I felt so guilty of my failures. I asked an RLDS High Priest if he knew which level of heaven he was going to. He said he wasn’t sure, that Jesus would be the judge. I sensed his concern that you had to wait to die to know your eternal destiny. Question: Why would a loving God not give you this assurance? Answer: Read John 3: 16 and Ephesians 2:8-9. If you depend on RLDS doctrine, your lack of assurance is steeped in legalism and dependent on works—that what Christ did on the cross was not sufficient enough—that we have to do more to be saved. I lived with this uncertainty for 67 years—I know what you’re feeling. Trust the Bible when it says that what Christ did on the cross is complete and sufficient for our salvation. Putting doctrinal differences aside, nothing is more important in this life than our salvation. It costs you nothing to accept Jesus into your life—but everything if you don’t. Romans 12:2 advises, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know God’s will for you which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Rick Warren suggests: “Nothing is more important than knowing God’s Will for you, and nothing can compensate for not knowing it.” IN CLOSING, the most important question you can ask yourself is: “Have I been born again through faith in Jesus Christ?”
|If you have:||If you have not:|
|1. All your sins are forgiven.||1. You are guilty of every sin you’ve ever committed.|
|2. You will have joy in your walk with Him.||2. You may have moments of happiness, but no real joy.|
|3. You will spend eternity in heaven.||3. You’ll spend eternity in hell.|
Carrie Crawford Blackman was baptized into the RLDS church at 8 years old as a 4th generation Latter Day Saint. She married outside the RLDS church, and began attending a non-RLDS church with her husband. When they volunteered for service, however, the pastor hesitated because of Carrie’s staunchly held Latter Day Saint beliefs. While initially upset, Carrie and her husband began serious research into RLDS beliefs. The result was one she could not have foreseen.
I was raised in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS) Church (4th generation on my Father’s side), and always considered myself a Christian. I learned to pray to my Heavenly Father in Jesus’ name, and was baptized into what I thought was the one true and accurate church at the age of 8 years old. While not Biblical, the RLDS faith teaches that 8 years old is the age of accountability—the youngest age at which one could understand the scriptures and be held accountable for his/her sins. I never fully understood why the crucifixion was necessary, but learned the 6 principles of the gospel to attain eternal reward: 1) Faith in God, 2) Repentance from sin, 3) Baptism by emersion, 4) Laying on of Hands to receive the Holy Spirit, 5) Resurrection from the Dead, and 6) Eternal Life. According to the Book of Mormon, I was saved “after all I could do (2 Nephi, 11:44),” and learned from the Doctrine & Covenants that salvation was a covenant: “When you do what I say I am bound, when you do not what I say you have no promise (D&C 81:3b).” Such statements placed a heavy responsibility still on my own shoulders. It was not until my faith was challenged that I came to a true understanding of how Biblical salvation actually occurs.
About 6 months after our oldest son was born, my husband and I decided to find a church closer to home that taught the Bible in a way we both felt was true to Christ’s teachings. While I agreed to visit and even join a non-RLDS church on paper, I still held to what I felt was true in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Inspired Version of the Bible. I refused to take communion at the churches we visited even after joining Fellowship of Grace Church, because I saw 1) the covenant I made with Christ different than those around me and 2) those serving the communion as not having true authority from God.
After attending Fellowship of Grace for a couple years, my husband and I felt led to volunteer to serve in a leadership role. But my Pastor was hesitant, since my RLDS faith conflicted with the church’s core beliefs. I first felt under attack and started researching to defend my faith. My husband began researching with me, since he had never fully accepted the RLDS teachings and wanted to be supportive in my journey toward truth and Biblical salvation. When discovering Utah Mormon doctrine, I immediately separated myself, since I never considered myself a “Mormon.” It was only when I came across websites and research written by former RLDS members that I started to listen and do my own exploration: www.help4rlds.com and www.lifeline2rlds.org.
As I first mentioned, I always considered myself a “Christian,” and tried to follow Biblical principles, and turned to Christ for help, guidance, and peace. While I know that many times my prayers were answered, it was not until I discovered how the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Inspired Version of the Bible included false teachings that my relationship with Christ began to grow and deepen like never before. The false teachings of Joseph Smith distort the road to salvation—which is the most dangerous aspect of his false teaching. Yet, the true Biblical view of salvation is found in Romans 10:9–10, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Paul makes it clear that salvation has nothing at all to do with what I can DO—even baptism is an act of obedience, not an essential element of salvation. If I could do anything to earn or even lose salvation, Christ died in vain.
Once I came to an understanding of true Biblical salvation, and learned, as evidenced through the Dead Sea Scrolls, that the Bible had not been corrupted over the ages and did not need restoring, I could seek a version of the Bible to study. I went to a local bookstore and compared several versions, and settled on the NASB study bible. Knowing it was a word-for-word translation calmed my fears about why there were so many versions. As I studied, I learned that what I once thought was agreement between the three books of RLDS scripture was actually no more than sloppy plagiarism! By “restoring” offices and laws rooted in the Old Testament, Joseph Smith brought his people back to the days of the Pharisees—again, discounting everything fulfilled by Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.
I also learned the Book of Mormon was not translated with the Urim and Thummim, but actually by a Seer Stone. Even more amazing was to learn that this truth had been recorded by Joseph’s wife Emma to her son (Joseph Smith III) and can be found today in RLDS Church History, volume 3, pages 356–357. Even Joseph Smith’s founding testimony in the grove was recorded several different ways, and have confused many of his followers regarding the doctrine of the trinity.
Many RLDS and LDS claim the Book of Mormon to be a second testament of Jesus Christ, yet, the Jesus of the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi, 4) revealed Himself in a manner uncharacteristic of the Biblical Jesus. There Jesus destroyed entire civilizations for their wickedness before giving them any opportunity to learn of His saving grace.
After praying for forgiveness and accepting the gift of salvation which I could never earn, I felt free and complete. I was now able to serve and love in oneness with my husband, and teach our children with consistency and truth. When I chose to be re-baptized (as an act of obedience and symbol of new life), I came up from the water with a peace like nothing I have ever experienced. I knew God had led me to this place and time, and would forever change my family tree toward Him.
Beth (Ensmenger) Marshall grew up in New York State in a loving RLDS home. She was a fourth generation RLDS and cherished her heritage in the church which came from her mother's side of the family. She was greatly influenced by her grandfather's testimonies and strong beliefs, and these were the foundation upon which she based the majority of her own church beliefs. Beth was baptized into the RLDS church at the age of eight by her father, and after high school she attended Graceland College. Although she was an active church member her whole life, she never had a personal testimony affirming the Book of Mormon or the church. When Beth prayerfully sought a testimony, God was faithful to answer her prayers; however, the outcome was not one she was expecting.
I am deeply humbled that I have been asked to share my testimony on the Refiner's Fire Ministries website. The fact that I have something to share is evidence of God's faithfulness in answering our prayers when we seek Him. It is my prayer and desire that God will be glorified through all that I've written and that the Holy Spirit will affirm the truthfulness of my words.
My family's history with the RLDS church dates back to1895. My great-grandparents lived in a small farming community called Lowbanks, which is on the shores of Lake Erie in Ontario, Canada. In February 1895, my great-grandparents and several of their children, including my 9 year old grandmother, were baptized by Elder R.C. Evans. Since it was the middle of winter, they had to chop a hole in the ice on Lake Erie in order to be baptized. They were some of the first members of the church in that area. As the church membership grew over the following years, the need for a church building was realized. My great-grandfather gave a piece of his farm land as the building site for the RLDS Church and it is still in use today as the Community of Christ.
My mother's father was from Buffalo, NY. He was baptized into the RLDS Church in November 1906, a few days before his 21st birthday. He had a great love for the Book of Mormon due to a profound spiritual experience in which it was revealed to him that the Book of Mormon was true even before he read it. For some reason my grandfather never told us what that experience was, maybe it was just too difficult or too overwhelming for him to share with us. However, some years after his death, a family that my grandfather had converted to the church told my mother that he had shared with them the details of that spiritual experience...the angel Moroni had appeared to him. I know the integrity of this family and I do not doubt that what they said could be true. Also, I do not find it hard to believe that my grandfather could have seen an angel, because when he was a boy he saw an angel in his home. He said it was an angel of death, because later that day his baby sister died. I once asked him about that experience and he didn't want to talk about it, it was too difficult for him to speak about even though it had happened about 80 years earlier. I very much regret that I never asked my grandfather to share his conversion story or his testimony regarding the Book of Mormon, for now I would love to know the details. Even though my grandfather died when I was a teenager, I have very fond memories of him; I remember him as a very spiritual man with a deep faith and love for God.
My father joined the RLDS Church when my sister and I were small because he recognized the importance of having a family that was united in their beliefs. He grew up in a strict Bible believing church and therefore had a great love and knowledge of the Bible. Even though he prayed many times for affirmation of the Book of Mormon, he never received a testimony regarding it and couldn't understand why God never affirmed the truth of it to him. Since my father didn't have any testimonies regarding the church, it was my grandfather's great love for the church and the Book of Mormon, and his testimonies and experiences, that were the foundation upon which I based the majority of my beliefs. I was taught and believed that this was the 'true' church, inspired and restored by God, and that it was the only church which had the fullness of the gospel.
As a young adult, I attended Graceland College for two years. It was at Graceland that I met my husband, also a church member. The Lord blessed us with three wonderful children, and naturally we shared our beliefs with them and raised them in the church. I cherished my heritage and the testimonies of my loved ones, to me they validated the truth of the church and the Book of Mormon, and I have joyfully shared this heritage with my children.
I have always loved God and desired to be close to Him. I would hear people outside of the RLDS Church talk of being born again and of having a close personal relationship with God, but I had no idea what it really meant or how I could have that too. That was something we were never taught or even heard about in the RLDS Church. I remember more than once in my prayers telling God that I desired to have a personal relationship with Him, but that I didn't know how. God was so faithful and answered that longing in my heart. In the fall of 2005, while going through a very difficult time in my life, I reached the point where I was willing to give up control of my life to God and I surrendered everything to Him. I now know that this was what God had been waiting for and had wanted all along, for now the Holy Spirit could have unhindered access to me. The Holy Spirit revealed to me the depth of my sin before God. In my brokenness I repented and asked God not only to forgive my sins but also to put to death everything within me that was contrary to Him and to remake me in the image of Jesus. The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit resulted in my spiritual rebirth and I was set free from the bondage of sin. No longer was my knowledge of Jesus based on what I had learned from others and on my own intellectual perceptions, now my knowledge of Jesus was a personal one because He lived inside of me. God totally transformed who I was; I now understood what it meant to be a born again Christian and to have the assurance of salvation. I realized that before my spiritual rebirth I was not saved, even though I had always thought I was. In reality I had been enslaved to sin and in bondage to Satan while trying to live a good Christian life...this is not salvation. Salvation is meant to set us free, not keep us in bondage. During this time of my spiritual rebirth, the Lord brought a dear friend and former church member, Linda Conyers, back into my life. Linda and I have known each other for many years; she was a church member I met while I was a student at Graceland College back in the late 1970s. Over the years Linda had also become a born again Christian and so she recognized my great hunger for the Lord, and she would encourage me in this new relationship I had with Him.
In early March 2009, Linda sent me the pamphlet Does Truth Really Matter? from LifeLine Ministries to RLDS. I read it with some interest, and while it didn't persuade me that any of my beliefs were wrong or cause me to change my views regarding the RLDS/Community of Christ Church, it did cause me to examine the basis for my beliefs. I had to admit that I had never once asked God if any of it was true, and I've never had a testimony of my own affirming the church or the Book of Mormon. While I tried to defend my beliefs to her, Linda brought attention to the fact that all of my sources for spiritual food since becoming a born again believer were all from outside of the RLDS/Community of Christ Church and that there was a reason for this. Linda then sent me the link to Refiner's Fire Ministries and she encouraged me to seek the truth about my church beliefs. At that time I wasn't ready to look at the website, as I didn't want to be persuaded by the thoughts of others. I decided if any of my church beliefs were wrong, I wanted God to be the one to tell me...though at that point I was sure He was going to give me a testimony that affirmed my beliefs and the truth of the church.
So I began to earnestly pray each day for God to affirm the following to me: that Joseph Smith was a prophet called by Him and the church he founded was God's true church restored to earth, and that the Book of Mormon and the Inspired Version of the Bible were scriptures inspired by Him. As a born again Christian, I had developed a personal and intimate relationship with God and I had grown to trust His faithfulness in answering my prayers when I earnestly and diligently sought Him. Therefore I had no doubts that He would answer my prayers. But by June, after three months of praying, I had not received any affirmation from God, just silence. So I became filled with anguish at the realization that maybe His silence meant He couldn't validate that which I was asking and had always believed to be true.
I then felt God leading me to look at the Refiner's Fire Ministries website. For a week I spent every spare moment I had devouring all of the information on the site and all of the testimonies. Even though I could easily believe what everyone was saying, I still found it very confusing because there were some things (like my grandfather's strong faith in the church and his testimonies that I believed validated the church) that made it difficult for me to totally let go of my beliefs. I still wanted and needed God to reveal His truth to me directly. As I became more confused and torn about my beliefs I began crying out to God to reveal the truth to me; I just wanted to know the truth and be set free from the terrible inner turmoil I was experiencing.
By Sunday, June 14, 2009, I had the answer to my prayers. That weekend, God brought three things together all connected with the same theme...it all had to do with the angel. On the Refiner's Fire Ministries website I read the article telling the similarities between Joseph Smith and Mohammed. Although I found the similarities to be quite disturbing, for some reason the part that seemed to stand out to me the most was the fact that they had both been visited by an angel. Then, out of nowhere, this refrain started playing over and over in my head: “Then praise the Lord, O my soul! Abundant mercy, oh how free! In joyful song my spirit doth accord, Since the precious angel message came to me.” When I went to bed that Saturday night it was there, I awoke several times in the night and it was still there, and upon awakening Sunday morning it was the first thing in my thoughts. The words and melody were so familiar, but yet I couldn't place what hymn it was from. I finally found it in my husband's old pocket edition hymnal that he had used at camps and reunions when he was growing up. The refrain was from the old restoration hymn “I Have Found the Glorious Gospel.” It continued to haunt me throughout the day, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get it out of my head! Then what solidified the whole thing was a verse from Galatians that was brought to my mind later that same day. In Galatians 1:8 Paul gives the following warning to the churches in Galatia so they would not be deceived by false gospels: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” I had always been taught that the gospel preached by Joseph Smith, the RLDS Church, and the Community of Christ was the fullness of the gospel that had been lost through the ages, which therefore legitimized its being different from that which was preached by the New Testament apostles. By that evening I just knew that God was telling me that what I believed wasn't true; the message the angel brought to Joseph Smith was that of another gospel, a false gospel...this was exactly what the Apostle Paul had warned about! I realized that a false gospel's purpose is not to keep people from knowing about God and Jesus, but to deceive them with fraudulent doctrine that blinds them to Biblical truth and jeopardizes their salvation. Since a false gospel is not of God, I had to come to terms with the fact that the only one who could have authored this was Satan. It states in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 “...for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness...” Even though I was horrified at the realization of the truth and that I had been deceived my whole life, it felt like a huge weight had finally been lifted off my shoulders and I felt so free. How grateful I was for God's faithfulness in answering my prayers as I sought the truth. I awoke the next morning filled with unspeakable joy and that joy has remained with me.
Since that day in June when I accepted the truth, I have spent countless hours in prayer and study. What a hunger and thirst I have for deep spiritual understanding and for the truth. God has filled this longing in me by opening the floodgates to reveal so many things that had previously been hidden from me and I have grown so much spiritually. It's as if a veil has been lifted and I can now see things so clearly...I marvel at how blind I was before! I have read Paul Trask's books Part Way to Utah: the Forgotten Mormons and The Long Way Home, Carol Hansen's book RLDS Church: Is It Christian?, and Peter Elliott's book Reasons for Disbelief. I have also read everything on the LifeLine Ministries to RLDS website and watched the DVD The Bible vs. the Book of Mormon. These resources have been a tremendous help to me as I have sought to learn and understand the true history of the church. Also, the Bible has never been dearer to me as I now see the truth so clearly and know that I am reading God's word...what a joy to be set free from the false doctrine contained in the Inspired Version.
Through this experience I have also learned many valuable lessons. One of those lessons is that I will never again blindly believe someone's testimony, even if they are a beloved member of my family. Now when I hear a testimony I seek God in prayer and study the Bible to see whether the testimony correlates with that which is written in the Word of God. If it is different, I do not accept it as coming from God.
Also, I now know that salvation doesn't come through any one denomination, it is the gift of God through Jesus Christ's redemptive work on the cross. The Bible tells us that salvation is available to all who are willing to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. This acceptance involves repentance of sin and a complete surrender of one's will and one's life to Christ. Without complete surrender, the Holy Spirit cannot accomplish His work of sanctification within us to set us free from the bondage of sin by replacing our sin nature with the divine nature of Christ. Jesus tells us in John 3 that this spiritual rebirth must occur within us or we cannot enter into the kingdom of God. As I referenced earlier in my testimony, I know first hand that this spiritual rebirth is possible for I have experienced it and have been made a new person in Christ. It states in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Even though I was a born again believer before I ever learned the truth about the church, my salvation and my relationship with Christ are even dearer to me now that I know the truth. Christ has set me free not only from the bondage of my sins, but also from the bondage of Satan's lies and deceptions. I am so grateful...I owe Him everything.
I am so very thankful for my dear friend, Linda, and her willingness to take the chance to expose me to the truth about the RLDS Church. I know she has spent much time praying for me over the years....how grateful I am for God's faithfulness in answering her prayers. I am also thankful to Linda for her guidance once I accepted the truth; her support has been invaluable to me. How wonderful it is to have a dear sister in the Lord, who knows and understands where I have come from. She told me that one day I would even be glad that I grew up in the RLDS Church because it makes us more aware of God's truth and we are able to help others who are living in deception. Linda was right. The truth is so precious to me now, and I wouldn't understand just how precious the truth is if I had never been deceived. For five generations, from my great-grandparents to my children, my family has been held in bondage to Satan's deceptions due to our belief in Joseph Smith and the teachings of the RLDS Church. My heart is filled with anguish not only for the souls of my loved ones, but for all the souls Satan has enslaved to him through false beliefs.
In preparing this testimony, I thought of the other testimonies on this site and I marvel at the variety of ways that God uses to reveal the truth to each of us. No two of us share the same experience. I love the fact that God chose the angel as the means to reveal the truth to me, since it was that very thing that Satan used to deceive my grandfather! I want to thank you for taking the time to read my testimony. It is my heartfelt desire that my words will reach to the depths of your soul and set you on a quest of seeking God and His truth. As John 8:32 says “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Beth (Ensmenger) Marshall
You can send Beth an e-mail at email@example.com
Leslie (Baker) Trask was a sixth genreation RLDS. Her father was a High Priest, and a counselor to the Detroit International Stake President, and a Patriarch later in his life. At the age of 19 she married Paul Trask, who operates this website. Both her and Paul were active in RLDS leadership for sixteen years. Paul was a pastor on two occassions and a Counselor to the San Francisco Bay Stake Bishop. The Lord led Leslie and Paul out of the RLDS church in 1989, after a prolonged period of study--and the most unexpected answer to Leslie's prayer.
A Strange Answer to Prayer
I open my eyes . . . confusion . . . where am I? I do not know who belongs to the faces I see hovering above me, nor do I remember where I am. I hear a name being called and watch as someone takes my hand, kissing it gently. Minutes slowly pass, and then bits and pieces start coming back. My name is Leslie. The man who kissed my hand is my husband, Paul. I am at church . . . but what is happening? Paul is repeating my name, but I cannot talk. The paramedics arrive and begin attaching monitors to my chest. They put on a neck brace before loading me to into the waiting ambulance. The ride to the hospital is filled with fear and uncertainty. So begins healing.
The doctors say I had a seizure, plus a nasty bump on the head from falling on the cement floor. Three days of testing in the hospital and further months of testing do not result in any further diagnosis. The doctors say it must have been stress. I cannot believe I was suffering from stress so extreme that it would manifest itself in such a way, but . . .
Years go by before I can reflect on that night at church. It was a turning point in my search for truth. It was the night when a life-changing decision was made. It was the night when my Lord showed me His will. For the past several days I had been praying—no, begging—the Lord to show me that the church into which I had been born, and loved with a passion, was His true church, and that the Book of Mormon was His word to the people of this continent. Above all I wanted to know the real truth. In my heart, though, I feared I already knew His answer. It was very painful to me, and loomed large in my life. I was so afraid of making a mistake that I was consumed by what I felt God was confirming to me. That night I had begged the Lord to show me that the RLDS church was right. I had wanted Him to use a child to tell me that my church was His church, and to stick with the beliefs I had relied on all my life. But that night all I heard instead was a deafening silence. That night I had a seizure.
I was sixth generation RLDS. An ancestor of mine was killed at Haun's Mill when a mob of angry Missourians hunted down Mormons, killing several men and young boys. As I grew up I was proud of the fact that I had such a strong heritage in my church. It was who I was, my identiy. I was born into a church that was ordained by God as the only church on the face of the earth with which He was well pleased. I was amazed that of all the people on planet earth God chose me to be a part of His movement in this time and place. During my teen years I had many experiences that I felt had confirmed the rightness of my church. At camps and reunions my faith would be renewed, and I would return home with a stronger faith. At times, however, I remember being upset by what I considered hypocrisy in the church and among the priesthood. I remember thinking, "Why does the church make everything so difficult. Isn't the gospel all about Jesus, and only Jesus?" I put those thoughts on hold as I graduated from high school, began college, and got married.
Marriage made me rethink how I felt about my church. The young man to whom I was engaged was not a member of my church. I prayed about this, as I was afraid that my marriage to him would show God that I was "weak in the faith." I felt God answered my prayers by telling me not to worry about Paul. That he would be baptized, and even be called into the priesthood. Based on what I felt the Lord was telling me I went ahead with our marriage plans. Sure enough, a few short weeks after our marriage, Paul was baptized into my beloved church. My family opened their arms to receive him in ways that they had not before. Time passed. We had many ups and downs in our lives and in our marriage. I went though a period where I rebelled against the church that I had known so well, and stopped attending altogether. However, the one thing I always knew in my heart was that the church was waiting for me whenever I was ready to embrace it again. I knew the day would come, but I was busy finding out what adulthood was like.
Paul and I were experiencing problems in our marriage. We were on the verge of separating. We connected with a priesthood member who was kind enough to give us marriage counseling. During one of these sessions I was asked to leave the room so that the counselor could talk to Paul alone. I was feeling distraught and very alone. I wandered outside and stood under a huge tree that had several trunks coming out of the ground. I stood in the middle of those trunks and poured out my heart to God. My heart was breaking, but in the midst of it all I felt like God was putting His hands on my head. For a few minutes I could feel the amazing love that God had for me. I was filled with awe and newfound hope. I couldn't understand why God would stoop to help me when I had turned my back on him. All I knew was that I wanted to change my life. I wanted to live for Him. And I was never the same. After that night Paul and I miraculously began to work on our relationship, and we began by going back to church. Healing took place. We wanted a fresh start so we decided to move to San Francisco after Paul graduated from college.
We became very involved with the small RLDS church in San Francisco. Soon we were leaders in the congregation. Paul was ordained to the office of priest, and less than a year later to the office of elder. Very soon after his ordination to the office of elder he became pastor of that small congregation in San Francisco. For four years we dealt with street people. I had never met a drug addict or a homeless person, but now we were helping those who had tremendous problems in their lives. On one occasion I even had my life threatened by a drug dealer who was upset with me for helping his girlfriend turn her life around. We had some success, and the Stake leadership took note. We were being groomed to become full time church "appointees." I felt like God was answering our prayers. God was answering our prayers—just not in the way I thought he should.
We did not become full time appointees in the RLDS church. Instead we became active in Stake leadership. We also began studying the church's "scriptures." The more we studied the more fundamental we became. We were looking for truth and when we found it we tried to live it. However, the more of this "truth" we discovered the less joy we had in our lives. We wanted to live our lives for God, but we were in bondage to RLDS doctrine. Finally, we found that our study was taking us to a place we did not expect. We were finding out about changed scripture, cover-ups, secret meetings, and deceptions. How could this be? We wanted to prove these things wrong, and thought that if we just kept looking we would ultimately find the truth. Instead, we found more lies and deceit. We began discarding beliefs, feeling that if we could go back far enough in Joseph Smith's story we would find God's truth, the bedrock of "restoration" faith.
For some reason, about the same time we began to see problems with the Doctrine and Covenants we picked up a book called God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew. While on vacation I decided to read this book out loud to Paul and our son while we were traveling in the car. I was awed by the miracles Brother Andrew wrote about. How could this be? I thought. Here is a man who does not belong to my church yet he is experiencing God's movement in his life in very dramatic and awesome ways. We read about how Brother Andrew risked his life to take the Bible to places where merely possessing one could put you in prison, even get you killed. This book opened the door for me to believe that God was working with other Christians around the world. When I looked honestly at my church I did not see that kind of fruit displayed. I needed to find out why.
I remember reading all the time. I was looking at the history of the church and accounts of Joseph Smith. I read and reread his accounts of his first vision. And I saw many inconsistencies. I began to read books that were critical of Joseph. Paul and I researched many books—books we would not have even looked at before we embarked on this journey of discovery. I remember Paul describing our new found way of studying like this: "It's like you're in a small dark room with a table in the center piled with books. You are told that these are the only books you can trust. They are the three books of RLDS scripture, plus other books written by trusted authors of the church. You have been told that all other books contain lies and will deceive you. When you open the door to that room—even a crack—light begins to filter in. But when you step outside that room, you begin considering what other people have to say about Joseph Smith Jr. Could they be right? Once you consider that possibility you are on your way to leaving the room altogether, to explore a more accurate picture of the RLDS church and its founder." Joseph Smith did a very good job anticipating these kinds of assaults. He said that his enemies would discredit and lie about him out of evil intent. I had been so conditioned by this teaching that I refused to listen to or read anything that spoke evil of Joseph. And if I did hear something negative I would chalk it up to Joseph's enemies trying to tear him down so that I would loose faith. But God slowly opened the door to that closed, dark little room, and began moving faster as he exposed its darkness, bringing me into the light of understanding.
I found the truth. When I had my seizure at church that night I knew in my heart that God's silence was confirming what I already knew to be true, and I never begged God again to show me the truth of the RLDS church. Joseph Smith Jr. was a false prophet who had started a cult. All the books he had written claiming to be scripture were false. I had been lied to all my life. And I could not stay in a church I now knew to be false.
A few months later, Paul and I attended a Baptist church on Sunday morning. The Sunday before had been our last Sunday at our Restoration Branch church. Paul had been the pastor up until just the week before, and we had now ventured out into a whole new world. It seemed very strange, a little scary, and yet I was at peace. For the first time in years I felt joy. The Baptist church did things differently, and there were new faces. People were friendly, but often did not know how to handle the fact that we used to be RLDS. We attended Sunday school, and many of the other events that were happening at the church. When it came time for Vacation Bible School that next summer I volunteered to help. I don't remember the theme for the week, or whom I was helping. I do remember I was working with preschool children around the age of four. At one point a child asked me a very simple question. "What happens when you die?" I opened my mouth to answer and realized that I did not know the answer to that question. I almost broke down in tears. Such a simple question, yet I did not know the answer because I could not trust what I had learned as a child. I had learned about three glories, and how only those who were members of the RLDS church would go to the highest heaven. What could I say to this child?
We now knew what was false and we had the basics when it came to the truth. I found that the gospel was all about Jesus. It WAS simple. It was exciting. It was about God's love and His grace. I had never understood grace before. I now saw that God had reached down from heaven to set me free from the bondage of a corrupt church. The journey to replace false teachings with the truth began with my heart. Grace replaced legalism. I spent time just trying to figure out what my new relationship God was all about. I spent time learning the Bible, not filtered by other books of so-called "scripture." While there was great joy, there was also grieving. I grieved for the loss of family and friends. I grieved for the death of my beliefs, and I grieved for lost time. But God restored all that I had lost—plus some. His marvelous spirit healed and brought great joy. It has not always been a smooth and pleasant journey, but with the grace of God it has been exciting. And even in dark times it's been joyful.
Freedom! Freedom! Freedom! Paul and I moved to Pasadena where Paul went to seminary. It was a time of learning for both of us. We very much wanted to replace the poison we had been fed with the good, wholesome food of the Bible and of the living Jesus. We wanted to look very closely at Christianity and learn Biblical doctrine. We attended many different kinds of churches and denominations, always comparing their beliefs to the Bible. We found that there is no such thing as the perfect church, but there is a perfect God. I no longer serve out of a sense of obligation but rather a sense that I want to give back to God for all His love. Wow! God is good!
Los Angeles, California
You can send an email to Leslie at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ron Luff was a fifth generation RLDS and the son of Dick and Barb Luff whose testimonies are also included below. He held the priesthood office of Teacher, and was active in RLDS congregations in Jacksonville, Florida and Branson, Missouri. In the late 1980's Ron and his family became part of a radical RLDS fundamentalist group led by Jeffrey Lundgren, who functioned as their self-proclaimed and self-appointed prophet. This group took form in Kirtland, Ohio, where some bizarre things began to be taught and practiced. In an effort to "purify" the group from "sin," Lundgren executed an entire family of five—mother, father and three young children. Though the crime has urged a great deal of supposition as to why they were killed, the real reason is known only to Lundgren himself. Among others, Ron was convicted as an accessory to these crimes and was sentenced to five life sentences. He is serving his term in the Ross Correctional Institution, in Chillicothe, Ohio. Since his incarceration, Ron has been described as a model prisoner. Understandably, these events have also led him to intensely evaluate his faith. In the process he has been able to accurately identify the serious problems with RLDS scriptures and theology which helped create the tangled situation with the Lundgren group in Kirtland, Ohio. He has therefore given up the aberrant scriptures and theology of the RLDS church, to accept the forgiveness and acceptance of Jesus alone as his Lord and Savior. Since then he has completed an Associate Degree in Ministry through the Southern Baptist Convention, including the study of Biblical Greek so he could better understand the New Testament. Ron has also studied the Koran in order to better witness to Muslims in his correctional facility.
A Turning Point
“Devastation exfoliates providential efficacy”. This proverb from an Alfred Knopf novel comes to mind as I ponder the major turning point in my life. God works through a variety of circumstances, to redirect our spiritual growth and enhance our relationship with Him. In my life, this change occurred after a period of tragedy, confusion and even disenchantment about God. Yet,through His written word and the presence of the Holy Spirit, I came to see Him in a new and fulfilling way.
My view of God and His grace had been formed by the doctrines of Mormonism. One night, at the age of fourteen, and while attending a Wednesday night prayer service, I felt a profound sense of the Lord’s love and His call for my life.Through the years that followed, I endured the temptations and vacillations of commitment that young teenagers often endure. Nevertheless, God remained a deeply important part of my life throughout.
Following the footsteps of four generations of family history, I embraced the doctrines of Mormonism as the inspired word of God. The book of Mormon became my preference, as I sought God’s purpose for my life. Once an adult, I took my place in the priesthood, preached sermons and taught an adult Sunday School class. My wife and I were in charge of the youth group of our congregation and even did the weekly cleaning of the church building. I was a devoted husband and the father of two very precious children.
I challenge the idea that anyone “joins” a cult; in that it suggests a cognizant compliance with the group’s goals and principles. If they’re already formed, these goals and principles will be hidden by the façade of indoctrinating techniques. Yet, in small group settings, they tend to grow and develop as the cult leader gains greater control over his followers. The power derived from his follower’s devotion is intoxicating and leads to an ever-changing agenda, as he seeks to maintain control. This was the type of setting in which I became involved.
Space won’t allow an explanation of how that came to be. To some degree, I feel that I’d been part of a cult my whole life, due to the doctrines I was raised with and had come to embrace as true. Yet, my ignorance and over zealous fervor to serve God, led me into the extreme. God’s grace was a grace of works…and firm mandates were in place, which required evidence to one’s faith. The bible speaks of evidence too, but the evidence of faith required, according to the Book of Mormon, is far more ostentatious. As a true believer, I sought the realization of these fulfillments and my fervency led me into this small cult setting.
While in the group, devotion was intensified and all personal property was relinquished to the leader. The increase in control led to an increase in abuse. Abuse eventually led to murder by the leader, and murder carried us beyond the point of no return. Families then dissolved into the greater “household” of the cult leader, and other abuses evolved.
Like a furious storm, which had run its course, the power that once held us together as a group, seemed to dissipate. Unavoidable circumstances hindered the leader’s control and the group disbanded. Leaving the group was a traumatic choice. It left me deeply confused about God and what had happened to my life and family. My career was gone and we were void of any material possessions. Then came the arrests…for the killings that had occurred.
My turning point took place in an isolation cell of the Lake County Jail, in Ohio. All my life, I’d thought I truly loved the Lord, yet there I sat, unable to understand what had gone wrong and how my desire to serve God had taken me so far astray. For a time, it was even too painful to read from the scriptures. My mind kept seeing the aberrant teachings of the cult and reflecting back through all the horror they’d produced.
The “Law of Moses” had been redefined within the group. Everything we’d done and endured, had been performed in obedience to this “law”. When I felt ready to study again, I was still unable to use my own books, due to the markings and notes compiled through the thousands of hours worth of class-time in the group. The jail chaplain brought me a paperback Good News Bible, which gave me the feeling of a clean slate…a new beginning.
Like a distant memory in the back of my mind, I recalled the simple truth, that the law is fulfilled in Christ Jesus. A new desire began to grow in my heart, in the form of a question. The thought kept entering my mind. “What is that law, which Christ fulfilled? ”I took everything I had ever thought I knew about God and placed it off to the side. Using only the Bible, with no influence of the Book of Mormon or other doctrines, I sought the answer to this question.
During the following months that I remained in that cell, I read through the Bible, twice. My little world had come to an end, yet the refreshing waters of God’s word restored my soul. I began to see the distinct differences between the Book of Mormon, and the genuine Bible message. It was a message I hadn’t really known before.
I began writing poetry, as a means for expressing this newfound view of God’s word. The jail Chaplain and his wife took special interest in myself and others of the group who were also there. When the Bible he’d given at the start became worn out, he bought me a sturdy parallel Bible that I still use today. Luke 24: 44-45 took on new meaning for me, as my mind seemed to absorb the intricate consistency of the newfound Bible message. The Lord touched the confusion of my mind, healed me and opened my eyes to see what he’d intended for me all along. I finally saw the fulfilling beauty of His Grace. At last, I saw not a “great and marvelous work” yet to be performed; but rather, what is already accomplished in our risen Lord.
In the years that have passed since the Lord renewed my mind, my wife has left me and the relationship with my children has been severed. Oddly enough, imprisonment wasn’t the source of these painful losses…but rather my rejection of Mormon doctrine. I’ve endured times when hope and purpose in life seemed nowhere to be found…times when God felt very distant and the ache in my heart was overwhelming. Yet, that precious truth I came to know in the County Jail, still abides with me today.
As a fourteen-year-old boy, I felt God’s love toward me. And through my life, there had been people who I believe were placed in my path for the purpose of sharing a clearer view of His grace. However, my mind was locked upon the view provided through the doctrines of my youth. I’m deeply ashamed that it took so much devastation in order to see what had plainly been there all along. And yet, I am eternally thankful for what I now see, because I’m no longer blinded by some grand mandate, yet to be fulfilled. Instead, I hold fast to the peaceful assurance.... “it is done” (Rev. 21:6).
You can write to Ron at:
Ronald B. Luff 237-062
P.O. Box 7010 RCI
Chillocothe, OH 45601
Bob and Elena Perkins were members of the RLDS church for 27 years. Bob was a 4th generation RLDS member; Elena was a 3rd generation. They had attended the New Jerusalem and Glendale Restoration Branches in Independence, Missouri. Bob owns and operates Nature's Pantry health food store in Independence, Missouri.
I was baptized into the RLDS church when I was eight years old in a small church in Turlock, California. My family moved back to Independence in 1982, and after the church split in 1984 I began to go to different restoration branches. I met my wife in 1989 after she ‘gathered to Zion’ and we were married in 1991. We settled in at a restoration branch and began planning for the future. Little did I know that within three years our religious foundations would be shaken.
As we studied the scriptures, we began finding contradictions within the doctrine of the church. We asked different priesthood members about these contradictions but none had any answers for our questions. Some even told us that since it wasn’t a salvation issue, it didn’t matter. I was always taught that what ever was written in the "three books" was gospel. Now this "true gospel" was beginning not to make sense. We stopped going to church around the fall of 1995. My wife felt led to start looking for a church home in the spring of 1996. We tried different restoration branches but to no avail so we started staying home again. At this point I didn’t care about going to church at all.
The Lord on the other hand, had a different idea. I couldn’t go to a church outside the restoration because being raised RLDS we believed that we belonged to the "One True Church." So if I went to another denomination then it wouldn’t be Christ’s church. Boy, was I wrong. We began attending Woods Chapel Baptist Church in the fall of 1996. At this time I still wasn’t really excited to be going to church, but I went because of my wife and my child. During the next three years I watched my wife grow in her love of the Lord, yet I still lagged behind.
I finally opened my heart to God on September 24, 1999, when I went to Promise Keepers with some friends from church. The first sermon started at 7:00 p.m. The preacher’s words hit me like a hammer. He asked questions like, "if you were to die tonight, would you know where you were going?" and also "are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?" At this point I felt the Holy Ghost convict me. I had told my wife for the last several years that I didn’t like the person I was. I was filled with hate and anger. Let me tell you something, on September 24th I asked the Lord Jesus Christ to come into my heart and was saved. Since that moment all the hate and anger has left me.
I now realize that a personal relationship with Jesus comes first, not a relationship with a church. Our salvation is in Jesus and what he did on the cross. You can not earn your way to heaven by being a member of the RLDS church and by doing good works…that is a man-made salvation. The criminal on the cross said "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom," and Jesus replied, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." The criminal believed in Jesus and he was saved. Ask yourself, are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? If you are, my prayer is that you will come to know Jesus and the peace and freedom that He can bring into your life.
I was born and raised into a good God fearing family in Ocala, Florida. My mother was raised RLDS but my dad was raised Southern Baptist and has never been fully converted over to my mother’s faith, although he does go to church with her. I realize now the one saving grace in my life was being sent to a Christian school where I heard the gospel message and was in the true Word of God on a daily basis. Because of this, I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of five or six in the school chapel. This experience, of course, was not nurtured at home, as I was being told that there was more on my part to do than just believe…so life went on. But I did feel the Lord’s spirit with me constantly. I was baptized into the RLDS church at the standard age of eight years old and was thrilled with all the attention that was suddenly showered on me by my church and family. After I graduated from college I ‘gathered’ to the land of Zion—Independence, Missouri, where I have lived for the past ten years.
I met a good RLDS boy the day after I moved here and we married two years later. So I had fulfilled what I came here to do. I had moved to Zion, per the church’s command and married an RLDS member. God was done with me, my life was tied up in a neat little bow. Little did I know God’s work for me was just getting started.
Our spiritual walk as a couple was really growing but questions about the church began a couple of years after we were married As we tried to share this with friends and loved ones, we found many of them unreceptive and unexcited. We started finding contradictions within all three books, regarding doctrine and priesthood, and when we would ask one of the priesthood members about our questions, or share concerns, we were told it did not matter because it wasn’t a salvation issue. So like most good RLDS members we quit asking, accepted our situation and continued to struggle along with this ‘one true church.’
During this time we were blessed with a new member to our family, a baby girl. However, our unrest and inability to be spiritually fed continued to grow. I asked God why so many times. Why, now that we have a child and it is more important than ever to be in a church home, are we finding it harder and harder to go to church? So we visited several restoration churches, sure that we just had not found the right branch for us. Well, you guessed it, no luck. Later I came to realize it did not matter what branch we visited, when the trunk is rotten, the branches will not produce any fruit. So we sat at home off and on for a year. How could I even consider raising my child in a church, where, if we weren’t being fed, neither could we expect her to be? She was getting closer and closer to turning two years old and still we were sitting home.
As a mother, I started to feel panicked and concerned. God seemed silent about what we should do, and I knew that our daughter needed to be in a church home. So I fell on my knees begging God, to please tell me what to do. Silence again. Had God forgotten about us? Over the next few days, sin of all sins, I started to feel that maybe, just maybe, God wanted us in another church, as in a different denomination altogether. This couldn’t be God, it had to be Satan, because God told Joseph Smith that "all the other denominations were wrong and their creeds were an abomination and their professors were corrupt."
So who was right, this still small voice or Joseph? Well, I decided that by following Joseph Smith, I was sitting at home, as was my family, so let’s give the still small voice a try. To make a long story short, we had a few hits and misses, but found the right Christian church home for us. It took me about six months to feel sure that I was on the right path for myself, but for my daughter, I never had a doubt. They loved her and started teaching her about Jesus immediately. It was not just a babysitting service until she was eight, they truly cared about her and the Lord knew if I wouldn’t go to church for myself, I would go for her, and so I did. I heard the truth of the Word and started to blossom in the Jesus I had taken as Lord and Savior of my life so many years ago in that school chapel.
Today, I have come so far, and realize the full deception of Joseph Smith. There is NO PARTIALITY WITH GOD, as it says in Duet. 10:17, 2 Ch. 19:7, Luke 20:21 and Romans 2:11. I know now that salvation is not about a church or denomination, but about my foundation being on Jesus Christ. That salvation is found in no one else, for there is NO OTHER NAME under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). In my book, it is Jesus and Jesus alone who provides salvation, not a church, not a man, or anyone else, just Jesus, otherwise his death on the cross was for nothing. By getting into the Word of God, hearing the true gospel message and reading, RLDS Church: Christian or Cult? and Part Way to Utah, the Forgotten Mormons, I realized I was in a cult of Christianity.
Finally, I left the church and have never looked back. I removed my name from the official rolls and have since rededicated my life and commitment I made to Him so many years ago. Never in a million years would I have believed that I would be writing my testimony about leaving the church, the one I left home and family for. I didn’t realize that it was a sin to love the church more than God, because like all good RLDS members I saw God and the church as one and the same. Looking back now, over these past ten years I do believe that God’s plan was for me to be in Independence, but his long-term reasons were much different than mine.
It sickened me to think that Joseph Smith was once my hero. I had esteemed an individual who said that Christ’s agony on the tree was insufficient. Our salvation, Jesus’ blood setting us free from the law, was inadequate in Joseph’s eyes, so he put us back under the bondage of the law, making all that Christ came for a mockery. Today, I have chosen Jesus over Joseph and praise God I am free. Jesus’ sacrifice was enough, and when he said it was finished, he meant it. His church has never gone anywhere; it’s been scattered and under attack, but that was always part of God’s plan. He would never let His Son’s sacrifice have been in vain.
I pray my spiritual journey and resulting freedom, will encourage everyone reading my testimony to see beyond all the RLDS do’s and don’ts and embrace Jesus and the freedom HE ALONE offers. Only a saving relationship with him will bring true peace and true joy, for when he says His burden is easy and His yoke is light, that is really true. He is our hope, we no longer live in fear. Don’t put God in a box, when He is so much bigger than that. He is Sovereign, the Almighty, and we are His adopted children when we ask Him to be Lord over our life. I can honestly say I will never go back to bondage again.
Carol Hansen was a member of the RLDS church for 48 years. After graduating from Graceland College in 1948, she became very involved in church activities at the Walnut Park and Beacon Heights congregations. In the early 1970’s she began looking objectively at Joseph Smith’s teachings and came to the conclusion they were diametrically opposed to Biblical Christianity. Consequently, she left the church and, together with other former RLDS members, established Life Line to RLDS Ministries to provide accurate historical and doctrinal information for RLDS whose love of the truth surpasses their love for “the church.”
I was one of seven children born into a wonderful RLDS family. I felt very privileged to be raised in Independence Missouri, among those I believed were the Lord’s "chosen people." I was baptized in the Stone Church at eight years of age and grew up never doubting the teachings of Joseph Smith. In 1948 I graduated from Graceland College, an RLDS educational institution at Lamoni, Iowa, and spent most of the next twenty years working in various church-related tasks such as teaching Sunday School, working in Zion’s League, directing youth choirs and the many other activities performed by faithful members.
In the 1960’s I became involved with a "dissident group" within the RLDS Church. Believing that the church leaders had gone into apostasy and that our group had been chosen by God to admonish them of their iniquities, we went to many congregations warning of the judgment of the Lord on leaders and members who would not repent and turn back to the "pure teachings" of Joseph Smith.
Our spiritual experiences were the compelling force that drove us to continue the "Lord’s mission." These ranged from visions and dreams to audible voices, ‘miracles’, and prophetic messages. In one vision, I was shown the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon and was told that our group would receive this record when we met certain conditions. In another vision Jesus appeared to me, holding in his hand the three standard books of the church. Calling me by name, He said, "If you know what is in these books you will make it." Needless to say, these experiences not only solidified my belief in the restoration but also in our group’s mission.
These continued encounters kept us in a type of"spiritual slavery" which is common to those who live by RLDS logic and reason. When something we were told failed to occur, we were always reassured by a still small voice which said, "Don’t give up, you have been brought thus far as a trial of your faith" (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 102:5c).
After several years of unfulfilled dreams, failed prophecies, and seeing the effect this was having on my family, I was forced to admit that I had been deceived. When people questioned me regarding my involvement in this group, I answered that when a person truly believes their ‘leader’ is God’s mouthpiece, they are bound to give absolute adherence to whatever instruction comes through them whether it makes sense or not. Those who have been entangled in this type of cult activity know this to be true. I have since learned that the Christian world has irrefutable proof that the Bible is reliable and completely trustworthy, and that it is the standard of truth by which all spiritual experiences must be measured.
Even after going through this period of being grossly deceived, I still believed wholeheartedly in Joseph Smith, the three standard books and the hope that Zion would someday be a reality.
My dad, who was an elder in the church, was the first person in my life that caused me to begin doubting the "restoration." He told me he didn’t believe the Book of Mormon was divinely translated and that bothered me a lot, because he was very well read on matters pertaining to church history, and I really respected his opinion. He also told me that he believed Joseph Smith was guilty of practicing polygamy in Nauvoo. He tried to persuade me to read, Nauvoo: Kingdom On the Mississippi, a book which included documented evidence showing it was Joseph Smith, not Brigham Young, who authored the revelation on polygamy. I refused to read the book and tried to ignore the doubts being instilled in my mind.
It was about this time I began attending a Book of Mormonclass that was being taught by a retired RLDS missionary. To my surprise he asked me if I would read Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi, the same book my dad had suggested I read. At first I was very defensive and told him I wouldn’t read anything that would cause me to doubt Joseph Smith’s calling as a prophet. He said to me, "You know, if a person really wants to know the truth, they won’t be afraid to read both sides of an issue." With that challenge I made the decision to read the book. The abundance of evidence I found, revealing Joseph Smith’s involvement in polygamy, really shook me up. And so I decided to begin my own research into the church history I thought I knew so well. I was shocked when I discovered it was vastly different from what I had been taught growing up in Sunday School.
I went to the RLDS historian’s office to find out all Icould about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, certain in my mind that I would be reassured of it’s truthfulness. During this study I found that Emma Smith, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, who were eyewitnesses to the translation process, all agreed that Joseph Smith didn’t use the gold plates while translating the Book of Mormon. I wondered why they were preserved for l400 years if they weren’t needed. But the biggest jolt to me was learning that Joseph used a seer stone (which he put in his hat) to translate the gold plates, the same one he had used to divine for hidden treasure!
As I continued my study, I began having fears that maybe the church I had always believed in wasn’t the only true church after all. I was determined to find out the truth. I prayed diligently for answers. After several months of study, I came to the place where I could sincerely pray, "Lord, I don’t care any more whether the church is true or false, all I want is the truth." When I finished my prayer, I decided to read the two Bible passages I had always believed proved the validity of the Book of Mormon, Ezekiel Ch. 37 and Isaiah 29. I reasoned that even if everything else about the church was wrong, at least these texts would prove Book of Mormon true.
I had read these scriptures many times before, but this time was different. As I read the passage in Ezekiel 37, I could see it was not referring to the Book of Mormon, but was speaking about God’s promise of bringing back together the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel, making them one nation. When I read Isaiah 29, I understood for the first time that the passage was not referring to the Book of Mormon, but instead to God’s punishment on Israel for her many sins. This experience broke the final tie that held me to the church. God had answered my prayer and removed the spiritual blindness from my eyes! I was convinced that Joseph Smith had not restored the true gospel, but had instead promoted a "different gospel."
At this point I made the painful but necessary decision to leave the church I had loved so much. The Lord blessed my decision and through his goodness my husband, a priesthood member, and our four sons also left. Only those who have made a similar break from the church can relate to the heart-wrenching emotions that accompany it. Many times those who leave are ostracized by family members and long time friends. The love that was so easily shared by people of ‘like-beliefs’ is suddenly gone and an invisible wall goes up. When former RLDS members become born again Christians, and attempt to share their new-found faith with family members and friends, it often results in further alienation. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit gives comfort during this time, and finding fellowship with others who have walked the same path brings needed encouragement. The following scripture also gives hope and comfort. "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters, or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life" (Matt. 19:29).
During the years I belonged to the church I heard just enough about Jesus to have a hungering for him, but never enough to understand the way of salvation. I believed that baptism, confirmation by the elders, faithfulness to ‘the church’ and involving myself in good works would hopefully earn me the highest glory in heaven. These were the teachings that were preached from the pulpit and taught in Sunday School, and they were what I accepted.
It is only by the grace of God that I have been delivered from the deception that blinds the minds of those indoctrinated in false teachings. It is not easy for the blindness to be lifted, but if a person has a sincere desire for truth, it is the truth to which the Holy Spirit will lead them.
Before leaving the church, I had actually ridiculed the idea that a person could be saved by just saying a simple prayer. It seemed too simplistic—too easy, and I had joined with others in referring to it as cheap grace.
Nevertheless, after studying the Bible verses in reference to salvation, I decided to pray that "simple prayer." I confessed that I was a sinner and that Jesus died on the cross and rose again to forgive my sins. I asked Him to come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior. And He did! It was truly a miracle of new birth. The contrast between the "religion" I grew up with and the relationship I now had with Jesus was like night and day. For the first time in my life I became aware of the tremendous price He paid for my sins and the meaning of His shed blood on the cross. I realized that the priceless gift of salvation is not found in church membership, ordinances, or good works, but in a personal relationship with Christ. The words of an old hymn took on a new and very special meaning for me:
"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
Was blind but now I see."
Praise the Lord!
You can e-mail Carol at: email@example.com.
Jan Moon was an adult convert to the Restoration, having married a man who had joined the RLDS Church in the mid sixties. She had spent her life searching, hoping to find the one true church. After being involved in a variety of religions, she became a member of the Restoration in 2004. It was when she began research for a novel she was writing that she began having doubts about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon and RLDS priesthood. After the JCRB/CRE conference in the spring of 2007 she began a prayerful investigation of the priesthood in light of scripture. What she found led her back to the Jesus Christ of the Bible.
When I was invited to share my testimony I got a little nervous because I have a "conversion" testimony which has been floating around among Restorationist friends and acquaintances for several years. I have never quite gotten a grip on the rule that says be careful what you say and/or write; it can come back and haunt you. You can't un-write it.
Having been brought up in a solid Bible teaching Baptist church, which I attended for the first twenty-five years of my life, I decided to try my wings and began exploring the myriad institutions out there that call themselves "The Answer." I floated from Catholicism to Unity School of Christianity, dabbled in Yoga, Transcendental Meditation, Agnosticism, and finally then settled back into Catholicism. I have a tendency to "follow the leader" which is a very dangerous thing to do. Believe me when I say there are legions of charismatic leaders out there who are more than willing to suck you dry if you so much as say hello.
When I met my husband in 1983, he told me about the RLDS Church of which he has been a member since the mid 60's. We were married in 1984, three months after women in the priesthood became approved at the World Conference. It meant nothing to me because I knew nothing of the church and was not in the least interested in finding out about it. For twenty years, while I wallowed around in various groups, my husband remained true to the orthodox RLDS even though he seldom had a church to attend. We moved to Las Vegas in 1999 and he began attending a Restoration group that met in the living room of an old friend. Four years later I had an "experience" when I attended for the first time. I still had very little knowledge of the church aside from Inez Smith Davis' book The Story of the Church and the book published by Cumorah titled The Restoration Story. I had skimmed them a time or two.
The experience that I had on that particular Sunday morning consisted of an emotional overload which probably had little to do with a revelation and everything to do with a need to belong. I'd been let down by the Catholic Church and knew that one of the main reasons I'd stuck with it had been the ritual, pomp and ceremony. When we moved to Las Vegas, however, the Sunday morning mass reminded me of a lounge act on the strip. That, coupled with the disillusionment of watching priest after priest falling from their pedestals in the wake of accusations of every kind of sexual abuse imaginable, caused me to stay home on Sunday with increasing frequency. Granted, a bad priest does not a bad church make. However, the incidents caused me to take a closer look at the church I had embraced for so long, and what I found didn't quite line up with the church of my childhood. So I was ready for something to speak to the emptiness the Catholic Church had left.
In November, 2003, I felt moved by the little service that took place in the living room of close friends. They are all devout people and love the Lord. Of that I am certain. Some of that devotion obviously rubbed off on me that morning, and the spiritual fallout overcame me. Truth had nothing to do with it. Emotion had everything to do with it. And therein lies the problem. I'm not asserting that emotion or "burning in the bosom" is the exclusive property of a Joseph Smith church. But I do know now that without high drama, visions, dreams, revelations and tears, most of the Smith ideas and doctrines are but dandelion fluff in the wind, because there's precious little scripture to back up any of these phenomena.
So there I was with my experience, which I managed to translate into a sign from God that the Book of Mormon was true, and that I should stick around these people because they possessed THE TRUTH and would be more than happy to have me on board. Well, of course. The group consisted of my husband, bless his heart, and about ten good and loving friends. I floated around on a pink cloud, got myself my very own Doctrine and Covenants, received a Restored Covenant Edition of the Book of Mormon from one of those friends, and began reading it.
The following Sunday we were gathered in the aforementioned living room and the presiding elder gave me a scripture to look up. I had my old Scofield KJV Bible and I can clearly remember not being able to find the scripture in the Book of Genesis. I was shocked. I had not known that Joseph Smith not only brought the world the Book of Mormon and the Book of Commandments/D & C, but that he rewrote the Bible! But before long I had my very own Inspired version and basked in the knowledge that I was about to become a member of the Only True Church. I was baptized in January, 2004.
In March of 2004, we relocated to Verona, Missouri. Not quite The Center Place, but close enough. We began attending a small church about forty miles from home and life was good. By then I had read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover, had been indoctrinated in many of the beliefs and traditions, and attended a women's retreat in Kansas with the pastor's wife. I delighted in sharing my testimony that weekend. I'll admit, though, that when I casually mentioned I'd read the Book of Mormon in its entirety several of the women expressed surprise, saying they had never really read it through. I thought everybody had. Looking back now, I wonder how many people have actually read it. Maybe not as many as we think.
During the summer of 2006 I felt "led" to write a book for teenagers. My husband was taking a trip to Alaska and I had three weeks on my hands - enough to get a good start. Little did I suspect how much research I would have to do and just where that research would eventually lead. I was able to borrow books from the church library and was lucky enough to find second hand books on Amazon. I also purchased some new books by a variety of Mormon and non-Mormon writers. It was the beginning of an awakening that I never expected, wasn't prepared for, and handled very badly from the outset. I learned that there are more than nine accounts of the first vision of Joseph Smith, Jr. I learned that the Book of Mormon was not translated using the Urim and Thummim, but rather was dictated by Joseph Smith, who sat with his face buried in his hat using a "peep stone". I also found out that he and his family had a history of occult practices including the use of seer stones, animal sacrifice and treasure hunting, all of which were against the law.
In the fall of that year I was invited to join a class taught by one of the ladies of my congregation. I attended two of the classes, where the veneration of Joseph Smith was openly practiced and the doctrine of Baptism for the Dead was openly taught. Although I didn't realize it at the time, this was the beginning of the end. However, I finished writing the book and published it in February of 2007. I took it to the Spring conference of the CRE (Conference of Restoration Elders) and JCRB (Joint Conference of Restoration Branches) in the hopes of selling it. The atmosphere I encountered there was rank with hostility and suspicion between the two factions. I had a fly-on-the-wall's opportunity to watch the hierarchy in action. It wasn't pretty. The only "spirit" I felt there was the spirit of mistrust and animosity. One of the elders went from table to the table asking all the vendors to "be polite" to the JCRB that week.
Soon after that I began an earnest, prayerful investigation into the hierarchy, particularly the biblical basis of the priesthood. Striving to keep an open mind, I read everything I could find on the history, reasoning and emergence of Joseph Smith's priesthood in his restored church. I even started a blog (Zion Beckons) for the express purpose of airing out some of my frustrations with the strong arm tactics of the hierarchy. My rather straightforward comments on the Center place Message board had been met with less-than-welcome reactions from the inhabitants and I needed to vent without fear of censure or censor.
I began researching the priesthood that was set up by Joseph Smith, comparing it with scripture, and it was then that my carefully built belief system began to erode like a sand castle in a rising tide. I located some dear, godly and patient people who have been through it themselves, and who operate websites that speak to RLDS and not Mormons, I began to see the flaws in the vast hierarchy that dominates the Restoration today. I simply couldn't reconcile the cumbersome priesthood which evolved from the early church with the priesthood held by a risen Christ as laid out by the writer of Hebrews. He is our high priest after the order of Melchizedek! (Hebrews 5:6) The old, Levitical priesthood was imperfect and became obsolete with Christ's sacrifice. (Chap.7) Not only that, but we as believers, because of the vicarious suffering of Christ, are all members of a royal priesthood. (I Peter 2:9)
Coincidentally, while all this was going on, my husband and I attended a weekend meeting of a gathering of orthodox saints we had met through my temporary high visibility on the Internet. While we were there I approached one of the elders and expressed my concern with the history and doctrine of the church. I told him I'd started reading about Joseph Smith's early days and he advised me to stop reading. I didn't understand why he would discourage me from seeking the truth. I was reading everything I could get my hands on. One day, out of the blue, the word "narcissism" popped into my head while I was thinking about Joseph Smith. I Googled his name with the term and received an astonishing number of hits. One of the hits led me to the book Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith by Robert D. Anderson. (Signature Books; Salt Lake City; 1999) I ordered it and read it, and although a lot of it may be reaching, as far as blaming everything on Smith's childhood trauma, a gem within the text jumped out at me and allowed everything to fall into place. Anderson says, "The Book of Mormon is not a book of love, but of terror, hatred and destruction." That was what had bothered me about the Book of Mormon from the beginning! The Bible is the story of forgiveness, redemption and hope; the Book of Mormon is the story of blood, revenge and despair. No wonder those ladies I met at the retreat had never read the Book of Mormon all the way through!
Sometime in September of 2007, with the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit, I crossed over to the Jesus Christ of the Bible. It was not a Big Dramatic Moment, but rather a quiet, blessed assurance that Jesus is my savior and that He had never left, but had been patiently waiting for me to come back to Him. I began attending a Bible teaching church near my home. One Sunday I learned what it really means to be saved, and that our works are the result of our salvation. I had spent decades laboring under the delusion that my works determined whether or not I was going to heaven. I had accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior back in the seventies but I never truly understood it until that Sunday morning in October. My years in the Catholic Church had left me with the certainty that if I died between the sin and the confessional I was going straight to hell. My years in the Restored Church were spent trying to pile up good works so that I could eventually strive for one of Joseph Smith's three glories. John 3:16 tells us that what we need to "do" is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. That's it. Salvation through faith.
Thanks to the Holy Spirit leading me to LifeLine2RLDS and Refiner's Fire Ministries, I have been extricated from the oppression of Joseph Smith's cult and can now bask in the glory of a risen Savior. Praise God! My prayer is for freedom for the thousands who remain bound to a false prophet, a false doctrine and a false savior. I love them dearly. May God deliver them from evil.
I welcome your comments. Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dick and Barb Luff had been long-term members of the RLDS church; Dick for 45 years and Barbara for 33 years. Dick had been a fourth generation member, and had held RLDS priesthood for 14 years. In this capacity he had served on the Executive Board of the Boy Scouts, taught numerous youth and adult classes and had been a Group Elder and Hospital Minister. Barbara was an active member as well, as a Boy Scout Den Mother and Executive Board member, Vacation Bible School teacher and principle, women's ministries. She also worked for the church's publishing house, Herald House, for 4 years, and for the Presiding Bishopric in the church's headquarters, The Auditorium, for 20 years.
My Exit from the Deep Dark Jungle
I was born and raised in the RLDS church, fourth generation. At the age of 53, I left the church.
When I became old enough and mature enough to analyze church doctrine, the first thing I rejected was the Doctrine & Covenants (D&C), because of the many fallacies. One of the things that got me started in my quest for truth was the revision which was made in this book which changed it from being the Book of Commandments to the present day D&C. Many times I proclaimed that if all of these alleged revelations were of God, then Joseph Smith had no right to change any of them; by changing them, it made him a liar and deceiver. However, if these were Joseph’s own concoctions—and not God’s—then he had every right to do as he would with them. But because he claimed that they were from God, then it still made him a liar and deceiver.
I also eventually came to the knowledge that Joseph Smith’s Inspired Version of the Bible was a fabrication of his own, with no truth in any of the changes he had made. In spite of all these doubts, I was ordained to the office of Priest in 1972. In 1976 I was ordained to the office of Elder. During this period of time I fervently believed that the RLDS was the only true church of God. I taught the Book of Mormon for a number of years, even though I believed that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet. This led to much confusion to my spiritual being because I realized that Joseph Smith, even before he translated the Book of Mormon, was a treasure seeker, using evil powers to do it.
I couldn’t understand how God could use an evil man, who had supposedly become righteous, but had then turned evil again. The RLDS leadership claimed that God had to use what He had on hand and yet Jesus said in Matthew 3:9, “God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” So I wondered why He couldn’t raise up a righteous prophet to represent Himself.
I noticed that at World Conferences, when the Prophet/President brought forth a document, the people would pray for the Lord to confirm it to them. “Lord show me that this is true.” When they pray this kind of a prayer, there are many spirits out there that will give them the answers they want to hear. When I began hearing testimonies of these answers from “what” or “whoever,” then I realized that my prayer had to be different from theirs. I began praying “Lord, show me the Truth: Is this truly the only church on the earth that you are pleased with? Lord, is the Book of Mormon truly of You, is it divine?” I did not receive an immediate “thunderbolt” answer, but I began to receive enlightenment through testimonies, showing me many of the false doctrines within the church.
Eventually,I became reacquainted with a man I had known years before, who was also an Elder and a very faithful, spiritual man. I discovered that he was very disgruntled with the church. We became very close. He was a very accomplished researcher, which I was not. I believe the Lord used him to show me many, many fallacies and false doctrines within the church. He led me to the very edge of the Deep Dark Jungle which I had been wandering in.
I owe a great deal to my own parents who taught me all of my life in the true ways of Jesus Christ, who was the true Son of God, born of a virgin, died for my sins and was resurrected, just as he prophesied. I believe that the fervent teachings of my parents, which put Jesus Christ first—not Joseph Smith—was why I was later able to see the flaws in RLDS doctrine.
After I had reached this stage of disbelief, I still strongly believed that the Book of Mormon was true. I had already been silenced in the church because of my outspokenness about the doctrines. I used to say that if all the other churches were such an abomination to God, then why were we singing their “abominable” hymns?
Then we heard about another man who had left the church, and we invited him over to explain why he had done so. We asked him to explain this from our own books, not from something someone had written about the church. The first things he showed us were right out of the Book of Mormon. One example is II Nephi 4: 21-24, about building the temple with gold and silver. At that point, my eyes were opened and I was able to find the plagiarizations and lies, enough to show me that the Book of Mormon was false.
I had been praying that prayer for truth for fifteen years. More and more, the Lord was showing me what was wrong, but I was too thick-headed to understand it. I also believe that I was too filled with fear to leave the church. Once I made the decision to leave, I came out of the deep dark jungle and found myself in the Glorious Light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Since then I have been a Deacon in two Christian churches, and I am now very active in my current Congregation. I am also presently involved in Prison Ministry, visiting the local jail two days a week. I enjoy this ministry more than any I have ever been involved in.
In Christian Bonds,
Brother Dick Luff went to be with the Lord in January 2005.
My Journey Out of Darkness
I was not born into Mormonism but when I was about seven years old, my mother and father were divorced and some Mormon friends helped my mother when she was very vulnerable. She had been raised Pentecostal and these friends presented a very pretty picture of Mormonism to her. I always enjoyed going to church so I attended a Baptist church in our town and came to the Lord during a Bible School one summer. Wanting to be baptized, I talked to my mother about it and she told her friends that I wanted to be baptized in the Baptist Church. They were very adamant that I should not be baptized in the Baptist Church because they said that Mormonism was the "only true Church," and my mother decided that I should be baptized in the Mormon faith. So, along with her and my brother and sister, I was baptized into the Utah Mormon faith. Thank God, there wasn't a Mormon church in our town, so I continued to attend the Baptist Church where I received very good Bible teaching. From time to time someone would pick us up and take us to the Mormon church, but I never understood the teachings.
I would visit my father every summer in Salt Lake City and the Mormon Elders would come by to ask us if we would go to the temple and be baptized for our dead relatives. I was told that I would have to take secret oaths to go into the temple, and I believe to this day that God gave me a fear of the temple because of the secrecy involved there, and I never would agree to go to the temple. My father was raised Nazarene and never joined Mormonism even though he lived in Salt Lake City.
When I was seventeen, I met my husband, who was a member of the RLDS (Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) church, which I refer to as Reorganized Mormon.They have since changed their name to the Community of Christ. My husband was a fourth generation RLDS and most of the men were involved in the priesthood through the generations on both his mother and father's side of the family. My husband convinced me that RLDS was "the true church" and that there was no secret works in their temple. When we had been married nearly two years, we moved to Independence, Missouri which is the World Headquarters of Reorganized Mormonism.
I believe that I felt intimidated because of the close connection all of my in-laws had to the Mormon religion and even though I know that I had been saved early in my life, I was not a mature Christian and was easily persuaded to join the RLDS religion. Through the years I attended church and tried to raise my children in the proper Mormonism manner, but there were always questions about the doctrine which I did not understand, and did not think agreed with my beliefs as a Christian. Nonetheless, I taught my children that the Book of Mormon and other books were true. I never read the Book of Mormon completely and read very little of the D & C and Church History because they always confused me. I tried to teach my children from the Bible and met with much opposition with my husband over especially the Book of Mormon because he really believed it to be the word of God, even though he had doubts about the other books.
Our youngest son Ron became involved with Jeffrey Lundgren in 1987. Lundgren convinced his followers that he was the mighty "Seer" that is spoken about in the Book of Mormon that would come in the "last days" to build Zion. They thought he was the spokesman for God and that they had to follow his every word. Eventually, Lundgren murdered a family of five of his followers. The reason is not clear why he murdered them. It is thought that they were planning to leave the group, and their murder would agree with the way Joseph Smith dealt with errant followers in the 1830's. Ron and the others were convicted as accessories to these murders and is serving multiple life sentences in prison in Ohio at this time.
Because of Ron's experience, he began to search the Mormon scriptures to find out where he went wrong and God provided a wonderful Chaplain in the jail to help him. Ron became convinced that the Bible was the only Word of God and that the other books of Mormonism were false doctrine. Much of the Bible had been changed by Joseph Smith so that it was very confusing. Because of Ron's quest, my husband and I also began to search for answers. In Ron's heart, he thought he was serving God while following Lundgren. I believe his heart was right with God, but he was trying to serve in the wrong religion. Sometimes it takes a terrible tragedy to get us turned in the right direction.
Through our study and Ron's study, we have come to see the wonderful Light of the True Gospel and have come out of the darkness of Mormonism. Ron has been an instrument in God's hands to help many people see the evil in Mormonism. It is our prayer that we too can continue to help in the spreading of God's Marvelous Light.
When Light shines in darkness, the darkness will flee!
You can send Barb an email at: email@example.com.
Todd & Carla Talcott were 6th generation RLDS members. They attended more fundamental congregations in the Independence and central Missouri areas. Todd held the priesthood office of Deacon.
Both of our families have been in "the Church" for generations. The membership in both families can be traced back as far as 1833. Both Carla and I stayed in the "fundamental" part of the church during the division and ultimate split in the years after Section 156 was brought forth as divine revelation. Carla attended the Chilhowee Restoration Branch for years, and I stayed with whatever congregation (Enoch Hill, Eden Heights, and finally New Hope) our family could find at the time that was remaining "true" to the "original gospel." Carla and I were members of the group that started the New Hope congregation and we were married there. Also, during that time, I was called and ordained to the office of Deacon. Like all of the members that we knew, we believed that "the Church" was the only true church on the face of the earth and that only it had the whole truth of the gospel. We awaited the building up of Zion and the coming Kingdom. We sought to obey the Word of Wisdom and to be good church members. We felt blessed to have been born into families that had such long histories of involvement in the church. Carla’s family remains active in the Restoration groups and mine still attends at New Hope.
While Carla and I both had questions about things that did not appear to match with the Bible over the years, these were usually explained away due to what others told us and what we thought we could find for an answer in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. We grew up believing that the priesthood had the answers. But in December of 1998, I came across a book entitled, Part Way to Utah: The Forgotten Mormons. The research and thorough approach was unlike other books against the church that I had read. Most of the time I had chuckled to myself when I had read anti-Mormon literature because the authors would get the details all wrong or were going against the Utah church that I thought was ridiculous anyway, so it served to strengthen my confidence that the Reorganization was the true gospel. This book forced me to confront the questions that I had about the RLDS church for the first time. So I began to study things out for myself.
Much to my surprise, I could not discount the issues that it brought up and as I began to look for answers to my questions, I found things that I did not like. For example, Joseph Smith was found guilty of being a "disorderly person" (which was a person that did not have employment and pretended to do things that he could not do) in an 1826 trial, after he pretended to be able to find buried treasure by looking into a stone. In this trial, Joseph was recorded as having testified himself that he could find buried treasure by looking into a stone. This would have been only a short time before he would have found the buried plates. I also found reference to Jesus Christ fulfilling the need for a High Priest forever, as He lives forever, and we have no need for anymore sacrifices to be offered except His. The Book of Hebrews is very clear about this, (specifically chapter 7:22-28), so why would Jesus have an office of High Priest in His church?
I had to share what was happening with Carla. We talked and began to study out what we had found. We began to ask priesthood members about our questions. What their advice boiled down to was that we simply needed to keep the faith and pray for a testimony that would remove all doubts or questions. Their response was all too often to simply begin to share their own personal testimonies. We were advised to just let go of some of the questions and accept that there was no answer. This is not meant to be directly critical of these men, as they all appeared to mean well and we did appreciate the effort that they gave. We now understand that there simply were no better answers and they did the best with what they had. We were devastated by the idea that we could have been wrong for all these years, and that all that we had believed in and held sacred, could be a deception. We continued to search and eventually decided that what we had found required some action. We knew that we had a responsibility to worship God in truth and that we had to honestly act upon the answers that He gave us in the Bible. Could we believe in the Reorganization? Could we continue to believe in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants or should we switch to the Book of Commandments? Could we believe in the Book of Mormon? Could we even believe in the need for a Restoration?
We found many, many things that time and space do not allow us to list here. We were distressed for example, to find that Joseph Smith had changed parts of the Book of Revelation, the very book containing the warning: "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book…" Why would a true prophet of God not see the problem with that? More importantly, we had to ask ourselves why we would believe that Jesus Christ Himself could not set up a church that would stand, but that He would need a man to fix things later on? Zion was to be a physical kingdom, but Romans 14:17 clearly states that the kingdom is not physical, and Acts 17:24, 25 states that God does not live in temples made with human hands. The more we searched the Bible, the more problems we found. We also discussed the testimonies that we had received or had heard and how they contradicted each other or were inconsistent at times with any one of the Reorganized scriptures. It became a question of who we believed Jesus to be and what his gift meant to us. When the words of Joseph Smith and Jesus differ, you have to decide which to believe. We have learned the only accurate way to “test the spirits” is compare it the Bible.
When we prayed and searched for truth, rather than praying for “confirmation” of what we already believed to be the “truth”, we found answers. We found God in the Bible. We realized that we could not get real answers from our own testimony (2 Tim. 4:4, 2 Thess. 2:11), but that truth must come from a reliable source: the Bible. We could see that no church is the way to God, but that Christ is the only Way. In Him we have found the plain and precious truth, without contradictions to sort through. He guided us out of "the Church" and into His love and grace. To Him we offer all of the honor, praise and glory.
Since leaving the RLDS church and being saved by the grace of Jesus, we have had to face the reality of how members of "the Church" see us. Most believe that we have denied our “testimony” and therefore the truth. We know that some see us as lost. We cannot begin to explain how this has impacted our lives. When the "ties that blind" are severed, there is sometimes little else to talk about. This has included the way that even our own families relate to us. Looking back, we now realize that the focus of "the Church" has always been on Joseph Smith’s ideas rather than the simple and precious gift of our Savior Jesus Christ. Whenever the focus of a group turns in any degree from Jesus, they can be assured that they are off the path.
Todd & Carla Talcott
Lone Jack, Missouri
David Crane was born and raised in an RLDS home. He was a member of the RLDS church for 27 years, and a priesthood member for 19 years. He was one of four brothers who all held RLDS priesthood. David attended the RLDS church's Graceland College where he served as Priesthood Coordinator of Aaron House. Through God's own mercy, David was set completely free from the RLDS church in 1995.
God Set Me Free!
I was born in 1960 in California and was raised in the RLDS church. My mother’s father, John Wiles, joined the RLDS church as a young man and later became a "Seventy." The “Church” was a big part of my family’s life. My father, Dr. Robert A. Crane, joined the RLDS church in the 1970s. We attended the Walnut Creek and El Sobrante, California congregations in the early years of my life. I was baptized at the age of 8. During my teens at Walnut Creek I enjoyed Zion’s League and taught several Sunday School classes for children. When I was 15 I received my Patriarchal Blessing. About this time in my life I was trying to grow closer to God. During Jr. High School I did not have a very clean mind or mouth.
The summer between Jr. High and High School, I was trying to make some major changes in my life. I began praying more and spent more time in the three books, Joseph Smith's Inspired Version of the Bible, the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine & Covenants. Friends who knew me back in Jr. High were surprised at how different I was, one friend said, “Crane, you are different, you got Religion.” I was acting a lot different, I was no longer cussing and I enjoyed being involved in Bible Studies at school during lunch breaks. I was the only RLDS student at school and there were lots of Mormons, so that was a challenge. I had wanted to be a “Young Life” leader, but I was not accepted because I believed in the Book of Mormon. I began to get involved in the RLDS Youth Venture For Christ activities and went with the groups to San Diego, California and Bend, Oregon, and a few other places.
Near the end of my 17th year I was called to be a Deacon. Two years later I moved up to Grants Pass, Oregon with my parents. After high school I went to Iowa and began 2 years at Graceland College. I was the Priesthood Coordinator for Aaron House one year. The college had lots of Religious Life activities which I enjoyed. Sadly it seemed like the classes on religion tore down the student’s faith.
After college I went back to California to work with my brothers, and again attended Walnut Creek Congregation, which was a very liberal RLDS church. I did not like what I was hearing in the pulpit and one day I was invited to preach at the Napa, Calif. congregation. At least here they enjoyed hearing a message from the "three books" and one that was about Zion! My oldest brother Jim had come with me that day and he also liked what he saw, so we joined the Napa group together. Here I was working with the high school youth, which was pretty small and I tried to enlarge the numbers. A few years earlier my brothers John and Bob were called to the office of Priest, Jim was an Elder and I was still a Deacon. So here in the Crane family were 4 brothers which were all members of Joseph Smith’s Priesthood.
During the 1984 RLDS World Conference, which I attended, the question of women in the priesthood came to the forefront. I felt this to be wrong. Trying to seek guidance from God I had been fasting for weeks before the conference. That week in April 1984, the Aaronic Priesthood Quorum had asked Prophet/President W.B. Smith to answer some questions they had regarding 1 Corinthians 14:34. He never answered the questions. Lack of rest and food along with being overstressed caught up with me. During the trip home after Conference, I ended up being put on a bus and did not get much sleep or food. When I got back to California I began losing control of my body. I ended up not being able to put my socks on, brush my teeth and I kept feeling like my mind was receding into an area of darkness.
The turning point at this time in my life came while I was visiting some family friends, the Bryants. George was an RLDS Elder and his oldest daughter, Kim, had come through a real rough time in her life. That day in November, 1984 Kim led me to pray to receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I did this and thus began my recovery. The healing did take awhile, but it had begun! Praise God! About this time I was at a County Hospital and it was there that a Doctor realized that some of the medicine that had been prescribed was harming me.
In 1985 I became an RLDS Priest. I am thankful that a few years earlier I had not drowned while going rafting down the Rogue River in Oregon. My Mother had felt I was in trouble and she had prayed for my safety. I thank God that He spared my life, giving me the chance to keep breathing until I had accepted Christ as Savior!
Around the mid 1980s John and Bob were buying some property around Lake Berryessa, near Sacramento, California. During this time, we had learned more about the early history of Joseph Smith. John obtained a copy of the Evening and Morning Star, the first church newspaper, a copy of the Book of Commandments, the first book of Joseph Smith's revelations, and more historical records. And we had read Saints at the Crossroads. It was a rude awakening to discover that the book of Doctrine and Covenants had undergone many additions and deletions in the “revelations” from when they had first been in print in the Book of Commandments. Much of the things in the official RLDS church history were quite different than what had really happened. We soon learned that there were a number of different versions of Joseph Smith’s first vision!
My brother John ended up meeting Jack Raveill who had written a book, The Revelation Revisions, about the changes in the D&C. Many of the changes had to do with the laws of Total Consecration, “all things equal,” and soon John, his wife Julie and I began to experiment with living Zionically. Does the phrase, “Some are more equal than others” sound familiar? It is a quote from Animal Farm. Certain folks seemed to have a better claim on the funds and items in the “Storehouse” than others did.
I moved to Independence, Missouri in May 1990. It was during the years of 1990-1992 that I began having some questions about Joseph Smith’s “Inspired Version” of the Bible. Many of the parts that Joseph had added did not make sense, like his version of John 1:1. I now knew the Doctrine & Covenants was messed up and now it looked like the Inspired Version was a big mess as well. I also was beginning to question the way Total Consecration was working out.
I had been worshipping in the home with John’s family, but later I joined the Center Branch Restoration Group. I gave my first sermon there in July 1992. Later that day I flew to Oregon to spend time with my Mother. Dad had died in June 1990, and mom was lonely. After I had been in Oregon a year I began visiting some Christian Churches in the area. I did not want to be a part of the Grants Pass Mission, because they had accepted women in the priesthood. Between the years 1993 and 1995 I was doing some in depth Bible Study. One night I earnestly prayed for God to guide me to His Truth! I had been having doubts about the Book of Mormon and one night I felt God lead me to put away my "three books." In August 1995 I went to a Bible Store and bought a nice leather bound King James Bible. I started in Matthew and began to read a chapter each morning and night, along with prayer and singing praise. After a while I began to see that so much of what I had been taught in the RLDS church, (Joseph Smith’s teachings) were contradicting the Bible. I knew that I had a decision to make! I chose God and His Son, Jesus Christ and His Holy Bible rather than Joseph Smith, RLDSism and the Restoration. To this day I Praise God that He set me free! It had been about 10 years from the time I had prayed to receive Christ that I was finally fully set free.
Through further Bible study I saw that Joseph’s priesthood structure was upside down as compared with the Bible’s. Melchisedec was a Priest, while Aaron was the first High Priest! I learned that Deacons can in fact baptize! Philip baptized Samaritans and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts chapter 8. Philip was one of the first 7 Deacons. I learned that salvation was a gift, and it was by grace, not by works, Ephesians 2:8-9. I realized that a person could really know for sure that they would be going to Heaven when they died, not, “I hope so,” or “I might,” and that the Rock is God! and that Jesus Christ is The One and Only High Priest now!
Back when I was still in High School a friend, Brett, asked me, “David, are you saved?” I answered, “Well, I was blessed as a baby, I’ve been baptized, I had my Patriarchal Blessing.... I’m a Deacon!” Brett again asked me, “David are you saved?” I told him, “Well, I’ll know for sure when I breathe my last breath.” “David, you are Not saved!” he replied. I did not understand what he was trying to tell me. I understand now though!
What is really strange is that years ago during a drama at the Walnut Creek RLDS church one of the players tried to share with us about her experience of being, “Born again”, sadly I closed my mind and my ears to her testimony. I had not yet read that Jesus had said, “Ye must be born again!” in John 3:7.
Presently I am a member of a wonderful, active, growing, (we had over 40 baptisms last year!) congregation, East Side Baptist Church in Independence, Missouri. I have lots of friends who were RLDS or Restorationists whom God has led out of Joseph Smith’s false system of Religion. They have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and are now Christians! They are saved, secure and Heaven Bound!
God has blessed me with a ministry of helping missionaries around the world to know where they can obtain the missions resources they need, such as foreign language Bibles, CDs and tracts. [http://www.ashlock.net/esbc/missionsresources.html]
My testimony is that God set me free! The Bible is true! God loves us, He sent us His son Jesus to save us! (John 3:16) My prayer for you is that you will choose Life! Eternal Life! It is a free gift! Our first step is to understand that, “we have all sinned” (Romans 3:23). “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). “The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord”. Romans 5:8 says, “But God proves His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” and that, “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved!” (Romans 10:13) You can know for sure, so choose Christ today!
A Few Words in Closing
I was blessed with having a few years in Oregon during the mid 1990s to do the in depth Bible Study which God used to lead me out of the false teachings of Joseph Smith. While I was visiting the 3 Christian Churches in Oregon, God placed wonderful people in my path, folks like Elder Brad Weyand of Redwood Christian Church. When I first met Brad, I was sure that I could get him to accept the Book of Mormon. Pastor Paul Burns of Shan Creek Community Church who clearly presented the truths of Christ’s gospel and the folks at First Baptist Church. Here was a group of believers who praised God with joy! I felt God’s Spirit at work among these beautiful people. I was realizing that Christ’s church was composed of those people throughout the world who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior! The head of this church is Christ!
Late in 1996 when I was ready to help my mother move back to Missouri, I was worried that there in Independence, I would be all alone. I had not heard of many people who had left the RLDS and Restoration Churches. I was soon to be in for a wonderful surprise. Upon my return to Missouri, I had no desire to attend any of the Restoration services. I found it so hard to sit through the spiritually dead messages and I wanted to plug my ears to the readings from Joseph Smith’s false books. I felt led to visit East Side Baptist Church and I told Pastor Otis Nixdorf about my RLDS background. Otis replied, “You need to talk with Paul Trask and Carol Hansen.”
I personally knew Paul when he was Pastor of the RLDS San Francisco Congregation. When Paul gathered in he was the Pastor of Restoration Branch which met at Hope Day School. God had then led Paul to get saved and he had left the Church. He went to seminary and later wrote a book, “Part Way to Utah: the Forgotten Mormons” about the RLDS Church. Carol had been raised in the RLDS church and had been to Graceland College. She also had written a book, “The RLDS Church: Christian?” after she had left the Restoration.
It was fascinating talking with Carol and Paul and seeing how God had led us through His scriptures by His Spirit to understand our need of getting saved and had led us and others to many of the same conclusions. After attending East Side Baptist for awhile, I joined by being scripturally baptized in January 1997. I realized that a person needed to be saved by accepting Christ, then they get baptized! Back when I was a child in the RLDS church, I had accepted a church instead of accepting Jesus Christ--and Him alone! Here at East Side I soon learned that many of the members had been RLDS or Restorationists. God is at work!
Recently I learned that people I had known in Walnut Creek had ended up leaving the RLDS Church. Others that I had also known in California had left that church as God led them to His Word and they also were saved. Here are a few of the folks who are now sure of making it to heaven through Christ’s shed blood! Barbie and Dave McHuron, Don and Cindy Sparks, George and Betty Bryant and their family--Kim had led me to the Lord in 1984! Don Manuel and most of his family. Others are Gary Queen who is a Baptist Missionary in Venezuala, David Lidberg, my Mother, Jane Crane, Dan Sunderland, Toby Sutherlin, Ted Gibler, Marja L. Waldon, Belinda Ashlock, Chris Evans, Ten Beaty, her daughter Lori and son Brad, and many more folks have been blessed by coming to Christ!
“Choose this day who you will serve… we will serve God!”
You can send David an e-mail at: David_Baptist@Juno.com.
Mike Scheffer grew up in a Christian home, but married an RLDS gal he met in college, whose family had a long heritage in the RLDS church. Soon after he joined the RLDS church himself, but was uncomfortable with it. After a number of years of spiritual tension, Mike and his wife agreed to do an in-depth study of RLDS scriptures and theology together. This study ultimately led both of them out of the RLDS church, and into the victory of Jesus alone. What a wonderful success story!
Back on the Solid Rock of Christ for Good
I grew up in a Christian church, while my wife Jacki grew up in the RLDS church. Her mother's side of the family has been in the RLDS church for a number of generations. We met in college and Jacki immediately began telling me about her church, her testimonies, and the fact that it is the only "true" church of Christ. Being told that can immediately put some fear in you, which is not a good way to start a relationship with a new church or Christ. Believing in Christ brings joy and peace - not fear. Remember the Scripture that "perfect love casts out all fear."
Jacki telling me about her church was all very fascinating to me. Unfortunately, I was like most kids I knew in that I had gone to church as a kid growing up, but never learned and studied the Bible so that I would have a solid grasp of God's word. When this is the case, it's very easy to be lead captive by false doctrines. One of the many good points made in Paul Trask's book is that you have to know the "real" thing before you can spot a counterfeit. When people are trained to detect counterfeit money, the first thing they are taught is what a real dollar bill looks like. Likewise, the only sure and quick way to detect a false religion or a false teacher is to have a solid grasp on God's only true word...the Bible. When you have this, the falsehoods show up immediately, and stand out.
I joined the RLDS church about a year after we were married, mostly at the request of Jacki. I didn't feel any particularly strong inclination to join until she asked me about it, and I wanted to please her. There was more to it than that, of course. I had been swayed in my mind and when asked by an elder what my testimony was of the Book of Mormon, I said "I just believed it." I hadn't even read the whole book through.
Jacki began praying that the Lord would give me a testimony of the book of Mormon, but it never came. I heard many people say that as they read the book of Mormon they "felt" a burning in their bossom that it was true. I never felt that, and wondered why I didn't. Jacki had never questioned its authenticity, as it was the only thing she ever knew or was taught.
There were numerous things and situations that took place over the years that made me question why I believed what I did...so many that would be worthwhile mentioning, but space won't allow here. I'll mention a few.
1) I felt like I was being attacked spiritually when I attended services. As time went by, I found myself reading more and more from the Bible, and less from the D&C and Book of Mormon. The Bible strengthened my faith. When I went to Sunday service, many things were said that didn't agree with what I had been reading. I often left church feeling like I had been in a spirtual fight, and lost. I would mention this to Jacki, citing specific examples, and her answer was that she just ignores the things that are said that she knows aren't right. We would justify going to church by saying things like "there are incorrect things preached at every church and denomination in America." The things I was hearing, however, were terrible distortions of God's word, not just small insignificant errors.
2) After hearing for years that many wonderful things had been done by God in the past, and were still being done; and after hearing many people "prophesy" that things would happen and they NEVER did; and even hear other people point out what certain things said in the Bible, but which the RLDS didn't believe (such as how to obtain salvation), I had more and more doubts. I also observed RLDS members practicing certain occult things which didn't put any faith in Christ at all. To me, my beliefs began unraveling.
3) As I had more questions, I noticed that people stayed away from me and my family. We spent a number of years trying different branches, thinking for sure that we could find one in which we felt was right. But we didn't. More and more it seemed there was no true Spirit of Christ in Joseph Smith's churches.
Thankfully, Jacki read and studied a lot. This would help us later on when I got a hold of the book by Paul Trask and the book by Carol Hansen.
In an effort to allow me to lead our family in spiritual things, Jacki allowed me to decide where to go to church. We tried a number of different churches. We attended two different Baptist churches before we moved away from the Kansas City area. We started with a Baptist church in our new location, and even tried some others just to learn more about different churches. It was a real struggle. Other churches worshipped in such different ways than we were used to. Plus, Jacki wasn't at all convinced yet that the RLDS wasn't the true church of Christ.
While searching the Internet one day, I came upon the web sites by Mr. Trask and Ms. Hansen designed to help people in the RLDS church that are having doubts. I immediately bought the two books I've already mentioned. Jacki started on Mr. Trask's book, while I first read Ms. Hansen's book. I had been in limbo about what to do for many years now.
After reading just a little bit, I was firmly convinced that the RLDS church was not Christ's true church. I used to think there were only a few things that were different between the RLDS and mainstream Christian churches, but I soon realized the differences were many, and of eternal significance. What was a real surprise to me was that it didn't take too much of me talking to Jacki about it, and some reading on her part, before she realized she had been wrong. See, all along, all the studying she had done looking for the truth had finally paid off. She told me that she had had doubts when she read certain things in the book of Mormon and D&C in the past, but had never really tied things together. Knowing what she knew, it was easy for her to follow the evidence in these two books. She had never told me about her doubts, but had always defended the RLDS church strongly.
The amount of evidence for support of the Bible as God's true word, and against support of the RLDS church and it's books is incredible. I honestly believe that anyone who truly wants to know the truth about the Bible, and about Joseph Smith and his church(s), no matter what the cost, will come to the same conclusion that I and Jacki have...that the Bible is God's only inerrant word, and that Joseph Smith's teachings are false and deceiving.
Knowing what we know now has also firmly established us in a right relationship with Jesus Christ, and given us His peace. Jesus died "once for all" as it says in Hebrews. For salvation, we have to rely wholly on what Jesus has done for us. The things I've learned through Bible study, even since reading these two books, have made me wonder how I could have ever believed what I did.
While there are many more things that I could say, what I'd really like to suggest is studying the two books that I've mentioned a few times already. The amount of information that has been compiled for anyone to study has been such a great help to me. It's what finally turned the tide for both my wife and I toward being firmly grounded in our faith in Jesus Christ. I came into the RLDS church not knowing much of God's word, and I've left once I finally knew God's word. It's absolutely the most liberating sense a person can have. I encourage you to find this truth out for yourself. Don't just take what I have to say. Don't wait! God will be with you, and God loves you.
Clyde Land was born and raised in an RLDS home in Saskatchewan. As an adult he held RLDS priesthood for over 25 years, including the offices of Priest and Elder. He was also an Assistant Chaplain at the Independence Regional Health Center (the former RLDS hospital). However, both Clyde and his wife were growing increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of local church services and were becoming alarmed with the strange evolution of the World Church. After much study and prayer Clyde left the RLDS church and was baptized into Jesus Christ alone. He now feels he has truly been set free by God's grace to live the life God had been planning for him all along.
Why I Left the RLDS Church
I was born in January 1937 in Shellbrook, Saskatchewan, Canada in the home of my aunt Emma Beckman. The only church teaching that I received as a youngster was the doctrine of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My father was an elder in that church and the only church services I attended until I was out on my own, at age fifteen, were those of the RLDS church.
I was taught that the RLDS church was the “one and only true church” and that the founder of that denomination, Joseph Smith, Jr., was a prophet of God and had been chosen by God to restore the original church, which had been taken away from earth because of apostasy. Also I was taught that the Book of Mormon was a supplement to the Bible, but that the Bible being used before Joseph Smith’s time had been changed and many parts had been left out. Therefore, I should use the “Inspired Version” of the Bible, which had been corrected by Joseph Smith.
I did not question these teachings, and for years I followed the teachings and doctrines as they were laid down by Joseph Smith and his successors. Even through all the turmoil and breaking away by various groups over disagreements about doctrine and teachings, I held firm to the tenants of the RLDS Church. After all, the leaders were prophets designated by God to lead this “one true church.”
I had been ordained to the office of priest in 1972 and had functioned in that office until the late 1990’s, at which time I began to experience considerable dissatisfaction. The congregation my family and I were attending had experienced a change in congregational leadership and the attitude of these leaders was that unless you were an elder you just did not function in any way in congregational functions involving priesthood.
My wife, Eleanor, was also experiencing dissatisfaction with the services at the congregation where we were attending and was told by someone at her work place about a couple of contemporary church congregations that had been sanctioned by the leadership of “the Church.” We started attending one of them and I became involved in the congregational leadership. After a period of some turmoil and readjustment the two contemporary congregations were combined into one and we moved to a new location and the name changed to Contemporary Christian Ministries. While we attended that congregation my wife was ordained to the office of priest and I was ordained to the office of elder.
After many ups and downs in the congregation, and shortly after I was ordained to the office of elder, we attended a series of classes presented by the brother of our pastor. Also, it was at this same time the church leadership held a congregational leaders workshop on the campus of Graceland University. I had become aware of some changes that were taking place in the teachings and doctrine of the Community of Christ (formerly known as the RLDS) church. These changes were a concern to me, and after reviewing the workshop course bulletin, I found that there were such recommended classes as Walking the Labyrinth: a Path to Transformation, The Enneagram I, The Enneagram II: a Tool for Transformation and Reiki Training (1st degree).
These (and other classes like them) were listed as ”hands-on-training” for the congregational leaders to take back to their local congregations and incorporate into the local worship services. Church leadership was pushing for general acceptance of homosexuality in the church as well as incorporating rituals and symbols from other religions into congregational worship. While at the Independence Regional Health Center, where I was an assistant Chaplin, I read an article written about a congregation in Ontario, Canada where they had attended Wicken services (Wicken is a form of occult worship). I read about this in the Community of Christ official church publication. The article was written by the local appointee in Ontario and he and church leadership were making a push for approval of the acceptance of other religions.
All these events, along with the “set free” classes that I attended and having read some books Reorganized Latter Day Saint Church: Is it Christian? by Carol Hansen, Part Way to Utah: The Forgotten Mormons by Paul Trask and The Burning of a Strange Fire by Barney Fuller prompted me to start to do some investigating into the origin of the RLDS church. In reading the RLDS church history and talking to present and past leaders of the RLDS church I became even more concerned and convinced that all these years I had been deceived and lied to.
In Luke 16:13 Jesus says “No servant can serve two masters for either he will hate the one and love the other or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” One of the major deciding factors for me was that during the time that Joseph Smith Jr. was in Nauvoo he was a member of the local chapter of the Freemasons. According to RLDS church history he held one of the highest ranks possible in that organization. Through several months of study I found that the Freemasons are an occult organization and was founded as such. It became obvious to me that Joseph Smith Jr. could not be a servant of God and a member of an occult organization at the same time. Logic says that is not possible, so I started an exhaustive period of prayer asking God to answer three questions for me. Based on the answers to those three questions I would determine what action to take as to my membership in the RLDS church.
After a period of five to six weeks of prayer all three questions were answered for me. No one except God and I knew what the questions were, not even my wife. To have these questions answered by people who had no idea that I was on a quest confirmed to me that the time had come for me to be re-baptized. I had been baptized into and confirmed a member of the RLDS church, not to Jesus Christ. Now it was time to be baptized to Jesus.
Still seeking confirmation that my decision was the right one I took up a study of the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith claimed he had translated from gold plates. The key person in the very beginning of the book is Lehi, who was supposedly a prophet of God who was living in Jerusalem around 600 B.C. Timeline wise, this would have made him a peer of Jeremiah. The one thing that I have learned is that no matter where the Jews were or how far they had strayed from God’s teachings and commandments, they at least observed the Passover, commemorating their escape from Egypt. Nowhere in the Book of Mormon does it say anything about the feast of the Passover or any of the other religious feasts that the Jews celebrate.
This was the final step in my deciding that the Book of Mormon was a lie and was just a fiction novel that someone had written. In the Book of Mormon it says that the Nephites kept the Law of Moses as well as worshipped Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ fulfilled the law and did away with the Law of Moses by dying on the cross.
It is my testimony that Jesus died for all people and that even though we do not deserve it our salvation is assured when we accept Jesus Christ as the only begotten Son of God and ask Him to come into our lives, forgive us of our sins and be ruler of our lives. There is nothing we can do to earn salvation, that was taken care of by Jesus on the cross of Calvary. Now I have been set free to do all the things that Jesus says we should do, not because it will earn salvation for me but because that salvation is assured by the sacrifice made by the Son of God—Jesus Christ.
Clyde G. Land
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
You can send Clyde an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eleanor Land was a third generation RLDS member from Saskatchewan, Cananda. She had to spend a number of years in the "center place," Independence, Missouri, before she realized she had been misled by RLDS teachings. Since then, she and her husband Clyde have returned to Canada to share their newfound faith in Jesus alone with family and friends.
Jesus is the Answer
I was born into a very loving family in the town, Delisle, Saskatchewan. My parents were farmers, as were my mother’s parents before her. Both my parents and grandparents lived in the big house on that farm. I am the second oldest of a family of six children, four girls and then two boys. When I was eight years old my grandparents retired from the farm and moved into Saskatoon (a city about thirty-five miles away) and later on my older sister, Lois, and I went to live with them during the week so we could attend a near by high school..
While we lived on the farm we seldom missed the opportunity to attend church. We would travel the thirty-five miles to Saskatoon to attend a very small branch of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My grandparents had been converts to this faith and when my father married my mother he also was converted to “the church.” The headquarters for the RLDS church are in Independence, Missouri and being a VERY small congregation we did not have a lot of contact with church leadership. We did have an older gentleman by the name of Will Cornish (known to everyone as “Uncle Will”) who would travel by train from town to town and then he would walk around the area contacting the people and sharing his testimony. We would always look forward to Uncle Will’s visits because he had some neat stories to tell about his travels.
After my grandparents moved into Saskatoon my parents made sure we attended church every Sunday that it was possible. I can remember on at least one occasion the roads were next to impassable and, since we lived two and a half miles from the main highway, it was dirt road for those two and a half miles, my parents decided that we would go to church anyway. We had a hired man who worked and lived on our farm and so Jake drove the tractor and dad drove the car. There were many times when the tractor was on the road, towing the car, but the back wheels of the car were in the ditch. We lost several fingernails before we reached the paved road that took us the rest of the way into Saskatoon. The trip home that evening was the same—Jake met us at the highway and towed us home. We always ate dinner at my grandparent’s house, spent the afternoon there and then went to the “evening preaching” service. This was the “normal” Sunday for as long as I can remember.
As a child, seeing how important it was for my parents to get us to church made a very definite impression me. I was never really tempted to do a lot of the things many of the other kids my age were doing, such as drinking and smoking. It was also against ALL rules, living in my grandparent’s home, to dance or play cards. These were “the devil’s tools” and we were to have no part of them. As a result, Lois and I didn’t have a lot of friends from school consequently just about our only association with kids our own age was at the youth meetings (Zion’s League) and youth rallies that were held a couple times a year and youth camp and “reunion” (family camp) every summer. I thought that the loneliness and empty feeling that haunted me all the time was a result of what I considered “isolation as a result of our religious beliefs.” Those feelings were always there, though, and no matter how many people I was around or how much fun I was having I always had that devastating lonely and empty feeling that I couldn’t explain or put into words.
After I finished high school I worked for a year and then decided to go to college. Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa is sponsored by the RLDS Church and so being a “good” RLDS girl that was where I decided to go. I also thought that this would be a very good place to meet my future husband, since it was considered being weak in the faith to marry outside “the church”, and maybe if God would provide a husband for me that would fill my void. So in August 1959 I left for Graceland. I spent two years there and graduated with an Associates of Arts degree in secretarial science. I made several good friends there but not the “one special person in my life” that I was looking for who would make me “feel whole” and get rid of that lonely and alone feeling that constantly plagued me.
After graduation I went back to Saskatoon. I dated a few guys but none of them met my religious and moral expectations. By fall 1963 I decided that I would move. The only place I could think of to move to was Independence, Missouri (the church headquarters). There I could be around lots of people who believed like I did and I would be able to find that “special person” who would be the answer to all my problems and then I wouldn’t feel so empty. So, I did the necessary things to obtain my alien registration card so I could move to and work in the United States and on June 4, 1964 I crossed the border and became a U.S. resident.
I made several friends in Independence, most of them girls, and I attended all the youth and church activities that I could—all in hopes of finding “mister right.” I was continually praying that God would find someone for me in order to fill that void that I felt in my life. It never occurred to me that the void that I felt was because I didn’t know Jesus nor had I accepted Him as my personal Savior. I had been taught that you cannot believe in being saved by grace alone. If you believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost (the trinity) and if you work hard enough and live a good enough life then, and only then, will God decide if you have salvation. Other religions were wrong when they believed in being saved by grace alone, even though that is what the Bible says. However, it also says “faith without works is dead” so I must have to work in order to obtain that promised salvation.
In October, 1965 I went to a youth meeting and while I was visiting with some of my girl friends I felt something on my neck. I turned around to see what it was and I came eye to eye with a young man I had gone to church camp with up in Canada. Clyde had earlier moved to the United States and joined the U.S. army. He had come to Independence to visit his mother who spent the winter months there where she had several relatives. Needless to say I was very shocked to see him there but learned that he had just returned from Germany and was leaving in a couple of weeks to be stationed in Virginia. After the meeting was over I offered to drive Clyde to his mother’s apartment that was just across town. After arriving there we sat in the car and talked for a long time. About 1:00 a.m. he became very quiet and so I asked him what he was thinking and he proposed to me. Now, as I look back, it was God’s plan that I accept his marriage proposal because after I said I would marry him I thought I had totally lost my mind. Clyde both drank and smoked and he was not the type of person I really had in mind for a life’s partner. However, God knew Clyde’s heart and knew that he could and would change and be the servant that God wanted him to be.
Clyde and I were married on March 26, 1966 and five months later he left to fight in the Viet Nam war. During his tour of duty he was injured in a helicopter crash that left him with fractured vertebrae in his neck and other back problems. After he returned we were stationed in Georgia for eighteen months and then he was discharged. While we lived in Georgia we were faithful to the RLDS religion. There was no RLDS church in the area but there were two other couples of that faith so we started one. I had thought that being married to the man I loved would take care of the void in my life. I continued to search for earthly ways to fill that void but nothing helped.
After his discharge we moved to Independence, Missouri. Surely being back in the “center place” would help me find the answers. We lived there until August, 1976 at which time God led us to Arizona, where we once again were faithful in our service to Him. Many people in Independence thought we were being “weak in the faith” moving from the “center place.” We were to “gather to Zion” not move away from it. All this time I never felt fulfilled in my relationship with God. It was like an old wound that would never heal—it just kept bothering me. Because the Utah Mormon church was so prominent in Arizona I had grown to the point that I was ashamed to tell people I was a member of the RLDS church because I thought they would think I was a “Mormon” and I didn’t want to be “one of them” because we all knew the Mormon church was a cult and I knew our church wasn’t because we had been told, through Joseph Smith, that we were the one and only true church on earth. They even added that all others were “an abomination in the sight of God.” I sure couldn’t see that because I couldn’t find anything in the Bible (when I read it, which was rare) that agreed with that but that was what God had told Joseph Smith so it must be true because he was God’s prophet in this day and age.
Clyde was attending university in Arizona and after he graduated he was unable to find a good job. So we made the decision to move back to Independence if he could find one there. He did find one and in December, 1982 we moved back to the Independence area (back to the center place). We started attending church in Blue Springs, where we lived, but that wasn’t meeting our needs--we were still not being “fed spiritually.” During this time I had gotten a job with the publishing house for the RLDS church. One of my duties was to send a “mini bookstore” selection of books, etc. to the summer camps (reunions) that were held during the summer months in about ninety different locations in the United States. This meant that I had to read a lot of the books, lots of them being authored by non-RLDS people. I was being exposed to views that weren’t necessarily RLDS. I began to crave more and more for something to fill that void that I still had in my chest. I found that Grace Livingston Hill had written some novels that were both easy reading and talked a lot about believing in Jesus as your personal Savior and being saved because He had died on the cross for “me.” All of a sudden I wanted to hear more and more about this. We had gotten to the point where we realized that we VERY SELDOM heard Jesus’ name mentioned at the church where we attended and it became more and more difficult to make ourselves go to hear “nothing” but a lot of theological nothing. One day I was sharing with one of the girls I worked with and she suggested we might be happy attending the Contemporary Christian branch where she attended. We did and were surprised to learn that here they talked about Jesus and we sang “praise songs” that spoke about taking Jesus into your heart and letting him change your life and be your guide. All of a sudden I couldn’t get enough of this kind of teaching.
We were quite content in the Contemporary Christian branch for several years but finally we could see that “the church” was leaning more and more toward the “New Age” beliefs and we didn’t agree with that. Our pastor’s brother had been a church appointee but had left the church. This brother had come to know Jesus and was teaching and preaching about Him. Our pastor invited him to come into our congregation to teach a class on Spiritual Renewal and we were completely thrilled with what we were hearing. For the first time I could begin to feel that I could have a personal relationship with God and Jesus—the kind I had hungered for all these years. I hadn’t realized that my “void” was because I had never invited Jesus to be a “part of my life.” He had always been someone I just believed in.
Hearing this good news and seeing the direction “the church” was going made me receptive to some new ideas that were being brought out about what the RLDS church (now Community of Christ) was really all about. Some friends of ours shared with us about a couple of books that did a detailed breakdown of RLDS beliefs versus what the Bible teaches. For the first time in my life I could see that we had been mislead all these years. I wanted to be re-baptized because when I was baptized, at age eight (the age “of accountability”) I was baptized so I could partake of the communion and not because I had given my life to Jesus and I was then confirmed a member of the RLDS church. Therefore I needed baptism. So, on September1, 2001 Clyde, our son, Jared and I, along with seven others were all baptized “to Jesus.” It was the most wonderful feeling in the world. It was like someone had taken a huge weight off of my shoulders and when that happened the void that I had felt for so long was filled.
It was as a result of this decision that we felt that God was leading us to share this new found freedom and truth in Canada. We weren’t quite sure how we were going to do it but we knew this was God’s will for our lives. Most people don’t move from a warmer climate to a colder one for retirement but this was what God was asking us to do. Clyde retired from his job on February 1, 2002 but I continued to work even though my job had become something that I hated. I had never had a job that I really hated before but because of my moral and religious beliefs it was becoming almost impossible to continue working for the firm where I was employed. It was then that I realized that on September 20, 2002 I would be old enough to take “early retirement” and leave my job. This opened the doorway for us to be able to move and still have the necessary income to live without becoming a burden on anyone. So, we started making plans in that direction. The only thing we knew was that we were supposed to move to Canada—but WHERE!!All we could do was pray for direction and trust God to lead us.
The first weekend in September we were making a weekend trip to Branson, Missouri to have a short vacation before the moving became serious. As we were driving along I was praying for guidance as to where we should go. We had felt Saskatchewan was the province, since most of my family lived here, but we didn’t know what part. As I was praying it was impressed on me “Stop worrying about it—I have it all taken care of.” My reaction was, “God, is that you telling me this?” So I stopped praying. However, typically me, further down the road I started praying again. Again, “Stop worrying about it, I told you I have it all taken care of.” This time I didn’t question who it was speaking to me.
Three weeks later, on my birthday, my sister Lois called me. Lois, her husband and their son live in Paddockwood, Saskatchewan. She had called me to wish me a happy birthday and while we talked we were discussing the move. She asked me where we were going to be moving to and I told her I didn’t know but that God had it all taken care of. I shared with her that we had always wanted to live on an acreage but it was going to be up to God. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be near Saskatoon, Prince Albert or even in Saskatchewan. Her comment was, “I’ll keep my eyes open and see what’s available up in this area.” This was on Friday evening and on Saturday morning we were going to be going to Jefferson City to visit our son and daughter-in-law and their family. As we were driving to Jefferson City Lois called on our cell phone to tell us about a house for rent. It was on an acreage and it was about fifteen miles west of Prince Albert. We ended up renting the house and on November 8, 2002 we crossed the border into Saskatchewan.
We have prayed for guidance and God continues to lead us in the direction He wants us to go. He has put people in our pathway who have been a blessing to us as we strive to do His will. He continues to open doors that only He can open and all we have to do is step through. I now have the assurance that He loves me so very much and instead of having that old empty feeling, I now have the knowledge that I am God’s child and He will always walk with me and carry me through those times when I need to be carried.
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
You can send Eleanor an email at: email@example.com.
Christopher Evans was born into and raised by a very loving and caring RLDS family who where very sincere but sincerely wrong in what they taught him as being “divine truth”. He once believed so strongly in the cause and establishment of Zion, the New Jerusalem, in Independence, Missouri. After much research into the “Real Truth”, he discovered that this was only a dream and fantasy of an imaginary utopia that will never exist in reality but in the minds of those lost in this strong delusion.
I was born into and raised by a very loving and caring RLDS family, so as I grew up the church’s fundamental teachings were near and dear to my heart. I believed, as I was taught, that the RLDS church was the "only true church" upon the face of the earth.
In my youth, I spent much time reading Joseph Smith’s version of the Bible, The Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants. I started striving for that sanctification that I thought I must first reach, in order to be a worthy follower of Christ. During that period of time I fell into many temptations of the world. I could not understand why I could not break free from the darkness that began to take hold of me, as I was trying hard to follow the church teachings.
In my teenage years, I made many wrong and foolish choices that brought about much heartache and pain in my life. I believed that if I could only achieve a higher level of righteousness by my own good works, I would come to some spiritual perfection in my life, and that in turn, I would be free from those worldly chains that were wrapped around me. This kind of thinking only intensified the depression I felt with each failure I experienced. Over and over again I would try with all of "my" strength to live a righteous life, only to once again fall back into the ways of the world.
"What was I doing wrong"? This was a question that I continued asking myself, with each passing sin I stumbled into.
In the midst of my unstable life, I met a wonderful sweet girl with whom I fell in love and married. Though she was such a strength to me I became quite a stumbling block to her. She had been raised in the Baptist faith so I was always pushing my religion on her, trying to convince her that mine was the true church.
As the years passed I continued trying to make my wife into the person I thought she should be. Unfortunately, I found out too late that I really loved her just the way she was. Sadly, she found herself unable to continue in our relationship and the marriage ended, although I still desired in my heart to spend the rest of my life with her and our new beautiful little daughter.
I found myself even more miserable than ever before. In the pit of despair, I began longing more and more for my ex-wife and daughter to return into my life. I sought the elders of the church on many occasions for spiritual strength and guidance, but received only temporary comfort. I soon fell back into my old sinful lifestyle.
I was always able to make many friends from all different walks of life, with a superficial personality. Though I was hurting on the inside, I would hide behind a happy mask, pretending that all was well on the outside. Even my friends could not fill that deep dark void in my life.
As I continued going back to church, I could not understand why I was still feeling such a spiritual hunger. I began wandering aimlessly in a spiritual desert, thinking I had the fullness of the gospel and carried with me the light of God. Little did I know that I was actually in spiritual darkness and how great that darkness was. I believed that when I was reading and studying the three standard books of the church, I was feasting upon God’s holy words, but I soon found out that I was only feasting on crumbs.
One day as I was reading in II Thessalonians Chapter 2, I came to these words, "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie." This scripture came to me in such power. Could I be under some kind of delusion? This uncomfortable thought continued arising in my mind from time to time.
Questions also began to surface with regard to many of the church teachings that did not seem to me to be in harmony with the Bible. So I began praying for discernment, still feeling that the church was right and that perhaps the devil was trying to deceive me into even questioning it.
As time passed, I began researching and I discovered many discrepancies in the church doctrines and history. The more I would try to somehow rationalize them, the more inconsistencies I found. Something was happening and I was not quite sure what. I continued praying, and asked Jesus Christ to come into my life and to be my personal Lord and Savior. A wonderful feeling of peace and comfort came upon me.
After analyzing numerous historical pieces on Joseph Smith and the establishment of his church, and last of all the Book of Mormon, I put all of the pieces together and was completely shocked at the picture that was before me. I could no longer deny the facts. The church I grew up in and loved was a "counterfeit religion" with a "false prophet." I had been deceived, but my prayers were answered and I found the truth I had been seeking.
The truth is that Jesus Christ is the "only way"."I am the way, the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me," says Jesus (John 14:6). The true gospel is not in the RLDS church but is the Good News that Jesus was born, died, and rose from the dead so that we may live. "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed"(Gal. 1:8). We do not come to God through some legalistic religious organization created by man, but only through the perfect Son of God.
It is not a "religion" that has saved me but a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is only by surrendering completely to Him, believing in His finished work upon the Cross, and trusting only in the sweet grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, that I have been saved, not by any works of my own. "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; (Isa. 64:6). The best that I can do in my own effort is as filthy rags before the Pure and Holy God. We cannot earn our way into the Kingdom of God, because salvation is a free gift; we only need to receive that gift.
Christ, who fulfilled the Law of Moses, has set us free from the law of sin and death. He took the punishment that we deserve. It should have been us on the Cross, not Him. But even that would not atone for my sins, only the sacrifice of a "perfect lamb" without blemish or spot, would satisfy the Law and Christ alone did that. He did all this because He loves us. He wants us to experience Him from the very hour that we are "born again". Not just to be saved for the future, but to be saved for today. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
Mormonism keeps men in bondage to the Law. It leads people to believe that what Christ did on the Cross was not good enough and that we must somehow add to what He did. We cannot add to or take away from the finished work of Christ. Our good works are a result of our faith in Him, not a pre-requisite for salvation. We do good works out of gratitude and thankfulness for what He has done for us, not because we are trying to earn our way into heaven. The Bible teaches: Faith = Salvation + works not Faith + Works = Salvation.
If people would only search the Bible and let the Holy Spirit open their eyes and ears to the True Word, they would know the truth. If they would only search the historical facts of Mormonism, they would find a weak, unsteady "sandy foundation" that was not created by God, but man. "Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you (Mat. 7:7).
Though I have had to face the consequences of leaving the RLDS church by experiencing some rejection from family and friends, God has been with me all the way. He has made the transition bearable. He has been my complete strength in getting through this new change that has taken place in my life. It is as though my whole life up to this time was a dream and I have now been awakened to the truth. I am now a completely new person who can see the real world around me with new eyes. God is so good!
I now feel such a great joy that I have never had before, a joy that only comes through a ‘real’ relationship with Jesus Christ. He is now everything to me! He has removed the guilt and pain from my past by removing those blinders that Satan had put before my eyes for so many years. Yes, the truth does set you free! This freedom comes not by "my good works" but only by the sweet and loving Grace of God. He lifted me out of my darkness and brought me into His light. Only by the "blood of Jesus" have I been made clean. Praise the Lord! My prayers are that others who are lost in Mormonism may also come to the freedom and truth that is found only in Jesus Christ.
You can send Christopher an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shirley Bulen spent 40 years in the RLDS church. Her family heritage in the RLDS church was very strong. She was the 5th generation on both sides of her family. Her maternal great-great-grandfather was Joseph Luff, a well-known and respected apostle of the early RLDS church. On the paternal side, her great-great grandfather was Thomas Brocaw, a devoted missionary in his time.
A Journey to Truth
“If you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures;
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.”
I will always be grateful for my RLDS upbringing. My parents taught us to put the Lord first in our lives, and they lived the example.
My family heritage in the RLDS church was strong. I was the 5th generation on both sides of my family. My maternal great-great-grandfather was Joseph Luff, a well-known and respected apostle of the early RLDS church. On the paternal side, my great-great grandfather was Thomas Brocaw, a devoted missionary in his time as well.
As a small child I made a decision to follow Jesus. Even through the normally rebellious teen years I desired to live in a way that would honor God. It is difficult to see error when living by the accepted truth that you know.
It was the upheaval in the RLDS church that brought me to a place of searching for the truth of God. The disagreement over basic beliefs and doctrines caused many splits. Some claimed new revelation, others claimed to preach the truth as set forth by Joseph Smith. Each had a specific doctrinal focus and there was no agreement. The saving grace of Jesus Christ was never the focus. It was a very confusing time. As I tried to discern where God wanted me, questions began to arise. I had to find some answers.
1) The order of priesthood was not part of the New Testament church, especially, as Jesus was and is the final, permanent and present High Priest. (Hebrews 7:23-28)
2) The Book of Mormon is not the "fullness of the gospel", but Jesus fills that role. (Colossians 1:25-27, 2:9)
3) The Book of Mormon was not "translated" with the urim and thumim, but rather by Joseph Smith hiding his head in his hat with a "peep stone" and words appearing for him, while the gold plates were not even around. (CH Vol. 1:346)
4) Many early revelations were changed, or, in later times, dropped off or moved to an appendix…does God change His mind? (Book of Commandments, Doctrine & Covenants)
Because the premise of the church, claimed by Joseph Smith, was that all other churches were wrong and the gospel was ‘restored’ through him, I decided the best way to find the truth was to study what Joseph Smith originally taught. I went to church literature, and began reading the oldest book I had on the subject, “Joseph Smith and His Progenitors.” An account written by Joseph Smith’s own mother, Lucy Mack Smith. From my own mother’s heart, it only made sense that she would write an account as accurate as possible, with insights into the earliest teachings.
I had not read very far into the book before I began to be consumed with doubts. Not only about the origin of the church, but in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon as well.
For the next 2 years I read many books and searched through volumes of church History and old documents located at the RLDS library and archives. I was amazed at the evidence of error and occult practice I found that had so carefully been filtered out of the teaching and the history that is presented to church members. I tried to talk myself into justifying the error. Elders I counseled with would encourage me not to read any more. I could not choose to ignore the facts. I prayed that God would lead me to understand His truth.
This does not happen overnight. After 40 years in the church, this was a terrible time for me. The RLDS church had been my family. But I had to acknowledge the truths I discovered. Once I decided that I needed to break with the church it was final. It was also a time of grief. There is always some rejection involved. I felt lost because I had no church home. As I prayed for guidance, I turned from research about the church to Bible study.
This is the gospel: I Corinthians 15:1-11
How God speaks to us today: Hebrews 1:1-3, and John 14:26
What should we NOT follow: Galatians 1:8.
I finally began to learn that I was not alone. Others had embarked on the same quest and had documented the errors in the church. Had I known that, I would not have needed to spend so many hours searching through the records and documents myself. Do you have doubts or concerns? Are you also a "closet-doubter"? Do you have questions about the Restoration doctrine? Do you desire the truth of God in your life? Ask for His Holy Spirit as you study His word. It is my testimony that God is faithful and will lead us in truth when we place our trust and faith completely in Him and Him alone, not in a creed or religious system. May God bless you as you grow in communion with Him.
Shirley Nunn Bulen
Blue Springs, Missouri
You can send Shirley an email at: email@example.com.
Carolyn (Beem) Smith grew up as a third generation RLDS. As a young adult she fell away from faith for a time, but returned to her spiritual roots upon the death of her mother. She soon felt herself aligned with the more “fundamental” part of the church. Her fundamentalism was extreme at times, and ultimately led her to divorce her “non-RLDS” husband of nineteen years. In her fundamentalist zeal, she would later enter into two other marriages doomed to failure. Her fourth husband challenged her RLDS beliefs, and put her on the path of deliverance. At a church of his choosing she encountered missionaries who specialize in teaching about pseudo-Christian cults, such as Mormonism. In a diligent effort to prove them wrong, she encountered the Lord through His Word. For the first time in her life, the Bible came alive to her through God’s Holy Spirit. There He unfolded His plan of salvation, and saved her. From that point on, she has experienced continual spiritual growth in the Lord through His Spirit and His Word. She had long struggled under the bondage of Joseph Smith, with a patchwork quilt of beliefs which did not agree or make sense. That was all swept away in a moment by a face to face encounter with the Lord through His Word, in Spirit and in Truth. In early 2004 Carolyn began studies at Calvary Bible College in Grandview, Missouri.
"COME SEE A MAN WHO TOLD ME ALL THINGS I EVER DID" (John 4:29)
"I passed by you and saw you struggling...I said to you...Live!" (Ezekiel 16:6).I grew up as a third-generation Reorganized Latter Day Saint (RLDS), my folks gathering to Zion (Independence, MO) a year before I was born. This seed of my beginnings grew roots in a soil tilled with grief, as I will now explain: When I was three my older sister died of a brain tumor—the fourth child to die of the five that were born to my parents (I was the youngest). The losses were unspeakably sad, and in my three-year-old mind it was my responsibility to diffuse my parents' grief. Furthermore, I was to guard a trunk full of these children's belongings (which I did for the next forty-some years). My father couldn't help that he responded to the grief by secluding himself to the shallow dirt basement of our home, sometimes for several days at a time. For the rest of his life he remained emotionally distant to hide his pain. He developed an enlarged heart after my sister died and didn't work for about a year. He took care of me while my mother made the family living. I remember the terror that continually swept over me. I didn't know why I felt this way; I just knew I was terrified. When my mother was able to quit working I would not let her out of my sight. This was my early life as a child of Joseph Smith followers: terror-struck and smothered by a heavy blanket of grief.
My mother sought refuge in the RLDS church activities, with me shadowing her every move. Becoming a part of the church group helped. But extreme shyness caused me to turn my feelings of heaviness and terror into self-destructive behaviors and a ‘devil may care’ attitude. I was a very troubled child who became a troubled, impulsive adult. For years I had flashbacks of foreboding terror which were minimized only by impulsiveness. I am certain I was prayed over by well-meaning people, but I now believe they were praying to the wrong god. If my mother (an adult convert to RLDS) hadn't read Bible stories to me I would have heard little about Jesus and the Bible. The RLDS preachers would speak "under the influence of the spirit" which became a regular occurrence and felt very natural to me. Reacting to one's emotions and to one's feelings (rather than responding according to God's Word, the Bible) was the way of life for my family and my church kin. And, though I didn't remember Bible scriptures being taught, I certainly knew the hymn, "Work for the Night is Coming." The people believed in working for the “cause of Zion: Latter Day Israel,” an “all things common” community to be established in Jackson County in preparation for the Lord's return.
“A wise woman builds her house, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands” (Proverbs 14:1). Between the ages of nineteen and twenty-three I disavowed Christianity, not just Joseph Smith's version. I married my college sweetheart, and life might have continued this course if my mother hadn't died after she suffered a short illness. Her death occurred just ten days before my second child, my son, was born. Unresolved childhood issues came back like a nightmare that wouldn't leave, and in my grief I turned back to the RLDS church for support. The people were always eager to embrace me. As my relationship with the church grew I asked questions about early Joseph Smith history which had several conflicting origins. The church people's response was, “Don't question. just believe.” This was another part of my inheritance, to not question, just believe. My husband was not interested in church, so these matters didn't concern him. Years passed, and I stopped questioning as I clung to the RLDS fellowship. In the late 1970's I noticed a division between the liberal and fundamental theologies which people professed. My children and I started attending a large fundamental RLDS congregation ("fundamental" meaning that people adhered to certain parts of Joseph Smith's teachings and history). I became a fanatic as the leaders experimented with mysticism and "mediums" (as mentioned and condemned in Deuteronomy 18:11 and other Old Testament scriptures). They believed they were acting according to God's will. By fall of 1981, I felt I had experiences in which I was instructed to divorce my “un-RLDS” husband. My marriage of nineteen years ended, which was a heart-wrenching event for my family. Though I hadn't known the story of the Samaritan woman (John, Chapter 4), I later realized my life would resemble this woman's life, that is, before she met Jesus.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”(Jeremiah 17:9a). I became involved in one of the RLDS ministries in which New Age theology was abundant. While involved I had a satanic encounter in which I seemed to be the center of the target. I was prayed over by well meaning people, and my initial fear was replaced with the thought that I had accomplished the supernatural. I felt a greater bond with my church kin who’d had similar experiences. I didn't realize those “familiar spirits” (Leviticus 19:31 and other Old Testament writings) were much too familiar. I was married again in June of 1983 to an RLDS deacon. I thought this marriage would bring more stability to my family. But things soon changed. The church went through a huge splintering into many small factions in 1984. For a year or so one of the factions met in our home. Our leader was a very persuasive speaker and had a way of drawing people to him. At the end of this time my youngest daughter had a serious accident. The accident brought forth evidence of gross misconduct within that group which caused my daughter and me to leave their fellowship. This meant we had to leave our home. Chaos followed for several months while my youngest and I scrambled to get our bearings. My second husband chose not to leave the group and divorced me in September of 1986.
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill and to destroy”(John 10:10a). I felt like a kite cut loose: no marriage and no place “in Zion” to call home, but still so much confidence in the Book of Mormon. I had recurring experiences that made me feel like an angel was standing over me while I studied the Joseph Smith materials. My beliefs were like torn rags that didn't fit together (the tail on the end of the kite!) Just a couple months passed after this divorce when an RLDS elder took my youngest and me “under his wings.” This third marriage turned sour quickly, and another divorce loomed on the horizon. I considered myself a “splinter-RLDS” (now called Restorationist), but I did not fit in with any of the church groups. Unbelievably, I was “rescued” again and married for the fourth time in December, 1988. My finite mind thought the mysterious god with whom I'd grown up was going to deliver me from all my problems through marriage “to the right man.” I didn't know the infinite God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would soon be my Deliverer! My fourth husband visited the Restoration church services but was offended by their teachings. He did not profess to be a Bible scholar, but he could tell they were not preaching completely from the Bible and he refused to visit again. “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10b).
“Call to me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). I hung on to the Restorationists' teachings but gave up trying to be a part of them. In the fall of 1991 I was so desperate for a church home that I agreed to let my husband pick a church to visit. God had a surprise for me at that first evangelical Christian service. There stood a young missionary and his family who were home on furlough from South America. Their work was to expose the false teachings of pseudo-Christian cults to South Americans who were being proselytized by Mormons. This missionary made the same presentation at the church we visited. Energized by anger, I let the missionary have a piece of my “Book of Mormon mind.” He kindly pointed me to the Bible and to resources regarding the belief system in which I had been reared. I was determined to “call his bluff” when I began my studies, but I immediately began to read with new understanding when I opened an authorized version of the Bible (not Joseph Smith's “Inspired Version”). I even understood the other biblical reading materials I was furnished. I was so excited by being able to understand what I read, and a beautiful peace fell upon me, especially the more I read that Bible! “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the hear” (Hebrews 4:12).
“And I will establish My covenant with you. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, that you may remember and be ashamed, and never open your mouth anymore because of your shame”(Ezekiel 16:62 & 63a). I had a habit of studying early in the morning at the kitchen table. One dark morning as I was reading in the Book of Hebrews I read, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews Chapter 4:15-16). The words jumped from the page—especially “High Priest”, “mercy” and “grace”—and my soul was pierced as I began to realize the depth of my sins and how much I needed to repent and seek forgiveness. Here was Someone who could not only sympathize with me but could also save me! I confessed my sins, and my heart cried, “Yes, Jesus, You are the High Priest I've been looking for. Come be my Savior!" And He did! In a moment He also showed me how His Word (as contained in the Bible alone) could be studied like a diamond in the light. He showed me how the beautiful truths of His Word would shine forth whatever help I needed. All of this because He had placed His Holy Spirit in me, the moment He saved me! “So shall my Word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). I knew in an instant that I must forsake all Joseph Smith history and materials, that I must study the Bible as God's inerrant, authoritative Word. He also showed me that the church family for whom I was seeking was there at the foot of the tree (the empty cross where Jesus was crucified) and that this tree was my “family tree,” evidence of my new roots established in the fertile soil of His Word! For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith'.” (Romans 16:17).I was baptized in an evangelical Christian church on Easter, 1992, and the congregation sang, “We're Marching to Zion!” (the Zion of the Bible—Heaven—the city of the living God—Hebrews Chapter 12:22!) “He brought me to His banqueting table, and His banner over me is love!” (Song of Solomon 2:4).
“I am the Lord who healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26), for, “By His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5-6). Over eleven years have passed, and I am replacing my “don't question, just believe” attitude with God's Word (as contained solely in the Bible), keeping close communion with Him and staying in fellowship with other believers. A year or so before I began my studies, my oldest daughter and her husband had “come out” of Joseph Smith’s teachings and became believers (Jesus came “ to seek and save that which was lost” – Luke 19:10). I thought they had little influence on me as they lived a thousand miles away in Pennsylvania. But they had been praying, and God answered their prayers! All three of my children are now heirs of His Kingdom, my youngest daughter being saved a little over a year ago. They love the Lord and they love His Word! I am so blessed! My son, John Milholland, has posted his testimony, “Grace Accepted,” on the Refiner’s Fire Ministries website, (www.help4rlds.com.) Others of my family and friends have been saved since then. For each I pray and believe Psalm 37:23-25: Through His Word I have found that “though we may fall we will not utterly be cast down, for our steps are ordered by Him. He will not let our children or our children's children beg for bread” (His Word), but He will satisfy them with it's living truth!
I thought it was my lack of Bible knowledge that kept me from knowing who Jesus is (that He is God and He is my Savior). But my desires for carrying on my family's religious traditions had to become less than my desire for the true Word of God. I had to desire Jesus above everything the world had to offer,“The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (I John 2:15-16). I had to ask unwaveringly so that He would give me that desire. He said in Luke 12:32, “It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them”(Ephesians 2:8-10). In writing this testimony I have endeavored to do the good works God created me to do: shining God's light into the dark pit into which Satan had cast me while being involved in the Joseph Smith movement.
There's an acronym, “FAITH.” This is used in witnessing among some evangelical Christian churches, and means, “Forsaking All I Trust Him.” The reality of what this means has been a big part of my growing in Jesus. Like all sin, my sins—though forgiven by my Gracious Lord—have caused consequences that I face on a daily basis. It has taken time for me to relinquish my impulsiveness and other aspects of my old sin nature to the Lord. He convicts me and tells me to rely on Him every day, and I have to saturate myself with His Word to keep reprogramming my mind. As I grow in Him I pray His promise that He will “Restore the years the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25), “swarming locust” being my sins.
I realize that many in the Mormon, RLDS (Community of Christ) and Restorationist churches have not had the experiences I've had nor made the mistakes I've made. I believe they are desiring to make a positive impact on their community, and that their efforts are honest. But out of love and concern I would say the following: they must examine their roots—Joseph Smith's dubious history and the doctrine he taught. This permeates every effort they make “for the cause of Zion.” They should ask, “for which Zion am I striving?” Better yet, they should ask, “Which Jesus am I serving?”
Pseudo-Christianity is really NO Christianity at all. Instead, it is another religion that broadens the path to destruction. I am remembering how Jesus took a whip and drove the money-changers, the sellers and their animals out of the temple and turned over the money changers' tables (John 2:15). He did this because they were desecrating God's temple. His temple is now built up of those who have been saved by grace through faith. His church exists on earth among all believers. Jesus Christ is the Living Stone and Chief Cornerstone upon which we are living stones, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood (I Peter 2:4-5). This spiritual house has as the foundation the apostles and prophets of the Old Testament (Ephesians 2:20). The rock of revelation upon which this temple is built is God’s Word revealed: that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16-18). Adding to His pure gospel as given in the Bible is the same as selling wares in His temple and making the gate wide and the way broad. Jesus plainly said that the gate is narrow (Matthew 7:13-14), and there are few who find it. Are the Mormons/Community of Christ members/Restorationists (and all other Joseph Smith followers) part of “the few” or are they part of those on the broad path to destruction? The answer is in the Bible, not in a fable of which is spoken in II Timothy 4:3–4, “For the time will come when (people) will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”
Genesis 50:20 is the heart of my story: What was meant for evil God used for good. The conclusion is: “For the Lord God will help me; therefore I will not be disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed” (Isaiah 50:7). The epilogue is Psalm 126:1–3, 5 & 6, “When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing ... Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
Carolyn (Beem) Smith
You can send Carolyn an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teri Beatty was raised Catholic, but married a 4th generation RLDS man in 1969. She later joined the RLDS church herself and remained a member for twenty-seven years. Her and her family were active in the West Palm Beach, Florida RLDS congregation, and in various congregations in and around Independence, Missouri. The Lord led Teri out of the RLDS church a few years ago. She now belongs to Eastside Baptist Church, in Independence, Missouri, where she was miraculously healed her of long-term manic-depression at a prayer service. She has also worked at a local craft store for nine years.
I was born in April of 195l, in Opa Locka, Fla., the youngest of six kids. When I was seven days old I was baptized into the Catholic Church. When I was three, my family moved to West Palm Beach, Florida. I considered myself a pretty good Catholic. My future husband moved to Florida from Independence, Mo. when he was eleven. I met him when he was turning seventeen and I would soon be sixteen. He was RLDS and was attending church at the YWCA in West Palm Beach. I went to church with him sometimes. We dated for two years and were married in the RLDS church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Aug. 1, 1969. Soon after we were married our church moved into a new building about six blocks from our house. We were very active in the church even though I was not yet a member. I attended "cottage meetings" on how to become RLDS and when they were completed two priesthood members came to me and said, "You’re ready to be baptized." Even though I didn’t feel ready, I was baptized. I remember feeling uneasy about the whole thing, even as the baptism took place. The elders laid hands on me and confirmed me and afterwards my husband asked if I felt anything as they confirmed me and I’ve always wondered what I supposed to feel?
Our daughter Lori was born seven months after my baptism. We remained very active in our church—a very close-knit, loving group of people—like one big family. I felt like I was very close to Jesus and had lots of good times with our group at all of our services, camps, pot-lucks, etc.
In July of 1977 we moved to Independence, Missouri so my husband could be near his parents and younger brother who had returned to Independence two years earlier. We attended different RLDS churches, but the people in the "Centerplace" didn’t seem to welcome new people like our West Palm Beach group had. We soon moved to Blue Springs and two months later our son Brad was born. We continued visiting other churches and finally ended up at the Colburn Road Church.
In Sept. of 1987, my husband and I separated temporarily, and as a result, I was admitted to the hospital after not eating or sleeping for eleven days. They diagnosed me as "Bi-Polar" or Manic Depressive. After three days of all kinds of tests, I was put on "lithium" which I took three times a day. The Dr. talked like the pill would solve all my problems. Basically all the pill did was keep me from staying up around the clock. It didn’t help the depression. I always wanted to "help myself." I would buy self-help books and I tried to be positive, but still I found myself depressed most of the time with occasional manic episodes. I would lock myself in the bathroom with knives or sharp objects or a bottle of pills, trying to get up the courage to end my life. Many times when close friends found I had a depressive illness and was in the care of psychiatrists and psychologists, they would confide in me as if I could help them with their problems. After years of counseling I did get pretty good at counseling others. Sure I could talk the talk but when it came to myself, there was nothing that would take care of the depression. I would always pray about it. I never felt like I let go of God. I thought about going to the priesthood for administration (laying on of hands) but this little voice inside would say "Oh, you don’t want to do that"! Over the next eleven years there were suicide attempts, but the worst was when I stepped out in front of oncoming traffic. The Lord sent a guardian angel to watch over me that day or I would not be writing this today.
When RLDS World Conference occurred, my husband and I would go to the auditorium in hopes of seeing friends from Florida. During one conference our pastor from West Palm Beach came to our house to visit us. At that time there was a lot of talk about women being called to the priesthood. But it was just talked about at that time. As we were discussing this subject the pastor said, "I’ll stay in this church until something better comes along!" I carried those words around with me for years!
Then word came through the "prophet" of the church that we would have women in the priesthood. Some of our friends joined restoration churches but my husband said he was staying with the church even though he disagreed with women in the priesthood. I began to pray that the Lord would show me where he wanted me. In answer to my prayers the Lord showed me that I was not to be in the RLDS church at all!
The Doctor’s continued to try and help me with my illness.At one point I was on fifteen pills a day! I felt that no one cared at all for me, but I always knew my daughter and son loved me. After burying my oldest brother and dealing with another terrible tragedy in our family in Florida, I had a third breakdown. My kids tried everything to get me to go to the hospital. I finally gave up and went when the police came out and put handcuffs on me and put me in the back of a police car. They took me to Research Psychiatric Hospital. After a year of out-patient therapy, my Doctor said, "there’s nothing more I can do for you." I had lots of Christian friends praying for me, but I remember thinking, "I’ll have this the rest of my life, I might as well get used to it." Then one night on the TV I saw Pastor Paul Brooks from the First Baptist Church of Raytown. He was talking about how to defeat depression! The sermon was excellent and he used many Bible verses. He recommended doing four things: 1) change your diet, (2 get adequate rest at night, 3) read the Bible everyday, and 4) have church leaders place hands on and pray for healing. I told my husband about the program and he advised me to go to the RLDS priesthood. But I did not want to go to them for administration, I would rather have lived with the depression.
About this time, my daughter began witnessing to me. She had left the RLDS church six years earlier. A neighbor had recently given her the book "RLDS Church: Christian or Cult?" We rode around in her car one day for miles while she talked and I listened. Then one day she called me and we stayed on the phone for six hours. Before I hung up I asked her for the book. One day my son walked in and I showed him what I was reading and he said, "Oh, it’s true Mom." The next time I was alone I took the book and Joseph Smith’s "Inspired Version" of the Bible. The Lord immediately opened my eyes. At that time my daughter and I were having a garage sale, during which we were invited to four different Christian churches. I took some money from the sale and told her I wanted to go buy myself a "real" Bible. She said she would take me to the store where they carry the book "RLDS Church: Christian or Cult". We both decided we wanted to find a Bible believing church. I bought my Bible, and bought a little picture Bible for my Grandsons. For the first time in a long time I was feeling true happiness. As we were checking out the lady behind the counter invited us to her church on Sunday. We agreed we would go. As we walked to the car, she came to the door and said, "Teri and Lori, come Wednesday night too, it’s at seven o’clock." As I turned back toward the car I felt this wonderful electricity go through my whole body! Not painful but a sweet feeling—"the Lord letting you know you’re heading in the right direction" electricity. The next Sunday my daughter and I began attending Eastside Baptist Church and we have been going there ever since.
We got into a Bible study class the pastor was teaching and one night in the class, I prayed to receive Jesus as my personal Savior. Now, each time I go to our church I feel so at home there. Soon after this I went to a prayer service where former members of the RLDS church met. There were nine people there (eight of which had come out of the RLDS church and a husband who had never joined.) We sang, we talked, we prayed. Then a man named Austin Morse asked if anyone needed prayer. I said, "I do, I’ve battled manic-depression for eleven years." They all gathered around me and laid hands on my head and shoulders began to pray. As we prayed I felt Jesus’ Spirit like I had never felt it before and He healed the Manic Depression. I felt the weight of the world lift from me. I felt like a totally different person! I don’t take medicine anymore and I don’t have any depression. I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my whole life.
After I was born again in the Bible study at church, I couldn’t wait to be baptized. Soon afterward, on a Sunday, I was baptized and I remember the wonderful feeling that was with me as I stepped into the water— it was perfect. I didn’t feel uneasy like I did at the first baptism. When I was RLDS, I felt like I might go to heaven, but now I know that I will because the Bible gives us that assurance (I John 5:13.). When I was RLDS I had head knowledge of Jesus, but now He lives forever in my heart. I have Him as my personal Savior. I have Him and His truth—the Bible. He’s there with us always and He’s patiently waiting for you to come to Him.
I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see! (Isa. 41:10, Is. 26:3, Psalm 103:1-3, Psalm 147:3).
You can send Teri an email at: email@example.com.
John Milholland was a fourth generation RLDS member from Independence, Missouri. He had been a member for 30 years, and had held RLDS priesthood for just a year when he began to understand the serious errors of Joseph Smith. He responded with integrity to these problems by leaving his priesthood and RLDS church membership behind, and chose a relationship with Jesus Christ based on truth. He now attends Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, Missouri.
I was baptized into the RLDS religion at the age of 8. I remember my mom taking my two sisters and me to an RLDS church when we were little. Sometimes we had to leave early because we were "too much" for her to handle. My mom was RLDS and my dad was a non-church member. Starting in ninth grade I attended a small private school in Independence that was managed by an RLDS family. It was at this time that I really started to learn about the RLDS religion. I was involved in a lot of activities. We truly believed that Zion would be built soon and that we were living in the last days. We thought that it was our responsibility and often wondered if we were "doing enough" towards that goal. One of our instructors (whom I will tell more about later) was a person with a very persuasive personality. His influence over people was great.
After Doctrine & Covenants Section 156 allowed women to hold priesthood offices I noticed lines drawn between the "fundamental" and the "liberal" RLDS. I sided with the fundamentals, as did many of the people that attended the private school. The instructor previously mentioned eventually persuaded some families to move onto his property. He was going to establish Zion on his property. Many fundamentalist RLDS were looking for the "One Mighty and Strong" A dominant personality led by the devil is a dangerous thing. He even persuaded some of them to believe that the "gold plates" were buried on his property. A Book of Mormon character supposedly buried the gold plates. He had also talked a single woman into selling her home and giving him the money so he could build her a house on his property. Unknown at that time, some of the other members of that group were involved in child molestation and pornography. I was supposed to move out to his place and live in a bus the summer after my freshman year in college, but rainy conditions prevented me. I didn"t realize at the time that by preventing my moving to his property God had saved me from a terrible pit. I was involved with this "remnant" group for about two years. Because I was away at college, the time I spent with them was mostly on the weekends. One of the girls I dated in high school was a foster child. Her foster parents divorced and her foster mom became involved in the Lundgren cult that ended up murdering a family. She is now in prison for her crime along with the other cult members. The group I was involved with and the Lundgren group claimed to be the "true church" that followed true RLDS doctrine. They put personal spiritual experiences and feelings above what the Bible says and allowed themselves to be led by Satan. The idea of "Sanctification" was important to both groups. The "spiritual" leaders were led by the wrong spirit and were truly wolves in sheep's clothing according to Matthew 7:15-20. We are not in a physical battle but a spiritual one (Ephesians 6:12).
During my sophomore year in college I studied about Zion and the temple that the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) talks about in Independence. I tried to cross reference the Bible with the D&C. The Bible was the only book that explained itself and actually made sense. The D&C contradicted itself. I even read the book No Man Knows My History, by Fawn Brodie. I felt guilty for reading a book that refuted the teachings of Joseph Smith. I also studied about the Masonic Order and how some of their teachings parallel the RLDS.
I continued attending RLDS churches and married an RLDS girl just before I graduated from college. After college I had several different jobs. One of them involved driving a delivery truck. I drove close to 300 miles a day and my route took me through a lot of country roads and some stops were close to an hour between. I had a lot of time to listen to tapes as I drove. My mom had left the RLDS church several years prior to me and she had sent me several tapes to listen to while driving. One of the tapes was from a Promise Keepers Conference. The speakers name was Blue and he had terrible grammar. He sounded like a pretty rough character. He detailed how his life was a monument to how horrible and hateful a person could be. He then told how he had met Jesus and experienced forgiveness and the love of Christ. His testimony left me in tears. As I drove across the countryside I prayed for forgiveness and accepted Christ as my savior. For the first time in my life I felt loved and forgiven by a living God.
I was eventually "called" to the RLDS priesthood as a priest. My youngest son was born in 1996 and my mom came to stay with us for a week or so. She brought with her some books and pamphlets that detailed why the RLDS religion is considered false. I read all of the books and studied the pamphlets. I came to the conclusion that I could not stay involved with the false teachings. If you are raised to believe that the color red is not red but purple, you will believe it until someone shows you evidence to the contrary. One of the most complete books I read about RLDS beliefs is Part Way to Utah, by Paul Trask. It was through this book that I began to understand why the RLDS priesthood system is blasphemous. It is hard to defend such a disjointed belief system. Paul Trask"s explanation of true priesthood is fascinating and clear. Red is red.
During this time there was a popular Christian song on the radio. I don"t remember the title but remember that it talked about standing at a crossroad. It talked about trusting God in your decisions. I knew that if I left "the church" that it would possibly damage my relationships with family and friends that were still members. God showed me the truth and I left the RLDS faith in search of a Bible believing church. I came to the conclusion that I could not stay involved with the false teachings. Leaving the RLDS faith was a liberating experience.
I thank God for the truth and for his plan for my life. God has set me free from a false religion. Before I had accepted the true Christ I had trouble with depression. Not a deep depression but a constant aching in my heart. I have not experienced this problem since.
I did not write this testimony to preach to you. I wrote it because I want you to know that God loves you. He is a very personal God. He would not lead you to destruction with lies. If you are questioning, I would encourage you to read all of the material you can get your hands on. Do not allow your family to dissuade you from pursuing the truth and the true love of God. It is easy to stand for the truth because it stands on its own. I learned the difference between true Christianity (a relationship with Christ) and the false teachings of a false religion (doing enough to earn your way to heaven). Grace vs. Works. Love vs. Shame.
Although I left "the Church," some of my family members have not. Breaking the social and family ties was very painful, but God has supplied me with a church family at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, in Liberty, Missouri.
The freedom that I feel from being released is at times overwhelming. I realize that there are different degrees of RLDSism. Some groups have discounted the D&C. Some have accepted it only before the 1835 revisions. Most believe in the Book of Mormon. If you take away Joseph Smith you have nothing. You don"t need Joseph Smith to tell you what to believe. You need Jesus and His Bible.
You can send John an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shauna Brentana was an RLDS member for 22 years, and held the priesthood office of Teacher for 2 years. She was raised in the Beacon Heights & East Alton congregations of the Blue Valley Stake. Shauna and her husband Tom had most recently been members of the Lee's Summit, Missouri RLDS congregation where they had led the Senior High youth group for about 5 years. Shauna had also served on the congregational Worship Commission and taught regularly at their Vacation Bible School.
What a journey this has been! I am amazed at what the Lord has done in my life, and how He has rescued me and brought me home to Jesus Christ!
I was born into an RLDS family where my childhood and church involvement was fairly typical. My father, a priesthood member, was pastor of a South Texas congregation for a time. I was baptized at age eight after our family had moved to Independence, Mo. My parents gave me the “Three Standard Books” as a gift, with my name inscribed on the covers. I was taught the doctrine of the church concerning Zion, a Salvation of faith plus works and the three glories of Heaven. I remember my mother teaching me many Book of Mormon stories, and I grew up believing that I was a member of the true church. I believed myself to be a Christian, because I knew that Jesus Christ had died for the sins of the world. I remember commenting that I had to be a Christian, because after all, our church’s name even “said so” in its title…. “The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ.”
I went to many camps as a youth, where I had many “spiritual experiences” that only solidified my belief that I was in the true church of God. I remember on one occasion, at Spectacular as a Senior in High School, while talking very late into the night, my youth leader “spoke under the influence of the Spirit” and revealed to me that I would one day be called to the priesthood IF I lived my life in a way that followed God. As she was talking, I felt that overwhelming “burning of the bosom” that I had heard others describe. I was convinced that what she said was true, and it was a high point in my life. At this time in my life, all I still had was an intellectual relationship with God, I did not know Jesus as Savior.
I tried, to no avail, to study the scriptures as a teenager. I opened my Inspired Version countless times, and nothing made sense. I had no idea what the scriptures meant, and had no way to apply them to my life. I always thought that I just “wasn’t the type” to be able to understand them, and eventually gave up – relying on what I heard in church, and accepted it wholeheartedly.
I continued the next year at Graceland College, where I met my future husband, Tom Brentana. Tom and I “played church” at college, attending more as a social event. But it was at this time in my life my hunger to really know God began. I was trying to make sense of many things in my life. Thus began my search for the truth.
As I had little or no knowledge of the Bible, I bought what the world had to say about religion. I tended to be very liberal in my ideas, that surely a loving God would not forsake humankind, whom he had created. I began to believe that there could be “many” paths to God. I remember listening to Christian radio, on occasion on my way home from my job as a public school teacher, and I would become so upset when I would hear that there was only “one way.” I wondered how anyone could be so narrow-minded. Because I had no foundation in the Bible, and had never been taught a Biblical “worldview” I had nothing to base my beliefs on, except my “feelings.”
At about the same time, I became very involved in the Senior High program at Lee’s Summit RLDS Congregation. I felt a strong call to this and Tom and I served for many years as Sr. High leaders. I see now that the Lord was really teaching me more than I was teaching them! I had purchased an NIV Study Bible, and as I began to study it, my hunger to understand and know the Bible was unbelievable! I still believed that the Inspired Version was more complete, but because I could read the NIV more clearly, I just studied out of that one, and made it “fit” my RLDS beliefs. I then began to have the great desire to share the Bible with the Sr. High. As Herald House had virtually NO resources for teaching the Bible to Sr. High, I began looking at the Christian Bookstores, and found resource after resource! Because I was using non-RLDS materials, I began to slowly see who Jesus Christ really was. I would go from teaching the Sunday School class downstairs, which seemed to be “alive” to the sermon upstairs that was “dull and bland.” Thus began my frustration. Although at the time, I thought it was a worship style I needed, I now know it was the true spiritual food that comes from being in a relationship with Jesus Christ that I was so desperate for.
I started to attend various Christian conferences. Some were women’s conferences, others were related to youth work. I would sit in these conferences and see people who obviously had something that I did not. I still did not understand why I felt such a void, because I believed that I was a Christian in the “true church”…how could these people possibly experience a deeper relationship with God? The more I studied, the more I became frustrated. I then came to the conclusion that I needed to try harder in church, that somehow, I just wasn’t doing something right or else I would be fed.
About this time, I brought home a booklet that my mother had received somewhere written by Carol Hansen, titled, “RLDS: Christian….or Cult?” I skimmed the book just enough to become enraged! I couldn’t believe that someone would actually call us a cult! I brought it home to show Tom – who picked it up and actually read it! When he started really pondering some of the questions and admitting that the book “made sense” I became extremely angry with him. How dare he even question the “true church.” I thought that surely Satan was attacking him. Unknown to me, he kept the book in his briefcase for quite some time, and continued to read and consider what it had to say. He had also called the author and talked to her on the phone. I didn’t find all of this out until two years later!
Through those two years, the Lord continued to work on my heart and soften it to the truth. I still didn’t know what the “truth” was, but I knew that I was struggling with what was being preached, and my frustration with the church only intensified. I knew that there had to be something more. Then I was finally called to the priesthood. I accepted the call, believing that it would lead me to understand what God’s role was for me here. Tom was also called – but he ultimately declined his call. Once again, I became angry and very fearful. I could not fathom how my husband could say no to God! I feared what would happen to him, how God would judge his disobedience. I now know, that because of what he believed about the church and Joseph Smith – he could not accept the call. He supported me, however, and I began my classes and was ordained.
The Lord taught me many things during this time. Because of the classes I took, I began to see what the church really believed about salvation, and the Bible (primarily the unreliability of the Bible.) This really bothered me. I see now how far the Lord had already brought me from my days of believing that it didn’t matter what kind of beliefs you had, and that there were many roads to God. I continued, however, and was ordained.
Our pastor, at the time, was one who actually preached a message of Grace and accepting Christ as Savior. This was all new to me, and it fell on eager ears! The weeks that he preached, I would sit and “drink it up.” I grew hungrier and hungrier for the Lord. As I prayed for a testimony that this was the church that God wanted me to be a part of, none came. In fact, the only thing that came was more frustration. I remember crying out in the car after many, many Sundays that the particular speaker NEVER even mentioned Jesus’ name during the service! How could this be? I continued to pray, and slowly I began to have a desire to worship elsewhere. When the desires first came about, I fought them. I didn’t tell Tom, and I held them at bay for about six months. I was very confused, and this was NOT the answer that I expected God to give me. I just couldn’t get over the “true church” thing. Finally one evening, while returning home from a friend’s house, I was singing the song, “Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord” as a prayer to Him. Immediately, the urge to leave the church was SO strong that I could no longer drive and had to pull into a parking where I sobbed and sobbed. Surely God could not be telling me to leave the church! This made no sense to me. I cried out to the Lord, “I don’t know how to stay – I don’t know how to leave, Lord – I don’t even know where to go!” The Lord then gently brought the thought of the First Baptist Church of Lee’s Summit to my mind. This was not a vision but rather just a gentle thought that came. In my mind, I could see the building. I said to the Lord, “Okay – I’ll go check out the times on their sign.” I drove by, saw when their services were, and came home.
I had no idea how to tell Tom. I had kept all of this inside. He knew I wasn’t happy in the church, but he had no idea how I had struggled with feelings to leave. As I came home, eyes swollen from so much sobbing, I could hardly get the words out. Finally, I said, “I think I have to leave the church, at least try out some other places!” His response was that he had wanted to do that for quite some time, but he was afraid to tell me, because I was so involved in the church. The Lord had been working on both of us, in different ways, to bring us to this same point in time.
We attended First Baptist the following Sunday, and the service fed me like I had never been fed before! The pastor’s topic was “Faithing It” and how Abraham was obedient to God when he told him to get up and MOVE his family, even if he didn’t quite understand why. He could have been talking only to us. Each week, as I became involved in their women’s Bible Study and eventually their Sunday School, the Lord confirmed over and over through preaching and particular Bible passages we were studying, that this was the place he wanted us. One thing that really struck me, was how God seemed to be speaking to me through the Bible – his Word. I had never experienced the power of God’s Word before. All I had ever known were “warm feelings” from testimonies of others. Tom related to me one night, after we had been attending for a few weeks, that the experience was like “sitting in a desert, withering away from the lack of water and food – so slowly that you didn’t even know you were dying, when all of a sudden, you realize that there is an oasis just over the next sand dune, and for the first time in your life, you are drinking living water. That is exactly what it was like.
Now, to the most important part. Shortly after attending, while in the middle of giving praise to God for our new church, I was stunned as Matthew 7:21-23 came to my mind: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!.” I realized, that although I loved God and had taught about God countless times in Sunday School, and had even given prayers and testimonies from the pulpit, that I did not know Jesus, and Jesus did NOT know me! I stopped in my tracks, and 24 hours later, after absorbing this, I knelt next to the bed and poured my heart out to God, praying the sinner’s prayer. I asked Jesus to become my Savior, and Lord of my life. From that moment I was a new creation. I had an elation and joy inside that cannot be compared. For the first time in my life, I knew the One and Only, and He knew ME! I experienced the outpouring of God’s grace that only those who have come to know Jesus as Savior can even come close to understanding. I was, and still am, in awe of my Heavenly Father. Words can hardly express the love I have for my Lord Jesus Christ!
My husband reminded me of that “blue book” that he had read. He still had it, and wanted to know if I wanted to read it. I did. As I read this time, the spiritual blinders had fallen from my eyes and I saw the TRUTH! After a painful and difficult look at the reality of the doctrines and history of the church I was raised in, I came to the realization that I had been deceived all of my life. I don’t believe that the RLDS people actively sought to deceive me. I believe they are just as lost as I was, and most are not ready to see or hear the truth. We have since withdrawn our membership officially from the RLDS church and I resigned my priesthood.
Most of our family and friends in the church do not understand, and I’m sure they think that we are the ones that are lost. It is very difficult, because I want so badly to share with them what their lives can be like when they allow Jesus Christ to become their Lord and Savior, and how the chains of bondage will fall from them, and they will be freed from life in spiritual and emotional captivity. I just pray that somehow, someway, God will soften their hearts and bring them to the truth about who Christ is, just as he did for me.
For the first time in my life, I know the true freedom thatcomes from being made new in Christ. I know what it is to grow in true Christianity, as I am being taught so much at my church. I am experiencing what it means to live life in God’s grace, and it is unbelievable. I cannot not think of a time when I have had more joy and peace in my life. Study and prayer are integral to my life. Now that I accept the Bible as the complete and inerrant Word of God, I am utterly amazed at how the Lord uses His Word to mold and shape my daily life. Real freedom in life comes from traveling the narrow road. My husband and I are currently praying about the decision to join the church we are attending. God has blessed us beyond words. He floods me with grace and mercy every day of my life, and I know what it means to walk with Jesus, whom I love above all else. The Lord is faithful. Seek his face and he will not fail you!
“Oh God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” (Psalm 63:1-4)
Lee's Summit, Missouri
Dallena Hess was a fourth generation RLDS member from southwest Arkansas and Oklamhoma. She also graduated from Graceland College. Over time Dallena became dissatisfied with her RLDS church life. After struggling with the liberal direction of the RLDS church she read Carol Hansen's book RLDS Church: Is it Christian? Shortly thereafter, she made the decision to leave the RLDS church. Since then she has become a Christian and now attends a Bible teaching Baptist church, where she is involved with ministry to the Deaf and the Hearing Impaired.
Like so many former RLDS members, I was born and raised in the church. I was a 4th generation member. I belonged to a loving and close-knit congregation in SW Arkansas until I was almost 14. My family then moved to Oklahoma where we got involved in another RLDS congregation. I was used to having kids my own age in church, which I did not have in Oklahoma, and I missed that.
I went to a college not far from my hometown in Oklahoma and got involved with the Baptist Student Union. They provided fellowship with people my age. A lot of BSU members knew that I was RLDS but thought they wouldn't have a problem with that since I thought I was a Christian. I was trying to explain the Book of Mormon to one friend; telling her the story of the Ancient Americans and trying to explain RLDS history. She asked me how Jesus fit into all that. Other BSU members then started witnessing to me, praying that I would get saved. I had planned to attend the RLDS’ Graceland College after my freshman year, so my BSU friends prayed even harder for me. I finally decided to pray the sinner's prayer with one of them. However, looking back, I know I did that to simply get them “off my back.” I changed my plans, however, and stayed at this college through my sophomore year, and then went to Graceland in my junior year.
I graduated from Graceland, and it took me six months to get my first job in Texarkana. I was really glad to be back in Texarkana since I was from that area, and there was an RLDS branch there. I had a lot of difficulties with my job during 1993—I got depressed and stressed out to the point where I almost committed suicide. I had some sort of spiritual rebirth for about 6 months, where I read my Bible and stuff. Then, I had to heal from almost killing myself, which was hard. But with God's help I made it through.
I got fed up with the Texarkana branch several times, almost to the point of considering leaving the church. I would either talk out my feelings with several members or go to the Winthrop RLDS branch where a lot of my family goes to recharge.
After living in Texarkana for 7 years, I decided to transfer to San Antonio because my work site was closing. A really good RLDS branch was there, but it took some adjustment since I was initially quite homesick for Texarkana. I was unhappy for a while. I went back to college and took a couple of courses which I really liked.
I began not wanting to go to church; it would require a lot of effort to get ready and actually go. Once I was there, however, I was glad I had gone. During that time God was softening my heart. I started reading articles in the Herald that made me uneasy about the church. I did not like that the church was accepting homosexuality more and more, and was becoming more liberal. I did not attend church for 3 weeks, and did not feel bad about it. I then called a friend who had left the church 2 years earlier. She asked me if it was the RLDS church that I had a problem with. I told her that it was and she shared with me some stuff about the church that she had learned. I decided to email my cousin, who is an RLDS Youth Minister, and share my feelings with him. It was hard trying to decide if I would leave the church or not. After my cousin's negative response I felt I knew what kind of response I would probably get from my family and friends who were still in the church. During this time I received a lot of material from Carol Hansen, since my friend had given her my name and address. I started to read Carol's book, RLDS Church: Is it Christian? When I discovered the truth about both Joseph Smith and the RLDS church, I got bitter and mad because I felt I had been betrayed and lied to all my life. I got this book on Monday, and the following Friday/Saturday I made the decision to leave the church. I also knelt beside my bed and accepted Jesus into my life to be sure that I was saved. While I was struggling with the idea of leaving the church, a song lyric kept running through my head that goes "Are you living a lie you can't defend?" After I decided to leave the church, that lyric didn't run through my head anymore.
The next weekend I went home for a family reunion. I decided that I would wait until after the family reunion was over to tell my immediate family. However, on the way home, my mother asked me if I was still going to church. I told her that I had decided to leave the RLDS church because I didn't believe in Joseph Smith, the D & C, Book of Mormon, the church's doctrine and the whole nine yards. She later asked me who had influenced me. I told her I had talked to a friend who left the church, and told her a little about why my friend had left. A family member told me not to condemn any family member who belonged to the RLDS church for their beliefs.
Fortunately, my sister-in-law was not an RLDS member and I knew I could count on her for moral support. She had been taught all her life that Mormonism is a Cult. I told her about the Inspired Version and she asked me if you could buy it at Christian Bookstores. I told her No. After thinking for a minute, she asked me if that told me something. I told her that I knew that Joseph Smith translated the Inspired Version for the sole purpose of supporting his faulty beliefs and the Book of Mormon. After deciding to leave the RLDS church, I was happier and more peaceful than I had been in a long time. San Antonio had finally become home and I really loved living there.
It was hard to find a new church home. I felt that I knew what I was looking for, though, in a church. I went to one Baptist church close to my house and knew it wasn't for me. I stayed home one Sunday and watched a church service on TV. I really liked what I saw and heard, and found out that it was the First Baptist Church in San Antonio. I decided to attend there next Sunday morning, and I did. I again liked what I saw and heard at FBC. I started attending there and got really involved in the church. I was meeting new people and discovered that FBC was a very friendly church.
I decided to withdraw my membership from the RLDS Church. I told them I could no longer belong to a church which clearly taught that what Jesus did on the Cross wasn't good enough, and that you had to earn your way to heaven. It felt wonderful to get my withdrawal certificate. I went forward and joined FBC the following Sunday and was re-baptized 5 weeks later. My baptism was the Sunday before Thanksgiving, which was really appropriate since I had a lot to be thankful for that year.
God was trying to get my attention on other things as well during this time. Two weeks after I was baptized, I fell as I was going down a hill while leaving work for the day. I completely busted my right ankle and had surgery to repair it. I had let my apartment get really bad and wasn't taking care of myself either. My landlords were upset with me and I had to leave San Antonio. I knew there was something wrong with me that caused me to neglect areas of my life that shouldn't be neglected. As I laid there in bed, a suicidal thought popped into my head. I knew it was wrong, and so I prayed to God to take control. I then knew it was going to be okay.
I moved to Chattanooga to be near my sister since she and her family live here. I then went to see a psychologist who diagnosed me having both anxiety and depression. He recommended that I take Paxil for it, which I still take. I was changing slowly, and knew I could take care of another place if given a chance. My psychologist recommended that I live near my sister. We found another place and it was perfect. I moved in and slowly everything started to come into place. My bone doctor is a top-notch doctor, and he sent me to one of best physical therapists in Chattanooga.
I went to church with my sister. It was nice, but not for me. After my ankle healed enough to where I could walk on it, I started going to a Baptist Church just down the road. I marveled again because this church is a really great church with a strong salvation message and good solid biblical teaching. I grew to love the church and knew that I would join it because it is really strong on missions. I felt drawn to this particular church since I thought I felt God calling me to cult evangelism.
God seems to have other plans, though, because I met a couple that is both Deaf and Hearing-Impaired. I am also Hearing Impaired, and I can sign a little. They invited me to get involved in Deaf Ministry. I'm learning to sign and am going to attend a church, which has a large Deaf attendance. I became a member of Highland Park Baptist Church and have never regretted my decision to join that church because I knew Highland Park Baptist is where God wants me to be. A friend who also is a member of Highland Park told me that I make a lot of Christians look bad because I'm excited because I never take my salvation and my relationship with Christ for granted. I never want to take my Christian faith and walk with the Lord for granted because I know what it is like to live under false teaching. I know the truth and it has really set me free (John 8:32)!
I know I am an encourager, in that I bring people hope. I'm thankful that God allowed me to be hearing-impaired, and suffer from anxiety and depression. I may always walk with a limp, but that is fine with me since I'm also thankful that God let me bust my ankle. I have learned to have hope and not give up. I have also learned to take things one day at a time and depend on God to meet my needs. It is easier to depend on God when you have a handicap. My ankle and hearing impairment forces me to do just that. But I know that I'm not alone. I have a Wonderful Savior. I know Him, and He loves me. I have felt the pain, and despair and I have made it through by holding on to Jesus. I'm thankful for almost everything now, which is important since my psychologist told me never to cease being thankful. I want to tell all those people that are discouraged with the RLDS/Community of Christ that there is life outside of the church. You will gain so much more by coming to Jesus and having a relationship with Him. You will know more peace, joy, love, security, and forgiveness and grace than you ever had while you were inside the RLDS/Community of Christ. The truth really does make you free (John 8:32)!
“As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10,23).
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5-7).
“While we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6-9).
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
“That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, Whoever believes on him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:9-13).
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
“And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work” (Romans 11:6-7).
You can send Dallena an email at: email@example.com.
Jenny Farr was a 3rd generation RLDS member. She was raised in the RLDS church, was baptized at eight years of age, and attended the Stewartsville, Missouri congregation. Jenny attended Graceland College her freshman year, and has a B.A. in Art. She is currently a stay-at-home mom with three children. Jenny was "called" to the priesthood office of Priest in 1994, but chose not to be ordained.
I was raised in northwest Missouri by loving, encouraging parents who belonged to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Born in 1965, and baptized at the age of eight, I was taught that I was a member of the 'only true church,' and that God had restored His original institution through Joseph Smith, a prophet of the latter days. I was never given to questioning whether God loved me. It was a matter of fact, and I will always be grateful that my parents not only taught me that, but exemplified that abiding love to me also. I believed that I sometimes committed sinful acts that displeased God, but that I could be forgiven by being sorry enough for them to not ever do them again. If I truly meant it, I would be clean again like I was at baptism. (The trouble was that I always seemed to do something wrong again and again. What was the matter with me?) I was blessed to be the youngest of six children in a blended family; so I had many chances to learn life’s lessons by witnessing my siblings learning things the hard way. All in all I thought I was a pretty good person and I hoped when I died that God would forgive me of anything displeasing, and the heavenly scales would swing in my favor. Reputation reigned supreme. The only question I had about salvation was, "What if I died sometime between sin and repentance?" (providing I was ever really sorry enough anyway).
In high school I started dating a Baptist boy and we soon began having discussions about religion. He (Kevin) would occasionally ask me questions and I can’t think of one time I ever had a good answer for him, but it didn’t matter. I just knew I was in the right church. Surely, some R.L.D.S. priesthood member had the answers. I was absolutely scripturally illiterate. I could have rattled off the names of the books in the Book of Mormon; I could have told you stories like, "The Good Samaritan" and "Daniel in the Lion’s Den"; I could have spouted excerpts from church history, like the first vision story; and I could even have told you about Jesus dying on the cross; but I could never have simply told you about Jesus' gift of salvation. I didn’t know about His death being a substitute for mine.
When the relationship between Kevin and I became more serious, so did the problems with our differing religious viewpoints. We visited with a couple of priesthood members as well as a couple of Baptist pastors. We were speaking a different language and I didn’t even know it. Nothing was resolved, but we were in love. The relationship came down to an ultimatum from me: "If you’ll just attend church with me I can live with that." I was really thinking that if Kevin would come, he would see that the R.L.D.S. church was the true church. He agreed to attend so we got married. It sounds like a stupid thing to do considering the circumstances, but I will never stop thanking God for allowing it!
A few years passed: we had a couple of beautiful kids. Sometime in the midst of increasing our family, Kevin was feeling unfulfilled spiritually and was convicted by the Holy Spirit of unresolved sin which had caused his fellowship with God to suffer. He started reading the Bible, praying daily and attending his Baptist Church on Sunday nights and Wednesdays. Our R.L.D.S. Church didn’t hold services at these times. Attendance had dwindled and we weren’t even having prayer meetings for a while. I reluctantly attended with him most of the time because I didn’t have a good enough excuse not to go. I was actually refreshed when I was learning from Bible passages about people of God, historical facts and moral absolutes, taught by their pastor. He made practical sense out of what the Bible said. Kevin soon rededicated his life to Christ and began praying earnestly for me and for our relationship as husband and wife. I knew I should read my Bible too and it had always been something I would do "someday;" so I got a Revised English Version that I could understand better than the King James and I started in. I was helped by a read-the-Bible-through chart I had received from a women’s class at a non-denominational church. I had been invited to attend these classes by a Christian friend and I was so struck by their obvious relationship with Jesus and their knowledge of the scriptures.
We had our third child and that Christmas Kevin bought a New International Version Bible for me so I continued reading in it. We had also been listening to a Christian radio station regularly and were learning so much from the sermons and Bible teachers. I wondered though, how so many of those Christian Radio Teachers could have the Spirit of God, when they had never been ordained in the "true priesthood." But it was very evident to me that they did have God’s Spirit. What was it, then, that we had as R.L.D.S. people, that they were missing? What I didn’t know was that they had something that I was missing. "The Bible Answer Man" program was on one day when Kevin heard a Mormon person call in to the show and discuss some things with Hank Hanegraaff. This sparked his interest enough to write to the Christian Research Institute to get some more information on Joseph Smith and church history. I didn’t know about this yet and I was still very staunch in my religious convictions.
In October of 1994, I was visited by my R.L.D.S. pastor and called to the priesthood, to the office of "priest." We had still been faithfully attending the R.L.D.S. Church on Sundays and I was growing in knowledge as I read God’s Word. I wasn’t really surprised by this calling since women were now allowed into the priesthood and I was faithful in attendance, but it did present a dilemma for our family. I knew Kevin would not fully support me in this because, after seven years of marriage and attendance he still had never joined the church. Also, I would possibly be speaking at other congregations and I couldn’t see him and the kids coming with me to do that. It was an awkward situation. I read the priesthood manual and contemplated accepting the call but never acted on anything. No one from church ever asked me about it again. The pastor didn’t even follow up on it, so it was just brushed under the rug. I never told my family either because I was afraid they would push me to accept without considering some of the problems that I could foresee.
At this point, Kevin gently presented me with a small amount of literature he had received. It related some practical, documented discussion about two topics: Joseph Smith’s claims to be a prophet, including some facts about his life and prophecies, and the Biblical texts used to prove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Common sense made it clear that if Joseph Smith wasn’t what he claimed to be, the whole church structure and beliefs fall. It all rested on his truthfulness, and the facts I read called it into serious question. Hebrew scholars explained some key words and passages in Isaiah 29 and Ezekiel 37 that destroyed the arguments used by fellow church members that these passages referred to the Book of Mormon. I was speechless, and even angry; so I just put all this on a mental shelf.
We later received some videotapes about creation versus evolution by a man named Kent Hovind. Dr. Hovind answered many questions I had had about dinosaurs, the age of the earth, the flood, etc. in such a way as to merge the Bible and science in a completely compatible way. I was annoyed at first by his adamant claim of the complete reliability of the Bible as the Word of God, but everything he said made so much sense. Not long after we viewed these tapes I finished reading the Bible. (It was September 1995 and it was about this time that I asked Jesus to be my Savior.) It had taken me exactly three years to get through the whole thing. I was thoroughly convinced by that time that it had to all be true. What else is there to stand on? If the Bible isn’t true in its entirety, then anything goes. There has to be something in this world that is beyond the subjective reasoning of humans. There has to be something absolute and true to guide our lives by.
I had been taught that the Bible was good, but that it had been mistranslated down through the years by various scribes. The result of that thinking is an incomplete trust of what the Bible says—a more serious and dangerous philosophy than I had ever imagined. (The first thing Satan said to Eve was a question making her doubt God’s Word. Genesis 3:1) That then, leaves you with the task of deciding which parts are of God, and which parts aren’t. Your guess is as good as mine—unless a prophet has been given the original Word again. I began researching the Inspired Version as compared to the King James Bible. My Aunt had given me an invaluable tool for this -- "Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible" -- a book showing side-by-side differences between the two versions. I believe that because I now had the Holy Spirit to guide and to teach, I was able to see some irreconcilable problems between the Inspired Version and the Word of God (I Corinthians 2:12-14).
During this time I was privileged to be the Senior High Youth Sunday School teacher. I had some of the Church’s curriculum but I was free to use material from other sources too so I chose some appropriate literature from a Christian bookstore I frequented. Among the many things I learned while I was teaching, was a lesson on Jesus being God. Well, I didn’t really disagree with that, but had never really thought about it being exactly true either. Jesus is God’s Son, but is He God? Did He ever sin? I found places in scripture that affirmed that He is God and that He is sinless (John 1:1, 10:30; II Corinthians 5:21). After coming to the firm belief that Jesus IS God incarnate, I was realizing more and more how hard it is to make Christianity and the R.L.D.S. religion compatible, even down to the story of the first vision which related Joseph Smith having seen TWO personages. God is Spirit (John 4:24 and Jesus is God in the flesh (Philippians 2:5-8, Colossians 1:15—so Joseph was either strongly deluded, or he was lying.
By November of 1995 I was having serious enough doubts about the doctrine and origins of the R.L.D.S. Church that I began more openly questioning things and even writing to various organizations to get more information on the subject. I was referred to a group called Christian Liberty Outreach in Independence, Missouri, who provided me with an abundance of literature regarding historical inaccuracies and doctrinal errors distinctive to the R.L.D.S. Church. I was overwhelmed. I felt like one feels when they’ve been lied to by a trusted friend. I couldn’t refute the documentation of the things about Joseph Smith that the Church never taught me. I read with my own eyes in black and white the hundreds of inconsistencies between historical fact, archaeology, the Bible and what Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon claimed. I was appalled. I was scared. I was heartsick. I became thoroughly convinced that the R.L.D.S. church and its leadership were not of God as I had previously assumed. I knew I had to leave the church. I couldn’t raise my children in a church that taught false doctrines and purposely concealed parts of its own history from its membership.
I prayed for God’s guidance as I endeavored to tell my family and church friends that we would no longer be attending church with them. It came as quite a shock to them and I fully expected hurt feelings and lots of questions. The hurt feelings certainly became a reality but I was unfortunately surprised by the lack of questions I was asked. No one wanted to know why nearly as much as I wanted to tell them why. Because of my strong relationship with my family, I had every reason to believe they would at least hear me out; but I was forbidden to speak about it and the subject of religion became taboo. This added to the agony of leaving a heritage that was once so dear to me. I leaned on Jesus and my newfound faith in Him to hold me up through this stormy time. I knew He was all I needed, which leads me to tell you now about coming to know Him.
Back in the autumn of 1995, while I was nearing completion of reading the Bible through for the first time, I was dealing with that previously mentioned dilemma: What happened if I died between sinning and repenting? I couldn’t be perfect like I was supposed to be; but if I was going to heaven just because God loves me, then so was everybody that had ever lived -- He loves everybody, right? I knew I had to "believe" in Jesus and I thought that salvation rested on something I had to do, be or maintain. I had grown up thinking that salvation was based on my behavior and my choices in life and that being R.L.D.S. earned merits with God. I believed in hell, but I really didn't think there would be too many people going there (only the really bad ones) and I certainly wasn't worried about myself being completely condemned. I was an OK person. Anyway, God is the perfect judge, so I would just have to wait until I died to know my eternal destiny, and hope for the best. I had no assurance of my salvation but, basically, my belief was that God graded on the curve. However, some people did have that solid assurance of being "saved." How could they be so cocky?
Then, God told me through His perfect, preserved Word, by the power of the Holy Spirit, what I was seeking to know - the Bible is completely trustworthy, and it says that we are saved by God’s gracious mercy through faith in Jesus, and that it’s not of ourselves. It is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). You can’t earn a gift because it would deny the very nature of it and you couldn’t call it a gift. You just humbly receive it - it’s called having faith; faith that what Jesus did on the cross is complete, sufficient, satisfying to God, and done. I didn’t just "believe" in Jesus and give mental assent to His existence, death and resurrection; now I trusted Him. What a difference in perspective I had been shown! My faith in the fact that Jesus suffered, shed His blood and died in my place for all the sins I have ever committed, or will ever commit, is satisfying to God. Then HE is the one who does all the good works He has ordained for you to do, through you (Ephesians 2:10, Philippians 2:13). The wages of sin - any amount of sin - is death (Romans 3:23) and my debt has been paid. All my good works of service to God amount to a pile of filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), compared to the all-sufficient atonement of Jesus on the cross. I learned that repentance doesn’t just mean "I’m really sorry," it’s a change of mind about who I’m following, and about what direction I’m going - deciding to agree with God about Himself and about my sin.
Realizing that I had a sinful nature because I am a fallen human in a fallen world, was a huge factor in acknowledging my need of the Savior. I was convicted of my sin and humbled to repentance. I wasn’t born a child of God; I was born spiritually dead, separated from God. That’s why I had to be born again - to be alive spiritually by faith in Jesus (John 3:6-7; Romans 5:18-19). It was evident to me that this is so true when I thought of the selfish nature of a little child and how they have to be taught to be good, not taught to be bad. The Bible says we are condemned already and there’s only one way to salvation (John 3:18,36).
How can I say that my works don’t count? What about all the commands in the Bible about being righteous and serving the Lord? They do count and I am called to be righteous; but it all came together in my mind when God showed me that He changed my motives for good works when He changed my heart. Now I know that anything I do for God out of gratitude and love - because of what’s already been done and finished for me - is what will last. Being "good" in order to be saved or to stay saved will burn up - it can’t be done. When I realized that, I could cease my striving to appease God, and I was free. The truth really does set you free! I am saved and I know it because I know Jesus (II Timothy 1:12, I John 5:13; Jude 24). That’s not cocky, that’s the truth. My previous belief that I would be saved because of myself IS cocky - it’s called pride and God hates it (Proverbs 6:16-19, 8:13). I will wrestle with sin until the day I die and go to be with Jesus (Romans 7:17-25); but God says that when I trusted Jesus as my Savior, He clothed me with Jesus' righteousness and that’s what He sees when I come before Him. (Colossians 1:22, 2:13-14). I am whiter than snow even though I am imperfect on this earth. That’s the Good News! All I did was trust Jesus! It isn’t because I was good enough; it isn’t because I had been baptized by the proper authority; it isn’t because I believed in extra-biblical revelation or someone claiming to be a prophet; it isn’t because I was a member of an organization that is pursuing peace and has a temple; it isn’t because I was so sorry for my sin that I promised to never do it again; It’s faith in Jesus - period.
You can have salvation right here and right now, no matter who you are or what you’ve ever done, Jesus paid for it. God does love you, and that’s all you need. Tell God right now that you admit your sinful condition before his perfect holiness and accept His wonderful gift of love and forgiveness in His Son Jesus. Relinquish Lordship from yourself to Him. You can be sure He will complete the work that He will begin in you the moment you ask (Ephesians 1:13-14, Philippians 1:6).
Kevin and I have a better marriage than ever, now that we are brother and sister in Christ, and we are active members of a historical Christian denomination that does not claim to be the only church that God is pleased with (see R.L.D.S. Doc. and Cov. 1:5e). Our church family studies God's Holy Word, prays, worships the Lord, loves each other and is on a mission to spread the hope Jesus gives. I hope that you will trust Jesus as your Savior and consider finding a place of worship that promotes the Bible as God’s complete written revelation to us and praises Jesus as the only sufficient and complete atonement for reconciliation with God.
"How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He has said
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?"
You can send Jenny Farr an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marja (Parker) Waldon was a 5th generation RLDS. She attended congregations in Des Moines, Iowa Cleveland, Ohio and the Stone Church congregation in Independence, Missouri. Marja's grandfather was among the first students at Graceland College and baptized Roy Cheville. Marja also attended Graceland College, as well as the School of Nursing at the RLDS Sanitarium in Independence (now the Independence Regional Health Center), where she graduated first in her clinical care program. She went on to teach Operating Room and Emergency Room Nursing at the Sanitarium. In addition to her nursing and teaching, Marja was active in her RLDS congregations, participating in Zion's League, leading Older Youth, teaching Sunday School and singing in the choir. Marja and her husband now attend the Church of the Nazarene in Camdenton, Missouri. She has the most interesting ministry of illustrating gospel truths via chalk drawings! Many have come to know Christ as Savior through her ministry. Marja also serves as the coordinator of e-Prayer , which is a global prayer network of 520,000 people in 75 countries praying for missionaries, those in ministry, needs of our world and individuals. Marja has a most compelling testimony. I have been blessed by reading it. I trust you will be as well.
God’s Word from a Gideon Testament
“Amazing grace – how sweet the sound –
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found –
was blind, but now, I see!”
For the first thirty years of my life I had no hope, no peace, no joy. Born in late 1939 I was the third daughter, and last child, my parents had. They named me for each of them: M-a - r for Mary and j-a for James, I became a fifth generation saint. My family were members of the RLDS church, believers in the Bible, the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. I would become a member, as were my parents, their parents, their parents and their parents. The RLDS church began in April, 1830 – I was born just a little more than 100 years later. The roots of this form of Mormonism were deep in my family.
As a child I grew up going to church on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday nights. We went to church camps called “Reunions.” In the summer I went to Vacation Bible School and saw flannel graph stories of Book of Mormon events. While children in Bible preaching, Christ teaching, Vacation Bible Schools were singing: “I’ve got the love of Jesus Christ my Savior, down in my heart,” I was singing, “I’ve got the Bible and the Book of Mormon down in my heart.” I was taught more church history than Bible doctrine or Book of Mormon stories.
Joseph and Emma Smith were my heroes: I had a worship center in my bedroom - a kind of altar, with a white linen cloth covering, flowers, a candle, pictures of Joseph and Emma Smith, and the three books of Mormonism: the Bible, as translated by Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants. I had no idea that the Bible says that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," that "the wages of sin is death," that "all our works of righteousness are the same as filthy rags." I was taught that I was good and getting better – humanism. But I was bad and getting worse – a wretch!
In my teens both my grandfathers’ died – and for the first time in my life I faced death and dying. I came to think of death as an eternal black void. I began to cry myself to sleep at night several times a month – in fear of death and dying.
At age 17, I began my college studies at the RLDS church college, Graceland, in Lamoni, Iowa. Our professors were RLDS Priesthood members who tore down every thing we believed in. One of my classmates was so devastated he shot and killed himself. I became an agnostic – I wouldn’t say there is no God; I had to admit I didn’t know if there was a God. I was still afraid of death, sometimes crying myself to sleep at night.
In 1958 I entered the RLDS church school of nursing in Independence, Missouri. A few weeks after we began our studies, ladies from the Gideon Auxiliary came to present us with nurse testaments. We stood in a circle, those Gideon ladies prayed and we were given our nurse testaments. From then on that beautiful little white nurse testament was as much a part of my uniform as was my cap, my white starched uniform dress, watch, white stockings, shoes and bandage scissors. Off I went to take care of patients – in one pocket my nurse testament and in the other, my cigarettes. On my breaks I would smoke and read my Bible. I tried to read that testament many times – it was the seed of the Word of God, sowed by faithful women, but it wasn’t breaking through the ground …yet.
Graduating first in my class in clinical care, I began to practice nursing. I went on to school working toward a graduate degree. The world, the flesh, and the devil now entered my life. After a car accident and knee surgery I returned to my parents’ home to recover. At the invitation of my School of Nursing I returned to teach operating room and emergency room nursing.
In some ways my life was empty and I was lonely. Like Potiphar’s wife, I didn’t know God; anyone who does not know Him is likely to behave in any number of wrong ways. I found I was without moral values with no supernatural power on which to draw. As I continued taking classes, teaching nursing, and living life pretty much without a value base, I became more involved in sin.
In time I met and married my husband and we were blessed with four sons. From time to time I cried myself to sleep – still afraid of death and dying. In those turbulent days of the late 1960’s, my husband and I joined my parents in political activism – we became active members of a political – educational organization. We met Christians who began to witness to us. Life at the grade school of our oldest son became complicated over fights among black and white children. Some black children fought with our son; the teachers said, “we can’t say anything – that would provoke a racist incident.”
We looked for a private school for him – it could have been Hindu or Buddhist. God led us to a Christian school. The application asked: “Are you saved?” We had no idea what that meant. We said, “we’re as good as they are” – and we signed “yes.” We had no idea what it meant to have a personal Savior, to be born again, to be forgiven, to be saved, to have peace, joy, and hope. We had attended college several years but we had no definitions for those words.
Slowly, very patiently, Christians that God brought into our lives used His Word to show us His truths and to water the seed of that Gideon testament sowed years before – and God’s Word began to send out roots in our hearts, to break through the hard dry soil of our sin and our pride. In April of 1970 I confessed my sin and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior; three weeks later my husband did the same. God gave me His peace, His hope, His joy, His forgiveness. Never once since that moment have I cried myself to sleep in fear of death and dying.
For almost half of the 36 years that I practiced nursing I was a teacher. I witnessed to my students and to patients. There are three patients that I led to the Lord who had amazing conversions – that is another story. God has allowed us to grow as Christians; He has given us ministry in reaching the lost. Through chalk drawings He has let me lead the unsaved to Him, to challenge Christians to a closer walk and to missions. I have shared in at least a dozen meetings of the Gideons across Iowa, and even in Oregon, as well as with many churches. God has allowed us to serve as missionaries to missionaries through my having been missions director of a several thousand-member church for almost five years. He has given us an e-mail prayer network (e-Prayer) that reaches over 520,000 people in more than 75 countries. He let me go to Honduras in 1994 to help plant a church. God has given me the desire, and conviction, that every one whose life touches mine should have the gospel in some form – whether through my testimony, my witness, or in a tract. I’m not there yet but we’ve got a goal and He has the power!
“When we’ve been there, ten thousand years –
bright shining as the sun…
we’ve no less days to sing God’s Praise
than when we’ve first begun.”
Whatever crowns I may have earned will have a little Gideon nurse testament engraved on them; when I cast them at the feet of our lovely Lord, those nail scarred feet, what ever I have done in His name – is all the fruit from that seed of His Word, a Gideon nurse testament placed in the hands, with prayer, of an eighteen year old nursing student … who would fall to the world, the flesh, and the devil …but who would be raised up – a new creature in Jesus Christ, with my sins forgiven, bound for heaven , with my Gideon nurse testament in my hand, with our Lord in my heart! May Jesus Christ be praised!
Linn Creek, Missouri
You can send Marja an e-mail message at email@example.com.
Marja also has an illustrated gospel poem website at http://members.truepath.com/forhisglory/. Beautiful artwork accompanied by beautiful music. Very uplifting!!
Bruce Setchfield was a second generation RLDS for 31 years, and held the office of Deacon for 12 years. He and his wife moved to Independence, Missouri shortly after they were married, believing they were ‘gathering to Zion.’ However, as they studied to teach a Book of Mormon class they began discovering discrepancies between its teachings and the Doctrine & Covenants, the Bible and church doctrine. These unresolved discrepancies ultimately led them to leave the RLDS church. Bruce has continued his studies over the years, and in his testimony he shares a number of such problems he has discovered.
My dear Latter Day Saint friends, the following is my testimony of the reasons I left the RLDS Church.
My wife and I came to Independence from Detroit the next day after we were married in June 1945, which was about two weeks after my discharge from the Army. Both our families were RLDS. We had agreed that Independence was to be our home, because to us it was Zion, and we wanted to raise our family in the best possible circumstances. We still believe it was better than Detroit. A few months after arriving in Independence we were settled in a little home near the Stone Church, and our oldest son was on the way. He was born the same day that Frederick M. Smith died, if I remember right, March 21, 1946. As time passed our family increased to five children and we had moved out in the country to 35th street, which had not yet been annexed to the city. We now attended the Gudgel Street RLDS Church, and my wife, Sarah, was teaching a Book of Mormon class. This was about l955 or 56. As Sarah studied the Book of Mormon to prepare her lessons, she discovered things that seemed to disagree with the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) and the teachings of the church. The main thing, as I remember, was the issue of High Priests, two priesthoods (Aaronic and Melchizedek), Patriarchs, Seventies, etc. which were in the church, but not found in the Book of Mormon, nor the Bible, that is, under the new covenant. Disagreement over this matter, and perhaps other things, finally led to our decision to leave the church. At this point let me say that we had no bad feelings toward any one in the church. We did not leave in anger, and we were not "kicked out.” However, some of our relatives and friends were very distressed, especially my mother, because they thought we had left the one and only true church.
Not long after leaving the church we learned about a group of former RLDS members who called themselves "The Church of Christ" and who were putting ads in the Independence Examiner against RLDS beliefs. Their church was located at the corner of Crysler and Linden streets, thus they became known as "the Crysler group.” We started attending, and were born again and baptized the following summer, July 1957. I need to explain here that the Book of Mormon has very similar teaching as the Bible about the transgression of Adam, the fall of man, and plan of salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. This vital doctrine is not taught in the RLDS Church. In fact, my wife, who still believes the Book of Mormon, says it was the Book of Mormon that led her to Christ. I have rejected the Book of Mormon, but for other reasons.
Now, dear friends of the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) I will explain to you a part of what I see that is unacceptable about the Book of Mormon, and part of what I see that is unacceptable about Latter-Day-Saintism. I don't intend to cover it all, or go into great detail; I couldn't. What I will try to do is briefly tell you enough to stimulate your curiosity. I will try to encourage you to search it out for yourself, as I did.
As a Latter Day Saint I heard testimonies of members who claimed they "knew" the Book of Mormon was true because God had revealed it to them in a supernatural way. So, in my way of thinking, I reasoned that if God could reveal it to others, He could to me also, and so I prayed that He would. I knew there were doubters, as well as believers, but I wanted to know for myself. I prayed for some time but no answer came. I believe I was afraid I might get the answer I didn't want. When I came to the point where I was willing to accept the truth, whichever way it was, God began to answer my prayer, but not in the way I expected. It seemed as though God were saying, "search it out for yourself, the answer is there, just find it." So I started to review the Book of Mormon.
It had been a long time since I had read it through, although I had been exposed to a lot of discussion about some parts of it. Following is one of the things I focused my attention on. It is stated in the early part of the Book of Mormon, (I Nephi 3:170) that the "great and abominable church" has taken away, or omitted, "plain and precious" parts of the Bible that were originally there, the purpose of this alteration being to "pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.”
The assumption is clear; that since the plain and precious things have been taken out, now they must be restored. This called for a restored church with a restored gospel and a leader that is called of God. I believe that this was intended to prepare the mind of the reader or pave the way, for the revelation, later in the book, (II Nephi 2), of a coming 'prophet and seer' whom the Lord will raise up, whose name is to be Joseph, and whose fathers name is also Joseph. This Joseph was to be of the seed of Nephi. The prophecy stated further that he was to "bring forth my word" (the Book of Mormon) to the descendants of Nephi. (the Lamanites, or Indians). However, later events seemed to indicate that the author was referring to himself. Not long after the Book of Mormon was published, and the Church organized, Joseph Smith set out to preach to the Indians. Joseph was thereby fulfilling his own prophecy. The Indians, so far as the record indicates, were not interested.
Now I will try to show you that it is impossible for the 'abominable church', or any other church or individual to remove any part of God's word, the Bible.
The writing of the scriptures was completed when John, the last Apostle, wrote the Book of Revelation. This, and the other Apostolic writings, were copied, shared, and circulated among the Christian congregations. They respected them, and accepted them as the Word of God. The writings of the Apostles, together with the Old Testament, had become their basis for worship, instruction, and spreading of the Christian faith. Paul wrote, "Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone." (Ephesians 3:20) They had a love for the scriptures and a zeal for preserving the writings exactly as they had come from the original writers.
As the faith spread, the scriptures were translated from the original Greek into other languages, and were passed on to succeeding generations of Christians, since through this process, there were many copies, in many hands, any attempt to alter them would be detected. They just couldn't get away with it. There were some scribal errors, and variances in translation, as one might expect, that were unavoidable, but it was impossible to introduce any significant changes. There was nothing that changed any doctrine, or destroyed the harmony that existed between the many books that make up the Bible. Thus we see God's method for preserving the integrity and permanence of His word.
The above is a very brief description of the process which preceded and lead up to the canonization of the Bible. The canonization was merely the official recognition of the writings that had already been accepted throughout the Church. There is much more to be said on this subject, but you may be assured that everything that God intended to be in the Bible is still there. Most Christians will agree with me that the 'plain and precious' part of the Bible IS the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; - that's what its all about. And that, according to the Book of Mormon, is the part that has been taken out. Of course the gospel has not been taken out, so what is meant by the 'plain and precious' parts?
Now, may I ask, why would God allow the 'abominable church' or anything else to frustrate His purposes? Is He that helpless? And do you know anyone whose mind has been perverted, or whose heart has been hardened, by reading the Bible? On the contrary, millions of lives have been changed by believing and responding to the truth of the gospel. The only conclusion possible is that the Book of Mormon is in error, and that this is evidence of its human authorship. There are other things the Book of Mormon says about the Bible that are untrue. I will leave that up to you.
There has been a lot of history written about the process by which our present day Bible has come into existence. I suggest that you read up on it so you will know for yourself. None of it is in agreement with the account given in the Book of Mormon. A review of the historical facts should show anyone that the Book of Mormon is in error.
Especially preposterous is the part that says the 'abominable church' has taken away the covenants that God made with Israel. (I Nephi 3:161,169) How could this possibly happen? The 'abominable church' would have to have been the sole custodian of the Jewish scriptures in order to remove the covenants. It was not, and the covenants have not been taken out. Our God is a covenant keeping God (Psalm 33:11).
A belief that the Book of Mormon is divinely inspired, and that Joseph Smith is that 'choice seer' foretold by the Book of Mormon, is basic to all branches of the restoration movement. Though the various branches of Mormonism differ in their application of Joseph Smith's revelations, and those of his successors, they all agree in the belief that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and that the Book of Mormon is inspired scripture. Were it not for this belief in the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, none of the restoration churches would be left with a reason for their existence. The Book of Mormon was the launch pad for all branches of Mormonism. It set the stage for the beginning of Latter-Day-Saintism and the unbiblical concept of Zion in America.
The plan for Zion in America originated in the Book of Mormon. It is first mentioned in I Nephi 3rd chapter; -"Blessed are those who seek to bring forth Zion at that day (when the Book of Mormon comes forth) for they shall have the gift and power of the Holy Ghost." Next in the plan is in III Nephi 9:50. Zion is to be located in this land. (America) Jesus is depicted as telling the Nephites, "and the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you this land for your inheritance." In verse 58 he says it is to be a "New Jerusalem", and it is to be the fulfillment of a covenant that God made with Jacob.
Now, my dear friend, I have found three things I am in disagreement with in the Book of Mormon plan for Zion in America: First the location. In the Old Testament scriptures Zion and Jerusalem are synonymous terms. When Isaiah or Jeremiah spoke about Zion they meant Jerusalem. Second, America as the land of inheritance for Israel, or any of its tribes. Not so. God promised the land containing modern day Israel, and quite a bit more, to Abraham's descendants, and then reiterated the promise to Jacob. Read about it in Genesis.Third, The gathering. In God's timing, it will happen, and has nothing to do with the Book of Mormon. When all Israel's enemies have been defeated, in the millennium, Israel will be gathered "from the four corners of the earth" to the land of their inheritance. That means all the tribes, not just certain ones. (see Ezekiel 37:21,22) Now consider this, Would God nullify his promise to Israel by promising something different later on?? Of course not! God keeps his promises. I conclude, Independence is not Zion. I thought so once, but I was mistaken. Sorry, but Zion is an empty dream, no closer to reality than it was in 1830. I know for some that is a harsh statement, but if you can exchange your dream for reality, it can turn into a blessing. Nothing can be more satisfying and fulfilling than to accept the invitation to come to Christ and be born again.
I hope and pray that this will be your choice.
Much that is known about the life of Joseph Smith and his activities is on record in the archives of the Mormon church. Things that were damaging to the church have been suppressed or ignored. Many people, interested in the beginnings of Mormonism, have done their research. They have the testimony of neighbors and others who knew the Smith family during the era before 1830. One of the things that stand out, and what the church doesn't want you to know, is the Smith family's involvement in the occult. Yes, including the parents, they were practitioners of the occult, which is witchcraft. Joseph Smith used a peep stone to pretend to find buried treasure. This is documented in the record of a court case in which he was found guilty, and fined, for being a 'glass looker'. It is reported, also, that his mother, Lucy Mack Smith read palms, and that his father, Joseph, Sr., 'put a hex' on a gun at a turkey shoot, and other such instances of occult practice. This and other information about the involvement of the Smith family in the occult is detailed in an article in 'The Salt Lake Messenger', "Was Joseph Smith a Magician?" Issue 95, April 1999. It is available from Utah Lighthouse Ministry, which is a rich source of information for anyone investigating the beginnings of Mormonism.
Brother Bruce Setchfield went to be with the Lord on February 9, 2007.