The day after I received my Book of Mormon I began studying it. I would set aside one to two hours each day to read it and compare it with the Bible, writing down any questions and what appeared to be contradictions to the scriptures. Then, each Thursday evening, after my children's piano lessons, I would sit down with Neil and ask my questions. The first thing I remember was that the Book of Mormon was not what I expected. It was much more in line with the Bible than I thought it would be. Although, I couldn't understand why it was so much more specific than the Bible.
The skeptic in me decided that Joseph Smith was just taking information from the Bible and writing a "new" testament. That theory changed when I read the story about Joseph Smith's reaction when Martin Harris lost some of the manuscript translations. I then realized then, whatever Joseph Smith was, he was no scam artist. He truly believed everything he was writing was true. That left two options: Either Mormonism was true or it was a cleverly designed scheme of Satan and Joseph Smith was the first of the dupes to believe it.
I had to know which option was correct.
My faith, at that time, taught the canon was closed, meaning there would be no new scriptures other than what was already in the Bible. If that was true, the Book of Mormon was false doctrine. End of story, so I decided to follow that line of investigation. I remember early on calling one of my pastors, Todd Murray, for help. I just couldn't figure out where in the Bible we derived the fact that the canon was closed. No matter how hard I looked, I couldn't find a passage that even hinted at it.
To the contrary, I found verses such as I Thessalonians 5:19-21 "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.", and Amos 3:7 "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.", and Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." To me it looked like there was still precedence for God to speak. After a brief conversation with Pastor Murray, he admitted there is no scriptural support for the closing of the canon.When I asked why we believed it was so, his response was church tradition.
Church tradition? Really? Isn't that in part what the whole protestant reformation fought against? Didn't Luther himself say he had to be convinced by scripture to change his mind on his beliefs? Now I'm supposed to go to Neil and cite church tradition? Not likely. That conversation opened up the possibility to me that there could be new Scripture. Now my job was to find out if it was. Just as Thessalonians taught, I needed to "Prove all things".
As we met, there were several differences in doctrine that I had to examine and try to discern which was true. Some of the first that came up were the need for baptism as a requirement of salvation, the doctrine of the Trinity (a biggie for me), the continuation of an actual line of priesthood, as well as the laying on of hands for receiving the Holy Ghost. There were many others, of course, but those were my starting points.
I would ask my questions and Neil would photocopy chapters from Articles of Faith and Jesus the Christ by James Talmage. Eventually he just handed me both books to borrow, citing the need to save trees. Funny guy. Now I had more material to read as I studied.
One Thursday afternoon, Neil called me on the phone and asked if he could invite some sister missionaries to come and watch my children while we talked, so we wouldn't be so distracted. I agreed, not knowing there was a rule that missionaries couldn't watch children. When I arrived for lessons that evening with my list of questions Neil casually mentioned that he also invited a couple of elders. So, by the time lessons ended, the children were playing quietly in the back room by themselves, and I was sitting around Neil's kitchen table with five Mormons, four of which were missionaries. It was slightly intimidating to say the least. I was worried my questioning things would come across defensive, or worse offensive, but the missionaries were always gracious and understood my motives--at least most of them did.
This went on for close to three years. I went through many wonderful sets of missionaries. Occasionally Neil would invite some other ladies from his ward to sit in on the discussions to introduce me to some women from his church. One of those ladies, Vicki Lorimer, later became a lifeline for me.
There were times I had a greater understanding of things than others. I still remember the day I was reading my Bible and realized we were supposed to receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, the only prerequisites seeming to be repentance and baptism.
I didn't want there to be any part of the Bible I wasn't at least trying to obey, but my church didn't practice the laying on of hands for the Spirit. I devised what, to me, was a simple solution.
I emailed Neil and told him I now understood that we had to receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Seeing as I had repented and was baptized, and he held the authority to lay hands at his church, maybe he could confirm me after lessons that week. Looking back at the naivete of that suggestion, I wish I could have seen Neil's face when he first read my earnest email.
When I arrived for lessons that evening, Neil tried to explain to me why that wouldn't work, but I just wasn't getting it. I did realize that Neil would be breaking some rules to comply to my request and I certainly didn't want to get him in any trouble. I would just have to content myself with continuing to study and determine the truth.
When this all began, I was sure I was right. I would faithfully ask my companions in my Ladies' ensemble group to pray for "my Mormons". Hoping they would come to my faith. Eventually, however, I began to realize there was a very strong possibility that they were right—and I was wrong. I didn't dare say anything to anyone at church about my doubts. It would get me in a tremendous amount of trouble.
The boldest I would get in sharing my doubts was to change my prayer request from praying for "my Mormons" to asking for wisdom. My daily prayers changed from, "Lord, please help Neil understand the truth." to "Father, please show both of us what is true." I figured that covered it either way. I began to grow uneasy. I felt my whole foundation crumbling underneath me and I didn't know where to put my feet. My whole life revolved around my faith. I realized I had started on a path that could not be retracted. I now HAD to know which was true.
In the meantime, my friends began to notice my uneasiness. Some of them wondered if the piano teacher had too strong an influence over me. They knew I thought highly of him and that my marriage was not easy. I assured them not to worry. If only they could see how much I still argued the doctrine. Still, they were uncomfortable by what they now considered my fascination with Mormonism. My husband also became concerned about what he perceived as my defense of Mormonism in our discussions about what I was learning. When, one evening, I refused to say I was convinced Mormonism was a false religion he hit the roof.
He told me I was no longer to read, study, talk about, or even think about Mormonism again. I was ordered to return all the reading materials and limit my conversations with Neil to life and piano. Religion was not to be brought up again. I was devastated, but I submitted. The church I attended taught that wives were to submit to their husbands in all things. There was a clause in there that said we could not be ordered to sin, but I wasn't sure this fell into that category. I returned everything to Neil (except my Book of Mormon which I kept hidden under my mattress. I guess I had a little bit of rebel in me.) and explained to him we would no longer be able to discuss theology. Neil took that in stride and went back to our discussions revolving around piano. I, however, did not fare so well.
I was truly confused about what to believe. What if God was different than I had been taught? What if there was more Scripture, as well as a whole line of priesthood authority and blessings that came with that? If that was so, I was not obeying God as He wanted. Possibly I didn't even know Him at all. What if, like the Pharasees, in the New Testament I was dishonoring the God I thought I worshipped? What if I was teaching my children incorrect theology? Every decision I made was now suspect. Plus, so much of our daily lives revolved around the teaching opportunities I had with my children. Even our academics in our homeschool were saturated in theology. Every part of my life was shrouded in doubt. I began to fall apart and didn't know how much longer I could continue in that state of mind.
I begged my husband to allow me to continue to study. I pleaded with him to understand I had to know what to believe. He kept saying he would tell me what to believe. As submissive as I am, I knew that wouldn't work. I explained to him it had to be my beliefs--not his, but he wouldn't budge. I felt close to a nervous breakdown. He grew angrier and more resentful of me because I could not seem to get past this desire to study further. Things kept getting more and more tense in our home. Istill submitted and did not study or discuss things, but I was absolutely miserable and felt completely pulled into tiny pieces.
Eventually one of my friends, ironically the colleague of Neil's that told me to go to him for lessons in the first place, went to the leadership of my church and told them she was concerned about a relationship I was in with a Mormon male. Brent and I were summoned to one of the elders homes to meet with he and his wife. There I was told of my friend's concerns. I was also told that I was no longer allowed to take my children to piano lessons.
Brent and I were both furious. First they implied that there was impropriety going on, which we all knew to be untrue. Brent said if the husband of the home was not concerned about the friendship than neither should they. They said it was their final decision. Either I discontinued taking the children to the piano teacher, having no further communication with him, or I would be kicked out of choir, orchestra, ladies ensemble, and my teaching responsibilities.
I was devastated. Who could I replace Neil with for my son? There wasn't another qualified teacher within hours of driving. This time I dug in my heels. I told them if they could find a suitable replacement for Dillon's instruction, I would switch teachers. But, I certainly didn't think they had the right to determine who could be a family friend. They disagreed and I was officially kicked out of the ministries at church. They replied that even if there was no impropriety, which we all now agreed there wasn't, it was irresponsible for me to expose my children regularly to a Mormon. I left the meeting angry and feeling completely defeated and hopeless. The fact of the matter was, I wasn't even sure Mormonism was true, but I certainly felt the need to find out.
Click here to read part 3.