Saturday, July 31, 2010

How I became Mormon....part three and a half

I know it should be part four, but a friend pointed out I've neglected quite a bit of the story. I wanted to include some of the spiritual challenges and successes. During my years of study

I read A LOT of material. Not only did I go through the entire book of Mormon, but I read Articles of Faith, Jesus the Christ, The Inevitable Apostasy (probably the most helpful book to me), and countless talks that my friend Vicki would send me to try to help answer questions.

It was during one of these talks that I first experienced what Mormons call the "testimony of the Spirit". I would often get frustrated in my conversations with missionaries when they'd ask me questions such as, "How does that make you feel?" I kept thinking, "Who cares how I feel about it? All that matters is whether it is true. I can think something sounds wonderful, but that doesn't make it true." I was so frustrated with them. Plus, I came from a doctrinal background where feelings were taboo. Discernment was done strictly through the Scriptures. If the Bible says it, then it is true. Period. No feelings can verify anything. Having the Spirit affirm something was completely foreign to me. Gradually, the Lord helped me understand.

One of the first things that helped occurred while reading one of the talks my friend Vicki sent. I don't even remember the topic of it. All I remember is standing at my computer, reading the talk, and feeling my whole chest burning in a way I will never forget. It was a beautiful feeling, and every ounce of me felt like the Spirit was affirming the words of the talk. The topic wasn't new doctrine for me. Everything in that talk my former church would have agreed with. But, the experience was new for me, and was the beginning of me learning what it means to have the Holy Ghost commune with you. It startled me at first because it strengthened my suspicions that there was much more validity to Mormonism than I'd considered. I knew what that would mean for me and I was frightened.

The second big milestone for me occurred while reading The Inevitable Apostasy by Tad Callister. If you've never read that book, I highly recommend it. I knew there was an "elephant in the room" regarding Mormonism that I had yet to address....exaltation and godhood. I tried addressing it that first night I spoke with the piano teacher about his faith. I asked him if he believed he would be a god. He didn't answer my question (no big surprise there). Instead he asked me what would happen if he asked Dillon to play Tchaikovsky's hardest concerto. I replied it would be too discouraging for him. He said that is what would happen if I tried to understand deep doctrine, before getting the basics. To be honest, I wasn't convinced. I thought it was a cop out. But, I knew him well enough to know that if he didn't want to deal with something, he wouldn't. So, I dropped it.

Privately, however, I knew that issue would have to be addressed before I could make ANY decision regarding Mormonism. It was too foreign a doctrine and I didn't want to commit idolatry.

In the meantime, as I was praying and studying, I realized that I tended to read the Scriptures through the lens of the theological interpretations I had been taught and personally developed. We all have bents and biases that affect how we interpret things, even our Scriptures. I began making a very conscience effort to re-read my Scriptures as a blank slate. I tried to pretend I had no theological knowledge or background and was coming at the Scriptures fresh. I was amazed at the difference in understanding you can have if you just took Scriptures for what they literally said, without spinning it through your learned theology. That prepared me for what I was about to learn.

Tad Callister's book contained a chapter on deification. The very topic I NEEDED to deal with. It was amazing! He did such a great job taking you through the Scriptures and the ante-Nicene father's writings in such a clear way. It opened up that doctrine for me in a way I had never previously understood. I also learned that the doctrine is not quite the same as what we are taught in anti-Mormon literature. However, it was still in its actual form quite different from anything I had ever been taught before. As I was sitting there, I suddenly said aloud, "I believe this." And then I thought, "Oh no! I believe this." I knew there was no turning back. I had to follow through and see if it was all true.

All during this time, I felt like I was on one of the scariest roller coaster rides of my life. I would read and study the Scriptures and other books and really feel like things were true. Plus, I fell in love with the faith itself. It is so beautiful, so heavenly. So there I was riding the coaster up, feeling the tension the whole time between the two belief systems. Then, I could have a five minute conversation with my husband and come plummeting down. I was terrified that he was right and I was falling for a cleverly devised Satanic deception. I was trapped between belief and fear.

If Brent was right, and I believed Mormonism, I would be condemned to an eternity in hell. If Neil and Vicki were right, and I didn't believe Mormonism, I would not know or obey God as He intended for us to know Him. Fear drowned me from both directions. That was the state I was in when my husband moved out.

Click here for part 4.


Anonymous said...

Totally awesome story. I am now wanting to read the book on the apostasy that you mentioned. Thanks so much for sharing all of this.

Jennifer said...

I really appreciate how detailed you are in this process of how you felt the spirit confirming truth. That is the area that is the most confusing for me too.

Anonymous said...

Incredible story so far! I have a girlfriend who is southern baptist and is "investigating" the church, and says the same things your prior elders would say, as well as the anti-mormon literature.

I wept as I read the portion where you said you had to study without the lens that had shaped you. I listened to a woman, also converted from the southern baptist faith, who told me she did the exact same thing - removed all bias and approached it with a blank slate.

for some reason, my girlfriend feels it's to use a blank slate approach to gospel teachings in our church. She feels that such an approach is tantamount to dismissing Christ. (sighs) And so she continues to look through that lens... and yet, can't seem to pull away.

She says she was studying the LDS faith for two years before I came along. And it's been 3 years since meeting her. (We've never met - all online). I've hung in here this long because Heavenly Father has shown me incredible things about her.. and us. And I have had more patience than I could ever believe possible.

I'm not sure how much longer I can hold on.. waiting for her.

I too need to be able to share all aspects of my spiritual life with a potential wife.

I'm here long after work, reading your story - riveted. And so now I'm going on to part 4. Thank you for sharing this! I can only imagine the turmoil you went through in this pursuit of truth! What an incredible story!


Anonymous said...

Sorry... I missed a word in my prior entry.

for some reason, my girlfriend feels it's blasphemy to use a blank slate approach to gospel teachings in our church. She feels that such an approach is tantamount to dismissing Christ.