What Price Freedom?
Do you get frustrated with your Mormon friends and acquaintances? "Why can't they see the truth?" You ask. "How can they continue to be deceived by the LDS Church?" Please don't throw your hands up in exasperation. Consider the ramifications of a person leaving the Mormon Church.
Mind ripping. The most important point to understand is the inner turmoil a Mormon faces as he or she opens their mind to the truth. Since she was old enough to toddle up to the little step stool behind the pulpit your Mormon friend has publicly borne her testimony. She has proclaimed to thousands of people that, "She knows the Church is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and the book of Mormon is true." Accompanying these words were strong feelings and experiences. If she can no longer believe her own experiences, nor what she has taught and proclaimed to mankind, she will have to accept that she made a grievous mistake--a mistake of the greatest magnitude.
How can she trust anything again, especially her own discernment? Her eternal future was nearly lost forever by an error she made in judgment, mistaken emotions, and misleading experiences. This isn't just a matter of pride. Her world view is spinning upside down. Her treasured security has turned out to be a faulty ledge overlooking the brink of disaster.
Replacing her core beliefs with the true gospel is no easy task. She will have to get past gigantic roadblocks like: disillusionment, insecurity, life-long thinking patterns, anger at having been deceived and fears--all kinds of fears. Only God can carry a person over these tremendously difficult changes. And He seldom does it all at once.
(I became a believer and left the Mormon Church in 1988. To this very day I suffer from the fear that I will be deceived again, tricked, misled. I scrutinize every concept, every doctrine I hear. I check it against the Bible and plead with God for discernment.)
I call it mind ripping. God rips out the faulty old concept and replaces it with the new beautiful truth. Although, to be fair, God does it as gradually and kindly as possible. He introduces concepts; step by step He teaches us. But there comes a day when the facts become obvious. The difference between Mormonism and the Good News becomes too glaring. Remember that even the children of Israel were afraid and wanted to return to slavery after Moses led them out to freedom. It is gut-wrenching to change. Big changes like leaving the Mormon Church are very stressful. Think of it like a painful massive surgery. Don't expect your friend to undergo this kind of pain easily.
She will change, but only when she realizes that it is her only choice if she wants to live in eternity with God.
During the time I was leaving the Church I had upsetting dreams. I dreamed that I was a child being led by the hand down a dark tunnel. I felt safe, but the air was growing thick and heavy, the light dimmer and dimmer. I looked down at the hand that was guiding me and saw that it was bones. I looked up to see a skeleton leering at me. Screaming, I ran the opposite way until I saw a light at the end of the passage. I ran out and collapsed on a pile of soft green grass, in the fresh air and sunlight. Obviously my dream reflected the frightening reality of being led down a path to destruction rather than salvation.
Other dreams were less terrifying. Night after night I dreamed what I have named the Doctrinal Debates. The dreams went like this: I sat on a stool in the dark of my mind, a shaft of light shining down. I argued points of doctrine with myself, seated opposite me on another spotlighted stool. I argued the Good News doctrine I was learning from the Bible versus the Mormon doctrine I had believed since I was a child. After exhaustive debates, scripture pitted against scripture, logic against logic, I emerged with the painful discovery that the Mormon Church was not the "true church." I realized that my eternal "salvation" depended on the grace of Jesus Christ. Freedom at last. I rejoiced. The God of the universe could love me; even a failure, flop, sinner, like me. Jesus healed the breach between me and God. But another chasm opened up between me and my family and friends. Was it worth the price? Oh, yes! Unequivocally, yes! Was it difficult? Extremely.
What price might your Mormon friend pay if she leaves the Church? Let's take a realistic look at the possibilities.
Jobs. About 40% of the Mormons I know would lose their source of employment, or have their career seriously impaired, if they left the Church. They work for family-owned (therefore Mormon) companies, they sell to Mormons, they write for, or work for the Church directly, or they were hired into large corporations by Mormon associates. Mormon networking is huge. Many jobs are obtained by knowing Church members. Consequently, so are promotions, raises, etc.
Friends. Most of your Mormon's friends will be afraid to continue to associate with her. Her life-long friendships will probably be lost. At best, her relationships will be very strained. These friends will be afraid she might try to influence them "down the road to apostasy." Close friends feel angry and betrayed. She has abandoned them in their struggle to work for their salvation and she now rests in Christ. Also, they've been taught that now she is subject to the buffeting of Satan because she left the Church. It is disconcerting for them to observe the peace she has found. It defies the Church teachings on apostates and threatens their own world view.
Family. As with a sword He divides us. Many who leave the Church also lose their husband or wife. A temple marriage is vital to Mormons. If your friend leaves the Mormon Church, thus reneging on her temple vows, it is possible that her spouse will think that his own eternal progression is jeopardized. Some have not only lost their spouse, but also had their children taken from their custody. Could you give up your little children? There are faithful ex-Mormon Christians who were forced to do exactly that in order to follow the Lord.
Parents sometimes disown, disinherit, or disassociate with their adult children who leave the Church. It will often drive a wedge between brothers and sisters. Sisters who were inseparable are suddenly divided. In short, your Mormon friend may become isolated from all those she held dear if she leaves the Mormon Church. The courageous believers who have faced this challenge understand what Christ meant when he said,
"I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother…a man's foes shall be they of his own household." This verse is followed by the painful truth that, "he that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."
These verses describe a harsh reality. This isn't a scripture you should throw at your Mormon friend, but rather something for her to discover in the midst of the pain that will come. A comfort: realizing that God knew it would be so.
Excommunication. We've mentioned nothing of the stress and harassment which comes from your friend formally removing her name from Church membership. It isn't as if she can just stop going. To leave the Mormon Church and have the authorities stop trying to contact her, your friend will have to get her name removed from the Church records. If she has been through the temple she will have to be excommunicated. This is like a court martial; that's the only way I can explain it. The person must go to an interview with the Bishop, an interview with the Stake President and then finally appear before the Stake High Council. The bit in front of the High Council can be done in absentia, if your friend prefers; she can just send a letter of intent. The Lord will be with her through these experiences. It can be a faith building but very stressful process.
How then does a Mormon ever become a Believer?
In the face of all these difficulties you may wonder if it is impossible for your friend to come to Christ. Perhaps you want to throw your hands up into the air again saying, "It's just too hard for my friend to change." Well, obviously some Mormon's do become Christians. I did. My husband did. And you've read the testimonies of others who have come to call Jesus their Savior. How does it happen? What can you do?
How. God delivers us. God changes our hearts, opens our eyes and calls us to Himself. Jesus said, "My sheep know my voice." Think back to your own conversion. Wasn't God calling you all along the way? It's a process. Many people point to a day or a moment in which they accepted the Lord. Perhaps, but it is likely that this is the day or moment when all of God's beckoning culminates and the sheep comes into the fold where it belongs. All the yearning for God finds a place.
What can we do? We are often part of God's beckoning process. I look back on some things Christians said to me throughout the decades while I was a Mormon and I can see the influence these words had on my mind. A word here, a question there, a kindness--they all added up. I also saw living examples that preached to me of a different kind of life. Not 'good' or 'religious', but lives where Jesus' mercy and grace were at the center, rather than achievement and Law.
What didn't influence me. I was never influenced by bitter attacks against Mormonism. Nor was I much impressed by people who saw us as a weird cult. For example: I have one friend who has asked me three times if Mormons still practice polygamy. Her only concept regarding Mormonism is the polygamy issue.
As a Mormon I encountered lots of people who simply thought of Mormons as those strange people who don't drink coffee, tea, and alcohol or smoke. Some people actually thought that Mormons had horns hidden underneath their hair. I generally dismissed such individuals as uninformed or bigoted. Very few people were informed enough or forthright enough to enter into an intelligent discussion about Mormonism.
Getting her out of the Church. What good is it for your friend to leave the Mormon Church if she doesn't come to the Lord? If someone succeeds in disillusioning her about Mormonism without leading her to her true Savior where is the benefit? What is gained? It is my contention that nothing is gained.
Consider the case of my younger brother. As a Mormon he was burdened by the law. He was continually whipped by a moral standard. And while that "law" fell far short of saving him, in Romans Paul calls it a schoolmaster used to bring us to Christ. My brother became disillusioned with the Mormon Church and dropped away. He now feels that he had been tricked, shamed, and deceived. He is angry at religion and at God. He wants nothing to do with God or with any 'Church'. He now lives a Godless life submitting himself to no standard but his own. He is, as the Scripture says, "twice the child of the devil" and more lost, if possible, than he was as a Mormon because now he wants nothing to do with anything remotely connected to God. Where he had once had faith in God, he now doubts God's existence altogether. My brother needed the Good News; instead he only got the bad news that he had been lied to.
In Greek trust and belief are the same word. Therefore, in the Bible when it is written that we must "believe to be saved," it is saying that we must trust in Jesus Christ. Trust is the thing God wants from us as Christians. But, trust is a thing delicate. It is a high prize. If we find that we have given our trust mistakenly we feel hurt, angry, betrayed.
Consider the woman who finds that her husband has been unfaithful. Just so, your Mormon friend has trusted, indeed given her ultimate trust (her eternal future) to a doctrine she thought cared for her. When she finds that it was a deceitful, unfaithful doctrine she must have the comfort of something--someone--better to run to; namely Jesus Christ.
What did influence me? I was influenced by the truth. This is the simplest, clearest explanation.
Allow the Spirit of God to guide your mouth. If you love your Mormon friend you will come along side rather than attack. Our Lord knows which truths are most important to reveal to your friend and when she most needs to hear them. You must remember that it is her way of life, her entire belief system that you're turning upside down. At times she might argue and get upset. That's O.K.; it shows that she cares. It's the person who doesn't care for whom I have little hope.
Pray. It is God who ultimately opens our eyes and changes our hearts. Second Corinthians 4:6 and Proverbs 21:1 are just two of many Scriptures that point out the sovereignty of God over the heart of man. A wonderful example is found in the story of Saul of Tarsus. Here was a man set against the Christians, persecuting them, killing them. In one mighty stroke God blinded the man physically, but opened his mind and heart to the truth. He was never the same again. He became Paul, dedicated servant of the Lord.
Pray for God to open the eyes and heart of your friend. When you pray, pray for your friend's spouse as well as for her. Pray that they will both come to know the Lord as their Savior.
We had friends who prayed for three long years that my husband and I would come to know the Lord. God answered those prayers miraculously. My husband and I became believers through very different routes.
My husband began to feel very burdened as a Mormon. He felt that every time he went to church they made him feel more and more guilty. In his own words, he felt he was dying. So he stopped attending church. At work some friends began to challenge his beliefs. He argued and debated Bible verses with them until the man who had been praying for us stepped in. He asked Brett if he would care to study the Bible with him. Paul also invited me to the study. I was still active in the Church. Brett convinced me that it was a good opportunity to convert these friends to Mormonism. Ha! Paul Emmerich turned out to be a learned Bible scholar.
In my own life, changes were taking place apart from Brett. I had been asked to teach the Gospel Doctrine class at Church on the first half of the book of Romans. No wonder the regular teacher had gone on vacation that week; Romans was quite a challenge! I prayed earnestly for help in understanding the complicated message in Romans' first eight chapters. And God opened my eyes to the concept of grace. I was so excited. For the first time in my life I felt truly forgiven for my sins. I was bursting to deliver the lesson that Sunday. I laid out the principle that it was God who justifies the ungodly, that all men had fallen short of the glory of God. One woman raised her hand and told me I was getting too "Christian-y." To my great disappointment, out of a classroom of 30 or 40, only two other people shared my excitement.
Later, I was called to teach leadership training. I started teaching radical ideas like: our behavior follows our beliefs. Change the belief system and the behavior will follow. More and more I came in conflict with standard Mormon doctrine.
When I attended Paul and Brett's Bible study of Hebrews God was ready to really open my eyes, and heart. And so my education began. Paul taught Brett that he could pray for understanding of the Bible and that God would answer that prayer. Brett began to study the entire New Testament. Then one day God touched Brett's heart in a marvelous way. Brett felt the love of God and from that day on he was never the same. Unbeknownst to each other, we both knew we had found a new life in Christ.
I am grateful that Paul and his wife had the insight to pray for both of us, and that God performed a miracle in our hearts.
It is also important to pray that you will be able to maintain a spirit of love and truth as you speak to your friend.
Yes, it is difficult for your friend to leave the Mormon Church, but a season of trouble here on earth is far better than eternal agony. Those who have left the Mormon Church and have turned to Jesus Christ for their salvation agree: it is the best and only decision to make.
So don't give up hope. Yes, it will be amazing if your friend's eyes are opened to the truth. But then, God specializes in the amazing.
Copyright © 1989
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