From Twaddle To Truth
In the pre-existent spirit world I had been a very valiant daughter of God the Father Elohim, and one of his many wives. I had sided with my eldest brother Jesus in the warfare in heaven rather than with another brother, Lucifer. Therefore, I earned the privilege of not only coming to this earth with white skin, but also being born into a fourth generation Mormon family, and belonging to the only true church. Those who sided with Lucifer did not receive a body, and those who remained neutral had to come to this life with black skin; unable to hold the priesthood. (That is until 1978 when God changed his mind!)
My grandparents had all been married in the Salt Lake City temple for time and all eternity, and would someday be gods and goddesses themselves. They all wore the sacred garments that protected them from harm and danger. And they married again and again for dead folks. This is what I aspired to. My folks were "Jack Mormons", which means they believed Mormonism, they gave money, and stored two years worth of food, but they were too unworthy to attend services. You see, they both drank coffee and tea. Now and then my father imbibed stronger drinks and my mother smoked cigarettes; so they could not go to the temple.
I began going to church very early with a lovely neighbor lady who would come for me each Sunday. When I was older I went by myself. I did hear a few Bible stories, but mostly we heard about our LDS prophets and how persecuted we were. One day a week I went from school right to church to attend Primary, sort of like a Sunday School service. When I was twelve I graduated to an evening service called Mutual. This was lots of fun. We learned singing, speech, dancing and drama.
Each Sunday I attended Sunday School and church service. On Fast Sunday, the first Sunday of the month, I fasted. Fast and Testimony service would move me to tears as I listened to one member after another stand and say they knew this was the only true church, that the Book of Mormon was true, and that they knew that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I believed all this, and I wanted it to be my testimony too, but I was just too shy to bear my testimony in front of others. And besides, I wasn't sure because I never did get the burning in the bosom that you were supposed to get. Until you get "a burner" you do not have a testimony.
Everyone is supposed to get baptized at age eight and then get a Patriarchal blessing--sort of like having your fortune told. The Patriarch tells you which Jewish tribe you are from and what your future can hold if you are true to the Church. Once this is done you can go to the temple and get baptized for dead people to help them get to a better heaven. However, tithing was also necessary to be able to go to the temple and to earn a better position in one of the three heavens.
I began to tithe when I started babysitting for neighbors. Sometimes I was embarrassed to only give ten cents from the dollar I had earned, so I would give the whole amount. I figured that would make God love me, as I was already a disappointment to Him because I was too bashful to ever give my testimony--once I got one.
During my junior year of high school I became quite frustrated. Since I was probably too ignorant to go to college I would need to find a nice Mormon boy and get married in the temple so I could start having lots of children. This would enable me to make bodies for some of God's and his wives' spirit children so they could come to earth. You see, I knew that you could not become a god without a body. I also knew that I could not go to the highest heaven without being married. Here I was--sixteen years old and I was not even going steady!
That summer I met a young man who liked me. He did not drink or smoke, and he went to church! The only problem was he went to a Protestant church. I figured if I could get him to visit my church and hear the "truth" he would convert and we could be married in the temple and live for time and all eternity happily ever after. Right? Wrong!
I had to condescend to visit his church every other week if he would visit mine. I felt so guilty because I did rather enjoy hearing stories from the Bible at his church; something I was not hearing at mine. These heathens did not know that Jesus was married, or that God literally sired Jesus. Their deacons were grown men, not twelve year olds like the Mormon ones. They didn't even try to redeem their dead! Instead of persecuting me like I had been warned they would, they seemed not to care that I was a superior Latter-day Saint and they were truly nice to me. Their music was different, too. They sang about Jesus. My favorite Mormon song was about Jesus, but we did not sing it as often as we sang about Joseph.
I could not convert my boyfriend, so I decided that rather than lose him I would convert to his church. I still thought I could change his mind in a year or so and we would become Mormons. My folks signed for me to get married during my senior year. Because of a transfer we moved to Texas and began attending a Christian church every Sunday. I began to hear the word of God preached week after week. I heard different kinds of testimonies--about Jesus and what he had done for these sweet people. I loved their music so I took a song book home and learned some of the great old hymns of the faith. I never did find out who their prophets were; they just never talked about them.
It took me about two years to understand that the "experience with God" that they were talking about was not praying. In the Mormon Church we used a lot of the same words, but they had such vastly different meanings. One day it dawned upon me that Mormonism has it backwards: man did not become a god, God became a man! Jesus is not my elder brother, He is God. And there is only one God. I had to face the fact that I, a Saint, was really a sinner. I walked the aisle at church and accepted Jesus as my Savior and was baptized again; this time as a believer.
I was twenty years old when I received my first Bible. It was a few years later that I realized I could read it for myself. It took me several years to sort through some beliefs to know if they were Christian doctrine or Mormon doctrine. It was years before I wrote to get my name removed from the Mormon roll. I did not attend my excommunication trial.
I still love the Mormon people--they are my people--but they have been deceived. They are working very hard trying to earn God's love. They think they are serving Him by keeping laws and ordinances. The Bible says it is not by works--it is a gift.
Today I have a testimony! It is Jesus; not Joseph.
[Colleen is the director of the Nauvoo Christian Visitors Center in Nauvoo, Illinois.]
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