As a child I never had religion in the home; my parents were never interested in anything to do with religion. Between the ages of 10-11 I attended Sunday school at a local Anglican Church. I found the church very boring and by the time I was twelve I had decided the church was dead. In my early teens my parents and I moved to Birmingham, England. The new neighborhood where I lived was particularly rough and many of my peers were getting involved in drugs, crime, promiscuity, etc. During that time I remember feeling that there must be more to life.
Whilst at secondary school I undertook a project on child development, on religious faiths and how different religions bring up their children. I lived a few minutes walk away from the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I walked into that office, little did I know how that visit would change my life.
To cut a very long story short, I left my name and address at the LDS office. Two young missionaries soon knocked on my door. I was invited to a series of meetings at my neighbor's house. Before long I was attending the LDS Church. The red carpet treatment was laid on, although I would like to point out that the people were genuine. I received my testimony that Joseph Smith the founder was a prophet and that God had restored Christianity through him. I loved the man who was Prophet at that time and believed that the LDS church was the only true religion on the earth. I withdrew from all my gentile (non- Mormon) friends. Things with my family became difficult. I believed that when they challenged me over the belief system of the Church the devil was using them to pull me out of the Church.
I was baptized into the LDS Church on my 16th birthday (1988). The people were kind and friendly, but I was unaware that I had lost the ability to think for myself. I never questioned any of the doctrines of the Church. For the first two years I was extremely happy. When I reached eighteen things started to change. I felt uncomfortable with the way women were treated, men 'lording' their authority over women. Women were expected to be wives and mothers, which is an important role, but women who went out to work were frowned upon. I can remember the then prophet, Ezra Taft Benson, giving a speech which included a remark about women who had careers being guilty of neglecting their children. I also started to question in my mind the doctrine of baptism for the dead. Mormons spend a fortune tracing their deceased relatives in order to be baptized on their behalf. Mormonism teaches that the act of proxy baptism allows these dead to respond to the LDS message and become a Mormon in the afterlife. When I had these doubts I kept them to myself. The void I had felt in my life as a young child still had not been filled; I tried to work harder at being religious. I had not realized that being totally legalistic was not what God required of us.
The end of the road for my membership finally came about through a work colleague who was educated in Mormonism; he was also a born-again Christian. He went about telling me about the flaws in Mormonism. He told me that to be a Mormon I had to be racist as Mormonism believes that black people are inferior to white, and until 1978 they were not allowed to hold the Priesthood. I asked my stake president* if this was true. I expected him to deny it, but he said that it was true that the Church had taught this doctrine. I was completely shocked. I finally decided to leave the Church after watching a television documentary about Mormonism. The program highlighted that Mormonism was not of God: the Book of Mormon was a fraud; the Mormon temple ceremonies were occultic; Joseph Smith was a liar, an adulterer, and basically a false prophet. The program also highlighted the Mountain meadow massacre and the polygamy that had gone on in Utah in the nineteenth century. I always believed up until that point that polygamy was only practiced as a social security arrangement.
After watching the program I phoned my bishop and told him to remove my name from membership. My request was denied. I had to threaten the Church with legal action to have my name removed. They visited me for some time to try to persuade me to return. They eventually stopped visiting when I moved house (I did not move for that purpose).
Although I had left the Church and had no intention of returning, I believed that all other churches were in total error. I tried to attend several churches and also studied other non-Christian religions (i.e., Jehovah's Witnesses, Hare Krishna, Islam, Spiritualism and Unitarians), but these held no interest for me. Something would always prevent me from going any further. For four years I had no affiliation with any religion. I often refer to this as my wilderness stage. I was aware that I still had a great void in my life that needed to be filled, but I was unaware of how to fill it. I tried all kinds of things (an unsuccessful marriage, lots of failed relationships, night clubs--I drank heavily), but nothing worked. This was probably the worst time of my life.
Mormonism would not leave me. I would wake up and go to sleep every night thinking about Mormonism. It was like I did not fit into the world outside of the Mormon Church. But I did not belong inside it either, as that would make me a hypocrite because I knew that Mormonism was false. Many people, especially those who have never been part of a cult, do not realize that the cult is your life; you do not have a life outside of it. You lose everything when you leave, including your friends and social life. Life becomes very empty. You need love, fellowship and support.
Then five years ago (March 1996), I was walking round the estate where I lived. I heard music coming from a church. I went in and sat down without even thinking about it. At first I felt a little uncomfortable about being in the church. After a short while a video about Jesus' death was put on. It was very moving. The video basically presented the Gospel. For many years I had believed Christianity to be complicated. I had tried to understand the Trinity and how we could be saved by grace, not works. Finally it all hit me that Jesus had died for me and my sins. That evening was a particularly emotional time for me. I really felt God's love and presence. I committed my life to the Lord that night and I can honestly say that my life has never been the same.
God has done so much for me. Before I was saved I always felt dirty. To say that I hated myself is an understatement. Now, to feel clean and worthy in God's sight, is wonderful. I was also full of phobias: fear of train lines, fear of death. Jesus has completely set me free from those fears. The God of Mormonism was never satisfied with what I did. I could never do enough. But that is not what life is meant to be like. We can never earn God's love. Jesus has paid for our sins in full.
I now believe that God is calling me to reach out to those who have been deceived. Mormons are not deceivers, they have been deceived themselves. They are decent, good, kind people and I still love them very much. But Mormonism is a second-hand religion; there is no relationship with God. Jesus said in John 10:10, "I am come that that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." Cults, unfortunately, try to get to God in another way. That is not living life more abundantly; it is being trapped in a cage of legalism. Please don't be fooled. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me." (John 14:6) There is no other way to be right with God.
If you have been involved in the Mormon Church in any way, I urge you to investigate what I am saying. If you have any questions please contact me at the following address. I will respect your confidentiality and will not be pushy. I know how difficult such a move would be for you. Your eternal destiny is a stake; don't waste your life following a false prophet. You only get one shot. Make the right choice. Follow the real Jesus today!
*The Mormon Church is divided up into stakes in a region; this would be the equivalent of an Anglican Diocese. The stake is divided up into wards, equivalent of a parish. The stake President is the equivalent of an Anglican bishop, and the Mormon bishop is the equivalent of the local vicar.
Email Gail Owens (alternative email address)