I grew up in a fourth generation Mormon family. When I turned eight, I was baptized and confirmed into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was soon encouraged to save money for my mission when I turned nineteen. I can vividly remember tithing ten percent of my one dollar a week allowance, and how good that made me feel. I remember singing songs like, “Book of Mormon Stories”, and “The Golden Plates”.
I also remember the fear that swept my heart because my Mom and Dad were not married in the Mormon Temple. If they had been I was taught our family would be sealed together in heaven, and never apart when we died. I remember competition rather than Christ’s love. I remember pressure to be perfect rather than the plan of true salvation.
After six years of frustrated devotion to Mormonism, I felt spiritually empty. I questioned God similar to the example of the founder of the LDS church, Joseph Smith. I went out to the woods behind our house and next to a quiet creek and sunlight glistening through the trees; I knelt and prayed for God to show himself. I sincerely believed I would experience the same thing Joseph Smith claimed when he was fourteen and seeking for truth. This method seemed the most logical since it worked for the boy Smith.
God answered my prayer not in the woods that day, but through Pastor Robert Graves. Our family was invited to visit the Santa Rosa Bible Church in Santa Rosa, California and so we went. After hearing an enthusiastic sermon, Pastor Graves gave a most unique invitation. I had never heard such things in a church and basically considered the idea of salvation by grace through faith as ridiculous.
This plan was too simple and gave too much joy for what it required. How could simple child-like faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross assure me of forgiveness and eternal life in heaven with my Heavenly Father? I was taught there were three levels of heaven and there was no way of even knowing if one would ever even reach the lowest kingdom.
Two weeks later our family returned to the Santa Rosa Bible Church. Once again at the end of the sermon I heard the same unique invitation. I never heard the words “Joseph Smith, LDS, the golden plates, or working your way to the Celestial Kingdom of heaven. What I heard was that Jesus was God and that only He can give me the right to enter Heaven. Only by believing that I was a sinner and that He took the punishment for all my sins could I have a relationship with Him.
When I got home, I went upstairs to my room. I knew accepting Christ was what I needed, but could I still attend the Mormon Church? This was puzzling to me, so I opened the Bible my grandmother had given me. I prayed God would tell me whether or not I should keep going to the Mormon Church. I literally flipped the pages through until I happened to open to Galatians chapter one. My eyes were filled with tears when I read, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.”
Well after reading that, I knew I had the truth and that it had nothing to do with Mormonism. The day I accepted Christ, I began the most abundant and fulfilling life offered to mankind. I was born into a family that gave life meaning. Both on earth as well as when my life on earth passes away will my relationship with Christ be that much more meaningful.