Woody’s Testimony – A Mormon For 31 Years
A Mormon for 31 years
My name is Woody and even though I have been on the net for a while, this is my first entry. I want to thank everyone who has shared their hearts on their exit from Mormonism.
My family joined the church when I was ten. I was a member for 31 years. On my mission in Southern California, while defending the faith & working with some wonderful members, I was exposed to many of the “weird” doctrines I had never heard before. I ignored those doctrines after I had gone to a local institute director at Long Beach State University, and he had minimized those “weird” arguments by saying they were tools of the devil and used frequently by anti-Mormons who misquoted the prophets.
I returned home in 1974, entered college, and got married to Cindy in the LA Temple in November 1975. I was very active in the little church branch where the college was located.
In 1978 I was quite surprised to learn that the brethren had decided to ordain blacks to the priesthood. I was not disturbed that blacks could not serve in the church as priesthood holders, but disturbed because Brigham Young (BY) prophesied that the blacks would never hold the priesthood until after Christ came at His second coming. This was the first evidence to me of conflicting doctrines given by general authorities of the church that were supposedly revelations from God. This also brought to memory those conflicting doctrines that were minimized by the institute director, while on my mission. Even though this bothered me, I stayed active and began to pray and study harder for personal understanding.
The following years were spent in reading church books and the standard works to resolve these conflicts. The more I studied and read, the more questions arose and less answers available. In 1985, I told Cindy there were many issues in the church which concerned me. This upset her greatly because she was taught in Relief Society that doubts could sometimes be the symptom of a greater personal sin such as infidelity. Even though Cindy knew I had always been faithful to her, she was extremely bothered that I questioned the church and lacked a strong testimony . Whenever we argued, it was always about my lukewarm testimony compared to those other “spiritual” priesthood holders in the ward and my own testimony before 1978.
Cindy had grabbed hold of the “romantic” notions of the eternal family doctrine because she was raised in a very bad family and was looking for a method of having a better family of her own. As a convert she was sure the church had the true family system. Consequently, Cindy was not tolerant of my doubts, so once again I suppressed them & plead “insanity”. Continuing on, I studied and remained active while serving in various callings such as, the Young Men’s program; the Bishopric; Sunday School; assistant institute teacher; seminary teacher; and an advisor to the High Priests. I loved reading everything on Joseph Smith and gave firesides to the youth, giving spiritual and funny events of his life. I even named my first born son after the prophet Joseph.
In 1990 the temple rituals were changed. Now my wife saw the political changes for the first time. Sure I noticed the big changes such as the penalties being dropped etc., but I already knew it was a joke. She noticed the subtleties I would have never noticed without her help. Things like, in the pre -1990 version, Eve always looked to Adam for her guidance. In the 1990 version, Eve looked to heaven also & even spoke more. That alone was a major doctrinal shift if one knew the control the organization exercised over women and still does today with its romantic families are forever nonsense.
In 1992 Cindy went to her alma mater to BYU Education week. I could not go due to work constraints. She attended a variety of lectures and came home uplifted and said what a spiritual experience it was. Cindy went on how she desired me to go the following year because she felt strongly it would have a positive affect on me and my testimony.
So in the summer of 1993, I accepted her challenge and drove to Utah with my two daughters, who were 15 and 17 years old at the time. When I attended a lecture on Joseph Smith (JS), the professor gave an antidote about Joseph’s life that disturbed me deeply. The experience was about an entry in Willard Richards diary . Bro. Richards was telling of a time when he and Joseph were leaving the Mansion house to go to the church office. The diary entry stated how Joseph’s faithful wife, Emma, asked Joseph if he was practicing Plural Marriage? The diary then told that Joseph answered “no”. After they left the Mansion House and walking to their office, Bro. Richards asked Joseph why he had lied to Emma.
Joseph said Emma would never accept polygamy and he would have to go to Hell to save her. The audience was so impressed that Joseph had the power over hell as “The prophet of the restoration”, and that he also loved his wife so much as to go to hell to save her soul.
I could not believe my ears! Did I miss something? If I remember correctly, didn’t 2Nephi 9:34 say that “Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell.” This was the last straw. I had two daughters on this campus and my wife at home, who’s own self esteem was becoming co-dependent on the Brethren and the romance of their evil doctrines.
I did not attend many more sessions of education week. Instead I went to the BYU bookstore, BYU library, Deseret Bookstores, and the Deseret News. I confronted the BYU History Professor, Susan Easton Black, and asked her about the four versions of J.S. first vision. She said she could not answer it and referred me to Dean Jesse, the Seventy over church history in Salt Lake. I asked her about one of her self professed specialties, which was Mormons and Masonry. Before I asked my questions on Masonry, I asked about her background on the subject. Here I was seeking answers and Susan, the self professed expert, who had written on the subject and Ph.D. in History, said she had only read Mormonism and Masonry by McGavin. She did not know about the Catholic Monastic Templars that had preceded the Free Masons of 1314. She still believed that the temple rituals of Masonry and Mormonism where based on Solomon’s Temple. Little did she know that the temple rights were secret codes used during the crusades by those Catholic Templars to determine who was friend or foe. Similarly, military engagement codes are used by today’s allies to identify each other during tactical maneuvers. And she is supposed to be the expert of BYU, and the only source she had was reading one book authored by a Mormon. If this is research, give me a break!
Following the advise of Susan (since she couldn’t explain why JS had 4 different versions of the first vision), I called Dean Jessee to see if he could give me an answer. He avoided the discussion over the phone, but said he would mail me a pamphlet on the subject. I received the pamphlet, “A SURE FOUNDATION – ANSWERS TO DIFFICULT GOSPEL QUESTIONS”. On page 169 it said, the four versions of Joseph Smith’s first vision could be compared to the four separate testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of Christ. I had been on the debate team in college and had also been to court many times due to my profession, and this was the most stupid analogy I had ever heard in my life.
The Bible had four different individual’s testimony , which all agreed on the identity of Jesus Christ, His life and teachings. J.S. gave four different testimonies of the same event that did not agree on any material issue. In fact, any fair court on earth or in heaven , would deem J.S. a liar; wake up Bro. Jessee. What is really interesting on this issue, is that Oliver Cowdery (who had been living with JS and Emma in those early years), had written a letter to encourage Brigham Young and his brothers, to come and meet the prophet. In that letter, Oliver said that JS told him in his “first vision”, it was Nephi that delivered the message and told Joseph to join none of the other churches. It wasn’t until 1838 (6 years later), that the story had evolved to the point that the “Heavenly Personage” was none other than Christ, and God the Father.
Next my research took me to Deseret News where I obtained a copy from the original newspaper, of many of the Adam-God discourses written by Brigham Young (BY). I was told by my last Bishop and the institute director (on my mission), that B.Y. was misquoted. Now does anyone think B.Y., who had an authoritarian personality like Sudam Hussein, would let his newspaper misquote him. If anyone reads one page of B.Y. in the Journal of Discourses, one would know that nobody crossed Bro. Brigham, so I doubt the newspaper would misquote a hand written document of B.Y; If they had, there would have been some evidence of a retraction by the newspaper shortly thereafter. The reason why there never was any retraction, is because BY loved the Adam-God Doctrine. In the newspaper, a sermon by Brigham Young, dated June 14, 1873, Brigham Young said, (to paraphrase), that God had revealed to him, that Adam was our Father and God, and that he was the literal Father of Jesus Christ.
I had read the book The Great Apostasy by James E. Talmage, while on my mission. As I researched Mormonism it brought back to my mind the discoveries of Talmage about Catholic history; its deceit, its revisions of history, and its control of its ignorant and faithful masses. The very thing Talmage had criticized about Catholicism, the church had been doing since its beginning, too.
Driving home from BYU, I was still studying and pondering the above issues (unknown to my daughters). The girls were oblivious as to what was going on in my heart. They were so excited about BYU education week, the things they had learned, and the boys they had met. We even stopped in Nauvoo.
On the long drive home, I shed many tears as the evidence grew showing the deceit and manipulation of the brethren in Salt Lake. I also worried how Cindy would accept the information I would confront her with and wondered if this would break up our marriage and ruin our family. I could only depend on God because Cindy had known that I was only seeking truth, not power or inactivity. Cindy asked me to do one thing when I left for BYU Education Week and that was not to come home lukewarm about my testimony.
When I arrived home Cindy wanted to know how everything went. I said fine, but I was continuing to read many of the church books I bought at the BYU bookstore while there. The final blow came when I read the life of Orin Porter Rockwell, whom I Loved to read about. In the account, Porter told his wife that he had shot Governor Boggs of Missouri. He told her all the facts and that is why the brethren kept Joseph and Porter confined within the city limits of Nauvoo to protect them from the mobs and extradition to Missouri. Well, I put that book down and went down stairs to my library and took out the book, The Life of Joseph Smith, The Prophet by George Q. Cannon, an “apostle of God”. In this book, Bro. Cannon said the accusations from the people of Missouri, that a Mormon had shot Governor Boggs, was not true. Instead, he wrote that it was propaganda and that Gov. Boggs was shot by an enemy of the church to increase the persecution of the saints. Well here is another candidate for hell who was also a “profit”, seer, and revelator.
I could not stop there , so I called Sister Susan Easton Black in Utah, to see if this history was correct. I asked her specifically, ” Do you think Porter Rockwell shot Gov. Boggs? She said “yes, I believe so.” My heart sank. I had been up every night until early hours reading for about two weeks. Cindy was concerned, but was not sure what to think. After the Rockwell issue had surfaced I could not keep it in.
I couldn’t understand why my father didn’t research before joining the church. He was well liked by the local brethren and people, yet I wondered why I had never seen him in humble prayer. I thought again about the manipulation my daughters would go through when they took the oaths and covenants. I remembered my wife’s efforts to relate to God as a second class citizen. Her fate was to be sealed in a group to some man who did not know her heart like I did, if I did not keep straight on the path. This drove her to extreme insecurity as I questioned. All she could remember was Eve looking to Adam for her place in the Celestial Kingdom. She was killing herself to be perfect and to keep me perfect, so I could be worthy to take her and the kids back “To our home in the sky”. (Ha!) That alone is why Mormonism is wicked. I did not want this for my girls.
Then I thought about my sons and their desire to be like Dad; to be totally worthy to serve a mission and go marry in the Temple. What about their potential heartache when they returned home after a mission, only to find me inactive. Worse would be the possibility in their adulthood of having a family of their own, and discovering what I knew now, disrupting their own family’s life. Finding out the hidden lies and not knowing what to do or where to go because of the guilt one feels for doubting, then leaving when so entrenched in this bizarre “Fraternity” . I could not do to my sons what my father did to me.
I decided to present my case to Cindy and prayed that she would be receptive. I was prepared to leave the church alone, but I did not want to loose her and the children, as threatened twelve years earlier. She could go to church if she was not convinced, but I refused to ever go back since I could not support a lie. I had to do this so my children would see my convictions.
One evening I called Cindy into my study. I began to weep as I presented the awful facts before her. She listened and wept too. It took hours to present. When I was finished, to my dismay, she wanted to talk to the Bishop to try to find answers. Of course being a fair debater, I could only acquiesce.
The Bishop was BIG TIME concerned! Here was his assistant advisor to the High Priests asking questions he could not answer. There were other considerations, too. I was the CPA for many members of the church and long time friends to most of them. One Child had performed as Annie in the Annie Play in Atlanta Theaters, she also sang at the Hawks Games. The other children had performed on radio, and on TV Commercials. In addition, he had set up a youth fireside for me to do a J.S. act. I am sure he was concerned about our salvation most of all. He tried to help answer Cindy questions. He brought up my oldest daughters personal problems to remind Cindy that our daughter’s salvation depended on forgiveness by the church. Cindy brought all these issues back with her. She asked me to go with her to talk to the Bishop because she could not remember all the questions. I consented because this was her time to search.
The bishop could not answer the issues so he arranged an interview with the Stake President “Gibby”. Gibby was the Bishops senior (x-military) pilot at Delta. He was from Provo and the “anti-mormon nemesis”. This encounter was not something I looked forward too. But I was a debater from college so I was confident I could plead my case in a logical manner. If he could help me find truth I was willing. Particularly since Cindy was going to come as was the Bishop.
I was working late so we arranged to meet at the Stake Center at 10 o’clock a.m.. The Bishop escorted Cindy and I to the office. Cindy was nervous as was I. “Gibby” had the Bishop open the meeting with prayer. The Bishop sat to my right and Cindy to my left and “Gibby” in front.
Then he opened with the general question of “what’s the problem?” I stated that the issues at hand were:
1) Plural marriage and Joseph’s promiscuity before the revelation.
2) The four versions of first vision.
3) The proof that the Book of Abraham was not only translated incorrectly but it was also 2000 years out of sync with actual history.
4)Brigham Young’s Adam God doctrine,
and 5)the Blood Atonement doctrine.
I am not going to go into the evidence or arguments except to say #3 was the least researched and “Gibby” shut me down on that one, because he brought up one fellow’s (Nelson) credibility issues which I had no counter argument for at the time. I had not read the book “by his own hand upon papyrus” by C.M. Larson at that time. Please remember that all of my research was from material within the church except for item #3, it was only a side issue at the time. It is a primary weakness for the church as I found out later.
During the discussion I asked “Gibby” could I bring out my evidence so we could look at the specifics. To my surprise he said “NO” he said that he did not bring his papers so I could not bring out mine. I said “well, you asked for this meeting do you not care to get to the specific problems and what created them?” He simply said we could discuss them anyway. So we began. We began with plural marriage. My questions were to the point. His answers were directed to my wife. He would never look at me as he answered any question. He went on a diatribe about how he was from a fine Utah Polygamy family and how his grandmother was so faithful even when she was refused a space in the main house by the first wife.
He went on to tell how his grandmother had to get money from her own uncle to feed her children because the first wife would not allow the husband to give money to feed his “illegitimate” children. In spite of those trials the “Gibby” is the best Mormon stock. I was not sure if he was against me or for me. He was not helping his case with my wife because I knew my wife hated polygamy and now he was giving her another reason to hate it.
The discussion went on for about 2 hours. Since he had no facts to confront my questions, he finally looked into my wife’s eyes and said “If you continue in this direction then you will loose your family forever and you will be divorced in two years.”
I was angry. He had cut me off several times during our discussion telling me not to interrupt him when I was only trying to stay with facts not stories and feelings. I apologized each time to my “superior” to let him talk on as he sank his own ship. But now with His comment to my wife, he had hit her where she was most vulnerable her “eternal” family. I controlled my temper and was polite. I asked no more questions. The rhetoric was winding down for the defense and I was ready to go. He finished as before speaking to Cindy. Then the good old missionary trick “ask the most receptive party on the offense to give a sincere closing prayer and ask God that truth be revealed to each one there”. Then he added the final salvo that would eventually seal his case in defeat.
My wife was holding on to an experience that consisted of a shocking feeling she had felt when she was 18 and she had prayed about the church, as the missionaries had asked her to do. Now “Gibby” said looking at Cindy “don’t trust your feelings, (yea right) that burning in the bosom in D&C Section 9 is for translation purposes only. Pray for truth”. (Boy, even I had not heard that argument before) He was afraid she would be influenced by me and he wanted to nip that problem in the bud, before she prayed. However, he forgot she can read and she can reason without me.
She was still caught in the emotions of the meeting and said a sincere prayer and wept as she exposed her vulnerable heart and the insecurities “Gibby” had laid wide open. I did not cry because I was so angry at the manipulation.
As we left together, Cindy was quiet. I walked her to her car. She had driven from her nursing course at college in a separate car. I said quietly to her, “Cindy I think I lost you in there.” She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “But, it is so beautiful”. I said “It seems that way. I wish I had recorded the meeting so you could review it on your own. You could hear that he never answered the facts that were mentioned; such as the doctrinal changes, J.S.’s promiscuity before the Everlasting Covenant of Marriage was revealed. The fact certain sins are not covered by Christ’s atonement. The Statement that J.S. said that he was greater than Christ. The fact J.S. sounds more like David Koresh than Samuel, a real prophet. He only spoke to you and pulled your heart strings.”
To my surprise she turned to me and said she had taped it. I could not believe it. She had her little recorder she used in college on in her pocket the whole time. I told her I did not want to hear it. I said, however, that she should listen to it by herself and remember the evidence he would not allow me to show and to listen to the answers to the issues he had given or failed to give. She said she had taped it really to use against me to keep me on the “straight path” if the answers from “Gibby” were conclusive. I told her that was O.K. by me if she believed “Gibby” was correct.
I did not talk to Cindy about that night for two weeks. She finally came to me one evening and said , “Bill, I am ready to leave where do we go from here?” I simply said “I don’t know, but for now away from Mormonism.”
I hope this experience will help anyone like you have helped me. I know it was long but it has been bottled for a long time. I would be glad to tell the excommunication, or post Mormon experience if anyone is interested upon request. I pray for you all and I know it is hard but worth it.