Conversion of an Anti-Mormon
This true story was sent to the authors of Guess Who Wants to Have You for Lunch? A Missionary Guide to Anti-Mormon Tactics and Strategies... And How To Deal With Those Who Have Been Influenced By Them (Alan Denison & D.L. Barksdale, [Felton, CA: F.A.I.R.], 1999.) Its the story of a young woman who became an anti-Mormon and later converted to the Church. The story is real, but the names and dates have been changed to protect the womans identity.
Please note the updated info at the bottom of this page.
. I was assured then that when someone prays committing their life to God and accepting Christs sacrifice they are saved whether they feel confirmation of it or not. God honours that prayer and, my sister later told me, your salvation begins from that point, whatever you may do later. For many years I attributed my conversion to that book, and I certainly held desperately to its promise, for I felt a hypocrite among spirit filled Christians.
Dear A. Denison and D. Barksdale;
I hope this e-mail ends up with the authors of the above book! I wanted to say just how right you are and exactly how well you understand the anti-Mormon agenda. And I should know, I was one. I fear this will be a very long e-mail (so print it out and relax as you read it!) but I felt I needed to tell you my story. Anyway, here goes...
I was born in the South of England into a nominally religious family and always believed in God but it was not until my sister joined a local church youth group at the urging of her best friend that I really came into contact with Christianity. I too joined the youth club and liked what I saw and heard there. I gave my heart to Jesus and was born again. I joined the Christian Union at school, became part of the Christian scene and was neither ashamed nor afraid to own what I believed. I was about fourteen, Mission England was in full swing, it was exciting to be a Christian.
And yet I wondered whether I really was. I didnt feel any different, prayers seemed to be words offered to thin air, the Bible washed over me, I was plagued with doubt. For one thing I couldnt get to grips with the concept of the trinity - three people in one God - and for another when I saw others moved by the holy spirit to speak in tongues or to lift their hands I just felt cold and shut out.
I changed to a church (Anglican) where there was more structure to the worship and less emphasis on gifts of the spirit, and felt more at home. I also read a book, Is Anyone There? by David Watson which answered some of my questions and confirmed to me that this was right, this was what I believed, whether I felt it in my heart or not.
So when I was seventeen and a dear friend called Jennifer told me that she envied me my faith and wanted to find God for herself. I was confused, partly because of her misplaced envy and also because I was about to go to University in Wales and didnt really have the time to spend helping her. So I directed her to a local church and went to Wales where almost immediately I met a deeply intelligent, witty and caring young man called David Smith. He was training for the Anglican priesthood and I envisaged his spirituality rubbing off on me as we studied the Bible together, prayed together and served together. We were engaged weeks after we met and he once explained to me why I was the right woman for him. I wanted a Christian girl he said, And you definitely are. Am I? I thought. Oh good. Despite this we never did pray or study together, partly because he preferred to do so in Welsh, his first language.
My letters to Jennifer were all about David, I paid little attention to her search for God until I returned home at Christmas 1986 and she announced with excitement and pride that shed found a wonderful church shed joined the Mormons. My blood seemed to freeze in my veins. I explained to her that there were certain churches, including the Mormons, whose doctrines were so absurd as to be anti-Christian, that they were evil, and brainwashed people in order to get members. She was having none of it and my response - partly spurred on by guilt that I had failed to guide her when she asked me - was to buy every anti-Mormon book I could find and write to her weekly when I returned to University about the errors of the LDS church. Nothing worked, two years after her baptism Jennifer married a returned missionary and moved to Utah, and I became obsessed with hatred for the church which had robbed me of my dear friend (she gave up replying to my fiery letters) and swore no one else would lose a loved one as I had.
My obsession continued for many years. I became involved with anti-Mormon organisations like ex-Mormons for Jesus, and Reachout Trust for whom I was an Area Director. I loved arguing with missionaries and claimed that my attack was really a defence of my own faith. In truth I had no real faith, I rarely prayed and only turned to my Bible to look up verses which might contradict Mormon doctrine.
I had two goals - to prevent people joining the Mormon church and to expose the secrets of the temple. To do the former I wrote a booklet called Dealing With Mormons and distributed it free by advertising in the Church of England newspaper. The book encouraged Christians worried a family or friends who were being taught by missionaries to obtain a copy of Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie, then to meet with the missionaries and their loved one and demonstrate, through the book, that Mormons believe in wearing secret underwear, that God lives on a planet called Kolob and had sex with Mary in order to produce Jesus. I believe that would shock the investigators out of their path.
I represented myself as a member of the church to missionaries hoping that theyd tell me who they were teaching, and I once attended a baptism and asked the new convert his home address, then visited him there to tell him the darker side of Mormonism. I appeared in a local newspaper talking about the horrors I had discovered about Mormonism and in the picture I held up the temple garments. I lectured church groups using a diagram of the nicene creed to demonstrate orthodoxy, and often wore a temple dress to do so. In one dark and ancient one church I caused terror as I swished in one woman thought I was a ghost!
My second goal, to enter the temple, also consumed me. I eventually managed to do so taking by a holiday far from home, gaining the trust of a branch president who thought I was a member (I knew all the things to say), and offering to babysit his kids. When he went out I found his book of temple recommends and tore out a page. I went twice to the temple, once wired up with a tape recorder (although the tape, which I sent to Reachout Trust, was to unclear to be useful) and again to do sealings.
In 1991 I received a solicitors letter from the LDS churchs solicitors in London accusing me of trying to obtain goods by deception (I had attempted to order more temple recommends from the distribution centre) and warning me that legal action would be taken if I did not cease to slander the church. I decided that enough was enough and agreed to end my campaign, to Davids great relief. I wrote to Jennifer offering an olive branch, as I had missed her, and visited her in Utah to renew the friendship. I really enjoyed my visit and liked the people I met. I had always claimed to love Mormons but in truth I hated them a bitter hatred and called down curses on Joseph Smith for being so cruel as to invent a religion for money which would destroy so many peoples hope of salvation.
Some months later I realised that there was no way I could give up my interest in the Mormons, I was still obsessed. I loved to get my hands on anything Mormon. I had once found an old homemaking presentation tape in the Cardiff chapel grounds and listened excitedly to it. I didnt expect to find any new ammunition in it, but I had a hunger for anything to do with the church. I stole a General Handbook of Instructions and that fascinated me. I felt lost without my obsession, and realised that a new approach was needed.
So I invited the missionaries for tea one day so that they could convey my apologies to the local members who had suffered most. As expected they began to teach me the familiar first discussion. I feigned repentance, said all the right things, and cried when the Bishop interviewed me for baptism. He was kind and friendly, he even admitted that the leopard has changed its spots but he could not allow me to be baptised. He referred me instead to a higher authority. Jeffrey R. Holland who was then the Area President (and is now an Apostle). He asked me to offer the prayer when he interviewed me, but as we spoke I was sure he knew I wasnt genuine, he frowned as though he didnt understand why but he agreed that I could be baptised, which I was that very evening - 12th August 1992.
The local members welcomed me and readily forgave me, and I soon got to know
them. I was a curates wife at the time but David was hardly ever home and our marriage was going through a tough patch. He had long since stopped taking notice of what I did with the Mormons, so for six months I was truly one of them. I was wonderful, I soon forgot that I was supposed to hate this church, or that I was in it just to get a legal recommend. I found that many of my assumptions about the church were wrong and soon mellowed my view. They were offbeat, certainly, but not actually evil, and some of them might actually be saved. I forged a note from my husband in order to get a temple recommend (I had not been working and therefore owed no tithing) but David found it and realised that it was all starting again. He burned all my Mormon books and my recommend and gave me an ultimatum - the Mormons or our marriage. I chose our marriage and we began to work on our differences as I returned to the Anglican fold and my obligations as a curates wife. For a year I had nothing to do with the Mormon church. I missed the people, but I no longer felt the obsession I had once had.
Our first child was born in October 1994. As babies do she woke often in the night and once Id fed and settled her I had trouble getting back to sleep despite my tiredness. I remembered that the difficult old fashioned language of Shakespeare used to have a soporific effect on me during my student days so I turned to something with a similar old-fashioned style but less bulk - the Book of Mormon. I had never read it before. Reachout Trust advised against it and issued a leaflet of verses which could be used against Mormons.
Far from sending me to sleep I have a clear memory of sitting beside the cot wide awake and being filled with the wonder of the words I was reading. A strange warmth and joy swept through me, a feeling of being utterly loved, forgiven and accepted. Not only did the realisation that the book was true and a work of holy scripture come to me, but I knew that I had always known it. The person I had been trying to convince that it was wrong all this time was not Jennifer but myself. My obsession was because I had found a glimmer of truth, and needed that more than anything in my life. Terrified of the implications I nevertheless I fell to my knees in joyful prayer and this time I felt my prayer heard and answered and knew and experienced for myself the loving presence of my Heavenly Father.
In the morning everything seemed different, the world was a beautiful creation which now made sense to me, I was filled with love and joy and sang hymns constantly. Finally I had what the Mormons call a Testimony and what other Christians might call the baptism of the holy spirit. I was well aware of two problems, however. First, that it was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which had brought me to this point, a church which my entire family and friends believed to be an evil cult and which I had promised my husband to have nothing more to do with. Second, that I had levelled some difficult charges and objections to the LDS faith during my anti-Mormon days and as intense as this feeling in my heart was, I could not be led by it alone, my head needed to be convinced too.
My obvious starting point was to see whether this testimony applied to other churches - particularly ones not banned by my husband! I tried my husbands church, of course (he was now a vicar with his own parish), the Salvation Army for a month, the Catholic church, an independent Evangelical church and an Assemblies of God Pentecostal church where I found I knew most of the members from the University Christian Union. In fairness to other evil cults I even tried the Jehovahs Witnesses! I did not feel the spirit in any of them. While I enjoyed the experience and the people were often friendly I did not feel any confirmation within that they were right (although were it just a matter of personal taste the Salvation Army would have been my choice).
During this time I also read the Bible carefully and answered many of the objections I had put to Mormonism with ease - indeed many of them just seemed nitpicking now. In particular I could find nothing in the Bible which supported the strange doctrine of the trinity and a great deal which confirmed the Mormon view. I prayed at length too and my Father told me he loved and honoured all those who worshipped him and that they had the eternal life they sought, but the LDS church was where I belonged and where I could find the fullness of the gospel.
So I finally spoke to David and asked to be permitted to go there. He was adamant hed taken second place to the Mormons in my life long enough, the Mormons or our marriage choice still stood. I spoke to his Bishop (equivalent to a Stake President) asking whether my conversion, if known, could affect his career. Yes, was the reply. I contacted my own LDS Bishop for advice and was told to stick by David, to love him and to pray for him. So I resolved to live the gospel and to study the scriptures alone until such time as my prayers were answered.
After about a year David was forced to resign from his job with the Church in Wales due to mental illness and I became the breadwinner for our family. He still hated the church and burned my scriptures whenever he found them. I continued to study (buying a Book of Mormon whenever I saw one in a second hand bookshop) and pray and live the gospel and finally in July 1998 David agreed that I could attend church each Sunday provided no one from church ever came to our home.
The wonderful spirit present at that first sacrament meeting moved me to tears, I had forgotten just how powerful it could be. The atmosphere of loving reverence was unlike anything I had experienced before, and my testimony has grown and strengthened as I have learned more, followed the guidance of the spirit and seen the miracles and blessings poured out. One of the first things I did on returning to the church was to confess to my branch president that I was baptised just to "infiltrate" the church.
After praying about it he said that I did not need to be baptised again. He felt that it was, for whatever reason, right that I was baptised then in order that I could learn to love the saints and get to know the truth, and that Elder Holland probably didnt believe my repentance when he interviewed me, but nevertheless felt the spirit saying that I had to be baptised in order for these purposes to be worked out. I was absolved of all related sin and told not to mention or think of it again. I have not told this whole story to anyone else. Other members believe my pre-baptism testimony was true and that I was merely inactive for a while.
I now serve as the branch newsletter editor, branch history specialist and first counsellor in Primary in our small branch. My first novel, working title Godsend, is also due to be published by an LDS publisher in Summer 2000. I have lived worthy of a temple recommend - I pay a full tithe - but my husband still will not let me receive my endowment. Although I feel I am ready this is somehow poetic justice, and it is right that I wait.
I have now come to truly know and love my Heavenly Father and my dear saviour Jesus Christ, and to feel and respond to the love they have for me. I now feel the reality of the sacrifice Jesus made for me, and am grateful for it. I had longed for many years for this closeness to my Father and it is all I had hoped. I am sad that many people who are dear to me are offended that this has only happened in a Mormon context, I am sorry and understand their pain - I went through it with Jennifer after all. I only know that this is the truth I found - the Book of Mormon is scripture, another Gospel of Jesus Christ to stand alongside the Bible, Joseph Smith was a prophet just as Gordon B. Hinckley is the prophet who today stands at the head of the restored church of Jesus Christ, in whose name I offer this. Amen.
I think you will see from this how accurately your book understands the anti-Mormons, it reminded me of some painful things as I read it. I am currently examining the great apostasy and beginning to understand just how the athanasian heresy grew so large as to become labelled orthodoxy. It is ironic that while I was calling the LDS church an anti- Christian cult, I was the person in a cult all along!
So thank you for your work, and your book.
I wish you every blessing,
UPDATE: On 27 August 2008 Fred Anson sent me an email expressing his concern that some of the details in this story were not accurate. The following day he forwarded an email from Doug Harris of ReachOut Trust with the following information: We can say categorically that she [alias Susan Smith] was never an area director for the Trust, though she was on our mailing list at one point. If she did send us a tape, we certainly do not have a copy of it now, and would not use such a recording anyway.
When ReachOut Trust first learned of this story they contacted the author and issued the following statement:
The following has been sent to all who have enquired about the subject of the "Former Anti-Mormon" testimony in the January issue of Apologia and to others who might have seen it and been interested.
A Public Statement
A testimony was published in the January issue of Apologia, a monthly publication of FAIR (Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research) an unofficial Mormon publication. It is accompanied by an editor's note declaring that "Names and identifiable details of this individual's testimony have been altered at the author's request.". The testimony can be seen at ftp://www.fair-lds.org/pub/Vol3/January.PDF
It is the story of a lady who became a Mormon but not before indulging in some less than honest practices as a so-called "anti-Mormon", things for which she feels considerable shame and embarrassment and of which she has fully repented. As she mentions her past association with Reachout Trust we have been contacted by a number of people who have expressed concern that what was done was done in the name of, and at the behest of, Reachout Trust. We know the lady involved and have been in touch with her. While respecting her wish to remain anonymous we have her full permission to publish the following statement that she has kindly made in order to clarify the situation.
"If I indicated that my dishonest and diabolical deeds might have been sanctioned by, or even KNOWN by, Reachout I wholeheartedly apologise, it was totally unintentional. I am heartily ashamed of myself, looking back, knowing that I was driven by an obsessive and unjustified hatred of the Mormons. Reachout do not act through hatred and I never indicated to them what I was doing. Please do correct this on my behalf in whatever way is necessary… Since EMFJ [ex-Mormons for Jesus] are mentioned too perhaps it should also mention that they knew nothing about it either."
We hope that this will clarify the position of Reachout Trust in relation to how the work of witnessing to the cults should be conducted. In our experience the great majority of discernment ministries operate in an honest and sympathetic fashion and have the love of the Lord and the eternal welfare of the lost as their motivation.
For Reachout Trust