A friend recently explained to someone that my conversion to Christ was similar to that of the Apostle Paul. The weight of a comparison to Paul is a little embarrassing but I feel as though I, too, had scales that fell from my eyes. While I am not new to the doctrines and philosophies related to Christianity, I have just recently surrendered to Christ and allowed Him to enter my life. This year has been described as the worst year for Americans, in the last 50 years, but it has been incredible for me. This year a miraculous change has occurred with my life, a change that has not only been revolutionary, but has resulted in what the Apostle Paul described in his second letter to the Corinthians as, “..a new creation” in and through Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Just as Paul explained that the “old has gone, the new has come,” so has it in my life. With this transformation, I have committed to turn my life over to God.
As many of you know, I was raised Mormon. I was raised in a very devout home. My dad was an Elders Quorum President, Bishop, High Counselor, and a member of a Stake Presidency. We were raised with high expectations regarding our knowledge of the Book of Mormon, Mormon doctrines, and church history. I started having doubts about Mormonism in my junior and senior year of high school but it started to boil over while I was at Ricks College/BYU, in Rexburg. During that time I was able to speak with many professors and church leaders, but never got adequate answers to my questions regarding the faith.
I came home from BYU, and received my mission call, but I felt incredibly dishonest having anything to do with a mission while I was undecided about my own faith. My dad was adamant that I needed to ignore my doubts, go on a mission, and I would be fully converted to Mormonism. I decided not go on a mission. I moved out of my parents house the night I decided not to go. I took a step back from Mormonism for about 15 months, after this event, and attended Catholic and Christian services in an attempt to find truth elsewhere. These services were interesting and I learn a great deal, but they did not result in any religious and spiritual changes in my life.
My wife and I got engaged a few months after I moved out. Fourteen months later we were married. The next month she converted to Mormonism. I did not object as I clung to hope that with marriage and my own family I could come to some better agreement with Mormon doctrine and culture. We were active in the church for the better part of the next 4 years.
In 2003 we went to the temple, where we were “endowed” and “sealed.” In the months prior to attending the temple many members explained that it would be a powerful spiritual experience that would strengthen my testimony and answer many of my questions regarding doctrine, but it instead left me with more questions and a shattered testimony. As we drove home from the Oakland temple, I was not filled with reassurance or any confirmation of the Spirit that what I had just participated in was anything heavenly or God-like. Instead, I was left wondering how costumes, signs, and tokens were anything other than fraternity-like rituals. Something inside me bristled at the notion that any of these temple rituals were needed to come closer to either Jesus Christ or our salvation. Additionally, it was even more perplexing to learn that my wife needed me to attain her exaltation and glory. This limit being placed upon the Blood of Christ seemed repugnant even before I had gained a witness of the true Jesus Christ. I am not and cannot be anyone’s intercessory or savior.
In the aftermath of the temple experience I was largely ignored and was without anyone willing to provide any more concrete answers due to the “sacred” nature of these rituals. I was left in confusion and chaos about my faith and membership in the LDS Church. The only advice from my dad and my church leaders regarding the temple was to read my Book of Mormon and keep attending the temple; I was left without any other choice than to investigate these rituals, doctrine, and church history on my own. What I found was utterly shocking and undeniable. After a great deal of research I came to the conclusion that the LDS faith was nothing more than a distortion and a perversion of mainstream Christianity. It is false, the history they teach is wrong, and there was no salvation in it
Once I left the church in 2006, I quickly realized that since I was born into it, I was left with little else to believe in. While I had knowledge of Christian and Protestant doctrine I was still challenged by topics of God’s nature, Christ’s divinity, and salvation. I became a self described “atheist” and “agnostic.” I avoided anything remotely religious during the two years after leaving Mormonism. I swore I would never step foot in a church. I describe this as my journey in a desolate wilderness. There was no joy or true happiness, only an attempt to fill the God shaped void in my heart and mind with worldly objects.
In late 2007, God had other plans, as my wife’s parents invited me to their First Presbyterian Church. I reluctantly agreed to attend. Their Pastor spoke of the historical accuracy and truthfulness of Jesus Christ, His sacrifice, and His resurrection. It was like being hit with a spiritual 2×4. I suddenly could not deny the existence of Jesus Christ nor could I deny that he was the Son of God. Despite this witness, in a moment of weakness, I decided to ignore this life changing information.
Over the next two years, as I look back, God was definitely knocking and pleading with me to turn my life over to Him. I guess he became impatient and decided to give me a louder wake up call. I lost my job in May 2009, and when it happened I thought it was devastating. Ironically, looking back over the last 8 months, it has been the greatest thing that has ever happened in my life. In late July, I began talking with 2 Christian friends from high school and a cousin. After talking with these people, I finally realized that I needed to give God an opportunity to flourish in my life, I was tired of running from Him.
My wife and I attended Bayside Church, in Granite Bay, within 15 minutes of taking our seats the Spirit grabbed a hold of me. I can distinctly remember sitting there singing the chorus of Amazing Grace, and in my spiritual exhaustion I offered my life and myself to Him. I was finished running away from God, and surrendered to the call to come to Him; I was finished trying to mask my need for God with worldly objects. In that moment with tears streaming down my face, I knew with all of my soul and mind, through the Holy Spirit, that Christ is Lord! In a split second I clearly knew, and now know, of the One and Everlasting, all-powerful, all-knowing God as explained to us in Isaiah 45, 1 John 3, and Revelations 1. I gained a witness of the Lord Jesus Christ who is God come in flesh (John 1:14) to dwell with us; that it is only through Him that we come to the Father (John 14:6). I gained a witness that through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross we have been given the ability to receive reconciliation. This ability to seek reconciliation is a free gift that must be embraced. That morning I chose to embrace the gift! I suddenly realized that there is nothing I could do to earn the favor of God, rather I put my trust in what Jesus did for us on the cross.
With this transformation has come the call to become a Pastor. In His infinite wisdom, The Lord has seen fit to bestow upon me certain gifts and talents; I would be remiss if I did not dedicate those to both building the Kingdom of God, and protecting the “Body of Christ” from those that detract from the good news , which we know to be the birth, life, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-8). It has been incredible what the Holy Spirit has done in my life and in my knowledge of the “Good News!” I am in awe of the information and wisdom that has been imparted to me, after the “scales” have fallen from my eyes!
I am determined to live my life in the service of the One who called us, our Lord Jesus Christ. I am rejoicing in the opportunities and callings to serve the Kingdom and God’s people.