Here’s my story.
I don’t know how much any other will be able to relate to it.
Re-reading it I realized what nerd I am/was. :-)
It’s probably too long and boring for many to enjoy but what can I say.
“That’s me” :-)
I grew up in the Mormon church in a small town in Idaho. The church meant allot to me as I grew up. Most people that I associated with in my younger years didn’t take the church as serious as I did. I was always found doing what was right according to the things that the church taught. It was my desire to do what was right and that meant living the commandments that the church taught; all the commandments. I went to church every Sunday, made it to every activity, never turned down a church calling to do anything. I never even considered the church may have become corrupt or that it was not true. I believed what I had been told by my parents with no questioning. Joseph was a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon was true and that because of these things the church was true.
My first year of seminary we studied the Book of Mormon during the introduction the teacher made, he said that it was a requirement for everyone to read the Book of Mormon. Up until that time I had never considered reading the book. I decided to read it and take Moroni’s words to hart. It was a marvelous experience for me and by the time I made it to 3rdNephi I knew the book was everything it claimed to be. I also knew because the book was authentic that the translator and founder of the church was a Prophet of God called of God to do what he did. I had confirmed in my mind with a real experience what I had been taught my whole life. The Book of Mormon was true, therefore Joseph had to be a prophet and the church was the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.
I served a stateside mission and was going to do my best to be the best missionary I could be. Between the time I first read the Book of Mormon I fell in love with the book and had read and studied it all through high school and during the one year of College I was able to attend before my mission. The book spoke to my spirit like no other book I had been introduced to. I associated being a good missionary with filling my time with productive activities. I had decided that the words of the prophet concerning the Book of Mormon had to be true. “The book of Mormon is the most correct book of any book on earth and a man will get nearer to god by abiding by it’s precepts than by any other book.” So I decided that any chance possible I had I would read the Book of Mormon, if I wasn’t teaching, tracting, or traveling to an appointment I read, I had a copy with me at all times.
While in the Missionary Training Center I remember hearing the other elders in my district complaining about how rigorous the schedule was. It seemed to them at least from what I gathered from what they were saying that there was no free time with every hour of the day was filled with activities of some sort. I didn’t understand what they where talking about because after nine days I had found enough time to finish the Book of Mormon. I immediately started over and about finished it again in the three weeks we had there.
I continued my program once I made it to my first area. My first companion was lazy so not knowing exactly what to do I would read most of the days while he slept and found everything to do he could think of except for missionary work. In the process of my mission I figured out it only took me about 21 to 24 hours of reading time to finish the book from cover to cover. I lost track of the number of times I read through the book at about 50. I spent a lot of time memorizing the scriptures that were used in the discussions and after I had passed them off to the mission president me and one of my companions decided to memorize all the chapter headings of the Book of Mormon. It was amazing at the time when these things where fresh in my mind at the recall of scriptures and gospel subjects, if someone could remember a phrase or scripture I could recall what chapter heading it went to and turn to it. I was a true Mormon missionary nerd. :-)
I do recall a time on my mission when I realized that I had never had a specific spiritual experience that let me know Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. I had just accepted the evidence of the Book of Mormon as good enough. My experience came a few weeks later; during a fireside held in Josephs honor. I knew Joseph was a Prophet of God and have never looked back.
I continued my program of reading the Book of Mormon after my mission just not as intense. I would read a ½ hour or so a day. I truly love the book. I never doubted the church and never had the question of whether or not the church was true, because of my upbringing. After all if the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith where what they clamed it followed that the church had to be what it clamed to be there was no other church started with a true prophet or another church with a second testimony of Christ where else could I look where else could I go to find truth. The reorganized church was out of the question because it hadn’t been blessed with the prosperity I thought the Lord would bless His church with. In my mind truth had to be found in the church.
This didn’t mean I didn’t have questions. I had allot of questions that I was waiting for answers to. I started to read books that were published by the church in search for answers. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting more out of my study. When I was on my mission my focus had been on teaching the gospel to others so I read with others questions and concerns in mind, by doing this and by enjoying the familiarity I had earned with the book I could answer questions by quoting scriptures either word for word or by turning to them with out hesitation witch in my mind gave a comfortably in teaching others what the lord had in mind for them as well as a sense of personal accomplishment.
After my mission my focus changed to my self I desired to know what the great prophets knew, I wanted to know the “mysteries of the kingdom of God” It seemed Nephi, Jacob King Benjamin, Lehi Mormon the list goes on and on knew everything about the gospel at least more than I did so I set out to find out what they knew. As I said I had allot of questions. After ten or so more times through the Book of Mormon I was disappointed I wasn’t continuing to learn new things. My understanding had seemed to flat line somewhat, it was at this time I started to read other books that were published by the church in search for answers that I couldn’t seem to find in reading the Book of Mormon.
I read allot of books on various subjects I got a taste of others points of views, none had the answers I was seeking for. I started studying the words of the modern prophets and noticed some time between Brigham Young and president Hinckley they had stopped revealing new information. I got frustrated with what I had come across it seemed the heavens had closed to me and there was nothing I could do. I started researching and reading the Dead Sea scrolls, the Naghamdi text, and other ancient translated manuscripts trying to find any clues I could. I found nothing. I turned to science, space exploration, and experimental research data on various topics. Still nothing. I was frustrated and burned out.
By this time I had a growing family and worldly pressures and being frustrated I allowed them to take my time. I was still very active in the church and church callings. Up to the point I was introduced to the sealed portion I can’t remember ever missing a sacrament meeting on Sunday, ever. It just didn’t make time to study like I had always done in the past. This lasted until I was out of school and found myself working in my chosen profession.
In about 2001 I was unsettled with what little I knew, I wondered why I couldn’t get it. I evaluated my past and realizing this phrase again. “The book of Mormon is the most correct book of any book on earth and a man will get nearer to god by abiding by it’s precepts than by any other book.” (paraphrasing) I committed to study the Book of Mormon exclusively until I could get close enough to God to get the answers I sought.
It was also during this time that I realized that I couldn’t get what I needed on my own. Somehow I wasn’t like Lehi who sat in his tent in the valley of Lemuel read the brass plates for the first time and was filled with the spirit and began to prophesy. What was my problem? I was left looking forward to General Conference expecting some new information or revelation that would bring me the answers I sought. The more I relied on the leaders of the church the more I got frustrated. I wondered why there mouths had been shut. I figured they knew everything that the ancient prophets knew but for some reason they weren’t telling it. I remember being so frustrated one day about the whole thing I prayed and asked the lord why he had shut there mouths, not getting an answer, I continued, what is it, are they scared to speak the truth because of the wickedness of the members of the church? I remember finishing my prayer I’m clueless about real truth. I don’t know what Nephi knew or what Mormon knew and I’m not getting any thing from your chosen leaders if you need some one to be a prophet I’ll do it! I’d tell the truth if you needed some one to do it. Just let me know the truth, I’ll do anything. I was dead serious, I still got nothing.
I set about to find out what we as members of the church were doing that was so wicked. We had to be dong something wrong as a people or we would be getting some answers form the chosen servants of the lord. It a cured to me shortly there after that we were doing exactly what the Book of Mormon warned against in the time of Alma.
And it came to pass in the eighth year of the reign of the judges, that the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry; and in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel…the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure.
It was clear to me that most if not all the members of the church I knew were more secure with $100,000 in there bank account than they were with a good relation ship with God. Money was their motivator there reason for doing almost everything they did. The reality I saw was the true God had little effect in there lives. Money was their God. Money was their passion for which they would do about anything for. I then felt for the President of the Church at the time. I had my reason why he wasn’t saying anything. I remember thinking to my self “Hinckley, you have a problem you have about twelve million problems.
I had noticed that other members of the church didn’t pay as much attention to the Book of Mormon as I did but this was the first time I realized I was different than any member I knew. If I were to explain the difference I started seeing between me and others I would explain it like this, I believed the Book of Mormon, they believed in the Book of Mormon.
I realized I was stuck, I knew what I wanted wasn’t going to come from the pulpit general conference time. My only hope was to continue to read the Book of Mormon, make God my God, and not Money, and hope for personal revelation.
A few years later I was doing some research on the internet something I didn’t do very often, for some reason I had the thought “I wondered if the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon had been translated.” I typed in the words “the sealed portion” into the browsers search engine then hit the return key. I about fell off my chair when I saw that it actually bought up some web sites. I thought to myself no way can this be translated, however I was curious enough to open the first site entitled the Oracles of Mahonri. I saw that some one actually claimed to have translated the record. I knew what the Book of Mormon mentioned about the book, I knew the author, the length, and the topic. I figured this should be easy to figure out if it is legitimate so I turned to the text and began to read. It was vary apparent to me that this couldn’t be the real deal. It wasn’t Moroni; I quickly looked and realized it fit none of the requirements. I didn’t even make it through the first chapter before I set it aside.
I clicked on the next link and it was commentary on something, not being interested I clicked on the third link and started reading. Not only did I see a place to download the sealed portion but I also seen a place to down load the Book of Lehi. (116 page lost manuscript) I remember thinking, the book of Lehi of course why wouldn’t it be available too. I had researched the book previously and knew that Mormon was the author. I knew that if I read it I was familiar enough with Mormon and his writing style that I would be able to recognize it if it was him. I down loaded the Book of Lehi and began to read, I read the first three verses, it was Mormon alright; I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I just couldn’t believe it was translated and no body told me.
I quickly finished the Book of Lehi, Mormon broke it to me that the church was just as it was in the time Lehi left Jerusalem which made allot of sense, everything I read made so much sense I couldn’t not believe. I quickly read the Sealed portion and found the answers to most of my questions I had finally come across information and gained an understanding that brought me piece. Finally! I had found the piece I had sought.
I was 1st counselor in the elders quorum at the time and my wife was in the young women’s presidency. We were the model active LDS family. At first my wife thought I was nuts and that I would loose interest. I knew what I had found and was more interested in it than anything I have ever been interested in. I joined the discussion group and found out that the translator was holding a symposium. I figured I should take the opportunity to meet him. I let my wife know I was planning on attending the symposium to see the translator. She was not happy. When I returned she wondered what I thought I remember turning to her and saying. It is legitimate the guy knows what he is talking about. She couldn’t believe I was where I was at. She wanted no part of it but she trusted me. I think the trust she had in me gave her enough reason to look. She started to read but soon put the book down. She liked what she read but the truth was hard for her to take. A few weeks later she decided that she would read the book. This time to know for herself if it was what it claimed to be. It was hard for us to realize our whole world had just changed. We had 7 kids and realized the day we introduced them to the truth we would have to leave the church we had loved our whole lives.
We decided to talk to our two oldest girls Friday night I showed them the book and they looked at me with wonder. The oldest asked, so this is it, this is the sealed portion? It’s translated? We had family home evening and family scripture study. The only book of scripture we read together, sense I was in charge, was the Book of Mormon. We had discussed the coming forth of the Sealed Portion of the Book of Mormon enough for them to know the significance of what I held. Then the discussion began. My wife was worried how they would take it because of her difficulty. I ended up staying up and talking to them until 6 am explaining the information and consequences of what it meant. They accepted every word I said. I explained that Sunday would be our last Sunday going to church and that we hadn’t told the little kids because we figured thy might not be able to keep silent in there classes.
We attended church and after words we scheduled a meeting with the bishop. We politely told him we would not be attending church again. This caught him total by surprise but we felt we needed to tell him and be honest instead of just going inactive. Later that day we told the rest of our children.
It has been a process for us to leave everything we knew as being right and good. We understood what we had to do as we learned the truth about the church and its leaders. We still love the church but see it now for what it is. As we learned what the lord really expected of us as we were exposed to the truth of his gospel it seemed to easy.
We were used to having home evening Monday night, enrichment Tuesday night, mutual Wednesday night, Thursday was some times open or we would do visits in elders quorum, Saturday night seemed to be always filled with meetings and the Sunday three hour block with presidency meetings before and it seemed there was usually something we ended up staying after for and quire later after lunch and the occasional Sunday evening fire side. There was cleaning the church Saturdays. (I don’t know why they always called us, I suppose because we would show up if we were asked.) There was home teaching and district numbers that needed turned in every month. Visiting teaching and young woman activities. Temple attendance, genealogy, and family history work that Monica always would work on when she could find the time. Personal journals, personal scripture study, family scripture study, and prayer every time we turned around. There was time spent preparing for lessons and preparing for and attending ward parties. There was also the tithing thing, which we never slid on. Oh ya and missionary work. All this effort, all this time, all these requirements we did with out fail. We were as righteous as we knew how to be, we were expending all sorts of energy, we were expending all sorts of time, in doing what we knew we must (at the time) in order to be righteous.
The Jews got in trouble for looking beyond the “mark” it had to be important if it was mentioned in the scriptures that way. If asked what the mark was before this work I would have to have said, I don’t have a clue. It wasn’t because I hadn’t asked; I had wondered what the mark was for a long time. I had asked others in the ward; they didn’t know any more that I did. NO ONE KNEW! All this effort, all this time and I had no understanding of what the scriptures were even talking about. See why I was frustrated! After all that study I had nothing but loose ends when it came to the scriptures!
We went from not having time to think to wondering what we should do. The truth had set us free. We replaced the yoke of the church with the yoke of Christ and boy what a difference. Today we do what makes us happy. This is our religion now.
Because of who we were and what we did many members of the church including members of our family have had a problem understanding how we could just give up the church like we did. From peoples reactions that know us, it seems they are waiting for God to curse us because if what we did. They actually expect any minute to find us in the depths of hell for our actions. What really confuses them is the fact that we seem happier now and more at peace out side the church than we where in the church. This just doesn’t compute to them. To them we willingly walked away from our eternal marriage, any chance we had at gaining the Celestial kingdom, all the promises and covenants of the temple, the gift of the holy ghost, and our baptism.
The truth is we found one pearl of great price, and we went and sold all that we had and bought it. (Matt 13:42) In the transaction we found the kingdom of heaven (the happiness and peace) we were looking for.