My Search for Peace Through Real Truth
Sheri Anne Nemelka
My hope in writing this brief synopsis of my journey thus far is to give a clear picture of why I support the Marvelous Work and a Wonder.
I was raised in the LDS faith with a semi active Mother and a non-member Father. I remember once I invited my Dad to come to church and watch a Primary program. I was so nervous because my Dad smoked and I actually thought he was going to light one up in the chapel. It was tough at times not having him with us at church but he always accepted the invite from me to attend for special services. It appeared to me that my Mother was mostly sad and morose during the Sacrament meeting, as she would regularly have her head down fidgeting with something in her hand. I enjoyed being there with my family and the fellowship with others. I looked forward to the music and singing the songs from the green hymn books. I was called at 14 to serve as a Primary teacher; it was the 5-year-olds class. After school every Tuesday afternoon I would go, sometimes just wanting to hang with my friends instead but I certainly did enjoy those crazy little ones.
By 16, my interest in boys and friends became a powerful force pulling me away from the restricted lifestyle of the Mormon church and meeting schedules. During this time my parents were going through quite a bitter divorce and the sadness in the house was intense. My Mother’s cries would keep me up at night for the next few years. The story of my Fathers infidelities would be told and retold, and as a young girl I felt extremely torn, forced to keep my visits with my Father a secret so as to not upset my Mother and add to her suffering. She was unable in that mindset of pain to support her children’s desire for a continued relationship with their Father. I was once the little girl who swore to her Mother she would never leave her side but now finding my own life away from the home I was raised seemed like the only way to peace and happiness.
I was married at 20 to a very responsible young man. He was my first boyfriend. He was not a member of the church yet had a large family that would gather together often. It appeared a bright happy contrast from my home life. They were a very sociable group of people who often entertained with extended family members. Already a few years of Military life under his belt, we were off to San Diego to start our life together. I found work as a Dental Assistant and we enjoyed 4 years together without children, freely experiencing the fun Southern California lifestyle. It was there where we happily added two beautiful daughters to our family. I enjoyed everything about being a young Mother, with all my focus being about our little family.
Eventually my thoughts turned back to religion and the feeling of responsibility to raise my children with the morals and values I was taught. I remember thinking my daughter could recognize a picture of Santa but not Jesus. It was then that I found my way back to church and my husband decided to be baptized to support me and my desires for our family. In 1995, we decided to buy our first home in Santee, California, an eastern suburb of San Diego. My marriage was stable, not extremely passionate but we worked together mostly with respect in our individual roles. He was a great provider and a good supportive Father. He loved keeping a tidy beautiful home and would often make furnishings to enhance our living space. Shortly before we bought the house my husband decided to sign us up for a membership to our local gym. I wasn’t very interested in the idea at first believing with work and small children I would never have the time or energy to go workout yet somehow I did find the time, usually late in the evening after the kids were tucked in. What happened next left most in wonder and shock.
I started a friendly relationship with a man at the gym, soon friendly feelings turned into more romantic notions, I was a Sunday School teacher for goodness sakes!
In just a few short months, I turned my stable life upside down. I sent my life into turmoil by leaving the security of a responsible husband, loving children, and a home of our own, all for the excitement of a new love. I felt like I now knew what true, passionate love was supposed to be. I had no problem at this time leaving the church again to experience this relationship—absolutely no concern about how this decision would affect our children. I was in love with no choice but to see it through.
The years that followed brought much tribulation and heartache. My Ex left San Diego to pursue new career goals and our divorce took a couple of years to finalize. The boyfriend moved in with me after about a year, he would usually be off to work early as I began to have concerns about my girls knowing he slept over. My oldest daughter, now approaching her eighth birthday, gave me cause to question the example I was setting for them by living in sin as I believed at the time.
Knowing I was not completely comfortable with this living arrangement, my boyfriend found a friend in need of a roommate and moved out. Ironically as my thoughts were beginning to turn towards going back to church, my boyfriend met a very devout Christian friend. Upon learning from his new church their ideas of Mormonism he became fanatical in his effort to separate me from the religion I believed was the only true church. His church would have prayer circles pleading the Lord to save me from the evils of the LDS faith. He promised me we could have an amazing christian life together in any church except for the Mormon Church. Surprisingly enough, still feeling crazy in love, I choose the church over the relationship. That break up caused me a lot of pain and suffering, some I believed I deserved for living a life contrary to my beliefs. Now back to church to make it right!
After confessing my sins to those I believed possessed the authority from God to make me clean and whole, I began to live a life which I thought would put me in the favor of my God and his son Jesus Christ, whom I assumed I had grievously let down. I believed that adherence to the many rules and regulations of what I believed to be God’s only true church would eventually lead to the peace and happiness I sought. I became a model member; and even as a single mother, I held multiple callings. I read my scriptures daily searching the words for instruction on how to live my life. When the church would sponsor the Educational Series of LDS faith in my area I would attend every weekend, sometimes a Friday and Saturday session. I assumed the priesthood leaders who taught these lessons were the top dogs when it came to knowing what religion was all about, and could unfold the mysteries that would lead me to the peace I desired. I really wanted to know exactly how to live my life right according to God’s will. Looking back now, I see how listening to all these men teach with their pretended knowledge and authority prepared me to recognize the difference between one given authority by men and a religion, and the One given authority by the only ones who know the real truth.
I eventually made myself worthy enough to find a LDS priesthood holder who took me to the temple where we were sealed for time and all eternity. He was a single father with two young boys. Their mother had committed suicide, leaving the beautiful boys struggling for the attention only a mother could give. I became that mother. And it wasn’t long into my temple marriage that I realized why their mother had killed herself. Life with this particular priesthood holder was unbearable. For the sake of those two young boys I tried to live up to my temple marriage commitment. The emotional abuse became too much, even for God to change. After about 3 years I left that relationship, hoping that not all LDS men were like the father of these two boys. Looking back at it, I knew I married him because of his boys. At the time I married him, deep down, I still loved the man who I had left my first husband for.
After my second divorce, I began to attend activities for the LDS singles, which is where I met Christopher for the first time in April of 2004. At the time we met I was content with my religious beliefs, believing I would continue to learn and be blessed by adhering to the rules set by God’s leaders upon earth, I spent many hours listening to them speak. And many hours attending Temple sessions in hopes of learning the mysteries promised to me.
As I got to know Christopher, I saw him as a very kind, friendly and fun man to be with. Always respectful of my beliefs and my religious devotion, he never once discouraged me from attending my meetings. He never once attempted any inappropriate physical contact with me, always aware of my desire to remain worthy to my God.
I remember one of our first conversations where he was explaining to me the purpose of the nine planets of our Solar System. Everything he said made so much sense and I couldn’t get over the comfort and ease I felt with what he was saying. It wasn’t long before Christopher told me he had the Gold Plates and that he was in the process of translating the sealed portion of them. I had heard from an Institute class that Joseph Smith had only translated a portion of the plates and remembered seeing a diagram of how much remained sealed. That’s about all the knowledge I had of them at the time. Of course, I was a bit shocked when he disclosed to me the details of his past and how he received his calling, it was a lot to consider, and at times, I would doubt and be afraid of my involvement and how it would affect my life. My doubts would always be relieved by the consistent character of the man and ultimately by the work that he would produce.
I began to read sections of the Sealed Portion as he would finish them. During this time, I was still an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Christopher at times would call me, excited to share what he had translated the night before. I was amazed and happy as I finished each chapter. I completely loved what I was learning even though I would have moments of anguish for my past judgments of others. I recall one of these painful moments while I was walking and contemplating what I had read. An experience with a family member was brought to my mind. I had created bad feelings because I judged him to be wrong in his actions. Ironic as it seems now, my problem with him was that he simply described the peace that he had in his life once he left organized religion, a decision that I too was soon to make. I could not imagine at the time that anyone could find peace outside of God’s only true church. Looking back, however, I realize I never really had any real peace except that which I created inside myself.
Yes the tears would flow often as I read the Sealed Portion. The undeniable truth I was reading convinced me of the many ways I had hurt others by believing my way of living was the only right and proper way. When I had finished reading the Sealed Portion of the Book of Mormon, there was no doubt left in my mind pertaining to the truthfulness of how and why it was brought forth. The power it has to change the way a human being has thought and acted for so many years can only come from a source of advanced knowledge.
I often saw the box where Christopher kept the plates, but never dared to look at them. I wanted to trust and believe without having to see them.Then out of the blue one day when I went to visit him and Charley (the invalid man whom Chris cared for at the time), he asked me if I wanted to hold the plates. I said no and got pretty nervous at the thought. With that unmistakable soothing smile he opened up the chest and brought out the plates wrapped in a heavy cloth. He laid them covered in my arms. I can only describe it as a surreal experience. I felt the weight and the outline of the rings, but Christopher did not take his hand away from them and did not uncover them. It’s hard to remember just how I felt, but for whatever reason, that experience did not convince me of the truthfulness of the Sealed Portion. The only way I was convinced was upon reading what those plates contained.
All the books and writings of this Marvelous Work and a Wonder have empowered me with the ability to find my own peace and happiness outside the dependence of any man. I remember how excited I was to find out about Sacred not Secret, the book explaining the meaning of the temple endowment, I couldn’t believe after spending all those hours there and in the Celestial room of the temple praying for answers I was now going to be able to read the book and have all the information I desired. I have truly found the real God in my life. How is it possible to find peace in a world that appears to be in a constant state of turmoil? I never found it in the LDS Church. My parents never found it there; in fact, no one I have ever met found true peace—the peace that I now feel—in that church. The only way I have found it is by having sensible answers as to why things must be as they are and believing that human beings who have advanced beyond our current understanding are in control and will ultimately do what is necessary to bring about our eternal happiness.
There are people who would say that I have been deceived or somehow manipulated into supporting this work because of my love for Christopher. I support the man responsible for this work because of what this work produces for those who embrace it. I know this, I was not deceived by Christopher. He left me many times in the beginning believing that his relationship with me would affect the work that he had to do.
The first few years were the best for me in the relationship. After moving to Utah life became a bit more difficult and stressful. Lots of changes in living arrangements added to my stress and I felt unable to communicate my needs.
On July 1st 2017 I decided to leave my relationship with Christopher and start a new life in California. This decision was not easy to make yet. I was still in love but not happy.
I had ALL the normal expectations that women have. Yes did I know that this was a unique situation of course I did!
Yet I wanted a man to make me feel important, loved, special.
I knew that the work he was engaged in had to be his priority, but I never knew how that would actually make me feel.
I didn’t do well at changing my attitude with frequent jealousy and sadness, so I felt my only choice was to change my environment.
Living without a man I learned valuable skills, but most importantly I was finally able to use the truth I’d been taught through The Marvelous Work and a Wonder to truly love myself.
I’m excited to support this work, I have hope for our world and profound appreciation and love for our Messenger.
Sheri Anne Nemelka