Life After Ministries
Originally, I was a sixth generation Mormon from Utah and in the Church for 30 years. I was considered an active Mormon until I graduated from high school and left Utah for greener pastures. In the spring of ’93 I came to the saving knowledge of Christ Jesus and I’ve been washed with His blessings ever since!
My first meeting with the Lord came at an early age. All Mormons are baptized at the age of eight. It doesn’t matter if you’ve accepted Jesus into your heart or not; you’ve now reached the age of accountability. According to the LDS Church up until that time children under the age of accountability can’t sin, but need to be baptized for the remission of sins and to become members of the Church.
As I prepared for the great event in January of 1972, I had it in my head that I would once again be perfect. The baptism didn’t do much for me that Saturday morning, but the next day changed my short-lived life. At their “confirmation” meeting to accept children or members into the Church, they handed me a King James Bible. They winked as they told me to go home and read it and not understanding they weren’t serious, I did just what they told me to do. I went home and began reading my beloved Bible. I began in the book of Matthew because it was the first book in the Bible with red letters…very simplistic I know, but this is how He spoke to me.
I spent many long hours sitting in my bed at night reading what Jesus had to say to the people. I was more interested in what He directly said instead of what anyone else had to say about Him and didn’t understand the concept of the epistles written by the apostles. I read in Matthew sixteen where He asked the disciples whom people thought He was. In verse sixteen Peter called Him “the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. I wasn’t sure what Christ meant, but sensed that it was powerful so I clung to it during any times of trouble, knowing that He was ultimately in charge and somehow I’d get through all the turmoil and confusion I faced being a Mormon.
For years when reading my Bible I imagined myself walking with Him in the villages while He taught the people about Himself and could almost feel the heat from his dusty sandals. It was very powerful to me in those dark days of childhood Mormonism. Not knowing the Church teachings contradicted themselves I was a perfect candidate to confuse and control. At the time we were taught to memorize the presidents of the United States at school, they would simultaneously teach us to memorize the presidents in the Mormon Church during our weekly evening activities at the Church. It added fuel to the fire of confusion for me.
Around the age of ten or so I began trying to match up the back of the OT with the Book of Mormon and chalked it up to my being female and stupid that I didn’t understand why I couldn’t catch on to the sacred teachings of the prophets. The Church leaders kept telling me it wasn’t for me to figure out. My job they told me, was to obey and do my duties; i.e. go to church and go to church some more.
As I dutifully attended primary and then MIA the more untrusting I became with Church doctrine. My main goal in life was to please Jesus. My family would teach me the stories of how my ancestors had risked their lives by getting on a boat from Wales and England, crossed the ocean and the plains of America to come to Utah. Somehow I had it in my head they must have loved Jesus more than I did.
It was during these impressionable years I had been taught that Jesus was married, the Mormon Church would one day rule America, and Joseph Smith had been tarred and feathered just for being a Mormon. I also learned that someday I would become a goddess wife to a man who would call my name so I could be allowed into heaven and that my sole purpose in life was to have babies.
Unfortunately, I was also taught that I had somehow sinned in the pre-existence for not completely siding with Jesus in the war in heaven. Sometimes I was taught I had stayed neutral and other times I was taught that I had completely sided against Him.
My biggest concern about the latter doctrine was how I would ever face my “elder spirit brother Jesus” because of my past behavior. I chose to not focus on the fact that we believed both Jesus and Lucifer were brothers even when the next door neighbor girl from Dayton, OH confronted me about it. I focused instead on what I could have possibly done to be cursed here on earth and why I had so dramatically changed my mind about Jesus.
Here on earth I loved Him with every fiber of my being and it embarrassed me every time I thought I must have denied Him in my pre-existent life with Him. I spent countless hours wondering if I had hid behind someone else while denying Jesus or if I had just been so openly rebellious and filled with hatred back then just as I was here on earth.
While growing up I always felt an overwhelming sense of needing to hide things. The things I needed to hide were my thoughts about Jesus and my studies of the Bible. It wasn’t acceptable that I thought of myself as a friend of Jesus. By the time I hit my mid-teen years I felt the relationship with Him mimicked the relationship my Aunt LuLu had with her older brother, Butch Cassidy.
She had published a book about her experiences with her older brother and spoke of the times he would come in and out of town during his escapades with the Wild Bunch. I remember she told us her relationship with him was distant because of age and their lifestyles. This is how I eventually looked at my elder brother, Jesus. The age differences and lifestyles became the thick wall of excuses that inhibited my ability to know Him better.
The estrangement in my relationship with God only grew when in June of ’78 the Church announced the prophet Spencer W. Kimball had received a revelation from God. He said that black people were now acceptable to the Lord and allowed to hold the priesthood in the Church. This had always been a bone of contention with me because of my own coloring. I’m not black, but I am much darker than the “light and delightsome” people in Utah. My family is black Welsh, or as they always said; “just dark enough to be dangerous”. I threw the Saturday afternoon newspaper down off my grandmother’s porch that broadcasted the prophet’s revelation and wondered why God hated me so much. What else was he going to change his mind about?
You see I had already been living with another change of mind of his. My great-great-grandfather’s children were still alive when I was growing up and I spent many a weekend visiting with “Grandpa Samuel”. His father, my great-great grandfather, was a polygamist. I remember a couple of the stories Grandpa Samuel told me about his childhood in polygamy. I literally have hundreds and hundreds of relatives. It was really no big thing for any multi-generational Mormon from Utah. All of us had the same testimony of the polygamous backgrounds. In my eyes though God had changed his mind twice now and it scared me that I would never ever be good enough for him. I was 14 years old and didn’t know who God was, but knew enough that he scared me.
When I was about 16 I had a terrible experience in the Ogden Temple. I was being baptized for dead people and taking the Mormon oaths when I became violently ill. I begged the man who was performing the prayers and baptisms to help me, but it was as if he was in a trance and my pleas fell upon deaf ears. On the way home I questioned my bishop about the experience and he told me it was God’s presence. I countered his view by telling him God had never done that to me before…he didn’t say another word to me all the way home.
The next day as I was walking down the church hallway to attend Sunday school, I heard my classmates laughing. The closer I got, the more discernible their conversation became. They were talking about my experience the day before and laughing because I was worshipping a different god than they were; they said the walls were going to cave right in on all of them because I was in the building.
This conversation stopped me dead in my tracks. After catching my breath I walked out, never to return to another Sunday school meeting. I was required to finish Seminary in order to graduate from high school, but that was the extent of my temple work from there on out. By this time my parents were divorced. My father had never been active for more than a year at a time, but my mother was greatly disappointed in me for this one. My father’s reaction to my short-leashed exodus was a non-committal attitude. He always told me in any situation that if I “had any doubts then don’t do it”. I figured that was a good enough excuse for me in this situation so I just didn’t go.
My mother had tried to keep me active by filling in as the primary teacher throughout the years or serving as the girls’ basketball and volleyball coach for our ward and now I didn’t even attend so she obviously lost her position. Looking back on it now it must have hurt her greatly I’m sure. Most everyone in her family was temple worthy Mormons.
By the time I had graduated from high school I was in complete rebellion. I began college, but didn’t pay attention to any authority figure at all. While going to school I also worked full time as a waitress downtown at a Chinese restaurant. It was there that I met and married my first husband. I had known Eddie for two months and the only reason I married him was because he wasn’t white. I thought if that didn’t get my parent’s attention then nothing would.
Well, it got their attention all right, but not the attention I was expecting! From the beginning he beat me regularly, wouldn’t allow me to speak English in my own home (originally he was from Sai Pan), and chastised each move I made in our home. I thought that if we moved to be near his family then it would fix things but I was wrong in the end.
I didn’t take my father’s advice on this decision and moved to Oklahoma City with him in May of 1983. By September of the following year I had three restraining orders filed against him and moved back home with my tail between my legs. The threats and beatings had become more than I could cover up, they were actually relentless within a year and it scared me. While I was there though, God was at work in my life without my even knowing it.
The first person I met in Oklahoma was a born-again Christian whose father served as a co-pastor of the church they attended. They would tell me stories of how Jesus loved all people, how He wasn’t there to condemn me, but to love me and continued to show me the patience and mercy God would have shown to me. I immediately fell in love with their disposition and wondered if all Christians acted like they did. It was also the first time I had ever heard of the word cult.
I finally made it out of Oklahoma, moved back home and began college for the third time when I met Kirk. I had a nagging urge to be married, but at the same time wanted so badly to go to school. I began studying World War History and the Jews. From the time I was a small girl, I had a fascination with a show that would come on the television each Sunday evening. I would sit and watch World At War every week while my friends would beg me to come outside to ride bikes or play with them. I couldn’t pull myself away. It baffled me why someone was out there killing all the Jews and could be so filled with hatred. I watched piles of bodies being loaded into garden carts to be taken away to the incinerators as I cried for the horrible loss.
By the time I got out of high school the fascination had turned into an indignant disposition towards Hitler, or anyone else that condemned God’s people. Ironically enough, the hatred I held in my own heart towards the Christians didn’t seem as bad. Somehow I had rationalized this for myself; the teachings of the Church couldn’t be as bad as Hitler after all…
In 1984 Kirk was in the Air Force at the time, stationed at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden. We began dating and I found out he was a recent convert to the Church, I was 20 years old. His girlfriend had dumped him right after he joined Mormonism and he wanted out of Los Angeles where he was from so he joined the Air Force and was stationed there in Ogden for three years. I had vowed to myself to never marry even though I felt that I was sinning if I didn’t and eventually I found that I loved just being around him. What Kirk didn’t know at the time was that he had fallen victim to his last girlfriend through the “date ‘em, dunk ‘em and dump ‘em” routine they play in the Church.
We were married in May of ’85 and received orders and moved to Ramstein, Germany, just one month after our wedding. Once again God intervened in my life and the first person I met after arriving in Germany was a born-again Christian whose father was a pastor. Again, from a different denomination.
We became good friends immediately, and I couldn’t explain it, but there was just something about her that I couldn’t resist. Not long after we got there I began working for the USO as a tour guide. My main duties were to teach basic German and take military members and their families into the local economy to teach them how to order food, utilize the bus and train systems and show them local sites. The main events of the local sites were the Lutheran Churches. I taught the newly stationed Americans about Martin Luther and the Reformation.
Ironically enough, I had never heard of Martin Luther and wasn’t allowed to look at crosses as a Mormon. I ended up memorizing the script they gave me and taught the military members and dependants about the cross of Jesus and Martin Luther with his 95 point thesis. God is really funny! My friend Claudia would answer the questions I had regarding the Reformation and God, but it just didn’t make sense to me.
On the days Kirk had to work and I didn’t I would take a walk around a little lake that sat at the bottom of a hill across the street from our house. I’d walk down the long cement staircase and when I’d get halfway down I would stop, turn around and sit while I talked to God. At the top of that hill was a large white cross on top of a Lutheran church. I began wondering why my church was so adamantly against it and wondered if the people who had crosses had a different God than I knew.
In October of ’88 Kirk received orders back to the states (Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, NV), but this time we were expecting our first daughter, Mallory. She was the catalyst for our exodus from the Church.
After being several weeks overdue Mallory died while in utero from a lack of oxygen; and was stillborn on October 27th. At her funeral the bishop told us we were going to hell because we hadn’t been married in the temple. I buried my daughter on that cold, windy day along with the Church. I couldn’t believe Jesus would send me to hell for not being married in a certain building. It couldn’t have been made any clearer to me than this. My heart had never hurt like that before.
While the bishop kept yammering on about our sin of not being temple worthy, a visual entered my head. On one side I saw that large white cross from Germany and on the other side a large white Mormon temple. But like in Germany I couldn’t take my eyes off the cross.
Later that day I questioned my mother about what the bishop said and she told me she didn’t hear that in his message. I truly thought I was going crazy. Sadly, Kirk and I didn’t even discuss what had been said until years afterwards and only after we were saved.
After Mallory’s death I chose to close myself in at my apartment. Kirk would leave each Monday morning for some far off place to work on the Stealth Fighter jets and return on Thursday nights. After several months of crying and shutting society out of my life, I went out and got a job. I was lonely, and exhausted; I needed to be around people again and craved someone to talk to each day. Once again God had His hand in all of that as well and true to form the first person I met was a born-again Christian. Only this time there was more than one!
I began questioning my new found friends Shirley and JoAnn about God. I wanted the truth this time and I didn’t want any made up stories with their own ideas. They showed me Jesus’ patience and love and were classic examples of what it meant to be a Christian.
After several months had passed by I called Claudia’s dad to ask him about Mallory. I wanted to know if he thought I’d see her again so he flew me out to his home in Colorado for a visit. It was there that he shared the entire gospel with me and the truth about Mallory. My heart hurt so much over the loss of her. I couldn’t imagine not feeling or touching her again and my arms physically ached from not holding her. I’ve never experienced that type of physical pain before or since. I left Colorado with a better understanding of Jesus, but still didn’t invite Him into my life as Lord.
In August of 1990 I sat in stunned silence as I listened to the voice on the other end of the phone and the first thing that came to my mind was the baby I was carrying. Kirk and I were expecting our second daughter, Jacquelyn. The voice was Kirk’s commander telling me Kirk had been sent off to the Gulf War. He couldn’t tell me where he was at that moment or when I’d hear from him but just wanted to let me know “not to expect him for dinner”. I wouldn’t see Kirk again for seven months, and by that time Jacquelyn was almost two months old. Thankfully God brought Kirk home to me and he decided to get out of the service full time after serving nine years in active duty.
At the end of that enlistment we moved out of Vegas and north to the Reno area in the summer of 1991 where Kirk joined the National Guard. His parents became our life savers for the next several months as we moved in with them and our new baby, but early in 1992 we moved yet again when Kirk was offered a job in the Seattle area.
Not long after we got unpacked and moved into our new home we found out we were expecting another daughter. I didn’t believe everything about Mormonism at this point but couldn’t pull myself away from the deep cultural aspects of it. I craved needing to bring babies into the world, but didn’t know why. So baby number three within four years was on her way.
About half way through that pregnancy my life would make another dramatic change. I was out on a walk with Jacquelyn in my little neighborhood when I saw two women standing outside chatting. I walked right up to them and noticed one of them was wearing a cross so I approached to ask her what the cross meant to her. I introduced myself by saying, “Hi my name is Michelle and I’m a Mormon”. She replied by saying “Hi, my name is Nancy and I will pray for you”.
Nancy was the first person I met here in Seattle. This time her father wasn’t a pastor, but she sure did know her Bible! When Axi was five months old I invited her over for coffee (yes coffee) to drill her on Jesus.
I asked her if she thought I was in a cult and the first thing she asked me was if I believed in the Trinity. I had never heard of the word Trinity before, so I asked her to explain. She sat with me for hours that day and invited me to church for the following Sunday.
Before she arrived to pick me up that morning I called to bag on her invitation, but she refused. She actually began praying over the phone that Satan get behind us and leave us alone! I was aghast that anyone would pray over the phone. Nancy arrived five minutes later in pants which I thought was abhorrent at the time and drove me to church. The parking lot was filled with people laughing and children running around. I had never seen anything so irreverent in my life!
It was nothing I had experienced as a Mormon, which was beset with rules and regulations on how to worship God. But as we got out of the mini-van and walked towards the church, I looked up and there stood a little white cross at the top of the building. As I entered the front doors I heard God say to me “Michelle you’re finally home”. I got on my knees an hour later crying as I had never cried before. Jesus suddenly became real in my life that day.
I quickly lost my entire family in Utah. I’ve been shunned since then and have found no greater joy since! The loss of hundreds of relatives is no comparison to what I gained in having Him in my life and the lives of my family now. Kirk was saved a couple of years after I was and now our daughters, Jacquelyn and Alexandra (Axi) walk with the Lord as well.
(2010 update: Axi will be studying music composition and voice with Hill Song in Australia for college next year and Jacqui is studying with Missionary Aviation Training Academy to get her pilot’s license so she can go back to Ethiopia to serve the Lord).
As a child I asked the Lord for three things. I wanted a husband who I could travel the world with; three daughters and a church with a little white cross on top. He gave me all those things and more!
About two years after I got saved I met Ed Decker. Ironically enough once again, I had spit in his face back in ’83 when he was speaking on Mormonism in Oklahoma City. I told my Christian friends he was lying, not wanting him to expose the truth about Mormonism to the world. And in keeping w/ God’s sense of humor, I began working alongside him! Then in May of 2004, Ed himself renewed our wedding vows for Kirk and me in his backyard at the edge of the Snoqualmie River. Our girls served as our witnesses before God and Ed’s wife Carol served us our cake! We invited an ex-Mormon I befriended and a good friend who mentored me when I got out of the church.
My life is now spent with exit-counseling for Mormons, going on missions to the various places where Mormons congregate in order to witness and warn young people to stay away from those Mormon missionaries. My life is full and complete with all that He has for me to do!
My journey after I left Mormonism was as dramatic of an experience for me as the journey towards Jesus. I know without a doubt that I am called to do this work with the Lord. Not that I am the instigator or supplier of the “work”.
Only He is in charge of all that I do each day. I cannot imagine life any other way now and the longer I am a Christian the more amazing it is to me that I lived my life as a Mormon for 30 years.
I close with Jude 1:24-25;
“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”