Why I Gave Up Eternal Life, Stopped Being Afraid of Satan, and Walked Away from the Mormon Church
I once had a man tell me that I had left my religion because Satan had deceived me…
At the time I was very rattled by his words, mostly because I had not been aware of Satan’s deception. It is true that I was walking along a road that was leading me far away from my Mormon upbringing, and yet the entire time I felt like I had been honestly and sincerely seeking and following after truth. At times I had even felt guided, and often it felt like the Spirit I had always felt as a member of the LDS church.
Contrary to what this man believed about me, It was not like I woke up one day and decided that eternal life meant nothing to me, that I would rather live for the pleasures of world (whatever that means) or perhaps more realistically that I wanted to become an outcast, dissapointing nearly everyone that I knew.
Paul Malan put it well when he said:
I didn’t lose my testimony the way a person loses their car keys, and I didn’t just decide I like coffee more than I like eternal life. I spent countless hours reading, studying, asking, and contemplating.
So did I, spend endless hours searching for answers to unanswerable questions. I didn’t trade eternal life for coffee, (as I have yet to have even tried a sip) I traded eternal life so that I could follow after truth. Unfortunately my trade also labelled me as “being deceived by the devil” which I’m pretty sure is not an admirable trait.
After I was told that I had been deceived I spent days unable to get out of bed. An internal war going on in my head. This man was a high ranking local leader of my church. A man I had been taught to revere, to listen too, to follow. For days I wondered if what he had said was right, and if perhaps I really was wrong, if I was possessed by an evil spirit, if Satan really had deceived me, without me feeling his darkness creep in…
…without me knowing.
And then I realized that if Satan could deceive me without my knowledge. If he could deceive me while I was in the very act of prayer. If he could deceive me when I was begging and asking God to guide me, while I was striving more so to know the truth then ever before in my life…then he is very powerful indeed. And if he was host to such horrific mind controlling powers, and had the ability to make his darkness feel so much like light, then what hope did any of us have? Not a single person would be outside the control of his magnificently terrifying grasp. If we thought one wrong thought he would be able to weazle his way in. And even those in high ranking church leadership wouldn’t have any idea when he had struck and his venom was slowly poisoning their thoughts and beliefs. Life would become a hopeless attempt to escape a snake that couldn’t be felt or seen.
This man’s words offered me nothing but hopelessness.
But then I realized that the more realistic explanation was not that I was possessed of the Devil, but that my church leader was scared and he was just trying to explain something that he just didn’t understand. In his mind the church was 100% true, and since it was 100% true the only explanation left was that people like me had been deceived by lies.
It’s funny how afraid we are of lies. It’s like we are terrified that if we were to look at one glaring back at us from the dark fringes of some googled site we wouldn’t recognize it for what it is. Sometimes I think we believe that lies, just like Satan, are more powerful than God. But how could either of those things be true?
There is a quote that I absolutely adore, by J. Reuben Clark:
“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”
According to most LDS leaders it’s now better to just not look. They fear the threat of lies, more than the power of truth. They believe lies deceive, more than truth sets free.
To acknowledge that someone investigated the church, and used the information they found to decide that they could no longer believe in it, is much too hard for many true believing Mormons even to imagine. But believe it or not, that’s what I did. Satan didn’t do it…facts did.
If God wanted his church to make sense to me, why didn’t he make it more clear? If God wanted me to understand…why didn’t he make my brain in a manner that would allow me to do so? And if God wanted me to value the thoughts and ideas of those in leadership positions above my own, why did he give me a brain, a heart, a soul?
In that moment I knew there were no evil spirits taking residence inside my body, there was only light, and it was shining brightly, guiding me in the direction that I needed to go. In that moment it didn’t matter that everyone around me might look at me and be puzzled by my choices. It didn’t matter if they told me I was wrong, or bad, or deceived. In that moment faith became real for me. I began to believe in the goodness of my own heart and the wisdom of my own soul. I chose to have faith to walk in the direction that felt right, even though the direction was not where I had originally intended to go. I chose to have faith in hope. I chose to have faith in goodness. And I chose to believe in a God that would be proud of me for following the heart that he gave me, instead of a God that expected me to hopelessly and obediently believe leaders who told me I was bad. In that moment I chose to believe that God was more powerful than Satan.