The Mormon Experience

By


To Find the Answer

For thirteen years I was a devoted, “born again” Christian and an equally devoted anti-Mormon. As part of an organized evangelical program, I talked to people in stores, in parks, and in their homes, seeking to share the “good news of the gospel.”

Many of those people I encountered in my evangelical work were Latter-day Saints. I took every opportunity to tell them that their church was not of God, but was a cult inspired by Satan. I was well-read in anti-Mormon literature, and my heart ached for those “misguided Mormons.” They went about trying to “work” their way to heaven, believing in the words of a self-appointed prophet named Joseph Smith.

I told them again and again that those works didn’t count. Only those people who ask Jesus into their hearts will go to heaven, I said. All others, good and evil, share a fate of agony and eternal separation from God.

“What about those who have never heard of Jesus?” I was always asked. Having no answer, I quietly ignored the question.

After a divorce that was hard for me, I stopped going to church, and although my faith in God and love for him remained, I decided to lay aside the spiritual part of my life for a time. I married an inactive Latter-day Saint who nonetheless possessed an unshakable testimony. We rarely discussed religion, but whenever the subject came up, I made fruitless attempts to show him the error of his beliefs. He quietly listened, but his testimony remained intact. Then, through a family crisis, my heart began to change.

My father-in-law became very ill with cancer, and as death approached, he felt the need to express the importance of the Church to his children. Something about his simple testimony touched my heart, and I decided to find out for myself the truth regarding this church. I began by cross-referencing the scriptures, and found to my surprise that there were no inconsistencies between the Bible and the Book of Mormon. To me, the Bible was the precious word of God. I believed it without question. Could Mormon doctrine possibly be proven within the Bible? I set out to find the answer.

In going through my husband’s Church books, I came across A Marvelous Work and a Wonder by Elder LeGrand Richards. As I read it, I felt as if it had been written for me. I discovered New Testament scriptures regarding baptism for the dead and Christ’s mission during the time prior to his resurrection. I discovered Jesus’ words to Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb: “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” (John 20:17.) Had he not returned to his Father immediately after his death? But I had used his words to the thief on the cross, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43) to prove deathbed repentance! I had read these same scriptures countless times before but had never really understood them. Now I realized I had been deceived about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As I studied and prayed, I began to find answers to the questions I had quietly pushed aside. Finally, I knew that this church was the Savior’s church, and its doctrine was his doctrine. In 1984 I was baptized.

I am grateful the Lord waited so patiently for the moment when my heart would open so that his Spirit would lead me to the truth.

[illustrations, photo] Paintings by Harry Anderson; photography by Steve Bunderson

Paula Miner lives in the Monrovia East Ward, Arcadia California Stake.