Timothy R. Berman: Is a freelance writer and columnist and a native resident of the Pacific Northwest. He possesses a variety of interests. These include Family issues and the social impact families have on the community, religious studies, philosophy, archaeology, and history. He grew up in a small logging town and has had an adventurous life.
Below is his testimony and journey out of and back into the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.
My Journey and Testimony
Do Mormon’s believe in Jesus Christ? The answer to this question depends upon who you ask. Yet, while some will give you doctrinal understanding of how and why Mormons either do or do not believe in Jesus Christ of the Bible and Christianity; it is more significant coming from one who has a true personal testimony of Jesus Christ. This, then, is my own personal testimony of Jesus Christ, the true Gospel restored in these last days and to the reality and message of the Book of Mormon.
I grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint faith. In these tender years of my youth, I had always thought I possessed a strong testimony of the Restored Gospel, Joseph Smith being a true prophet of God and the reality and truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Looking back on this now, I never really had a true testimony of either of these things. I had a superficial belief than a true reality and knowledge of these things. Much of this came about because of the continual seeking of a significant spiritual experience. A personal revelation that would definitely not be deniable on any account. And, as I grew, I never grew in the faith. Never grew in honest humility and never truly sought after God and his divine will.
It was not until I came to a point where I had to make a choice. My faith, the religion I hoped in and believed in, became one of questioning. My family (my first marriage and family) came under attack and I never thought my testimony would be challenged. I never thought my belief in what I thought to be true would ever come under condemnation. Admittedly, I was naive and unfamiliar with the attacks that would ultimately send me on a quest to find truth.
Divorced, my life shipwrecked – in a sense – and when I turned to the faith that I thought I believed in, there came severe disappointment. This disappointment was due to the fact that my records still registered me as being disfellowshipped from the faith. At first, I attempted to reason about how and why this was in error. The Bishop insisted that I go through the proper disciplinary actions. Not only did I lose my family, but I lost my faith, or what little faith I had. Becoming angry at God, I committed myself to go on a “witch hunt” to prove that Mormonism was true. All this changed until I stepped into an independent Charismatic Christian church. While there, I don’t remember the content. All I remember was sitting there. Alone and brooding over how I would stand up and defend the Latter-day Saint faith. Instead, the more I sat there, the more my thoughts wandered. The more my thoughts wandered, the more I felt lost, angry, disparity tugging at me. I needed to escape.
What happened next is beyond any conceivable thought. It was as if someone had literally sat right down next to me, wrapped their arms around me. A whispered thought: “I have always loved you no matter what.” A sense of relief filled me. A sense of peace, comfort and a profound sense of love. I recall saying, All I have ever wanted was someone to love me and accept me for who I am. It was here that I first tasted the reality and need for Christ. Yet, this was only the stepping stone of many that I would eventually take.
There is nothing that can compare to the moment when one is faced with the reality and need of redemption. The power which overcomes and the enormous amount of love that floods the heart of man. It is when you truly come face to face with of Jesus Christ. Yet, this was only the beginning of my journey. The unfortunate side was that I became convinced from this experience that the faith of my youth, the faith I grew up pretending to believe in was a false faith. That the answers and experiences I thought I had endured were not based upon the true sense and reality one would experience when they meet God and the redemptive power of Jesus Christ.
I began to attend this charismatic independent church. I started reading the Bible and the Bible alone. I began to study and to defend the Christian traditions. Even though I had my own questions, my own concerns and my own disagreements. Much of this, as I was convincing myself more and more, based upon the false beliefs I held while a member of the Latter-day saint faith.
As I grew and studied more, I shifted from attending an independent Charismatic church to attend a non-denominational church. A Calvary Chapel church. There, I began to develop a more stable experience as a “Christian believer” and started looking at the Bible from a different perspective and understanding. Yet, I still had this yearning that I kept pushing down. A yearning that things were not quite right. My life still chaotic and a mess. Yes, I truly believed I was born again, but yet my life seemingly got worse and worse. I kept seeking after God, kept seeking after direction and answer. I began to convince myself that there was something more wrong with me as I kept pursuing God. I kept giving more of my faith and humility to understand, to grow and to become stable. Yet, stability was not within my grasp. The more I struggled in my life, the more I began to doubt whether there really was God. I found myself battling against doubt, fear and questioning. More so as I grew farther and farther away from the LDS Faith. My first anger, bitterness turned into a fervent study of the Bible, of History and of Christian teachings and traditions. It was at this time that I started to embrace the Calvinistic Christian Faith. Accepting the doctrines of Predestination divine Grace and other such things. I began to study and defend the Calvinistic Doctrines.
From Reformed Theology to Agnosticism
The more I struggled to make sense of everything in my life, the more I began to slowly embrace the idea that whether there is a God that I need to just live my life according to what suits me. This worldly idea began to grow the more I began to realize that due to my circumstances, there was not really a God who has any concern about me. I started choosing to listen to my heart and desires. Yet, the more I battled and struggled with this the more I struggled with my reasoning and belief.
About this time, I started attending an Assemblies of God church. I started becoming a regular there, every Sunday, every Wednesday night and every Saturday morning with the men’s prayer group. I started seeing my faith grow. My doubts and concerns started to subside and the more I attempted to stabilize myself, the more my faith seems to stabilize with me. I started working with men who were homeless, started to share the good news.
Unfortunately, all this came crashing down when life hit me hard and my faith was challenged again. I still was not getting something. I still was not understanding why I kept going through what I was going through. Slowly, I abandoned prayer, figuring it was not the best thing to do. Why pray to someone who I could no longer prove any rational thought or belief in. Was there a God, experiences that were scant and few in my life convinced me there still was. Did he care? I couldn’t recall any moment where God really did care for me. Even when I struggled.
Eventually, I gave up. I gave up believing in God all together and finally reasoned within myself that if there is a God then so be it. I just needed to focus on getting myself straightened out and stabilized. Thus, I did so. I gave up debating religion online, gave up biblical studies, gave up praying, gave up attending services and gave up any formal belief. I decided to just live my life the best I could. The reasoning for this, as I attempted to prove it in my life, is that I only had to realize there was only one captain of my ship. And, for a while, this was starting to work.
Shipwrecked and abandoned:
I, eventually, found myself completely alone. Destitute and wanting. My life had become empty. I did not even have a penny to my name. No faith, no hope and no assurance of anything. All I knew was that I had to keep going, keeping pressing through until something broke. I was not about ready to give up because, frankly, the only thing I had been myself to depend upon. It was during this turmoil that I finally cried out for some form of rescue. Some form of comfort.
Impressed to find out about a transitional housing (for I tried to stay at a couple different shelters and was not in the mood or position to listen to a Christian Message) and when I attended, I found that I was able to move into the housing program. There, I rested up. Took only three days to just recuperate, acquaint myself with my life. As I struggled with retaining some sense of sanity and stability, I began to understand some of the reasons why I always ended up in the predicament I was in. The more I examined my life, the more I had come to realize how much I had allowed myself to be destructive. Unfortunately, I still retained some amount of pride and refused to do anything about it.
A Call to Return
It is true when someone says that God works in mysterious ways. While I started healing my life, rebuilding that ship of mine, I started venturing out, started noticing LDS Missionaries. Each time I saw a pair, a voice would whisper to stop and talk with them. Every once in a while (when the feeble attempt to go un-notice or avoid them somehow) a pair would stop and talk with me briefly. I would just casually say that I was a member but did not really care too much for the faith anymore.
As my life improved and I had saved up some money, it was time to move on my own. I finally secured my apartment. Granted, it was not the best thing in the world, but it was a place where I could come and go, a place where it was my own and it was a place I could begin to finally put together the foundation I needed to build upon. Yet, this was no stable environment. I struggled with some of the same issues, unable to hold a job, depression, a lack of faith and always concerned whether I would wake up and have no place to go. Fear kept me a prisoner as I went about the daily routine.
Yet, I fought to keep myself stable.
Path to Restoration
Two years with stability was something I never thought possible.
Having retained my place of residence, kept myself stable, I began to entertain the idea of returning to a belief in God. During this time, I kept having the sense to return back to the faith of my youth. I reasoned, argued within my mind why and how it was that I could no longer accept the doctrines of the Mormon faith. The more I argued, the more I attempted to reason, the stronger the impression got.
It was not until I had lost my job when I started to search out an answer. Abandoning all my reasoning and intellect, I walked into a used bookstore where I finally spent a couple bucks, to buy a copy of the Book of Mormon. It was when I brought it home with me that I sat down and started reading it. Started paying close attention to what it had to say. The more I read, however, the more I began to realize that the passages were calling for a repentant heart. Calling for one to repent of their transgressions and that once they came to Christ, with humility, sincerity and an obedient heart, he is quick to forgive, quick to restore and the blessings would be profound and enormous.
I read the Book of Mormon within three days.
It was not until I got to Moroni chapter 10 that I remember pausing. I mulled over all the arguments that Christians posed to believing Mormons on their praying of the Book of Mormon. The arguments that go something like: How can you pray over something that is wrong and proven to be against Biblical truth? Their reason is based upon a subjective argument. I also reasoned within myself about how many times I have read the Book of Mormon, how many times I prayed over the Book. How many times I never really truly received an answer to the reality and truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
There I was, in my efficiency apartment wondering if I should kneel in prayer, offer up my heart and seek the answer that seemed to allude me all those years. Questions formulating, intellectual reasoning brewing as I took a few deep breaths and cleared my mind.
I knelt in prayer, with the Book of Mormon in hand and began to pray. The more I prayed, the more I realized how I have abandoned the one true faith, never really having a testimony as to the power and reality of the truth. The meaning of Christ’s redemptive power and true promise and the meaning of true grace. I fell prostrate, crying, burden by the many transgressions that I had carried within me. Making personal confessions of offenses I had done. During this whole time, I felt a surging power wash over me. I heard a voice whisper in my thoughts. Not to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, but to the truth is that I am loved and appreciated; and that my journey is not yet complete.
A Slow Return to Faith
Rejuvenated by the events, I found new hope and strength. I started entertaining the idea of returning to the LDS Faith. I began to attend services, began to talk with the Bishop about why I left the faith and what needed to happen for my return. I wanted to come home.
As I slowly started moving forward, things started coming together. When I prayed, the feeling of being heard, the sense of belonging and the sense of growing cloaked me. It felt good to realize that there is still hope, that I was not doing this on my own. I started abandoning my debates. Though there were strong questions I had, I wanted to answer them and knew that there would be times where those answers were given.
Unfortunately, I had slipped back into my debates. Again, I started attacking the Church, but I wanted answers. And, during all this time, I started feeling a sense of belonging, of sharing my life with someone. Of wanting to be with someone and I started pursuing ways to meet people. Especially since I had locked myself up in my apartment and the world was only television, work and my writing and debates. There were no real social interactions. I started also dating, joined a couple of online dating services. It was through one of them – which happened to be a LDS Dating service – that I met my now fiance.
She being a member of the Church, we both decided to see where our relationship would take us. Yet, I continued to sneak online to debate against the Mormon’s, to prove whether the Church was right or wrong. She wanted to return back to Church because she has a stronger testimony.
As we started to grow in our relationship, as things started coming to light, challenges facing us, heartache, despair, resentment, forgiveness and other personal trials we faced, both of us stuck together, overcoming the best we could.
Now, today, while we both are planning our wedding (January 3, 2009), we have had good home teachers come once a month, we have had council with the Bishop on several occasions (as people and as a couple) about how things are going with our home, our family and if we stand in need of everything. Unbeknownst to her, it was her faith, her strength and testimony that brought me back around to realize that there are things we may never receive an answer to. It was her statements that, what does it matter how many wives Joseph Smith had. What does it matter what some people say we believe. What matters is whether or not one truly believe they are saved and whether or not the Church is true. Why base your testimony on what someone claims to have said, or things that have happened. What matters the most is having faith in Christ.
Come Unto Christ
The most interesting thing about reflecting upon this, sharing this with the readers of this blog is that Heavenly Father truly loves each and one of us. If you don’t think he does love you, much like I thought he could never really love me, you are wrong. It is just the opposite. And, as I worked on finishing this post, I happened to have my scriptures open to Moroni chapter 10 verse 32. A passage that had suddenly caught my interest and a passage I would like to share:
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
I can in no way deny the power of God. So, back to the question, do Mormon’s truly believe in Jesus Christ of the Bible? Yes. I bear you my testimony that not only do I believe in Christ, but I honestly do believe that I am saved, that I have been forgiven of my sins, that there is truly hope in my life. While I may have to go through whatever disciplinary needed, the reality is that Christ is my personal Lord and Savior. Anyone who says that I am wrong on this because of my belief in upholding the doctrines of the Mormon religion, uphold Joseph Smith as a prophet of God are truly blind to the true grace true repentance and true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Doctrine does not save someone, doctrine does not offer a means of salvation. What provides a means of salvation is Christ, and Christ alone. Whether Christians want to accept that, it is not my problem but theirs.
Thus, if you are struggling to make sense. If you have left the Mormon Faith because Christianity today tells you how wrong you were into believing and accepting the doctrines, I ask you this one honest question – have you ever truly had a strong testimony of the reality of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins and the nature behind the true principle of Grace? It is a question that is simple, yet poignant and true. For, I had never truly had a testimony. Not until now.
And, if anything that I had gone through has taught me one thing, it is this, the only possibility of my testimony is not because I had a warm fuzzy feeling, a burning in the bosom that was subjective, but a real true honest meet with the divine. This, I can’t deny. The Book of Mormon is True, Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God and President Monson is a Latter-day Prophet called to speak to us by God’s Authority. And, I testify that I will defend the truth the rest of my life.