Apostasy | A personal and social epidemic

One of the very fundamental teachings of the LDS Faith is that of a Universal Apostasy. Meaning the original authority of the Church of Jesus Christ, the priesthood authority, became corrupt due to heresy and man’s own philosophy and understanding.

Unfortunately, this post is not about the understanding of the universal apostasy of First Century Christianity. What this article is talking about is how universal apostasy is in our own personal lives, our communities, and our society. This idea struck me while reflecting upon my own personal apostasy from the faith. How I am slowly finding my way back to a restoration of personal beliefs, health and lifestyle. It is something of importance for me to understand the nature of forgiveness and redemption. Why would I say this? Because the very heart of redemption is the grace of being redeemed from a fallen-state, and being restored to a full faith – receiving a pardon from not only the crimes of one’s fallen nature, but freedom from the consequential punishments inherent to criminal trespasses. This is what (for me) is so significant and profound. Another reason for this is when one looks at the nature and condition of our society today. The fear that is in the hearts of those who are wondering what is going on politically, environmentally and globally. Yet, with every downside of life, there is always a semblance of hope. This is why I am inspired to write this particular blog article.
How and why apostasy is personal – My Personal Journey:

Throughout my youth, I had never really heard of anyone having apostatized from the LDS Faith. Never had I heard of Hank Hanagraaf, Dr. Walter Martin, Mormonism Research Ministry, Ex-Mormons, Ed Decker or Christian Apologetic Research Ministries (CARM). Neither had I spent time at the library, LDS bookstore, used bookstores and major bookstores for the sole purpose of searching out books on and about religion, history and interpretation of religious ideals and doctrines. Most of my youth involved going to youth dances, attending sacrament, Sunday school and priesthood meetings, twice a year, going to the stake center and attending the General Conferences and stake Conferences. I knew nothing of apologetics, anti-Mormon literature and having any exposure to any real religious discussions outside of the confines of the LDS Church. Definitely innocent when it came to any form of religious understanding and experience. While I had chosen to join the military and opt out of serving a mission, I never experienced any such disdained for my faith. Not until I spent some time in Huntsville, Alabama for my MOS training.

Even then, there was no real persecution that was significantly damaging to my testimony and faith; and yet, it all exploded when, after a couple years of being out of the military, I had met my (now) ex-wife. She was brought up a fundamental/evangelical Christian and I was brought up as a young man in the LDS Faith. It was after I had baptized her into the Church, and then we were married that her mother had invited us over for dinner. It was here that I stepped into the den of ravenous wolves. Her mother had invited a gentleman and his wife over to “discuss” with us how wrong Mormonism is, how wrong it was for my ex-wife to have aligned herself with this religion and how she needed to repent of her sins. I did not know what to say. It was this blatant out right attack on my faith and my family (at the time) that I figured I needed to do something, but did not know what to do. Therefore, I went to the local LDS Bookstore where we lived and found some books. The first, if my memory serves me right, was a response to Ed Decker’s book by Gilbert W. Scharffs. Scharffs’ book is hard to find now, but is entitled: The Truth About “the God Makers”. This one of many books I had started purchasing. Another was The Gainsayers: A Converted Anti-Mormon Responds to Critics of the LDS Church by Darrick T. Evenson.

Yet, it had not mattered how much prayer, fasting and studying I participated in, the fact and reality slowly sunk in. I essentially lost my family through divorce. It was not until after my ex-wife left me that I was called into the bishop’s office and was informed that my records had indicated I was still disfellowshiped from the Church. I explained how I was brought back into full repentance, how I not only baptized my now ex-wife, but blessed my son in sacrament meeting. He only shook his head and told me that I was disfellowshiped and how I needed to go through the repentance process and come back into full membership. I left bitter, angry, confused and upset.

Unwary and clueless, this state of emotional chaos became fertile ground for doubt. Doubt in my own personal beliefs, questioning whether I truly had received an answer, or even had a testimony. Not only this, but the anger grew to the point that I took upon myself the authority to go and battle with the Christians. I vowed to prove once for all the reality and truth of the LDS Faith and to prove that those who opposed the truth were in error of their own understandings and reasoning. I started reading (and about this time, the internet became a new thing) anything and everything that was Anti-Mormon and started writing out my own responses to the so-called Christian Apologists. I purchased the volumes of They Lie in Wait to Deceive. Eventually, all this fed the seed of doubt, the seed of questioning and reasoning. I, admit now, that I had gone into a vulnerable state. I, again now realizing this, had ventured onto the road of Apostasy and had no clue how far down I already traveled.

It is because of this very reason; Apostasy is a very personal and real aspect of our spiritual lives. Yet, as debilitating personal apostasy is, there is hope and redemption awaiting those who are ready to have a restored and renewed hope. We are all vulnerable to some extent. We are all apt to fall into a state of Apostasy if one is not careful. The sad and harsh reality is that there are those of the Modern Christian denominations who are ready to pluck up those LDS Believers into their own reasoning and thinking as to how and why the LDS Church is in error. Also, when someone who is deemed an apostate, there are some LDS Believers who will refuse to associate, discuss and flat out have nothing to do with someone. I say some because I have encountered some. The problem with the latter is that this pushes the apostate further and further into the false ideals, zealousness and fallacious understandings of the essential doctrines of the Truth.

What eventually happened led me into studying various doctrines, acquiring a knowledge of history with respect to Ancient Near East religions, First Century Christianity, Calvinism, Early Christian History and finding intellectualism as my form of religious thought and expression. All this knowledge gained did nothing but harbor more questions than answers. The more I started fighting against the LDS Faith, the more I became angered at how deceived I thought I was. Essentially, it came down to how wronged I felt by the Church.

Reality settled in when I had found myself out in the cold. The only worldly possessions I had were a backpack filled with a couple pairs of jeans, a couple pairs of undershirts, three cartons of cigarettes, a cell phone, two bibles, writing pads, pens, pencils, underclothes and personal hygiene. I had no place to go, no shelter and no one I could turn to for help. Such experience woke me up. I, then, realized something had to change and had to change fast. The first thing I did was show up every day at a day labor hall. While the pay was not that great, it kept me working put some money in my pocket to sustain myself until I knew what my game plan was to get back onto my feet.

Within a week, I found shelter at a transitional housing program. Little to know sleep, I crashed, enjoying the warmth of a bed, a roof and food. Once the shock wore off and the first step taken, I had to take the second step. Unable to swallow my pride, the thought crossed my mind to call on the LDS Church, call on the missionaries, or Elders to come visit me. Instead, I kept going on my own, finding work, struggling to maintain some semblance of stability. Yet, I managed to save up enough money to leave the transitional housing program and sustain myself on my own. The job I held for a couple months became a springboard for another, better paying Job. I started living my life, gaining footing and stability, becoming confident and that nagging sensation of getting back into the Church would not stop. Would not leave me alone and each time I would step out of my apartment, I saw Missionaries everywhere. Coming and going, I would see them.

It was on one occasion that I darted into a used bookstore in the University District of Seattle, Washington (where I lived at the time) that I saw a copy of the Book of Mormon. Much thinner than I remembered, I decided, what the heck, to purchase it and take it home. Probably would not read it anyway, I thought. How wrong I was to think that I would not read it.

I read the Book of Mormon in two nights and three days. Majority of the passages I came across jumped out at me with the word repent. By the time I reached Moroni’s promise, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and read the words very slowly. I fought back the tears, fought the urge to kneel in prayer, but felt compelled to and as I knelt in prayer, all I could do was cry out. I do not remember anything that I had said, but remember feeling at peace, a sense of love and a feeling of being washed.

I decided to call on the Church, and started attending, started talking about some of my past, some of the hurt, some of the bitterness and in it all started feeling my stability slipping away. I refused to go to the Lord and started closing myself back up from the Church. I ended up getting back into attacking the Church. It was not until I met a lady (a member of the Church) and ever since then, I slowly abandoned my postings on message forums, attacking the church and started attending church when we can.

Today, she has visiting teachers that come over and visit her. We have home teachers that come over to visit us. For the first time, I had the opportunity to attend a priesthood session of General Conference. We both have been in to talk with the Bishop about how things are going between us as a couple and how we are doing and if there is anything, we need. The fact remains, she keeps insisting on going fully back into the Church and wanting me by her side. Slowly, I am shedding the former self-absorbed person I had become, and developing a renewed interest in returning to the faith of my youth.

In all this (and as I am writing this particular section of this blog article), there are three main reasons people experience personal apostasy. These three reasons are contained within the parable of the sower:

 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. … Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. {King James Version; Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23}

The three main reasons are: 1) Those who hear the gospel message and seemed to have a spark of interest, but suddenly change their minds. While this is not a full Apostasy in one sense, I would consider this a form of apostasy when the gospel truths are taught to someone and their interest suddenly turns to disdain, doubt or questioning of such teachings; 2) Those who have received the gospel message, they receive it immediately (which is what anon in Greek means – Euthus, pronounced yoo-thoos’) without rooting themselves into solid ground. Apostasy here comes in the guise of persecution, tribulation or a trial of their faith and testimony. If one truly is not rooted in their testimony, rooted in their faith, the opportunity of doubt and individual apostasy is very close to their door. All it takes is one simple challenge to sway them in their understanding and faith; 3) The thorns are those who want to embrace the truth of the Gospel, or have already embraced, but because of the cares of the world, or the deceitfulness of riches (whether prestige, monetary, knowledge or power) chokes their testimony.

Essentially, to summarize all this, Apostasy is a very real and personal issue we all face. Whether we are prepared or not, whether we are strong in our testimony of the essential doctrines of the LDS Faith, or not, the reality is that we all come to that crossroads where we either enter into a journey into apostasy or we listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and recognize the promptings to avoid that which is counterfeit and accept that which is true and correct. For me, I had allowed my own ego and personal emotional chaos to become my pathway toward apostasy.
How and why Apostasy is a Social Epidemic:

Not only is Apostasy a personal epidemic and spiritual disease, but it is a very real plague in our society. As stated from the outset of this blog article, the focus is not on the apostate condition of Christianity towards the end or at the close of the First Century of Christianity, but about how personal and socially apostasy is. The best way is to look for the symptoms of apostasy in society. Today, we are facing a crisis, an economic crisis that is causing some propositions for bailouts to bring our economic failings back to stability and success. There is talk that we are already in the beginning stages of a very deep and real recession.

One of the main symptoms is the decay of the moral fabric of our society. Another is the oppression of the weak, the feeble, orphans and the elders of society. A third symptom is a sense of bondage, a heavy yoke to the governing forces of society. The fourth and most prominent of all symptoms is the hunger for greed. Overall, the main aspect of Social Apostasy is when the majority of society removes a loving Heavenly Father out of their lives, community and builds ordinances and laws to forbid the preaching and teaching of truth.

Yet, this is nothing new. When you look at Israel, how they prospered and then fell away, only to prosper again, and one can see the effects of societal apostasy. When reading the Book of Mormon, one could see how apostasy affects the given social fabric of that society.

It is when the very moral fabric of society that is fully rent, things start happening. Part to condemn and bring those guilty of apostasy, sin and depravity unto repentance or condemnation, or bring the righteous few unto grace and truth.

My hope and goal is to provide understanding for those who find themselves in a state apostasy and not sure whether or not they are able to make it back. In my time away from Church, I have had dialogues with various people who had left the church. While their reasons vary and remain personal only to them, the common thread of those who had left the faith are due to personal offense, persecution, or simply falling into the ways of the world and modern society. To those members who have remained steadfast in their testimony and faith are (or, in this writer’s humble opinion) the beacon to those who are attempting to find their way back.

The road to apostasy is easy to follow. The journey back is arduous, long and sometimes harsh. Yet, when one steps out of darkness and into the rain, the sense of cleansing, the sense of restoration and the sense of grace and truth envelopes them with open arms and forgiveness.

And, if you are struggling to come back to the LDS Faith, or know someone who is struggling, ask them this question: If God, in his mighty wisdom and power able to restore His true Church in these last days, what makes you think he can’t restore you back into a state of happiness and bring you back into the True Church of Jesus Christ.

 

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