by Carla Mickelson
I was born and raised in the Mormon Church and was a faithful member for over 39 years. In May 2012 I left the Mormon Church for Christianity. For me, leaving Mormonism was spurred by something a dying pastor said to me at work one night. I was his nurse and I thought I was doing him a favor by letting him hold my hand and talk about Bible stories, but the pastor really blessed me by opening my eyes to Christ’s grace.
He told me that when Jesus was dying on the cross, He had taken upon Himself the sins of the world. He explained that all sin was judged once and does not need to be judged again if we accept Christ’s sacrifice for us. All other men will be judged by their works, but those who accept Jesus do not need to stand at the judgment seat because their sins were already paid for. This really affected me because it clarified for me how our sins were “nailed to the cross.”
Also, Mormons frequently use the phrase “judged of their works” with the idea that our works will get us into heaven. When the pastor used that phrase I thought, I don’t want to be judged by my works because I am so imperfect! Suddenly my works seemed like filthy rags. It was something I had never thought about in that way before. I became concerned that if I was asking to be judged of my works, I would get exactly what I was asking for. The idea of not having to be judged – that it was even an option not to be, was revolutionary to me.
I started doing a Bible reading plan with my sister who left the Mormon Church many years ago and I felt like I could not get enough of God’s word. I began to see what a dangerous lie the LDS church perpetuated by discrediting the Bible and claiming that it was not correct unless it was the King James Version and Joseph Smith had translated it. For years this kept me from spending time in God’s word. I learned to place my trust in the Bible and not the Book of Mormon. I came to appreciate how the Bible can stand up to scrutiny and is historically verifiable, unlike the BOM. Most of all, I found that the Bible’s message of God’s love and grace was manna to my soul. As I read the Bible I felt like the scales fell off my eyes and I could see how God’s word clearly contradicts Mormon doctrine.
For a while I struggled with the concept of the Holy Trinity. I don’t think it was an accident that during this time in my life I was also struggling, unsuccessfully, to mend a broken relationship with my father. I desperately longed for unconditional fatherly love. In the past, I trusted that Jesus loved me but God Himself was always an abstract concept. To think of God as my father was a hollow feeling if I didn’t fully understand His love and who exactly He was. Jesus, to me, was real and tangible. I could understand Jesus by reading about His life, teachings, and His great love and sacrifice for us. Jesus was someone I felt like I had a real relationship with. I thought, If Jesus is God in human form, then God’s love for me truly blows my mind! If God (who is Jesus) wanted to be my Heavenly Father; that was a relationship that could really mean something to me – something truly wonderful and miraculous! It meant I had a perfect love that would never fail, give up, or run out on me. This made me feel whole in a way I never thought possible.
I tentatively began attending some services with a friend at a local evangelical church. I found them so uplifting, I was blown away. I LOVED the live band and music. One night the sermon was about forgiveness, which was a key concept I was re-learning and trying to get my head around since speaking to the pastor at the hospital. The pastor that night talked about how we as humans have trouble forgetting about and tend to live in the shadow of our past mistakes. He said that when we accept Christ’s atonement for us, our sin is placed on Christ, and His righteousness is placed on us. God views us as completely righteous, and He doesn’t have a plan for us to work for His forgiveness. Because Christ gave us this incomprehensible gift it creates in us a desire to love Him and never let Him down. This reminded me of Luke 7:38-45 when the sinful woman cries on Jesus’s feet and He explains that if a money lender forgave two debts, one big and one small, the person with the bigger debt would love him more. Then He says to Simon; “Her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
I got to the point where I really wanted to leave the LDS church but I didn’t know how. I told my sister one day that felt like a big part of the problem was that all my life I had learned to please people. I didn’t want to leave the LDS church because I knew it would cause discord and upset feelings among my family and friends. I described how I just wanted to keep the peace and to keep pleasing people, but I hated living a lie. That night in my Bible reading plan I read Galatians 1:10 “Do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” The very words that had just came out of my mouth were said back to me! That was the last straw, I wanted to be a servant of Christ, not men. The next day I notified church officials, family, and friends that I was leaving the church.
My transition out of the Mormon Church was not easy. I had to strip off my Mormon identity and find a new identity in Jesus Christ. I praise God that my 13 year old daughter Amber joined with me in turning our lives over to Jesus. I would have gone it alone, but I am so grateful I didn’t have to because we have so much joy in worshiping God together. It has been wonderful to witness the great increase in her happiness and self confidence. I feel indescribably grateful that God revealed His true love and grace to me. I feel like Psalm 18:16 says; “He reached down from heaven and rescued me; He drew me out of deep waters.” I was lost, and who was I that the God of the universe came looking for me? He pursued me relentlessly. He spoke to my heart in ways I that could not deny. HE loved me first, and I feel like the woman in Luke 7:38. I fall down at His feet forever and worship the one true God; Jesus, my King forever!