Dear Eric K.
I am kind of messed up by my associations with these religions. I feel for the Mormons, but I was more seduced than convinced of its truth. I don't feel so emotionally tripped by it, as my involvement was fairly brief. I did make some close friends in there though and I regret that the promise of all those family values did not take for 3 out of 4 of my close friends.
The young man who baptized me died of Aids 5 years ago last Easter. Yes, he was gay, and I think he really believed the church was true also. He "converted" his whole family. My other friend was excommunicated, still thinks it is true and he is gay also. He is sad about being excommunicated. My girlfriend Barbara has been divorced. I lost contact with her years ago, but she was married in the Temple, so I know the divorce was very difficult. She served a mission but had left and returned to the church fold. I have been trying to locate her for about 2 years now. My friend Ed is the only one I know of that is still living the way he held up as ideal. I bet he even does family home evenings. Last I heard he did his mission, has a wife, kids and (he is a SMART guy so) I am sure he is gainfully employed. I love all these people and there are many others that I know are probably still being good Mormons, I just am not close enough to keep up with them. Those people were closest to me.
ON THE OTHER HAND....I think that the ones who "warped" me were the Jehovah's Witnesses. I would never have joined the LDS I don't think, had I not been so thoroughly convinced of the fact that all of "Christendom" were false teachers and were in league with darkness. The LDS were also known as a cult. For some reason, that made it easier to get involved with. The professed to serve Christ, and I couldn't go for any obviously non-Christian group. Yet I couldn't join the Baptists or Catholics or what have you. I was at a vulnerable age and I really needed some boundaries and I knew that. But if I rejected religion altogether than all of the reasons I had been taught morality and decency went out the window. My moral compass was God, even when I did not know him well!
At the age of 18, wondering why on earth I had EVER given my testimony that "I know the Book of Mormon is true and JS was and Spencer W. Kimball is a prophet, I finally left the church. I was tormented only in that I wasted time, and that once again I had built relationships that would not really continue, as in my JW days. I found however that if Mormons are a little cool after you leave, they are really very kind (in my case anyway!)
I was raised from infancy to be a JW. I remember going out in service and until I was 12 I thought you were supposed to say "knock, knock" at doors (remember the service meetings anyone?) I remember being torn between meetings and "Happy Days" on Tuesday nights. The guilt worked, and I usually went to the meetings. My mom was not baptized until I was about 11 years old, although she had been going to meetings since she was a toddler(a neighbor lady, one of the "anointed" took her.) She has since told me of how sure she is that it is the "truth", but since none of her children are going, she tells me that she doesn't care if she lives forever or is just "annihilated". She obviously doesn't go out in service either. I don't know her status in the congregation....I think that she was even more of an outcast at the Hall after me and my sister left. My sister left gradually. I made a big deal about it. There were several things, but one in particular that caused me to leave.
The things that "bothered" me about the JWs were many. The resurrection thing gave me the courage to leave though. I don't have problems with dress codes or encouraging frequent attendance at church or whatever, but (and this is stupid) the thing about birthdays always bugged me. Maybe cause I was young...anyway, my studies with the WT pubs sure didn't convince me that BDs [birthdays] were in any way, shape or form some kind of worship or idolatry. The teaching, I realize now, is more legalism than any kind of rational approach to avoiding idolatry. For an organization that sets itself up next to Christ, they sure don't have any reason to be casting stones over a birthday cake and a few gifts. There are many other examples of that kind of control. Beards, for example. Can you imagine? Certain things about marriage and divorce bug me. Marriage seems to be held more sacred when both are believers. Non-believers seem to be pretty disposable when it becomes convenient. Children are loved, but discouraged and repressed constantly. I do not mean in good behavior, but they learn to be insincere early. Men seem to get away with a lot. Ethics are not really very important. The result is more important than the process. I can't really define where that idea comes from, but it is an impression I carry with me. I do not believe in the 144,000 in the way the WT teaches it. I think that the system of field service is coercive and kind of slimy. I think church(one that says it is based on the Bible) out to spend more time in study-not, "here are scriptures that will prove to you why you should believe this weird doctrine", but real study of the scriptures.
Anyway, in spite of all that.....I still believe that some teachings of theirs are correct. I do not believe that we should celebrate Easter the way many Christians do. I do not believe that resurrection Sunday should be called by the name of a pagan Goddess. I do not want my children participating in Halloween and if my family must celebrate Christmas, I don't want the biggest emphasis to be gift-getting. Still though, my family can celebrate the birth(even on the wrong day,) and the resurrection of our Lord. I think the WT organization. threw the baby out with the bath water! I also have strong doubts about whether Christians should actively participate in war. I know that all my Baptist friends will gasp. I am not unpatriotic, I appreciate the blessings of being in this country, and I am not convinced exactly, but I don't see how it can be Christian to be killing when we are supposed to turn the other cheek.
I wish I could start with a clean slate. I think it would be easier to be raised as a heathen and then find Christ than to have to sort through all this hogwash to find out what is true and what is false. Getting past false teachings is difficult. There is a saying that really good lies are mostly truth. The witnesses with agree that we are saved by faith in Jesus, and then add the caveat of being a witness, going to meetings, knowing all the bible scriptures to stymie opponents, etc. They agree that one needs to be baptized - but only after you can answer 80 questions, have proved yourself worth and have gone out in field service. They agree that Jesus spoke of heaven, but then they add that only 144,000 will go there! I won't go on, but I could!
I did go back to the KH [Kingdom Hall] and actually even studied after I left the LDS church. I was far from home and I think I wanted something familiar. I spent about 2 years in a really confused situation. When I was 20, I was actually introduced to Jesus Christ. I accepted him as my savior and I now have an 8 year old son who was recently baptized and who gave his heart over. I had some confusion after I got saved. The church I went to was borderline cultic. Or that was what the Pastor would have liked....but about 6 years ago, my heart's yearnings led me to a study of the Bible and I have been growing in his grace ever since. I have fallen, but that desire to really know him has picked me up and carried me on.