Lisa Brockman is a staff member of Cru living in Florida. She is the author of Out of Zion: Meeting Jesus in the Shadow of the Mormon Temple (Harvest House).
I was a competitive tennis player and an academic high-achiever. Whatever I did, I did it with all of my heart—and being a good Mormon was no exception.
As a sixth-generation Mormon girl, I believed that the Mormon Church was the one true church of God. I believed Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. By age six, I was convinced that having a temple marriage and faithfully obeying Mormon laws would qualify me to spend eternity in the highest heaven—the Celestial Kingdom. There, I would exalt into godhood and bear spirit children. This was my greatest dream.
As a young girl, obedience felt as easy as skipping pebbles. As I entered my teenage years, it felt more like dragging boulders. The burdens included paying a full tithe, dressing modestly, maintaining sexual and moral purity, actively attending church, and obeying the Word of Wisdom (which forbade consuming alcohol, tea, coffee, or tobacco). I longed to make myself worthy of entering the temple one day.
But there were temptations to resist. Throughout high school, Mormon friends of mine began drifting into the world of partying. Alcohol seemed to release them from the striving and shame that comes with performance-based love. It took a will of steel to resist joining them each weekend. For three years I resisted, feeling like a pressure cooker of unworthiness waiting to explode.
Testing My Beliefs
As a senior, I gave up resisting, telling myself that this rebellion would only last for a season. I jumped into the party world with the same passion I brought to the rest of my life, funneling beer without restraint. One party at a time, my conscience started shutting down. I was “unworthy”—and relieved to no longer care.
Yet even as I felt liberated from Mormon legalism, I didn’t waver from believing that the Mormon church was God’s true church. That truth was embedded deep within.
During my freshman year at the University of Utah, I met Gary. We were both athletes living rebelliously, and we were mutually infatuated. Though we shared much in common, our religious beliefs differed. Gary told me he was a born-again Christian—I’d never heard of one. For the first month of our relationship we avoided the subject. Then, on a wintry December day, Gary cracked open the door of this conversation.
“How do you know Mormonism is true?” I had never heard this question before. But without hesitation, I replied, “Because I’ve experienced a burning in my bosom.” (This is what our scriptures had informed us—that a “burning in the bosom” would accompany the perception of authentic truth.)
Gary was not so easily swayed. Over the next 15 minutes, he challenged my logic. He asked me to explain how an emotional experience alone makes something true, pointing out that feelings ebb and flow and vary according to circumstance. I, however, knew no other paradigm for assessing spiritual truth. Moreover, I had been taught not to question or test my beliefs, so I never did.
Gary continued, “Have you looked into the historicity of Mormonism?” Historicity? What is that?
“How do you know that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God? How do you know the Book of Mormon is God’s Word?” More questions that had never crossed my mind. Within minutes, my unease turned into terror. I realized that a burning in my bosom wasn’t going to convince Gary of anything. What had felt like a firm foundation was dissolving into quicksand.
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Source: Christianity Today