of Mormonism & Into Jesus Christ
I was born into a family involved with Mormonism for four generations. One of my relatives married into Joseph Smith's family. Others were early converts who crossed the western frontier as pioneers. As a Mormon, I always took pride in my heritage. I was involved in missionary work for the "Church" in Anaheim, California. But unknown to me at that time, God had a different plan for my life.
The first time anyone shared Jesus Christ with me, was when I was in high school in 1960. An evangelist picked me up hitchhiking home from Huntington Beach, California. His ministry was driving young surfers home in exchange for allowing him to share Jesus Christ. It was a long way to Buena Park, so I agreed to listen and pray in exchange for a ride home.
As a Mormon, I felt no need for this young man's Jesus. While my heart was set on remaining a Mormon, after we prayed I recall how troubled I felt. As soon as I arrived home I shared the events with my mother, but she said, "What can a little prayer hurt?" I wasn't sure, but I knew that where just a few hours earlier I was "happy-go-lucky," now I felt a different tone. If there was a passage of scripture that fit my life from that point on it would be Jonah 1:17.
"And the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah...." (Jonah 1:17)
Within five years of my choice, I was ordained into the Mormon Melchizedek Priesthood, married in the Mormon Temple, and on my way to involvement in leadership. Ten years flew by as my involvement with "missionary work" led me to be ordained in 1970 simultaneously to the office of Seventy, Seventy's President, and a member of the Stake Mission Presidency in Anaheim California by Gordon B. Hinckley who was then an apostle, and at this writing is President of the Church in 1996.
Those "missionary" efforts led into some events that later caused me to come to Christ. One of those events happened as I was out "tracting." We had come across an apartment crowded with six Christians. Back then everyone called them "Jesus Freaks." I still recall how eager they were to have someone to share with. As soon as we were inside they said, "There are just two ground rules for discussion. The first is when we pray everyone gets a chance to pray, and the second is, when we read from the Bible everyone gets a chance to examine the scriptures closely."
I remember thinking to myself, "What harm could possibly come from closely examining the Bible?" and, "What could a little prayer hurt?" Every time we made reference to a Bible passage, all progress stopped because they had to read the entire surrounding chapter and look up key words in "Strong's Concordance." It didn't take long before I realized I had lost control of the "discussion." The idea that Scripture was able to define itself was new to me. I had come to teach, but instead I was being taught.
That brief time in the word forever changed my life. Their testimonies were different from "Mormon testimonies" I had heard all of my life. Instead of sharing about their church membership they spoke of an intimate personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They kept referring to him with phrases like, "He's not a religion but a person," and "He lives inside of every believer." Here is a key passages they shared with me.
"to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)
This teaching troubled me because Mormons believe in physical, local, finite anthropomorphic deities. Their Doctrine & Covenants, Section 130:3 says, "...the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man's heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false."
Before leaving we prayed as usual, but when they prayed their intimacy with Christ was apparent. Before long some began praying in languages I had never heard! If I had been feeling troubled over our study, I was really feeling troubled about our prayer. I quietly nudged my companion and we left while they were still praying.
Before that meeting I had never seen a concordance that made reference to the Biblical languages. But I purchased one within days and soon began studying words in passages from my missionary discussion handbook. It had angered me when they said, "Your Mormon doctrines are all based on scriptures wrongly interpreted and taken out of context!" I wanted to be able to go back and show those Christians just how wrong they were. I was more than dismayed when I discovered I could not disprove their claims. I chose not to tell anyone about my discoveries.
More troubling to me however was the discovery that now I had a "secret longing" to know Jesus Christ the way those Christians said they knew him. Suddenly I became aware of an "emptiness" inside of me.
In the summer of 1971, I chose to return to work on my degree at Cypress College and in doing so left "missionary" work behind. This caused some stress in my family, ward and stake. I still attended the regular meetings, but "religious activity" wasn't meeting my needs anymore. In 1974 I purchased a small sail boat in King's Harbor, in Redondo Beach California. That seemed like it was going to work for awhile. But I needed more.
As my priorities began to change, I never considered leaving the Mormon Church. That was never an issue! I was too deeply invested in Mormonism to ever think of leaving the "Church." But I was going through a time of profound change. In 1976 I sold my boat and purchased a little horse ranch in Mira Loma, California. I had high hopes that things were going to work out again. Over time I became less and less "active" as a Mormon, but I still never considered looking anywhere outside of my Mormon leaders for spiritual help. More importantly, I staunchly refused to touch anything the church called "anti-Mormon" literature.
In 1978, my whole life changed. I was in a head on auto collision with a drunk migrant farm worker being chased by the California Highway Patrol! That year was tumultuous. I lost my house. In the spring of 1979 I was separated from my family. I moved to Huntington Beach, California. My family relocated to what seemed like the other end of the world in Lehi, Utah.
I thought I might be happy in Huntington Beach. I started "running" on the beach every afternoon after work, and I "body surfed." But that "emptiness" followed me everywhere. In 1979 I quit my "eleven year job" at General Motors to try and reconcile with my family in Utah. But this only increased the devastation. After just a few months, I found myself alone, in Utah, underemployed, divorced, and estranged from the life I once was happy to live as a Mormon.
This was the lowest point of my life! By now I had given up every hope of ever enjoying life again. I began going to parties with people I worked with. Soon alcohol turned to drugs and I fell into a "string" of painful ungodly "relationships," as I tried to put every thought about God out of my mind forever.
As Mormon I had studied enough to understand that my "only hope" for "Exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom," was through an unblemished "celestial marriage." Mine was forever finished! My studies as a Mormon had taught me that no amount of "future activity" [except possibly through my own bloody death] could reclaim what I had lost. I lived for years with a constant fear that when I died I would be alone and in torment. I often thought of suicide. I purchased a large insurance policy for that eventuality. But I never attempted to take my life.
In the summer of 1984, I moved out of my apartment in Salt Lake City, Utah and became "homeless" off and on for parts of that year. I remember building a small lean-to up in the mountains. Once there I realized I had taken a Bible with me. I spent many evenings "crying out" to God from those mountains. I went through a period of bitter sorrow and guilt. I spent weekends walking through grave yards in Draper and Spanish Fork reading the names of my relatives and wondering where they had "really" gone!
Finally on October 14, 1985 a pastor invited me into his study. But when he confessed that he had invited me to accept Jesus Christ, my first instinct was to still cling to Mormonism. I answered, "No!" I even rose to leave his office. But he stepped out in front of me and poked his finger in my chest and said, "Jerry, this is your chance, and it may be the last chance you ever have!"
Those words, "this is your chance," began reverberating in my mind. I knew I had to make a choice right then. I returned to my chair. I became aware of a "spiritual battle." I tried to pay attention as he read from Romans, but I found myself trembling irresistibly. Finally he asked, "Do you believe Jesus Christ died for your sins?" I replied, "No! But I would like to believe!" He said, "Don't say another word let's pray!" When we began to pray the battle heightened.
I could sense a storm going on within and without. You can imagine my shock as I felt something powerful enter into me. At that moment something dark and evil left my body. Immediately after it left I felt a warmth and a peace entering into me that I had never experienced in my life! The pastor had just been reading:
"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me". (Revelation 3:20)
The good news for me was that Jesus did come into my life just as He promised in the Bible. As I thought about this new feeling in me, I remember looking over at the pastor and asking, "What do I have to do so this feeling of peace will never leave me?" He laughed and quoted Hebrews, "He will never leave you or forsake you." (Deu 31:6 cf. Heb 13:5)
But I still worried that night that it would all be gone in the morning. But "He" wasn't! It will be twelve years this year, and He has proved faithful. He has never left me or forsaken me. And you know I'm the kind of person that if He were ever going to leave or forsake anyone, it would be me. But He has been faithful to me. (Josh 1:5-6)
Would you would like to accept Jesus Christ into your life? Please pray this prayer of invitation with all of your heart and He will prove faithful to you too.
"Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I turn from my sins, please forgive me. I open the door of my heart and life to you right now. I receive you as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for giving me eternal life. Take control of my life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be."
If that prayer was the desire of your heart, Jesus Christ has come into your life just as he has been doing for millions over the last two thousand years. Please feel free to write to me if you have any questions or you just want to share what God is doing in your life now. It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will lead you through God's Word and into a relationship with a local body of believers.
Jerry Stokes Ministries
Out of Mormonism & Into Jesus Christ
P.O. Box 64
Newberg, OR 97132
email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated July 24, 2006