I joined the church in the early 80's (when I was in my 20's), and two years later went on a mission.This is very heavy. It's tragic that such things should happen to a missionary. I truly hope that the raised bar for missionary service will reduce the presence of problem missionaries that make life painful for others. But the more important lessons, for me anyway, are the importance of forgiveness. "Once I started hating missionaries, not trusting the mission president, resenting Monson for what he said, I was a goner. The Atonement lost it's effect in me because I wouldn't let the Atonement pay for the other missionaries' transgressions." How true this is! And we can also ponder these words: "I sank to the point where Section 19 kicked in, especially verse 20. And when that happened, it finally dawned on me that my transgressions were greater than those who transgressed against me, and that I had lost my excuses."
I had a "difficult" mission, to put it nicely, and to be kind to myself.
I loved the people among whom I served, but couldn't stand some of the missionaries with whom I served. I had some great companions, but there was always at least one "problem missionary" in every apartment who made life hell. (Typically there were 2 or 3 sets of missionaries per apartment.)
It was very frustrating to have one of those "burned in" testimonies that the Book of Mormon and the church were true, but at the same time to be constantly offended by people in the church, even though the "offenders" were in the minority.
A year after the mission I went inactive, and four years after that I requested to have my name removed from church membership records.
In 2002 the Lord started to make it painfully clear what the eternal consequences of willful disobedience would be, and DC Section 19, specifically verse 20, started to come into play. I had already lost the Holy Ghost, but then the second definition of "his spirit", the Light of Christ, started to be withdrawn. I probably tasted a little of what Martin Harris tasted, and I decided that repentance would be the easier way out.
In other words, the Lord kicked my butt back to church.
While researching the church on the web, I've come across a few ex-member web sites, and the apologetic web sites. I can identify with some of what the apostates say. I've been there and done that.
I understand how those who grow up in the church without a testimony can fall away.
And I understand how those who join the church based on faith (an "I believe" testimony as opposed to an "I know" or a "burned in" type of testimony) can fall away.
In the interest of full-disclosure I'll state that I have not been re-baptized yet. But I've been as active as an ex-mo can be, and have been blessed beyond what I deserve.
There's more to the story, but I've wasted too much time online today anyway.
More on my story. I can't entirely blame my problems on the problem elders or those "less than valiant." Once I lost the Spirit from being in a constant state of being offended, I turned bitter and became a problem elder myself. I was so bent out of shape over what others were/were not doing, that I neglected to weed my own garden.
One item of contention led to an elder spiking my food with drugs (Rohypnol, the date rape drug), which knocked me out for 24 hours, and all 5 elders in the apartment, including my companion, refused to call an ambulance or take me to the hospital. It wasn't until years later that I found out Rohypnol was a "date rape drug", and wondered "how did a supposedly temple-worthy Mormon teenager know about that?"
In the mission country, no prescription was needed in order to buy any medicine sold at drug stores, so it was available to anyone who knew to ask for it by name.
The result of that was that I learned to never trust someone just because they are a member of the church. I couldn't even trust the mission president at that point, and probably should have bought my own ticket home then. From my point of view, it was an out-of-control mission. I decided to not report the incident to the president, but felt sure that it did get back to him. I didn't report it because I didn't trust him, but I also knew that if I started to talk about it, I'd go off the deep end, threatening law suits if he didn't send that elder home, etc. If I gave the president an ultimatum to send one of us home, he'd have just said "bye."
I contemplated gutting the other elder with a knife and strangling him with his own intestines, and decided it wouldn't be shedding innocent blood. But I also decided I didn't want to spend time in an Ecuadorian jail while I tried to prove it was self-defense. I just decided to "let the Lord handle it" and prayed that that elder would pay (SUFFER!) for it.
But that was a major point of my down-hill slide. Once I started hating missionaries, not trusting the mission president, resenting Monson for what he said, I was a goner. The Atonement lost it's effect in me because I wouldn't let the Atonement pay for the other missionaries' transgressions.
I tried to stay active after I got back, but I sort of knew that I wouldn't stay in the church. So I kept sliding downhill, with the Spirit withdrawing more and more. I became overly sensitive to the small ordinary every-day offenses. Every little thing wrong that others did was magnified because I stopped repenting of my own sins (mote and beam thing). Until one Sunday I woke up and decided I didn't want to be around "those people" any more.
And I completely justified everything in my mind. All my problems were the fault of the other elders, of the mission president, of Elder Monson misrepresenting missionary requirements, of morbidly obese single women who hounded me when I got back. There's an excuse for leaving the church: too many crazy fat women!
But I honestly wouldn't have applied for a mission had I known the true nature of the average missionary, or of the bottom 1/4th of missionaries. I never associated with those kinds of people (frivolous, arrogant, selfish, snotty punks and hypocrites) before I joined the church, and I resented having to live with them for 2 years, when Monson made it sound like those kinds of people would never be called on a mission.
In 1999, after a visit to my parents, I saw a negative trait in my father, and realized I had that same trait. Then it dawned on me "why everyone hated me." I inherited or picked up some personality and emotional problems from my father. I had turned into him, after swearing I wasn't going to grow up to be like him.
In a way, it was liberating because having realized what my emotional/psych problems were I knew that they could then be worked on, but by then I didn't want to change.
By 2002, I sank to the point where Section 19 kicked in, especially verse 20. And when that happened, it finally dawned on me that my transgressions were greater than those who transgressed against me, and that I had lost my excuses.
When the Lord withdraws "his spirit", meaning the Light of Christ, that's when the buffetings of Satan come into play. That is, literally, Hell. What a wake-up call. I had forgotten the section number, but the verses came vividly to mind.
It took several months after attending church before I figured out how to forgive others, but I knew that I had to.
Then as I processed forgiving others in my mind and accepted the Atonement as payment for all the past offenses and things that caused me flashbacks, from the Rohypnol elder to an unrighteously dominating Branch President bully in the MTC, a marvelous thing occurred.
As I forgave each person who offended me, I stopped having flashbacks on that event. I started getting calmer, and even my friends noticed the difference.
A key in all this was the "burned in" testimony, my anchor, my pearl of great price. I somehow knew there had to be a gospel solution to it all, and that God couldn't have set me up to fail.
And that's the missing key in the lives of a lot of apostates. They either never had a testimony, or they want to keep on blaming others for their own problems.
Sorry this got kind of long.
We have all lost our excuses. We must not let the sins of others stand between us and the Lord, though it's so easy for that to happen. I rejoice that "Books of Mormon in Indy" has broken out of the stranglehold of bitterness that our Adversary uses to hold us down. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the only hope for all of us. Welcome back!