04 May Searching for God
By Aura Erickson
I was born in Lima, Peru, the old ‘new Madrid’ of South America. Our family was culturally Catholic, and having a religious education was important for our family. When I was seven years old, I learned that God was omnipresent. I did not understand that word, but was told it meant that He was everywhere. After school, I ran to my house and began a frantic search for Him. I was sad when I did not find Him there.
A year later, two missionaries from the Church of Latter Day Saints knocked on our door. We invited them in and our family started studying their version of Jesus with them. After several meetings, our family decided to be baptized and become Mormon.
When I was in my Christian high school, we had a speaker who gave a powerful presentation that spoke right to my heart, and I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
My parents and I believed this church was a Christian church that professed new, modern-day revelations we should follow. After a few months, tragedy touched our home. My father suffered a stroke and died. Our lives would never be the same and my mother and I came to rely more on our Mormon community.
When I was in my Christian high school, we had a speaker who gave a powerful presentation that spoke right to my heart, and I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Yet, I still believed that the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and all the other Mormon texts were the Word of God. I pursued Mormonism to the exclusion of the Bible. I even joined local missionaries in going door to door or pursuing ‘leads.’
My goal was to visit the temple. I believed with all my heart that I would find our omnipresent God there. I fasted, tithed, served in the Mormon church, helped the Mormon missionaries, and did anything the Mormon church elders asked me to do. At that time, there was no temple in Peru, and I felt the urgency of having to enter a temple. Right after I graduated from high school, I was able to obtain a student visa and traveled to Los Angeles, California. There, I met a young member of the Mormon church and, after a very brief romance, we got married.
After a long interview process with several church leaders, I was approved to be married for time and eternity in the Mormon Temple. I was joyous beyond belief, knowing I would find Him there. The time arrived for me to enter this holy temple. I was anointed and blessed prior to receiving my garments (special underwear) and then I dressed in special temple clothing. I was given the name of a dead person, because Mormons believe in baptism for the dead. Trembling, I was ushered into the main area of the temple. It was so elegant and beautiful inside. The lights were off and, to my utter surprise and disappointment, a movie about the creation of the world was shown. It was nothing like what I had learned in school! The first inkling of doubt began to manifest itself in my mind.
I was reassured I would find happiness, but the truth is, I didn’t.
As a college student, I struggled between the church’s teaching and the world around me. I lived in the tumultuous decade of the seventies, seeing the rise of the women’s movement, the Equal Rights Amendment, and the pro-choice movement. I had so many questions and relied on the Mormon church leaders for guidance. They just kept telling me to read the Book of Mormon again.
I continued to attend the Mormon church and do everything I was told to do. I was reassured I would find happiness, but the truth is, I didn’t. It seemed that the harder I tried, the less joyful I became. I felt like I was trying to be someone that I was not.
This emptiness prompted me to start learning more about Mormon church history. My language skills had improved, and I was now able to read publications from church leaders as well as from non-Mormon authors. The more I learned, the bigger my doubts became. I finally realized that I had been deceived and was facing a spiritual crisis. I thought, if Joseph Smith’s theology and experience is false, then maybe God does not exist either. Anger filled my heart and mind. I threw away my garments and started walking away, not only from the Mormon church, but from God.
In the midst of my pain and anger, a Christian befriended me and invited me to her small church. In the middle of the service, my friend requested prayer and laying on of hands for me. The small congregation gathered around me and prayed over me. At that moment, I broke into tears as I felt the anger and hate disappear from my heart and soul.
Immediately, I felt the presence of God telling me that He knew me all along.
Even though I did not have anger anymore, I struggled with guilt for not following the Book of Mormon. A few years went by and I found myself living in Washington state and attending a local Episcopal church. One day I shared my spiritual struggle with a small group. A church member suggested I listen to a radio show hosted by Dr. Walter Martin from the Christian Research Institute.
I went home and began listening to his radio show. Dr. Martin talked about several topics regarding theology. One particular day, he interviewed one of the Mormon church leaders. Dr. Martin challenged him on several theological principles, and the Mormon leader answered his questions focusing on the Book of Mormon and not the Bible. In that moment, my spiritual eyes opened and I realized I had been following a man-made religion. I had been dedicating myself to the wrong doctrine.
I fell to my knees and prayed for forgiveness. Immediately, I felt the presence of God telling me that He knew me all along. I was His child now and I didn’t have to try so hard—He knew my sin and my debt had already been paid on the cross. All I needed to do was surrender and follow the Shepherd. Imagine my peace, my joy, my excitement as I realized I finally found Him!
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