My Personal Testimony

I'd like to share my story with you if I might. Not that I think it particularly dramatic or necessarily inspiring, but simply to share with you the story of my faith journey which, at long last, has led me home. At times it has been interesting, at other times agonizing but God has been in control the entire time.

I was raised as an Episcopalian in a family that while recognizing the value of the faith in our personal lives did not speak about it much. As a child I was drawn to religion and the church, but as time progressed I fell away. When my parents were divorced, my mother (with whom I lived) quit attending church, and so did I. This was early in my teens and gradually I decided that religion was okay for some but it wasn't essential. When I was older, I would get religion, I thought to myself.

Without a relationship with God, I was left to my own devices -- and brother did I put myself through a lot of hell! I was not very outgoing and had few friends. I became something of a chameleon. I would change my opinions, likes and dislikes to match whomever was my best friend at the time. I was afraid that if I believed differently, they would no longer like me. During high school I got involved with drugs and began a lifelong battle with manic-depression. College made things worse. The friends I had were actively hostile to religion (although they would admit their main problem was with organized religion). My problems worsened: heavy drug use, too much partying, a string of carnal, broken relationships and even a growing struggle with pornography.

I also wandered into occult and new age thought and came to the conclusion that while a spiritual life was beneficial I didn't have time for it right now and that when I did what was important was to find that truth or tradition that resonated with me. In other words, if it felt right, then it was the truth for me.

After college, I began my long struggle with Christianity. A good friend found Jesus through the Boston Church of Christ (aka the International Church of Christ) and began witnessing to me in the only manner that would get through to me -- his life was transformed and he had such joy! While I wanted what he had I didn't want to give up so much. Instead of repenting, I began to search for the form of Christianity that suited me best. Another Christian friend did some heavy witnessing to me as well, but nothing took much. I even attended a service at the local International Church of Christ but I was so put off by it that I never returned.

My struggle with depression and sexual sin deepened until my life was miserable. I was alone, utterly and completely.

Then the Lord brought the woman into my life who would become my wife and start me truly on the road to salvation. When we met, Cynthia was at the end of a bitter and unhealthy marriage. He was heavily into drugs, had trouble holding down jobs, was both psychologically and physically abusive, and agnostic. Cynthia was even not allowed to go to church. To make things worse, he was also an adulterer. Cynthia had warned him years before that when their children were grown she would leave him if he hadn't changed his ways.

He never did and they were divorced. I'll never forget that time. It was ugly and he wanted to hurt Cynthia as much as possible while he still could. The marriage was so obviously broken that even her own children urged her to leave their father. I wish I could say that we waited until she was divorced but we did not. Cynthia had long since severed any emotional ties to him and we became first fast friends and then fell in love.

What amazed me then and still does is how firm is her faith in God and her personal relationship with Jesus. She never pushed me but simply made it clear that she wanted me to become a Christian someday. What finally got me was watching "the Last Temptation of Christ." This film IS blasphemous ... I readily grant that now. At the time though what got through to me was that Jesus was a REAL person. "I wish I'd known Him," I can remember telling Cynthia. She told me I could, and the next day we were in church together.

Cynthia was raised amongst Mennonites and is a very committed, fundamental Christian. We found a local Mennonite church that was our church home for the next year or so.

That church saved our marriage. My addiction to pornography and the like nearly broke it. Depression and rage all but consumed me. The pastors (a husband/wife team) gave us what they called Agape Counseling -- essentially you confess your sins to the Lord in prayer.

Great! Now I'm free, I thought -- maybe. But they made it clear this would be an ongoing struggle with sin. Not a cheerful thought.

Then they began urging Cynthia and I to pray for the gift of tongues, to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I was put off and confused, and my wife was outraged to hear so-called Mennonites teaching this. At the time I was not mature enough as a Christian to appreciate the truth of what they were urging us to do.

We left that church and haven't regularly attended since then. I drifted from church to church, religion to religion. Each time, I KNEW I'd found the truth, only to drift away when I changed my mind about what I believed. I went from Buddhism, to Hinduism, to Judaism and back again. At one point I even became involved in an online Wiccan group. I also had an online affair with one of the members. What came of this is another near break to our marriage. Cynthia stayed with me, she said, because she knew Jesus wanted her to be there for me.

We stayed together. It has been hard at times but I promised God that I would follow His lead from that point on no matter how painful. Sadly, what happened instead is I drifted from denomination to denomination in search of God's church. Nothing seemed right and yet everything sounded right! How could this be? Everyone cannot be right can they? I tried to read the Bible but I seemed to find support for every position in there ... it was essentially nonsense to me.

A couple of years ago I was sure that Islam was the truth. I even went so far as to say the shahada (makes you a Muslim) but then never followed-through. Once again I'd been betrayed by following my heart, my feelings to find the truth. I prayed to God for forgiveness and guidance and knew the answer was in Jesus ... a personal relationship with Him.

The last few years have seen me visiting (and each time joining, never to return) countless churches: Pentecostal, Apostolic, Roman Catholic, Nazarene, Primitive Baptist, Russian orthodox, and, lastly, fundamental, King-James Only Baptist.

What stopped me? How did I go from an on again off relationship with church after church and a tendency to hop from faith to faith whenever something arises to challenge that faith? After all, I'd gotten to the point where I'd just plain given up everything but faith in God and Jesus.

Not long ago I was diagnosed as suffering from bipolar disorder (manic depression). As I began to take medicine and get therapy to treat the illness, I began to see that my hopping from idea to idea, project to project, faith to faith has its roots in the manic depression. I wanted to get healthier and had changed my diet in order to loose weight, lower my cholesterol and my blood pressure. When I was diagnosed and began learning about bipolar disorder, I saw answers for so many problems. Hobbies and interests I'd long since lost interest in became important to me again. Nashville, Tennessee Temple

Foremost among these was my faith. Completely unlooked for has been the desire to investigate the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. As you might have guessed, I am not one to take other peoples criticism of various religions as truth. So since I'd long been curious, and since no denomination I'd examined thus far seemed to have all the answers, I began reading about the Mormons on the Internet.

What drew me immediately was the strong sense of family and community. The Mormons I knew certainly seemed intelligent and loving people, not at all the cult members others would have me believe.

When I began to read the Book of Mormon I found myself unable to dismiss it as a forgery, as foolishness. The more I read the more I became certain that what I was reading was the word of God.

It wasn't long before I contacted the missionaries and began studying with them. Though I've only been to one study thus far, I am feeling that God is calling me to this faith.

So what's stopping me? My wife…. She is extremely discerning and I trust her judgment on spiritual matters. She has some misgivings and concerns about the LDS faith and I've never been comfortable with the idea of going it solo. God intends for us to worship together, not separately. So, I prayed to God and asked for a sign that this is the direction to continue heading in.

I never expected a clear sign, however, that is exactly what I got. My wife recently read "Lost Boys" by Orson Scott Card, a superb author who happens to be Mormon. This book explained the faith to her in a way nothing else had. When she'd finished the book, she asked if we could go to the Mormon Church that next Sunday. She feels God wants her to investigate this faith and see for herself just what the services are like.

As it turns out, Cynthia and myself loved the Church and eagerly look forward to the day when we can be baptized. We’ve begun meeting with the missionaries twice a week to get in the studies with them as quickly as possible. Every day I grow stronger in my faith and my testimony deepens ever richer. I can say now that I testify that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith is truly a prophet of God.

Thank you for visiting my site. Please sign my guest book before you leave.

God bless you!

Stephen Merritt

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