By Joy Axelson
(Originally printed in the September/October 1996 Issue of the MCOI Journal)
Having grown up in a small town in western Illinois in a Christian family I, too, became a Christian and have been a life-long member of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS). Whenever LDS (Mormon) or Jehovah’s Witness missionaries appeared at our door, my mother always made certain my sisters and I knew neither was a Christian religion. During two years of confirmation class instruction, my pastor explained the doctrinal differences between various Christian and non-Christian religions, including Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, and Seventh Day Adventists.
As was customary, my husband, also a Christian in the LCMS, and I carried on the tradition of raising our sons in our faith. We attended church and Sunday School together as a family each Sunday, enrolled our sons in our congregation’s parochial Christian day school, and faithfully supported our sons during their years of confirmation instruction. During his youth, our eldest son exhibited early signs of a strong religious faith. He wrote worship services and devotions in which he led our family during various holiday celebrations. As a teenager, he enjoyed participation in church youth group activities. While away at college, he attended the LCMS church near campus, where he was active in Bible class studies, etc. These signs caused me to become complacent regarding my son’s religious beliefs.
Then, during his senior year of undergraduate school, my eldest son announced to our family, in the presence of both immediate and extended family members who were celebrating Christmas Day at our home, that he had abandoned his life-long Christian religion of Lutheranism to become a baptized member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). How we pleaded and begged him to leave Mormonism! How could this happen? Had his Mormon roommate during his freshman year at college influenced him? The LCMS pastor at his church near campus personally knew our son and informed us that our son had been actively participating in church Bible studies.
At that time, we, as a family, weren’t knowledgeable enough to know that Mormomsm was a cult, but we shared with our son that Mormonism was a non-Christian religion. From our family visit to Temple Square in Salt Lake City during the ’70s, we knew of the LDS teaching about spirit children and celestial marriage in heaven. Additionally, we knew, as most Americans do, that Mormons have practiced polygamy. We didn’t believe the LDS teaching that the Book of Mormon is another inspired scripture which is more accurate than the Holy Bible; and we considered Joseph Smith to be no more important than any other earthly person, like you and me.
Our son’s rejection of our advice as loving, caring Christian parents (brother, grandparents and aunts included) filled me with anger and resentment. Consequently, I embarked on a personal mission to learn why Mormonism is a non-Christian religion, so I would be prepared to prove to my son that the LDS religion is wrong! I began reading and studying books related to Mormonism, many authored by former LDS members. While Mormons, in general, angered me at the onset, the more I read my Bible, the more I realized I needed to change my attitude. I needed to learn to love Mormons as Christ loves, if I ever wanted to become an effective Christian witness. Embarrassed at my son’s abandonment of Christianity, I timidly began to reveal to my friends that my son had become a victim of Mormonism. While most friends were compassionate and sympathetic, our conversations and their astonished expressions, upon hearing my informed description of LDS teachings and practice, clearly showed me that most (relatives included) didn’t have even the slightest clue that Mormonism is a cult, and most were not familiar with even the basic teachings of the LDS Church.
Meanwhile, our son went on to serve a two-year Mormon mission, during which he was forbidden to have phone contact with his family, except for Mother’s Day and Christmas Day. He was permitted to write us weekly, but his letters only included information concerning his mission; he didn’t ask personal questions regarding family members. This was quite depressing to me, for we had been a close-knit family. I now know, first-hand, that the LDS TV commercials suggesting “the good family life” which Mormons experience is misleading. They do not tell you, as my husband learned firsthand while counseling a Mormon woman who was attempting to break away from the LDS Church, that a Mormon whose spouse becomes an unbelieving Mormon is expected to divorce that unbelieving spouse and remarry another Mormon. They do not tell you, as a Mormon recently informed my husband, of the physical abuse in Mormon households, sometimes inflicted upon children for not bringing home good grades. And they do not tell you of the depression which is common among Mormon women in general or the high teenage suicide rate in Utah. According to a recent Good Morning America broadcast, Utah (currently 75% Mormon, according to information I learned recently during a trip to Utah) is one of only a handful of U.S. states which has installed divorce kiosks to make it easier to commence the divorce process.
Just over a year ago, through an LCMS Northern Illinois District pastor, my husband and I were led to a Witnesses for Freedom representative who, in turn, led us to a Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc., support group. As we began attending support-group meetings, our healing process began. Thanks be to God, a year later, I am much better prepared to DEFEND MY FAITH to my own family, to cult members and family members of cult victims. I know from 1 Peter 3:1 that the Lord expects it of me. Our eldest son has since married a Mormon, but our youngest son is a crusader for Christianity. And I hold dear the promise found in Proverbs 22:6 (“Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it,”). As a pastor recently commented to me. “The Lord is not yet finished with your son!”