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Testimony of Artie Garner

I was “adopted” into the LDS faith. My biological mother was an unwed young woman at 16 years of age when I was born. She faced a very difficult decision to give me up for adoption, and decided to let me be adopted by her aunt and uncle… who were converts to the LDS faith. We were not a wealthy family. My mom took on a lot of babysitting jobs and my dad owned a small appliance repair shop (that was back in the days when you didn’t just throw it out and buy a new one).  I would venture to say that we were not your typical LDS family. I was the youngest of 6 kids (by adoption)–3 brothers and 2 sisters. The closest one to my age was 7 years older than me.  Our mom was a kind, sweet, loving soul. She is the one, as far as I can remember, that saw to it that we attended church. Our dad, and my intention is not to paint an ugly picture, was an alcoholic. He enjoyed his whiskey. When he was sober, he was very loving and desired the best for his family. When he was drunk, I was very fearful of him. Looking back, I believe he was empty, or hurting, inside and looked to alcohol to try and fill the void.

As a young child, I enjoyed Sunday school and Primary. I remember in Primary (perhaps it was the last year of Primary), we were given just the New Testament (for scripture memorization). I recall thinking that maybe the Old Testament was the part of the Bible that was corrupt, and that is why we were only given the New Testament.  I was baptized and confirmed when I was 8 years old. I remember being told that my baptism would cleanse away my sins, and it was as though I was starting out afresh (incidentally, that was my understanding of being born of the water and of the spirit.)

I graduated Primary and attended Mutual. I didn’t realize back then, but as I look back, there was more of a focus on the Book of Mormon than there was on the Bible around this time. This was before “quads” (all 4 LDS scriptures combined into one book), and I remember that I always went to church with my Book of Mormon, but never a Bible. I truly enjoyed Mutual. I was determined that I was going to be as faithful to the Church as I could possibly be and tried to involve myself in every activity. Youth Camp for the young women was especially enjoyable. I even participated in baptism for the dead. Just to think that, by proxy, I was giving somebody that chance to accept the gospel. I would get up, from time to time, and bear my testimony during fast and testimony meeting. I truly believed that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, and I truly believed that I was a member of the only true and living Church on the face of the earth.

There was just one problem; I didn’t have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I never experienced that burning in the bosom. I would pray for God to give me that witness, but it never occurred. I believed there was something seriously wrong with me. I cried about it, prayed about it, and asked God to give me that witness, but it never came.

At age 14, we moved from California (bay area) to Missouri. It was quite a culture shock! The little town we moved to had a population of 139 (and I think that included the cows and chicken). The closest LDS ward, that we were initially aware of, was 50 miles from our home. We didn’t have the most adequate transportation, and at times we held church services in our own home (as one of my brothers that made the move was a priesthood holder). Eventually, a branch was started about 15 miles away and it made getting to and from church a bit easier (as there were times we depended on other members for transportation).

When I was 15, our mom died. Our dad was elderly and in a rest home, so my oldest sister thought that it would be a great idea if I went and spent the summer with my biological mother. This way, I could get better acquainted with my mother and my half siblings. By this time, my mother was a born-again Christian. Life on a farm was far different than anything I had experienced. There was always work to be done, but never a dull moment.

We ALWAYS went to church, especially on Sunday. My mother would make sure I was well prepared, and put a Bible in my hands. I remember, during Sunday school classes, how very knowledgeable of the Bible these kids my age were (I didn’t even realize that some of the books in the Bible even existed). But me… I basically knew about the Book of Mormon. There was one time a question was asked and I gave a Book of Mormon answer. You talk about bringing a sudden silence to the class! I was biblically illiterate.

The last week of my stay, my mother’s church had a revival. I hadn’t a clue what a revival was, but it involved attending church every day. Many of the sermons, that entire summer, were foreign to me. I didn’t have the ears to hear.  But in the last service of this revival, I was about to embark on something that would change the direction in my life. There was an altar call. I remember the evangelist asking, “Do you know, for sure, that when you die, you will be in the presence of our Lord and Savior? If not, come forward and we can show you, in God’s word, how you can know for sure.”  My palms were sweaty, my ears were burning, and my heart felt like it was going to pound right out of my chest! I felt this tugging, and before I knew it, I was standing at that altar. One of the deacons took me into a room to the side of the altar and showed me scripture that I would swear I had never seen or heard of before. He presented me with the TRUE Gospel of Christ! We prayed a “sinner’s prayer,” and that was it. I remember thinking… “that’s it?” What else do I need to DO?

After that summer, I would return home to my Mormon brothers and sisters, and life was “back to the usual.” When I was 17, my dad died, and by the time I graduated high school, I was on my own. My biological mother had given me a Bible (KJV) for a graduation gift and eventually it is what led me out of the Mormon Church. When I was on my own, I made an attempt to contact the nearest LDS Church. It was 13 miles from my apartment, and I was so unfamiliar with the town that I had moved to, I didn’t dare to venture out 13 miles away. In two years time, I had been visited by missionaries twice… at work. I was lonely, with no family living nearby.

I was kind of a “sap” for the word “love,” and soon found myself falling head over heals for a man that I worked with. I had a “good feeling” that he was the one!  We were, indeed, an item. That is, until I was found with child. After that, he distanced himself from me, because he already had responsibilities to kids from a former marriage (child support). I never pursued anything from him, as it would have only amounted in further heartache. It was just life with me and my child. I knew that I had sinned against God, but nonetheless, He had given me a gift… a precious baby boy! I was very cautious when it came to “sweet talking” men, as I vowed I would never find myself in that situation again. I was determined that I would “earn my way” back into God’s good grace (whatever that was).

A year later, I met a man, who became my husband the following year! We were married in an RLDS Church (now called the Community of Christ). My husband was raised Baptist, but was not actively attending church. Since we both lived close to this RLDS Church, we both agreed that would be a good place to have our wedding ceremony. I figured that if I set a good example in the way I lived, perhaps I could convert him to the LDS faith. Since neither my husband nor I were actively attending church, shortly after we married, we decided that we would attend the church in which we had married. The second service we attended, we were put in an “investigators” class. We were being taught about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. My husband just glared at me. When we arrived home, he asked me, “Who in the ‘heck’ is this Joseph Smith guy, and what are they doing teaching about him in a church, instead of Jesus?” Before I could start explaining, he claimed that he had NO interest attending a church that taught anything but the Bible.

With that statement, my dreams shattered! A couple years later, I would find myself in a conversation with a fellow employee at work. Our conversation touched on religion and I explained to her that I was LDS. She was so kind in listening to what I had to say. She then gave me a challenge and told me to research what my church teaches and believes. I didn’t have a problem with that, so with a library card in hand, I checked out 4 books from the local library on Mormonism. When I returned home, I opened the first book and was in utter shock! It was a book about cults and had Mormonism listed as such. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. We believed in Jesus, we were good people, and we were the one true church. How could anybody write such lies?!

About a week later, I mustered up the courage to share with my coworker what I had found. The next day, she came to work with some research materials, as I would find out that she was an ex-RLDS. I took this material home and began reading through it. I wrote to the address on the back of one of the pamphlets, sent $5.00, and what I received in return was priceless! Among the research materials was a book authored by Jerald and Sandra Tanner, “Mormonism, Shadow or Reality.” At first, I was aware that this was “anti” material. But as I progressed in my research (7 years), I would find that this material was well-documented. The things that I was learning were, indeed, faith shattering!

I found myself constantly in tears, I couldn’t sleep at night as I would lay awake running through everything in my mind. I was so consumed by this that I nearly had a nervous breakdown! I found myself, at one point, BEGGING God to show me His Truth! In tears, I was pounding my fists on the bed, telling God that I didn’t care if I remained in the LDS faith, or if I was supposed to leave it. I just wanted to be with Him when I was no longer alive. I feared hell and/or outer darkness. “Please, God, please lead me where I should be!” I would find myself quite shaken and found that the only way to calm down was to open up this Bible I had received from my mother, and just randomly read a verse. To this day, I can remember which verses I read: Romans 3:23, Romans 3:10, John 3:3, John 1:12, Romans 10:17, and Ephesians 2:8 (God was showing me His Truth, but I was still blind).

A few years later, one evening after getting our kids off to bed, there was a knock at the door. It was a couple simply asking for directions. Afterwards, they said their thank you’s and left a Bible tract. I nearly threw it in the trash, but saw on the back that it was from a Baptist church, and not the Watchtower Society (learned that one from my mother.) As I sat down to read it, I noticed something. The very same scripture that I had been shown back when I was 15, AND the very same scripture that I had randomly read were the very same scripture being presented in this tract! Through all this, the thing that really stuck out in my mind is: what is born again mean? This couple returned to our home and I had some questions, some major serious questions. As they answered, they showed me in the Bible what they were basing their answers on. As I started to understand what being born again was all about, it was as though somebody had turned a light switch on! I prayed a prayer with them, and sincerely admitted to God that I was, indeed, a sinner. I had never been this broken about my sins before, but this time it was different and I wanted absolute forgiveness. After we prayed, it was as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders! I was bo
rn again and I had just been saved by His grace! There was no need to “earn” my way back into God’s good graces; He had given it FREELY to me!!

Things I have learned before… I had grace all wrong. It isn’t after all we can do, because there is nothing we can do to earn His grace. My understanding of God was backward. Man (exalted) did not become (progress to) God, but rather God became a man in the person of Jesus (the second person of the Trinity). God actually became a part of His creation in Christ. Christ had 2 natures. He was 100% God and 100% man. When Jesus prayed to Heavenly Father, Christ, in His human nature, was submitting to His Father in Heaven. Jesus is God manifested in the flesh. It totally blew my mind when I came to the understanding that Christ is not the Son of God because he was a literal, spirit-born, biological son…but that He is the Son of God BECAUSE He is God incarnate (God in human flesh!)

My Christian walk is like that of a child learning to walk. They start out constantly falling until they slowly get the hang of it. Even still, with confidence, they might still trip or stumble, but have the confidence to get up and go again. I know that when I first began my Christian walk, I stumbled and fell quite a lot. But now, I have far more confidence, in the Lord, and I can stand and walk upright. Sure, from time to time, I might stumble. But I know that the Lord is there to lift me up, brush off the dust, and keep me going on my way. Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:11 says, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Most of all, I have learned that the Bible is completely trustworthy and I have no fear in trusting what is written.

Artie Garner
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