'How I lost and regained my faith': LDS man shares 18 lessons he learned
Rich Millar is featured in the latest “His Grace” video, created by the Mormon Channel. Millar originally posted his experience in a Facebook post, “How I Lost and Regained My Faith,” published on July 15, 2014. Millar, who served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prior to falling away from the church, says that shortly after he created the post he was contacted by the LDS Church and asked to share his story in a video.
“I’ve learned over the first 32 years of my life that everyone experiences setbacks and makes mistakes,” Millar wrote in his post. “And it can be destructive to go through life pretending that’s not the case. I’ve also learned that a lot of heartache can be avoided if we will learn from others’ mistakes. With that in mind, I’d like to offer up some of my mistakes and what I’ve learned from them in hopes that it will help someone else avoid the pitfalls and pain I experienced.”
In his Facebook post, Millar shares 18 lessons he learned from his experience of leaving and then returning to the LDS faith. These lessons are republished with Millar’s permission.
“I’m not suggesting that I have all the answers or that I have experienced everything someone else has,” Millar wrote. “I’m a firm believer that everyone’s life/spiritual journey is unique and personal, and I’m in no place to tell you what you have or have not experienced. However, I CAN tell you what I have experienced and learned, and I hope it is of use to someone out there.”
Lesson No. 1: Cynicism creates a numbness toward life
“I found this to be true. Just read the definition for cynicism: ‘An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others.’ I mean, who wants to live a life like that? I’ve noticed a pattern with those who have walked the same path I did in leaving my faith. Not all, but many, seem to fit this description. I was there; I’ve felt this way. I know.
"Author Paul E. Miller said, 'Cynicism begins with a wry assurance that everyone has an angle. Behind every silver lining is a cloud. The cynic is always observing, critiquing but never engaging, loving and hoping.'
“Instead of assuming the worst in people or faiths, assume the best. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Honest skepticism is very different from cynicism. Finding out the truth and assuming the best are not mutually exclusive. Both can be done, and sincere, honest questions can be asked and answered. Look for the good in all things in life, and something magical will happen: You’re likely to find just that — good, happiness, joy and light.”
Lesson No. 2: We are not alone
“Once my spiritual foundation was gone, I no longer knew if God existed. I was starting back at square one. Were we simply fortunate enough to be here on this earth without any assistance from a higher power or Heavenly Father? I wasn’t sure. So I began evaluating my life and experiences I’d had. It reminds me of an experience a man, let’s call him Serge, shared with me during my church mission in Russia. He had grown up in the Soviet Union during a time when atheism was promoted and taught to everyone. Atheism was what he believed. At the time, he was living in a small village in the countryside and worked as a blacksmith.
“One day, a man came to him and asked him to make a number of weapons, swords and knives. This man had very detailed specifications as to what metals he wanted used and how he wanted the weapons made. As Serge made these weapons, this man would sit in the corner of Serge’s shop and watch him. Serge recalled that there was this darkness or evil that seemed to emanate from the man, and Serge could feel that this man was going to use these weapons to do evil. As he pondered on this thought, it dawned on him that there was a definite evil spirit or aura about this man that he could not deny. After more thought on the subject, he resolved that if there was an evil spirit in the world, there must be a good or light spirit as well. This was the beginning of his faith in God.
“I’d had similar experiences in my life. I could not deny that I had felt light and dark, good and evil in different people and in different circumstances. Evil did and does exist. I have felt and witnessed it. But so does light and good, I have witnessed and felt this firsthand too! I also felt in my own life an inherent desire to do good and to be good. And more importantly, I’d had experiences in my life I could not explain or deny, moments when I had felt God’s love for me. After some time, I resolved that God did in fact exist, that we are not here by accident but that we all have a Heavenly Father who loves us and that we were created in his image. You are not alone. We are not alone. ‘God created man in his own image’ — Genesis 1:27”
Lesson No. 3: Instant gratification is counterfeit happiness
“Whether from food, money, drugs, alcohol, sex or something else, it doesn’t last. There’s a time, purpose and place for all of these things. And used in the right context or time, each one of these things has its merit. But each one is also easily abused and often used out of the right context. In today’s world, the temptation to do so is strong. Instant gratification feels good for the moment but doesn’t stick around, only leaving you needing your next fix. True happiness comes from following the ‘plan of happiness’ (go figure right?!) as laid out in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes, among other things, loving and serving those around you, building relationships, and aligning yourself with eternal life principles and laws that help you use the above mentioned things in the right time and place. ‘Wickedness never was happiness’ — Alma 41:10.”
Lesson No. 4: Commandments/laws/rules help you learn
The help you “live the ‘plan of happiness’ and are there to keep you safe. I’ve heard people say things like, ‘All the rules you guys have to live by are ridiculous, restrictive and childish. I’m an adult and can make decisions based on what I think is right.’ They can at times feel a little restrictive, but so is the guardrail along the edge of the road of a narrow cliff or the stop sign on the road your drive. They protect you from danger and keep you happy. Although they are at times harder to live by than a ‘carefree’ lifestyle, they pave the way for long-term, lasting happiness. Align your life to them and you will be happier.”
Lesson No. 5: You’re not the exception to the rule
“There are universal principles and laws that are unchanging. Even God is bound by some of these laws, which means you can’t break laws. You can only break yourself against laws. Don’t think you’re the exception to the rule because you’re not. You do have the power to choose your actions but not to choose the consequences that follow. For example, you cannot find lasting happiness through means of instant gratification. It is like trying to ride a bike without the wheels; you can try, but it doesn’t work very well. So what are these laws? Study and live the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and you’ll find out. ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.’ — Proverbs 3:5-6”
Lesson No. 6: It’s the daily little decisions in life that determine your destiny
“As my spiritual foundation began to erode, it was difficult for me to see the light start to leave me and my life. Looking back, the progression is obvious. As in all things in life, prevention is key. As it relates to our spiritual nature, there is a lot of darkness in this world, and if you don’t actively work to prevent it, the dark will start to creep in. The best way to prevent the darkness from creeping in is to live the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, live the commandments, look outward, love and serve those around you, stay diligent in sincere daily prayer and scripture study, attend church and the temple frequently to maintain spiritual clarity and strength. Constantly check your pride. Remember that like attracts like. Actively work to attract more light in your life. ‘Choose you this day whom ye will serve but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ –Joshua 24:15”
Lesson No. 7: You can be guilt-free and clean of your past mistakes
“You have the power to change and to sincerely repent (make rights wrong and change for the better) through the power of the Atonement. Because of him, our Savior, and his grace, all things are possible! I have personally experienced the sanctifying power of the Atonement, and you can too! The sanctifying and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ can heal all wounds and help you reach your true infinite potential. ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ — John 3:16”
Lesson No. 8: Surprise! Everyone who goes to church is not yet perfect
“If you decide to give the restored gospel of Jesus Christ a real chance (remember, with an open heart and mind), you will at some point attend church. Before you go, you should know there are imperfect people just like you and me who go there too. Shocker, I know! But some people discredit church for this reason.
“I, like you, have had people at church say mean things to me. And I, like you, know of people of faith who are dishonest in their personal or professional lives. But I’ve learned that church isn’t just a gathering for the righteous or wannabe righteous. It’s also a hospital for the sick. And if you let the way someone treated you keep you from living the gospel of Jesus Christ, you are missing the whole point.
“I’ve come to realize that these people are the ones who need the gospel the most. So it’s a good thing they are at church, and hopefully the teachings will sink in a little deeper over time. Instead of worrying about myself, I have learned I need to turn outward and serve these very people. I need to love them, reach out to them and help them. What is it that is going on in their lives that is making them act this way? They need the love and healing power of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives just as much as anyone.”
Lesson No. 9: "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
“It’s natural to judge people you don’t understand. We’ve all done it. But we need to learn to practice empathetic listening with each other. We need to try to understand each other’s point of view fully before casting judgment or doubt. For example, do LDS members try to protect their children from the darkness and bad influence of the world, while trying to help them establish a solid foundation built on universal principles before sending them out into the world to fend for themselves? YES! But isn’t that what any good parent should do? Unfortunately, for this reason LDS churchgoers are often viewed as naïve and closed-minded.
“But from my personal experience, the opposite is true. The irony is that most people, not all but most, I’ve come in contact with are less educated about my faith and way of life than I am about theirs. It’s not that LDS members are naïve (a high percentage have served church missions in foreign countries/cultures and spent every single day talking to different people about their individual beliefs); it’s that for the most part, LDS members have seen what the world has to offer and made a very calculated and even logical decision based on lots of information that what the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has to offer is superior to all others and brings the most long-term happiness.”
Lesson No. 10: You get as much out of something as you put in
“It’s true of everything in life. Riding the fence never helps you actually come to a solid conclusion and never allows you to see the full potential benefits. You’ve got to commit, jump in with both feet before you can know one way or another. In school, you can show up to class and sit through it, ‘ride the fence,’ but never actually get anything out of it. And it all starts with your attitude. If you go into a situation with a bad attitude, you’ll likely leave thinking your time was wasted. But a positive attitude and open mind will produce the opposite effect.
“The same is true of the gospel and church. I know lots of people who went to church, either at a young age, or maybe they’re still going to church now. But their attitude was or is negative. They’re just going through the motions, riding the fence, but never have actually committed. It’s no surprise that these people see very little value in living the gospel or going to church and usually never have a shortage of negative things to say about their experience. This pains my heart more than anything because these people ultimately end up leaving the faith (usually at a young age) without ever really giving it a chance. And by doing so, they leave not truly understanding what they’re leaving behind.
“I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had conversations with who profess to having had a bad experience with the LDS faith but have never truly lived it or tried it. It’s no surprise that they got as much out of it as they put in.”
Lesson No. 11: The Book of Mormon will help you come unto Christ
“Building off lesson No. 10, every single person I have ever personally come in contact with who has spoken poorly about the Book of Mormon, when I dug down and uncovered the truth, had never actually read it in its entirety with an open heart and mind. And most hadn’t read any of it at all. ‘Well, no, I haven’t actually read it, but so-and-so has, and they said .’ How can you judge the content of a book without actually reading it? If you want to have an opinion on it, pick it up and read it cover to cover with an open heart and mind. I can tell you this for certain: There is something amazing and quite special about the Book of Mormon that I can’t quite describe. There is no denying it. Don’t believe me? Why don’t you find out for yourself? What do you have to lose?
“Whether you are of another Christian faith and already know Christ is your Savior or if you don’t know what you believe or think you don’t believe, the Book of Mormon will help you come unto Christ ‘and be perfected in him.’ If I had to pick two verses that embody the overall message of the Book of Mormon, it would be these two: 2 Nephi 25:26, ‘And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophesies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.’ And Moroni 10:32, ‘Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness.’
“Let’s be honest, how many other books have you read? You can find the time to read this book. It’s only got around 500 pages. It is another testimony and witness of Jesus Christ in addition to the Bible. They go hand in hand.
“Ezekiel 37:16-17: ‘Take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah then take another stick For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.’ ”
Lesson No. 12: Weird is a relative term, and often things are only weird to us when we don’t understand them
“I know this is true for me. Something that is different from what I’m used to is ‘weird’ to me. But I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty in cultures and traditions that aren’t my own.
“It wouldn't surprise me if you've heard a lot of weird and crazy stuff about Mormons, especially about our temples. Do we perform religious ceremonies that to an outsider may seem strange? Sure. But what religion or culture doesn't? A Hindu or Roman Catholic or any other religious or cultural ceremony may be different from what I'm used to, but I can still respect the beauty, spirit and symbolism behind it.
“Take it from someone you know who has been regularly visiting Mormon temples for almost 20 years (not counting the small break I had). If I go, it can't be that weird, right?! But in all seriousness, when I'm inside these temples, which are dedicated to God and what I truly believe to be his work, I feel closer to him and am inspired to be a better Christian, person, neighbor, citizen, stranger, co-worker, friend, husband, brother and son. So despite what anyone has or will say, I know firsthand these temples are a force for good and provide more light in my life and in this world.”
Lesson No. 13: LDS members don’t think they’re better than everyone
“LDS Church members don’t famously go around trying to convert the whole world to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ because we think we’re better than everyone or because we have a superiority complex. We do it because, as I explained in lesson No. 9, we have seen what the world has to offer and have found from personal experience that truly living the restored gospel of Jesus Christ brings the most lasting, real joy and happiness in this life and the next! And who wouldn’t want to share that with others if they’d found it?!
“This doesn’t mean we have a monopoly on good, wholesome and happy people. These types of awesome people absolutely exist in other religions and cultures besides the LDS community! Our late prophet Gordon B. Hinckley used to say, ‘We say to people, in effect, you bring with you all the good that you have, and let us see if we can add to it.’ In fact, our 13th Article of Faith states, ‘We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul — We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.’
“The restored Church of Jesus Christ takes the person you currently are, good and bad, and makes you better. I am personally a better, more loving and Christlike person that I ever have or would have been without the restored church of Jesus Christ. It has pushed me and continues to push me to grow and progress and to become like our Savior and Father in Heaven. Is it challenging at times? Absolutely. But it is so worth it, and I wouldn’t want it any other way! To join the restored church of Jesus Christ, are there some habits you may have to give up? Yes. But that is part of the refining process and becoming a better more Christlike people (see lesson No. 4: Commandments/laws/rules).”
Lesson No. 14: Working in the Lord’s vineyard is awesome
“I’ve heard a lot of people say that serving, holding callings and working in the church isn’t worth it. It’s not worth the time and effort. Not only does it take up your time, it takes away from your ability to do what you want. Many in this camp also believe that doing things like going boating on Sunday is more fun than going to church or going and working on a service project somewhere. I’ll admit, there was a time when I thought this way too. But I’ve learned this isn’t true.
“In the New Testament, in Matthew chapter 20, Christ tells the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. For those unfamiliar with it, people show up to work at different times in the day and some even show up right before the end of the day. But when the owner of the vineyard hands out the pay, they all get the same amount regardless of when they stated working.
“I’ll admit, it took me awhile to really understand this parable and truly grasp the meaning. I thought I was getting a bad deal working in the ‘vineyard’ while others are off playing, especially if we are going to get the same reward at the end (if they eventually show up and work). But I was missing something in this story. There are TWO different rewards involved here. Yes there’s the final pay or reward at the end. But there’s also the reward that comes from actually working in the vineyard. It turns out working in the vineyard is pay and a reward in and of itself!
“I now realize that life IS better and more enjoyable by actually doing work in the Lord’s vineyard. The happiness and joy that comes from living a life aligned with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and serving and sacrificing for others in the vineyard IS more enjoyable than playing outside the vineyard. Working in the vineyard brings true, lasting happiness where the other brings fleeting/counterfeit happiness. Those who show up late to work in the vineyard eventually will come to realize and regret they didn’t show up sooner. They will come to realize THEY were the ones who were missing out.
“Many others will never choose to come work in the vineyard and think the rest of us foolish to boot. And that’s their choice to make. Sadly, I fear they will never come to understand the unmatched happiness available to them. ‘For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.’ — Matthew 16:25”
Lesson No. 15: Listen to wise advice and learn from others
“Looking back, it’s easy to see how my pride was the main cause of me going spiritually off-track. Ultimately, it does not matter what sins follow; they all lead us down the wrong path. Beware of pride. Don’t disregard advice from people you look up to and trust who are older and most likely wiser than you. Learn from others' mistakes so you don’t have to go through the same problems. The scriptures are full of people who have been there and done that. Learn from them. Everything that has brought me deep mental, emotional and spiritual pain in my life, I was warned to avoid by our LDS Church leaders and the prophets in the scriptures. But, being too prideful and thinking I was the exception to the rule and their counsel was dumb, I chose to ignore it. Remember, it’s OK to have and ask sincere questions. But in so doing, many of us fail to also practice humility and be willing to submit our will to God’s. Especially if the answer we get is not the one we wanted, ‘well then it can’t be right.’ I know from personal experience, this line of thought is destructive.
“The prophet and apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are God’s servants and receive counsel from him, making them wise beyond their years. Do they get things wrong? Yeah maybe one time out of every 1,000 because they are still human and still learning just like you and me. All prophets make mistakes. Want proof? Read the scriptures, and you’ll find plenty of examples in Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jonah, Peter, etc. All had their moments, but it didn’t then and doesn’t today diminish their important role or prophetic calling. Stick with the prophets, trust and follow their counsel, and be willing to submit your will to God’s. It is Christ’s church and no one else’s. The popular opinions of today cannot and will not sway him and the doctrine he wants for his church. ‘Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.’ — Amos 3:7”
Lesson No. 16: Don't let what you don't know keep you from following what you do know
“Show me the person who has the answer to every question in life. They don’t exist. Why? Because NO ONE knows the answers to some of the questions we have. Not even that really smart professor at that one university or that really smart person who’s written a lot of books. They don’t know. I don’t know. We don’t know. Nobody knows. And it’s OK. I’ve come to realize there are questions that will likely never be answered in this life. And that’s the way God intended for it to be. I believe there are things not even the living prophet knows the answers to right now. Does he know more than us? Yes. But he’s got to learn and progress like the rest of us.
“Try and wrap your head around the vastness of the universe. Mind. Blown. It’s impossible for our finite brains to comprehend. I truly believe there is knowledge and answers to questions that God holds from us (at this time but will be revealed to us later) because we’re not ready to hear or know it currently. Milk before meat, as they say.
“Don’t allow the fact that you don’t have the answer to every single question that goes through your head keep you from acting on and following things you do know or have felt. Life requires faith. Every person on the earth must live by faith, period. Which leads us to our next lesson.”
Lesson No. 17: Listen to your conscience
“That little voice inside your head that we often disregard that tells you things like, ‘You should call this person today and see how they are doing’ or ‘You should stop and help that person on the side of the road’ or ‘You should apologize for what you said’ or ‘You shouldn’t watch that show, it’s kind of dirty’ or ‘You shouldn’t go hang out with those people’ or ‘You should read that book’ and many other things that voice is the Spirit of God/Light of Christ talking to you. Have the FAITH to act on these promptings when they come. The more you listen and follow them, the more frequent and stronger they will come and the happier you will be. ‘And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.’ — Moroni 10:5”
Lesson No. 18: I want to share my happiness with others
“From my 32 years on the earth so far, I’ve found that I am happiest and have the most light in my life when I am sincerely living the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I’ve also found that doing so makes me want to serve those around me more and share my joy with them. With this in mind I want everyone to experience the same joy I have felt. It’s only natural, right?! Please let me know if you are currently struggling with your testimony, have left the church but feel something inside telling you to explore more or if you’re just generally interested in learning more about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and the principles that lead to unmatched eternal happiness. If that voice inside your head is talking to you right now, you should follow it and reach out to me. I’d love to explore this more with you and help you on your spiritual journey.”
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