I entered this life as a new born baby in a missionary boot camp for a group called “The New Tribes Mission” in Orlando, Florida.
My parents were newly “saved” christians and decided – with 4 boys and me on the way – that they should serve a foreign mission to convert new tribes found in the jungles of Panama. They left their families, friends and a comfortable U.S. living to help people they didn’t know in the snake and mosquito infested jungles of Central America. They had no idea of what they were getting themselves into. And crazy to bring 8 children with them!
After 2 mission training centers, my dad had to go through a language training center in Costa Rica. So, off we went.
I really liked Costa Rica. The people were gentle and kind. They often would stop and introduce themselves and invited us to come over for food and conversation.
I had so many good memories of Costa Rica!
Then to Panama. (8 kids by now)
We went to live in a small village named Chepo, not far from a massive jungle and a 50 mile uninhabitable thick swamp (Darien Gap) that separates Central America and South America. Many have tried to cross it and have paid with their lives.
In Chepo, most houses were tiny, 8′ by 8′, dirt walls, dirt floors, with palm tree branches for roofs, no water, no indoor toilets, no showers and only dirt roads.
We lived in a gated compound with 2 buildings built out of concrete blocks. We also had a very small chapel that could hold around 30 people, and our family took up 10 of those chairs.
In spite of their poverty, these Panamanians smiled and hugged everyone and laughed often. They also loved to sing. And I enjoyed listening to them singing.
My parents read scriptures to us most nights of the week. We had classes on other religions, including Joe Smith and his gold bible. (Mostly to make fun of all these other religions and to keep us from ever wanting to check out a different religion.)
Fast forward to 18 years old: I was invited by my High School friend to come live with his family on a farm in Russelville, Arkansas.
Then a bunch of odd stuff happened: living homeless (in an old “bread van” converted to a fishing van) for several months in freezing winter weather, then selling that van to a hillbilly who didn’t pay me and had killed someone at a bar and the police were searching for him as he hid out in the hillbilly Ozark Mountains - in my van; hitchhiked with some friends to Texas, and got picked up by 3 young teenagers who had stolen a new station wagon. They were writing bad checks at banks in each city to fund their joy ride to California. We figured out how to trick them to get the station wagon from them, found the name of the owner in the glove box, called the owner in Gattlinburg,Tennessee, and he agreed to pay us for the gas and a bus ticket for me and my girlfriend to get to Tampa, Fl to live with my brother.
In Tampa, I got a job unloading trucks – and the manager was a “smoking, drinking, cussing” - recent 1 year covert to the LDS church. I liked him. We became fast friends. I told him he was in the wrong church. He said he told the missionaries if he ever found anything wrong with the church, he would leave it. I saw my opportunity to get my friend out.
I met with the missionaries and argued, using the Bible verses I learned from my parents. By the 3rd session, one of the missionaries threw down his scriptures and frustratingly yelled, “I refuse to teach him anymore!” His companion just looked shocked and picked up his things and left. I was sure I had won the argument.
Then more things happened. My friend gave me the book, “A Marvelous Work and a Wonder” (crazy co-incidence, right?) I decided to study more. The missionaries came back. And after reading a verse in Nephi in the Book of Mormon, I had a feeling come over me that I should be baptized, so I agreed.
After baptism, I studied the entire Book of Mormon and couldn’t put it down. I knew it was inspired. Then I read the history of Joseph Smith written by his mother and knew he was inspired. I next read The Journal of Discourses - and DID NOT get that same inspired feeling. Weird.
But I decided there was so much I didn’t know, and since Joseph Smith and The Book Of Mormon were inspired, I decided to jump in 100%.
I prayed and fasted for greater light and understanding. I once fasted for 3 days - and my body (or True Self?) let me know we’re not doing that again!
Many times I pleaded on my knees, with all the sincerity I could muster, that I would sacrifice all things to know The Truth. But those prayers went unanswered. Just silence. I concluded that God answers in his own time. I would wait.
During times when my marriage was falling apart, I prayed that prayer again. And again. Still nothing.
But I still stayed completely involved with the church, living every doctrine as best I could.
Like most Mormons, I had many callings, attended the conferences, did temple work, and sat through thousands of talks.
I have no ill will against the Mormons. I made many good friends. But I still had too many unanswered questions. And many unanswered prayers.
I’ll skip parts of my life that deal with shyness; feeling forced to give church talks and dreading talking in front of a group due to what I would much later learn was dyslexia; walking the halls of the church during Sunday School to avoid being called on to answer something or called on to pray; discovering sex by accident; letting the few girlfriends I had, decide when kissing or more would happen. (I liked taking things slooow.) I was in no rush to express physical affection. So I always let my girlfriends decide if and when.
As a teenager, I had a number of times when I came close to death. (Maybe 20 times or more) But those stories seem better given when we are all sitting around as friends and we can laugh and share the many crazy things we all did. I hope that day comes soon!
Fast forward to 1977.
I married a Mormon girl and we moved from Tampa to Utah to attend BYU. I signed up for the fall and took a summer job installing siding on homes. It really wasn’t hard to learn. It was physically demanding and I was wore out every evening, but I knew I could learn this faster than getting a college degree. So, I put off college. (Plus I was concerned that professors might call on me and I would have to fight the fear of public speaking over and over for 4 years)
It took me 6 months to go from a helper to crew leader. I was still planning on going to BYU, but I told my wife I could earn enough at this job to pay for college with cash. Besides, I still didn’t know what I wanted be when I grew up.
Also, I saw my crew leader’s paycheck of $850.00 for 1 week of pay. $40,000.00 per year doesn’t sound like much, but in today’s value, that would be around $150,000.00 a year. And none of my friends who graduated from BYU were being paid that kind of income. So why go to college?
In 1981, we moved to be near my parents who had moved from Panama to Alabama to retire. We thought we could do missionary work with my family. Oh, boy. What trouble pride would get me in.
I went to work for a local remodeling company and within 6 months, I was a partner. In 3 years, I started my own company, keeping my two partners. Too long of a story here, but I wanted to try out an “Employee Owned Company”, and gave stock to some employees. The next 16 years was filled with one painful experience after another. My parents divorced, my wife and I had come close to divorce several times, I was spending 60-70 hours a week at work and another 15 hours working in several intensive callings at church that were way outside my abilities. Then one partner committed suicide, the other came down with a rare disease, and a hundred other tragic things happened.
The worse thing by far, was making my brother a full partner. I learned what it felt like to be betrayed by someone I loved and had helped keep him from prison due to drug use. And I gave him free stock so he could earn dividends. He found an aggressive attorney to sue me for stealing money from the company because he found around 10 receipts (over 5 years) that he was sure were unrelated to business. He convinced the Board of Directors that I should be fired and rather than fight a long and expensive court fight, I gave up my stock and moved back to Utah.
I never was a fighter. In High school, I learned the bullie’s route to there next classes and simply took a different route.
In 2005, I returned to Utah.
But oh how things had changed! It was no longer Zion (It likely never was). I was questioning everything about my LDS beliefs.
And still no answers to my many “I’ll give up everything that I have or am to know the real truth” prayers. It worked for King Lemhi, why not for me?
(Of all the stories in the Book of Mormon, my favorites were King Benjamin and the stories of the Ammonites. That’s the type of people I wanted to live around!)
In 2014, I became friends with a Haitian American named Pierre. I met him at one of my jobs. We talked about ways we could help the poor. We decided we wanted to start a nonprofit group to go back to Haiti and help his struggling hometown. We made a rough plan, to start with building simple concrete block homes, then we would start working to build neighborhood gardens to feed them, etc.
Pierre belongs to the LDS Genesis Group - African Americans from all over Utah get together at the Salt Lake Tabernacle to meet for sacrament once each month. Often, general authorities would speak in their sacrament. So, he had a chance to speak with a general authority about our Haiti ideas. That got us a meeting with the head of the church charity operations.
After we laid out our plans to him, we got a surprise answer. He said the church had gone to Haiti several times and spent large amounts of money to do basically what we were planning. But every time they returned to Haiti a few years later, everything was back to the way it was before. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “We don’t know what to do anymore. Nothing has worked. The church won’t be able to help you. My advice to you is to not waste your time.”
Saying we were stunned is an understatement. How could a church with a prophet that talked with god not know how to get rid of poverty?
“And so it came to pass” in mid 2016, I picked up a newspaper at the Whole Foods Store in Salt Lake. It had an article about someone saying they wrote The Sealed Portion. I searched for it and found it. As I read it, that familiar feeling came back that I had when reading the Book of Mormon. That got my attention, so I continued to search.
I found the Humanity Party and loved everything I read! This was the plan to not just solve Haiti’s poverty, but the whole world! How cool is that?!!
I excitedly told my family. I mostly got puzzled looks from everyone, including my wife and children. The only ones who liked it was 2 young friends at work. So, I tried using Book of Mormon scriptures to emphasis the core of the teachings to “…have no poor among them”. But no one seemed to care. I soon stopped talking to anybody but my wife. Finally, my wife said she didn’t want to hear any more.
My own daughter (living in my basement)has been telling my grandkids that I’ve gone crazy.
I was seriously puzzled. When did caring for the poor and needy become an extreme idea?
In the meantime, my oldest granddaughter, 12 years old at the time, decided she wasn’t going to church anymore. She said she prayed about it and got no answer. So she wasn’t going to fake it at church. We take the dog for walks at night. One night, she tells me, “Papa, it feels like we’ve done this life many times before, like we’re repeating it over and over.” I was shocked and said, “Sweet girl, that’s very close to the truth”. I wanted to tell her more, but that would alienate her parents. On other walks, she’s telling me “I don’t know what it is, but there’s something important about dreams.” So I told her we ARE in a highly realistic dream/ game/ simulation. Walk after walk, she got a little more out of me. Before long, she’s bringing a blanket to throw on a grassy area of our neighborhood and she would ask question after question. I tried my best to keep it simple and short. But she wanted more. I told her when she’s a little older, I’ll give her a website where she can learn the Truth for herself. I was glad to have someone who was receptive.
Finding this work has been both hard and amazingly good. Hard, because it tore away everything that I thought was true. Everything.
But amazing, because the Real Truth was freeing me up from so many false beliefs.
One of the hard ones for me was finding out that there never was a savior or a real person named Jesus Christ. That one hit so hard that I had to take some time off from reading more. As I went about my daily chores, my mind contemplated if it could be true. Within a week or so, I was able to say, “Maybe. Maybe it could be true.” Then, all my walls of resistance collapsed. I went back to the website and read that portion again. The doubts were gone.
I was pleasantly amazed how Real Truth can stay quietly in the background of my thoughts, and, without a constant conscious effort on my part, completely change something that I was heavily indoctrinated in from the time I was a child.
I felt freedom. And I smiled. Lots of smiles. I’m smiling now just thinking of it all.
So, yes, my life is turned upside down. And it’s worth it.
This is the work of Real Truth. It makes sense. It feels right. It’s illuminating. It brings me comfort as my false beliefs keep being revealed and falling away. Especially pride. There’s a tough one. When I can (occasionally) kick pride out, I can feel a real change inside.
(I Laughed at this next sentence that “spell check” put in there. I was trying to write “I love when I feel like a child again.” But here’s what “Spell Check” put in there:
“I love when I feel like a chocolate lad again.” 😄
So much of life finally makes sense. This work is the Real Truth.