Nathan Cook


My Personal Story

Nathan Cook

11/17/2020


Preface


Many personal stories primarily focus on the positive aspects of one’s life, and tend to avoid highly transparent or detailed disclosures of embarrassing, difficult, and painful experiences. This is very understandable since these things are very difficult to share (at least they have been for me), and are probably just as uncomfortable and/or disturbing to read. However, in sharing this story, I will be purposefully focusing primarily on the difficult, embarrassing, and painful experiences in my life, precisely because it has been these experiences that have been the most instrumental in shaping me into who I have become today. (However, if you prefer to read a more “easily digestible” version of my story which pretty much steers clear of these “embarrassing things,” then I can share with you another version which I wrote back in 2016).


As I share this story, I sometimes bring up my own personal experiences with close family members, friends, or others. Please realize that I am sharing this story according to how I perceived things at the time I experienced them, rather than from my perspective today, which is COMPLETELY different than it was in past. I hope you will try to be as patient, understanding, and as non-judgmental as you can be with me, as well as with yourself, especially if it so happens that you were involved with me in some way in my life, or if anything about my story seems harsh, overly blunt, or causes you to feel uncomfortable in any way.


I realize that every person in my life, including my parents, siblings, friends, church leaders, and others were and are good people who lived their own lives the way that was best and right for them, according to their own needs, perceptions, and beliefs. I don’t blame anyone else for the experiences I had in my life, whether they were difficult or otherwise for me at the time. Furthermore, since I was an extremely sensitive child (at least according to my own perception), I probably perceived many experiences differently, and perhaps in a much more overblown manner, from how others might have perceived these experiences had they been in my same situation. No one needs to ask me forgiveness for anything, since there is nothing to forgive. I believe that we all have our own unique challenges, as well as strengths and weaknesses, and that none of us is a better or worse person than anyone else. I believe this to be the case even if someone has committed “sins” or “crimes” that society in general might consider heinous or “unforgivable.” I personally don’t believe that there is ANY action that is unforgivable, or which would make a person “irredeemable” or beyond the point where the person’s humanity could be restored.


Before I begin with my personal story, I think it would be helpful for the reader to understand just a little bit about my personal philosophy of life, as well as my view regarding “right versus wrong,” and “good versus bad.” Keep in mind that this is just my own “personal philosophy of life,” and that you don’t necessarily have to agree with it. But basically, it is this: I believe that ALL of us come into this world as good, kind, and whole (innocent and perfect) human beings. I can’t think of any child, especially under the age of 4 or 5, who isn’t the perfect example of a completely wonderful, loving, and good-natured human being. I believe that the true nature of our humanity was perfectly intact and exemplified by the way we interacted with others when we were little children. We started out whole, then the world “screwed us up” as we grew older and learned “it’s ways” (or reacted to “it’s ways”). As we grew older, the frequently harsh environment and world around us often “got the best of us”: some of us to a greater extent than others, often depending on luck or happenstance. While sometimes the forces of the world were overpowering to us and caused us to act differently than we did as children, I believe that on the inside, we are all STILL as innocent as we were when we were little children--at least deep down inside, whether we or others can feel or perceive this innocence or not.


There is a song that I love which talks about this innocence: how we were born innocent and how we are STILL innocent, despite whatever we might have done in life (and whether it was “good” or “bad” according to the world’s standards, or even our own standards). The song is called “Adia” by Sarah McLachlan. Here is a link to the song, along with the music video (which is also incredible, in my opinion): https://youtu.be/Q5wW8N4pt3U.


Here are the lyrics:


Adia, I do believe I failed you Adia, I know I've let you down Don't you know I tried so hard To love you in my way It's easy, let it go
Adia, I'm empty since you left me Trying to find a way to carry on I search myself and everyone To see where we went wrong
There's no one left to finger There's no one here to blame There's no one left to talk to, honey And there ain't no one to buy our innocence
'Cause we are born innocent Believe me, Adia, we are still innocent It's easy, we all falter Does it matter?
Adia, I thought that we could make it I know I can't change the way you feel I leave you with your misery A friend who won't betray I pull you from your tower I take away your pain And show you all the beauty you possess If you'd only let yourself believe
That we are born innocent Believe me, Adia, we are still innocent It's easy, we all falter Does it matter?
'Cause we are born innocent Believe me, Adia, we are still innocent It's easy, we all falter Does it matter?
Believe me, Adia, we are still innocent 'Cause we are born innocent Believe me, Adia, we are still innocent It's easy, we all falter Does it matter?

I believe that if the circumstances were right, we could all be “rehabilitated” back into how we were as little children—at least in the way that we treated each other. I believe that every human being is completely unique, yet we are all equally valuable and deserving of love, compassion, and understanding. Or, put another way, “we are all so different, which makes us all the same.” I love and appreciate ALL of you for who you are, and for the valuable time I have shared with each of you as I have experienced my life’s journey of ups, downs, twists, and turns.


My Story


I grew up in a very faithful, “orthodox” Utah Mormon family (descended from “prominent” Mormon pioneer stock). I was the 6th child and the baby of the family until my parents adopted two infants from Korea when I was 8 years old. I have literally hundreds of staunch Mormon relatives, who are almost all very “active” (practicing) Latter-Day Saints to this day.


As a little child, I remember very often feeling a tremendous amount of love for my family. At a young age, it seemed to me that this love was pretty stable, consistent, and more or less equally felt and mutually reciprocated by every member of my family. I hadn’t yet become aware of all the different stresses of life which often prevented adults and “older kids” from always feeling connected to this love. So, in my innocence and bliss as a young child, I really loved it when we did things together as a family, such as trips snow skiing, picnics in the canyon, hiking, biking, horseback riding, camping, and other family outings and vacations. I recall eating dinner together frequently as a family, and having regular “family home evening nights.” My dad would often make a fire in the fireplace, share a story or a lesson, and sometimes playfully “wrestle” with us kids. When I was small, he would often read children’s books to me. Then as I got a bit older, he frequently played checkers, connect-four, or other games with me. As I continued to grow, he would challenge me to develop my physical strength, such as paying me a dime or quarter for every push-up, sit-up, or pull-up that I could do in sequence. He taught me quite a few basics in working with tools, including how to maintain my bicycles.


My Mom was always very loving and kind. She was an excellent cook, and she helped us kids learn to cook a few recipes ourselves, especially different types of desserts. She also taught us how to do our chores and work on the yard and vegetable garden. As a young child, she was almost always there to tend to my wounds when I got hurt playing or comfort me when I had a nightmare, was scared, or had my feelings get hurt by someone. I felt close to both of my parents as young child (especially before the age of about 5 or 6), but I especially felt close to my Mom. She seemed to understand me and be really “tuned-in” to my needs, and was pretty consistently “there for me” during the early childhood years of my life, especially up to the age of about 6 or 7.

Around this age, things seemed to change (although certainly not everything, as I continued to have lots of really good experiences with all the members of my family; however, this is the point in my story where I will purposely go into the more difficult, painful, and sometimes embarrassing things—so hang on! 😊). Instead of receiving the unconditional love that I had often felt from my parents (and other family members), they seemed to start having a lot more expectations for how I needed to behave in order to receive this love. Since I sorely missed the love and attention I received when I was younger, I sought with all of my heart to be “worthy” of this love or regain this love. I especially began to develop a very strong desire to please my parents. I soon discovered that this meant that I also needed to please “God,” according to what was taught by my parent’s church, which was the LDS/Mormon church. So, I started seeking to learn how to “please God” with all of my heart and soul. I also wanted to play my part in being an accepted and worthy member of my large extended family of cousins and relatives. There was nothing I wanted more. To please God and my parents, I knew I needed to keep all of God’s commandments as taught by the church and the teachings of the church’s leaders, who were God’s living mouthpieces and representatives on the earth. I was a very sensitive and shy child, as well as a “pleaser” who, looking back, basically became a “perfectionist” at a very young age.


I was baptized as a member of the Mormon church when I turned 8 years old, and believed (as I was taught) that all my sins had been washed away and that I was now “perfect” and clean before God (my Heavenly Father). I knew that God, my parents, and my family were very pleased with me. This was the greatest desire of my heart, and I felt a tremendous amount of joy and peace knowing that I was on track with God and my family. However, about a week after being baptized, I remember my mom asking me to vacuum the living room. I didn’t want to do it right then, so I told her “no!” But then I remembered I had just recently been baptized and washed clean of all my sins, but now I had just said “no” when my mom had asked me to do something. I realized I had just blown it. I was no longer clean before God. I felt super guilty and devastated. I had let God down. I realized I had better try to repent immediately, so I told my mom that I would vacuum the living room like she had asked me to. Still, after this experience I wondered for quite some time whether God would now be able to trust me, and whether I would be able to earn his forgiveness so I could become clean before him again. Looking back, this concern (about whether or not I was accepted by, and in good standing with God) would replay over and over again in my life for years to come.


I never, or very rarely, expressed my frequently hurt feeling to my parents, family members, friends, or anyone else. I wanted to, but I didn’t feel like it was safe to do so, and at an early age I had come to feel like I was largely a burden to my parents and older siblings. I didn’t want to become even more of a burden, so I tried to keep to myself. Through my childhood and early teenage years, I was mocked and “bullied” quite a bit by some of my older siblings (which is probably typical for the younger children in a large family), as well as by various kids at school, including my former best friend and his new buddy. During my childhood, I had become accustomed to hearing from my older siblings words such as “don’t be a cry baby” and “real men don’t cry.” I also heard this latter phrase quite a bit from my dad. I think he probably said this as a way to try to toughen me up, but these weren’t the words of consolation and comfort I was hoping to hear at the time. My siblings frequently told me I was a “spoiled brat,” or sometimes a “dirty, rotten, spoiled brat!” Sometimes their friends would follow suit. I got my hair pulled quite a bit, and was given lots “navy taps” on my chest, but most of the time I was “just” verbally mocked or ridiculed (although often very severely with feelings of extreme emotional contempt or disgust). For one example, I had to make sure not to chew my food too loud, or I would be mocked ruthlessly. At times it seemed like just about whatever I did, it was annoying or despicable to one or more of my older siblings. My goal pretty much became to more or less “disappear” and try not to be a nuisance or burden to anyone. I actually did run away one time, but of course I came back at the end of the day, and ironically when I came back I realized that no one had even noticed that I had been gone! I felt really sad about that for quite awhile, but I survived. I share these things, because I think they contributed to the feeling that I had that I was essentially all alone in a big, difficult, mostly uncaring world where I was unlikely to succeed—unless perhaps I could find help from some outside source, such as God. (Note: I should mention here that I didn’t interact much with my oldest siblings during my childhood and teenage years, since they had their own very different lives going on that didn’t intersect much with my own).


My dad, although he had his “faults” as a parent (as everyone does), was known for being a kind, hard-working, generous person with a great sense of humor. He took us on a lot of fun vacations and family outings. He also loved to take the kids, grandkids, cousins, and friends horseback riding. He frequently came up with fun and unique activities that he knew the younger kids would enjoy. He wasn’t the type of person you could really share your feelings with (which, many times I wished he would have been), and he sometimes became very angry and threatening, but he had his way of letting us kids know that he cared about us, such as through the activities we would do together. While my mom was, and is, a very nice and kind person towards pretty much everyone (and was very loving and attentive to me when I was a small child, as I explained), she was gone or very busy during much of my childhood and youth (especially after about age 7, which I was often very sad about).

I had an older brother named Kevin (about 12 years older than me) who died in a car crash while serving on his mission, and after this event I believe my mom become much more withdrawn and unavailable for quite a while. I remember Kevin being really nice to me. He was the one who taught me how to swim, and he would usually play games with me whenever I asked. His death came when I was about 7 years old. Everyone seemed to agree that he was probably the most kind and spiritual person in our family. It may have been around this time that I remember knocking on my parent’s door seeking for some comfort after having a really bad nightmare. They both got really mad at me and told me to go back downstairs to my room immediately. This response was quite unexpected, new, and shocking to me at the time. But after that experience I think I rarely sought them out again for comfort when I was hurt emotionally.


One time in junior high school (probably 7th grade) I came home crying after being bullied. My mom happened to be there this time. She asked me why I was crying, and I remember really wanting to share with her what had happened, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Looking back, I wish I would have. I think she would have been really supportive. But I didn’t. And from this time on I felt I was truly alone for the rest of my teenage years. I pretty much kept all the emotional struggles I had while “growing up” inside of myself, and didn’t share them with anyone.


I had some very impactful recurring experiences with my father as I went through childhood and my teenage years prior to my mission for the LDS/Mormon church. Many, many times while I was growing up, my dad would come home from work, either at the end of the day, or for a lunch break, and he would find me (or me and one or more of my siblings) sitting on the couch watching television. Upon seeing us sitting there, he would become very angry and yell at us telling us to immediately turn off the “idiot box” or “boob tube,” and start doing something productive like mowing the lawn, cleaning the kitchen, or weeding the garden. Sometimes, he would see what we were watching on television, and he would see something “inappropriate” that would send him into an even greater fit of anger. He would yell at us and shame us for watching such “filth,” even if it was just people kissing. I learned to associate anything close to physical intimacy or affection with a fearful attitude and as something dirty and wrong. These experiences, along with all that was taught in church about the “law of chastity” had a huge impression on me, and convinced me that most likely the thing that God disapproved of most of all was sex (unchastity), or anything even close to it. In my teenage years, I knew that even thinking about sex, having “impure thoughts,” or thinking about or noticing a girl who was attractive, was condemned by God. So, I actually became quite good at avoiding such thoughts, but I also became quite fearful of girls (especially of attractive girls), and very shy and awkward socially around them.


But strangely enough (or in hindsight, predictably enough), as I strove for perfection in following the commandments of God (according to his church), I would eventually stumble—and stumble hard. So, it came to pass, that at about the age of 18, I “stumbled” into the discovery of masturbation. I remember various bishops asking me over my childhood and teenage years if I had ever “played with myself.” I had always answered “no,” which was the truth, yet I never really knew what the bishop meant by this question. I only had a very vague idea. Still, I remember feeling disturbed, intimidated, and even subtly accused (or paranoid of being accused) by the way these questions were asked during these “worthiness interviews.” I felt very similar to the way I did when my dad would come home from work and yell at me for watching something inappropriate or “dirty” on TV (even whether it was actually “inappropriate” or not). After these bishop interviews, I would usually walk away feeling accused, guilty, or second-guessing myself about my purity, my worthiness, or my honesty, even though I wasn’t sure why. Afterwards, I would often mentally review the interview and ponder in my mind about whether I had been fully and completely honest about everything. I felt like this was super important, because I knew (or believed) that God couldn’t fully forgive and accept me unless I had been totally honest towards his priesthood representative on earth who was acting in his place as if he were doing the interview himself.

Note: For some reason, my tendency towards perfectionism has, as long as I can remember, included an obsession with being “perfectly honest” in all things, especially in my answers to my bishop or other ecclesiastical authorities. To this day, I can’t stand being the slightest bit dishonest about anything—to anyone. Or if I ever am the slightest bit dishonest about something (because although it is pretty rare, sometimes I am), I feel tremendous amounts of guilt. This hard-core honesty, bordering on a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder, has been both a weakness and a strength for me, as you will probably see throughout this story. Another strength/weakness is my tendency to feel super sorry whenever I find out I have hurt someone—especially someone’s feelings—even when it was totally unintended or accidental. Sometimes my sorrow and guilt over hurting another person will last for days, months, or even years.


But going back to my story, it wasn’t until I was about 18 years old that I finally discovered the “forbidden fruit” of masturbation. Strangely though, the first few times I “did it,” I didn’t really think I had done anything wrong. But then, the more I thought about it, the more I started to worry that this might be one of those really serious “sins” that were against the “law of chastity” that I had been warned about all my years growing up in the church. Until this time, I think I mostly associated sexual sins as having to do with thoughts about girls or inappropriate behaviors towards, or interactions with girls. It actually took me a few weeks to realize that what I had “stumbled” upon was what those bishops probably meant when they asked me questions about “playing with yourself.” But for months I still wasn’t sure the degree to which what I was doing was wrong, or if it was wrong, according to the standards of the church and the law of chastity. Yet just in case it was wrong, which I suspected it probably was, I decided I would stop. But then, since this turned out to be quite difficult, I decided I would do it as infrequently as possible. I decided that once the time came for my bishop’s interview relating to going on my mission, I would confess this sin to my bishop (even though I completely dreaded this) and try to find out how serious a sin it was considered to be by the church.


So, about a year later when this time came, I discovered from the bishop that it was considered a very “serious sin” (according to him, and apparently according to the Mormon church) and that I would have to stop or I wouldn’t be a “worthy missionary,” or perhaps wouldn’t even be allowed to go on a mission! I was also told that this was “the kind of sin” that in order to be forgiven it had to be confessed to a bishop or other ecclesiastical/priesthood leader. This “doctrine” was also later reaffirmed by my mission president. This scared the hell out of me, so I determined that I would stop this practice cold turkey right there and then (prior to my mission). Believe it or not, I more or less succeeded at quitting, with the exception of a critical caveat, which I will discuss a bit later.


Note: Although many, if not all, of my friends and peers growing up in the church seemed to see nothing wrong with viewing pornography (and “making out” with the girls), I pretty much always resisted the temptation (and yes, it was a temptation). One of my friends had half naked women (celebrities or “porn stars”) plastered all over his bedroom walls (I quickly averted my eyes when I first noticed this). Another one of my “friends” (who also happened to be the guy who mercilessly bullied me in junior high) had a Playboy magazine, which he brought along with him on a scouting expedition, and showed it to all the other scouts (except me, as I was determined to avoid all such temptations, believing them to be the “worst types of sin possible”). It was really strange, disconcerting, and perplexing to me (at the time) how all these other boys seemed perfectly fine with pornography and “making out” with the girls, then blessing the sacrament on Sunday. For some reason it seemed they must not have had any problem with lying to their bishops (and mission presidents) about their obedience to the law of chastity during their personal priesthood “worthiness interviews.” I could never understand how their consciences didn’t get to them about all this, while my conscience seemed to be supercharged with a vengeance.


While serving on my mission for the LDS/Mormon church I was trying hard to be the perfect missionary—to follow all the rules, to open my mouth to share the gospel whenever I had the opportunity, and to do everything that God expected me to do as one of his chosen representatives. But as I was striving to be the best missionary I could possibly be, I ran full speed into a brick wall. While I had “technically” succeeded in overcoming masturbation (at least during the daytime when I was fully conscious, awake, and in control), unfortunately I had started to have wet dreams, and sometimes I would wake up during the night just prior to “losing it,” so to speak. In this situation, I found the urge to “finish the job” to be nearly, if not completely, overpowering. So, sometimes I would “give in” and “finish the job,” so I could at least get back to sleep. Other times I would manage to resist the near overpowering temptation, only to find out that I would then have an extremely difficult time getting back to sleep, and would be very irritable and miserable the next day. Of course, being the perfectionist that I was, it was completely devastating to me that I didn’t seem to have the “will power,” or the “spirituality” to refrain from “sinning” in such a matter. And what made the devastation even worse was that I knew I was expected to confess these “sins” to my mission president as soon as it was feasibly possible. I always dreaded this, because I felt it was completely humiliating. I wanted my mission president (or bishop) to respect me and think well of me, not see me as someone who was disgusting or unworthy. Yet I had been taught that until I confessed this sin to my ecclesiastical/priesthood authority, God could not forgive me, and I was therefore not worthy of the Spirit, nor could I be in “good standing” before God (according my logic at least—the logic of a perfectionist). I was supposed to be out teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the Holy Spirit, yet I couldn’t do my job because as the scriptures said, “without the Spirit, ye shall not teach.” So, I pretty much went around feeling guilty, unworthy, and worthless.

After this “failure,” which occurred early on in my mission, I began to think of all the other “sins” I had committed in my life, such as all the times I had told white lies, or accidently hurt people, etc (none of which were very “big sins” at all, but in my state of mind I turned just about every molehill into a mountain). I had lots of time to just think, think, think, since I had been put in a “threesome” in a Spanish speaking area, and I didn’t speak Spanish. I was coming to feel that I wasn’t cut out to be the missionary I needed to be or that God expected me to be as his chosen emissary. My guilt fueled my depression, and my depression fueled my guilt. My depression made me not want me to “open my mouth” to share the gospel with all those I came in contact with. Yet, I remembered the speeches about how God would hold me accountable for all the “souls I might have saved had I only opened my mouth” when I had the opportunity to do so. This made me feel even more guilty. I began to imagine that my sins were very great and severe and that I was completely condemned before God.


Note: My guilt was even compounded further because I had been called to the same mission that my older brother Kevin had been serving in at the time he was killed in a car crash. I thought I was basically called to finish his mission (and I think my parents and siblings basically thought this way also). This older brother was greatly revered and regarded by my family as being the most spiritual person in our family. The pressure I felt to be a good, faithful missionary was intense. And I was failing in the worst possible way I could imagine—I was guilty of sexual sin, the worst kind of sin possible, so I thought (and had been inculcated into feeling this way since I was a child), and I couldn’t get this “sin” under control! I was super, super ashamed of myself and embarrassed. There were so many ways in which I felt inadequate, unworthy, incompetent, and overall condemned and disapproved of by God (and by my family, although they didn’t know about all this). I felt like Zeezrom from the story in the Book of Mormon (in Alma chapter 15), or Alma (who had a similar experience, described in Alma 36), but was stuck at the part where they felt all the misery without any relief.


Here is what was written about Zeezrom:


Alma 15:3 And also Zeezrom lay sick at Sidom, with a burning fever, which was caused by the great tribulations of his mind on account of his wickedness, for he supposed that Alma and Amulek were no more; and he supposed that they had been slain because of his iniquity. And this great sin, and his many other sins, did harrow up his mind until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance; therefore he began to be scorched with a burning heat.
4 Now, when he heard that Alma and Amulek were in the land of Sidom, his heart began to take courage; and he sent a message immediately unto them, desiring them to come unto him.
5 And it came to pass that they went immediately, obeying the message which he had sent unto them; and they went in unto the house unto Zeezrom; and they found him upon his bed, sick, being very low with a burning fever; and his mind also was exceedingly sore because of his iniquities; and when he saw them he stretched forth his hand, and besought them that they would heal him.
6 And it came to pass that Alma said unto him, taking him by the hand: Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?
7 And he answered and said: Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught.
8 And Alma said: If thou believest in the redemption of Christ thou canst be healed.
9 And he said: Yea, I believe according to thy words.
10 And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ.
11 And when Alma had said these words, Zeezrom leaped upon his feet, and began to walk; and this was done to the great astonishment of all the people; and the knowledge of this went forth throughout all the land of Sidom.

And here’s what was written about Alma:


Alma 36:12 But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.
13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.
14 Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.
15 Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.
16 And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.
17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.
18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
21 Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains.Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.

My depression and feelings of unworthiness and condemnation by God continued to intensify to such a degree that I became almost totally convinced I was destined for hell—either for the telestial kingdom (the lowest kingdom of glory in the afterlife, according to Mormon doctrine), but more probably for “outer darkness” (the place where only the worst of the worst sinners and apostates are sent in the afterlife). I felt like I was beyond forgiveness. I knew that I couldn’t live up to all of God’s expectations of me, and I truly believed that I qualified for God’s greatest punishments (such as being ultimately banished to outer darkness) because I was one who had been given so much light from God (even becoming one of God’s missionaries and special representatives of Christ who was chosen to fulfill his most spiritual older brother’s mission), and then had not lived up to God’s expectations of me. Because of my miserable mental and emotional state, I felt the exact opposite of God’s spirit. I felt like I had the devil’s spirit. I became worried and obsessed with the thought that perhaps I had “denied the Holy Ghost”—the only unpardonable sin according to Mormon doctrine. In fact, these types of thoughts became so intense and obsessive, that at one point when I was travelling a long distance in the back of a car with several other missionaries while thinking such horrible thoughts, that I felt as if the devil himself was literally taking possession of me and was “sealing me his” right then and there as we were traveling. It was a feeling so intense and palpable that I was certain my other missionary companions in the car could feel it also. I thought for sure that they would, at any moment, all turn and look at me in shock and horror as they witnessed me being pulled down to hell, or outer darkness, as the devil took possession of my soul right before their eyes. I felt intense shame and literally wished that the rocks and mountains would crash down on me and cover me to hide me forever from my missionary companions and everyone else in the world. I wished to no longer exist, rather than suffer in hell for all eternity with the devil, as it now seemed certain was my destiny.


Although an objective person (especially one who was non-religious) would likely see my feelings and perspectives from this time as extremely overblown, paranoid, out of proportion, and unnecessary, nonetheless my dark feelings and thoughts were very real to me at the time, causing very intense emotional as well as physical pain and anguish. My thoughts and feelings were persistent and obsessive, and I couldn’t get them out of my head no matter what I tried. Finally, my district or zone leader noticed me brooding and asked what was going on. After sharing with him somewhat of what I was going through, he said that he had experienced something similar early on in his mission, and he recommend that I share what was going on with our mission president.


After meeting with my mission president a few different times, he seemed to realize that my problem was mostly a psychological one. So, he eventually arranged for me to start meeting with a professional psychologist, which I did. This was probably about 3 months into my mission. After meeting with the psychologist a couple of different times, I started to get some relief and see some things in a new light. One of the things the therapist pointed out to me was that I had learned to be a perfectionist and put a lot of pressure and expectations on myself because of the lofty standards and precedents set by my parents and older siblings who had achieved great things according to the world’s standards. My father was an attorney, my oldest brother was an orthopedic surgeon (who graduated first in his class from Vanderbilt Medical School), another brother was a Ph.D. physicist from Berkeley, and another a Ph.D. mechanical engineer. My older sister, who was closest to me in age, had always got straight A’s and received prestigious university scholarships (like the rest of my siblings), and as the 6th child in a family of extremely high achievers, I felt a powerful expectation and pressure from my parents and siblings to do the same and follow in the footsteps of my older siblings and my family heritage. Until this psychologist pointed this out to me, I had always thought I grew up in a very normal, average Mormon family.


However, the therapist, being a Mormon, did NOT point out to me that my Mormon upbringing had likewise put tremendous amounts of pressure on me to strive to always please God and be the perfect Mormon (so I could one day return to the Celestial Kingdom to live with God and my family) by living up to all the commandments of God as they were delivered through his leaders on the earth (the Mormon prophets and other leaders). While it didn’t take long for me to make this connection on my own (at least at the conceptual level), I was still left in limbo wondering whether perfectionism in “keeping the commandments of God” was a good thing or not such a good thing.


However, at least after my meetings with the psychologist (I think I met with him twice), I did start to realize that much of my depression, self-doubt, perfectionism, and self-condemnation (or thinking that I was condemned by God) was probably the result of my own thoughts and interpretations of what I thought God expected of me, and not necessarily the real truth about what God really thought about me and expected of me.


I should also probably state here that prior to these difficult mission experiences, I didn’t have any significant mental or emotional problems or signs that indicated I might run into significant problems on my mission. While I did have some issues with shyness, loneliness, and social insecurities, as well as low self-esteem issues especially in Junior High, by my later High School years I had become a fairly well-adjusted kid (or so it seemed to me) who was successful at school, athletics, and to some degree in my social life. I pretty much always got straight A’s, was a strong athlete in many different sports (including becoming state-champion in springboard diving my junior and senior years of high school, then earning an athletic scholarship for diving at BYU) which significantly boosted my self-confidence and self-esteem), and had quite a few friends, including two very close friends. I don’t think that anyone would have guessed—not even myself, or my close family members or friends—that I would have run into such a deep psychological crisis on my mission.


While I did start to get some hints of relief after meeting with the psychologist, my mental and emotional problems weren’t at all fully resolved. Since I was a missionary, and was teaching everyone about Jesus Christ and his “atonement,” I knew that there was supposed to be some way I could apply this to my own life and my own current situation and feelings of unworthiness and depression. (As I mentioned, I also remembered the stories of Alma of Zeezrom in the Book of Mormon, which reminded me of my experience).


At one point (about 4 months into my mission), I found tremendous comfort, and a lot more hope, when listening to a General Conference talk by Elder Gene R. Cook who quoted the scripture which stated, “Thou art angry, O Lord, with this people, because they will not understand thy mercies which thou hast bestowed upon them because of thy Son.” (Alma 33:16). I thought this was a really fascinating scripture that God was “angry” with people because they didn’t understand “how merciful” he was. This reinforced some of the considerations I had been having since I started visiting with the psychologist that perhaps my interpretations about the way God perceived me were not totally accurate. Perhaps God wasn’t as displeased with me as I had come to suppose he was.


As the weeks and months during my mission continued, some days I would feel one way, and some days I would feel another way. I had very low self-esteem, which one of my missionary companions pointed out to me. The father of one of the families I was teaching said he dreamed that I had a severe form of cancer in my leg, and that an angel in his dream told him this represented that I was having deep troubles with my faith. (This was fascinating to me because I hadn’t told him anything about the struggles I had been having). I kept trying to figure out whether God had forgiven me for all the bad things I had done in my life (although there had not been many “bad things,” when considered from an objective, third-person point of view—I had always striven very hard to be a good, “clean,” righteous kid), and whether he really accepted me even though I was an unworthy, or at least sub-par missionary (as I deemed myself).


It finally began to dawn on me that I might not ever really know for sure whether God accepted me or not. I prayed (and asked for forgiveness) A LOT, and I read the scriptures A LOT, but I never heard “God’s voice” in any kind of definitive or consistent manner. As I mentioned, I would feel God’s love acceptance, mercy, and compassion on some days, while on other days I would become overwhelmed with all the ways I felt I was failing as a missionary and as the person I was taught that God expected me to be. On these days I felt condemned by God, and pretty certain that he was very displeased with me, rather than pleased. Eventually, it became pretty clear to me that my ability to ascertain how God thought about me was very limited, if not completely non-existent. Turning to the scriptures, church leaders, mission leaders, and General Conference talks (all of which I studied and “devoured” more than any other missionary I knew) was NOT giving me consistent, clear, definitive answers. Some scriptures made me feel good about myself. Others made me feel terrible. Some of the talks and teachings from church leaders and mission leaders made me feel good. Others made me feel terrible. Which scripture, which church leader, which talk was meant for me, and which ones weren’t?


As I began to realize that I probably would never receive a “definitive revelation” from God as to my standing before him, I one day had a profound insight that occurred to me. The thought was basically this: “I might not ever know whether I am heading for the telestial kingdom or outer darkness, but even if I do end up there I will be okay with it so long as I am okay with myself.” I felt that so long as I felt good about the way I lived my life and the way I treated others, I would be okay with it no matter where I ended up—even if it was in hell or outer darkness! This thought freed me up tremendously! It filled me with tremendous relief. I realized that I could be happy wherever I ended up, so long as I was happy with myself. I realized that even though I might not ever know whether or not God was pleased with me, or if he would be merciful with me, I could be merciful with myself. If I made a mistake, I could forgive myself time after time, if necessary, and try to do better next time. But mostly, I realized that so long as I tried to treat others with kindness, love, compassion, and respect (including myself), that I would feel happy about myself. I realized that even if I didn’t baptize a single person on my mission, but all I did was seek to help others in any way I could, that I would be happy with myself and feel good about myself. The thing I most wanted to do was to help others to feel good about themselves. I decided I wouldn’t focus so much on whether or not I was being a “good missionary” or a “worthy missionary,” but that I would focus on helping others in any way I could, especially in helping them to value, respect, love, forgive, and appreciate themselves. My message became centered on “God’s love, compassion, and mercy towards all of his children.” From that point forward, I focused way more on “the good news of the gospel” and “the glad tidings of great joy,” rather than on all the strict “commandments” and “outward ordinances.” Essentially, I decided that since I might not ever know for sure whether God was a God of love and mercy, or a strict God of vengeance and punishment for disobedience, I decided that I would choose to believe in the former. Regardless of what kind of God he turned out to be in the end, I felt that so long as I was happy with myself, especially due to the way I treated others, I would be okay with myself no matter where I ended up.


This profound “aha” experience was a crucial turning point for me in my process of overcoming all the guilt and shame I had experienced up to that point in my life. Looking back, this was a HUGE beginning for me in my ability to start thinking for myself and to listen first and foremost to MY OWN CONSCIENCE. It was the first time I started to realize that I could “keep my own counsel” and be my own “final authority” on things (using my own conscience and reasoning ability), rather than always only trusting church leaders or others outside of myself.


However, while this deeply impactful paradigm shift was definitely the beginning of my healing process, it didn’t turn out to be an instantaneous or permanent cure. As my mission experience continued, I found that the healing process was destined to take much, much longer than a single profound insight, even as impactful as it had been. I still found that I would very often second-guess myself and wonder whether I was being wise, or if I was just being rebellious in this new belief that it was okay for me to think for myself even if it sometimes contradicted the church. After all, NO ONE in my life had EVER told me that it was an okay thing to think for myself, or to think differently than what the Church Authorities said was “doctrine.” Quite the contrary! I was always told that my parents, teachers, and church leaders ALWAYS knew what was best for me, and were the ONLY ONES who could tell me if God approved of me. It took me A TREMENDOUS amount of courage, not just at the beginning, but over and over again, to “go out on a limb” and give myself permission to doubt certain things I had been taught about God and his doctrine. It wasn’t that I WANTED to doubt “God’s doctrine” (as taught to me by the Mormon church), but it had come to a point for me where I HAD TO DOUBT and question certain things if I was going to be able to survive emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. The truth was, I DID still care what God thought about me, but in order for me to not immediately descend back into a severe depression (which might lead to suicide), I had to care much, much less about what He might think about me, than what I thought about myself.

NOTE: I’m not sure if what I have written here makes sense to others, especially to those who are currently active LDS/Mormon. My guess is that probably NOBODY could understand this, unless they had gone through something similar to what I went through. Yet as I have learned over the years, not every person (whether Mormon or not) has the same kind of “sensitive personality type” and perfectionistic tendencies that I did (and still do in many ways), so it will probably be difficult for a more “normal” person with a “normal” (rather than overblown) conscience, to really understand what I went through and why it was so difficult (and painful)—and more importantly, WHY I HAD to start to questioning certain “Mormon doctrines” (that were contributing to my psychological problems), even while I maintained my overall belief in the Mormon Church for many, many years afterwards.


I would also like to mention here that I now have a son who is 12 years old. Earlier this year (in 2020), my son was shamed pretty severely (and embarrassed in front of his 6th grade classmates) for drawing a stick figure of a girl with boobs. His teacher sent him to the principal’s office where he was shamed once again and told by the principal to wait while she called his parents so they could come over and discuss what had happened. As my son was waiting for my principal to call his parents (me or my wife), he found the opportunity to bolt out of the school and run away. The principal called the police to help her search for him. After several hours they finally found him. He later told me he was planning on running away for as long as it took for him to starve to death. Obviously, he didn’t like his experienced being shamed in such a manner by the adults around him. I was determined to make sure that he didn’t go through the same kinds of “sex shaming” that I went through when I was young, so I have handled all of this VERY differently than how my parents and church leaders handled these things when I was young.


Interestingly, right after this experience, I found a website called “Protect LDS Children” (ProtectLDSChildren.org). This website has over a thousand stories of LDS/Mormon youth and children who went through experiences that were very similar to mine, such as shaming from parents and humiliating bishop’s “worthiness interviews.” In fact, some of them were MUCH, MUCH worse! As I read through these stories, many of which were completely gut-wrenching, my heart went out to all of these youth and children that experienced various degrees of sex-shaming, or sometimes even sexual abuse, at the hands of their bishops and other church or scout leaders. One of the aims of the organization is to “stop sexually explicit interviews of Mormon Youth.” When many youth have gone in for their “worthiness interviews,” sometimes to confess their “sexual sins,” very often a Bishop (or Stake President, or Mission President, or other ecclesiastical leader) would ask detailed follow-up questions about the “exact nature of their sins.” Sometimes my ecclesiastical leader would also ask me certain “follow up questions,” which would then make me wonder about how much detail I was required to reveal (and how much humiliation I was required to go through) in order to become worthy to be forgiven of these sins by God.

Even though my priesthood leaders “went pretty easy on me” compared to many of the stories I read on the Protect LDS Children website, the whole interview process and doctrine had a certain effect on me such that I rarely—no, actually NEVER—felt that I had disclosed a sufficient amount of detail about my “sins,” especially my “sexual sins,” in order to be confident that I was worthy of God’s forgiveness. It didn’t matter that often my priesthood leaders would make a pronouncement to me that “the Lord had forgiven me of my sins.” In my mind, I would think, “How can YOU know that God has forgiven me of these sins? There are many additional details, or perhaps other related sins (such as “impure thoughts”), that I haven’t even told you about, or that we haven’t had time yet to discuss!” Furthermore, these “sexual sins” were embarrassing beyond measure for me to discuss, so I was always reluctant (and often slow, vague, or general, especially at the beginning), to share whatever “additional details” I was “supposed to” share in order to merit forgiveness from God. However, I was always willing to offer up as much detail as my priesthood leader had the desire, patience, or persistence to hear, thinking with my messed-up/OCD brain that perhaps the more details I revealed, the better the chance I had to be forgiven by God.


But inevitably, my priesthood interviewer was always pressed for time (which I could always sense, which would also cause me to cut short what I otherwise would have been willing to reveal, but also contribute to my feelings that I hadn’t confessed enough details to be forgiven). My Mission President would usually have to interview DOZENS of missionaries within the short amount of time allotted during a Zone Conference, or other event, when the missionaries were in the same city as the Mission President. There was simply NEVER ENOUGH TIME, to disclose and reveal all that I believed (according to my OCD brain and the “Church doctrine” I understood) was necessary in order for my priesthood leader to be able to credibly say that he fully “understood the exact nature of my sins” and thus could pronounce that I “merited God’s forgiveness” and was from thenceforth “in good standing before God.” Furthermore, whenever I “sinned” again, I felt like I AGAIN needed to confess and get back in “good standing with God” as immediately as feasibly possible (my OCD brain showing through here). But my Mission President wasn’t at all nearby, and he couldn’t hang around me 24/7 in case I committed yet another “sin” and needed another “worthiness interview” to be in good standing before God and be qualified to continue to have His Spirit with me (and YES I thought about this—I was OBSESSED with becoming “clean before God,” and MAINTAINING my cleanliness before God). But it was IMPOSSIBLE for me to win under this scenario! I could NEVER feel forgiven, or at the very least, feel worthy to have the Spirit for very long, so long as “God’s doctrine” required me to confess these super embarrassing, recurring “sexual sins”—in detail—to my priesthood leaders. I couldn’t fully control my “sexual sins,” nor could I pin down my Mission President for a long enough period of time or often enough, especially after every new or repeat “sin”--or overcome the practical and logistical considerations of arranging to meet with my Mission President who lived many hours away in a different city. This was all part of the realization that I came to during the time of my psychological/spiritual crisis and the subsequent “aha moment” that I experienced. As I have mentioned, it was this “paradigm shift” experience that caused me to stop caring so much about what God thought about me, or whether I was in good standing with him, or whether I would make it to one of his kingdoms of glory. I knew that my only “salvation”—at least as my earth life was concerned—would be for me to stop caring so much about what God thought about me, and instead start caring more about what I thought about myself.

Yes, I’ve gone into a lot of nitty-gritty detail here, and I’ve probably way overdone my explanation of this early mission experience, but it had such a profound impact on the rest of my life, that I am willing to risk overdoing it, rather than underdoing it. I will probably refer to this experience many times as I write the rest of this story—if I can keep myself motivated to keep writing it. I often doubt that my story will be of interest to others, and I sometimes think that most of the family and friends I grew up with have already written me off as a crazy person, or an apostate, that either isn’t worth listening to, or perhaps might be dangerous to listen to. But still, I will keep on trying to tell my story.


Within a few weeks or months from the time of this turning point on my mission, the nature of my prayers changed quite significantly. Rather than “pleading for forgiveness” from God for all the different ways I was “sinning” or not “measuring up” to certain standards and expectations, I found myself (in my prayers) “reasoning” with God on just about every topic (especially those I had the deepest questions about). I started to “tell God” my stance on something, and state that IF his stance (or “doctrine”) was different than my conclusion, then he would have to find a way to communicate any such difference IN A WAY THAT I COULD UNDERSTAND and that made complete logical sense to me (to BOTH my mind and my heart). Otherwise, I wouldn’t agree with ANY church leader, scripture, or other source that proclaimed something that I either couldn’t wrap my head around, or that tended to make me feel bad. I reasoned that if something made me feel bad—even if it came from the scriptures or from the pulpit—there was at least a 50/50 chance that it was a “false doctrine.” After all, through all my studying of the scriptures and talks from church leaders, I had found that there were many contradictions and different interpretations of scriptures and doctrines, and who was to say that my own interpretation of a scripture or “doctrine” might not be just as good, or better, than someone else’s?


Again, I was going out on a limb here—after all, HOW DARE I question Authority?! (And believe me, this WAS something I struggled with over and over again throughout the rest of my mission, and even for a very long time in my life afterwards). But hadn’t I supposedly been given the “gift of the Holy Ghost,” which was supposed to enable me to discern the “TRUTH OF ALL THINGS?” (See Moroni chapter 10). But either way, after my excruciatingly painful experience with depression, shame, and guilt, it had LITERALLY become a matter of life or death SURVIVAL for me to start questioning, rather than just believing, something that might put me right back in an emotional hell that I might not be able to recover from again.


Note: I forgot to mention that during “my crisis,” I had very seriously considered committing suicide in order to get relief from the emotional pain and anguish I was experiencing that seemed to have no solution or end in sight. However, I was also fearful of taking this course of action because I had been taught (by another “church doctrine”) that by killing myself, I would be committing MURDER, and might not ever be able to gain forgiveness for this. I thought that this might be yet another “unpardonable sin” that I would be guilty of. At no time did I experienced ANY relief until I had the unexpected “AHA EXPERIENCE” (paradigm shift) that I described above. The bottom line was, I was no longer capable of just taking something “on faith” if I didn’t understand it, feel good about it, AND AGREE with the reasoning behind it—no matter who or where it came from, even if it came from God. Once again, my emotional and psychological survival absolutely depended on me relying on MY OWN CONSCIENCE, rather than accepting what someone else taught, or what the scriptures said.


After my mission, and up until the age of 40, I continued as an active, “faithful” Latter-Day Saint (Mormon). A couple of years prior, one of my brothers had discovered The Sealed Portion of the Book of Mormon (see chapter 4 of Ether in the Book of Mormon). I had been wanting to read this book since hearing that my brother had discovered it and learned that it had been “translated” and published back in 2005. So, at the age of 40 (in 2013), I began reading the book, with a determination to decide for myself whether it was “the real deal.” The book did not disappoint. It came down pretty harsh against many things that were being taught within the Mormon church, but the numerous revelations contained within it rang very true to me. After reading the entire book (and never telling anyone that I was reading it), I was solidly convinced it was the “real deal” and exactly what it claimed to be and what had been prophesized to come forward (in the “unsealed” part of the Book of Mormon, especially in Ether chapter 4). I had learned that The Sealed Portion was part of a larger “Work” called a “Marvelous Work and a Wonder” (MWAW, or “the Work). There were several other books associated with the MWAW that had been published in the years since 2005, so I immediately started reading all of these as well.


Several years later (in 2019), a couple other books were published by the same group responsible for the Marvelous Work and a Wonder, who is now known as the “Real Illuminati.” These books were called “The True History of Religion” and “Pentateuch Illuminated.” I read both of these books as well. This was the first time that the complete, Real Truth about religion was revealed. I also read the rough draft of a book titled, “The Man from Joe’s Bar and Grill,” which is the autobiography of Christopher Nemelka, who was the spokesperson (or “True Messenger”) for the Marvelous Work and a Wonder. During the years from 2013 when I first read The Sealed Portion, until the present (in November of 2020), much additional information has been published in other formats besides the books, such as blog articles, journal articles, symposiums, radio and internet TV shows, etc. I made sure to closely listen to all the information I could.


Back in 2016, I wrote “My Story” about how I had come across the Marvelous Work and a Wonder and why it had such an impact on my life. This story was published on one of the pages of the MWAW website, along with stories from many others who had also discovered the MWAW. As I mentioned earlier, the 2016 story didn’t delve into the embarrassing personal details that this current story (from 2020) does. One of the most impactful things that has occurred as a result of me finding the MWAW, which I also didn’t discuss in my previous story, was finally finding COMPLETE RELIEF AND HEALING from all the guilt, fear, self-doubt, and shame that had been inculcated within me from the time I was a child, through all my years as a member of the LDS/Mormon church (as well as a member of society and the world in general). While I had found some relief from this guilt, fear, and shame because of the “aha moments” and conclusions I had reached for myself on my LDS/Mormon mission, I never reached a full, consistent, and permanent relief from these feelings until I learned certain Real Truths as taught by the Marvelous Work and a Wonder and the Real Illuminati.


Up until the time I found the MWAW, I always had an underlying feeling of anxiety, stress, and worry that I wasn’t living up to all of God’s expectations of me. This was the case even though I was doing my best to “think for myself” and “trust my own conscience” while simultaneously trying to also “live by all the commandments of God” according to the teachings of the LDS/Mormon Church. The anxiety always remained because I was never CERTAIN that I was doing all that God expected of me, whether my “own conscience” was truly in alignment with what God expected, especially when it seemed to contradict what the leaders of the LDS/Mormon church were teaching as “doctrine.” I still never knew if I had confessed my sins sufficiently to my priesthood leaders (as I explained earlier). I never knew if I attended the temple enough, did enough genealogy, or volunteered enough when the church asked for volunteers for various “service projects.” I never knew if I was “magnifying my calling” sufficiently according to God’s expectations.


I also often tended to perform my callings (or teach lessons) in a different way than my church leaders wanted me to. For example, the times I had the calling of “ward mission leader,” I didn’t want to just try to “convert people” or bring “less active members” back to church. I really just wanted to become friends with people and try to listen to them, understand them, and see if I could help them feel good about themselves by showing them that I loved and accepted them just the way they were. Oftentimes, my preferred manner of performing my callings was disapproved of by my priesthood leaders who wanted me to perform my callings (and/or lessons) more “by the book” (the priesthood or lesson manuals), or according to more standardized and traditional Mormon practices.


Prior to reading The Sealed Portion, I had told my wife several times that I was very uncomfortable with the church “doctrine” that we should “never say no” to any calling we receive from our priesthood leaders. It seemed to me that this ruined the concept of just doing good out of the goodness of our hearts simply because it made us happy, or because we liked to make others happy. It very often seemed to me that I was EXPECTED to “do good,” or I would subtly be made to feel guilty, since I really wasn’t free to say “no” without being looked down upon or shamed as sort of a “second-class” or “less faithful” member of the church. (I could always feel the disdain or disapproval of other church members or leaders, even when they didn’t explicitly or outwardly express such disdain).


One time a few years after my LDS mission while I was a student at BYU (still in my early twenties), I was called to be Elder’s Quorum President. I fulfilled this calling for several months, then I had a “wet dream” experience similar to those I described having from time to time on my mission when I would wake up before the full wet dream experience was complete. Ever since my missionary experiences (which caused me to do a lot more thinking for myself), I had felt ambiguous (and conflicted) about whether or not these types of experiences REALLY required me to confess to the bishop (or if God really had this as one of his requirements). But since I still had a lot of my perfectionistic (and somewhat obsessive-compulsive) tendencies, and I still often craved “certainty,” I decided to go ahead and confess to my bishop. This ended up being another awful experience with humiliation, as my bishop was clearly surprised when I confessed this to him, as I could tell by his reaction, and within the following week he released me from my calling as the Elder’s Quorum President. This was a rare occurrence for someone to be released from such a calling in the middle of the year, as usually this didn’t happen until the end of the school year, or at least the semester. It was pretty apparent to me that this bishop looked down upon me from that time forward.


I think there were two additional times I confessed this type of “sin” to my bishop or other priesthood leader (such as a bishop’s counselor or stake president). One of the times was in my mid to late twenties. Interestingly enough, the priesthood leader I confessed to at this time was actually very understanding and non-judgmental. Even though I had a pretty “high-profile” calling at the time, I didn’t lose the calling afterwards and I never felt a change in how this person thought of me or treated me. This was the first time I had ever had this type of experience after confessing this “sin” (which at this point, I wasn’t actually convinced that it was as bad of a “sin” as I had been inculcated to believe). My experience with this particular priesthood leader actually encouraged me and helped confirm my personal hope and theory that God was a loving, compassionate, forgiving God rather than a distrustful, punitive, vengeful God.


Yet the last time I ever confessed this “sin” was when I was in my early 30’s while I was still single and attending one of the “single’s wards” in Salt Lake City. Unfortunately, this experience was almost an exact “repeat experience” of the one I had with my bishop when I was a student at BYU. I saw the surprise and disappointment in the reaction of my priesthood leader (I think this was one of the bishop’s counselors), who treated me very differently thereafter. Prior to this, he had treated me with tremendous respect as I interacted him frequently within my calling as ward mission leader (I had this calling twice during my time as a member of the Mormon church, once while I was single, and once after I was married). I actually decided to leave this particular single’s ward a few weeks after this experience because the difference in the treatment that I felt was super palpable. Nobody likes to be humiliated, and no one likes to be looked down upon, but this was exactly what I felt I had been put through yet again.


After this experience, I decided I would never again confess any “embarrassing sins” to any of my priesthood leaders. I was pretty much convinced that my original “aha moment” that I had on my mission that I should ONLY care about what I thought about myself and not what ANYONE ELSE thought of me—even if this person was God himself—was the right way to go. I just couldn’t understand why God would want to put people through so much humiliation and disrespect, all simply because He had bestowed upon us a sex-drive which wasn’t even fully under our control.


Note: I also knew for a fact, that many, many priesthood leaders often lusted after women, and most likely had issues from time to time with “wet dreams” and/or masturbation. I also knew that most men were not as honest as I tended to be, and therefore it seemed plausible to me that many bishops, stake presidents, and other leaders weren’t as perfect and “free of sin” that they seemed to want their members to believe they were. This has since proven to be the case, as it was recently discovered that the LDS/Mormon Church, along with the Boy Scouts of America, was involved in covering up hundreds of cases of sexual abuse involving adult priesthood leaders and young members of their wards and/or scouting organizations (see, for example, “Tens of thousands file sex abuse claims against Boy Scouts of America as deadline approaches” at https://www.ocregister.com/2020/11/11/tens-of-thousands-file-sex-abuse-claims-against-boy-scouts-of-america-as-deadline-approaches/ and “New Sundance documentary features Boy Scouts and LDS Church sexual abuse case” at https://www.sltrib.com/artsliving/2020/01/24/sundance-documentary/).


One case of sexual abuse involved the President of the Mission Training Center in Provo Utah (see https://www.sltrib.com/news/2018/03/22/former-missionary-training-center-president-admits-to-asking-a-young-missionary-to-expose-her-breasts-in-the-80s-byu-police-say/). As I mentioned previously, over a thousand LDS Youth have shared stories about sexual harassment or abuse on the website ProtectLDSChildren.org, many of which abuse cases occurred during the times of personal “worthiness interviews” with priesthood leaders (adult males), which are a regular requirement for all members of the Mormon Church, including children.


Note: I still believed the Mormon Church was “true” even after all the humiliating “worthiness interview” experiences I had to go through, but more and more I came to believe that the Church had gotten some things wrong. I believed the Church was “true” in the sense that it was the church that God “approved of” and had “given authority to” in the latter days, but that it wasn’t operating the way it was ultimately supposed to. After all, even the Doctrine and Covenants said that “the whole Church was under condemnation.” And likewise the Book of Mormon constantly said that it was the “lesser part,” and that the “greater part,” including The Sealed Portion of the Book of Mormon, and the unfolding of the Book of Revelation would at some time come forward.


Here’s what Ether chapter 4 said:


13 Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.
14 Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.
15 Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel.
16 And then shall my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people. Remember, when ye see these things, ye shall know that the time is at hand that they shall be made manifest in very deed.
17 Therefore, when ye shall receive this record ye may know that the work of the Father has commenced upon all the face of the land.

So, this brings me back to eventually finding The Sealed Portion, the Marvelous Work and a Wonder, and the Real Illuminati. I am quite convinced that these things are all part of “the work of the Father,” which has now “commenced upon all the face of the land.” As I mentioned, until finding this “Work,” I could never fully shake the anxiety, guilt, and self-doubt that always plagued me while I was a believing member of the LDS/Mormon church. This was the case even despite the LDS/Mormon doctrine of “the atonement of Christ.”

Note: there is MUCH more I could say about WHY the LDS/Mormon concept of “the atonement of Christ” never completely set me free while I was a member of the church (despite the fact that I tried my darndest, even year after year after year, to “apply the atonement of Christ” to my life and situation). This is a topic that would probably require a pretty in-depth explanation in and of itself. Perhaps I will write about this topic at some point in the future. But suffice it to say for now that it was ONLY after learning what I did from the Marvelous Work and a Wonder that I was FINALLY set free from ALL of these awful emotions that had plagued me for so much of my life (for close to 40 years).


ONLY NOW, do I finally feel—consistently and perpetually—the way that Alma described:


Alma 36:18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
21 Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains.Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.

This is EXACTLY how the things I have learned through the MWAW have made me feel: “And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul [has been] filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!”


Again, the reason why “applying the atonement of Christ”—as taught by the Mormon Church--didn’t work for me is for another discussion. But here is a part of The Sealed Portion that really started to help me see a new perspective about things like “sin,” “sex”, and the “lusts of the flesh.” This is from chapter 99 of The Sealed Portion:


41 And now, these lower needs, which are the basic needs of the flesh, are the desire to satisfy our hunger and our thirst, which hunger and thirst are caused because of the flesh; and our desire to rest the flesh, and sleep to maintain our strength, which is debilitated by the lusts of the flesh; and our desire to satisfy the cravings of sex, which are set within us that we might fulfill the measure of our creation and multiply and replenish the earth with the mortal bodies necessary to house the spirit children of God.
42 And it is also a need to preserve our lives and feel safe in the environment in which we exist. For this reason the birds have nests, the foxes have holes, and the children of men search for a place upon the earth that they can make their home and feel safe within its walls.
43 Now, these lower needs are also instinctual, or programmed into our flesh as they are in all of the animals that God hath put upon this earth.
44 Behold, when these are not satisfied, we may feel sickness, irritation, pain, and discomfort, which are the effects of the wants of the flesh commanding us to satisfy these basic needs.
45 Behold, these feelings motivate us to alleviate them so that we might establish a homeostasis, which is the balance and order of the nature in which we were created.
46 Yea, once we have reached a homeostasis of the flesh, then we will begin to concentrate more fully on the things of the spirit, which things separate us from the other animals that have been placed in the same order of nature in which our mortal bodies have been placed.
47 Behold, I have already explained unto you that the countenance of the Father can be seen in a child, and that upon entering into mortality as a newborn infant, we are born in the semblance of the Father in all things which are spiritual.
48 And when ye look upon the countenance of a child, ye shall see the potential of your spirits; for behold, we were spawned from Eternal Parents, who are righteous.
49 And these infants are innocent from the beginning and depend upon others to provide them with the fulfillment of these lower needs of the flesh that they might grow and gain experience.
50 And in the beginning of our mortal lives our natures were trustworthy, and given to love and forgiveness, and tenderness and mercy. Yea, nothing compareth in spiritual satisfaction than the smile and attitude of a child.
51 Behold, a child is prone to growth and to love, which it instinctively pursueth, enticed by the spirit within the flesh. And while the needs of our flesh were being met, we remained in this state.
52 Nevertheless, when these needs are thwarted and are not fulfilled, then we seek by whatever means we might find available to satisfy these needs.
53 And thus doth the innocence of human nature turn selfish, and self-serving, and the fruits of the flesh begin to manifest themselves in our search for the fulfillment of these lower needs.
54 And in the pursuit of these needs, we lose the innocence that we once had as a child; and the cycle of our misery and destruction followeth in the constant need to satisfy these lower needs of the flesh.
55 Yea, war, and murder, and deceit, and lies, and lasciviousness, and all manner of sin beginneth to overcome the spirit because of the desires of the flesh to be satiated.
56 And these things are contrary to the happiness of our spirits, which spirit desireth peace, and happiness, and love.
57 Yea, a man doth not sin to be happy, but he sinneth only to satisfy the needs of the flesh. And when the needs of the flesh are satisfied, then he feeleth a moment of joy in the satisfaction of his fleshly need; but afterwards he is left empty and again desireth the satisfaction of the flesh, because this temporary happiness is all that he knoweth and understandeth.
58 Nevertheless, his spirit constantly yearneth for fulfillment. Yea, it desireth to be loved by others and accepted, and appreciated for what it offereth to those who love and accept this man.
59 Now, these are the higher needs of the spirit, even that a man be loved and accepted by others.

This chapter of The Sealed Portion (TSP) really rang true to me, especially after all the experiences I had gone through up until the time I discovered the MWAW. I would recommend to anyone reading this story that they read the entire chapter 99 of TSP, which contains 112 verses. It reiterates the innocence that we all still carry deep down inside of us, regardless of what the world may have influenced us to do or become (whether “good,” “bad,” or some combination of both) throughout our lives. As I mentioned before, I believe that we are ALL equal human beings who are equally deserving of unconditional love, forgiveness, and acceptance.


Another song that I love (besides the song “Adia” I mentioned earlier) which carries this truth about who I believe we all are deep down inside is a song called “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera (you can listen to one version of it here:

https://youtu.be/ZxvmhDUYwsY). Here are the lyrics to this song, which are quite profound, in my opinion:


Everyday is so wonderful Then suddenly It's hard to breathe Now and then I get insecure From all the pain I'm so ashamed
I am beautiful No matter what they say Words can't bring me down I am beautiful In every single way Yes words can't bring me down Oh no So don't you bring me down today
To all your friends you're delirious So consumed In all your doom, ooh Trying hard to fill the emptiness The pieces gone Left the puzzle undone Ain't that the way it is
You are beautiful No matter what they say Words can't bring you down Oh no You are beautiful In every single way Yes words can't bring you down Oh no So don't you bring me down today
No matter what we do (no matter what we do) No matter what we say (no matter what we say) We're the song inside the tune (yeah, oh yeah) Full of beautiful mistakes
And everywhere we go (and everywhere we go) The sun will always shine (the sun will always, always, shine) And tomorrow we might awake On the other side
'Cause we are beautiful No matter what they say Yes words won't bring us down Oh no We are beautiful In every single way Yes words can't bring us down Oh no So don't you bring me down today
Oh, oh oh Don't you bring me down today, yeah Don't you bring me down, ooh Today

I appreciate all who have taken the time to read this story, regardless of whether you agree with my views or conclusions, which are all based on my own life experiences. As I mentioned, I wrote another version of “my story” in 2016 that I would recommend reading if you are interested, as it clarifies a few additional things and contains many things I didn’t discuss here. One of these things is my experience with finding The Humanity Party (THumP), which is probably the most important part of the MWAW and “the work of the Father.”


Finally, I would like to end by stating that if there was just one thing I could tell you and the rest of the world, it would be this: Everything that I’ve ever wanted to know about human reality and religion is explained through the Marvelous Work and a Wonder. Every solution to humanity’s problems is presented through The Humanity Party. These are True Messengers (referring to the Real Illuminati, or formerly known to the LDS/Mormons as the Three Nephites and John the Beloved), please listen to them!


This is me at the base of “Half Dome” at Yosemite National Park, February 17, 2018.


Nathan Cook

nathan_s_cook@yahoo.com

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