Testimony of William Wilson
My Story and Testimony
When I received the call that my Father had collapsed and was not conscious, I knew he was gone. I could feel it. The anchor for our family was gone. And now I was the oldest male in the immediate family.
The next few months took its toll on our emotions and my motherís health. We slowly cleaned out the house and moved my Mother to live with my sister, but the aftermath of the death would haunt me for years.
Circa 1964 on a family vacation my parents were introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; the Mormons. They joined when I was 9 years old and I was baptized at that time. From that time on, I was raised Mormon.
Life as a Mormon in the 60's and 70's was relatively easy in Western New York. We lived close to the church which helped as we had two meetings on Sunday and one mid-week. As a child growing up I went to primary during the week. Sunday school was in the morning on Sunday and Sacrament meeting was in the afternoon. As there were very few Mormon youth at the school that I attended most of my friends were non-Mormons but that was normal for the area that we lived in. As I grew up I took part in the normal Mormon activities; cub scouts, boy scouts, road shows, etc. The youth activities were a lot of fun at that time and allowed us to meet Mormon youth from other areas.
After I graduated form High School I entered college with the intention of going for a year and then going on my mission. Becoming a missionary at age 19 was an expected thing to do for male Mormon youth. In September of 1975 I flew to Salt Lake City where I was picked up and delivered to the Missionary Training Center. As I had been called to the Navajo Speaking Arizona Holbrook Mission I spent only a few days in the MTC before being transferred to BYU where the Language Training Center was housed at the time. We actually stayed and ate on the BYU campus.
The regimen at the LTC was very tight and also very strict. Missionaries were kept very busy from the time they got up until lights out at night. The days were taken up with language study and memorizing the missionary discussions. As Navajo was a difficult language for most English speakers, the Navajo speaking missionaries were typically very quiet as after the first week we were discouraged from speaking English except to ask questions on the language or when talking with non-Navajo speakers.
After three months of this grueling routine we were scheduled for departure to our mission assignments. After my flight I was taken to the Mission Headquarters in Holbrook, Arizona. There I met the assistants to the mission president, George P. Lee, a Navajo and only American Indian General Authority as well as his family. It was sort of a whirlwind for the first few days until I was transfered to Kayenta, Arizona. My first companion was Elder Willie. He was a Navajo and was the area zone leader. Working with him allowed me to cement my knowledge of the Navajo language. The zone included Shonto, Mexican Hat, Aneth, Chilchinbito and north to Blanding, UT. We traveled quite a bit and Willie was a hard worker and so we didnít slack at all. From my first area of Kayenta, I moved to Shonto and then on to other areas including Chinle, Tohatchi, Aneth, Fruitland and Sanders. While in Fruitland I had an interesting experience. One of my companions there was getting ready to go home and had no desire to work. He wanted to play basketball and just "tink around".
I got to the point that I couldnít stand to be around him. Now unfortunately this is a problem as missionaries are to be with their companions 24/7. So I put on my jeans, a regular shirt and headed out. I was going to just leave. I went down to the San Juan river and started to walk along it, not knowing where I was going to go. As I was walking I found a young sheep that didnít look in the best of shape. I took it to the Hatch trading post and then thought better of my decision to just take off. I went back and just hung out at the missionary accommodations. Anyone who tells you that missionary life is easy, is not telling the truth or did not fulfill any kind of normal mission. Luckily for me, my mission was filled mainly with social work, even though we did do tracting and taught lessons. We built sheep corals, poured foundations, built homes, herded sheep, chopped wood, worked with the youth to help keep them out of trouble and generally did as much as we could for the people in our area. I also spent time in the hospital a number of times, was dehydrated walking in the desert during forced fasts, was threatened with bodily injury, and had one companion beat up when he went to the trading post that we lived behind. Even with the problems that we faced as missionaries I can still say that the experience was a positive one for me.
After I returned from my mission I started college in Western, NY and during my senior year met my future wife. She was not Mormon but during one of our early dates I had mentioned that I wanted to marry in our temple. My wife then went out and contacted the missionaries. Short story was that she joined the Church. We married in May of 1980 after both graduating from college. She had a degree in geology and I had a degree in anthropology. We both worked as field archaeologists in western NY which included Palmyra. This went on for an extended season and then we planned our move to attend graduate school. Both of us had been accepted to Northern Arizona University. It would be like I was going home as NAU was right near the Navajo reservation and was very close to one of the areas that I had spent time in.
In August of 1981 we made our move west. We immediately found a ward to take part in and accepted church positions as we knew we should. Over the years in Flagstaff I was in the elderís quorum presidency a number of times, including being Elderís Quorum president, was a scout leader, Sunday school teacher, etc. My wife also held many positions including primary president. Because of lack of funds I was the only one who attended grad school. My wife initially worked as an archaeologist in Flagstaff. As I was finishing my degree I landed a position at the University where I still work today. Life was good. We did our work in the church including being called as Temple Workers in the Mesa temple. And in 1990 we started our family after years of trying. Our first son was born. And a year later disaster basically struck our family. I had two heart attacks and had to be flown to Phoenix to have emergency heart surgery.
This was quite a blow to me. How could God do this to me when I was a faithful member of the church. I did all my duties. Was a good home teacher. I payed my tithing and obeyed the commandments. During surgery I went into a black hole and when I came out I had lost my faith in God. This would be a struggle for me for years to come. I recovered from the surgery but my health to date has not fully recovered. I work hard to stay fit but it is a difficult task. And early in the new century the ward boundaries changed. By this time we had two boys. The new ward we were assigned to had very few children. Even though my wife and I were not all that young the ward had a preponderance of older retired couples. Needless to say we did not fit in. During the spring of 2003 we planned a family trip to the UK. We decided to take the month of May off from April off from church and see how we felt. During our absence, no one called from church.
This concerned us a little. While we were gone to Europe, I received an email from the secretary to the Bishop asking that we meet with him. I declined and said we would not be returning to church; meaning the Flagstaff 1st Ward. Prior to leaving for Europe we had arranged for our older boy who was in scouts to attend summer camp with one of the other wards as we would be in Europe when our ward was scheduled for camp. When we returned from Europe we started to attend the Lake Mary Ward which was the ward that our son would attend scout camp with. We fully enjoyed the ward and actually knew quite a few people there. Within a month or so we had a meeting with the Bishop where he quite unequivocally stated that he did not want any trouble makers in his ward, that he could not help us move our records, but he would make sure our kids were taken care of. I was devastated. Why wouldnít the church help us. All we wanted was a ward where we fit in and where they had a good kidís program. So no tithing, no church positions, no temple recommend.
Shortly after that my father died. This was very hard on me and on my family and was completely out of the blue. I had lunch with him and that night he died. While my brother and I were cleaning out his house and getting ready to move my mother to live with my sister, I found a book entitled Masonry and Mormonism. This book was the start of my realization that the church was a fraud. It was written by a Mormon apologist and was the worst written book I had read in a long time. It even had a chapter in it on Navajo religion that was complete and utter bunk. Reading this book started me on a path of study that lasted 3-4 months. I read 1st century Christian texts, studied Masonry, early church history and theology. During the Christmas season I had a revelatory experience.
I now know that at that time I was plagued with a bad case of cognitive dissonance. I had compartmentalized church teachings separate from what I knew as an anthropologist. During this time of study and reflection I also was praying earnestly for an answer to the question of "could the Mormon Church be true?" when all the evidence I was reading, from old church and other sources, said it was not. During the Christmas season as I was reading one evening, alone, at home, I sat and thought. I let reason flow and all of a sudden it was as if scales had fallen from my eyes and I was able to see and to think rationally again. I almost felt like I was sitting beside myself and was able to think rationally once more. This ecstatic experience fostered a sense of peace and comfort, I was no longer confused over my question of the truth of the Mormon Church. I knew and realized that a true Christian religion could not be based on lies and that true Christian leaders would not hide the truth from the membership. I recounted this experience to a member of the local Stake Presidency and this is the response that I received from him:
"Would you be willing to consider that your ecstatic experience (personal revelation?) last winter was just a figment of your imagination if I suggested that?"
Many Mormons would consider the source of the experience that I had, to be from Satan. Because Mormons believe that they have the sole right to acting in Godís name and also in receiving revelation, no revelation short of saying the Mormon church is true is considered by them to be right.
I could now be at peace with myself. I prayed fervently over the next number of months. For insight into what I was discovering and finally was able to convince myself that if there was a God that he would not want me to be a guilt ridden person. That he gave us reason to use. And that science and religion need not conflict.
I continued my study. Reading voraciously. During 2005 I even agreed to appear in a video on Bible vs Book of Mormon archaeology. And finally on January 1st, 2006 my family and I resigned from the Mormon Church.
Today I am an agnostic. I hope there is a God and an afterlife, but do not know if there is or not. So I guess you could say that I do believe in some sort of greater power or God. I call myself a Christian but follow no set sect. I believe that someone named Jesus existed historically and that he was a great Rabbi. I do not believe in the man-god myth of the New Testament. But I do believe that if we follow the teachings of the Rabbi Jesus that we can become better people.
I am continuing my studies of the Bible and religion. The more I delve into Greek and Hebrew the more I realize that modern translations of the Bible are misleading. Being able to study scripture in the original language it was written in, while at the same time studying the culture of the people that produced it, is the only way to come to a true understanding of that scripture. Along with this I am writing a book on the 13 Articles of faith and am showing in the book how Mormon leadership does not hold up to those ideals and how although the articles appear to be Christian, underlying Mormon Doctrine is not.
I have come to fully realize that Mormonism is the product of 19th century religious zealots. And that the Book of Mormon is 19th century religious fiction that tells us more about 19th century beliefs than ancient Christian beliefs. Through in-depth study I have come to the conclusion that Joseph Smith was a brilliant con-man and that his legacy is a church led by men who do not uphold Christian ideals and a love of truth.
My parents taught me to be an ethical person and to get to the bottom of things. I did with Mormonism and did not like what I found at the bottom of the barrel.
Wilson holds a bachelors degree in anthropology from the State
University College of NY at Buffalo (1980) and masters degree in
applied cultural anthropology from Northern Arizona University (1984)
where he works today as an applied anthropologist and part time
instructor. Mr. Wilson has studied the anthropology of religion,
first century Christianity and Judaism, and the archaeology of
He speaks a smattering of languages including Navajo, Welsh,
Italian, Spanish, German and his native English. As a side pursuit he
translates 16th and 17th century northern
Italian fencing treatises. Mr Wilson has multiple publications in the
areas of anthropology and historical fencing. In the area of religion
he has a number of online publications.