My Story: Accepting Responsibility for Personal Revelation

I was born and raised a faithful member of the LDS Church.  Twice a year, the Church holds a General Conference, which is when the leaders of the Church give gospel-related instructions to the Church membership.  I was taught that General Conference talks were as good as scripture, so I would dutifully study every talk. I was taught that if there was anything important I needed to know, any new revelation from God for our day, I would hear about it in a Conference talk.  I also believed that there weren’t any contradictions between what was in the scriptures and what was contained in these Conference talks. 

Most of all, I believed that a Conference talk given by the president of the Church was as authoritative as anything could be. So if you did happen to find a seeming contradiction, the error would be from a lower-ranking member of the leadership and easily brushed aside.  

I remember believing all these things, but I believe so differently now that it almost seems crazy.

As I started to be more interested in what the scriptures taught, I remember asking my father if he had any insights about a particular scripture passage that I was trying to understand. He glanced at it and then informed me that he had never heard it discussed in a General Conference, so I shouldn’t worry about it. My eyes were opened to where I got all these beliefs; my religious world was saturated with a blind acceptance of the narrative from my parents and other places.

Joshua and I had been married for 8 years, and all that time, he had tried to bring my attention to the deeper and older things in the Restored Gospel.  Occasionally he would make a point of showing me that these doctrines used to be taught but aren’t taught anymore.  For some reason, it never bothered me that the LDS Church no longer taught doctrines that used to be taught.  I also knew that some of the ordinances had been changed, but that didn’t really bother me either.  

(I didn’t realize this at the time, but actually, every single ordinance has been changed by the LDS Church.  In fact, if you really look at it, the Church doesn’t get a single detail correct when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. Just a few examples: The level of priesthood required by the scriptures, the wording of the prayers, the use of water instead of wine, etc.)  

All these conversations with Joshua served to make me nervous about his thinking, but not the Church’s direction.  My loyalties lay with the Church, and for him to talk about the problems with the Church made me worry that he would “apostatize” (or stop believing in the Church and its leadership).  I longed for Joshua to get up in the monthly Fast & Testimony Meeting (when the microphone is open to everyone) and bear his testimony about the Church being true and the president of the Church being the Lord’s Prophet.  I never got my wish. He would share his testimony, but not about those things.

I remember asking Joshua if he would be sad if one of our children left the LDS Church.  He said he didn’t really care if the children stayed in the Church, but that it would make him sad if they rejected the scriptures.  I couldn’t understand or appreciate the distinction he was making, and I found his answer unsatisfying and confusing.  

Joshua was very patient with my blindness.  8 years is a long time for someone to wait for their spouse to come around.  It paid off for both of us in the long run.  

In June of 2010, the timing was finally right for me to wake up.  

A story in the news was the catalyst. A convicted murderer named Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed in the state of Utah.  A judge asked his preference for the manner of his execution, and he said firing squad. 

In an interview, he was asked why he chose the firing squad, and he said it was because of his Mormon heritage.  The day before his execution, the LDS Church issued a statement about blood atonement, which I read on the Deseret News website.  The statement said this (in part):

In the mid-19th century, when rhetorical, emotional oratory was common, some church members and leaders used strong language that included notions of people making restitution for their sins by giving up their own lives.

However, so-called “blood atonement,” by which individuals would be required to shed their own blood to pay for their sins, is not a doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I read the statement from the Church and blindly believed it to be true based solely on the fact that it had been issued by the Church I trusted absolutely. 

But I happened to glance at the first comment under the article, and that was the moment that changed everything.  Here’s the comment:

Not Doctrine? “There are sins that men commit for which they cannot receive forgiveness in this world, or in that which is to come, and if they had their eyes open to see their true condition, they would be perfectly willing to have their blood spilt upon the ground, that the smoke thereof might ascend to heaven as an offering for their sins; and the smoking incense would atone for their sins, whereas, if such is not the case, they will stick to them and remain upon them in the spirit world. I know, when you hear my brethren telling about cutting people off from the earth, that you consider it is strong DOCTRINE; but it is to save them, not to destroy them” (Brigham Young, September 21, 1856, Journal of Discourses 4:53).

I had never heard of the “blood atonement” doctrine before.  I had no idea what the debate was or who was right.  But here, right in front of me, was an undeniable, real-time example of the current LDS Church blatantly contradicting not only “some church members” “in the mid-19th century” (which is what the Church’s statement weakly said) but the president of the Church himself.  This was very confusing.  

Well, I knew what to do to get answers.  I would go to the Church’s website (which was at the time) and search for “blood atonement”.  Researching on the Church’s website was safe, right?  Nothing on there could ever be troubling or confusing, right?  

Do you want to guess how many results came up when I searched for “blood atonement” on

0.  That’s right.  Zero.  Nada.  Zilch.  Not a thing.  I sat there staring at a screen that told me it had “0 results”.  

I could not wrap my mind around this.  First of all, if the Church had issued a statement, shouldn’t I be able to find it on its own website?  I found out that the Church had statements they would issue to journalists even if they hadn’t bothered releasing them on their own platforms, so that explained that part.

But the fact that I got zero search results on the Church’s official website was a real hurdle for me, because I had always counted on the official website to be a safe place for me to do my researching.  I was faced with a choice: Don’t learn about blood atonement, or learn about it from a dangerous, untrustworthy place!  

What’s a girl to do?  I looked for answers outside the official website.  I felt so dirty.  I felt rebellious.

I also felt angry.  I felt lied to.  

What I found out did not help my peace of mind. In fact, one detail made my situation an even worse dilemma: The above quote from Brigham Young was not only spoken when he was the president of the Church, but he was speaking in General Conference!  As I said, I considered a General Conference talk by the president of the Church to be as good as God himself speaking, so what happened next was: My head exploded.  

I became obsessed with this contradiction.  I had to solve it.  I had to explain it away. 

I convinced myself that the Church’s statement had been written by some guy in a cubicle in the Church Office Building, and that President Monson could never have written or approved such a thing.  I started calling Church headquarters and asking them about the statement, trying to get information about who actually wrote it.  (I didn’t get anywhere with this inquiry.)

I don’t want to make this about blood atonement.  That is not really the point.  This particular point of doctrine just happened to be the contradiction I stumbled across.  I now know of many such contradictions, and any one of them might have been the catalyst for me.  

A huge concern was growing in my mind: That the leaders of the Church — the Prophets, the Apostles, the General Authorities — were not actually receiving revelation from God!  I couldn’t brush away that fear (and it was a fear).  

I assumed the Church leaders were receiving revelations for the Church. I soon realized that they never actually made this claim themselves. In their General Conference talks, for instance, they never actually say, “Thus saith the Lord” (or any similar claim).  They never stand up and say, “The Lord visited me and told me to say thus and such.”  I’ve never heard any of them say, “I received a revelation from God, and here it is.”  No.  The Church and its leaders simply make their statements and give their prepared talks, and then we reassure ourselves and each other that the Lord is speaking thru them.  

My world was rocked in 2010 when I came to the conclusion that there is no evidence or even claims of revelation being received by LDS Church leaders.  I didn’t know what to do with that information.  I talked to my good husband Joshua about the strong temptation to leave the Church.  Joshua encouraged me to do what Joseph Smith did in 1820 when Joseph didn’t know what to do.  Briefly, when Joseph Smith didn’t know which church to join, he didn’t join any church; he continued on his current course until instructed otherwise by the Lord.  

Joshua encouraged me to keep on the course of loyal Church activity until I found something better to put my efforts towards.  It’s a version of what we call the Tarzan Principle: Don’t let go of one vine until you’ve grabbed on to another one.  

So I continued with my activity in the Church, but in my heart and mind, things were very different.  My previous worldview was shattered, and I continued to seek for truth, but nothing changed about my religious practices.  

At this time, I came across a couple of writers that said things I needed to hear.  

One was a writer on the LDS Anarchy blog (I don’t remember which author), who talked openly about the scripturally-predicted apostasy of the LDS Church and made the case that the benefits of being faithful members outweighed the costs; staying in the Church is better than leaving.  

The other writer who influenced me at this time was Denver Snuffer (before he got a large following and started having weird ideas), who emphasized the importance of having personal revelation.  

Personal revelation?  What is the purpose of that?  It was honestly a new concept for me.  I knew I could pray about who to marry or what college to go to and I could get answers to prayers.  In other words, I had experienced praying with a question in mind and receiving answers.  

But I didn’t realize the Lord was interested in guiding me on a day-to-day, continual basis.  Snuffer explained we should forget about whether the Church leaders were intimate with the Lord and instead concern ourselves with being in direct communication with him.  

That was the answer I needed.  Honestly, was it any of my business whether God was speaking to the Church leaders?  Why not worry about what God had to say to me instead?  The paradigm shift for me was huge.  

I started paying attention to what the still, small voice was saying to me.  I had not done that before, with a few exceptions, and it definitely had a learning curve.  

I ultimately decided to stay in the LDS Church and focus on the good the Church brought into my life.  At the same time, I worked to improve my personal relationship with God, and I began to experience the joy of allowing the light of Christ to influence me.  I was no longer fearful.  It was a wonderful, stable place to be.  

That is the story of how I went from believing the LDS Church held all the answers and responsibility to realizing I was responsible for my own personal revelation to guide my own life.  

More of my story, including some experiences listening to the Holy Spirit and how I finally learned the importance of checking everything against the scriptures (whether personal revelation, the words of a prophet, or any other source), will be told in future blog posts, Lord willing.  

The Winder Family Comes Out of Hiding! or Hidden Wife, Hidden Life.

The second episode of Season 2 of Seeking Sister Wife is by far my favorite episode to date!  There are so many funny moments! I just laughed out loud on more than one occasion.  One was the very awkward conversation that Bernie has with his son John.  Oh man, you just can’t make that stuff up!  The confusion on John’s face was just priceless.  Bernie, from one father to another, I think you handled it well.

Another time that got me laughing was actually in the preview for the next episode where Vanessa provocatively orders a piece of red meat on her first date with Dimitri.  This, of course, was after she learned that the Snowdens are essentially pescatarian, as a matter of family policy.  But she likes her steaks and cheeseburgers!  Such a funny situation, and very bold of Vanessa.  I know it sparked some interesting conversations in my house, and I am sure there will be more to come.

Perhaps the funniest moment, however, was the public debut of the Winder family.  The situation was just too comical for words, and probably more funny for me because I know, first hand, the courage it took to do something like that!  And yet, despite all the emotional buildup and bravery, there was no one to appreciate it but some ducks.  It’s just too funny!  It reminds me of that old saying about sounds and falling trees in the forest.  You know the one: if a polygamous family comes out in the open together, but no one is there to see it…?

winders at park

Baby steps, baby steps.

In all seriousness, I think divulging themselves to the ducks is an admirable first step!  It means they have personally, and fully, embraced the reality of their own family, and are ready to take the next step, and that can be one of the hardest things to do.  Honestly, this may have been the best way to do it.  If they could go together, as a family (and those are not the same things), to an empty park (but where the possibility of being seen is a reality – where the sense and prospect of danger are real) a dozen times before actually going out where people would be guaranteed to see them, they would already have gone a long way towards conquering their personal fears.  And of course, they have gone quite a bit farther than that now.  What with being on national TV and all.

I remember, with a twinge of PTSD, our own efforts to announce the change in our family when we became plural.  The fear and uncertainty were so intense at times!!  And the losses were bitter and painful!!  But it has all been worth it.

There was fear of the repercussions from so many angles!  And it is the same for most, if not all other polygamous families.  We faced social, familial, and religious shunning wondering what our neighbors, friends, coworkers, family, and fellow church members would say, or how they would treat us and our children.  We were especially keen to the possible social consequences for our children – the decisions were horrible!  There were also financial fears, and legal fears.  We could go to jail, I could lose my job.  Every. Single. Thing. that we had worked so hard to gain and build – our family, our home, my career, our children, our friendships, and our very reputations –  was literally at stake.  It could all so easily come tumbling down into a broken pile of smoldering garbage.  Everything could be lost, and there was literally no earthly help or community that we could fall back on for support (however, we have built or received all of that community and support structure since).  It seemed sometimes that it was us against the entire world (and us against ourselves at other times).  Prayer was almost as common to me as breathing.  I look back on those days with wonder, and almost awe, that we survived at all, and I thank God that he walked us thru that fiery furnace.  Yes, the refining was intense, and our fears were not at all misplaced; yet, we were also given peace and courage sufficient to meet our fears, face them, and overcome them.  It was an amazing roller-coaster ride!


We had letters written to us by family members accusing us of adultery and other sorts of gross wickedness.  Similar letters were sent out to other family members, warning them of our dangerous influences.  We had death threats against us, the police were called to investigate us, ecclesiastical leaders were called to discipline us, and child protective services were called (DCFS) to remove our children.  But nothing came of any of these attacks.  There was no weapon forged against us that prevailed.

Melissa’s children were even kidnapped by her parents for a short time.  They were going to send her kids up to Washington State to live with their deadbeat father who is generally unstable, has lived in dozens of locations, is a known drug addict, owes 6 figures in child support, has been physically abusive, has multiple arrests, is into prostitutes, and has been married to 6 different women!  Can someone please explain how that is better than a man being financially stable, providing for his children (in both emotional and financial ways) but being married and maintaining a healthy relationship with 2 women!?  It’s crazy!  Literally crazy! Eventually, they relented and changed their actions when they realized that they were the felons (kidnapping) and not us (polygamy was alegal in Utah at the time of the kidnapping – thank you Judge Waddoups!).

We were openly uninvited to family parties.  I had family members that I hadn’t talked to in years, go out of their way to reach out to let me know that they disapproved of my life.  We were all excommunicated from the church that we had been born and raised in.  But when we kept on attending as non-members, my daughter was abused by her Sunday School teacher, and the church gave us legal notice that we were unwelcome in the most profound way possible.  We were not even allowed to set foot on any church property anywhere in the world!  The McGee family sadly describes a similar experience with their Synagogue (I’ll have a future post on this topic).

We literally had former friends place curses (in the name of the Lord – of course) upon us and our family.  I’m not making this stuff up.  I couldn’t.  I can hardly believe it now.

I used to ride a van pool to work.  It was convenient because the van would meet at a parking lot just one block from my house.  Rain or shine I would always walk in between my house and the van pool.  After we became plural, I remember being so grateful for the change in daylight savings time – just so I could walk home in the dark and not have to see my neighbors.

I thought about the 6th lecture on faith many times during those days.  Especially verses 5-8.

For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief, or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge: realizing, that when these sufferings are ended he will enter into eternal rest; and be a partaker of the glory of God.
– LoF 6:5

I remember having Jesus’ parable of the man building a tower brought to my mind so many times!  Those words were a steady a source of strength and inspiration for me.

At some point, everyone needs to live an authentic life – in my opinion.  The potential dangers and discomforts of the many forms of persecution are eventually outweighed by the desire to simply live rightly and face the consequences – whatever they may be.  Sophie Winder expresses this in the first episode when she talks about not having to be the hidden wife anymore, and Tami mentions it in the second episode when they are planning their outing to the park for Sadie’s Birthday party.  There comes a point when you are ready to just be done hiding.  There is no need to act rashly or foolishly, but when the time is right you’ll know it.  Hopefully, you will then have the courage to carry it out and see it thru to the end.

Despite all the hardships we endured, there have still been some good and true friends who have stuck by us while the false have fallen away.  Also, there have been plenty of new friends, a thousand times better than the old ones.  Some family members too, from the beginning, have maintained and reaffirmed their love and support of us, and that has been wonderful.  There are even some family members, originally antagonistic, who have now come around in some ways, and our relationships are healing.

Things have calmed down significantly for us since then.  The roller-coaster ride has slowed and transitioned from almost constant nausea to almost constant enjoyment.  There are still ups and downs, but we are enjoying the view and the thrill of the ride much more now, and we’ve loosened up our grip on the safety bar – now that our fear of certain and sudden death has subsided.  Even so, it has taken us years to fully come out into the public eye.  Starting this blog has been another step for us, and I’m so glad Charlotte did it.


We told our friends and family one by one.  Maybe there was a better way, but at the time it seemed like the most manageable way to handle all the upset and emotion.  Like eating an elephant one bite at a time.  And I suppose we are still not finished.  When Melissa and I were married we had no public celebration, but we are finally getting around to doing it this summer!  Let us know if you want an invitation.