The Hour I First Believed
I didn’t want anyone to tell me that going to heaven had nothing to do with being good, if that was the case then I would never believe in Jesus.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
and grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
Hunter Osborne remembers that hour. The hour her life was radically transformed forever by God’s amazing grace.
Hunter was raised in the Mormon Church. As a young child she was passionate about attending LDS seminary classes before school and committed to being in church every Sunday. To her it was a privilege. “I thrived in it. I absorbed everything I was taught. When my mom grounded me, not being allowed to attend church was my punishment. That’s how much I loved learning about the Heavenly Father and Jesus. My entire life’s dream when I got older was to marry a returned Mormon missionary, get sealed in the church, and have lots of babies. I clung to that hope.”
As hopeful as her church life was, Hunter’s home and family life were painfully opposite. Hers was a childhood of abandonment by her birth father, of physical and sexual abuse, and so controlled by her mother that even the idea of having one friend was out of the question. This unfortunate reality hid behind the veil of a normal middle class family consisting of an adept mother, adopting stepfather, and four beautiful sisters. “Mormonism is very appearance-based and legalistic. It’s about what shows on the outside and wearing the right mask.” However, cops showing up at her front door for domestic disturbances and her mother’s irrational outrage weren’t abnormal.
Religion was Hunter’s escape. She dove into her studies and immersed herself in church activities. The leadership of her Mormon Church knew very well what was happening in her home. “They were very involved in my life,” she said. “I was honest with them and told them what was going on. Everyone knew that I wasn’t living in a healthy environment, but no one ever stepped in. No one did anything about it.”
One Sunday every month was open microphone for anyone to stand up in front of the church and share their testimony. “Every testimony,” Hunter said, “no matter if you were five years old or a hundred, all started the same way: ‘I would like to bear my testimony. I know this church is true and that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God.’ There were a lot of cliché phrases like that.” Hunter sought to understand more. She wanted less rote memorization and more “why?” answers to what she believed in. But it was clearly not welcome to question anything other than what she was taught. It left her frustrated and confused.
At 17, she filed for legal emancipation from her mother’s control. She spoke about it openly with her bishop who finally admitted they had always known about the abuse in her home but wanted to keep her close so she could keep coming to church. “If they called Social Services I would likely be placed in foster care and wouldn’t necessarily be under their watch. That was a poor judgment call on their part. And worse- no one in the church, not my youth leaders or my friend’s parents, or any Mormon family ever opened their home to me- no one stepped up for me, no one protected me. At that time in my life I was 17 years old with nowhere to live.”
Hunter doesn’t blame the Mormon religion for letting her down, though she knowingly admits now to the fallibility of Mormon doctrine. “All that happened to me could very easily have happened in the Christian Church, but at the time those people, those leaders in particular, totally abandoned me.” In her anger she shut the door on the Mormon Church.
For the next seven years she became a practicing witch, casting spells and studying the finer points of spell work, entangling herself farther into decadence and depravity. But that’s another story…
Near the end of those seven years she took a job at a local bookstore hoping for a break and a fun atmosphere to work. Little did she know her co-workers at the bookstore were believers from Apex who would gently and humbly pour love, truth and scripture into her life. Over time her questions and curiosity brought her into the church…the building, at least.
“I had always banked my eternal soul that even if I was wrong about witchcraft or about every choice I’d ever made, I believed there was a God out there and that He’ll know in the end my intentions were good. I saw myself as going to the good place. I didn’t want anyone to tell me that going to heaven had nothing to do with being good, if that was the case then I would never believe in Jesus.”
She requested a face-to-face meeting with Pastor Rob Turner. During their visit he drew an illustration asking Hunter to evaluate her life on a scale of good versus evil. “Having to write my name somewhere on that line, I finally realized I wasn’t good. No one is good enough to be in Heaven with God. For the first time I knew without a doubt I was destined for hell, a hell that is real and deserved. I panicked, I shook, I started hyperventilating. It seemed like forever before he shared the good news of Jesus. I knew what he was saying was true. I believed. I was saved and it had nothing to do with being good. I know what it feels like to be made new. From that moment my life was drastically changed.”
Hunter hasn’t wasted any time since then to tell other people about the amazing grace of Jesus. She shares her personal testimony openly and honestly to speak truth into the lives of women of all ages. She speaks of purity, boundaries, forgiveness, and healing. She is inspired through her own life experience, and through a shattered heart mended by her Savior’s mercy, to love and embrace God’s definition of femininity, a soft heart, submission, and obedience to Him.
Author: Carrie Kempisty
Photograher: Hilary Tebo