As a missionary in 1984, Steve "Dusty" Smith would have never imagined he would become "the worst kind of anti-Mormon." But just five years after leaving for his mission, Dusty would adamantly fight against the church he once loved.
Before his mission, Dusty had built a history with faith as he found God again after the tragic death of a family friend, discovered a forgotten copy of the Book of Mormon, and became the only member of his family to be baptized.
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Once he received his call, however, the loneliness he felt in the MTC as a 24-year-old amid 19- and 21-year-olds nearly caused him to go home. That was until he called Church headquarters.
"I said, 'If nobody cares if I'm here, I'm going home," Dusty says in a This Is the Gospel podcast. "I wait a few seconds and a voice comes on the phone and says, 'Elder, if nobody else cares about you serving a mission, I do. This is L. Tom Perry.' And so we chatted, and at the end of the conversation, he said, "Do you mind if I become your penpal?" Elder Perry was my penpal on my mission." Dusty's correspondence with Elder Perry helped him complete a mission in Honduras despite having little support from his parents.
However, after encountering Church protestors the Hill Cumorah pageant not long after coming home, Dusty decided he needed to research anti-Latter-day Saint material in order to better debate these topics.
In 1989, Dusty asked for his records be removed from the Church. He had read the anti-Latter-day Saint material and found he now had questions he felt no one could answer. And so for the next 26 years, Dusty fought against the church he had once sacrificed everything for.
"I would go to churches and give classes against the 'Mormon' church," Dusty says in the podcast. "I would write articles. I would stop missionaries on their bicycles and tell them they were following false Gods and false prophets. I was the worst kind of 'anti-Mormon.'"
During this time, in 2009 Dusty contracted swine flu. He was so sick that he felt he was on his deathbed when his son let in the last people he ever wanted to see: two Latter-day Saint missionaries.
"I said, 'Get out of my house," Dusty says. "They said, 'Can we give you a blessing?' I said, 'Will it get you out of my house?' And they said, 'Yes.' So I said, 'Then fine, do it.'"
Instantly after the blessing, for the first time in days, Dusty was able to sit up and move around his house.
Though still adamant that the missionaries leave his home and never return, that moment began a chain reaction of events that would eventually lead Dusty back to the Church. Listen to the full podcast below to hear Dusty's story of finding the Church, leaving it, and eventually finding his way back.
Lead image courtesy Dusty Smith