Confessions of faith
An amazing story of one woman’s journey from Mormonism to Lutheranism.
“In his heart, a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Betty Hochmuth loves this verse, but she’s also lived this verse in an amazing way. This former Mormon’s story includes a pair of Lutheran doctors, a determined young man from Minnesota, and some china. But perhaps it’s best to start at the beginning.
Betty was born in Provo, Utah, the fifth of 13 children. “Most of us were a year apart; Mom had ten kids under the age of ten!” she says.
Betty’s dad came from a devout Mormon family; her mom converted to Mormonism before their wedding. “[My dad’s] great-uncle was the seventh prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Joseph Smith, who started the church, was the first prophet,” says Betty. Betty’s great-great uncle was the last prophet to practice polygamy, and he received the revelation prohibiting coffee, tea, alcohol, and tobacco use.
Betty grew up as a strict Mormon in Colorado. “We attended church every Sunday for three hours, and we were very involved in church activities during the week,” she says. “Mormonism is more of a culture than a religion. Most everything we did—sports, dances, friends, campouts, parties—we did with members of our congregation. I believed I belonged to the one true church. I was taught that other religions had some truths, but that the Mormon church was the only church established by Jesus Christ.”
When she was 21, Betty accepted a job as a New York nanny, but then was advised by her family not to go. That same night, Betty attended a meeting at her church. “Never in a church bulletin would there be an advertisement for employment, but that night, on the back of my bulletin, was an ad—a family who lived 30 minutes away looking for a nanny. . . . I interviewed with the family a couple of days later and they offered me the job.”
She continues, “As I got to know this family, our conversations often turned to religion. [They] were Lutheran, and they always had questions about my beliefs as a Mormon. At that time, I felt very strongly that God had put me with them so I might convert them to Mormonism.”
Wendy and Paul, Betty’s new employers, hailed from the Midwest, and a few months later, they asked Betty if she’d like to vacation with them in Minnesota. “Toward the end of the week, my employer’s grandmother was hospitalized. I went to the hospital with her and was introduced to her aunt [Chloe], uncle, and cousin. The next day, Wendy took me to her grandmother’s house. They were getting ready for an estate sale, and I noticed a box of china. . . . Wendy told me she was sure that her Aunt Chloe would give me the china. I said that wasn’t necessary; I just thought it was pretty. About a month after we returned to Colorado, a package arrived for me. When I opened it, I found the china.
Wendy and Paul returned to Minnesota twice a year to visit their family. When they planned a three-week sabbatical to Europe, they left their kids in Minnesota with their grandparents. Betty went to Minnesota with the kids.
“I took care of the kids during the week, but Wendy and Paul wanted me to have some fun on the weekends,” she says. “They approached Wendy’s cousin Karl [a brother to the one she met earlier] and asked him if he would be willing to take me on a date. . . . We dated for two weeks. . . . He asked that I call him when I got home. At the end of our conversation, he asked me to marry him.”
Betty flew back to Minnesota two weeks later so Karl could propose in person. “During those two weeks, I had to tell my family that I had met someone in Minnesota, we were getting married, and he happened to be the son of a Lutheran pastor,” she says.
“The time leading up to our wedding was probably the most stressful time of my life,” says Betty. “My family and friends were obviously not in favor of me marrying outside of the Mormon church. I received daily visits and phone calls from them asking me to reconsider.”
But six months later they were married. Betty’s family came to the wedding. “They were not happy, but they were there,” says Betty.
At first, Betty chose to go to church with Karl. “It was a comfortable place for me to be. My father-in-law was our pastor, and I was welcomed with open arms by the entire congregation.” Still, she always thought that she would eventually convert Karl to Mormonism. “When Karl would point to something in the Bible that went against what I had been taught, I questioned what he was saying. I had been taught that the Bible had been translated too many times and contained many imperfections.” But as Betty continued to attend church with Karl, “my heart began to open a little more. I loved hearing Bible stories and was touched by many verses that I would hear,” she says.
Their first baby was born about a year after they were married—and baptized two weeks later. “That day was a turning point for me. I was the only one that stood up at our son’s baptism that was not a Lutheran,” says Betty. “I began to question what I had just done, why I had my baby boy baptized into a church I felt I didn’t know enough about. I asked my father-in-law that week if I could start taking classes. I was baptized about six months after our son.”
More than anything, Betty says she appreciates knowing Jesus as her Savior. “I was raised to believe that it was through my good works that I would be saved,” she says. “I worked as hard as I possibly could to achieve my place in heaven. Now I know that Christ did it all for me. There is no way that I could ever work hard enough to pay him back. . . . Every day I thank God for this knowledge and for the path he put me on.”
Now Betty shares her story through group presentations so others can understand better how to reach out to Mormons. She and her husband also are involved with Truth in Love Ministry (www.tilm.org), an organization of WELS believers that shares Christ with Mormons and equips other Christians to do the same. “For most Mormons, their mission is where they first have any real interaction with a Christian,” she says. “When the majority of those Christians won’t even talk to them, it sends a pretty strong message. But if you invite them in and share your faith with them, God can do amazing things!”
Betty loves “any verse that speaks about being saved in Jesus Christ,” but she keeps going back to Proverbs 16:9. “I thought all of my life that I would grow up to marry a Mormon man, that I would have lots of children, and that we would live our Mormon life. When I look back at how everything worked out, it is incredible to see how God was directing every single step I took. What an amazing path he laid out for me!”
Ann Ponath is a member at Christ, North St. Paul, Minnesota.
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Author: Ann Ponath
Volume 101, Number 9
Issue: September 2014
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