You are right in saying that none of us has all the answers. I certainly don't. I have no bitterness towards Mormons. On the contrary, my position costs me a lot in the sense that people mistakenly believe I am a "hard guy." On the other hand, I do have a great desire to see Mormonism defeated and Mormons liberated from a system which I believe is designed to keep people from finding the personal relationship with Jesus that the Bibles teaches us about. Mormonism wants to replace that with a religious system that keeps people under the thumb of _men_ and _the organization._
Now, "Why are there so many churches?" That is like asking why is there so many flavors of ice cream. People focus on different things. In my particular stream of Christianity, for example, we focus on Praise and Worship of Jesus. My daughter goes to a church that focuses on reverence contemplation of God. But--and here is the important thing--both she and I have the exact same faith in the important basics of Christian doctrine. We both believe that in all the universe there is but one God. We both believe that man is separated from God by sin. We both believe that the separation ends the moment we recognize that and put our faith wholly in the work of Christ and not in ourselves. But, _if I put arsenic in the ice cream_ I can no longer call it ice cream. I have changed the basic _nature_ of the product. That is what Mormonism has done to the Christian message.
Whether you are a Lutheran, a Baptist, a Pentecostal, a Presbyterian, or an Episcopalian makes no difference. The fundamentals are the same.
But not so with Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Moonies, The Way International, and many other _organizations_ which _claim_ to be Christian, but bring a _different_ gospel. See, "Are Mormons Christians?" and "What is a cult?"
It is impossible for me to tell you what Christianity is without comparing it to what you _think_ Christianity is. I can't tell you what an apple is if you have been told that an _orange_ is an apple. I have to point out the differences.
But the basic point I want to make is the Bible-believing Christian churches share a set of beliefs about God. This set of beliefs has been held in common for most of the last 2,000 years. It has not really changed. There have been arguments of certain distinctions, but those arguments have been resolved for hundreds of years.
The very basic difference between the "cults" and Mormonism lay in to primary areas. 1). That we believe in _the existence_ of only one God (not simply the worship of one God out of many Gods). 2). We are made right with God (we overcome the distance that sin has put between us and God) through an act of faith, not through a life of obedience. This is a crucial point and one that often is misunderstood. We believe _wholeheartedly_ in a life of obedience. But we believe that we _cannot_ be obedient on our own. Religions (like Mormonism) who teach us that peace and joy come from obedience set us up for a life of frustration and failure. They put us on a treadmill of trying to please God by avoiding sin. This is _backwards_ and useless. Trying to teach a dog to be a man is ridiculous. Trying to teach a sinner to avoid sin is equally ridiculous. For a dog to be a man a miracle would have to take place. The dog would have to be _changed_ into a man. So it is with sinners. The Bible says that God must take out "their heart of stone" and replace it with a "heart of flesh." That is what we call the born again experience.
Being born again _is_ an experience. It occurs when a person come to the end of their rope (as I did on the Sugar City curve). He comes before God and says, "I cannot please you! I am too weak to do that. I need you to change me. I want to give up my life and let Jesus Christ totally take over--possess me, if you will--and lead me throughout the rest of my life.
When one is born again, Dena, that change takes place immediately. The Bible says "old things pass away, and all things are made new." It says we are "translated from a kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of the Son of God." That is what happened to me. That is why, struggling against sin as a Mormon, I felt like a failure. I needed more than a treadmill of good works, I needed a heart-transplant. That is the message of the Gospel (Good News!) of Jesus Christ. "Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you _rest_." "Take upon yourselves my yoke, because my yoke is easy and my burden light."
When one is born again he/she experiences the immediate lifting of the burden of sin, is immersed in the joy that comes with _having fully pleased God_ through faith in His son. Life becomes new. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in that person and he/she becomes directed, not by lust and fear and insecurity, but by God. That is the testimony of all who have been born again and it is _the clear teaching of scripture._ What I learned as I read the first eight chapters of Romans the night after I was born again on the Sugar City curve. If you want to _know_ what the Bible says about the way of salvation (as compared to Mormonism, for example) you need to read those chapters, plus the short book of Galatians. (That is where Paul writes, "If I or an angel of heaven bring _another_ gospel, let him be accursed.")
So, you asked me to tell you what I believe. I did. And I will say that Mormonism was designed in hell to keep people from ever hearing what I just told you. My wife, who was born again two years after I was, said, "In 30 years _no one_ ever told me the Gospel of Christ as it appears in the Bible." You can read her short testimony.
I wish you well on your spiritual journey and I stand ready to continue to dialogue with your should you be interested.