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Carrie Sheffield Lights Path to Overcoming

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The fifth of eight children, Carrie describes her youth as a chaotic, vagabond experience, with twice-daily indoctrination sessions from her father. Choosing now to refer to him by his first name, Ralph, she says he was “a violent, mentally-ill, street-musician…who believed he was a modern-day Mormon prophet destined to become US president someday.”

Ralph, and later the entire family, too, earned a meager living by performing classical music and show tunes on city streets, passing out what Carrie calls “fire-and brimstone religious pamphlets.” Her dad tried a couple of other careers, but they ended with him getting upset about one thing or another and leaving. Carrie’s parents never had enough money for a decent home for their large family, and at times went without enough food, eating grass with broth. She doesn’t know who contacted social service agencies, but they attempted to remove her and her siblings. Ralph trained his children well on how to present a rosy, albeit untrue, picture of their home life. When the situation became uncomfortable, he packed up his family of ten, and moved elsewhere. Carrie attended 17 public schools around the country, and was also homeschooled for 18 months. She has countless painful memories of her first 18 years. 
  About age ten, Carrie was playing soccer in the basement with her siblings, and fell, cutting her head badly. Her father, who didn’t believe in health insurance, told her if she chose to go the ER, it would cost him so much that there’d be no Christmas gifts for her or her siblings that year. “Ralph laid a guilt trip on me almost as thick as the blood oozing out of my head.” He wiped her wound with rubbing alcohol, and sewed it up himself. “Ralph also regularly played orthodontist, using the broken stub of a Popsicle stick to move our teeth into what he considered alignment.”

  At age 11, Carrie’s parents had moved to Kansas City and enrolled the kids in inner-city schools with very few white children. She says she had no idea how to interact in an environment that was so different and dangerous, so she became a depressed people–pleaser. “Now why on earth would my father choose to put his kids in these perilous school environments? 'The Lord tells me that if He wants me in harm’s way, He needs you kids there, too,’ he’d tell us. 'But don’t worry, He says He’ll be with us in every time of trouble.’”

  Two of Carrie’s older brothers were diagnosed with schizophrenia as young men. She believes it was the result of the physical, spiritual, and emotional abuse of their father, who screamed at and fought with them. When Carrie was 17, and one of the mentally–ill brothers was 24, he groped her one night, and made it clear he intended to rape her. With her mom’s help, Carrie was able to escape into her room, but never felt safe in the house again.

The breaking point for Carrie came later that year, while helping her dad with a writing project. “What I discovered in the trailer were Ralph’s ‘prophetic’ divine dictations, similar to the ones that Joseph Smith received and memorialized in the Doctrine and Covenants,” she explains, referring to one of the four books considered sacred by the Mormon Church. “Ralph even copied Smith’s ambitions for the White House, similar to Smith’s failed 1844 independent presidential campaign. Seeing such an egregiously cheap knockoff of Smith, there in black and white, made Ralph’s heresy that much more unmistakable. I told God that unless I was mistaken and Ralph truly was a prophet, I would leave home, even if that meant I’d get disowned.”


Carrie was an excellent student and told her parents she wanted to go away for college. Her dad responded to the idea by telling her she was full of Satan, and prophesied that if she left, she would be raped and killed. Hurt, but undaunted, Carrie worked hard at applying for scholarships and financial aid. Though her parents disapproved, she made arrangements to go to Truman State University her freshman year, then transferred to Brigham Young University for the remaining three. Carrie wasn’t allowed to return home for any of the college breaks, and chose to be legally estranged from her parents by age 20. She worked hard on her journalism degree, completing five internships, including Newsweek magazine and another with columnist Robert Novak.  

At school, her allegiance to the Mormonism she had been steeped in all her life started to wane. One of her journalism assignments required her to read the Mormon-produced Deseret Morning newspaper, the second largest in Utah. There, she saw ads for alcohol and tobacco, both of which are discouraged by the religion today. She also began studying the teachings of founder, Joseph Smith, and didn’t agree with all his views, for example, polygamy.

After college, Carrie attended an evangelical church in DC, and was turned off by a number of things there as well, such as a woman’s Bible study which voted a woman out and a young man who tried to force himself on her. Fed up with all the behavior of believers of both camps, she remained an agnostic for the next 12 years.  

“When I decided to leave Mormonism, my entire purpose in life after a traumatic childhood imploded and I fell into suicidal depression.” In fact, Carrie suffered episodic suicidal ideation for almost 20 years, landing in the hospital nine times for anxiety, depression, PTSD, or fibromyalgia. Her journey of healing was found in coming to peace with the one true God of the Bible, and in forgiveness of her father. As to the former, Carrie says, “I never thought I’d return to belief in God or to organized religion. My flinty heart remained closed for nearly twelve years because I felt angry at evil things I’d seen done in God’s name. When religion failed me, I threw myself into my job, schooling, dating, friends, and travel as ultimate sources of meaning.”  

She found that while each had its proper place and satisfied her for a time, none of these pursuits met her needs for purpose and love. In 2017, she decided to give the Christian church another try, and found much help in books by Tim Keller, Michael Guillen, Josh McDowell, and Lee Stroebel. “The more I studied science, history, anthropology, and other disciplines, the more my faith in God and Christianity grew.” That was the exact opposite experience she had when studying Mormonism. “My take on Mormonism now is that it’s theologically wrong, but culturally strong. In 2010, I completed a formal renunciation process of Mormonism.” Carrie came to believe the doctrines of the Bible and that the true God is in fact one of perfect love, and loves her. In December of 2017, Carrie was baptized at Saint Thomas Episcopal Church in the heart of Manhattan -- the happiest day of her life, she says.  


Not long after her baptism, Carrie met a man who would forever change her perspective on forgiveness: Anthony B. Thompson, pastor of Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. His wife, Myra was one of the nine parishioners murdered by the white supremacist shooter in 2015. His seemingly impossible, loving response to the shooter, chronicled in a book Carrie devoured, inspired and convicted her. She came to realize that forgiveness is about obedience to God, and does not mean excusing sin. “It releases us from the cancerous emotional and mental diseases of vengeance, insecurity, rage, and fear.”  

In 2020, after seven years of not speaking to her father, Carrie was able to forgive him. She went with her younger brother to her parents’ home to celebrate his 81st birthday. “I released my visceral hatred of the man who brought me endless shame and regret. The man who spoke curses over me, abandoned me, and likely drove my two sweet brothers to insanity. My rage against my father manifested itself in how I disrespected myself, my romantic partners, and others in my life. I needed to forgive everyone in my life (including toxic coworkers, various LDS and other church leaders, cheating exes)… and ask God to forgive me. I’ll spend the rest of my life discerning how God will transform my abuse for His service. And I’ll be praying for all others facing similar journey.”  

To purchase Carrie Sheffield's memoir, Motorhome Prophecies, and to learn more about her, please visit her website:


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About The Author

Julie Blim

Julie produced and assigned a variety of features for The 700 Club since 1996, meeting a host of interesting people across America. Now she produces guest materials, reading a whole lot of inspiring books. A native of Joliet, IL, Julie is grateful for her church, friends, nieces, nephews, dogs, and enjoys tennis, ballroom dancing, and travel.