Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How and Why I Became a Mormon

Alex's Conversion Story

I guess my Story is pretty much like many other conversion stories out there. And because I really love to read stories of other members, i thought i'll give it a try myself and let you know how i found my back to the Saviour and into his church. This is my very first attempt of writing about my conversion and even though i am German, i think that i can reach a broader audience when it's written in English.

I was born in 1978 and got baptized into the Roman-Catholic Church in the same year and grew up i a Christian-Catholic Environment. When i try to look back at those childhood years, i wouldn't consider my family particular spiritual, but active. My mother, my two sisters and i went to church almost every Sunday, my mother always being the driving force for us kids to come along and start going in the first place. I remember that i quite liked going to church. I had many friends there and the church even had some youth programs like scouting or handicraft classes we could took part in. In my early teenage years i also got confirmed into the church, a Roman Catholic tradition where the believer receives the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (sounds familiar?). We had to take special classes for that, the closest thing to Sunday school i ever experienced. I even became an altar boy in my congregation, so all things considered i think it's fair to say that i was a pretty active Roman-Catholic kid.

However, the spiritual value for me during that time was limited and almost non-existent. Looking back and trying to remember, I can't say that i really understood everything that was talked about during Mass or that i had a very close – if any - relationship to Jesus or Heavenly Father. Sure, we prayed to him and read about him and listen to what the adults had to say about him but to say that we kids (or just me, dunno) were really spiritually aware of what was going on would be an overstatement. So i unfortunately can't say that this early years helped me spiritually mature very much. One thing i did understand as a kid though was the idea that Jesus did something very sacrificing by dying. But i wasn't aware why he did that and under what circumstances and what it really means for me. I remember being in awe of the whole presentation and "packaging" of Roman-Catholic Masses. They use loads of incense (I remember that the incense "cloud" was sometimes so intense that i even fainted once), the pastor and the altar boys all wear white robes and colored scarfs and there are many candles around. You couldn't help but feel intimidated.

Nevertheless, i consider the experiences growing up in the Roman-Catholic church a good and worthy time and i have many fondly memories of it. And even though I now know that it is not the true church and teaches many false doctrines, i am sure that it was helpful to me and in any case better than being without any religion as a child at all. Those experiences ended and everything changed when my parents got separated. It's odd but i can't remember exactly how old i was at the time we moved away, i think i was around twelve or thirteen. The separation of my parents wasn't a dramatic thing though, i don't remember it being very painful or traumatizing in anyway. My parents just fell apart over time, didn't talk much in the end and finally decided it would be best to go separate ways. It was foreshadowed for quite some time so it wasn't a big surprise for us kids. It was nevertheless a huge change for everyone of course. My mother and we kids moved from the House we grew up into a small apartment in the neighbour town. I remember that we did go to a local church there a few times but it was never the same as it was before. At some point, my mother stopped going to church altogether which meant that we kids didn't go anymore either. And thus my “membership” in the Roman-Catholic church ended.

I have to make a little jump of years now because there isn't really much to tell. At least nothing that has anything to do with religions or churches or my conversion story. I lived a totally non-religious and non-spiritual life for almost fifteen years. It was an average life, i guess. I did spend my time doing what most Teens and Twens spend their time with. I played basketball, was a member of a local rock band and got involved with both the grunge and hip-hop movement very actively. I smoked cigarettes and marijuana regularly and drank alcohol on many occasions. Everything within reason though, i never got into trouble with the law or anything. I eventually dropped most of those habits, finished school and got a job as a forwarding agent at a logistics company in my hometown. I had been living that life ever since.

So there i was, thirty years old, having a fairly secure job and good friends and a healthy social life. I had a few relationships but was single at the time. So what happened? I always struggle to answer that question when other members or missionaries ask me that but i can't remember the exact point or circumstances when i decided that i wanted Jesus back in my life and live a Christian life again. There was no dramatic event or a huge change in my life that could have triggered those wishes and feelings. But when i think more about it as i am writing this, it may had unconsciously something to do with the current state of our planet, it's wars and injustice, the loss of morality and the amount of ignorance and hatred in the world. Maybe i was sensing that things are getting really bad and that i could die without having had any positive impact in this life and almost no hope for anything good after life. I think i wanted hope. I needed to know that there was more meaning to life, that things aren't so bad and that it was not too late to do the right thing and change your life the best you can. I didn't know why but the first thing that came to my mind was Jesus Christ. I made the decision to give him another chance and put my trust in him and in what he had to offer. I decided to go to church again.

But which church? Does it really matter which Christian church i go to? What are the differences between them anyway? Don't they all offer salvation? I already had some doctrinal requirements and ideas of my future church and the values it should promote before trying to get answers to those and other questions. For example, I never really believed in the "saved by grace only" concept, i don’t considered salvation less a gift only because it is conditioned to obedience. I had also abandoned the presumptuous Roman-Catholic idea of an infallible Pope. I also didn't believe in the total inerrancy of the Bible or the concept of being born in sin.

So while i was looking through the different Christian believes, my goal wasn't necessarily to find the only true or totally correct church (I didn't know that such a thing even existed) but the one Christian church that made the most sense and with which doctrines i can best identify with. That might seem like a more logical choice than a spiritual one but that approach brought me to the only true church nonetheless.

So i learned more about the different Christian denominations and was surprised how many differences there actually are. Of course, It didn't take long before i came across the name of a church called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or, as they are commonly known, the Mormons.

I heard the word Mormon before but I didn't really know anything about them besides the fact that they, for whatever reason, don't drink alcohol and don't smoke. When Mitt Romney ran for President for the first time in 2008 however, Mormonism got more into the spotlight. I remember finding it curious that Romney had to almost defend his believes in one of his campaign speeches. That peeked my interest a little bit because the United States claim to be the one country that cherishes the freedom of expressing and performing religion more than any other country in the world. I was curious to find out what it is about these Mormons that makes so many people oppose them. I did that research very sloppy and barely scratched the surface. I just read something about their history of Polygamy, its eventual abandonment and that Mormons seem to have their own Bible. I didn't find anything too controversial (or particularly interesting for that matter) so I couldn't quite explain why people would treat them differently from other religious communities with seemingly weird believes. The whole Mormon issue eventually went away when Romney dropped out, so i just shrugged it off at the time and lost my interest in it.

When i rediscovered Mormonism during my research of Christian churches, I was surprised to learn that they were indeed Christians that also believed in the Bible and even had living prophets. I guess i can consider myself lucky that i barely knew anything about Mormonism so i wasn't loaded with prejudices and misconceptions but discovered and learned many things for myself. And when i want to learn something, i try to do it thoroughly and with the best available sources. I barely ever came across any Anti-Mormon websites, i was always very cautious of the source and who says what and why. My first and main source of information on the internet was and still is the official lds.org website.

One thing i remember very clearly, is that I was immediately drawn to this church and its believes, the values they promote and doctrines they teach. I was also very impressed with how highly they regard family values, personal responsibility and involvement in the organisation of the church. I also loved and adopted the idea of living prophets and an open scriptural canon and was willing to give their Book of Mormon a chance.

I took the wonderful offer of ordering a free Book of Mormon online and began reading it only a few days after i had found the church. I have to admit that it took me some time to get into it and get comfortable with the language. But it eventually grew on me and before i knew it, i couldn't lay it out of my hands. I very rarely have that with books and i am an avid reader of all kinds of genres. I can't tell how much influence the spirit already had on me at the time but it was enough for me to start believing in the Book of Mormon and its message and that it could really be another Testament of Jesus Christ. The conviction of reading something very special increased with every chapter, no book i have ever read has spoken this directly to me, it felt and still feels like this book has been written just for me.

I began to believe that this gospel could really be what i was looking for so I decided to take the next step and visit a sacrament meeting and see for real how people live this religion. Again with the help of the internet, i located the nearest ward and was happy to learn that it was only a 10 minute drive away. But i still wasn't sure if it was really okay to just go there and have look.

So i just called the bishop and he assured me that it was of course okay to visit sacrament meeting. From that phone call on, everything went pretty fast. He asked me if it was okay if he gave my phone number to two missionaries and i agreed. A missionary with a heavy North-American accent called me back just thirty minutes later and we made an appointment for the following day. I didn't prepare any special topics for the appointment, I just wanted to finally meet some Mormons for real. Naturally, both came from Utah and since my spoken English is pretty good, i offered them to hold this appointment in English which they gladly accepted. It helped a lot to make them and me feel much more comfortable.

I didn't want to talk about any of the "usual suspects" like Polygamy, Proposition 8 or magic underwear. I did a fairly thorough investigation of most seemingly controversial topics beforehand so i didn't have any questions in that area. What i wanted to know was how these two guys and other members actually implement these doctrines in their daily lives, what their difficulties and blessings are by living this gospel. I wanted to know how the Bible and the Book of Mormon can coexist and how and why they complement each other. I was curious to know more about temples and learned about baptisms for the dead and the concept of the celestial afterlife became more clear to me. I was also introduced to scripture marking, something i have never done before and came to love doing. We were reading several scripture passages together and they taught me how to gain my own testimony. It was a very educating and inspiring first meeting and so they invited me to sacrament meeting and also assured me that guests are always welcome.

Like i said, I had already located the wards address on the internet and when i drove onto the parking lot on the following Sunday morning, i was surprised to see how many cars there actually were. To be honest with you, i expected maybe a handful of people there (which wouldn't have been a problem for me) and was again positively surprised to see that there were around 150 members attending sacrament meeting that Sunday. “My” two missionaries spotted me right away, welcomed me and gave me quick tour of the ward. I was introduced to the Bishop and a couple of other very nice people and felt at home right away. The sacrament meeting itself confirmed what i already started to believe, that this church was exactly what i was hoping to find. I was sure that this church has the ability to bring me closer to Jesus and Heavenly Father than i ever imagined would be possible. I could feel that this was the place God wanted me to be and where i could find the hope i was so desperately looking for.

I spend the following days reading and eventually finishing the Book of Mormon but I didn't yet feel spiritually mature enough to ask the Holy Ghost for confirmation and gain my own testimony. I didn't pray in a long time and i had to get used to that practise again. But one of the many beautiful things this church has done for me is to help me find a new appreciation for praying. I never before had the feeling that i was really talking to someone when i was praying before, it was an automated process and the prayers in the Roman-Catholic church were always the same anyway. We never prayed as a family at home and for some reason, it was never encouraged very much. At least not that i can remember.

But now i could really talk to Heavenly Father in an intimate way and ask him for help whenever i need guidance. That connection was a completely new experience for me and so i started to make frequent and eventually daily use of it. With the help of the missionaries i learned how to better recognize the Holy Ghost, how to listen to him and gain the confirmation that this Gospel was indeed true. This process is a unique experience for every believer and it wouldn't make much sense trying to describe how exactly i knew the Gospel was true or what exactly it felt like when the Holy Ghost told me that truth. It was a moment of clearance where the mind and the soul were kind of brought more into sync and the truth just sank into me. I knew i found the true Church of Jesus Christ.

You are probably wondering by now what the rest of my family was thinking about my involvement with the Mormons and my sudden new interest for religion. Well, I didn't tell anybody it for a long time but i eventually opened up to my mother and sisters and my two grandparents. They were all surprised of course, especially my grandparents, and they initially assumed that I had to be in some kind of trouble if i would consider joining such a group. These first reactions never came in a hostile way though and their worries eventually went away when they realized that i really meant it and knew what i was doing. After all, they have known me their entire life and trust me because i never gave them any reason to doubt me.

This approval of the people closest to me meant a lot and confirmed me in my decision that would become the most important decision in my life: To become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I was regularly visiting sacrament meetings for about two month when i told the missionaries what every missionary wants to hear: That i was ready and wanted to get baptized.

And on the 25th of October in 2009 it finally happened, i was baptized into the Church by one of my Elder missionaries. The moment i emerged out of the water was again something almost indescribable. I really felt like i was reborn and washed spiritually clean and i immediately knew that i had just began a completely new life. A covenant life. I was very happy that my mother, one sister and my young nephew could attend and be there with me on that day.

As it turned out, the following weekend was going to be Stake Conference and because the Bishop didn't want two weeks to pass between the baptism and confirmation, i received the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands on the same day i got baptized. That only attributed to the overwhelming spiritual experiences of that day and the confirmation of the truth that i had finally found my way back to Jesus and his true church on earth.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Same Church that Jesus Christ Organized - Wilford Woodruff's Conversion Story

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka - the LDS Church or the Mormon Church) is the same church that Jesus Christ organized while he was on the earth.

Elder Haight said, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims to the world that this church is a restoration of Christ’s church…. It is therefore not a reformation, a revision, a reorganization, or a mere sect. It is the Church of Jesus Christ restored in these latter days."

Watch this video of Wilford Woodruff's search for the truth as he sets out on a search to find the church of Christ on the earth. He later became the 4th Prophet of the Church.

video

To read about The Church of Jesus Christ in Former Times click HERE
(all of the features discussed exist in the church today).

To read about The Church of Jesus Chirst Today
(including how the Church was restored) click HERE.

To download this video for yourself click HERE.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Sacred Bench

Anthony Diaz's Conversion Story

I had always wondered about those life questions that people found so cliche but knew they thought about too: Who are we? Why are we here, where did we come from, and where are we going?

However, I never really acted on those questions. I was baptized Catholic, but never active in that faith. I grew up as a precocious little kid, always wondering and analyzing. My mother and father split up while I was still young. At about age 7, I moved with my mom and her then boyfriend, and later husband. He was verbally and physically abusive to both of us, but looking back on it I forgive him now, because I know those trials made me the person I am today. Later on in my pre-adolescence, my mother and I started attending a Baptist church, and we enjoyed it. It was in lamens terms, and was rather family oriented. I remember one day as I was in Vacation Bible School, the teacher had us all gather round and close our eyes. She asked something like, "if anyone would like to recieve Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, please raise your hand." I thought about it, and did it. She then had us open our eyes. It turned out I was the only one. She later talked to me and my mother about how special that was. I still didn't realize the meaning of it, but would later learn that that is what they felt allowed a person to recieve salvation, through such a simple act of faith.

Much later into my teens, after having moved around various times and not going to any church, I found myself going downhill. My mother had left the man I lived with for so long and had found another, who was nice to her, but for some reason it didn't matter to me. It got so bad that it was to the point where I was almost always thinking negative. If you looked up the word pessimisstic in the dictionary, you would have found a picture of me there. I just didn't see the point to life, and was so unsure of myself and who I really was. I had gone through various ups and downs, at one time even smoking pot and cigarrettes, though I luckily stopped that just as soon as I had started.

That's when things started to happen. I was probably about 15. It was 2006. My uncle died at no more than 35 years of age, and it hit me like I never would have imagined. I started wondering why it would happen, and if there really was something beyond death. It was around that same time that I heard some of the most beautiful music I had ever heard on tv one day. It was an English boy choir named Libera. I was instantly captivated with it and found its celestial music comforting in a way the world just wasn't. Even still, I was stubborn in my ways and unhappy with what I felt life had dealt to me.

2007 came. One September night, my mother, the kids, and I, had walked back from the deli to the downtown area of our city at night. We sat on this bench that was missing a piece of wood. It was then that I saw them. Two college aged kids, in black suits and white shirts and ties, walked up to us seemingly out of nowhere. They asked if they could share a message with us, while explaining that they knew it could be strange to talk to two people you didn't know. God Bless her heart, my mother accepted their invitation. They walked away and we made our way to the house.Their names were Elder Hancock and Elder Kelsey.

They started teaching all of us, but it got to the point where it was just me. I was fascinated with what they taught, especially the plan of salvation and the idea of a young boy getting a heavenly manifestation simply because of a prayer of faith. It all made sense to me. It answered those life questions that I had pondered for so long. They told me to pray about the Book of Mormon. I remember reading it for hours on end, so much so that my mom would complain that I had become a hermit crab. I didn't realize it at the time, but I felt the Spirit each time I read. Finally it was December, and they commited me to be baptized on the 15th of that month. I remember praying to know if I should be baptized after having repented, and getting an answer in such a vivid manner that it was undeniable. Elder Kelsey was there with me in the water, and he raised his hand to the square. I looked up out of the font and saw my mother and father there. As that wonderful, loving man said the prayer, I felt a feeling so strong, so pure, so full of love and light that it took over my whole frame. My face made one of the biggest smiles I could have ever made. I knew at that moment that my sins were forgiven me, and that I was in the right Church.

It has been quite the journey in these past few years, but the memory of that Spirit I felt at baptism has never left me. I think of how my whole demeanor and outlook on life has changed, done a whole 360, and how even my mother can attest to the great change of heart that I have undergone. I have never been more happy in all my 17 years of life, even with all the good and bad that I go through in this life. I know I was with my Father in Heaven before I came here. I know that I was placed here on this earth for a reason, and that if I continue to follow His guidance, and use the Atonement of my Savior Jesus Christ in my life, that I can be with Them again. I may never be sealed to my earthly mother and father, but I know that they can recieve the same blessings that I have, whether here or in the next life. I know they love and support me. But most of all, the thing that keeps me going is the sweet knowledge that my Heavenly Father loves me. That is what has made all the difference. I so testify of these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Half Way In and Half Way Out

David Huff's Conversion Story

I have been a member all of my life and yet did not have a strong family in the church to follow. All of my life I had been trying to find myself in all of the wrong ways. My mom would bring us to church while my dad smoked and drank. Being half way in and half way out was a real challenge. I wanted to be a good member but for some reason the draw of the worldly things were stronger than the gospel.

I joined the air force to get away from my parents and physical abuse I had grown up with. Only after joining did I realize that I jumped from the frying pan into the fire. After serving a year remote in Greenland I arrived at my new base in Las Vegas. I decided it was time to marry and being somewhat active in the church I married a local young lady. The funny thing is when we were being married I felt that it was not right thing to be doing. After six years of trying and not being happy, my wife asked for a divorce. I knew she was right in asking for it. I had been abusive and very angry, really not knowing why.

During the days following the divorce I realized that I needed to change but I didn’t know how. The one thing I knew I could change was my relationship with Heavenly Father. For the first time I realized that Heavenly Father was giving me a second chance for a better life.

I took it and ran with it. I was sorely tempted by satan to follow him many times but I saw that it was just a fa├žade. I realized that to be happy I had to change. After going to church on Easter Sunday I saw this young lady walking out of church and the spirit told she was the one I could trust. Trust for me was a major issue in my life, being raised in a dysfunctional home it was hard to feel any kind of love or peace without strings attached or always wondering when the bottom would fall out.

Three months after my divorce we were married in the Salt Lake temple. I vowed that I would never be the reason for another divorce and that I would do everything I could to make things right. After being married for 25 years and getting counseling for myself for 5 years I am happy to say that although life has been hard I am happier now than I would ever thought possible. I was able to break the cycle of abuse I received so that my three children would never go through what I had. The spirit has spoken to me many times and as I struggle with life and issues I know that my Heavenly Father will continue to be with me throughout all of my life. My wife was a Godsend to help me through the hardest times of my life. I couldn’t have done it myself. With her patience and unconditional love we have made a life for ourselves centered in the Gospel.

Life is still hard, however the Lord does answer prayers and I know that he knows who I am. I have learned that I do have a father in heaven and even though I don’t always feel him, I know that he is there. One incident that I remember was when I was 12 years old and had just been thrown out of the house. I remember telling Heavenly Father that if this was all there was to life please take me now and let me die and return to him. The spirit of the Lord came to me and said that I was to rise above all of this and that I was better than that. From that time forth when things got real bad I would remember that feeling and press on.

Through revelations and scripture study I have come to realize that there are many ways to fulfill a mission here on earth. Through genealogy I have seen my ancestors receive the Gospel and know that my mission here on earth was to save my ancestors and break the cycle of abuse I grew up with. I have come to realize that we all have missions to serve and that as we finish one mission the Lord will give his children greater opportunities to grow and learn about him. The trials are hard but I have learned to trust in the Lord and seek him out for strength and wisdom in all things.

I went from being a proud selfish angry person to a loving caring husband and father. I thank God for the patience and love he has shown me throughout my life and I can hardly wait to be with him once again.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mormons Were Out to Get Me!

Deanna's Conversion Story

I’m not sure if my story is terribly unique from others you have available to you but it usually causes some raised eyebrows!

In 1995 I was an opportunity select active Catholic. My life has not been one raised in any church. As a matter of fact, my world had been anything but one of any faith at all.

I was not raised by my mother, but off and on by one of her sisters and her husband. My world was one of complete insecurity. I never had a home that was mine. Furniture that was mine. Even my clothing was usually borrowed or hand me downs until I was too old for the process.

Alcohol was an everyday affair in my family. Lots and lots of alcohol. Along with being sexually abused by two of my uncles these “assets” created a woman with serious anger issues, extreme insecurity and my own alcoholism. I had no successful or appropriate relationship examples in my life. I would fall into the trap of relationship after relationship trying to fill the hole in my soul for love.

By 1995 I had five living children and one that was killed in my seventh month of pregnancy due to a car accident that almost killed me as well. I won’t go into all the times I can look back on and find myself amazed I lived through them. In many ways my life was comparative to Glenn Beck. It seemed like the “Mormons were out to get me”!

It 1974 I went to the LDS Church with my neighbors. I was searching everywhere in every church around for a place where I “fit”. I loved the services, but unfortunately becoming members of the church destroyed the marriage of my neighbors. While the husband found a true calling to the Church, his wife found it confining and old fashioned. During their divorce their home was up for sale. The real estate agent had come to evaluate the home for his listing and left the gate to the pool unlocked. To cut a long story short, my second son fell in the pool and was nearly drowned. When he was in the hospital Richard’s Bishopric came and gave him a blessing. Every machine that Jason was attached to went quiet as soon as they laid hands on him. Two days later he was out of the hospital with a doctor – a man with only faith in science and medicine – amazed that he lived nonetheless was whole mentally.

But did I join the Church then? Oh no. Not stubborn me. Several years and many LDS friends and colleagues went by. My eldest son married a very sweet girl in 1992. Her family was LDS but she was inactive at the time. Again, long story short – by the time they had been married three years they had lost two children. Amy was pregnant again and Christopher came into the world quite healthy and happy. Don was sent overseas in the Marines and Amy took her little boy back to Church.

When Don came home he had agreed he would go to Church with Amy but never said he would agree he would join the faith. During the summer of 1995 my youngest daughter went to spend the summer with her brother so she was attending with the family as well. Due to health issues my daughter had it was necessary to allow Don to have custodial rights in case she needed to be treated. So when Don called me with the “news” everything was pretty much over and done with.

He called me at work and announced to me that the last Saturday he AND Kathleen were baptized and confirmed into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was furious! What in the world did he think he was doing? By the time Katie came home to start school I had calmed down enough to look for a new place to live that would allow me to take Katie to Church and still be close enough for me to go to Mass. We went on this was until 1996.

Katie and Don were both quite the Missionaries. By spring of 1996 I agreed to take discussions but only so that I could prove them both wrong! I was baptized by my son (his first!) six weeks later. Since that time I have served in Relief Society presidencies, been called as a teacher, Stake Missionary, and found that place of security and family I never had as a child. When my first Bishop taught me about my Patriarchal Blessing and I had learned that I could continue to learn and grow and take it all with me to be with Heavenly Father. My Blessing told of my position of Warrior in the Pre-Mortal life (which explained my drive for justice), a calling to Family History and Genealogy and a promise of attending the Temple.

I was endowed in the Las Vegas Temple one year later.

My life now is clean and sober. While my husband is not a member he supports my membership whole heartedly. Two of my grandchildren attend church with me weekly (unfortunately, their parents are divorced) and love the scouts and Young Women programs they are involved in. I am serving as the Relief Society Secretary.

Keep up the good work. The Mission Field is white and ready for harvest – especially right now. May Heavenly Father bless your works and your world.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Testimonies and Stories of Many

On Mormon.org there is a page dedicated to testimonies and conversion stories of members across the world.

You can visit this page and watch many wonderful videos HERE.