Disclaimer: I am asked with increasing frequency why I converted to Mormonism as opposed to one of the other Christian denominations. I’m apprehensive about sharing my reasons because I’m quite aware the subject could attract a heated debate. This is not my intention…it is my experience, my story.
Conversion stories can often be interpreted as an implication that ones who have had a different experience and have drawn a different conclusion regarding religion/spirituality/God are wrong. I do not believe this.
It all began a few years ago when I became interested about why people chose their religion. I asked the question: “Is God actually leading individuals to their religion?” I couldn’t fathom that the majority of religions had to be wrong in order for one to be right. How could one religion have it perfectly clear and others have it so wrong?
It didn’t make sense to me. It still doesn’t.
I began to quiz my friends. Each genuine and kind, they offered thought-provoking statements which gave me more food for thought. By then I had been studying different religions for four years and many considered my studies an obsession. Obsessed or not, questions rattled in my brain:
“How does one’s faith be so strong, they do not question their religion or need to seek out other religions? Is this short-sighted? Or is this simply a matter of having a security in one’s faith?”
I had always felt a special bond towards my father when it came to the Catholic Church. I have many beautiful memories of my father taking me to Mass on special holidays. Whether or not, my father was a ‘good’ Catholic is irrelevant in the sense he had some belief the Catholic Church was true. He felt a duty to at least fight for his children to be baptized and felt in good conscience he was saving us from limbo if we were to die as babies.
My grandmother took me to services at the Baptist church every Sunday. The sermons were often the fire and brimstone kind, yet what I remember most was the music. I always felt a certain feeling of goodness with those old southern hymns. Is there anything more moving than hearing Amazing Grace and Just As I Am?
As a child, I remember feeling as if it would be much easier if I could be one or the other: Catholic or Baptist. I felt drawn…in different ways, to both. Yet, couldn’t honestly call myself one or the other. It never seemed honest.
At the age of twenty, I began studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and was baptized at the age of twenty-three. I will not go into that part of my life just yet…it will have to be an entirely different post all together. I left the Witnesses in 2005 after certain life changing events. The questions I had found myself asking were difficult to push aside. I knew I was living a lie by claiming to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It wasn’t anything against them as a religion…it was me. I should have never joined to begin with and I joined for the wrong reasons.
The thing about leaving the Witnesses…is you have to give up friendships and relationships. That had been a main reason why I stayed as long as I did. I’m not disfellowshipped, but I may as well be. The friends I considered family do not talk to me. That was and is difficult. I miss them.
When I left…I wiped out everything I had ever been taught…I started anew. A clean slate, if you will.
I read, I prayed, I talked, I bugged everyone I knew who had a faith in God and everyone I knew who didn’t.
I talked to a friend of mine during this time who is Catholic and believes that the Catholic Church is the original church founded by Jesus Christ. She explained to me that her church and other religions are governed by humans, therefore they are subject to sin. A relationship with God should be more important than the religion. It is the personal responsibility of the person to make this a priority, not the religion.
That statement changed my entire outlook.
“It is the personal responsibility of the person to make their relationship with God the priority…NOT the religion.”
Another friend during this time I spoke with is a member of the LDS Church. We were talking over lunch one afternoon and I began quizzing her about religion, spirituality and God. She told me she believed in free agency and told me basically the same thing as my Catholic friend: “The relationship you have with Heavenly Father is more important to me than my religion. My religion enhances my relationship with my Father in Heaven, but it isn’t more important.”
I read the book Free At Last by Larry Huch and marked it with so many notes and highlights, I ended up having to purchase a new copy. The book explains how Christians can break free from their past. It delves into great detail on how one can find freedom from depression, anger, abuse, insecurity and addiction through Jesus Christ. Looking back, it was meant for me to read this book. As someone who was still trying to heal from a disturbed and abusive past, was terribly insecure, had bouts of hostility and felt broken on the inside…there was no way I could move forward in my spiritual journey without some kind of healing. It was a stepping stone…and I was able to skip happily (although a bit dorky) towards my destination.
My days were spent praying with more belief and more passion than I could have ever thought possible to muster. I delved into more spiritual topics, intent on knowing Jesus my Savior and God my Heavenly Father.
I studied Judaism, but from the Christian standpoint. After all, Jesus was Jewish! I read my Bible with the mindset of the traditions Jesus taught as a Jewish man. I asked my Christian friends, “Why do Christians choose not to celebrate the Jewish Holidays? Why don’t we celebrate Yom Kippur and Passover? Jesus did!” (I still haven’t received a clear answer!)
In my studies, I learned Jesus died to take away the curse, but not the blessings!
Growing up I had a fear of the fire-burning Hell. I never felt good enough to go to Heaven, but was I really bad enough to go to Hell? Yet, what were the options? It was one or the other!
During my many talks with friends, visiting churches and attending spiritual lectures, I always felt a strong connection. In every single circumstance. BUT, what I wanted was to have that contentment my friends had in their religion. I could feel the Spirit…but not the contentment in joining another religion. Nothing ‘clicked.’ I couldn’t tell you that the pieces of the puzzle were coming together for me.
Not then, anyway.
One afternoon, I was reading the Bible and I was trying to decide which church the kids and I would attend that Sunday. Something prompted me to go lds.org and before I knew it…I was studying with two missionaries that same week.
As I’m writing this, I texted Jeff, the missionary who studied and baptized me (you can read more about how he is part of my story here) if he could share his thoughts on teaching/studying with me.
This is what he had to say: “You contacted the church the day I got in the area. I really felt the hand of the Lord in it from the beginning…We [his companion, Elder B.] were excited to teach you and shocked a little bit that you had read The Book of Mormon and bought your own quad.”
(To add to his text…not only did I contact the church when he arrived in our area…he was only in our area one transfer. Six weeks…long enough to teach me the Gospel and see me baptized…which he did.)
It was during one of our studies in which something clicked. I can’t even remember what we were talking about, but I clearly remember where we were and how I felt. We were at the church, studying in the Relief Society room. During the conversation, I had this amazing feeling that I had found what I had been looking for. It was this sense of peace…a feeling of exhalation. I wanted to be baptized which shocked the missionaries because they hadn’t even broached the subject of baptism with me yet. I may have been out of their teaching element…but I went with my heart. Everything made sense to me and I knew…without a shadow of a doubt…even with the discord between my husband and I about my joining the church…it was the right thing to do.
I’ve never regretted it.
When I started living my life according to the teachings of the LDS Church…everything seemed to fall into place. Things just worked. Do not misunderstand me… life didn’t get easier. After my baptism, I had a really tough road ahead of me…but there was and still is this powerful contentment that has never left me.
My life has changed profoundly and I can’t imagine not having this gift in my heart, in my soul.
When I enter Church, read my Scriptures, or close my eyes in prayer…I feel content.
I feel at home.
To follow up: Today, my husband is supportive of my being LDS and has close friends who are Mormon. This past Sunday, for no reason at all…he decided to attend church with me. Whilst he still maintains he’s ‘doubtful’ about there being a God…I have seen small miracles taking place in our home and in his heart.