Monday, July 1, 2013

How I Became a Mormon

Yeah, I know, this isn't my typical line of conversation here.  I get a lot of questions though and decided to share my story with y'all.  I hope you don't mind.  In our circles, we say you should never discuss politics, religion, or birth!  We're already halfway there...

This is my simple - or not so simple - story.

I was raised in the Baptist church.  We went every Sunday morning and evening and again on Wednesday nights.  I didn't grow up hearing anything negative about "Mormons" and had 2 friends that were members of the church.  We didn't talk religion much, however, but I knew they didn't smoke or drink.  As I got older, like many teenagers, I strayed.  In fact, I started smoking at age 12.  By high school, I was a pack-a-day smoker.  (By college, I was easily smoking 2 packs a day.) At 16, I had a non-ambitious boyfriend 5 years older than me.  Combined with all the other things going on, my parents decided it was a good time to send me away.  Rather than military school (yes, I was accepted), I ended up at my aunt and uncle's house in Indiana.

It's interesting to look back at what sets you on a path and how you got to where you are today.  I landed in a dusty New Mexico town for college, as I was interested in majoring in broadcasting.  There was a tiny school with a good program.  Towards the end of my junior year, I started noticing a very cute boy around town.  I asked someone about him and they told me that he wouldn't date me for 3 reasons:

1.  He was 18.  (I was 21.)
2.  He was a Mormon.  (My religion didn't mean that much to me - I'm sure his didn't mean much to him either.)
3.  His dad was my boss at the TV/radio station I worked at.

The 3rd reason was by far the most terrifying.

But I kept seeing him around town.  I could tell by looking at him (I'm not joking!) that there was something different about him. I decided to call him. We met at the Tastee Freeze the next afternoon for a Coke.  I smoked 3 cigarettes during that date.

I knew in that first week of dating that he was "the one", but I think he needed a bit more convincing!  We were inseparable all summer long.  His dad set me a curfew so I'd get to the radio station for sign-on on time at 5:45 a.m.

After we'd been dating for about a month, we were sitting in his car one Saturday night when I asked him what makes the Mormon church different from other churches.  I was just looking for a simple answer. He was quiet for quite some time.  When he spoke again he just asked if I wanted to go to church with him the next day.  A chance to spend more time with him?  You bet! I had a sense, however, that he was about to share something very special and dear to his heart with me.

My first church "meeting" was a Fast & Testimony meeting.  I had never seen/heard anything like that before.   It wasn't one person running the meeting, but rather, several people sharing the deepest feelings of their heart in regards to Jesus Christ.  It was pretty amazing.  I liked being there. But I was ready to leave after an hour so I could smoke a cigarette.

I went to church with David for a few weeks.  Halfway through the summer we drove up to Santa Fe, my hometown, so he could meet my parents.  My mom wanted us to go to church with her Sunday morning.  After going to the "Mormon" church for several weeks, I must tell you, the feeling in the Baptist church was very different.  There was just a couple of people running everything, the prayers were written out in the bulletin, and honestly, it felt very... showy.  Like it was all a big show, trying to entertain the audience with the music and pounding the pulpit.  Children were in the nursery instead of with their parents.  I had forgotten about the offering plate getting passed, too.  That was, to say the least, awkward.  I was anxious to leave.  I felt different - better - at David's church.  It felt like the people really, for lack of a better description, meant it.  Their worship was... humble.

And so I continued to go to church with David during the summer.  I felt good about all that I was learning.  So many things that didn't make sense to me from what I had learned before made sense now.  I had a few key things happen that really set me on my own personal course of belief, not just relying on David's testimony.

David went to BYU that Fall and I was starting my senior year of college back in his hometown.  He was trying to decide if he should serve a 2-year mission, but it was a no-brainer.  I knew he should.  He had been such a good and positive influence in my life, I told him to go, that I would wait for him.  He had taken several years of French in high school and had a brother serve a French-speaking mission in Europe.  David desperately wanted to go French-speaking, but I could not stand the thought of an ocean separating us (don't ask), but I wanted him to have the opportunity to speak French.  I prayed that he would be called to Canada and would be able to speak French.  I could not believe it when he got his mission call to French-speaking Montreal-Quebec.  I simply cannot put into words how I felt.  I knew that my prayer had been answered, that my Heavenly Father was mindful of me.  I became more serious about the church after that experience.

I finished taking the missionary lessons and David baptized me 11 days before he left for his mission.  It was so good that I had those 2 years to be in church without David by my side.  As it turned out, my best friend, Janet, joined the church just 3 months after me.  We had each other and we grew in the gospel together.  Some of the most spiritual experiences of my life took place in those 2 years.

I love history. I found myself reading about the history and origins of the church.  I studied Joseph Smith's life over and over.  Simply put, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ's church was restored to the earth.  This made sense to me.  There were/are so many churches who have so many different beliefs.  I've always felt that Christ would not be the author of so much confusion.  As I learned and prayed about whether or not Joseph Smith was a true prophet, I had a burning confirmation that, indeed, he was. He was persecuted, endured the most horrible hardships, and was eventually martyred at Carthage Jail in IL.  But he maintained that he knew what he had seen, and he knew that God knew it.  He would not deny it.  I have tender feelings towards our beloved prophet.

Are you wondering how I quit smoking?  I am here to tell you that it was by far the hardest thing I have ever done.  It was like losing my best friend. Truth is, I liked smoking.  I was depressed in the morning because I couldn't smoke.  It was hard.  I would quit on Sunday, but by Wednesday or Thursday, I was right back at it.  I was beginning to think I would never be able to quit.  My testimony continued to grow as I read The Book of Mormon and attended my church meetings.  I knew the church was true. May 12, 1994, I came across a scripture that I had read many times, but it hit me a different way this time:  1 Nephi 3:7  -- "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father;  I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."  The Lord would help me!  I needed to be very specific about what I needed.  My prayers had been half-hearted and shallow "Please help me to quit..."  This time, as I knelt with faith that the Lord would provide a way for me to live this commandment, I prayed that I would forget what it was like to smoke.  I never smoked again.

By the time David got home, I was solid.  We were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple just 2 days after he came home from his mission.

This year celebrates 20 years as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  My life is very different from the one I led before joining the church. I am eternally grateful for David sharing the gospel with me.

If you have any questions about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ask me or go to this link!  As much as I love all the other things in my life (birth, breastfeeding, Tim McGraw concerts), nothing is more important than this gospel.  I apologize for not sharing this with you sooner. As I was sitting in a meeting last Sunday, I had a strong impression that I needed to write my story here.

I searched for a short video to share with you about The Church, specifically, The Book of Mormon.  Many people do not know what it is about.  It is another testament of Jesus Christ, a record of the people on the American continents.  I feel much like this gentleman in this video.  Thank you for reading this post.


BedTime Quilting said...

Thank you for sharing something so precious to your heart. I know it's hard to share something so personal and private with the world. This is a wonderful story of change with faith in Jesus Christ. It helps me remember that through my struggles, God is ready and willing to help me if I only reach for Him. I'm a Mormon, too.

Alisa said...

I know this story already but it was so sweet to read it now. I draw strength from your words! I love you friend.

mandyjanedesigns said...

Wow I admired your blog before, but I so admire you for standing up and sharing! That is so hard to do. What a beautiful conversion story. Another testimony that I needed today that Heavenly Father answers prayers and guides us. Thank you.

Olivia said...

I think it is marvelous of you to share. I believe that sharing it will touch someone and lead them to Christ. Whatever our differences in church services and paths, leading someone else to Christ by sharing His word is the greatest thing we can do.

A happy Anglican with lots of friends of all walks!

Sonia said...

I just never get tired of hearing your story! It's so inspiring!!!

Kathy said...

Your story is well-written, but what Joseph Smith taught about Jesus is NOT what the Bible teaches, and is instead "another gospel" that Paul warned the Galatians (and by extensions all Christians) about.

Jesus and Satan are brothers? Mary was not a virgin when she gave birth but instead had sex with God the Father to conceive Jesus? If we are good enough, we can become gods? That's just the original lie from Satan in the Garden of Eden -- "ye shall be like gods".

Delightful Domestic Science said...

I admire your courage in sharing your story of conversion!

David and Rebecca Campbell said...

Thanks for sharing your story. My dad went on his mission to Montreal as well and that's where he baptized my mom. They contacted each other again after his mission and married very quickly! Anyway, thank you for sharing your testimony. The gospel of Jesus Christ (and by extension the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) makes perfect sense, for those who learn it with an open heart.

Sara said...

I find that many mormons I have known have a similar emotional revelation or connection, but personally I cannot reconcile the contradictions between the Mormon church and the Bible. Also there is no archeological evidence to back up the claims in the book of Mormon, whereas archeology constantly verifies the Bible's account of things. I think it's great tatty your faith made you a better person, but that's not the same as "worshiping in spirit and TRUTH." Jesus said that his followers would be no part if the world, and Mormons do take part in politics. That's just one contradiction that I can think of.

Janet said...

I am so thankful for both you and David and that we were able to grow in the gospel together. Heavenly Father knew what we needed. Thanks for posting your story. Love you!

*Jess* said...

beautifully written :) I have been following this blog for a while (since I'm an advocate for natural birth) but I had no idea you were LDS :)

Allison said...

Praise the Lord! I love reading your testimony of Him.

And it's an interesting thing that so often when someone like you shares their personal feelings, someone else feels the need to contradict. The Lord and Savior taught simply, "...whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" I can't find anywhere that He taught His followers to attack others for what they believe, so it confuses me when someone refers to themselves as "christian" but attacks an individual's beliefs in a way Christ would never do. "By their fruits ye shall know them" right?

It comes to mind that Paul taught the Galatians, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law...Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another."

Lindsay said...

I've always loved reading your blog! Thanks so much for sharing your story. If you are what the mormon religion produces, how can it be so wrong or bad?

Eric Jorgensen said...

Donna, I loved reading your story. Janet got to share her version of it just this week with a friend who is learning about the church. Christ has great power to transform lives. It's amazing and wonderful.

It takes courage to stand up and state plainly what you believe in, especially when people will criticize and ridicule you for it. You are truly magnifying your talent, and I stand with you in declaring that Jesus Christ lives, and that he restored his church through Joseph Smith the prophet!

Rachael Heiner said...

I am not LDS, but I was baptized into the Presbyterian church when I was 26 years old. My upbringing was not religious, my Mom went to a lot of different churches looking for "the one" and I went to some with her. I eventually had a crazy revelation that blew my mind. I love reading stories of how people found their faith later in life, or changed it. Thank you for sharing this story!

Lily Eggleston said...

Beautiful. This story gives me courage.