Someone pointed out that my conversion story may be lacking a little bit. After re-reading and thinking about it I’ve decided that they are right. I think I may have left this stuff out because some of it is very personal. But it is also important to share so you can see, fully, why I decided to join this Church. Here are the missing bits. (Hopefully)
Around June or July I was introduced to our local full-time missionaries. Elder W and Elder B were the ones serving at the time. The first time I met them they asked me if I was Religious. I said no and promptly lit up a smoke, as if to prove that fact to them. I only stuck around for a few minutes then I was on my way, more than likely to the bar. The next time I saw them it just so happened to be Elder W’s birthday. My brother had decided to barbecue for them. They also had a cake and brand new tie for him. Looking back it was really special. This time I hung around long enough to say Happy Birthday, and then went to leave. Elder W told me, while we were shaking hands, “If you need anything, anything at all…like moving furniture, or anything else, just let us know. And, we won’t even try to convert ya.” Famous last words.
The following few days, or even weeks, are kind of fuzzy. I tried playing a game where I would go out drinking and then visit Bruddah’s house afterwards, trying to run into the missionaries. This lasted for about two or three weeks. (I was kind of a punk at the time.) One of the last nights they saw me drunk I promised to read the first chapter of the Book of Mormon. We also made a deal to go to their Church…if they went to “ours”. (We were raised Catholic, and still attended every once in a while.) This was on a Thursday or Friday. So, the next morning I woke up and thought “Damn, I promised didn’t I? Well, can’t go back on that.” I read the first chapter, and I’ve been reading it ever since. That Saturday evening we took them to the 6:00 Mass. The got to see what that was like, and hear all of the bad jokes. “Elder? You don’t look old enough to be an Elder!”
The Sunday after we went to their Sacrament Meeting. I think if I had gone any other week I might not have gone back. It was really special. The first speaker was a kid that is currently serving a mission. He spoke of basic things like wearing white shirts and ties and waiting until you’re 16 before you start dating. It wasn’t really anything great…but interesting to hear. The next guy, that was the ticket. He was a returned Missionary that so happens to be a high functioning Autistic man. He spoke for 15 or 20 minutes about his Mission and his words invited the Spirit like I’ve never seen before. There was some time left over so the Bishop called two people up to bear their testimonies and talk about their Missions. Both of these people were really great. The guy got up and made a joke like “Man, I wish I would’ve worn my suit jacket today” and the lady is really good at cooking chicken noodle soup. Who would have thunk it back then?
That Sunday we attended just the first hour (Sacrament Meeting) and left for smokes and to carry on with the rest of our Sunday. From then until well after my baptism, which was from June to about November, I saw the missionaries every single day. They would bring various members of the Church over to sit in on lessons with us. The Spirit was always there, and we gradually began to understand that it was there because we were inviting it to be there, not just the visitors. For a while we had assumed that is was just the missionaries that were calming us down and making us feel good at the end of each day. Each member that they brought over helped us realize that these were normal people just like everyone else.
So, for the first time in my life I was actually looking forward to Sundays. Early on in my Book of Mormon reading is when I got the sign that it all was true. I was wondering, praying whether or not it was true, or whether my family would accept this of me, or if I should accept it. While I was having these thoughts and questions I came upon Alma 5: 16-21;
16 I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth? 17 Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you? 18 Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God? 19 I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances? 20 I say unto you, can ye think of being saved when you have yielded yourselves to become subjects to the devil? 21 I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot be saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins.
This Scripture testified of the truth of The Book of Mormon to me. Soon after reading this I quit drinking, on August 20th, and a couple of weeks later I quit smoking, on September 2nd. (Both in 2011) Along with praying to know whether or not these scriptures were true they asked us to pray for a baptismal date. I did and was prompted to choose October 1st. This seemed like a normal Saturday but come to find out it was the weekend of General Conference, which is the time all of the General Authorities speak to us, including the Prophet. It was great. Many people came to watch, and I was invited over to a couples house to watch General Conference.
All of this culminated 16 months ago. Now I am the Second Councilor in the Elder’s Quorum. Last Sunday I taught my first class there, and it went pretty well. I have also been sober and smoke free for well over 500 days. I will be going to the Temple for the first time on February 2nd, in Kansas City. All because my Bruddah let the Missionaries come in. Thank you Bruddah, and everyone else that has helped along the way.