So last year for an English assignment, we were given the opportunity to write a five page paper on a life changing event. Well I tried and I tried and I tried and could only think of my story to the baptismal font. In the paper I described from a young age to October of 2011 when I was baptised and the moments and events that led me to where I am now. So here it is, my conversion story, The Story of Me.
When people think of life-changing events, they think of first cars, graduations, marriage, and first children. At twenty-five years old, I’ve only accomplished so much, but what I have accomplished has brought forth blessings without measure. That is the story I am here to tell today: the story of my conversion and baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Most people I know were baptized as children or babies, depending on which church they belonged to. I took a more elongated route that introduced me to the baptismal font at twenty two. But before we jump ahead let’s start at the beginning.
Growing up, my family was Baptist. I didn’t really understand what that meant, outside of faith in God and Jesus Christ. I barely went to church, but knew the scriptures through my grandmother and my parents. I had a moderate understanding of the faith of my parents, but as a child I lived for Saturday morning cartoons. Power Ranger, Pokemon, Rugrats, fox kids were the pinnacle of my childhood weekends.
I can remember while sitting in front of the television, and seeing commercials, for “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”. Usually it was a commercial featuring a little kid doing something nice or sweet. It would catch my very short attention span for just a few seconds to make me wonder, “What is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” The show would return, and like a flash of light, the thought would disappear. As a little boy, I didn’t think I’d get the answer to the question that had appeared in my mind for those brief seconds. Nor did I ever get my mind off of anything other than becoming a Power Ranger, the latter of which never happened. I can remember growing up, the word “Mormon”, I remember it leaving my mouth or being in the mouths of others, but there was no real meaning behind it. I had never met a Mormon or at least I didn’t know if I had. To be honest, I didn’t know anything more than the commercials.
Growing up, I did a good job staying out of trouble. Outside of a few school fights, I was a good kid, although very hyper and lacking an attention span needed to complete most tasks without being reminded. I competed in varsity football, earned decent grades, and balanced singing in my school’s choir, while working a part time job in high school. I never touched drugs or alcohol. I never got in trouble with the law. Like I said, I was a pretty good kid throughout high school and middle school.
College came in 2007 and I began branching out on my own. I was again inquisitive. I was again searching for the answers to the questions of the universe: “why were we here, where did we come from, Republican, or Democrat, War or Peace”. Influences were all around, pulling me in every direction. Influences in politics, creation or origins of man, and in social norms were abundant in the college environment. The good boy from my earlier years was starting to slip into a sea of influence that would suck me in for years to come.
During 2008 and 2009, Mormonism was again on my television screen. However this time it was portraying a more radical side, the polar opposite from the commercials from my childhood. Depicted were the polygamist sects that everyone kind of knew about, but rarely discussed about except to discriminate against the mainstream Latter-day Saint population. Shows depicting Mormon polygamy like Big Love & Sister Wives, as well as the endless coverage of Federal strike force invasions of Polygamist compounds were all over. You couldn’t turn on the news without hearing something new about it. Of course I was aware there were two sides, unlike everyone else around me who seemed to mesh together the various sects, but I still didn’t know what the Mormon church really was. I wanted to know who the real Mormons were.
One day, my friend Ron and I were driving down towards DC to help with a monster truck rally. En route we drove past a building. Although I didn’t know at the time would change my life forever. While on 495, half awake and a little hungry, I peeked my head out the window of his red Chevy pickup truck and saw one of the most beautiful works of architecture I had ever laid eyes on. I saw the Washington DC Latter-day Saint Temple. It just rose over the hill as if it were floating. The white marble brightly shone in the sunlight and the golden spires rose into the heavens. I turned to Ron and asked, “Dude, what is that?” He then replied, “It’s the Mormon temple. Haven’t you seen it before?” My memory jogged back to trips on this highway when I had seen this temple before, except my childhood memories of those early family trips referred to it as a castle belonging to some type of royalty stationed here in America. That moment was just so amazing. I truly felt something staring out the window.
Weeks passed, and the image never left my head. At the time, I was working at Shoppers, grocery store. I worked along side of a non-Mormon war veteran who had seen the world named Bob. We would talk about family history and religion and one day he told me about the Mormon temple, that very same building that I had seen only a few weeks earlier. Bob and I traded thoughts and I’m sure my curiosity was no longer hidden. He told me about the family history center near the temple and how this religion possessed the largest family history database in the world. I found this so amazing, and just so powerful, because at the time I had never heard of anything like that. My mother being adopted had always made me interested in family history.
I had a friend at the time named Desiree. I remember talking about the church one night with her and she told me she was a member. I was dumbfounded; I couldn’t believe that I had found a member, someone who I trusted who was actually a member of this church that had taken over my mind. I began to ask questions pertaining to polygamy and the history of the church. MY curiosity again continued to grow.
I soon realized that I needed answers. As someone who enjoys writing and had grew up wanting to be a military journalist, my natural instinct was to sit in a library behind computers and books until I answered my questions. That’s what I began doing between class. It became an obsession. I saw on the church’s website, Mormon.org, that I could order their scriptures and DVDs. I ordered a book called the Book of Mormon along with some DVDs. I felt in my heart I was coming closer to finally having answers. I felt as though I was coming to an end in my journey. I had no idea that my journey had only just began.
A few days after placing the order, I sat on my living room couch drowning out the school day with useless television (ironically enough it was Big Love), when a knock on the door came. I got up and opened the door to two young boys about my age in shirts and ties. I looked at them not knowing who they were. I then noticed their name tags bore the name of the church that I had so many questions about. One of the boys said, “Hi we’re with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we have something for you!” He opened his back-pack and handed me a Book of Mormon. I remember holding the book in my hands. I had no idea what it was to be honest. I knew answers resided in this blue book. I could feel answers were in the minds and hearts of these boys. We spoke that afternoon for about fifteen minutes before we said a prayer and I bid them farewell.
I went back to my couch and glanced through the book. I really had no idea what it was about, except that it meant a lot to this curious church I was investigating. I began reading, which to be honest in the beginning quickly bored me. I preferred what I’d read online. Again my attention span came back to attack me.
Days went by, and the missionaries continued to call. I’d talk to them on the phone, but I’d always find ways around meeting them in person. I told my buddies about my new investigation. They voiced their concerns, and being the peer pressured kid I was, I took their opinions over what I felt in my heart. I was worried about what others would think of me looking into this church. I was so scared that I’d lose friends, and family because of this. I knew wars were being fought overseas in His name, but I was far from ready for a potential war with my family and friends, so I stopped pursuing as openly and directly. I had let fear defeat me.
The following year, I went away to college, leaving behind the community college library which had become the temple of my investigation. In that year, I began to party like everyone else. I began disobeying my parents and descending into a spiral of recklessness and destruction. I was in this darkness since I had stopped openly researching this church that had brought so much peace and curiosity. I was now away from my family, and forced to make new friends. Breakups, drama, and nights barely remembered followed. I was on another sports team which only drove and increased the recklessness. I had stopped caring and instead of yielding to my spiritual side and the curiosity that was inside of me, I was now a servant of the more temporal and destructive things in life. In the summer before leaving for Stevenson University, my family and I had the biggest blow up I could remember. It left relationships tarnished and fragile, and I went to college barely mending those relationships. I had lost any type of faith that had remained from my childhood. I had no direction outside of wanting to become a Baltimore City Police officer. I barely went to class, and when I did I barely paid attention. I showed up to practice and sporting events and parties, which were all I cared about at the time.
I was an insomniac. I had no sleep pattern whatsoever. I was writing a novel at the time, and couldn’t have cared less about sleep. Most homework and writing was done between the hours of midnight and 6AM, as well as research of this church continued. I again became privately obsessed with trying to discover these answers to the questions that had been on my mind before I entered Stevenson. A part of me knew between the wild nights that I was not in the right and that there was more to life. So I continued researching up until the day I left for summer vacation. This time, I researched so privately not even my closest friends knew what I was doing. I never returned to Stevenson after that year.
After returning home, the fighting with my parents continued.. Looking back, I knew I was the one in the wrong and they only wanted what was best for me, but I didn’t care. I wanted to do what I wanted when I wanted. I wanted to be a man. I moved out of their house that summer and in with my grandparents. I was 22, working a horrible window sales job. I had no real direction.. I had no idea how to become a cop or the route to take. That summer changed me. I went through many trials that summer with friends and family, which led me to the September when I finally admitted enough was enough.
I called my old friend Desiree and told her I wanted to know about her church. What began as simple curiosity became an urgent desire and need to personally know this church.
To help me learn she invited me to the temple on 495. I remember feeling as we walked the around the grounds and went into the visitor’s center that I had been there before. In the visitor’s center I was surrounded by answers and surrounded by this church that I had been curious about since I was a little boy I was so happy to be there.
A few weeks later she invited to her house to watch a huge conference being broadcast all over the world. I remember listening to the words of the leaders of the church. Each word sank deep into heart. I had given up fear and let in desire. I was ready to make a change in my life. That night I got home and downloaded every Latter Day Saint app there was onto my phone, and continued researching until I met with the missionaries from my congregation here in Odenton. Their lessons were so beautiful and relieving. It was an escape. Eventually after going to church and meeting life long friends, and learning more. I was eventually baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on October 30th 2011. I finally knew why that church in my childhood commercials was so special
Two years later my life has dramatically changed, I have direction, faith and overall the peace I had been longing for my whole life.. My curiosity still exists, but I now know where the answers lie. Despite the challenges I wouldn’t change a step of the journey for anything. It’s made me who I am today! It wasn’t easy, but I know now that the Lord had better plans for me. It has been an amazing ride, that’s far from over. Over the last four years, I know Heavenly Father directed me through the paths of life to reach the stage I am at right now. I have a true and honest faith in Christ and the Lord, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I know this church to be true, and I know the trials I faced were necessary for my development as a man.
I’d like to close this bearing my testimony, of the glory and guidance of our Heavenly Father. I don’t think the steps I took were accidental. I know our Savior lives, and I know that Our Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us. I know I made the right decision and continue to live that decision everyday! I love my life and all that I’ve been able to accomplish, and strive to serve Him daily! I say these things in Jesus Christ’s name
If you’d like to know more about my faith or have any questions, check out these websites, or feel free to comment and ask anything!!!