Monday, December 2, 2013

My Conversion Story

I decided to add my conversion story to my blog recently. I have no idea why this thought didn't occur to me sooner. This blog for me is my journal of our every day lives and I have it printed yearly to preserve family memories. So why wouldn't I have my story on here?!

For your reading pleasure:

The beginning of my conversion story is a little….awkward. I grew up in a small, Middle Georgia town with a graduating class of 65 or so students. It was a military school and yes totally awesome. Well at this school were 2 Mormons, that’s it 6th-12th grade and there were only two.

During high school, I ventured out and visited multiple churches in my community. I was raised by two Presbyterian parents, but attended Catholic and Baptist churches with friends growing up. In high school, I felt a real need to find where I belonged. My ex-boyfriend (see kinda awkward to always have to speak of an ex when telling your conversion), who didn’t know much about the church besides how beautiful the Terrestrial kingdom was, directed me to his parents when I had random questions. They were the ones to talk to me the most, to answer all of my questions. And oh, did I have a ton of questions!

I was attending a non-denominational church at the time and decided to ask a leader and a friend what their thoughts were about Mormons. Wow did I get an earful. Mormons are not well liked in the South. One of the leaders in particular sent me a rather lengthy e-mail with all kinds of information on what these crazy Mormons believe, which led me to my ex-boyfriend’s house to confront them on what I had learned!

So, his parents sat me down, advised me to not “bible bash” (I had pen and paper ready for my reply to this friend). Through their example of what I call “not buying eggs on Sunday” I was able to see that Mormons weren’t weird, just regular people with a really awesome belief system!

The Sunday I first visited the ward, I’ll never deny or forget the feeling that came over me when I first stepped into the building. Wow. I was in the right place! I attended a friend’s baptism and before ever meeting with the missionaries I wrote in my journal “I wanted to raise my hand and say me next, me next!”

It just felt so amazing, how else can I put it into words?!

That summer, I went off to a tennis camp with a paper back copy of the Book of Mormon that the missionaries gave me.

Here’s where I feel my conversion really happened.

In the dormitory, a girl approached me when she saw the BOM on my dresser. She said “are you a Mormon?!” I said “No, but I’m looking into it.” She then proceeded to tell me that her family goes to other countries with their church to “save” Mormons.

During this time, twin girls were standing in the hallway. They walked over to me, rolled their eyes at the girl and said, “You are doing the right thing”. The spirit those girls brought with them was so overwhelming, I couldn’t deny it. They were positive, happy. They didn't get caught up in the negativity that the other girl brought into the room. I could feel the difference between the girls and it was amazing.

That night I read the BOM until I fell asleep, their spirit and countenance stayed with me the rest of the camp.

So when I got home from camp, I wrote a letter to my parents explaining why I wanted to become a Mormon. I couldn’t speak about it, just needed to write it all down for them. They were very supportive and still are to this day! When I got their approval and after many discussions (the plan of happiness was by far and still is my most favorite of all the discussions), I told the missionaries, “I want to be baptized before my senior year, I need this in my life to survive senior year.”I was baptized on August 2, 2003.

I was a “golden investigator” the type that studies before the missionaries come over, I wanted to know what lesson to read and highlight before they ever walked through the door. I was so excited to learn something that was new to me, but felt like something I had heard and felt before.

I went on to attend BYU, which is a whole other story for another day. My testimony faltered while in Utah, but I found the right group of friends and later married my sweetheart on December 29, 2009 in the Washington D.C. Temple.

Life has been hard; whenever I meet with investigators I always warn them that the adversary has everything going against them to keep them from the joy that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He does not want to see us happy, he will put every road block up to keep us from what we feel in our hearts is right.

But the joy it brings.... oh man is it worth it!!

Top 5  reasons I love being LDS: 

1. We believe in an afterlife where those who weren't able to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ will have the opportunity to hear it. It is a very peaceful, comforting thought for me. People who were born into countries that do not teach or have Christian values will still have that chance to hear the Gospel in heaven and to make the choice then to accept or deny it. I love the plan of happiness, also known as the plan of salvation.

2. There are no paid clergy. I love this belief so much because I know my Bishop, I know he works a full time job providing for his family. I know that when he stands up to give a talk he is doing it for the good of his congregation not for a paycheck. My husband and I have volunteered our time as well as others to teaching on Sunday and Wednesday night activities. Our church is a working church, it helps everything run smoothly, everybody contributes, and yes, we even clean on our church buildings! Love it!

3. Speaking of talks, in the LDS church we give our own talks, we are the "preachers". Speakers are asked to participate in the Sacrament meeting (where we partake of the bread and water to remember Jesus Christ's atonement) to teach the congregation about various topics. How fun is that?! We also have General Conference twice a year in which church members gather around the world to hear church leaders speak, this is my favorite time of the year!

4. We have a fast and testimony meeting once a month in which the entire ward fasts and gives an offering (that would have covered 2 meals) to those in need for 24 hours. During those meetings the pulpit has no speakers, those in the congregation are encouraged to share their testimonies of the Gospel. Because the LDS church relies so heavily on personal revelation, we believe everybody can have the Holy Ghost with them to teach others about the Gospel! This is one of my favorite meetings.

5. Finally, I love how we do baptisms. Each baptism is celebrated for that one member or an entire family. It is separate from all other meetings. There are speakers and hymns sung and it is all about the person being baptized. They invite friends and family, usually with a reception of food to follow!

I love this Gospel because even after everything I have been through I have a stronger relationship with others because of it. I have learned how to be more forgiving, to have more compassion, and how to try my hardest to be a follower of Christ. It has brought a peace into my life. One could look at my life and say, "why believe, after all you have been through?"

I find that I love the scriptures more (
we do read the King James Version of the Bible) and that the stories therein can be applied to my everyday life experiences.

I believe because I have felt the Holy Ghost testify to me the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I could not deny that, not ever. Even when I have been judged harshly for choosing to be a Mormon, it is still something I could never turn my back on. It has made this good person, better. And no matter where life takes me, whatever roadblocks come my way, I can always feel the confirmation that the Lord is on my side and I on His.

If you want to learn more about my church
and Mormons beliefs click here.


Jonna Pantelis said...

What a great conversion story! I always like hearing how people came to join the church. Thanks for sharing!

Lisa said...

Beautiful conversion story and testimony, Whitney. You definitely were and still are golden. :)

Giggles said...

I love the plan of salvation discussion as well. I've recently learned even more about the plan, found new layers of meaning to it, and love it even more.