A Seed

This is the account of my conversion to "Mormonism".

In the summer of 1984 in Ashland, Oregon, I was just fifteen years old. It had been two years since our father left us. When the father leaves, the child loses both mother and father. My mother had to work various jobs for our support. At one point she was pulling double-shifts at a wood mill. It was thus that I was left with near total freedom to come and go as I pleased.

Feeling something was missing from our family, I decided to seek out religion. Every Sunday I would get on my bike and ride around town until I came to a church. I would go in and listen to whatever they had to say. I became part of a bible study group. I was reading the New Testament for the first time on my own account.

It was light. It was good. No explanation or convincing was needed.

Summer turned to Autumn. Autumn turned to Winter.

One Sunday, I noticed a donation slip on the back of the pew. It had a box to check, “Are you a member of this church”. A light bulb went on in my head. I should join a church. But which one?

One afternoon I went to a local field and walking to the center I knelt down and pleaded with my Almighty Friend to show me the way that I should go.

Later that week I was sitting in my living room reading the gospel of John when there was a knock on the door. A sister missionary from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints introduced herself and her companion. I practically pulled them in to sit on the couch while I sat across from them. I explained that I was going to various churches and was looking to join one of them, and asked if they taught lessons. Replying to the affirmative we set up a time to meet.

It was thus that I became an investigator of the “Mormon” church, taking discussions with the Sisters while still attending my other churches.

Friends, relatives, and the Pastor of my bible study group all kindly advised me against getting involved with the Mormons and gave me various pamphlets and books supposedly revealing the evils of that religion, which I read with great interest.

Meanwhile, I was also reading the Book of Mormon and (on the instruction of the missionaries) praying to know if it was divinely inspired.

I got no answer. Nothing.

One morning I got so frustrated with the whole affair that I took the Book of Mormon and threw it out into the yard. I then headed off to school.

When I returned that afternoon, I had forgotten about the incident, but then saw the book there, laying open in the grass. I took it up again and went into the house. I went into my mother’s room. I shut and locked the door. I opened the book again and saw that the Sisters had noted Alma 32. I read that chapter and then knelt at the bedside to pray.

This time was different. I set my soul to know the truth either way. Only God the Almighty could show me what I should do. I was determined in my heart of hearts that I would follow whatever course no matter the hazard.

I got my answer in an indescribable way. Here’s a try: my soul had been a stormy ocean, with waves so high I could not see nothing else. In this moment the tempest became a sea of glass, the clouds parted and the Sun shone the way to a distant and grassy shore.

It was light. It was good. No explanation or convincing was needed.

I finished the discussions with the sisters and was interviewed for baptism.

Soon thereafter in late winter (February 17, 1985) I was baptized as a disciple of Christ and confirmed. And gladly. I didn’t know where the road would lead, but I knew for certain it was the right first step.

Details and Other Thoughts

First off, I am very worried whenever I post something like this-- will it be heavy-handed or preachy? I am grateful that those two sisters came down my street knocking doors. I know that's no easy task. But I consider it worth a year's trouble that they just found me. So, I just couldn't keep it to myself. What if some young person reads this and he or she is influenced as I have been?

My hope is to uplift or inspire someone out there.

I've had a great experience as a Latter-Day Saint. This one decision not only saved me a lot of trouble but really made my life wonderful. I highly recommend it.

Did I still make a lot of mistakes as a young person? Yes, oh most certainly yes. I'd estimate, though, that the trouble I got into was about 98% less. Even twenty-four years later I am still quite a flawed character. I say it without reservation that I suffer the same foibles as all men.

If somehow, through some sophistry beyond my understanding, someone were able to destroy that testimony, then my testimony of the Bible would be destroyed as well. The confirmation for both comes from the same source. I know God. I trust Him. He will deliver in the end.

When Daniel was put down into the lion’s den, he didn’t know exactly how it was going to end.

If I don’t understand something, or there is some apparent contradiction, I put it into the Jury Room of my mind. And then I wait on the Lord to explain it to me. I don’t trust my own wisdom. I think that if a man had ten of the most learned men on the planet, each with a mountain of books, that he would end up more turned around than ever, because they could never agree. It never ends; one side stacking the papers with one argument with an equally large stack on the other.

I think people wimp out too early. “I prayed about it but didn’t get an answer and so after X time I just gave up and went back to what I was doing.” Think twenty years. That’s when some of the good stuff happens. Can’t wait to see the forty year mark!

The truth is like a pearl of great price: the cost is everything you have.

At one point I went to the Medford public library to do more reading on the matter. One thing that struck me was that the amount of material written against the Mormon church is enormously disproportionate. I think I counted twenty three books against (let’s say five as a conservative number, for the sake of argument), while only two or three books against any other religion.

To become a Mormon is to choose a narrow way.

Sister Cowrie was on divisions with W. Clark, a young woman from the ward, a year my senior. Wendy had what could only be described as an inner light.

I was taught the discussions in the house of R. Noble’s father, up on Clay Street. I was taught by Sister Zanito and Sister Cowrie. They were both older than normal for sisters. When they taught me about the pre-existence it was as if my soul were a bell and they struck it loud and clear with a hammer.

The Christian church that I mainly attended was down on “B” street, as I recall. Pastor Anderson was a kindly man and treated the Mormons respectfully. He lived just up the street from the Ashland meetinghouse, on lower Clay Street. He said that the Bible was a “pool from which lambs could sip and elephants could wallow.”

I stopped taking the discussions long around the fourth one (out of six). In my childish mind I wanted to see if these Mormon youth were sincere in their friendship. Yes, they were. They were faithful in seeking me out. It must have been during this time that I had my experience with the book of Mormon.

The grand-daughter of the elderly couple, T. Noble, played the flute. I forgot to bring a change of underwear, so when they were confirming me I had wet undershorts in my sweater pocket.

I couldn’t tie my own tie, so I would wait on Sunday morning for someone to pass by my house who would tie it for me. I was given a few ties by a family from the ward. Then, I learned to simply keep them tied and slip them over my head each time.

After being baptized, I walked to church for a while, perhaps a mile or more, until the Noble family started to pick me up. The daughter, T. Noble, became my fast friend and support in every matter. She was one year my junior.

As usual, I make my normal disclaimer: I do not claim any special ability or status. I think that each person has a divine heritage-- to seek and claim on their own. Also, this is a rough draft. I plan on refining and clarifying this later.


Unknown said...

Shawn, what strikes me most about your this blog post - is that you sound happy! I think that's the most important thing when it comes to religion, and will - life for that matter! -- James

Kevin said...

Not to pry too much (and in fact, you don't have to answer), but previously you said that it was your father who was entrepreneurial and motivated you to follow your dreams of opening a miniatures studio. Was this a different person than the father who left you and your mother early on?

Blue Table Painting said...

Kevin: There is a whole mind-cracking drama behind that question.

The short answer is that they are one and the same. My mother and father were divorced around that time. Father that was entrepreneurial and motivated me as well.

Even my Father's mistakes became strengths and blessings for me. I was watching and didn't make the same errors he did, but did get the good parts.

Drjug said...

Hey Shawn,
While I would like to say that I am agnostic, I feel happy for you. I to tried looking for a religion, but all the words they said made little sense. I thought how come if I don't get baptized I will go to Hell? That made little sense to me. How could an all powerful being reject me because I wasn't bathed in water?
So I decided I would choose to follow no set path, to hope that an omnipotent being would be able to understand doubt, and to find doubt forgivable. If not, would all these holy texts be hypocritical? So I do not bash peoples religion as long as they don't try and look down on me.

But even through that I can still be happy for you. I only wish I had an experience like you did.

Best of luck,

Blue Table Painting said...

Richard: here's my take, with a Mormon angle. The afterlife isn't about punishment, it's about progress. Lack of progress is condemnation. The only way someone doesn't move forward is by not wanting to do so. This life is designed to bring out the real person-- what do you really want?

Baptism isn't about getting wet. It's about faith and obedience. That's why Alma 32 was so helpful to me at the time. Sort of a "spiritual scientist" that observes with the soul.

One thing that strikes a chord with me about the Mormon expanded creation story is that Eve makes an intelligent decision: shall she stay in a paradise where there is no progress and no children (but also no pain), or shall she enter a world of difficulty where she can learn to know good things AND bad things and learn wisdom?

I very much respect your point of view. You are now on neutral ground. There is a downside to leaving neutral ground. But there's no way to get to the other side elsewise...

I don't meant to be preachy here. Just jotting down a few thoughts.

Tracy said...

I hope you still consider me your fast friend and support in all matters. I remember the first Sunday you attended church in our ward and the sisters asked me to sit with you and befriend you. Of course I have no regrets about that. I'm glad I was able to be there for you and help you find the truth. You were/are a dear friend and a very important part of a very important time in my life. I wish you well in all things. - T.


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