Q: How did you become a Mormon?
A personal question, I like it 🙂
Well, I became Mormon the same way anyone joins a faith I suppose:
I was searching for something.
Mostly I was searching for answers to the questions every human on the planet eventually comes to wrestle with:
Why are we here? What happens after we die? Does God exist?
But I was also searching for me.
Yes, I’m aware of how cheesy that sounds.
But to be honest, I was at a point in my life where I was trying to determine–in a deeply existential way–who I was, where I was going, who I was capable of becoming.
Because at the age of 20, one year shy of entering “the real world” and with a failed engagement and a slew of not-so-great choices under my belt, I felt very distinctly that I was at a crossroads; that the decisions I was making were the kind that were going to irrevocably determine the course of the rest of my life.
And I didn’t really like where I was headed.
Looking back, I can now see that a lot of the things that happened in the year and months leading up to my joining the LDS Church were pointing me in that direction all along, even though I didn’t know it at the time.
Before I get into how I met the MoMos (I didn’t even meet a Mormon until I was in college…) I’ll give you a little bit of the back story first.
Growing up I was largely irreligious. One of my parents attended the Methodist church regularly, but we were allowed to choose whether or not we wanted to go. As a perpetually tired and pseudo-lazy adolescent, I often (okay…always) made the choice to not go.
After high school I moved 1,000 miles away from home to attend college at a less-than-conventional undergraduate institution.
One of the ways I coped with being in a new place, surrounded by new people, while living under a stress-filled microscope, was to do whatever it took to fit in. to make friends. to be liked.
As a senior in high school I was voted Best Role Model. I worked hard. I got good grades. I played sports. I didn’t party. I didn’t drink. I was an all-around stand up kid.
In college, however, I reinvented myself, because, well, everyone underage drinks in college. everyone has random hook-ups in college. everyone is slightly irresponsible in college.
Before long I started to realize I didn’t recognize myself anymore; I had become a new person, albeit nothing close to a better person.
Toward the end of my freshman year, I got into a relationship that eventually turned into a not-so-healthy-relationship, that ultimately became a rather-toxic-never-quite-able-to-get-out-of-relationship. After a couple of years my self-esteem sank so low I felt like I had no value outside of that relationship and that I was virtually nothing on my own (which is now pretty embarrassing to admit…).
On the outside everything appeared to be fine, but the cracks were showing to those who knew me well. Even though I was increasingly unhappy with myself and the circumstance I was in, in February of my junior year, he proposed.
And I said yes.
Things continued to decline between us, but I felt more bound than ever to stick with it. I couldn’t imagine staying, but I was even more scared of the prospect of leaving; of being without him and being alone.
Then a couple months later, something happened that changed my life.
He was three months old and he was perfect and it destroyed everything I’d ever thought about the God I’d always sort of thought might exist.
Because a kind and benevolent God didn’t allow babies to die. He didn’t allow parents to lose their children. He didn’t allow the months of suffering and anguish that followed.
As I spent the following week at my brother’s side, I wasn’t just sad, I was angry.
As I helped him and his wife box up their son’s belongings, as I sat by them while they chose his casket, as we all laughed and then cried watching videos and reminiscing over photos of him, the place in my heart that I’d always kept open for God began to close.
For the first time in my life, I felt it was very possible that God didn’t exist.
And even if He did, He was the type that abandoned you when you needed Him most. And I didn’t want any part of that.
In the weeks after Christian’s funeral, I thought about him constantly. Where was he? Was he okay? What was the purpose of it all?
For the first time in my life, I was also confronted with the certainty of my own mortality. I was now vividly aware that people did in fact die whether you were ready for them to or not, and even when you thought it was unfair. One day, maybe soon or possibly later, I would die.
And then what…
Was I happy with my life and who I was? If I were to meet God, would I be glad, or terrified?
I didn’t like the answers to those questions…
Eventually, my feelings started to change. I couldn’t explain how, but I knew with every fiber of my being that Christian wasn’t just gone. While I still couldn’t make sense of his passing, I knew there was a purpose to his life.
I knew that God, in whatever form or capacity, was real.
I decided that if I wanted God to be in my life, I would need to make room for him again.
I started attending different churches–Baptist, non-denominational Christian, Catholic–with the hopes of finding one that spoke to me. While they all had good things about them, none seemed to be quite what I was looking for.
Before my junior year ended I made the decision to get baptized at a nondenominational Christian church. To me it signified a fresh start. It was my way of showing God that I had chosen Him.
What I still hadn’t chosen was a church. I bounced around a bit from place to place, never quite feeling settled or connected to any of them. But I also felt that if I had God, I didn’t really need Church — I could worship on my own time and in my own way.
While I had “accepted” Christ into my life, I honestly wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, and I felt as though I was wandering with no direction.
I realized I needed more than “feel good” sermons and I needed more than my own understanding, which to be honest was very little; I rarely even took the time to read or study the Bible (attempting to thru-read the Old Testament about scared me off of independent scripture study…).
I needed structure, and substance, and I needed a church that expected something of me, that motivated me to be better.
Then, that May I left for a six week study abroad trip to China.
It was life changing.
For the first time in a looooooong time I was flying solo. I made amazing friends. I felt free. I felt like myself again.
I felt empowered enough to move forward with my life independent of the relationship I’d struggled in for so long. I knew I was strong enough to make the choices that would be best for me, whether or not anyone else understood them.
And on that trip, I met some Mormons (phew, I told you we’d get there!)
K, full disclosure though…
I originally only hung out with the Mormons because they were the only people on that trip that could actually speak Chinese (all had served two year LDS Church missions in Taiwan). It didn’t take me long to figure out they were actually eating good food while the rest of us were frequenting the raunchy tourist traps. They also knew where to buy cheap cell phones and could help me barter for fake purses.
While I originally wasn’t at all interested in their religion, I did notice a few things about them:
- They were all really nice, I mean, oddly nice
- Some of them would go out with us at night, but none of them drank
- They all went to church on Sunday, even though we were 6,000 miles from home and in a totally different country
There were other things too that I couldn’t really even verbalize, but they just seemed different, but in a way that impressed and intrigued me.
I eventually became really good friends with one of these guys (let’s call him Tom), and once we got back from our trip it became evident that we both had feelings for each other. Being a typical girl, I eventually started the dreaded <cue whiny girl voice> “where is this GOING???” conversation. I very clearly told him I would never become Mormon, especially for a guy, and that there wasn’t much point in dating because the religious differences would just be too hard in the long run (we all know how that turned out, but anyway…).
The thing is, he was open-minded enough to want to learn more about my faith, to just take things slow and see where they went; he would be leaving soon anyway to spend the entire fall semester on exchange in China, so there was no point in rushing things.
Strangely, around midnight two nights before he left to go back to China, I flipped open my Bible and it opened to Acts 9–the story of Paul’s conversion. I don’t know that I’d ever read it before, but it hit me in such a way that I can’t even describe it, especially verse 18:
“And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.”
I was overcome with feelings that were so overwhelming, I couldn’t really make sense of it. Suddenly I felt so strongly that I needed to find out more about Tom’s faith. I had been so hesitant to hear anything about it, but why? He was one of the kindest, most patient, chivalrous males I’d ever met. If this guy I admired and cared so much about was Mormon, it couldn’t be all bad.
So I called him and told him that, and he was so caught off guard he almost flipped his car. The next day he gave me a copy of The Book of Mormon, and while he packed I read the first 100 pages, and I loved it. I didn’t want to put it down. It was simple and beautiful and profound, and from the very beginning I believed it to be true.
The next day he left for China, and that Sunday, I went to a Mormon church for the first time.
And I loved that too. I’d finally found a church that felt like home.
I decided to begin taking the LDS missionary discussions to start learning more about the faith, and I was fortunate enough to be taught by two of the sweetest sister missionaries I’ve ever met. I had a lot of questions and there were a lot of lifestyle changes I wasn’t so sure about making (ie: “You’re telling me I have to give up coffee WHYYYYYYY??? You want me to stop shopping on Sunday WHAAAAAT??? You’re asking me to stop swearing but I have a mouth like a sailor AAAAGGGHHHH…“), but they assured me that I could pray for answers and that God would respond, and that if I simply tried these changes on faith for a week, I would feel blessed and see changes in my life. And I did.
Two weeks later, I had finished the Book of Mormon and made the decision to get baptized.
I did it. I had become a Mormon.
It wasn’t all easy though. I had made a lot of significant changes in my life in a very short amount of time, and many of my friends couldn’t understand; some quit speaking to me, others went out of their way to be intentionally cruel. I was and still am very grateful that my parents and family have been unconditionally loving and supportive of my choices, although I think they’re still slightly confused and a little unsure about it (and I don’t blame them).
And yes, Tom and I ended up getting married (so cliché), and his name really is Tom; eight years later we have two littles and a pretty happy home together 🙂
Don’t get me wrong, the 20 years I lived as a non-Mo were by and large very happy and incredibly blessed (#blessed) (just because I like hashtags); becoming Mormon has simply added to that. It’s given me a greater perspective on life, it’s answered those questions that at one time confounded me, it’s given me hope and made me want to be a better person.
But I have a great deal of respect for good people of all faiths and beliefs; in fact, I think most faiths have far more in common than we’d like to admit. I think we’re all on our own journey and find truth in our own way and own time.
I’m very happy with where my journey has taken me.