My Conversion Story

The reason that I don’t like to tell my conversion story is that it is boring. If I were to appropriate the famous Joseph Smith line, I would have to modify it thusly: “No man knows my history. . . . I don’t blame any one for not staying awake through my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I could not have stayed awake through it myself.” So don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I was raised in a very good, very normal, very happy family by a mother who was vaguely Catholic but only went to mass after natural disasters and an agnostic father. By age 14, I was a card-carrying atheist. (I actually attended a social with Madalyn Murry O’Hair, but that’s another story.)

When I was in high school, I began dating a boy, Jonathan, who was a member of the Church. I would occasionally ask him questions because I found it fascinating that an otherwise rational person could talk to me with a straight face about three parts of heaven, angels with gold plates, and the evils of drink. At this time, I was heavily involved in speech and debate and an important part of that little subculture is summer debate camp. I saved somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand dollars from my after-school job at McDonald’s so that I could spend three weeks at the University of Michigan’s debate camp. At the airport, Jonathan gave me a gift. I unwrapped it on the plane and was disappointed to find a Book of Mormon. (Not a missionary edition, by the way, but a triple with his name embossed on the cover.) I stuffed it in my bag and went back to reading A Prayer for Owen Meany. I was excited about my cross-country adventure and a little nervous about my first major event away from home. I was a little disappointed that, out of the hundreds of debaters in three- or four-person dorm rooms, I had somehow been assgined a private room. No matter.

Debate camps are divided into working groups. I was pleased to find myself in the group led by the debate coach from none other than Harvard. (I had, at the time, the same starry-eyed awe of Harvard that I think most kids growing up in upper-middle class suburbs have.) I imagine that the Internet and the availability of laptops has changed everything that I remember about debate, but back in the olden days, debate camp meant lectures on theory and, mostly, time spent researching, making copies, and cutting and pasting briefs for use in competitions. Everyone in the group would get a copy of everyone else’s briefs to take home. Debaters would then lug file boxes full of these briefs to competitions to whip out in the heat of the contest. (To understand how important these things were, I will tell you that I, in all seriousness, asked my father if I could take six file boxes on our ski trip because I was afraid to leave them home alone.)

Anywho, one day found me with my fifteen or so group members–and the Harvard coach–happily cutting and pasting in a classroom. Two or three of the copies that I was working on had been incorrectly copied and were unreadable. I threw them away. A few days later, a member of our group found hundreds of pages of copies and briefs in the trash can. I was blamed, because I had been seen throwing some things away.

The debate coach from Harvard University wanted me sent home.

I was horrified. I was terrified. I was alone. It was Saturday. I didn’t know what to do. We had a group meeting the next morning. The only excuse for not being there was . . . if you were at church.

So it was obviously time for me to find religion. But which one? Seeing Jonathan’s triple, I decided the Mormons would be as useful as any for my purposes. Their address was listed in the welcome package. This could work.

So I went. I couldn’t believe that a normal-looking person was talking about Jesus spitting in mud. Whatever. By the time I got back, my fate had been decided: I was being demoted to a group run by some yahoo out of the University of Kansas or something, but at least I wasn’t being sent home in disgrace.

I puttered the rest of my time there, not really motivated to create the best briefs possible, not sure that I could salvage my reputation in the debating world once I got home anyway. I skipped meetings to sit on the grass and read Owen Meany.

One night, I was in my little hovel-room, watching lightning. I thought, “God’s power is amazing.”

What the hell was that? I don’t think that way.

But I knew it was true. Right there. That God existed. (The rest–the mud on the eyes, the angel and the plates–took a little longer.) I started spending more time in the grass, alternating my reading between the Book of Mormon and Owen Meany. Will you think me disrespectful-bordering-on-blasphemous if I tell you that Owen was nearly as instrumental in my conversion as Nephi was? I started praying. I went back to the little emaciated branch that met at the Institute the next week. When I got home, I told Jonathan that I wanted him to baptize me. He said that I had to talk to the missionaries first. I went through several sets of sisters and was baptized in the Spring of 1992.

I think the only interesting thing about my story is that I wasn’t looking for anything. I could hardly have had worse motives for going to Church that morning if I had tried. And where exactly did that reaction to the lightning come from? I wasn’t responsible for that. I didn’t find religion; it found me. Why? And why doesn’t that happen to everyone else?

I can’t believe you read this far. Please share your conversion story in the comments, if you are so inclined.

61 comments for “My Conversion Story

  1. Beautiful, Julie. Special and heartwarming and fascinating. Yes, I think quite often Mormonism finds us. And for some reason we respond, we recognize, we know. It found me. I have told my own conversion story here. Outsiders who feel a need to reject such experiences will elucidate them differently with rational explanations. But for us converts the glow, the certainty, and the simple and joyful logic of the Restored Gospel is and remains a reality. But which needs regular nurturing. Your story did just that. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for the story, Julie. I grew up in the church, so I don’t have any cool story like that to tell (and I have a little bit of sacred envy for the converts who do).

    I was a little unclear on what the great sin was in throwing hundreds of pages of paper in the trash, whoever committed this sin. Was it that the other side would have access to these notes, albeit flawed in some way sufficient to justify being tossed in the garbage? To a non-debater such as myself, I’m having difficulty seeing the horror in this; please illuminate.

  3. Wilfried, thank you.

    anthony, I, personally, would be interested in your story, but to post it here might invite ‘rebuttal’ from our commenters. Perhaps you have your own blog and could provide a link to your story?

    Kevin, the pages represented research and work that group members had done. Who did this–or why–I never found out.

  4. So what you’re saying, Julie, is that in a sense, a Harvard employee was a major cause for your conversion to the Church. God bless Harvard!

    Aaron B

  5. Hey, never underestimate the power of debate, or debate camp. I had my first kiss at one of the summer debate camps, and Nate and I met (yes, it’s true), in an actual debate round, as competitors. Typical, isn’t it? Sadly, when I called my old debate coach and told him to guess who I was marrying of all people, he said, “That tall red-headed debator from Skyline, right?”

    Debate. It’s powerful stuff.

    BTW, Nate won that round. That’s why he now blogs about stuff like Newtonian cosmology, and I blog about poop.

  6. Wow, Heather. Good story. We’re about the same age . . . do you remember thearcdhdukefrancisferdinandofworldwarthreemaywellbeausorsovietreconaissancesatellitehitbyapieceofspacedebrisduringacrisis?

    funny the things you remember . . .

  7. OK, I won’t force all of you to decode that. A bit of evidence that I read so many times I still have it memorized is: “The Arch Duke Francis Ferdinand of World War III may well be a US or Soviet satellite hit by a piece of space debris during a crisis.”

  8. That’s hardly a boring story, Julie. As a member who was born into the Church, I’m always interested to hear how converts come to find the Church and gain a testimony of the gospel. There’s always that doubt — would I, under different circumstances, been humble enough to seek a testimony?

    I loved A Prayer for Owen Meany. It’s pretty easy for me to imagine that book being a part of your conversion story. I’ve never been able to get through another John Irving novel, though.

    As for being a debate geek, it’s clear that there’s going to have to be a massive debate vs. quiz bowl battle royale here some day (although in high school, there was no quiz bowl team, so I was on the math team instead).

  9. Bryce I–

    Ditto. Tried several other Irving novels, no traction.

    The math team? Geek!

  10. The church found me in high school as well, through three wards worth of kids and families that were great examples. After 2.5 years, my parents let me get baptized.

    Don’t feel bad about bad motives getting you into the church. The first time I took the discussions– and throughout my sophomore year of seminary– I lied to my parents about what I was up to. Probably a good thing they made me wait, as I eventually understood what it meant to honor your mother and father…

  11. I’ll echo Julie and Heather here: debate is indeed powerful stuff. I didn’t decide to join the church or meet my husband because of debate but it did lead to my one and only unrequited love affair. He was at least two years older than I and had a steady girlfriend but I was certain that when we got better acquainted at those debate tournaments he’d be won over by our deep intellectual connection ;). Of course, I was wrong (as 15 year-olds usually are), but I did get a few first place trophies for my trouble.

    Heather, where did you go to high school? Nate, you were a debator at Skyline? I debated at Alta and Olympus quite a bit. How many years did you debate? I bet we’ve crossed paths a dozen times.

  12. Conversion story: Raised in Church (junior SS & priesthood pianst). Mission & Temple Marriage. 10 years inactive (active wife took kids to church). Attended (not participated) baptism of son. Bored (didn’t know anybody) after baptism service so sat at piano and played primary and hymn songs while wife chatted and chatted. Three weeks later (AFTER 10 YEARS OF INACTIVITY) was called to serve as primary pianist. I had felt bad that others were tending my kids during church time, so accepted but avoided sacrament meeting. I defy anyone to serve in primary and not be converted by their sweetness and innocence – I lasted 13 months before I was completely (re)converted and (re)activated by my primary kids. Served the next 47 months (5 years total over several ward splits) as pianst. I got a break for about 6 months because of moving and then served 4.5 straight years in the same ward as primary pianist. First time in 10 years I NOT playing in the sacrament primary program.
    Primary children (and a Mom who made me practice) saved my soul.

  13. Julie, I’m in the middle of reading A Prayer for Owen Meany right now, making slow progress because I only read it on the bus to campus, but enjoying every minute. I picked it up because my bishop said it was utterly without literary merit, full of weird sex, and inappropriate for his son’s high school English class. My bishop’s a very smart and amazingly dynamic guy, but when I finish, I’ll have to thank him for the book tip and note my disagreement on its literary merit. I’ll have to mention that it was instrumental to your conversion, too.

    And your story is the un-boringest conversion story I’ve ever heard. I’m not kidding.

  14. Heather writes:

    “I had my first kiss at one of the summer debate camps, and Nate and I met (yes, it’s true), in an actual debate round, as competitors.”

    And were these two events, by chance, related?

  15. Melanie, that’s funny.

    Daylan, that’s a fabulous story. Thank you. It just occured to me that investigators without children never really ‘see’ Primary, and that’s sad. My very first calling–as a 17 year old–was to teach the . . . um. . . . I think they were called Star A’s. Anyway, they were 4 year olds. They taught me a lot. I hope your wife has sufficiently punished you for making her take the kids to church alone for a decade.

    Jonathan Green, you crack me up. For years (I used to be more orthodox than I am now) I had a very conflicted relationship with Owen Meany because it was so important to my spiritual development but also so . . . not G-rated.

    Kaimi, rescind the question. They are just beginning to heal after the compost war, and now you are forcing Heather to admit in public that she smooched some other pimply adolescent.

  16. Heather, I take it you were an LD’er like Nate. In Kansas, LD was roundly despised. Space debris, on the other hand, was way cool. Julie, Your KU guy was probably part of a championship college team, depending on when you went. Kansas was a great place for debate in the early 90s.

    And that is a great conversion story. Too bad, because I’m sure you’d make a great atheist.

  17. I didn’t realize that Heather and Nate were LD. I probably can’t say what we used to call LDers because I’ll get in trouble, but Frank, we had the decency to despise LD debators in Texas, too. (Although in the interest of full disclosure I switched to LD because my partner and I had a falling out, largely over my interest in the church.)

  18. OK, let me just flesh out that story: my partner (who was my best friend) and I started to fight almost as soon as I got home from camp. By the beginning of the school year, we had reached the breaking point and told our coach we didn’t want to work together a day or two before the first tournament. He said that was OK, but that we had to go to the tournament because we had already paid, etc. So we went. And glowered at each other. And, of course, won first place. At which point we were ready to kiss and make up (I think a lot of the problem over the summer was that summer debate is all work and no glory). Which our coach forbid. End of partnership and goodbye PQ. I finished out a mediocre year because my ‘psyching up’ and debate persona was based on an intense personal hatred of my/our opponents (my partner and I once had, as our sole goal for a tournament, to make a certain girl from a neighboring school cry, which we did), which I found, er, somewhat incompatible with my newfound spirituality.

  19. I hate to say it, but in the geek world, there’s absolutely nothing geekier than debates over the relative merits of LD debate. I live in the world of geeks, and I’ve heard a few of these debates, and nothing is worse.

    Really. The only way it could be geekier is if you were arguing in Klingon.

  20. For what it’s worth….

    Julie, all conversion stories are, by definition, not boring. What could be less boring than the story of how someone’s identity, self-understanding, and most basic perspectives change? Doesn’t matter if it’s subtle or dramatic; it’s always fascinating. Thanks for sharing your story; I’ve long wondered about it.

    I did Lincoln-Douglas debate in high school. This was because the only skills necessary for success in policy debate are, as Julie demonstrated in #7, speaking quickly and stringing random data points together so as to make what is quaintly called a “case.” LDers quietly went along their way, actually having substantive arguments, while policy debaters cleverly challenged each other at mach speed in the next room to explain why it wasn’t in fact possible that economic growth could result in more trees being planted which could result in an oxygen overload in the atmosphere which could result in the planet bursting into flame which could result in cockroaches becoming the dominant species on planet Earth. (Bill Clinton, it should be noted, was a policy debater.)

    I am, or was, a big John Irving fan. A Prayer for Owen Meany is his best novel, and indeed one of the best contemporary novels I’ve ever read (not that I’ve read many). It wasn’t my first Irving though–that was The Cider-House Rules, a fantastical, vulgar, expansive meditation on the meaning of rules in human society, told by way of a story about an abortionist and an orphan in his care. It didn’t change my position on abortion, but it forced me to think harder about the costs of such rules (costs borne unequally across genders, across races, across ages) than I ever had previously. I’d strongly recommend both it and Prayer to anyone, assuming they can handle, say, a strong PG-13 novel. Irving’s earlier stuff, like The World According to Garp and especially The Hotel New Hampshire, is far more explicit, violent, crude and downright pagan, but it’s powerful writing all the same. I think he told the best story he could in Meany; since then, A Widow for One Year and A Son of the Circus have been interesting, but generally I think he’s in decline.

  21. Julie:
    Your conversion story illustrates some principles of how Heavenly Father works and how revelation works:

    1. “A Prayer for Owen Meany” being instrumental in your conversion.
    Heavenly Father uses what’s available, what’s already in front of us to reach us. He uses what we do know/see to teach us things that we don’t know/see, or to take us to places that we don’t know about yet. That’s a powerful human teaching technique too, to relate the unknown to the known.

    2. “’God’s power is amazing.’ What the hell was that?”
    Sometimes God initiates the communication. We _usually_ go to him first in prayer asking for guidance, confirmation, etc., but sometimes he comes to us first. That’s not just for prophets, but for all of us.

    3. Adversity (false accusations, and the threat of unfair and extreme action against you) sent you in a good direction.
    Heavenly Father often turns bad things to our good. That’s why we are to give thanks in all things even the bad, because whatever God does not cause to happen, he allows to happen.

    4. There’s no bad reason to go to church. :-)

    5. You took action (going to church the first time), and you continued to take action, going back after you got further light and knowledge. Faith without works (action) is dead.


    You asked “why?” You are one of Christ’s sheep. You heard his voice. John 10:27. The Shepherd promised you in the pre-existence that he’d call you, and when you were ready, he did.

    Yes, religion found you, but you answered and did not brush it off.

    Testimony [of Jesus] is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10. I hope you have nurtured and grown your gift.

    Many good people choose and do the right without having to be told, without having to have revelation. Others are helped along. But if you are one of those who need to be helped along with the voice of the Spirit, then you have the gift of hearing and understanding the Spirit. Then the Lord can use you for “special assignments” for those things which are not obvious to everyone else, or are not detailed in the instructions given to us in the scriptures or at General Conference.

  22. RAF–

    I don’t care what Bryce says, I have to engage you on this: the quick thinking, thoroughness, ability to distill arguments, and logic necessary for successful CX debate (regardless of the content, which, yes, always involved nuclear war or complete environmental destruction) formed the single most important part of my education to date. LD permits BS as long as it is stated prettily. At the same time, I recognize that LD was responsible for making me a solid public speaker, and that, too, is worthwhile.

    Greeneggz–fabulous comment, I feel humbled and grateful that you wrote it.

  23. Julie,
    A Prayer for Owen Meany was the only novel that moved me as the scriptures had. And though I don’t read a lot of fiction lately, I would like to go back and experience it again It is a remarkable book.

  24. Why? And why doesn’t that happen to everyone else?

    That is the big question.

    I remember teaching two ladies on my mission. They both smoked. They had smoked for years and tried every which way they could to stop. Unknown to me, they knew about the word of wisdom and dreaded that next step in the discussions. We taught them, they lost all desire to smoke. Next discussion, they came clean and were almost childlike “no wonder you didn’t worry, you teach that discussion, God cleans up all the issues and …”

    The same thing happens to other people in other areas. Some people get dramatic miracles, often in passing. For others (and sometimes the same people), no miracle or a negative one. I find it easier to talk about the three children I’ve buried than the other miracles I’ve experienced. The bad things have a paper trail (including a literal one, down to news stories), the good things are just as unbelievable and extreme in many ways.

    Forget the “speed talkers vs. arguers” debate questions, the real one is harder.

    A clean, neo-Calvinist sort of God is easy to understand. The righteous get blessed, others get afflicted.

    A clean, God just watches and whispers when we strain to hear sort of God, while not a “real” God of miracles is easy to understand.

    It is the “wind goeth where it listeth” sort of God, with real, tangible miracles, but without predictability, who loves us and who is thought to follow rules, but whose mind leaves us saying only that we know not the meaning of all things, but we do know that God loves his children, that is a God who is harder to deal with.

  25. Julie, you do realize I’m razzing you, don’t you? Good, I thought so. (Weird that I called it “policy” instead of it’s proper name, “cross-examination.” Just goes to show how long I’ve been out of the debate scene–isn’t “policy” what they call it at the university level? I think so. I never got involved with debate beyond high school, though many close friends of mine did.)

    As for the respective BS quotient between LD and CX, we’ll have to agree to disagree; I think there was at least as much nonsense in the midst of all that evidence-card waving as there was hidden in LD’s rhetorical stylings.

    Again, a fine post. I hope you’ll be able to track down in teh afterlife whomever it was (one of the Three Nephites, perhaps?) that threw out all that evidence, and thank them for giving you the space to feel God in the lightning, Irving’s novel, and everywhere else.

  26. You never would have been harassed at debate camp for throwing away papers if you had been involved in the one true and living debate style, LD. LDers don’t need endless quantities of articles and evidence clippings. We can rely on the purity of logical argument, unsullied by evidence of any kind.

  27. Jonathan Stone–

    (rolls eyes)


    You know, we usually think of the Three Nephites as spending all their time being overgrown Boy Scouts fixing flat tires and whatnot but wouldn’t it be fun if we found out that they spent all their time causing trouble for people so they would be humbled enough to accept the gospel? You could get a great short story out of that.


    TO DO LIST, July 18th, 1991, Ann Arbor, Michigan:

    (1) Destroy debate evidence.

    (2) Hide Billy’s favorite baseball glove.

    (4) Plant evidence of extramarital affair.


  28. It is quite a sad story, actually; you have it within your faculties to see truth and make a real difference, yet you settle for such a cynical delusion.

  29. How awesome!! The antics of Harvard’s coach leads to the conversion of Julie at Michigan’s debate camp. Unbelievable. Who would have ever thought?

    Do you remember who the guy from Kansas was? Frank is right — Kansas (at least back then) was not as big of a drop off from Harvard as you might think.

    The space topic came the year after I graduated (at least if I am remembering correctly). It was a bummer to miss. But the energy topic that year in college rocked.

    Julie, did you happen to run into anyone from Hillcrest HS at camp (I think there were a couple folks behind me who were there that year)?

    I’ll try to post more later, but for now its back to SS.

  30. Wonderful conversion story. I wonder if I can ever write mine. These stories you all have shared have touched me deeply.

    I spoke to a Catholic nun, Sister Virginia, yesterday and she asked me, “What do the Mormons have that we don’t have?” She was an awesome person. Excited but hesitant, I asked “Oh, do you really want to hear?” I hadn’t actually intended to go around proselyting to nuns, you know? She laughed and said well, actually she was too busy right now. (I had interrupted her for an unrelated reason.) We shared a laugh and I felt with her some bond of sisterly joy. Her question stayed with me the rest of the day and finally this morning the short answer distilled itself out of my thoughts: “the constant companionship of a living god”. So Sister Virginia, I think you’re awesome, and the next time you ask, I’ll know what to say.

  31. Thanks Julie. I, too, have always been interested to hear your converstion story.

    Mine really is boring and straightforward. I was a theatre major in undergrad, specializing in stage lighting. My lighting professor offered me an opportunity to be her assistant on a show at the Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City, and of course I accepted. While I was there, I decided to take a trip down to see Temple Square, was shown around by some missionary sisters and ended up listening to a rehearsal of the MoTab. Sitting there that evening, listening to that music, I felt calmer and more peaceful than I ever had before in my life. I knew I was home.

    I filled out a contact card with my address in Seattle and went home and waited. When I had not heard anything in a week, I decided I could not wait any longer and went and found my local ward- which turned out to be across the street from our lighting studios! I was baptized in less than 6 months.

    To this day, twelve years later, putting a MoTab CD on is all it takes to make a bad day better.

  32. Laura, how come each conversion story makes my eyes moist? Yours was no exception. Thank you so much for sharing. Melanie (13) and Daylan (16), I was also moved by your conversion experience. Much that I could recognize. Tatiana (37), keep up with Sister Virginia! We had a Catholic nun who converted to Mormonism in Belgium, some 30 years ago. Then she married in the temple to a wonderful brother and they had a baby girl born to them while she was well in her forties. And a year ago, I saw that girl as a devoted, smiling sister missionary on Temple Square… The Lord moves in mysterious ways.

  33. Melissa,

    During which years did you frequent Olympus tournaments?

    I was awful at both LD and CX, so I stuck to the IEs and watched the actual debating when possible; there’s nothing quite like the hysterical drama of a final-round CX at 2 a.m., you know…

  34. Amira is right, this is a good post for today. Thanks, Julie, I don’t think your story is boring at all.

  35. Randy, I don’t remember the guy from Kansas’s name–but the comments here have made me feel crummy for badmouthing him–you can tell that I was more familiar with a school’s reputations than I was with actual debate rankings, huh? (And I don’t remember anyone from Hillcrest, sorry.)

    Tatiana, that was a great story.

    Laura, that isn’t boring!

    Thank you, annegb.

  36. Thanks to Julie. I’m 5th generation and still delight in new conversion accounts. Sometimes I’m a little envious of the Julies of the church because of their intensely personal spiritual experiences leading to conversion. I’m not apologizing for having been born into the church, it afforded me the extremely rich ancestral heritage that has sustained me in difficult and doubtful times. I’ve had some of those spirtual manifestations too. The circumstances were different–that’s all.

  37. Lawrence, thanks for your comment. I suppose the grass is always greener . . . I sometimes wish I had those pioneer ancestors everyone is always talking about. My ancestors, some of the first settlers of Martha’s Vineyard, are known to history only because they were fined 16 (I think) shillings for quarreling on the sabbath.

  38. I think that’s an awesome conversion story, Julie. My mom was randomly inspired to join the church one afternoon while doing genealogy in Temple Square (my stepdad was an inactive member, and she was already a genealogy fan; it was a special trip, for which my stepbrother and I were sent to our other families for a week.) Literally, it was a “oh here’s a comfy bench – wow that giant statue of Jesus sure is inspiring – honey, I want to join your church.” They came home and eventually called their local bishop to get the missionaries to stopy by (the card they filled out never went anywhere, I guess.)

    And as a side note, I’m here to represent the Mock Trial teams of the world and say phhhhbt! to all you debaters. Mostly because my dad kept pushing me to join debate and it started getting really annoying really fast and I refused to even look into it, whereas Mock Trial was my idea.

  39. Well, gee, Sarah, I was all excited about your comment until you got to that ‘phhhhhbt!’ part.

    Thanks for sharing your mom’s story with us.

  40. Daylan
    Thanks for sharing your story. Primary pianist has got to be the best calling at church!!! You get to watch all those cute kids….but you don’t have to have the stress of keeping them in line or prepare entertaining lessons, that is someone else’s job! I had a blast each week when I was the primary pianist.

  41. Was the Harvard Coach then the same horribly disfigured drug addicted brute that I remember from my own debate years? Parkins or something? I would take ejection from his group as a huge compliment. As an atheist high school debater in the late 80s, I salute you. I still remember those boxes full of useless, misinterpreted blurbs on “briefs” (we finally started putting some of the cards on actual advertisements for underpants). When we finally quit debate senior year, my partner and I actually dropped our “boxes” out a 2 story window and watched them shatter and disseminate their propaganda to the wind and tarmac.

    You have some precedent in Joseph Smith by the way. As I recall he was an unchurched youth who participated in the Palmyra Lyceum, something of a debate club.

    PS if you liked Owen Meany, you might enjoy Udall’s Edgar Mint. Even has a Mormon association.

  42. Julie – Thanks for sharing your story. I suppose it is cliche’ to say that even if we are born into the church we still have to be converted individually, but nevertheless I know that to be true. I have been “technically” a Mormon my whole life. My ancestors joined the church in Europe and then immigrated to America in the 1850’s. They crossed the plains and helped build the Kingdom in the west. I was baptized when I was eight and went to church regularly except for a year long period when I was 14 and my entire family became inactive. Eventually a couple of fellows from school invited back to church and I’ve been attending ever since. I didn’t serve a mission but was married in the temple at a young age and for about 20 years of marriage I met almost all of the “qualifications” of being an active Mormon. But I was never passionate about my religion and I never really considered how it related to my salvation. Even after a major setback in my professional life and somehow climbing out of a financial mess (through what I now see as devine intervention) I still didn’t become what I call “a committed member.” There was one more professional setback that helped to push me back on the track to being committed ( I mean to the Church!) but it was a couple of years later when I was struggling with a crisis in my family that I had a spiritual experience that is a little too personal to explain in detail. Like your experience with the lightning, it came from an unexpected place and gave me answers (and comfort) that I had been seeking through prayer. Since that day my life has been different and I see the world differently now. I still love my profession and I am always seeking new challenges in that regard that will help to maintain my enthusiasm. But I no longer look to that profession as a means to find true happiness and certainly not a means to find salvation. That only comes from one source. Isn’t it great that God will patiently wait for each of us to find our way in the world and then, like the prodigal son, we are showered with his blessings.

  43. Thank you for sharing. Like you I was not searching for anything when I had a Composition class with a nice LDS man……….

  44. Great Post and Comments,
    I was a pretty happy catholic when we sent our oldest child to a catholic kindergarten. We grew unhappy with the school fast, nothing church related though, and moved our daughter to the public school mid year. We were worried about her making friends and the effect that a mid year change of schools would have on her(we felt we had no choice though). My wife picked her up from school that first day and was delighted to see her smiling ear to ear, holding hands with a little girl. The two quickly became best friends. My wife and the other girls mother eventually would get the girls together for lunches at each others houses after school. It was during one of these that my wife noticed pictures of several beautiful temples on the wall and thus began the religious discussion. They gave us a Book of Mormon and we accepted, but ignored it for several months. After some time, they invited us to church and my wife decided we should go to be friendly. The one Sunday which was convenient for us to go turned out to be Ward conference. Needles to say that was an extremely weird experience for two catholics. After all of the sustaining and other talks, the stake president was to talk. He really didn’t say much, just bore an unbelievable testimony of the savior and the restoration of the gospel. As he teared up testifying of the first vision, a story I had not yet heard, I wanted to study this out and to learn what would move a man to testify the way he did. We took the discussions and were baptised, then sealed in the temple a little over a year later. The stake president was released a month later and we moved away from our friends because of my career, but the impact of their love for us and their testimony cannot be measured. Pretty unremarkable in the grand scheme of things, but it means the world to me.

  45. “that little emaciated branch that met at the Institute”

    On Hill Street, right? When were you there?! I should take offense at the word “emaciated” because that was *my* branch; at least for the summers. I loved the people there, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with them. But I won’t, since you weren’t even properly an investigator.

  46. Julie in Austin #44 – “I sometimes wish I had those pioneer ancestors everyone is always talking about.”

    Funny that you mention that. I have an ancestor who was taken in by Emma Smith during a difficult time. I’ve been a member all my life, and the “ancestor stuff” doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. I’ve never mentioned this bit of history in church (or, actually, anywhere else for that matter). I should probably repent and cherish it more, but my testimony is based on other things.

  47. Julie, your mention of going to church not out of desire, but out of convenience reminds me of another story. Not my conversion story, but my father-in-law’s, published in the “Missionary Moments” of the Church News back in the early ’90s (I think):

    When Dad was first in the military, the only way to go off-base on weekends was to attend church. He wasn’t much of a church-goer, but his buddy had put down “Mormon,” so Dad did, too. The buddy quit going after a while, but Dad kept it up and was converted.

    As for the debate connection, I coach speech at one of the top programs in the country; my son lettered twice at his school back in Oregon, and my daughter’s in her third year of speech, second year of Original Oratory here in Montana. There’s nothing like it!

  48. Thanks to Lamonte and john and swingdancefan for sharing their stories . . . the bloggernacle is a better place for having your testimony.

    Oops, sorry, Melissa, no offense intended . . . it was just such a SMALL group for someone who had only ever experienced church in the form of a Catholic Mass on Christmas or Easter!

  49. Julie,
    I have also experienced that God will use nature (like lightnig in your case) for your own growth and benifit. The worth of a soul IS GREAT in HIS sight.

  50. Beautiful story Julie. Definitely not boring. In addition to providing some needed nurturing to my own testimony, it reminded me of my own roots in Geekdom.
    My conversion has been somewhat complex, at least for me. I was born and bred in the faith. Throughout highschool I was very active and hoped to teach seminary for a living. I served a mission and worked for the church the following year. To this day, I believe that my conviction and testimony in those formative years was genuine. However, starting at about 16, there were a few issues that I found I could not completely come to terms with. It was not until I was 22 that I began confronting them. By 24 I was certifiably agnostic and, at best, indifferent toward the church. In the following years, my life floundered in spiritual indecision. After a divorce, a drug and alcohol addiction, a suicide attempt and many other trials, a large number of which were natural consequenses, I was whipped. Like Lamonte, it was in my trials that I again found God. For me, there was no other way. I had to believe that there was something out there. At first I shyed away from the conception of God that I grew up with. However, as my relationship with God has deepened, my testimony of the gospel has returned. Today I do not shy away from the issues that troubled me. I do not cower at the thought of past sins. My soul is at peace and my cup runneth over. I am able to love others. I am able to give. That I am able to say this today is a miracle to me. God bless it. And God bless Owen- good book!

  51. 58.
    Matt, the last four lines of your comments are very similiar to Jesse’s experience, to mine,
    and that of several other people here. Your comments and theirs helped me realize that it’s not unique, but is the mighty change of heart everyone should have.

  52. Well, I am a convert. grew up in a Hindu family in India, attended Catholic school K-12, and then ended up at the Univ of Michigan in Ann Arbor, a member of a pretty rowdy fraternity. Lived about3/4 of a mile from the “emaciated” YSA Branch that Julie found during Debate Camp. Anyways, all I knew then about our Church was that BYU was a Church school, and that Mormons sort of had multiple wives.
    Anyways, being in a frat meant that guzzling beer in copius quantities was a very important part of the fraternity lifestyle. Very late One saturday night,( after a party celebrating a Michigan Wolverines football victory), I found myself in the rec room of the frat house, quite drunk, and unsteady on my feet. So, a couple of friends and I sat down, and watched ESPN. Around 3AM or so, we saw a TV ad, that we thought was really funny – the story line had something to do with a couple of kids in a farm, who were playing with their dad’s truck, and suddenly, it lost control, knowcking down chicken coops etc… And we were to drunk to figure out what the ad really meant, but, in our intoxicated state, we decided to call the 800# to get 3 copies of the “free book”, whatever it was. Since it was “free”, we drunks thought why not get it. So, I called, and talked to a really patient Sister at the MTC. It took me a long time to give her my name address etc, becasue of my slurred speech, inability to remember our address, plus it didnt help that my 2 equally drunk frat brothers were trying to help out!!!!
    Anyways, towards the end of my conversation, the Sister asked if we would prefer to have 2 “representatives” of the Church came to hand deliver the “free book”. And I said, what the heck, if it still is free, I dont care.
    I forgot this episode the next morning, and thought nothing more about it, until I came back from class about 10 days later. As I entered the frat house, I was told that there were “2 football players from BYU” waiting to see me!!!!! And that’s how I met the Elders!!!!
    After about a few weeks though, I decided to give up on them, becasue I definitely wasnt willing to give up drinking tea or coffee or alcohol!!! But I kept my copy of the BOM. Subsequently, I went through a couple of sets of Elders, but, again, my unwillingness to accept with the WOW tripped me up. By late 1994, I had moved out from the frat house, and had cleaned up my act, and was no longer living a party animal lifestyle. Summer of 1995, I hapened to run into Elder Bassett and Elder Tolentino, and started going through t he discussions again. And after a lot of prayer, I actually connected with the materials the Elders and I were discussing. And things moved forward in a positive manner, and in Dec of 1995 I was baptised, and I have been a faithful member since, and recently was called to be a Ward Missionary!!!! What a crazy turn of events, eh? A Mormon who actually met our Church becasue he was drunk ? As they say, Heavenly father works in mysterious ways!!!!

  53. No offense taken; I remember the early 90s, and it was a small group. Maybe 20-30 at most. Now, it’s a huge bustling ward (they’ve outgrown the institute building). Amazing what 15 years can do.

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