Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How and Why I Became a Mormon

Alex's Conversion Story

I guess my Story is pretty much like many other conversion stories out there. And because I really love to read stories of other members, i thought i'll give it a try myself and let you know how i found my back to the Saviour and into his church. This is my very first attempt of writing about my conversion and even though i am German, i think that i can reach a broader audience when it's written in English.

I was born in 1978 and got baptized into the Roman-Catholic Church in the same year and grew up i a Christian-Catholic Environment. When i try to look back at those childhood years, i wouldn't consider my family particular spiritual, but active. My mother, my two sisters and i went to church almost every Sunday, my mother always being the driving force for us kids to come along and start going in the first place. I remember that i quite liked going to church. I had many friends there and the church even had some youth programs like scouting or handicraft classes we could took part in. In my early teenage years i also got confirmed into the church, a Roman Catholic tradition where the believer receives the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (sounds familiar?). We had to take special classes for that, the closest thing to Sunday school i ever experienced. I even became an altar boy in my congregation, so all things considered i think it's fair to say that i was a pretty active Roman-Catholic kid.

However, the spiritual value for me during that time was limited and almost non-existent. Looking back and trying to remember, I can't say that i really understood everything that was talked about during Mass or that i had a very close – if any - relationship to Jesus or Heavenly Father. Sure, we prayed to him and read about him and listen to what the adults had to say about him but to say that we kids (or just me, dunno) were really spiritually aware of what was going on would be an overstatement. So i unfortunately can't say that this early years helped me spiritually mature very much. One thing i did understand as a kid though was the idea that Jesus did something very sacrificing by dying. But i wasn't aware why he did that and under what circumstances and what it really means for me. I remember being in awe of the whole presentation and "packaging" of Roman-Catholic Masses. They use loads of incense (I remember that the incense "cloud" was sometimes so intense that i even fainted once), the pastor and the altar boys all wear white robes and colored scarfs and there are many candles around. You couldn't help but feel intimidated.

Nevertheless, i consider the experiences growing up in the Roman-Catholic church a good and worthy time and i have many fondly memories of it. And even though I now know that it is not the true church and teaches many false doctrines, i am sure that it was helpful to me and in any case better than being without any religion as a child at all. Those experiences ended and everything changed when my parents got separated. It's odd but i can't remember exactly how old i was at the time we moved away, i think i was around twelve or thirteen. The separation of my parents wasn't a dramatic thing though, i don't remember it being very painful or traumatizing in anyway. My parents just fell apart over time, didn't talk much in the end and finally decided it would be best to go separate ways. It was foreshadowed for quite some time so it wasn't a big surprise for us kids. It was nevertheless a huge change for everyone of course. My mother and we kids moved from the House we grew up into a small apartment in the neighbour town. I remember that we did go to a local church there a few times but it was never the same as it was before. At some point, my mother stopped going to church altogether which meant that we kids didn't go anymore either. And thus my “membership” in the Roman-Catholic church ended.

I have to make a little jump of years now because there isn't really much to tell. At least nothing that has anything to do with religions or churches or my conversion story. I lived a totally non-religious and non-spiritual life for almost fifteen years. It was an average life, i guess. I did spend my time doing what most Teens and Twens spend their time with. I played basketball, was a member of a local rock band and got involved with both the grunge and hip-hop movement very actively. I smoked cigarettes and marijuana regularly and drank alcohol on many occasions. Everything within reason though, i never got into trouble with the law or anything. I eventually dropped most of those habits, finished school and got a job as a forwarding agent at a logistics company in my hometown. I had been living that life ever since.

So there i was, thirty years old, having a fairly secure job and good friends and a healthy social life. I had a few relationships but was single at the time. So what happened? I always struggle to answer that question when other members or missionaries ask me that but i can't remember the exact point or circumstances when i decided that i wanted Jesus back in my life and live a Christian life again. There was no dramatic event or a huge change in my life that could have triggered those wishes and feelings. But when i think more about it as i am writing this, it may had unconsciously something to do with the current state of our planet, it's wars and injustice, the loss of morality and the amount of ignorance and hatred in the world. Maybe i was sensing that things are getting really bad and that i could die without having had any positive impact in this life and almost no hope for anything good after life. I think i wanted hope. I needed to know that there was more meaning to life, that things aren't so bad and that it was not too late to do the right thing and change your life the best you can. I didn't know why but the first thing that came to my mind was Jesus Christ. I made the decision to give him another chance and put my trust in him and in what he had to offer. I decided to go to church again.

But which church? Does it really matter which Christian church i go to? What are the differences between them anyway? Don't they all offer salvation? I already had some doctrinal requirements and ideas of my future church and the values it should promote before trying to get answers to those and other questions. For example, I never really believed in the "saved by grace only" concept, i don’t considered salvation less a gift only because it is conditioned to obedience. I had also abandoned the presumptuous Roman-Catholic idea of an infallible Pope. I also didn't believe in the total inerrancy of the Bible or the concept of being born in sin.

So while i was looking through the different Christian believes, my goal wasn't necessarily to find the only true or totally correct church (I didn't know that such a thing even existed) but the one Christian church that made the most sense and with which doctrines i can best identify with. That might seem like a more logical choice than a spiritual one but that approach brought me to the only true church nonetheless.

So i learned more about the different Christian denominations and was surprised how many differences there actually are. Of course, It didn't take long before i came across the name of a church called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or, as they are commonly known, the Mormons.

I heard the word Mormon before but I didn't really know anything about them besides the fact that they, for whatever reason, don't drink alcohol and don't smoke. When Mitt Romney ran for President for the first time in 2008 however, Mormonism got more into the spotlight. I remember finding it curious that Romney had to almost defend his believes in one of his campaign speeches. That peeked my interest a little bit because the United States claim to be the one country that cherishes the freedom of expressing and performing religion more than any other country in the world. I was curious to find out what it is about these Mormons that makes so many people oppose them. I did that research very sloppy and barely scratched the surface. I just read something about their history of Polygamy, its eventual abandonment and that Mormons seem to have their own Bible. I didn't find anything too controversial (or particularly interesting for that matter) so I couldn't quite explain why people would treat them differently from other religious communities with seemingly weird believes. The whole Mormon issue eventually went away when Romney dropped out, so i just shrugged it off at the time and lost my interest in it.

When i rediscovered Mormonism during my research of Christian churches, I was surprised to learn that they were indeed Christians that also believed in the Bible and even had living prophets. I guess i can consider myself lucky that i barely knew anything about Mormonism so i wasn't loaded with prejudices and misconceptions but discovered and learned many things for myself. And when i want to learn something, i try to do it thoroughly and with the best available sources. I barely ever came across any Anti-Mormon websites, i was always very cautious of the source and who says what and why. My first and main source of information on the internet was and still is the official website.

One thing i remember very clearly, is that I was immediately drawn to this church and its believes, the values they promote and doctrines they teach. I was also very impressed with how highly they regard family values, personal responsibility and involvement in the organisation of the church. I also loved and adopted the idea of living prophets and an open scriptural canon and was willing to give their Book of Mormon a chance.

I took the wonderful offer of ordering a free Book of Mormon online and began reading it only a few days after i had found the church. I have to admit that it took me some time to get into it and get comfortable with the language. But it eventually grew on me and before i knew it, i couldn't lay it out of my hands. I very rarely have that with books and i am an avid reader of all kinds of genres. I can't tell how much influence the spirit already had on me at the time but it was enough for me to start believing in the Book of Mormon and its message and that it could really be another Testament of Jesus Christ. The conviction of reading something very special increased with every chapter, no book i have ever read has spoken this directly to me, it felt and still feels like this book has been written just for me.

I began to believe that this gospel could really be what i was looking for so I decided to take the next step and visit a sacrament meeting and see for real how people live this religion. Again with the help of the internet, i located the nearest ward and was happy to learn that it was only a 10 minute drive away. But i still wasn't sure if it was really okay to just go there and have look.

So i just called the bishop and he assured me that it was of course okay to visit sacrament meeting. From that phone call on, everything went pretty fast. He asked me if it was okay if he gave my phone number to two missionaries and i agreed. A missionary with a heavy North-American accent called me back just thirty minutes later and we made an appointment for the following day. I didn't prepare any special topics for the appointment, I just wanted to finally meet some Mormons for real. Naturally, both came from Utah and since my spoken English is pretty good, i offered them to hold this appointment in English which they gladly accepted. It helped a lot to make them and me feel much more comfortable.

I didn't want to talk about any of the "usual suspects" like Polygamy, Proposition 8 or magic underwear. I did a fairly thorough investigation of most seemingly controversial topics beforehand so i didn't have any questions in that area. What i wanted to know was how these two guys and other members actually implement these doctrines in their daily lives, what their difficulties and blessings are by living this gospel. I wanted to know how the Bible and the Book of Mormon can coexist and how and why they complement each other. I was curious to know more about temples and learned about baptisms for the dead and the concept of the celestial afterlife became more clear to me. I was also introduced to scripture marking, something i have never done before and came to love doing. We were reading several scripture passages together and they taught me how to gain my own testimony. It was a very educating and inspiring first meeting and so they invited me to sacrament meeting and also assured me that guests are always welcome.

Like i said, I had already located the wards address on the internet and when i drove onto the parking lot on the following Sunday morning, i was surprised to see how many cars there actually were. To be honest with you, i expected maybe a handful of people there (which wouldn't have been a problem for me) and was again positively surprised to see that there were around 150 members attending sacrament meeting that Sunday. “My” two missionaries spotted me right away, welcomed me and gave me quick tour of the ward. I was introduced to the Bishop and a couple of other very nice people and felt at home right away. The sacrament meeting itself confirmed what i already started to believe, that this church was exactly what i was hoping to find. I was sure that this church has the ability to bring me closer to Jesus and Heavenly Father than i ever imagined would be possible. I could feel that this was the place God wanted me to be and where i could find the hope i was so desperately looking for.

I spend the following days reading and eventually finishing the Book of Mormon but I didn't yet feel spiritually mature enough to ask the Holy Ghost for confirmation and gain my own testimony. I didn't pray in a long time and i had to get used to that practise again. But one of the many beautiful things this church has done for me is to help me find a new appreciation for praying. I never before had the feeling that i was really talking to someone when i was praying before, it was an automated process and the prayers in the Roman-Catholic church were always the same anyway. We never prayed as a family at home and for some reason, it was never encouraged very much. At least not that i can remember.

But now i could really talk to Heavenly Father in an intimate way and ask him for help whenever i need guidance. That connection was a completely new experience for me and so i started to make frequent and eventually daily use of it. With the help of the missionaries i learned how to better recognize the Holy Ghost, how to listen to him and gain the confirmation that this Gospel was indeed true. This process is a unique experience for every believer and it wouldn't make much sense trying to describe how exactly i knew the Gospel was true or what exactly it felt like when the Holy Ghost told me that truth. It was a moment of clearance where the mind and the soul were kind of brought more into sync and the truth just sank into me. I knew i found the true Church of Jesus Christ.

You are probably wondering by now what the rest of my family was thinking about my involvement with the Mormons and my sudden new interest for religion. Well, I didn't tell anybody it for a long time but i eventually opened up to my mother and sisters and my two grandparents. They were all surprised of course, especially my grandparents, and they initially assumed that I had to be in some kind of trouble if i would consider joining such a group. These first reactions never came in a hostile way though and their worries eventually went away when they realized that i really meant it and knew what i was doing. After all, they have known me their entire life and trust me because i never gave them any reason to doubt me.

This approval of the people closest to me meant a lot and confirmed me in my decision that would become the most important decision in my life: To become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I was regularly visiting sacrament meetings for about two month when i told the missionaries what every missionary wants to hear: That i was ready and wanted to get baptized.

And on the 25th of October in 2009 it finally happened, i was baptized into the Church by one of my Elder missionaries. The moment i emerged out of the water was again something almost indescribable. I really felt like i was reborn and washed spiritually clean and i immediately knew that i had just began a completely new life. A covenant life. I was very happy that my mother, one sister and my young nephew could attend and be there with me on that day.

As it turned out, the following weekend was going to be Stake Conference and because the Bishop didn't want two weeks to pass between the baptism and confirmation, i received the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands on the same day i got baptized. That only attributed to the overwhelming spiritual experiences of that day and the confirmation of the truth that i had finally found my way back to Jesus and his true church on earth.


  1. Thank you for sharing your story!

  2. thanks for your great story. I loved to see the way God prepared you to find the truth. It totally made my day reading that.

  3. Thanks for sharing your story, that's awesome!

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  4. Loved reading your conversion experience. Danke!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story - I am a convert also and am trying to find my way back to The Church after many years away! You have inspired me and given me strength!