All of me

Just another weblog

My Conversion Story

on May 22, 2013

I didn’t grow up with religion. I never went to Church growing up unless it was for a funeral. There were only  two Churches in my hometown – a Lutheran Church and a United Church. My mom grew up going to the Lutheran Church. My dad, the United. Morality was bigger than religion in both of my families. We were just taught to do the right thing, be a good and caring person and help your fellow man.  There’s nothing wrong with that. My brother and I are compassionate people and I’ve been witness to my parents going out of their way to do something for their neighbor or a friend.

I always needed something more. Maybe it was because I was bullied growing up, or adopted, but I needed faith. I remember being so excited in Grade 4 when we got those little red New Testaments. I read from it every night. And then in Grade 6 we started our religious studies courses. Our first teacher was a Pastor from the Seventh Day Adventist Church and I loved everything he said. I remember writing a song about God not forsaking us. I also grew up saying the Lord’s Prayer every morning at school and I feel like it helped strengthen me.

I would pray for strength and comfort. I prayed my cat would be safe when he ran away for six days, and when he came back battered and bruised from fighting off a hawk/owl attack, I prayed for him to get better. I prayed that my grandma wouldn’t die when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. And when it came back, I prayed again. I prayed that I wasn’t pregnant when my periods were so irregular and  I would go six months inbetween. I prayed a lot.

When I was ready to move away from home for school, I ended up living in a LDS home. We didn’t know this at first, mom was just happy about the no boys in the bedroom rules and 10:00 curfew. When I actually found out the affiliation all these girls had, I was wary. This was not a very well known religion in my neck of the woods. But I was more than happy to have three or more hours to myself every Sunday. My best friend/roommate tried to explain things to me. I’m sure she could sense my need for faith and spirituality. I would ask obscure questions, but she always had an answer for me. I wasn’t convinced. I knew the lingo, went to the activities, but didn’t want to be tied down to an institution of religion. I only lived in that home for a year as I had a blow-out with my landlord/roommate over my Tarot Cards.

But I still went to the activities, dances and talked the lingo. Everyone started joking about me being the ‘dry Mormon’ (not being baptized yet). I made jokes (Mormon wedgie!), continued to ask questions, but went along my merry way.

One day, two Sister Missionaries knocked on my door. I knew who they were, and because most of my friends were members of the Church, gladly let them in to talk. I always admired what the missionaries did, and how they were never pushy about their work. They asked if I believed in God and what I would think if they were to tell me that there was still a living Prophet on the Earth today. They taught me about the restoration, and gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon, asking that I read it and pray about it’s truth. They also asked if they could come back. We set up another appointment and I started reading my new Book of Mormon at night before I went to bed.

I just also happened to have started dating my now husband at the time and so gave him full disclosure about what was going on. He was fine with it, respecting my individualism, but asking that I respect his right to not believe in organized religion and to not push anything on him, if this was something I decided to do down the line. I assured him I was just learning more about the possibilities out there (during my time at University, I was searching for what suited me and so was taking religious courses at school to know the foundations of these different religions and what suited me best).

The missionaries kept coming back and we learned about the Gospel, sang hymns and shared stories. During that time, I know I felt the spirit continuously. And every time they came to a commandment, or piece of Doctrine (ie. Plan of Salvation), they would ask if it was something I could believe or follow, I usually surprised them by exclaiming that it was something I already believed (and since I was young, most of the time) and that I just didn’t have a word for it until now. It was an incredible experience and I feel like I was blessed with a remembrance of those doctrines I knew before coming to this Earth so that I could easily find the truth. I was, what they say, Golden. I believed everything and I started going to Church. I had a strong Faith and I had a testimony of things before I even knew what they were. So the big question came. Will you get baptized? I dug my heels in. I grew up learning about how Mormons brainwash you. How men see themselves above women and that women were the lesser sex – on Earth to have babies and do what the men told them to. Of course, this wasn’t at all the case. But I knew it would be all my parents would focus on, and not bother trying to know and see what I did. I accepted the challenge after much prayer in May, but the date that came to me and the sisters wasn’t until September.

I told my best friends what I was doing, and of course my boyfriend. My member friends were thrilled, of course, my boyfriend was skeptical, but supportive, but my non-member friends were not too pleased. I was accused of doing it just to fit in, and grilled to death from my one friend who was concerned about what I was getting myself into. I lost a few friends as well, those who couldn’t handle the differences. After one conversation with M, I did start to wonder if I wasn’t just getting on the bandwagon. That I felt accepted and so wanted to be part of the group. So I prayed about it. And that summer before I got baptized everyone left me. Everyone I went to Church with went home for the summer and I was left alone. The ultimate test. I knew then, that if I could get through the summer and still feel the way I did then it wasn’t just because my friends made me feel like I belonged. It was because I did belong and was what I was looking for all along. Needless to say, I got baptized on September 4, 2004.  Baptized, but not converted yet.

The first few years are the hardest for a convert. Sometimes you’re met with great support from your loved ones, but a lot of the times, like in my case, you get cast out. Family members were calling me, accusing me of joining a cult, being brainwashed, not being in a sound state of mind. They kept asking me where the independent woman they knew went. How I could live my life knowing that if I got married to a member I would be becoming low man on the totem pole. No matter what I told them in defense, they didn’t listen. It was hard not being able to talk to the people you loved the most because they couldn’t support a decision you made with your whole heart. They couldn’t see the better person I had become. I had become the black sheep while my brother, who did drugs and smoked and stole became the golden child.  Not only was I struggling with losing friends and family based on the decision I knew was right for me, I still had to struggle with the ideas I had about the world that seemed polar opposite from the views of the Church. My grandfather is gay and a drag queen, does that mean he’s an evil person? Why can’t homosexuals get married? It’s their right as much as everyone else, right? People deserve to love and be loved, no matter what their sexual orientation and if they want to have children, then let them!

All those struggles within myself, and with my family culminated during a talk I heard at General Conference. It was about homosexuality and from what I thought I heard, I was outraged. I became inactive. I got married, moved out of my LDS home and did what I wanted to. I still needed someplace to go spiritually, so I went with my husband’s grandma to the United Church downtown. It was as close to anything I felt, although did not give me the peace I was looking for. For two years after that I would long for Church, but too hard-hearted about my own beliefs and what I thought I heard to go back.

And then, one day, two years after moving to Coaldale, I went back. I met with the Bishop, got my membership transferred and started going to Church again. But it wasn’t the same. I felt like an outsider, and I only made three or four weeks before I stopped going again. A year after that, I received a visit from the Relief Society Presidency. And the next Sunday I went back to Church again. But this time felt different. It felt more permanent – and became more permanent as I got a calling that very same day! It was exactly what I needed. Relief Society Pianist – I got to do something that I loved, and because it was the last block of the day, it made me stay the whole time. That is when I started my true conversion.

I decided that I wasn’t going to compromise who I was anymore. I started putting scriptures up in the house that made me happy, I changed my demeanor and I stopped hiding my membership like it was a black mark. It was who I was and I was going to be proud of it. And I noticed as I started doing that, I got much more respect about it. My parents didn’t demoralize me based on my decisions and started respecting them. My husband made the decision to get baptized, and my mother-in-law made comment that I was much happier as a church-goer. I learned to process doctrine and commandments to today. I went back to that talk so many years ago that caused me such hurt and anger, but the words I remember being spoken weren’t there at all.

Am I perfect? Far from it! But I’m trying every day to be better and to teach my son. In the last few years I have learned true forgiveness, love and understanding. I am learning to understand the magnitude of what and who the Prophet really is, and to accept his council and how it fits with the rest of the world. It’s not always about the people, it’s about the base principal, so I try not to let the people be a deciding factor anymore (in negative experiences, at least). After 9 years of being a member, I finally feel like a fully converted member, although I know I will be converted many more times in this life and the next. And for that I am grateful.


2 responses to “My Conversion Story

  1. Becca says:

    Love you, Jen! You are an inspiration and I love hearing your conversion story. I am so lucky to have you as one of my closest friends. *hugs*

  2. fitzsimonds says:

    Thank you! I am so grateful you’re in my life and have helped me be where and who I am today!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Doubting Mark

An atheist's adventures in a land of faith

Suzie Speaks

The Adventures Of a Thirty-Something Life

The Bible you've been missing


Putting Life Together

Looking for Light

A blog about extreme poverty and what we can do to see its end within our generation.

%d bloggers like this: