Road Trip, or Conversion Happens at the Darndest Times

Late this summer, I took my six year-old son Jeffrey on his first road trip. Headed to Salt Lake for a conference, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for bonding time before school started. It might have been quicker to fly, but seriously, road trips are a rite of passage I wanted to share with him. There would be other kids at the conference, and I would have plenty of free time. He was excited to go, and piled his pillows and toys in the backseat with puppy-like exuberance.

Ten hours and a ghastly amount of “Are we there yet?” later, we pulled into our Salt Lake City hotel. Our room was right off the pool, and I promised my tired boy we would hit the water as soon as we got dinner. We unpacked and decided to walk to a restaurant up the street.

Turns out those wacky addresses in SLC are a bit confusing for a stranger, and the restaurant was farther than I had imagined- oh yeah, and the air was like the inside of a furnace. The moisture was being sucked out of my body as I dragged my hot child through the arid desert, looking for something called the Blue Iguana. Who hides a restaurant underground anyway?

After a short wait, we got our food, but the look on my son’s face told me he was going to crash into the guacamole if he didn’t get some sleep. Chugging a pitcher of water while the waiter boxed our food, I temporarily hydrated my parched self and made ready to re-enter the blasted heat.

The shortest way back to our hotel was walking down West Temple, where we unexpectedly found ourselves at the Conference Center. Like most Mormons, we watch General Conference twice a year in our jammies while eating cinnamon rolls. We weren’t prepared for how huge and impressive the actual building is- and Jeffrey immediately recognized things he has seen in pictures.

“Can we go in, Mom?”

We were both so tired, but there were people milling around, so I thought I would ask. The doors were locked, and we couldn’t see anyone inside, but a guy on a Segway whizzed by, shouting over his shoulder that the doors on the other side were open.

Looking down at Jeffrey, I told him we could go in, but he had to understand this might take up our swimming time. Was he sure he wanted to do this?

“Yes, mom, I want to go inside” Wow. OK, what six year old boy chooses a big old building over splashing in a pool?

That building is big. Especially when you are hot, tired and don’t know where you are. We finally found an open door, and the blast of cold air was all I could focus on for a few seconds. There were scattered people, but no crowds. A kindly older gentleman approached us holding out a paper.

“Are you here to see the choir or for a tour?”

Choir? What? I was a little confused- we just came in to see the building- the cool air was a bonus. I looked at the paper in my hand, and back at the gentleman.

“Sister, the Choir is practicing here tonight, and you and your son are free to watch if you like. The orchestra is warming up right now, and you can go through those doors to your right.”

Jeffrey was jumping up and down, “Let’s go, mom! Let’s GO!” He was yanking my hand and flapping his own arms in excitement; I mumbled my thanks to the man and headed toward the doors.

Who knew the Choir was practicing, and that we would stumble in at the exact right time, on the exact right day?

Honestly, I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention. I had a hopping boy, I had been driving since before dawn, we still hadn’t eaten our dinner, and I was dizzy, parched and grumpy from our unexpected walk to dinner. I wasn’t thinking of anything spiritual, I wasn’t thinking much of anything at all. My son was yanking my arm, and I was distracted…

So when I walked through those doors and smashed completely unprepared into a wall of my own emotions, I couldn’t move. Standing there, looking out at the arc of seats and the smattering of people, there was nothing special happening- someone was folding some chairs, another was tuning a violin, the choir was on the stand in small groups, but there was no music yet. So why was I paralyzed? Why were my feet refusing to move as my eyes filled with tears and electricity rushed up and down my back?

“Mooooommm! Come on!” Jeffrey was yanking on me again, and I snapped out of it long enough to wipe the tears from my chin. Yes, my chin. “Why are you crying mom?”

“I don’t know…” Why was I crying? What was wrong with me? An empty building, a few people idly chatting, my son excited to hear some music… why was I crying?

Jeffrey skipped towards the front and I followed, searching my purse for a tissue. I just wanted to sit and feel what was happening inside me. There were thousands of empty chairs and I slumped into an aisle seat as Jeffrey bounced from chair to chair, seeing how close he could get to the organ and counting the pipes.

My body looked warm and solid, but things were stretching, moving, slowly leaning on the shelves inside my mind. How odd to be a spectator of my own life- Gently at first, like an oiled toggle on an old lock falling into place, then quicker and hotter, the ideas began to tip and slide- My breath caught in my chest as the channel opened and suddenly all the pieces shot home and everything fell off the shelf inside me.

Stunned, I sat there.

Holy crap. I’m a Mormon. This isn’t just an experiment. This isn’t something I’m just trying out, until the next interesting thing comes along. This isn’t something I can ever walk away from- Not ever. This Is Who I Am. This is right. This is what it claims to be. This is the rest of my life, and the life beyond. This is eternal progression. This is lead into gold. This is man into God.

Holy. Crap.

I was crying again. The music had started, but I hadn’t really noticed. Jeffrey snuggled into the crook of my arm, and I wiped at my eyes, for the first time turning my focus back outward. Everything looked the same- but I was not the same.

An hour later, we left the cool of the building and walked into the late blue twilight. The heat was abating and the sky showed only the last strands of color on the horizon. We were both quiet as we walked across the courtyard, lost in our own thoughts.

Jeffrey reached out and took my hand, “Mom?”

There was a hitch in his small voice, “What, sweetie?” We stopped on the sidewalk.

His voice was thick, emotional, and I could see his face full of concentration as he worked to find words for his feelings. “I’m so full of the Spirit right now, and I don’t know why.”

The breeze whispered across the empty shelf inside me. I squeezed my son’s hand, letting him know he was not alone.

______

(I joined the church six years ago, at 29, already a mother and a wife.)

Comments

  1. That was beautiful, Tracy. Thanks.

  2. Mark Brown says:

    Welcome home, sister M.

    (I think this is the first time I have ever heard “holy crap” as part of a testimony. Don’t worry, it sounds just right.)

  3. Tracy, that was wonderfully written. Thanks for the reminder of those experiences- I have also had some really powerful experiences with really strange timing. In fact, those are the ones I trust the most.

  4. Love you Sister M. Now forwarding this to someone I know really needs this right now.

  5. I’m a little misty myself after reading that. Thanks!

  6. Yes, forwarding this one on. Thank you.

  7. Great post. And the key to Utah air is plenty of water and plenty of lotion.

  8. Beautiful!

  9. Thank you.

  10. Tracy, this is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen on a blog — at least since the last time you wrote a major personal post. I’ll print this out to share with some of the Conference Center hostesses I know. For all their perfect hairdos and oh-so-classic clothes, they will understand the “holy crap” and love the whole piece.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    I love you, Tracy. This was marvellous.

  12. Awesome. Thanks for sharing this.

  13. Wonderful!

  14. Tracy, you are a sister and a friend.

  15. Thanks for this post.

  16. I think I just got something in my eye.

  17. Beautiful, Tracy. Truly beautiful. My most powerful spiritual experiences almost all have come unexpectedly, and reading this brought them flooding back.

    Thank you.

  18. Astounding! Thanks for sharing such a personal and inner-changing experience.

  19. Awesome, just beautiful.

  20. Outstanding and welcome. These moments create the memories that keep us solid in more trying times of questioning and the like. Sometimes we live in the light, and sometimes we live in the memory of the light. How I cherish those moments in the light. God bless the lot of you.

  21. nasamomdele says:

    Wonderful.

    I recommend the Red Iguana instead of blue, though.

    Beautiful post.

  22. Thanks everyone. This is a post I’ve been mulling over for a long time- I just didn’t have it at my fingertips yet how to do the experience justice. Of course, I still don’t, and this is but a pale faded memory of rich and real life.

    I did actually make it to the Red Iguana that trip- along with a stellar group of friends, and it was a fantastic dinner with even better company.

  23. Thank you for the beautiful conversion story. It really touched me.

  24. Thank you!

    I hadn’t even realized that several of my most spiritual experiences came in unexpected ways until Ray’s comment.

    Wow.

  25. Tracy, thank you for a beautiful post.

  26. Oooh, that’s lovely. Thanks for sharing, and reminding me to look for those same moments in my life, to sustain me through some of the nonsense.

  27. Wow. Thank you.

  28. Little Sister says:

    Thank you, I needed that very much today.

  29. It’s awfully hard to swallow right now with this giant lump in my throat.

    Thanks for the very moving and beautifully written message. I can feel the spirit right now myself as I read this.

  30. You just demonstrated again how these experiences don’t come scheduled in advance. We have to let them happen.

    Thanks for sharing that.

  31. Sharon in Tennessee says:

    My tears came from my overflowing heart.
    I join in “thanks” for your sharing a purposeful experience.
    May we all have such a deep seated connection and testimony that will lead us to the DEEPEST one possible….that of KNOWING and LOVING our Savior Jesus Christ….receiving a testimony of Him so strongly that NOTHING will move that “knowing” of his reality and being our Redeemer..aside or away from us.
    Firm Faith and Trust, throw in Hope …
    keep praying, reading His words…and believe His promises…We can ALL have this type of experience relating to all principles and doctrines.
    Individually….and as a family together.
    Love to All.
    Keep UP the FAITH !!!!!

  32. Quite possibly one of the best ‘naccle posts I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Thanks Tracy!

  33. Thank you, Tracy. This was beautiful and so very powerful!

  34. Thanks for sharing.

  35. Tracy, I’m pretty sure that was just the spirit confirming to you that Mormonism is “holy crap.” ;) It’s a beautiful and well-written story. Thanks for sharing.

  36. I have tears on my chin now. Thanks.

  37. More posts please

  38. Truly beautiful.

  39. Tracy,

    What is interesting to me is that I have heard stories like this before. I was once about 10 years ago involved with the teaching of a large upper class family who joined the church after a random visit to SLC. These converts were of an age and class that rarely joins the church.

    What happened is the were driving home to the midwest from CA and stopped in SLC and visited Temple Square. They walked into the old conference center and had a similar to you spiritual exp. The dad described it as being hit by lightning. They came home called the local missionaries and were all baptized shortly.

    Your writing is simply wonderful. I think I am your biggest fan….

  40. This was great!!! -

  41. This is beautiful. (Just as true the 40th time it’s said.) Thank you for writing it down and sharing it with us. You’re awesome.

  42. Bro. Jones says:

    Thanks for sharing! Brightened my (dreary) day.

  43. Adam Greenwood says:

    Holy crap.

  44. Yet Another John says:

    One of the best posts I have ever read. For that matter, one of the best testimonies I have ever heard (read).

    Thank you.

  45. You know, I think this is good enough for the Ensign, maybe even “Latter-Day Voices!” :) It actually is my favorite section of the Ensign.

  46. Thanks a lot for this post. I agree with most in saying it was truly an inspiration.

    Makes me want to write of my own odd experience.

  47. Antonio Parr says:

    This is one of the most eloquent and Spirit-filled testimonies I have ever encountered.

    Absolutely beautiful.

  48. Mommie Dearest says:

    Thanks for the testimony on a busy Thursday. I love the conference center too, and seeing the choir live. And from reading your experience, I am reminded anew why I keep on bushwhacking my way through life as a Latter-day Saint.

  49. Chuck McKinnon says:

    Tracy, thank you SO much for sharing this.

  50. Beautiful story, beautifully told.

  51. I know this is a totally mundane response, but can I just say I LOVE the Blue Iguana? They have, like, the best salsa EVER.

    Just thought I’d add that. (And I’m sorry it was so hard to find. They did make it pretty invisible.)

  52. I got around to reading this today, and it brightened my spirit and lightened my load, on a day when I really needed it. Thanks.

  53. Thank you indeed. I’m glad Kelhop Glen pointed me to here.

  54. I admire your writting.

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