Recently I was thumbing through some old books when a piece of paper, folded in thirds and stuck in the middle of Arthur Henry King’s “The Abundance of the Heart”, caught my eye. As I unfolded it my eyes fell on the letterhead at the top of the page. I recognized it immediately as the written conversion story and testimony of one of the dearest people I came to know as a missionary in Ohio.
Bob was a well-educated, quick-tongued, good-natured retiree. His name was given to us by the ward mission leader as one in a list of part-member families. He was immediately welcoming, though not at all hesitant to let us know he’d been through every set of missionaries in every ward he and his member wife had been in and, while we were always welcome, there wouldn’t be any baptism happening and we would be wise not to burn our bridges by trying.
The ground rules had been laid, but there were some things none of us had counted on. First was a very shy, timid, and infectiously lovable sister missionary (part of our trio) who would visibly wither when asked to open her mouth on a doorstep or during a discussion. Being the tender man that he was, Bob allowed this sister to “practice” teaching him over our weekly dinner appointments. Those practice discussions turned into heartfelt conversations (with Bob giving teaching tips along the way) and on more than one occasion the spirit bore witness to Bob, and all of us, in unmistakable ways. He would get right to the edge, even identify the spirit and bring up baptism himself, then immediately retreat.
The other thing Bob hadn’t seen coming was connection. Neither did I, but there it was. We shared a love of good steak, straight up Coca Cola, great music, and way too much laughter. Each week as Bob grilled the steaks we sat on the deck listening to whatever album he had picked for us and hearing tell of the first time he had experienced that particular band or performer. We talked about his years growing up in New York, his grown children, his college athletic career, and the untreatable cancer slowly growing inside him.
It was during one of these lazy evenings in early May, sitting on the deck and talking like the oldest of friends, that something finally clicked after all those years. Here, in Bob’s own words, is that story, changed only to remove the names of the missionaries:
Becoming a Member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
For the past twenty-one years, I have come to know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was only recently that I was Baptized and Confirmed (5/24/97). It has been a long journey from introduction to Baptism…
I would like to share with you my reasons for this most important and wonderful decision that I have made. Since my birth, I have been raised, taught and educated as a Roman Catholic. In fact I had 16 years of education in Catholic schools. As one can well imagine it is a difficult decision to make a departure from that nurturing.
My wife, four of our eight children and one grand-child have been members of the Church for some time now. I have attended Church many times and have had numerous Missionaries attempt to teach me the Gospel. Many of my dear friends are members of the Church. With all this exposure and closeness to the Church, I was still not motivated to join the Church.
I have determined now that our Lord works in some very beautiful, different ways and He was observing me but was waiting for me to talk to Him. You see, I did not know how to pray… But I finally got it through my thick head and learned from the Church the power of Prayer. So, for the past two years I have been praying very diligently and asking Jesus Christ for help and guidance to determine if this Church was the true Church??
Although I did not hear any bells or whistles nor see any lights or for that matter did not experience any visions from above, my prayers were finally answered through the magnificent Missionary Work of the Church. The Sister Missionaries came into my life and brought the love of Jesus Christ to me. When the sisters asked me directly “What is preventing you from joining the Church?” I could see in their eyes our Lord saying “Come with Me”. At that very moment I knew that our Church is the True Church and my heart has been filled with the Spirit of the Holy Ghost ever since.
I testify to you that I firmly believe in our Almighty Father, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. I believe in the Prophet Joseph Smith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have been truly blessed and feel an abundance of love for Our Church and for all the Saints.
I say to you all these things in the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ… Amen
Are there particular stories of baptism or conversion that have stayed with you or been highly meaningful in your life?