I have heard of wards where legacy Mormons are considered sort of royalty and converts are treated as sort of second class members. I hope we can all agree that such distinctions should not exist at all, but if we were going to draw that kind of distinction among our people, my own inclination would be to do it precisely the other way around. I have a tendency to view converts as the top of the food chain, not the bottom.
This is largely because I am a legacy Mormon myself (both sides go back to the 1830s). For me becoming Mormon didn’t really involve any angst or choice at all; I simply fell into it by birth. And here’s the thing: if I weren’t born into it, I really can’t even imagine joining the Church cold as a convert. I recently had occasion to make this comment here on the blog:
I have long felt that were I not born into the faith that I simply cannot imagine joining it as a convert. Probably more out of a sense of inertia than anything else, I suppose. But if two random dudes in short sleeved white shirts and too short ties knocked on my door in this alternate universe, I simply cannot fathom the circumstances under which I would have let them in. Maybe if I had a friend who was Mormon and introduced me to the Church, but in that case it would be more a matter of friendship and trust, at least initially, than some sort of analysis of truth claims on my part. Which is why I view converts to the Church as sort of superheroes, as I cannot fathom doing what they have done, and I find it very impressive.
So now I’m curious about you. If you were born and raised in the faith, as a thought experiment imagine for a moment that you were not raised Mormon. If you were exposed to the faith with no previous grounding in it, what do you think? Would you have converted in this alternate universe? Why or why not? Would the manner of presentation have made a difference (e.g., missionaries encountering you cold versus being brought to church by friends)?
And for those of you who are converts, know that I seriously envy you that experience. Because you know that you made a conscious choice to convert to the faith, and I can scarcely fathom making such a decision. Tell us about your experience. What drew you to the faith? What objections did you have, and how were they overcome? Do you personally value the knowledge that you had to affirmatively choose the faith rather than simply being raised in it?
In other words, I’m interested in the dynamics between being raised in the faith from one’s birth versus encountering it as a youth/adult and affirmatively making the decision to adopt the faith as your own. Please share your stories with us.