Would You Have Converted to the Faith?

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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.

Comments

  1. Not my story, really, but a few years ago I had the opportunity to interview an AA70 as part of a stake history project. His family are of handcart pedigree. I asked him when he became converted.

    He roared with delighted laughter. He said that nobody asks him that question, but in fact he has his own conversion story about a time on his mission when he prayed and received a profound answer. It changed his life. So we should never dismiss the conversion of “legacy” Mormons.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    Great point, Naismith!

  3. seeker street says:

    If I hadn’t been born LDS and instead encountered the church as an adult, I think I would have explored Mormonism for a prolonged period and ultimately chose not to participate.

    I share your envy for converts, and felt that envy acutely on my mission. It’s difficult for me to conceive of something more exciting than converting to a religion — voluntarily transforming one’s world-view, self-conception, and community. I would even say my envy for converts lured me to the peripheries of Mormonism, to see if perhaps I could experience the sensation of conversion myself.

  4. No. Have thought about this many times. Joseph’s story is a hard sell even after living my whole life as a Mormon. I can’t imagine being able to even consider it if I hadn’t been raised with it. Sort of like how I have never considered whether or not the Xenu story might be true. Of course it isn’t. I like to think that if I were not a Mormon, I would at least believe in Christ, but I am scared even that might not be true in my alternate universe. In that respect, I consider myself very lucky to have been born a Mormon.

  5. Yeah, I wonder if I would venture into religion *at all* for life’s answers. But, then, science ultimately doesn’t provide a lot of meaning either. So I hope I’d at least be intrigued by the hermetic (for lack of a better way of putting it) elements of the gospel — and Mormonism wins in that department hands down, IMO. But, yeah, it would take a lot steel to conquer my untempered cultural training (untempered by the gospel) and take the leap into a tradition that seems to be becoming more and more counterintuitive to the world. But, then again, the Spirit can do mighty things.

  6. As much as I tried to get rid of it, I had these thoughts all the time while I was a missionary. I just couldn’t help thinking sometimes when I was talking to people who thought we were crazy, “if our roles were reversed, I wouldn’t be any more receptive than you.” I think this probably made me a less effective missionary, but I never could get that feeling to go away. It has only increased since I’ve been home.
    So long story short, no I don’t think I would have converted to Mormonism if not raised in it.
    I imagine my biggest barrier would be gender issues, as that is my biggest barrier as an active Mormon. My second biggest barrier would probably be the exclusivity, but I’m not sure I would notice that so much as an investigator.

  7. I was tracted out, which missionary lore says only happens to one of every thousand converts. Even looking back from the perspective of years of less-activity, I still believe that I was called to join the church. That I was sought after, and found, and summoned. It wasn’t a “decision” to join. It was a commandment from God. Joseph Smith was a prophet and the Book of Mormon was a scripture and the church was true and I was to become a Saint.

  8. So much hangs on that decision. I have high school age convert friends. I always wondered what drew them to it. Everyone of them said it was love of family. As a teen I assumed all converts came because they came from unhappy homes. On the flip side I grew up with many devout Catholics, and the shadow of their legacy was every where around us. Yet I never felt a desire to convert. I enjoyed their services and marveled at their traditions. With that small smattering of information I don’t assume I would have joined the LDS faith. I have yet to consider being Jehovahs Witness, and I talk to their missionaries all the time. I even read their literature, but not interested. I just don’t see myself being the convert type.

  9. My family has been in the church many generations. I haven’t seen converts treated as second class, but I wonder if I’m blind to it.

    I’m certain the traditional tracting approach would not have worked to convert me. It’s even harder now in the internet age when most people will search the Internet when researching the church and find some shocking things. Most converts have a series of experiences that expose them and warm them to the gospel over a long period of time. In order for those members to be retained it is usually necessary for those experiences to continue for a long time after baptism.

    I’m reminded of a friend of a different faith who got baptized into a new church (also not LDS) in order to be in the same church as his fiance. Someone asked him why that was necessary, and he simply thought it was not a problem to join the new church (because it was a Christian faith, like his prior church), and that it would be good to join the same church as his soon-to-be wife.

    Mormons generally expect members to have a deep and abiding belief that they are in the One True Church, but I think a substantial number of converts are much like my friend, joining the church because they think it is good overall and they have some kind of social connection to it. They probably have a pretty strong commitment, at least enough to commit tithing, word of wisdom, etc., but their strongest ties to the church are often their friends or family that introduced them to it. Like the eight year olds that get baptized, they have many years remaining in which their belief may grow or flounder. And, like the authority in Naismith’s comment, the strongest conversion may happen long after baptism.

    I don’t mean to suggest that these converts do not have a testimony or that their conversion is invalid. Rather, I think that conversion is a long and complex process that everyone experiences in different ways. When I say that I can’t imagine being converted (from an adult non-member of some undetermined faith to an adult believing LDS member) it is probably because (1) I tend to simplify the conversion process converts experience, and (2) the conversion(s) that I have experienced started in a different place (as a child in an LDS family) and took me on a path that included many stages that I wouldn’t project into a concert’s life. Some of these stages might have titles such as Confused Teenager, Confidently Self-Righteous Teenager, Missionary (several additional stages could be included here), Adult that Believes All Scriptures Are Literally True and Prophets Aren’t Perfect But We Should Act Like They Are….. There are more stages for me after that but I’m going to stop there. The point is that everyone experiences conversions in a series of stages, but when we talk about converts we tend to just pick one stage near their baptism, and we don’t consider the stages that led up to it or followed it.

  10. The simple answer to this question is to consider that each of us are put into a situation where we need to choose the Gospel. Some of us choose to join, and others choose not to. Some of us choose to stay, and others choose not to. Whether we were born in the Church, or outside of it, there will be a point of decision for us all.

  11. I converted at age 16, & had to wait for legal age (18) to be baptized, since my father would not consent. He told me to leave his house the night I was baptized, & I did. I have had multiple experiences at BYU where I was treated like a second class citizen because I was a convert, but since I had already had to wait for 2 years to be baptized in an area where the Church was not prevalent, those experiences simply confirmed to me that there are idiots in every faith. I had plenty of LDS roommates that were far less virtuous than the Southern Baptist & Jehovah Witness friends I had while growing up. As a returned sister missionary, I was not prepared for my mother-in-law to tell her son not to marry me, because I “was a convert”, but my previous experiences had helped me to understand that what she really meant was “probably not a virgin”, because from her point of view, what girl, not growing up in the Church, would still be virginal in the 1970’s? Had she asked, I probably would have confirmed that I was, but she didn’t & I was just stubborn enough that if she didn’t have the guts to ask, she could just fret about it. To his eternal credit, he ignored her.

  12. An interesting exercise. Impossible to know but revealing on the way. 
    I have great respect for converts, not so much for ‘choosing the right’ as for choosing at all. My experience is that most people most of the time take the path of least resistance; let inertia be their guide. To vote with your feet, as every convert does, is an act of courage and creation that I admire, pretty much without distinguishing by destination. 
    For myself, because I think family and friends are hugely influential, the thought exercise requires suspending a whole raft of what if questions. Not family but grew up in Utah? Which could have happened. But if not LDS family a generation back then more likely grew up in the East. Or stick with liberal Wisconsin (Dane county, as opposed to conservative Wisconsin which is everywhere else) as really happened? In which case Mormon is a low probability case just on the numbers. And are my parents not Mormon but strongly affiliated elsewhere? Or church going at all? 
    But to play the game, if I think of it as an intellectual exercise I imagine most of my life agnostic with a temptation (which I mostly avoid) to make science a god. If I think in terms of influential people in my life other than parents, I imagine much of my life as a somewhat disaffected Catholic. Although if I had fallen in with some of the Mormons I knew in college, I might change that to somewhat disaffected Mormon. If I think in terms of personal spiritual experience, then I’m a God-fearing Christian of no particular affiliation but generally Bonhoeffer style reformist. In part, that is to say that my spiritual experiences have no distinctive Mormon flavor to them. However, I know others who have powerful ‘be thou a Mormon’ experiences, and who am I to say otherwise?
    By exclusion, I am pretty confident that Mormon missionaries would be irrelevant on any of the paths my life might have gone. More precisely, the imagined paths by which I come to the Mormon church (or any other particular church) by way of active proselytizing have such a low probability that they’re not worth discussing, except that the original question asks. 

  13. A Happy Hubby says:

    I am in my early 50’s and a member all my life with convert parents. I am close to what EBK and Rockwell have said. Tracking seems to me to be a total waste of time and I wish missions were moved to be mainly charitable service missions with traditional missionary work on the side. I am rather empathetic so I am sure I would give the elders a rest for a few minutes and a cool glass of water and a few minutes conversation (Sisters would get a few extra minutes). Once they started, “getting to business” I would be saying, “no thanks” and standing up to let them out.

    And I would say at this point in my life and with were the Internet is, the only way I would be joining know is if a bolt of lightning were to hit me. As it is I am struggling to want to even go to church after learning much of the history and then seeing how the top church leaders are acting today.

    I also wonder if converts are a bit less welcomed (not saying “unwelcome”, but “less welcome”) in the Mormon corridor than out in the mission field. I am thousands of miles from Utah and the vast majority of converts are greeted with excitement that for the first few years they are generally very welcomed (someone else to take one of my 3 callings).

  14. Kevin Barney says:

    Fascinating, thoughtful responses! Thanks so much for sharing them with us, and keep ’em coming.

    Happy Hubby, I think you may be on to something about the converts as second class members experience possibly being a geographical Mormon corridor thing (and thanks to Marivene for confirming it really does happen in some pockets of the Church). I’ve heard about that, but it’s not something I personally experience here in Illinois, where we’re thrilled to welcome our converts and I don’t perceive any distinction on that basis..

  15. I’m going to greatly oversimplify my story so I can leave shortly to attend my ward’s Christmas breakfast.

    I grew up evangelical Protestant. As a young adult, I wavered between evangelicalism and mainline Protestantism. I saw the former as becoming increasingly superficial with bad politics and a Calvinism lite that saw little to do after initial conversion, and I saw the latter as often becoming little more than good politics with a Christian veneer.

    Somewhere in there I ended up marrying a Mormon with good politics (and many other great aspects!), and a few years later I spent about two years learning everything I could about Mormonism. I came to see it as an expansive faith, and I appreciated its universalism (i.e., salvation for all) and progress toward inclusiveness. It look seriously President G.B. Hinckley’s invitation to add onto what I had. I was aware of the tawdry aspects of church history as well as its cultural conservativism and went into joining the church with my eyes open, believing that’s where God wanted me to be. I suppose in a sense I joined the church as a progressive Mormon before the term became widely used. I’ve never felt like I was treated as a second-class member for being a convert (or even for being untraditional).

    I’ve never regretted my decision to join the Church. I will say, however, that moving to Utah (for reasons unrelated to the Church) a few years ago has made church activity more difficult. I guess I wasn’t prepared to be around so many people who believe that _everything_ the church does it does because that’s what God wants.

    Would I join the Church today? Up until a few months ago, I would have said probably. But I couldn’t today join the pre-1978 church, and I’m tending to think the same about the post-2015 church. “The policy” has become stumbling block for me, and every time I think I have come to an uneasy peace with it something happens to disturb that peace. Where’s the welcoming invitation that Jesus gave even to prostitutes and corrupt public officials? Would the church even want the pre-LDS me today? I don’t know.

  16. I don’t think it’s a very fair question, because it is impossible to separate the message from the means of delivery. I don’t think I’d convert to any religion, frankly.

  17. I think I eventually would given a good opportunity. I am a different sort of cat. For me, anyone who would be willing to talk religion in a serious and sincere way would get a listen for a while. I think the over-the-top truth claims of the church would appeal to me. I think I would eat up the idea of modern prophets, modern scripture, degrees of glory, pre-existence, etc.

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, there are a lot of things about the faith that would be very appealing to me, such as (as you say) its relative universalism and humanism. But those are things that typically one only learns of over time; they’re not really front and center in the missionary lessons. So I’m not sure whether I would even be exposed to the very aspects of the faith I would find most appealing.

  19. If I had not been raised in the church, I probably would not have converted (especially not from missionaries). But even if I had not been raised in the church, I would probably be VERY intrigued in the more liberal expressions of the faith if I stumbled upon those (e.g., bloggernacle, Sunstone, Dialogue, etc.,).

  20. Stanley Klemetson says:

    I think there is more to the story. As a convert I saw no differences in California, in Northern Utah many emphasized their Mormon heritage, but in North Dakota they emphasize their North Dakota hertigage and a Utah Mormon had to earn acceptance.

  21. I decided I wanted to join the church at 16, but had to wait until I was 18 to be baptized. My Catholic parents were incredibly opposed to my new faith, and we didn’t talk for a long time. They gave me some anti-Mormon books to read which I dutifully studied. I spent the 2 years between 16 and 18 studying the arguments against the church and the possible rebuttals to those claims. I was very familiar with all the stuff in the CES Letter before it was cool! I remember Jeff Lindsay’s site being very helpful during that stage of my life, which must have been in pretty proto form back in the late 90s.

    Of bigger concern to me than historical anomalies and such were the position of women in the church (which no longer bothers me), and Mormonism’s pedestrian, god-was-once-a-man, not particularly awe or worship-inspiring view of God (which sometimes still does). Growing up in the Bible Belt I had Christian friends who seemed to have a much closer and more worshipful relationship with Christ than Mormons did, and I was drawn to that. I sometimes attended services at their evangelical churches.

    I ultimately joined the LDS church because what I loved and found true about the gospel outweighed any of the above concerns. This includes the idea that we lived in a preexistence, that everyone will one day get a chance to hear the gospel and that most everyone gets some level of heaven, that God spoke to people all over the world, that we’re still entitled to personal revelation today, that families can be together forever, and that we’re children of Heavenly Parents. I felt like the gospel answered so many of the questions I had always wondered about. So too, all the Mormon kids I knew has a distinct and magnetically compelling light and glow about them, and I wanted it for myself. Mormonism had so many intriguing layers that “regular” Christianity simply seemed flat in comparison.

    I’ve never been treated as a second-class citizen as a convert — quite the opposite. Fellow members are always interested and impressed, and many have expressed envy at having that experience. Personally, I have always been quite glad to have been a convert, and to have that narrative of study, contemplation, and choice. The only downside I suppose is that you know what the grass on the other side looks like, so that when you’re sitting through another funeral dirge of a hymn, in another service that seems devoid of any passion or worship, one pines a bit for the services of other churches!

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    Thank you, Katie M., your experience was very interesting.

  23. I think had I been born outside the church and met the LDS kids I was friends with HS and college I would have converted. So many good feelings with really neat loving people telling me they believe it. Now, as an adult, with so many gay friends and being feminist the whole patriarchal structure of the church, the now available via the internet wording of temple ceremonies that I find harmful to women, and their policies of anti inclusion for LGTBQA people would be a deal breaker for me.

  24. Which of course raises the question: If I find all those things I mentioned above deal breakers for conversion how do I justify staying? If I don’t believe everything leadership says and does is of God, how to stay part of a faith that claims to have the monopoly on the path to eternal life and salvation and forever families? How does one who doesn’t buy it all stay?

  25. It’s an interesting thought experiment. If you were born a Mormon, you were taught to be a good Mormon, and to always stay a Mormon, so you likely cultivated a conformist, non-rebellious persona who is not searching for things like “the truth,” but rather figuring out a way to stay in the church even with doubts and challenges. So of course when you hypothetically think of a scenario where missionaries from a strange church come and knock on your doorstep, you are going to assume that you would say “no.” But that is only because you never had the chance to cultivate the kind of searching, rebellious, or “one true way” sort of persona that might be open to the message of LDS missionaries. You wouldn’t respond to something being the “only true” anything, because you’ve got your hands full dealing with that from your parents to begin with. But if you were born without a “one true” anything, then you might actually have developed the kind of personality that would rebel from their culture and embrace a “one true” way.

    Of course in the end, its impossible to predict. We are not our own. Our identities are intertwined with so many cultural and biological influences that our eternal spirit, if we have one, is only a single dimension of a multidimensional identity. At the very least, we are 1/3 culture, 1/3 biology, and 1/3 eternal spirit. So if you change two of the three, you’ll be someone so completely unrecognisable that it’s arguable if you could even call that person “you.”

  26. I was born in it, but my family went inactive within a year after my baptism. I returned at 17 and it was no miracle of wisdom and inspiration. It was friendship and a sense of belonging.
    I served a mission, married in the temple, had a small pile of kids and now have distanced myself from the organization, attending less and rethinking some of my plans.
    Looking back I acted like a Mormon (word of wiz etc) when I wasn’t so it felt like a good fit.
    I think it comes down to where you live and what you are looking for. If I had lived in the Mormon bubble I never would have returned to the church I have no question.

  27. My answer would be similar to S-Dogg’s. It depends on the time in my life. I had a group of friends in high school that were really good people, and all very devoted. I could see myself joining the church in that type of environment.

    If I went into adulthood without ever being part of a group of all Mormon friends, I couldn’t see myself ever converting.

  28. My parents are converts. My Mom told me that she joined at the right time for her, before that she wouldn’t have joined and afterwards who knows but when she met my convert dad she joined and so far as I know hasn’t ever looked back. Funnily enough she lived in Toronto when Pres. Monson was the Mission President there but she was in university and never heard of the the Mormons before!!! hahahha! but at that time she wouldn’t have joined. For me, it’s hard to say, I just don’t know.

  29. Nope. I’m gay, so it wouldn’t happen.

  30. Glenn Thigpen says:

    I have tried and cannot put myself in that position. I do know that I was converted to the church by two really powerful spiritual experiences that came far apart in my life. I sort of grew up in the church but my formative years were spent attending local Baptist, Methodist, or Presbyterian congregations because we had no transportation to the nearest branch.

    I just don’t know.

    Glenn

  31. Having been born into the church, I’ve always felt jealous of converts too… but mostly because I wish I had been given a choice in the matter. Both of my parents are converts, and they clearly love the church because they chose to join and have seen their lives improve since then (they would attribute causality here, but I won’t). In contrast, I’ve always felt that Mormonism was “forced” on me. On the other side, though, I think they’re jealous of me because I didn’t have to seek out this thing which has made them so happy. Now if only it made me that happy…

  32. “a time on his mission when he prayed and received a profound answer”

    Yeah, but he talks about a time on his mission. You can’t really expect a non-member to go on a mission before they get a testimony of the gospel.

  33. I am a convert to the Church. I joined at age 21 after a period of sincere seeking for the truth about Jesus and how to follow him. I found a copy of the Book of Mormon in a library and as I started to read it I immediately recognized that I had found what I had been looking for. I found there was an LDS ward in the town where I was living and called the church, where I was put in touch with the local ward mission leader. I was invited to meet with the missionaries in his home, and as they taught me the message of the restored gospel I found it was all very comforting and satisfying — familiar even. I was soon baptized. That was thirty years ago and I have never once regretted the decision to join. I am eternally grateful to my Heavenly Father for leading me to the church at the exact time in my life when I was ready for the gospel message. It’s still a miracle to me when I think of how it all came about.

    Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to have been raised in the church, and to have known the truths of the gospel from my earliest years, but I’m sure God knew what he was doing when he sent me to be born in the family that I was born into. Really I don’t think there should be any distinction between converts and non-converts. All are alike unto God and he deals with us each according to his infinite wisdom and foreknowledge. I’m so grateful to have been led by my Heavenly Father to the truth — I count it the greatest blessing of my life.

  34. I am really enjoying these conversions stories. Beautiful stuff.

  35. I was BiC, grew up in Utah, etc. but was raised with pretty untraditional beliefs (although from the outside people wouldn’t have known).

    As I grew I was converted to many of the more traditional beliefs contrary to many of the things I was taught and first believed – for example I obtained a witness of the importance and prophetic calling of our living prophets and that Christ is truly leading His church through them. Before I had a witness of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young as prophets, and a testimony of the Priesthood and the Church being God’s restored Church. But I saw subsequent leaders as nice old men with good hearts and intentions yet little substantial revelation, and saw the Church as somewhat fallen and apostate and living far beneath our privileges, that in many respects we were under condemnation as a people. While we are not yet Zion, I have come to learn for myself that I was wrong, and that the Kingdom has been rolling forward quite steadily, growing in wisdom and order with bad branches being removed and good branches grafted in with the growing strength of our roots, and at no time can I see a break in God’s hand at the helm. The testimony that I have received is that this church with all its flaws will be the vehicle to gather all truth in one in Christ, and that which will give birth and rise to Zion in these last days preparatory to the coming and reception of Christ. I believe in its mission and destiny.

    As time has marched on I feel I have been led that my testimony continues to grow, and I have been converted to many truths that are not as yet taught in the Church (which I keep to myself). I feel like many here can probably relate when I say, my soul delights in truth.

    Given the many times I have put away false traditions in favor of new truths as I learn them (and while admitting that this is of course in the end only speculation), I feel a confidence that if I were not born in the church that I would have converted. There are too many truths that taste too good, that I feel ring true in way that goes much deeper than my cultural background or mortal experience, that while I certainly may have felt an initial resistance (like I do to many new truths when I first learn them), ultimately I believe I would have explored and come to embrace these truths the same way I have in my current life’s course.

  36. Clark Goble says:

    Wow, I’ve never heard of that sort of social view. I’ve seen the opposite far more (you were raised in the church and never really had to struggle for a testimony therefore your testimony is likely weaker) although clearly it’s not good either. (Heaven knows there are lots of converts with weak testimonies even ignoring the impropriety of thinking one is better than an other for whatever reason)

    As to the question, it’s pretty difficult to even make sense of it unless you knew how you were raised. I’d like to think my curiosity would have led me to questioning religion and that the reality of the spirit would have converted me. But it’s not hard to think of circumstances where I wouldn’t give the spirit an opportunity.

  37. Because I’m not sure of the circumstances under which I would have been exposed to the church, it’s impossible to say. There are probably only a handful of times in my life that I would have been open to this kind of change, but that’s the life I’ve lived now, not the theoretical one in which I wasn’t raised in the church by convert parents. For example, I think when raising kids or going through depression or being depressed because of raising kids, these are all times of transition that might make someone more open to hearing alternate worldviews. Since Mormon families are generally pretty great, that could be attractive depending on the contrast in one’s own life and how feasible joining seems.

    As to the bias against converts, that does seem to be strictly a MoCor phenomenon. My sister experienced it in Mesa. I heard some of it at BYU. It seems far more common for people to have a “believing blood” or “pioneer pedigree” elitism, than an anti-convert bias. And just as irksome.

    Now, in post-2015, I would seriously struggle with the idea of joining given just how entrenched the sexism and anti-gay bias within the church is. My own ward is pretty great, but the institutional church has some serious problems that I doubt I could overcome even if I felt inclined to convert. If I were mostly blind to the organizational flaws because the local congregation didn’t possess those flaws, then I might. Which is in fact how I can stay given those same issues.

  38. No chance I’d join now. The idea of picking up a hobby that eats 10%+ of my income, 15+ hours most weekends, and crippling guilt even when I’ve done my home teaching wouldn’t appeal at all.

  39. Mormonism, as a rational faith, might hold some interest to the hypothetical me born outside the faith if presented in the right way. Especially if by a person like Lowell Bennion or Eugene England. Conversion? Not likely.

    In my experience many years ago in the mission field in the Far East, it required nothing short of a miracle for someone to convert and stay active in Mormonism. This is what it would take for me. The Lord would probably have to hit me upside the head with a baseball bat resulting in an epiphany or spiritual experience so powerful that it would overcome all the other malarkey.

  40. I am a child of the 70’s with a variety of fun experiences in the drug, sex, rock and roll culture of the greater Cleveland area. During my college years, I had the good fortune of dating an lds person over a period of several months. Her parents, fearful of their daughter dating a reprobate gentile, invited me to their home along with the missionaries. Eventually, I agreed to listen to the message. The old “Mr. Brown” lessons were seriously scripted but had a flipchart with pictures so I had something to look at besides the Elders. The first lesson…Joseph Smith’s First Vision.

    Even today, I recall the experience through tear filled eyes. (at work now…time to close the office door). It is impossible to describe what happened to me. Perhaps, like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes that day. I now realize I had (have) experienced the change of heart described by Alma and am a born again Mormon.

    I know context is a difficult thing to convey in a message like this one. My life changed dramatically that day as a result of the grace of God. I don’t deserve it. I did nothing to merit it but I know the time and place it happened. Other experiences have followed but this one is central and the one which keeps me going. Thank you for the opportunity to share.

  41. I grew up in the church in Utah, but I wasn’t raised in it. By that I mean I was born to inactive parents and introduced to the church by my grandfather when I was three years old. Before I entered kindergarten, I knew that in order to be happy, I had to live the way I was taught at church and not the way my parents lived. I knew God knew my name and that he watched out for me. I’ve no explanation for how I knew these things, but I did. So I’ve chosen throughout my life to live in accordance with the principles of the gospel.

    Had exposure to the gospel not come until adulthood, would I have converted? I like to think so. The Plan of Salvation is the only explanation for mortality that makes sense to me.

  42. My first thought is that my spouse is a convert. Wasn’t looking for a new church, wasn’t feeling unsettled in his relationship with God. He was active in a Christian fellowship on our college campus. When we started going out it was complex. He would occasionally go to Institute activities with me and I would go to his events that fit a category I would call a “fireside.”. Later I learned he got quite a bit of flak for dating a Mormon.

    I feel like I have had several opportunities to jump ship, especially a Bible study group I participated in one winter when my kids were little and my husband was in grad school. But instead the discussions caused me to dig deep and figure out just what I believed.

    As far as having grown up in the church, yes, I did. In tiny branches. I was taught the gospel in depth by my parents, as I didn’t really get it anywhere else until I was 12. If we had not been LDS, I think my same family would have been *something*; likely Catholic or Presbyterian, maybe Baptist.

    Based on gospel and eternal truths that resonate strongly within my core, I would probably find myself some sort of earth based pagan spirituality, if for example, I had not had my own parents and family.

  43. Unlikely I think. BiC. Both parents converts. Hanker after Anglican music and liturgy. Sometimes feel resentful that being raised in the church has put me one step removed from English culture, but recognise that had I not been raised Mormon it’s highly unlikely I’d have been raised Anglican, given I come from a long line of non-conformists. LDS is practically mainstream compared with the beliefs of my grandparents. It’s probably the non-conformist in me that has me gazing at the Anglicans in holy envy…

  44. Holy Envy is good. Just be a Mormon with healthy holy envy for Anglican liturgy!

  45. Eve of Destruction says:

    I had an experience on my mission, where the moment one woman opened the door while we were tracting, the Spirit witnessed something to me (I don’t like trying to put what is essentially a feeling into words, but I assume the Spirit was telling me this one was special). She progressed in the discussions like the proverbial golden investigator, a thing that virtually never happened in the particular corner of the mission field where I was posted. Later on, she told us that she had been tracted out many times before, and she had never let the missionaries in, but when we knocked, she felt something the moment she opened the door. She was baptized. After about three months, she fell back into her old smoking habit, and the members made her feel so bad when they could smell it on her, she stopped attending. I stayed active for about another three years myself. I feel quite sure if our roles had been reversed, I would have followed her into the church. And I’m sure I would have left it.

  46. You write that “my own inclination would be to do it precisely the other way around.” In my admittedly limited experience, “the other way around” has been more common: I see converts treated with envy and admiration, and “legacy” members treat themselves almost self-deprecatingly by comparison. Maybe I’m fortunate, but as a convert myself, I can honestly say that in seven wards in three different states (Utah and two New England states), as well as my mission, I’ve never felt like a second-class citizen for being “late to the game,” as it were.

    I can tell you, however, that it was always very annoying and off-putting in college when kids (both boys and girls) would say things like, “So, did you, like, try alcohol and stuff?” or “What is sex like?” /EYEROLL. Yes, I tried alcohol; that experience led to me vomiting all over the bathroom of a popular girl’s house, and I was done with it forever. No, I did not have sex. But the fact that you would ask me with a distinctively envious tone makes me squirm, and besides: I’ve repented of whatever happened before baptism and I’d rather not be put in a position to be either judged or envied for doing something that happened before I knew about the restored gospel.

    As for the questions you ask in your post: I was drawn to the faith by the members, who were classmates and teammates of mine growing up. My hometown (on the east coast) had a small but highly visible LDS presence. There was something different about several of them which made me curious. I was raised in a vaguely Judeo-Christian tradition but without organized religion; I read a children’s Bible once in a while as a kid, but I didn’t understand much about Jesus. I pronounced the “t” in “Apostles” for probably the first three months after I got baptized.

    “Do you personally value the knowledge that you had to affirmatively choose the faith rather than simply being raised in it?” is a great question. Short answer: yes. Longer answer: I’m terrified that, as a parent of now four young children, in many ways I feel myself assuming that my kids will also “discover” and “affirmatively choose” the faith, because I did. We go to church and occasionally we even have family scripture study, family prayer, and FHE. I could be pushing harder, but I’m not, and I fear that it is because, with minimal “effort” on anyone’s part, I found and embraced the Church as an 18-year-old, so why wouldn’t my kids do likewise much earlier, given that they are significantly more exposed to it?

  47. Late to the game, but your post reminded me of a testimony (or was it in a talk?) I gave a few years ago, where I said something along those same lines – that I was deeply moved by seeing a good friend in our ward (part member family) join the church, as I wondered – and was doubtful – if I would have converted to the church had I not been born into it.

    My paternal grandfather converted in the 1930s, as a non-believing German Lutheran immigrant to Canada. My mother converted in the 1960s from a Baptist family. And when I first met my wife, I attended her best friend from high school’s baptism. Even saw a few conversions on my mission in France. So I’m familiar with conversions.

    Because while my understanding of the world and life is deeply, deeply shaped by Mormonism – I feel Mormon to the core – I don’t know that the public presented/missionary/correlated Mormonism would have spoken to me at all.

    The reason I remember that day, I think, was because many of my ward came up after to tell me the usual things like “of course you would” or “if you believe now it means you would believe now whether you were born into it or met the missionaries”. But one older lady, who was about to leave on a mission with her husband came up with a smile and said, “I know exactly what you mean. I love the gospel dearly, but I wonder the same thing too.”

  48. Speaking as someone who was born LDS, served a mission, married in the temple and then converted away from Mormonism, I’d like to think I could’ve joined had I been a nevermo. I’ve found it’s actually harder to convert to Atheism in some respects than it is to convert to Mormonism. There’s no ready-made community to fellowship me, I’ve had to develop my own Sunday rituals, and I’ve had to reconstruct my moral framework from scratch rather than having a turnkey system handed to me.

    It would probably depend on the circumstance I was raised in and what my needs were at the time. In the protestant world, changing religions from one Christian church to another isn’t a big deal and people do it all the time. I think it would be a bigger deal if I were raised Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox Jewish or some other high-demand lifestyle religion. My mom and three of my grandparents were all converts. My mom’s family joined when she was little because they lived close to a member family in their neighborhood who had a boy that befriended my uncle. My grandparents were both lapsed in their respective faiths and wanted to be part of a strong community, which Mormonism definitely offered. My paternal grandmother, on the other hand, was raised in a staunch Catholic family. She joined the church partly so she could marry my grandfather, but in many respects she never really quit being Catholic.