Monday, October 15, 2007

Conersion Story

My husband and I were in the middle of painting the inside of our home (not an easy feat with 5 children under the age of 5) 29 years ago when we get a phone call on a Thursday evening. My husband got off the phone to say that 2 young men from some church wanted to come over and give us a message. I said are you kidding? Did you not tell them we are in the middle of painting? He replied that he had and they had said that was fine and they would be over after dinner the following night.

I forgot all about it till the doorbell rang. In enters these 2 young men neatly dressed in suits and I’m thinking oh please do not touch any walls or let the children near you!! We had a clean sheet on the couch to save it from paint and they sat down. Our children were clamoring all over them especially when one of them started doing magic tricks. Kids were hooked. I kept waiting for “this message” but none came. After about an hour visit they said they had to go but was there anything they could help us with. Keith jokingly said well we are about to start the living room in the morning and they said they would be over to help and what time. He replied 6 and they said they would be here. I thought yeah right.

But bright and early they were at our door. I offered them breakfast which they gratefully accepted although they declined the coffee. All day they painted alongside Keith. We had lunch and still no message. One of our neighbors was moving and Keith had told her he would help her load their truck so he and the Elders went and helped. By the time they got back dinner was ready and they stayed. I figured it was the least I could do after all they had done. They ate and then left saying they had an appointment. All evening we kept talking about how we still had not gotten our message.

The next evening they came back and said could they come by the following night to give us our message. By this time I knew it was a “sales” pitch and did not want to be a part of it. But of course Keith said yes and so the next night they came back.

They asked us what we knew about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and we both drew blanks. They asked what we knew about the Mormon Church. I said well I watch the Donny and Marie show and I knew they have more then one wife. They chuckled at that and said no men and women practice monogamy.

They went on to talk in general terms about the church, about families and about being eternal. Right out of the blue Keith looks at them and says “I’m ready”. They said ready about what? He said “to be baptized, isn’t this what this is all about?” I am madly making faces at him trying to get his attention but he was choosing to ignore me. The Elders said well yes of course but we have to go through a series of lessons before that can happen. Keith told them that they had better hurry up as he was ready.

He had heard the phrase eternal family and that was it in his mind. So they taught us the first discussion that evening. Well actually they taught Keith. I was too busy fuming in my head that he had committed us to something without talking to me. After they left with a promise to come back the next night, Keith turned and saw my face. Sometimes Kodak moments tend to happen without the benefit of a camera nearby. He just looked at me and said “What?”

I asked him why he would say yes without checking with me. He replied that we had been going from one church to another church every week or so trying to find one for us. But we kept hitting wrong ones and here was one that talked about eternal families which was what we had wanted. That was completely beside the point. He had not talked it over with me.

Over the next week, I found excuses not to be in the room for the lessons or else I would say I had to check on the children or I was there in body only and in my head I was doing grocery lists. Keith would ask me why I was so unresponsive (usually I never stop talking) and I flat out told him that this was not a Sunday church that this was a 24/7 church. He asked how I knew this and I said I just feel it is.

The Elders (which by the way I thought it was weird that 2 guys would have the exact first name.. Elder.. what were the odds?) asked us to commit to baptism and we both said yes. The morning of the baptism I told Keith I was not going to do it. He called the Elders at 6 am and told them how I was feeling. By 7am they were at the house. They helped me get the children ready for school. We cleaned up from breakfast and we talked. Not even so much about the gospel we just talked. About why they were on missions, their sacrifices, their families who missed them back home, their upbringings. We read scriptures and just … well just talked. I felt better about the baptism but was still not convinced.

One of the Elders finally looked at me and said Satan has 7 tools he uses when he wants to sway someone to do/not do what he wants. I can’t remember the first 6 but the last tool they said was the tool of discouragement. Satan knows that if he can get someone discouraged about something, he knows they will falter. They finally left after Keith got back from work. We called our parents to tell them what we were about to do. My in-laws were a little disappointed but they felt if it meant it would get Keith to church and be a better person then all the better. I didn’t fare very well. I was basically told if I changed my religion (I was Catholic) I could basically forget to ever go see my parents. That hurt as I was very close to my family.

All the way to the church that night I kept telling Keith I did not want to go through this. I had 5 small children, my hands were full, I just did not need one more thing on my plate at that moment. But we kept driving. We got to the church and Keith went first. The Elder that was going to be baptizing me just had another quiet prayer with me off to the side before we went into the water. I was shaking so bad I had no idea how he would keep me in the water.

He said the baptismal prayer and as he lifted me out of the water I was hit by the brightest light I had ever seen or have yet ever seen. I was completely blinded. I kept hearing a “Are you all right?” in my ear but couldn’t see who was talking to me. Then a feeling of great peace settled literally over my entire body. The whiteness dissipated and I turned to the Elder to say something but he just smiled at me and said “its ok I know”.

I never regretted that moment. I am glad Keith “forced” me into being baptized. Several years later we were sealed in the Cardston temple. Because we were a blended family it took another year to be able to have our children sealed to us. We decided to have them sealed in the SLC temple. We had remained very close with the Elders that had baptized us. Unbeknownst to us, they had gotten in touch with as many missionaries that they could find that had come through our doors in the past 4 or so years. When we walked in the room we expected 2 Elders and their wives. What we saw was literally standing room only of Elders and Sisters and their families. It blew me away. The officiator said that this had been the first time that he had officiated at a sealing where there were so many missionaries there. Usually it is family. We looked at him and said this is our family.

I will be forever grateful for those two young men. We did eventually ask them where they had found us as we had not been tracted out. It had been very very hot that week, hitting the above 45 degree Celsius. It had been just too hot to go door to door so they would go to their phone book, close their eyes and roam with their finger till they felt right and then go to their map on the wall to see if it was in their area. We laugh at that. Very unconventional way of tracting but it had worked for us. But these 2 Elders not only blew all records for member baptisms when they were out but they broke all records on member retention. Any one can baptize people but it’s not every missionary that can teach so well that the members remain faithful. It doesn’t mean we haven’t had our moments when we thought this was too much but we always go back to that 7th tool and remember that Satan almost had us and we straighten up.

When one of our sons was getting married in the Seattle temple, we were gathered in the front just waiting to go in and all of a sudden we see this couple walking towards us. It was one of the Elders and his wife. They had flown all the way in just to be there to support us. Then they flew back home after the ceremony.

That one little baptism that one night gave way to 5 children being baptized, 1 son serving an honorable mission, 2 children sealed for all time and eternity in the temple, 3 children married in the church, and 4 grandchildren baptized with one more on the 28th of this month. It has been a long hard road but one I am so glad I followed.


Carmen said...

Cool story!!