Nine Years Up and Running

October 11, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 7:43 am   Category: Life

Today is sort of a special anniversary for me. Nine years ago today I was baptized, marking my leap of faith into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It’s an odd story, with an odd beginning. I had been offered two summer job opportunities. One working for the boy scouts in New Mexico, the other sailing on a barge up and down the Mississippi River. The barge job paid 4 times as much as the New Mexico Job, but the scouting Job meant being close to mountains, which I had never done up to that point in my life. I felt like I needed the money. I was agnostic, and sometimes considered myself an atheist, but on a whim, I decided to pray about which job to take. When I finished praying, my dad called and told me I didn’t need the money and to do what I thought would give me the best experience for the rest of my life. At the time, I thought it was a happy coincidence, and I decided to take the job working at a Boy Scout Camp, as I really felt like there was something really important for me there. I was 20 years old.

At the same time, a Young Lady going to BYU was also 20 years old and about to turn missionary age. She felt a prompting to postpone going on a mission, but did not know why. Walking on Campus one day, a Woman approached her and asked her if she were looking for a summer job. This Young Lady felt the spirit within her prompt her to take the invitation. The job was at a boy scout camp in New Mexico. The Young Lady accepted the job, although the only camping she’d ever done was girl’s camp and she was a vocal performance major. Having taken a missionary preparation class, she decided to pack a book of Mormon to give away, and to mark scriptures in it.

The summer was a fun and amazing experience. In the fresh New Mexico air, I decided that life was not the awful sham I previously thought it was. I decided that my addiction to alcohol needed to end. I decided I wanted to explore faith and religion and try to have a relationship with a God I wasn’t sure was there again. I had received answers to prayers before, and was not satisfied that they were just coincidences. I was even considering getting a tattoo of a cross on my arm as a way to commemorate and remember this transcendent event in my life. (I didn’t, fear of committment and all that.)

On the last day of summer, the Young Lady, who had become my friend, gave me the Book of Mormon. It wasn’t an out of the blue hand off, but we had developed a genuine friendship over the summer. This was pretty amazing, since I had thought she was a prude and she had thought I was a jerk on our first meeting (I cussed a lot). during the summer, I had asked about her faith, and she had first given me a book by Robert Millet called the Mormon Faith, had encouraged me to return to my straight edge convictions regarding alcohol(I quit drinking on my 21st birthday), had talked to me under the most beautiful stars in the world about God, life, meaning, and purpose. She impressed me and I wanted to know what made her so amazing. She put forth her religion and her conviction in it as the source of her strength of character. I had only known previously that Mormons went on a two year “pilgrimage” and what Clint Eastwood taught me in “Paint Your Wagon”. So I didn’t know much.

But here I had been given a Book of Mormon and a desire to learn more. I read some of it on the plane ride home, but mainly read Bridget Jones’ Diary. I went back to school a few days later, to discover my new apartment was by a church with a big spike, which I knew was a Mormon church because one had been pointed out to me on a drive to Colorado once during the summer. I decided I would go there on Sunday. That night, the Young lady had the missionaries call me, and I surprised them by telling them I would see them at Church on Sunday. The missionaries came over and we discovered we had similar tastes in music and played playstation together. We talked about reading the scriptures and I thought it weird that they wanted me to read the middle and end of the book first. I thought it weird that the book started with a religious man chopping off another man’s head. I searched the internet and thought polygamy weird, and things I read about blacks and the priesthood really disturbed me. But I really liked the religion as presented by Robert Millet (The missionary discussiosn were basically a repeat of that book for me.) I really liked the concept of the Godhead, as it resonated with me in regards to God and Christ beng seperate beings. This is something I had been thinking about since reading Chinua Achebe’s “Thing Fall Apart”. I talked to my family about the Mormon Church. My Mom talked to her priest about it and he said “Better a Practicing Mormon than a Non-Practicing Catholic” (for which counsel I will always love the Catholic Church) and my Father told me that Mormons were really supportive of the boy scouts, which meant a lot to him. I prayed. I made a deal with God, and set some terms. I felt like I had an answer.

A few weeks before I was to be baptized, I went to Utah and visited with the parent of the missionaries and the Young Lady. We went to music and the spoken word. They Sang “Blue Skies” and the Organist did an amazing solo that frankly totally rocked. I learned you can’t drink water on Fast Sundays. I professed my love to the Young Lady.

When I got home, The Young Lady in Utah called and told me she no longer wanted to have anything to do with me. She didn’t want me to think we were in some sort of relationship and told me she would never marry me or be romantically involved with me. She didn’t want me to join the church on her account. So I wondered what this meant. Was I joining the church because I was in love with a girl? Was I conflating human emotion with divine inspiration.

I knelt in prayer and asked God for help.

There was a knock on my door. It was the missionaries, out past curfew. They had felt a spiritual prompting to come by. One Elder looked me in the eyes and told me it didn’t matter to him if I was baptized. He knew we were meant to be friends and that we would always be friends. He told me I was not obligated by them to be baptized and could just call it quits anytime I wanted. I knew he was sincere and that he was right. I was free to chose for myself.

The missionaries left. I knelt in prayer and asked God if I should be baptized. The experience that followed can only be described as though a bucket of love from God were poured over me and the single word “Yes” reverberated through my mind and spirit.

So I decided that as much as some things from the history of the church really bothered me, I was going to take a leap of faith. I decided to believe in that answer and in the call to be a better person that joining the church represented to me.

A week before my baptism I went to all 5 sessions of General Conference. The only thing I can remember is Elder Faust calling me to repentance on matters of immorality.

A day before I was baptized I asked to meet privately with the bishop and told him I believed but was afraid I would fall away if I was not given an assignment of some sort to help me come to church (I thought he would ask me to vacuum or something, later he asked me to be in charge of the sacrament, which for a former Catholic, seems like a pretty huge responsibility) He just laughed.

On the day I was baptized, the young lady showed up to sing at my baptism. She had flown in from Utah and was staying with some friends. She sang an arrangement of “abide with me tis eventide”. She wore a very attractive black dress. I was wearing my white karate pants and a Hanes t-shirt. I remember doing a jumping front kick in the hall. She said something snarky about my irreverent exuberance, to which one of the missionaries said to her in a soft rebuke “That’s why we love Matt.” She later told me it was when he said those words that she realized that she also loved me. An Elder took me down into the water and I was baptized. I remember coming up out of the water and thinking what do I feel and what did God want me to do now, when these words came into my mind “When you are in the service of your fellow man, you are only in the service of your God.” It turns out there is a scripture that says that too…

The Young Lady and I have now been married for 5 years and are both returned missionaries. We have two girls. My life has completely changed and I have gone through many ups and downs since then, but I am so grateful for those first moments, God’s intervening hand, and the Faith that has been in my life since then.

51 Comments »

  1. Matt,

    Thanks for sharing this. When I ponder the events that lead to my own conversion and how everything aligned just right, I am in awe. And let me just say that your parents and their Priest sound awesome. I wish mine shared their attitude.

    Comment by john scherer — October 11, 2007 @ 8:01 am

  2. Matt,
    Thank you for this beautiful story. Truly touching. I’ve always wondered what my conversion story would be if I hadn’t grown up in the Church (I know, I still needed to be converted but it’s different of course).

    Comment by Rusty — October 11, 2007 @ 8:35 am

  3. Matt,

    Thanks…most converts like you have a great experience to share about their conversion. I am not a “convert” nor do I have one great defining moment in my life when I experienced that “ah ha” it’s true feeling. Mine has come slowing inching along…sometimes I wish it had been different. But I always love hearing about other’s conversions…thanks for yours.

    Comment by don — October 11, 2007 @ 8:42 am

  4. don: even with my “light switch turning on” moment at the start, I have needed the slow steady sunrise experience to gain my testimony of the Gospel. Personally, I am grateful that from where I am at right now, the sun is still rising. (Sorry, I get caught up in analogies sometimes)

    Comment by Matt W. — October 11, 2007 @ 8:52 am

  5. Happy anniversary, Matt W. My husband is a convert, also formerly Catholic. His conversion and baptism were also a miracle. Thanks for the sweet reminder of great blessings!

    Comment by C Jones — October 11, 2007 @ 9:03 am

  6. Matt,

    Wonderful and moving set of spiritual experiences. We’re all converts to the extent you reference the steady sunrise analogy. Fortunately the sun rises every day.

    Paint Your Wagon….good movie too.

    Comment by Guy Murray — October 11, 2007 @ 9:05 am

  7. Wow, what a great post. Thanks.

    Comment by Susan M — October 11, 2007 @ 9:38 am

  8. Matt, reading a post like this is such a highlight. It reminds me of the time I read Julie Smith’s conversion story. These posts really leave me feeling excited about the gospel and about life in general. Thank you for writing this up.

    Comment by danithew — October 11, 2007 @ 9:49 am

  9. Here’s a link to Julie’s conversion story (the one I mentioned previously).

    Comment by danithew — October 11, 2007 @ 9:53 am

  10. Good for you, Matt, in finding something that brings you joy and helps you live in the way you want to! Let’s see if you can beat my 26 year run. ;-)

    Comment by Nick Literski — October 11, 2007 @ 10:08 am

  11. Good good stuff, especially the

    what Clint Eastwood taught me in “Paint Your Wagon”

    and

    The missionaries came over and we discovered we had similar tastes in music and played playstation together

    .

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Comment by NItsav — October 11, 2007 @ 10:11 am

  12. My apologies, Matt. In the dark of this morning, I heard the radio say today is Oct. 11th. I said to my wonderful wife, “You know, October 11th means something. What is it that it means?”
    Thanks for this post. Even though I’ve known you for most of these past 9 years, I’ve never heard this detail of your conversion story. Love ya man. We’ll have steaks on Sunday.

    Comment by mondo cool — October 11, 2007 @ 10:40 am

  13. Matt, I really enjoy having you around and I very much appreciate having read your experiences. You are a good man.

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 11, 2007 @ 11:04 am

  14. Thank you Matt!

    Comment by Kent — October 11, 2007 @ 11:36 am

  15. Reading this made my afternoon. Thanks and congratulations.

    Comment by terceiro — October 11, 2007 @ 11:44 am

  16. Congrats Matt.

    I liked the part about the Karate kick. After every baptism I ‘had’ as a missionary, I would sneak away and do a little happy dance. Usually in the gym.

    I also liked the part about your ‘covenant’ in that you prayed, made a deal, set some terms….Amazing.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — October 11, 2007 @ 11:45 am

  17. This is wonderful, Matt. I’m glad to e-know you.

    Comment by Mark IV — October 11, 2007 @ 12:45 pm

  18. Matt – congratulations. Wonderful and touching. Thanks for sharing it.

    Comment by Sue — October 11, 2007 @ 12:55 pm

  19. May you do many more Karate kicks at others’ baptisms for many years to come (but only if your wife lets you)!

    Awesome story!

    Comment by Jacob M — October 11, 2007 @ 1:04 pm

  20. Thanks for sharing Matt. I’m more than delighted that you are a part of the body of saints. We are richer because you’re with us!

    Comment by Blake — October 11, 2007 @ 1:12 pm

  21. Great story Matt!

    Comment by Howard — October 11, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

  22. I love the pouring bucket of love image. Very cool story.

    Comment by JKC — October 11, 2007 @ 2:00 pm

  23. Congratulations on your best post ever Matt. Now you have two things to celebrate on this date!

    Comment by Geoff J — October 11, 2007 @ 3:22 pm

  24. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Edje — October 11, 2007 @ 4:13 pm

  25. Thanks all, this is a day I don’t want to forget and it is good to have a way to remember like this. Here’s looking forward to ten years up and running.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 11, 2007 @ 5:36 pm

  26. Awesome story Matt. Awesome.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 11, 2007 @ 8:10 pm

  27. Wonderful post Matt, it really made my day. I too am a Catholic turned Mormon and this post reminded me of the joy I felt in my converison.

    I loved your karate kick too. When I first started going to church and feeling the spirit I would often comment that I wished the chapel had a gymnastics room to do cartwheels in.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Katie — October 12, 2007 @ 8:43 am

  28. Thanks for sharing this story in your life. My favorite part if your story was when the missionary had the courage to say that he’d still be your friend even if you didn’t get baptized.

    Thanks for being a part of “the thang”.

    Comment by Kristen J — October 12, 2007 @ 12:14 pm

  29. Your conversion was nine years ago, and it took me about nine years to be converted. Not that nine years means anything.

    Comment by V the K — October 15, 2007 @ 11:38 am

  30. Matt,

    9 years and you finally sold me out on listening to punk rock with you while I was a missionary. Still one of the single greatest days of my life…

    I love you bruv!

    Taylor (one of the missionaries)

    Comment by Taylor — October 16, 2007 @ 1:08 pm

  31. You had me untill Karate pants…

    Great story anyhow.

    Comment by Jake — October 17, 2007 @ 10:45 am

  32. Taylor: At least I didn’t tell everyone you were addicted to “Parappa the Rapper”

    Jake: huh?

    Comment by Matt W. — October 17, 2007 @ 11:08 am

  33. Thanks, Matt. I was moved to tears.

    Although I was raised in the Church and never had that type of experience of my own, I had one very similar experience on my mission. I had never phrased it as a bucket of love being poured out on our investigator, but just reading your description (and typing these words now) brought back the incredible Spirit I felt that day and the tears that accompanied it.

    I had one other experience like that on my mission, as I was pulling away on the train for a transfer – watching a strapping 13-year-old karate champion bawl like a baby wearing the suit that I gave him because his single mother couldn’t afford to buy him one. He was crying on the platform; I was crying on the train. I pray that he eventually joined the Church, since I never heard from him again.

    God bless you for sharing your story with everyone – and for bringing sweet, sweet memories back to me.

    Comment by Ray — October 17, 2007 @ 2:20 pm

  34. Matt,

    I am going to hazard a guess that Jake is playfully mocking you for having ever worn Karate pants…

    Comment by Jacob J — October 17, 2007 @ 2:55 pm

  35. Thank you, Matt. I had some tears while reading this.

    Although born in the Church, I had a specific conversion moment (comment #121) while repenting. Your bucket-of-love sounds much like when I felt God’s love wash through my heart and change it.

    I recently became comitted with a wonderful woman who was baptized this year — can’t wait to share your story with her!

    Comment by manaen — October 17, 2007 @ 5:41 pm

  36. manaen, I loved your experience you shared. It gives me great satisfaction that your experience is similar to mine and that your understanding of your experience meshes with what I’ve been arguing for on the “Stains” post regarding the remorse we feel for the pain we cause others and how it is healed.

    Comment by Kent — October 17, 2007 @ 6:24 pm

  37. Matt W:

    Here are a couple places that collect conversion stories, where you might post yours:

    http://www.mormonconverts.com

    http://www.mormontestimonies.org

    Favorite quotes from your story:

    — I thought it weird that they wanted me to read the middle and end of the book first.

    — I thought it weird that the book started with a religious man chopping off another man’s head.

    — The missionaries came over and we … played playstation together.

    — My Mom talked to her priest about it and he said “Better a Practicing Mormon than a Non-Practicing Catholic”

    — She [the Young Lady] didn’t want me to join the church on her account.

    — A week before my baptism I went to all 5 sessions of General Conference. (Not many members do that.)

    — I asked to meet privately with the bishop and told him I believed but was afraid I would fall away if I was not given an assignment of some sort to help me come to church … He just laughed.

    Comment by Bookslinger — October 17, 2007 @ 7:26 pm

  38. What an incredibly beautiful story, Matt. Thanks for sharing this with all of us.

    Comment by meems — October 19, 2007 @ 11:37 am

  39. I was totally stoked when I read that you married that chick! THATS SO AWESOME!

    Comment by Eric — December 8, 2007 @ 7:37 pm

  40. Matt,

    You and I aren’t all that different in our conversions and the events leading up to it.

    I have only been a member for 2 years, but I want to commend you for you courage in searching for your truth. What an inspiration!

    Comment by Lee — April 13, 2008 @ 8:34 am

  41. I found your story via another blog. I absolutely loved reading it – thank you so much for sharing. It adds to my testimony of the truth – having experienced the outpouring of love like you, and knowing it is a very true, very real experience. Glad you and the “Young Lady” have a happy ending.

    Comment by Christy — October 2, 2008 @ 8:33 am

  42. Thanks Christy! In ten days it will be ten years.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 2, 2008 @ 9:51 am

  43. I liked your story, Matt. Thanks, Steve

    Comment by Steve Graham — October 2, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

  44. What a great story! I too love the church and my how it has helped me to develop a relationship with God. We still have so many adventures to create.

    “You have a work that no other can do;
    Do it so bravely, so kindly, so well,
    Angels will hasten the story to tell.”

    From “Dare To Do Right” http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=96dbc106dac20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=637e1b08f338c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

    Comment by Rich Alger — September 1, 2009 @ 8:48 am

  45. Thanks Rich

    Comment by Matt W. — September 1, 2009 @ 9:10 am

  46. I’d like to be able to email or Facebook this wonderful Conversion story.. in some blogs, there are links at the end, including “email, Facebook,” and some others that allows for this… so many times I’ve wanted to just click and send… Am I missing that potential with this website? I appreciate Conversion stories, ours was amazing too, and all such stories are Testimony builders.

    Comment by Marsha — October 11, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

  47. I’m really glad NCT leaves the comment section eternally open because when I read this post today I had to tell Matt thanks, thanks a lot.

    Comment by BHodges — May 27, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

  48. Thanks Mr Hodges, I appreciate that.

    Comment by Matt W. — May 29, 2010 @ 6:15 am

  49. Matt,

    I was very interested in your review of Terryl Givens Meridian article on Theodicy. I’m wondering if you would take the time to review the short essay I wrote on a blog and see if you can provide some feedback/criticisms regarding the problem of pain/suffering.

    I’m not looking to be put on your blog. I don’t want to be published. I’m just a convert who is struggling immensely with this issue.

    Thanks,

    S.E. Pauni- http://www.fleetingfactoids.wordpress.com

    For some reason my posts aren’t showing up.

    Comment by Sione — June 20, 2011 @ 10:26 am

  50. Sione, I think your posts were getting caught in the spam filter. I will take a look at your post as I have the time to really look into it.

    Comment by Matt W. — June 20, 2011 @ 11:44 am

  51. Thanks Matt. Let me know

    Comment by Sione — June 20, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

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