An old friend recently asked me to tell this story, and I realized that I hardly ever do. I guess I don’t think it’s very special. But still, it’s mine, so here it is.
It starts in 8th grade, when the emotional problems that had always plagued me drove me to some anti-social behavior so severe that my poor parents had to withdraw me from school and place me in a mental health facility. By the time I was released to go home that summer, I knew that I was missing something and needed some kind of major change.
I’d always been a pretty religious kid, though my family never went to church much. I went to a kind of church class after school in 3rd grade, and enjoyed it. I tried reading the Bible a couple of times. I felt like there was some kind of spiritual truth out there, but I didn’t know exactly what it was.
I’d also always been a big reader, and some trips to the library helped me find some works on philosophy and religion, which were great, but didn’t fill the hole I had. One late, lonely night that summer, I did something I don’t think I’d ever done before: I prayed. I went to my knees in my room and I asked God to show me where he was. I didn’t feel anything, and got depressed.
I started high school that fall, and my best friend was Mormon, so at lunch during that first week he went to register for seminary. I went along with him. I was curious and asked what it was about, and soon I was invited to go along. I liked having the company of such great people every morning, but the biggest blessing that came from that class was being introduced to the Book of Mormon.
When I was given a copy, I couldn’t believe how much it opened my eyes. It was love at first sight. It was deep but clear, like a pure mountain lake, and I dove in and immersed myself in its refreshing waters. I was impressed by 1 Nephi 3:7, and when I told the seminary teacher about this “discovery,” she smiled and told me that it’s a very famous verse and that everybody knew that one.
I felt the Spirit from that book, and it changed me. To this day, 25 years later, after reading it countless times, I’m still amazed by how beautiful and powerful the Book of Mormon is.
When I prayed about it, I felt the soft yet solid warmth that I’d wanted after that stumbling prayer in my room the previous summer. I knew that it was true. I accepted an invitation to have missionaries come teach me, and I remember showing them that I’d just read Alma 32 and had underlined nearly all of it!
I was baptized in February 1993. Right before the ordinance, one of the missionaries came up to me to say that the water heater was broken, and that the water would be cold. But when I stepped into that font, the water felt perfect.
However, sadly, the pull of worldliness was very strong on me, and it was only a few months before I wasn’t going to church much. I was more attached to things in the media that seemed more exciting to an emotional young man. My trips to the library turned up some anti-Mormon material, and I started drifting away that summer.
My attendance at church and seminary was spotty for the rest of high school, to say the least. Sometimes, I’d talk to my bishop and reform, but it never lasted long. I was rarely happy, and often very sad. I felt confused and alone, and despite some truly heroic reaching out from friends, leaders, and teachers at church, I usually insisted on flailing through life on my own, with no idea what I was doing or why.
My copy of the Book of Mormon got dusty.
Who knows how long that would have continued–how it would have changed or if it would have–but the other big turning point in my conversion was shortly after graduation, in June 1996, when I found out that I was going to be a father.
I decided to become a new man. I went to my bishop, made a plan, and started coming back to church. I’ve never left again.
That baby was a girl, and I’ve told her that she doesn’t need to worry about trying to do what romantic movies often show, where a woman will change a man for the better, because she already has.
For over 20 years now, I’ve tried to center my life on church service and study, and I’ve always been rewarded with a wonderful life, better than teenage me ever could have imagined.
I want anyone reading this to know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is truly founded by God. Jesus Christ has restored the church he founded in the New Testament, and he still leads that church today through revelation to its prophets. That same spirit of revelation is available to all of us to guide us and testify to us personally. The Book of Mormon is true–it is what it claims to be, a translation of ancient teachings that have immense value for us today. I urge anyone to read it, to visit an LDS church, to speak to our missionaries, and to find out for themselves that this is actually real. The power of a rich and satisfying life now, and of eternal life later, is here.