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Monday, July 7, 2014

My Conversion Story

Disclaimer: Normally, I don't get all too personal on my blog. I have an aversion to feelings in general. Feelings are often uncomfortable, painful, and most disagreeable to the lacrimal glands, so I avoid them, much like rational people avoid asphyxiation, rattlesnakes, poisonous spiders, bears, dark alleys, and canned peas. So, consider this a special occasion, if you will.

Canned Pea Monster


I remember my own baptism well. The date was October 19, 1997. I was living in the small town of Farmington, New Mexico. I was 19 at the time. My father, in the midst of a difficult battle with hepatitis C, had committed suicide just over a year earlier. My family took it hard. Our lives had been turned upside down.

In search for answers I chose a comfortable set of beliefs. I chose to believe that when my father died he just stopped existing. He would never return. I would never have to see him again, and he could never hurt me again. (See the disclaimer). So, death was ultimate, unimaginable nothingness. There was no hope, no misery. No pain, no relief. The absence of being, the absence of consciousnesses. Nothing.

Through a train of influences and conversations I found myself talking with Elder Orr from small town Idaho, and his odd, violin playing, trunky companion. Over the next two weeks I would read from 1 Nephi through 3/4 of Alma, and the books of 3 Nephi, 4 Nephi, and Moroni. (I read the rest later) The Spirit was strong with me at that time, enough to throw out all doubt that anything else could be true. It was truly amazing.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had the answer to every significant question I had about life, death, and deity. There was no question I couldn't answer by searching for it in the scriptures. One of those questions was answered in Alma 40:11. This scripture told me what happened to us after death. My Father, the unbeliever, the monster, dad, had been "taken home to that God who gave [him] life." 

Not since my father died had I experienced such strong emotions about his death. I cried as I read, and reread this verse. All of a sudden the death that released me from my own personal h*ll became the death that released my father from his own personal captivity. I could see Heavenly Father pulling my Earthly father in with a warm embrace. There was joy. There were tears (as much as a spirit can shed tears). There was no more unbelief. 

Heavenly Father would then have a frank conversation with him. He would show appreciation for his honest heart, and attempts to help those who couldn't help themselves. He would chastise him for his errors, and counsel with him on the work he needed to do. My Father would then get to work on his own repentance. The sweet out-weighed the bitter for the first time in at least 12 years.

My father in the army in the early 70s.
"And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers"
Malachi 4:6

So, two weeks after my first meeting, Elder Orr stood next to me, held my arms, said those magic words, and baptized me. I died. Then I was pulled out of the water, my old self gone. A new man rose from that warm, watery grave. A man of doubt, unbelief, and contention was buried, and a man of hope, love, and belief was given new life. An animal took it's last breath, and seconds later, a child of God took it's first. Like a newborn babe, my eyes were set to wonder. Life had taken on new meaning. Even the smallest, most mundane activity was in similitude of Christ's life, death, or resurrection. My life had new meaning. It was no longer about my Earthly success, but it was also about my spiritual success.

A year and a half I would return Elder Orr's favor and serve in the Idaho, Pocatello mission.

In two weeks my life was changed forever, quite literally, forever.