The Bishop challenged us in Sacrament Meeting today to write our conversion story. My first thought was, "Which one?" I think I've been converted to the gospel in stages. For me, it seems to be an ongoing process.
As a child, prior to the missionaries coming to our home, I spoke with my father on many occasions about God. He answered most of my questions to my satisfaction. There were lingering questions, however, for which he had no answers. One question was, "Where is God?" I was told that God was everywhere, and he had me memorize, "There's not a spot, where God is not." I thought about that statement for several years. It just didn't make any sense to me. When I prayed to God, I talked to Him like a real person. This convoluted description of Him was difficult for me to comprehend. So when the missionaries came and explained that Heavenly Father has a body, it made perfect sense to me, and I was then more amenable to other things that were taught to me. I'll call that the first step of my conversion.
I was not totally convinced about everything when I was baptized. To be painfully honest, I was baptized because I thought it would make my father happy. He had gained a testimony, and he wanted to do this as a family. My older sister and my older brother had already been baptized. Dad wanted Mom and I to be baptized with him. He would never have forced me to do that, but I knew it would make him happy, so I went along with it. As we began to attend church, and I studied more, I gradually accepted other principles of the gospel. It was truly "line upon line, precept upon precept" for me. I'll call that the second step of my conversion.
Seminary was huge for me. My testimony grew by leaps and bounds in seminary. Unfortunately, the stronger my testimony of the gospel became, the more stumbling blocks Satan put in my path. The Young Women's program or "Mutual" was my demise. Some things happened that were totally unacceptable to me. I stopped going to church altogether my senior year of high school, with the exception of seminary. I loved seminary, continued to study, and graduated from seminary. Seminary was the third step of my conversion process.
After seminary, I dropped out of church for 20 years, with the exception of an occasional appearance. Most people would assume that this was a stagnant period for my testimony and my conversion process. Most people would be wrong. I continued to study the scriptures during that 20-year period. In addition to studying gospel principles, I read the Book of Mormon cover to cover six different times in that 20-year period. I'm going on record here by saying that just because someone isn't coming to church, doesn't mean they don't have a testimony, or have "lost" their testimony. That is a huge misconception in the church. I learned many things in that 20-year-period that strengthened my testimony. That was the fourth step in my conversion process.
Shortly after the birth of my last child, some things began to fall into place for me. I had a difficult time getting pregnant that last time, and she is the result of fertility drugs. (Yes, it was a moment of insanity to take fertility drugs when you already have three children, but that's beside the point.) For several months after she was born, I would hold her in my arms and marvel at the blessing that had been given to me. I began to contemplate what I was doing to show Heavenly Father my gratitude for this blessing, as well as all my blessings.
Shortly thereafter, my son wanted to be baptized. The rule in our home was that you had to prove to mom that you really knew what baptism meant and that you had basic gospel principles down prior to being baptized, so this did not always happen at the age of eight. It was different for each child, depending on their knowledge of the gospel and their testimony. My children were all active in Camp Fire Boys and Girls, and I had the kids earn a couple of religious growth awards prior to baptism. I tailored the basic program to fit our needs, and included missionary lessons as part of the requirement. My eight-year-old son wanted to be baptized, so I asked him the standard question, "What can you tell me about the gospel?" I had not planned on listening for 90 minutes while he bore his testimony to me in a very unique and special way. At the end of our discussion, I told him to earn the Camp Fire awards, take the missionary lessons, and he could be baptized. That 90-minute period with my son was a real eye opener for me. I'll even go so far as to say it was "life changing." There were several other things that happened about this time that really stirred my soul. I guess this time period was the fifth stage of my conversion process.
My husband and I were about to celebrate our anniversary. I didn't know what to do for him for our anniversary. Something had been nagging at me for months, but I was afraid to put it into words (even in my own head). I just knew that I was not supposed to buy my husband an anniversary gift, but I couldn't even admit to myself what I was about to do. On our anniversary, in front of our four children, I told my husband that my gift to him was that one year from that day, we would be sealed in the temple. As soon as it was out of my mouth, I almost had a heart attack--or maybe it was finally that "change of heart" I was feeling. The next year my family studied the Book of Mormon cover to cover. We had many challenges as a family, and I had many personal challenges. Satan worked hard on me (and my family), but in the end, he lost, and we won. This very important year was the sixth stage of my conversion process.
In the years since, I've been in a constant state of learning and growing. Callings have made me grow. Ward members have helped me grow. Temple attendance has had a monumental impact on my growth. I've been tempted, but I've remained steady. The greatest temptations came when I was Relief Society President. Satan pulled out everything in his book of tricks--but he lost again. I'm still growing and learning, and I am in the midst of this seventh stage of my conversion process.
I don't know that I can point to any one moment in my life and say, "That was the moment I was converted." For me it truly was line upon line, precept upon precept.
"For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have." 2 Nephi 28:30
I know the gospel is true. I know Heavenly Father has a real body. I know His Son, Jesus Christ, is my older brother, my savior, my redeemer, my friend, and my confidant. I guess it really doesn't matter how I know this, or when I learned it. It is what it is, and I know it with all my heart. I say this in Jesus' name. Amen.