Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Religious Conversion - My Story About Becoming a Mormon

Allow me to introduce myself.  My wife and I have been serving a mission for our church in San Jose, Costa Rica since December 2016.  I have been retired since 2007 and to keep myself out of mischief I substitute taught in high schools for several years.  I loved the interaction with young people who can often present challenges.  We are the parents of eight children and 31 grandchildren. Our home has been mostly in Utah since 1972.  I was employed with my church as an architect and facility manager for 32 years supervising the design and construction of chapels in Canada, the United States and Central America.  Some of my passions include: painting watercolors, singing and reading about the history of the United States and the biographies of notable individuals like Churchill and Lincoln.

I am a member of the LDS Church or what is commonly referred to as the Mormon Church.  Prior to my conversion, I thought the "Mormon Church"  and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were two distinct churches.  I found out differently when I became acquainted with the church in Eugene, Oregon in the fall of 1966.

My neighbors who were members of the LDS Church and managed the apartment I was living in became instant friends.  Have you ever had the experience of meeting someone that you felt that you had met before but could not figure out where? That is how I felt.  I was eventually put in contact with the missionaries and started hearing the lessons they taught.  On their first visit I was wearing a T shirt, bermuda shorts and was in my bare feet.  They wore suits and mentioned that they were bringing me a message from Jesus Christ which  I literally felt was true.

This started me on my journey toward baptism some three months later.  I knew they were telling me the truth and that was confirmed through my personal prayers.  However, during that journey my fellow graduate students knew I was in contact with those "Mormon Missionaries" and gave me a hard time.  Through those graduate student chats I would usually have some questions for the missionaries.  Interestingly many of those questions were answered spiritually without my even bringing them up to the missionaries. One interesting note on my baptism day was when I was informed that I would be baptized in a stake center.  I thought a stake center was a restaurant that served steaks.  I soon discovered that this was a chapel and not a restaurant.

I was born in Chicago and lived my first eight years in Wheaton, Illinois which is approximately 20 miles west of Chicago.  We then moved to Denver, Colorado and lived in East Denver which was near the old airport called Stapleton.   My dad worked for United Air Lines which led to our move not only to Denver but then to Massapequa Park, New York.  We then came back to Glen Ellyn, Illinois for my senior year.  I then attended the University of Illinois where I graduated with a Bachelor of  Architecture Degree in 1963.

 Following graduation, I was employed with an architectural firm in St. Louis and went through Basic Training for the Army Reserves in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. During this time, our drill sergeant informed us of the assassination of President Kennedy while we were in formation in pouring rain.  After completing my 90 days, I returned to the firm.  During this time I became involved with a young adult group which helped troubled teens in a halfway house.  I gained an interest in the Peace Corps through one of these young adults and ended up serving a two year assignment as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Chimbote, Peru which counted as two of my six year commitment with the Army Reserves. Upon completing this assignment I was awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship to the University of Oregon.

During the time prior to my conversion, there were three trigger points that caused me to reflect on religion and my purpose in life.  These three trigger points were: 1. My dilemma about the trinity; 2. A philosophy class at the University of Illinois; 3. My visit to Machu Picchu.  I will now briefly discuss each of these trigger points.
I had read in John 17:3 that eternal life meant knowing God and Jesus Christ.  I was very confused with how the "trinity" was being described to me and asked questions about this.  I was told that one must accept this on faith.  However, the scripture says that it is so important to know God and Jesus Christ that our eternal life depends on it.
We were being taught about "The Myth of Sisyphus" in my philosophy class at the University of  Illinois.  This story describes a man struggling to push a boulder up a hill. I interpreted our class discussion as the endless struggles in life that end with death so why try? I kept saying to myself that there had to be more to life than that.  I was holding on to the idea of a life after this one.   I had always felt there was a purpose to life and life did not end upon our death.
In my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer I had the opportunity to visit "The Lost City of the Incas" in southern Peru.  I had the opportunity of staying there overnight and felt something that stayed with me.  It was like there was something very special about this place but I did not know what it was.

In forthcoming articles I will elaborate on these three trigger points as well as my conversion.

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