Seeking to understand, she found truth

I was baptized just a few months ago. I hope that what I have to say will somehow help the members of the Church who grew up in the Church to understand what it is like to be a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in understanding a convert's point of view, give you some ideas about how to talk to and support people who are examining the beliefs of the Church.

Stephen Covey says, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." I'd like to tell you about the struggle that I went through in deciding to join this Church, and I hope you will get some understanding that will be useful to you in your missionary work.I came from a very [religious] upbringing in another church, but I had for the most part abandoned the practice of my religion as an adult. This didn't mean, however, that I gave up all the beliefs of my childhood. Little did I know how strong they actually were.

I tell people that I sort of married into this Church when I married my husband three years ago. I really didn't know what I was getting into, from a religious point of view, but I was committed to raising his sons in their Mormon faith. My plan was to support them as much as I could without actually joining myself. This meant bringing them to Church every Sunday and making sure they did what they were supposed to do. At some point, though, I realized that to be truly supportive I would need to really understand and support their beliefs. So I read a lot, and I listened to try to make sense of the theology. My husband was great, because he would never argue with me when I would get irritated or frustrated trying to comprehend everything. I would find fault with things I didn't understand. I'd say, "What apostasy? That's really insulting."

I did truly want to understand all the new words and phrases I was hearing, but it was difficult. It was a struggle. I think it would be a lot easier, religiously, going from nothing to something rather than something to something else.

I was vastly encouraged in my search for more truth by this quote I came across by President George Albert Smith. He was talking about how Latter-day Saints are expected to interface positively with people of other religions. He said, "We have come not to take away from you the truth and virtue you possess. We have come not to find fault with you nor to criticize you. We have not come here to berate you because of things you have not done. . . . We have come with the desire to do you good, to encourage you to repent of your sins, wherein you are sinful, and encourage you to retain your virtues wherein you are virtuous, and to say to you: Keep all the good that you have, and let us bring to you more good, in order that you may be happier and in order that you may be prepared to enter into the presence of our Heavenly Father."

I learned from George Albert Smith that I did not have to reject the truths I thought I already knew. I was relieved that such a great leader of the Church would be so accepting of me. When I was a little girl I had felt the Spirit in my life; I had felt that goodness in my heart, and the Spirit was with me, and I knew that to be the truth. [Elder] Neal [A.] Maxwell also addressed my concerns so very well in an interview with Hugh Hewitt who wrote, Searching for God in America. Elder Maxwell was asked about the apostasy and the restoration and what his advice would be to a non-Mormon Christian. He said, "Keep everything that you've got that's good and true, which is much. Let us add to what you already have - what we consider to be the fullness of the faith, including much more information about Jesus. All this would give you more understanding of the plans and purposes of life. So we would salute you for all the faith you have and then ask if you would consider letting us share with you what we have by way of abundance in the Restoration." What an invitation that was for me! I was so grateful for his words.

I read a couple of books about early Christian history. The apostasy became more clear to me. One of the very best books I read to speed my understanding of Mormon theology was the book by [Elder] M. Russell Ballard, Our Search for Happiness. He says in the introduction that his objective in writing the book is for understanding, not persuasion. On the last page, he writes, "Ask God. Listen for His answer with your heart . . . ."

I did ask God, frequently. I'm a runner, and I spend several hours a week running. During those times when I'm by myself, I talk to my Father in Heaven constantly. Those times by myself, with no distractions, make it easy for me to ponder and pray and listen.

Another thing that really helped me a lot in my conversion was the attitude of the people in this ward. Although parts of the doctrine seemed strange and foreign to me, the people were warm, welcoming and dedicated, and I saw that they had great commitment to their families and to their church. The people helped me tremendously.

The truth became crystal clear to me one day when I was out on a solitary run. My heart was overflowing with love for my husband, my sons and my daughter. I thought, "How can I be so blessed with this man and these children?" My heart was aching with the overwhelming and all-encompassing love I had for my family. And I cried because I did not feel deserving of such a blessing, and I prayed for forgiveness of my sins and my unworthiness. Then I heard the Lord speak in my heart and in my mind. I had a flash of knowledge that the love in my heart came from and originated with the Lord my God, my Heavenly Father, and it was a small measure of the love He had for me. I experienced a very personal connection to Him. I also heard that He, the Almighty God, had forgiven me of my sins, and if He could do that, how could I not? It was such a distinct impression - if the Almighty God had forgiven me, how dare I not do the same.

It was during and after this experience when I felt much more personally connected to my Father in Heaven than I had ever been, and I knew that this was the beginning of a new and personal relationship. That was the day I knew I would be baptized.

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