Friday, November 14, 2008

A family's faith-promoting journey toward peace, understanding and eternal promise.

This week I got a letter from a relative I've never met. He is a second cousin on my father's side and he lives in Washington state. He found me and my contact information on a submission I made on the Family Search website. I was so excited to know that there is another member of the Church out there that is related to me. I've been used to being only one of a few members in my family. For some reason, even though I don't know this man, I love knowing he and his family are out there being good Mormons too. He asked me to share my conversion story with him. I don't feel like it is my conversion story as much as it is my father's story. I sent him an email relating the story and I thought it was pretty interesting so I am posting it here too.

I don't have my dad here to confirm all the dates and details. I have heard this story a million+1 times but he didn't always give dates so they are estimates. Anna, if you see any glaring errors, let me know.

My dad graduated from high school in 1960 in Lansing. It was right after graduation that the missionaries knocked on the door of his parents' home. My grandma tried to say no and tell them to go, but something made my father stop and let them in. He had all the discussions and did not commit to baptism. Over the next 10 years, he served in Vietnam and graduated with degrees from LCC and MSU. He did not have contact with the missionaries during this time, but his parents did. The missionaries would visit them regularly. My grandma called them "her boys," and would take them out to dinner and knit them afghans. However, she and my grandfather did not commit to baptism during this time. My dad and mom married in 1972 and moved to Toledo. The missionaries knocked on their door a few years later and they heard a few discussions but my mom had been recently diagnosed with cancer and they were so busy with that problem that they didn't have time for the missionaries then. A few years later, my dad and his boss had a discussion about religion and the boss invited our family over for dinner. His boss was a bishop in the local ward. After being friendshipped by their family, my parents agreed to have the missionaries give us the discussions. We went through several sets before my parents agreed to be baptized. I was only 6 so I couldn't get baptized with them. My parents were baptized in August of 1981. I remember the day pretty well especially how shaky my grandma's hands were when I held them as my parents were being baptized. One year later on August 13, 1982, we went to the Washington DC Temple with that same bishop's family and were sealed together.
My parents' baptism day.

My parents went through quite a bit of persecution because of their decision to join the church. My mother grew up Catholic and came from a long line of very stalwart, faithful Catholics. Her parents were very disappointed with the choice she made to do this. There was quite a bit of tension between them for a little while. My grandma went on a Catholic retreat (For those of you who don't know what Catholic retreats are like, I'll post on it sometime. They are quite interesting.) to meet with a special priest. She talked with the priest about my mother and the choice she made to leave the Catholic church and what should my grandma do. The priest counseled her that as long as our family was going to church all together and was happy, then she should be happy for us and let us be. From then on, my mother never heard another negative word towards her decision. I'm sure that her parents were still disappointed and upset but they never showed it. I am thankful to that priest, wherever he is. My mother's family has never treated us any differently because of our different faith. They are people of highest character.

My father grew up a little bit of everything Protestant...Baptist, Congregationalist, Christian Scientist, etc... I think he was baptized in a Baptist church. While my mother was a faithful Catholic, he would not go with her to church. He took her and me to church every Sunday but he didn't go at all. I don't have any idea what he believed about religion before he gained a testimony of the Mormon faith. His parents were not upset with his decision to join the church. In fact, they wanted to join as well and probably would have in 1981 if it had not been for my uncle who is extremely anti-Mormon. I can remember heated arguments over our church between my dad and his parents and this uncle and his wife. Anti-Mormon literature was distributed at my mother's funeral by him and his children. They were hateful people. My grandparents finally decided to join the church in 1991 with the threat that if they did, this uncle would never speak to them again. (He didn't make good on the threat.) They were sealed in the Chicago temple, with my dad, a year later in 1992.

It took many years, many missionaries and many faithful members to do the work Heavenly Father needed for my parents to feel the Spirit and make the conversion. I don't even know the names of the first missionaries who contacted my dad that first time. I wish I did because I would love to let them know that their labors were not in vain. Because of their knock on a country door almost 50 years ago, 15 individuals are sealed together forever.


Stacie said...

That is awesome. All those incidents where your parents ran into missionaries and members were clearly not coincidences. Very neat story.

chantal said...

Missionaries are always in the right place at the right time when they are sincerely seeking truthseekers!! Awesome story!

Brette said...

This is such an great story. Thanks so much for sharing your family's history and experiences.

Sara said...

What a wonderful record - aren't you glad you have someone related to you to share your history with? I love reading accounts such as these because they build my faith. Thanks, Jennifer!

Suzy said...

Great story! I can't help but think that your parents are so grateful they made the decisions they did then when they look down and see your growing and faithful young family. I'm sure it makes their hearts burst with pride and gratitude. They have such a legacy already.

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