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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : As a convert, I can tell you… » As a convert, I can tell you…

As a convert, I can tell you…

Susan M - January 13, 2008

…recognizing the truthfulness of the gospel is easy.

It’s living it that’s hard.

And enduring to the end? That’s the kicker.

I was raised Lutheran and joined the church when I was 18. I had a lot of friends growing up who were LDS—a best friend in 6th grade, who took me on a church father/daughter camp out. Another best friend in 7th grade, who took me to what I guess were mutual activities—one, anyway: learning to dance the foxtrot. (I still remember the sweaty palms of the boy I danced with…)

I had other LDS friends in high school, too, but none of them invited me to any church activities. One was a stake president’s son. The other was a bishop’s son. Neither lived the gospel.

The bishop’s son had a wild reputation. He’d get blamed for any prank pulled at our school. But then, more often than not, he’d done it.

He went off to college at BYU-Hawaii the year I was a senior. When he came home the next summer, he’d done a complete turn around. He was preparing to go on a mission when we started dating.

I was really interested in knowing what had made him embrace his religion, and after the conversion experience he’d had while away at school, he was eager to talk about it. Everything he told me about the gospel rang true for me. And his surety in his beliefs was really appealing to me. I wanted to KNOW who God was, the way he did.

I was baptized about 5 months later, and a month after that, we were married. By his father, the bishop. (Daniel never served a mission. An interesting aside: His Patriarchal Blessing specifically talks about him being in the mission field. His mother was very disappointed, I think, when he decided to marry me rather than go on a mission. But a few years after we were married I noticed his blessing says that his days will be long upon the earth so that he can serve a fulltime mission. I have no doubt he’ll serve one later in life.)

I’m a creature of habit. I live by routine. When I leave home, if I’m not thinking about where I’m going, I’ll automatically start driving to work. I’ve gotten on the freeway going the wrong way more than once, simply because I’m used to getting on going one direction.

It can be really hard for me to introduce new things into my routine. Daily prayer, scripture study, these are things it was hard for me to remember to do. My husband had never really done them himself. We moved around a lot when we were first married, worked long hours. We went to church but weren’t good about going regularly and getting involved. I wanted to, it was just hard.

We managed to get sealed in the temple two years after getting married, and my husband had a bad experience there. He ended up going inactive because of it for several years.

I think it was the best thing that could have happened for me.

It was hard, don’t get me wrong, really hard—and I agonized over it. We had small toddlers, and I had to take them to church on my own. But because I was forced to do it all on my own, it made me do it. No one else was going to. It was up to me.

You know how everyone always say Nephi was so amazing for remaining faithful, when even Lehi was murmuring? I always think, “You know, it’s easy to be faithful when everyone else is bailing on you. Because you can’t rely on anyone else to make things happen. It’s completely up to you. It’s you, or nothing.”

I didn’t get much out of going to church those years my kids were small. But I decided early on I wasn’t doing it for me, I was doing it for them—and that made all the difference. Took all the pressure off. So what if I didn’t hear much of the Sacrament Meeting talks? My kids were there. I was there. They were learning the habits of the gospel.

Amazing things happened to my testimony during those days. I learned how to pray and receive answers. I learned about the companionship of the Holy Ghost that comes from reading the scriptures daily. I learned the blessings of paying tithing. I saw the Lord’s hand working in our lives all the time. I saw his intervention and protection many times. And when my husband came back to church in time to baptized our oldest son, it was the direct result of faith and prayer.

Now, I don’t have to do it all on my own. I can ease back a little and let my husband pick up the slack. Which he does, very well. It’s easier. But it’s harder, too. This enduring to the end was easier when it was only me. I’m not forced to live the gospel because if I don’t do it, no one will.

…Although that’s probably not true. If I stopped going to church, I bet the whole family would too. Not because they don’t believe it, but because, you know—things fall apart if Mom isn’t around.

15 Comments »

  1. Susan, thanks for sharing more of this story. You and I have talked about this before- and your testimony and the struggles you went through have helped me with my own.

    Enduring to the end, that is the kicker- I think for all of us- but especially so for converts who have to row the boat themselves.

    And you’re right- things fall apart if mom isn’t around. :)

    Comment by tracy m — January 13, 2008 @ 10:46 am

  2. I know I have mentioned this same thing before, but it’s true. Because my husband’s a non-member, I feel the onus* of living the gospel replies solely upon my shoulders if my children are going to have any religious education or experiences at all. It’s so hard. I get so tired. If I don’t want to go to church that week, no one goes.

    It’s not only for converts that recognizing the truthfulness of the gospel is easy and living it is hard. It’s that way for people no matter how the church came into their lives. It’s just so difficult sometimes.

    * (I should probably just say “responsibility” – but sometimes it feels like a burden — I know it shouldn’t)

    Comment by meems — January 13, 2008 @ 11:31 am

  3. Great insight, Susan. Enduring to the end can be embodied in the extremely hard process of making and keeping good habits for ourselves AND our loved ones.

    Comment by Bret — January 13, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

  4. This is great Susan. I have so much respect for all of you who, as converts, faithfully endure alone. When I have gone through hard times, I have recognized what a blessing it is to me that things like church attendance come naturally, because I have been doing it my whole life. You are giving your children that gift. I also believe God gives us greater blessings and help when we choose to do things like attend church meetings even through times we don’t feel like it.

    Comment by E — January 13, 2008 @ 2:50 pm

  5. I`m with commenter no.2 – if I don`t “do it” for our kids, nobody will (I joined the church after getting married)(and yes, definitely “onus” at times lol). Recently there have been a lot of upheavels in our life and marriage, and like Susan said, I too am finding the support and blessings, and seeing the hand of God in our lives – I hate to think where we would be without the gospel, and I can never adequately express my gratitude to the LDS friend and his family who showed us what it is all about!!

    Comment by namakemono — January 13, 2008 @ 3:57 pm

  6. Thanks I needed this post today. My husband stopped going last year, and I go by myself with a 4 year old and a toddler. Not always a lot of fun. Plus it suddenly seems like a bunch of my family members and friends are all getting disillusioned with the gospel. At least now my little guy goes to nursery (hooray for those teachers) and I get a bit out of Sunday School and Relief Society.

    Comment by FoxyJ — January 13, 2008 @ 4:40 pm

  7. This is a great post, Susan.

    I think I’ve shared this story before, but for those who have to “go it alone”, this might help:

    My aunt and uncle married in the Temple. For reasons of his own, my uncle left the church when their second child was a couple of months old. He has never returned to full activity. However, during the course of the last 20 years, she has taken her children to church (luckily, he was not opposed to it) by herself. Some years it was hard, but she got through it and endured the best she could. She wanted to do what was best for her children. Her oldest son served a mission, and although had a rough time with the church for a little while after his mission, was married in the temple last year. Their daughter graduated from BYU and has remained firm in her faith. Their youngest son, still in high school, is on the same path. Of course, we’re all still praying that one day my uncle will decide to come back, but it might not happen in this life.

    Anyway, I guess my point is that you never know what amazing things can happen in your childrens’ lives if you stay the course. It’s probably worth it.

    Comment by Cheryl — January 13, 2008 @ 7:02 pm

  8. Hi,

    I appreciate you sharing your experiences and struggles in life. You mentioned how reading the scriptures daily has helped you. I have a blog site with insites from myself and others from our daily scripture study. The title is called “Grace for Grace”…it’s designed for us to share what we learn as we are all learning together line upon line and grace for grace. I’d love to hear some of your experiences and comments. Here’s the site: ama49.wordpress.com.

    thanks,
    aaron

    Comment by Aaron — January 13, 2008 @ 7:51 pm

  9. This was a great post, thank you.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — January 13, 2008 @ 10:05 pm

  10. Thank you for this post about your experiences as a LDS convert.
    Being an investigator myself, I love to read the success stories and experiences of converts.

    Comment by Bethie — January 14, 2008 @ 10:45 am

  11. Susan – It’s funny how sometimes we do things we think we want to do, then we have second thoughts, and then in the end, we realized it was OK. I went off to college 600 miles from home – the only one of my friends to attend that school – and immediately had second thoughts. But as I look back now I’m so glad I attended school where I did.

    Likewise, 20 years ago I moved my family to the east coast and after just a few years here I lost my job. I was without fulltime employment for more than 9 months and longed for extended family to be close by – for emotional comfort if nothing else. But we survived and that lesson taught me so much about my life. I became a committed member fo the church at that time and I finally discovered where the real treasures in my life reside – right under my nose in my own home.

    Susan I think that, like the experiences in your life that seemed hard at first, if we are lucky we will come to realize that the Lord is watching over us and if we are just patient He will reveal His plan to us, if we really want to understand it. Times may seem hard for a while but we will realize in the end that they are for our own good and we will be strengthened in our resolve to do better and “endure to the end.”

    Comment by Lamonte — January 14, 2008 @ 1:06 pm

  12. Susan, I appreciate your perspective here. I do think that as hard as it can be to go it alone at times or even have opposition that doing so helps you to appreciate the Gospel so much more. I also believes that you can grow strong and receive blessings. I think it is great that you have a husband who is active in the Church now.

    Comment by Barb — January 14, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

  13. As I read your post I had very contradictory emotions. First I wondered if your husband had come back to the fold. I am a sucker for success stories. Then I thought naw what a bozo. You can see from the narrative that he has always struggled and will probably always do so. Then I thought why be judgmental we all have our problems including me who doesn’t struggle. I then thought he is in the 72% of members who fall away. Only 18% whether born or converted remain active. Then I thought I hope something causes him to want to come back. I hope his wife and children’s love will be that difference.

    The next thing I thought was what really motivates him. He was motivated when he prepared to go on a mission then he was motivated when he converted you and finally he was motivated when you as a couple went to the temple. How motivated is he to really go on a mission in the future? Is this his motivation or yours to serve later in life? If he doesn’t go to church then how is he going to prepare for a mission? When you go out as a couple they use you to train struggling members in order to develop leadership in areas with small membership.

    The second big issue I wondered was why was he turned off by going to the temple. I can’t think of what in the temple ceremony would cause that. Is it the ritual? Is it the symbolic nature? Is it the wardrobe? Then I thought whatever it is he should talk it out with some leader or trusted person to get a perspective on it to discuss his concerns. Maybe he will get over them. Then I thought can he still be an active member of the Church even if he doesn’t.

    There are a lot of things I don’t understand or agree with including ignorant members like me who have differing thoughts. I believe people like you go to church because you believe and see a greater good from going for yourself and your children. The only way your husband will want to go to church is if he can regain his testimony or spiritual bearing. He’s got to want to go for his own reasons.

    As a missionary and throughout my thirty-four years of being a member what strikes me is that all of us have to feel the Spirit or Comforter which brings back our remembrance of Godly things. The spiritual things resonnate and give us the motivation to stick with it.

    When you lost it how do you get it back? I remember one day home teaching a former bishop who was a cigar chomping whiskey drinking man. He never let anyone in for over ten years. He poured the whiskey in a plastic jumbo cup in front of me and my twelve year old deacon companion. I told my companion to not react before we went in and just relax and smile and pray when called on because I expected the man to try to drive us out by extreme behavior. His wife wanted to go to church but he wouldn’t let her. She had been getting premonitions and had called some members asking for their help. It took us five or six visits before he let us in the door. We would stand at the door and say could we come and see how he and his wife were doing. He had an attack dog who actually let us in the gate and just ignored us. It freaked the man out and he would say how did you even get in.

    After a few pleasantries about his work I brought up his inactivity. I didn’t want to disappoint him since people expect us to be a certain way. I asked him to tell us about when he gained a testimony for the first time. He actually came spiritually alive while he was talking despite holding the cigar and swigging the whiskey. I asked him what was it like being a bishop. Surely I said you must have had some spiritual experiences. His eyes lite up and he bore his testimony and told how he gave people blessings etc. He always came back in the end to how his teenage daughter died on the railroad tracks four blocks from their house and his anger at God letting her die. He couldn’t reconcile that and said he would continue to be inactive because God should have spared her.

    We continued to home teach him for another three months. In the end the man’s wife died tragically when a angioplasty probe broke off and exploded her heart. He took that death much better than the daughter’s death. I thought he would be even madder at God but he rationally explained that he knew it was God’s will. His wife had told him she might died and she felt he should know. His wasn’t to worry she was going to be with her daughter. He had her funeral in the Church where he asked me to speak about her. He said I was the only one that had shown an interest in them in ten years. I paid tribute to her desire to be with the Saints. I am using this story to illustrate each of us needs to regain his spiritual roots. You can help others by discussing with them their personal experiences. A man convinced against his own will remains of the opinion still.

    Third I got to thinking about you. Did you post this to try to open a dialogue of ways people have coped or endured to the end. I want to say your post was meaningful to me. I respect you for your efforts. Many of us may go to church while silently struggling with issues that takes courage to go week after week especially without any other real support. You are making a difference in your own life and your children’s lives as well as your husband’s life.

    I have always believed that the Church is for us imperfect people who make an effort to place our lives in harmony with God’s will. I think God loves those who are beaten down a time or two and get up and keep going. Read Isaiah about how even his Son was beaten. I hope your husband will return to the fold if he hasn’t already for two reasons one it seems to be important to you since he is missing out on the shared experience of seeing his wife and children in their spiritual growth and second he needs to be there for personal reasons like fulfilling his personal life mission.

    People are so unique that I doubt you can get much transference from my post but so who knows God moves in mysterious ways. Tell your husband I think he is a bozo and that he should get down on his knees and worship you for being a great woman. I think he is lucky he has you.

    Comment by Dr. B. — January 14, 2008 @ 11:58 pm

  14. Thanks for all the comments, everyone. Dr. B: My husband did come back to church, as I mentioned in the post, in time to baptize our oldest child. That’s a whole story in and of itself, and one I’ve probably shared before, I don’t really remember.

    Comment by Susan M — January 15, 2008 @ 8:34 am

  15. Hi Susan,

    I just read another blog from someone else and thought of you. Here’s the post: http://bystudyandalsobyfaith.blogspot.com/2008/01/endure-to-end.html#comments

    I also have some information on enduring to the end on my website: http://www.graceforgrace.com.

    I hope it helps.

    Comment by aaron — January 22, 2008 @ 11:48 pm

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