Conversion Stories

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drug dealer to LDS Missionary
cover image from ldsliving.com

On Thanksgiving day, Kayden Carlos stepped off a plane in Salt Lake City after completing a two-year assignment for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Maryland Baltimore Mission.

For some, his tearful and cheerful family reunion at the bottom of the airport escalators seemed like the classic final scene of an honorable Mormon mission. But for Carlos, the traditional removal of his cherished black name tag isn’t the end of the real mission that matters most.

It’s just the beginning.

Carlos, of Brigham City, Utah, first determined to serve a mission as an energetic boy in Primary.

“I was going, no matter what,” Carlos said during a phone interview this week. The decision to serve was made as his parents reconciled from a near-divorce and while his father struggling with chronic illness.

“My family wasn’t very active in the church and my mother was a meth addict, but a meeting with the missionaries and their invitation for her to start reading the scriptures again changed her life,” he said. As Carlos’ father was dying, his mother got clean, got back to church and the family was mended.

But while Carlos’ mother, Julie, was celebrating sobriety, her 12-year-old son was dancing with alcohol for the first time.

Read the full story at LDS Living.

Book of Mormon Musical
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ran these ads in the playbill of the musical.

The Tennessean reported that Tyler Todd, a man who wasn’t looking for Mormonism or even a new religion found himself curious after watching some videos of the Tony-Award winning “The Book of Mormon” musical.

We published a similar story and video on Joey Macasieb, who joined the Church and has since served as a full-time missionary. Tyler and Joey have similar stories in that neither were looking, but both thought “why not find out more?” with the result of them looking more seriously, asking God for themselves, and ultimately deciding to be baptized.

We think these stories are really something as this musical is meant to be a mockery of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a religion. It’s surprising to know that there are so many baptisms that come from this irreverent and satirical musical, but we just keep hearing stories about this happening.

Tyler Todd told the Tennessean:

“I just thought it was really funny and obviously I knew it was kind of making fun of the religion,” Todd said. “I was like, ‘Well, I’ve heard their side of things, I want to hear what people who actually believe think about it.”

Tyler was baptized in September, a little over a year after he first encountered the musical. We don’t agree with the musical’s message, but we sure are glad that some can see past the crass humor like Tyler, Joey (and a former California Mayor) did and really look deeper to see if there is substance to what we crazy Mormons believe.

Image from LDSLiving.com

Original story from LDS Living. 

It all started about 10 years ago when McLean’s youngest son told his family that he was gay.

“He was hoping that if he was good enough, prayed hard enough, served faithfully as a missionary, and kept the commandments that he’d somehow experience a miracle and become straight,” says McLean. “It’s tough enough to be a gay kid in a straight world, but being the son of the songwriting icon of the Mormon Church was impossible for him. The pain was so deep that he’d considered suicide.”

To make matters more difficult, McLean and his wife, Lynne, were living in Malibu, California, when Church members in the state were campaigning to pass Proposition 8—which would only legally recognize marriages between a man and a woman.

“I would hear from the pulpit that faithful Christians needed to save the family and the future of our country and campaign for votes for this proposition,” he recalls. Meanwhile, his son was planning to marry his partner at McLean’s home if the proposition failed.

“This would have been tough for any parent, but for the songwriting apologist filmmaker for the Church, this was simply an impossible spot to be in,” he says. “I needed answers to save my family. I prayed like I had never prayed before.”

Nothing.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT LDS LIVING.

image from Deseret News

At the end of July, friends of Philadelphia 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil received a text from him that simply said, “I believe.”

The text was his way of informing them of his decision to be baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

O’Neil, who is not only CEO of the Sixers but also of the New Jersey Devils and the Prudential Center, had been married to his wife, Lisa, a lifelong member of the LDS Church, for nearly 21 years. The two are parents of three daughters, Alexa, Kira, and Eliza. He attended church with family on Sundays, held family home evenings each week, led his family in scripture study, and paid tithing for years.

So what changed? Why now?

Read the rest of the story on Deseret News.

image via ldsmag.com

I don’t remember the exact moment I became converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I feel as though I have always known that He is my Savior.  I have always felt a part of me knows Him, and the rest of me is just trying to remember.  I know that I know Him.  I know that I will see Him again.  I look forward to that day more than anything.

However, I do remember the precise moment that I knew the Book of Mormon was true.  I was raised in the Church.  I was baptized when I was eight, and ordained a deacon when I was 12.  But shortly after my ordination, I stopped attending church.  I just didn’t want to go to the meetings. The older I got and the further into my teenage years I went, the less I wanted to attend.

I knew then, even at that time, that I was making the wrong choice.  Indeed, I was making many wrong choices that took me to a rather dark place.  I also suffered from insomnia and depression.  I could feel hope slipping further and further away.  My life grew darker and darker.  I kept to myself. I rarely spoke to my family.  I didn’t continue my education after high school and made other poor choices.

Read full story at Meridian Magazine.

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Image from Mormon.org

Rich Millar is featured in the latest “His Grace” video, created by the Mormon Channel. Millar originally posted his experience in a Facebook post, and later on his blog found here.

Millar served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prior to stepping away from the church. After he share this post on his Facebook, he was contacted by the LDS Church and asked to share his story in a video.

“I’ve learned over the first 32 years of my life that everyone experiences setbacks and makes mistakes,” Millar wrote in his post. “And it can be destructive to go through life pretending that’s not the case. I’ve also learned that a lot of heartache can be avoided if we will learn from others’ mistakes. With that in mind, I’d like to offer up some of my mistakes and what I’ve learned from them in hopes that it will help someone else avoid the pitfalls and pain I experienced.”

In his blog post, Millar shares 18 lessons he learned from his experience of leaving and then coming back to his Mormon faith.

“I’m not suggesting that I have all the answers or that I have experienced everything someone else has,” Millar wrote. “I’m a firm believer that everyone’s life/spiritual journey is unique and personal, and I’m in no place to tell you what you have or have not experienced. However, I CAN tell you what I have experienced and learned, and I hope it is of use to someone out there.”

Here are the first few:

Lesson #1: “Cynicism creates a numbness toward life.” I found this to be true. Just read the definition for cynicism, “An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others. ”I mean, who wants to live a life like that?? I’ve noticed a pattern with those who have walked the same path I did in leaving my faith. Not all, but many seem to fit this description. I was there; I’ve felt this way. I know. “Cynicism begins with a wry assurance that everyone has an angle. Behind every silver lining is a cloud. The cynic is always observing, critiquing, but never engaging, loving, and hoping.”

Instead of assuming the worst in people or faiths, assume the best. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Honest skepticism is very different from cynicism. Finding out the truth and assuming the best are not mutually exclusive. Both can be done and sincere, honest questions can be asked and answered. Look for the good in all things in life and something magical will happen: you’re likely to find just that…good, happiness, joy and light.
 
Lesson #2: We are not alone. Once my spiritual foundation was gone, I no longer knew if God existed. I was starting back at square one. Were we simply fortunate enough to be here on this earth without any assistance from a higher power or Heavenly Father? I wasn’t sure. So I began evaluating my life and experiences I’d had. It reminds me of an experience a man, let’s call him Serge, shared with me during my church mission in Russia. He had grown up in the Soviet Union during a time when atheism was promoted and taught to everyone. Atheism was what he believed. At the time he was living in a small village in the countryside and worked as a blacksmith.

One day a man came to him and asked him to make a number of weapons, swords and knives. This man had very detailed specifications as to what metals he wanted used and how he wanted the weapons made. As Serge made these weapons, this man would sit in the corner of Serge’s shop and watch him. Serge recalled that there was this darkness or evil that seemed to emanate from the man and Serge could feel that this man was going to use these weapons to do evil. As he pondered on this thought, it dawned on him that there was a definite evil spirit or aura about this man that he could not deny. After more thought on the subject he resolved that if there was an evil spirit in the world, there must be a good or light spirit as well. This was the beginning of his faith in God.

I’d had similar experiences in my life. I could not deny that I had felt light and dark, good and evil in different people and in different circumstances. Evil did and does exist. I have felt and witnessed it. But so does light and good, I have witnessed and felt this first hand too! I also felt in my own life an inherent  desire to do good and to be good. And more importantly I’d had experiences in my life I could not explain or deny, moments when I had felt God’s love for me. After some time I resolved that God did in fact exist, that we are not here by accident, but that we all have a Heavenly father who loves us and that we were created in His image. You are not alone. We are not alone. “…God created man in his own image…” –Genesis 1:27

Lesson #3: Instant gratification is counterfeit happiness. Whether from food, money, drugs, alcohol, sex or something else, it doesn’t last. There’s a time, purpose and place for all of these things. And used in the right context or time, each one of these things has its merit. But each one is also easily abused and often used out of the right context. In today’s world the temptation to do so is strong. Instant gratification feels good for the moment, but doesn’t stick around, only leaving you needing your next fix. True happiness comes from following the “Plan of Happiness” (go figure right?!) as laid out in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ which includes, among other things, loving and serving those around you, building relationships and aligning yourself with eternal life principles and laws that help you use the above mentioned things in the right time and place. “…Wickedness never was happiness.” –Alma 41:10

Read full post on Rich Millar’s blog.

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image via LDS.net

Over the past few years, I’ve seen a lot of public declarations from people who’ve left the LDS church. I wanted to make my own public declaration about my relationship with the LDS church. A lot of it hinges on an experience I had somewhere around April 6, 2002 (that only lasted a few moments) and the message that came with the experience.

Let me back up a bit. I was raised in a devout LDS home, the fifth child of nine. My father owns a local health food store in coastal southern California. Serving a customer base and being surrounded by people who, on the surface, seemed like they lived contradictory lifestyles from us was normal, yet I never felt any tension that’s not felt by just about anyone growing up in any faith-oriented home.

I was expected and encouraged to go to a church-owned school and a church mission. I can’t say I felt any undue pressure from those expectations. Those were things I wanted as well. My parents and community did a great job selling me on how wonderful those things would be. And they were right, they were adventurous, difficult, and wonderful! I had a lot of church responsibilities in my young men’s and youth groups, and my dad was our bishop during my older teenage years. While I felt some mild pressure to be good and righteous from these things, I never felt overwhelmed by any of it.

Our family vacations included campfires loaded with religious campfire stories and even mini-services on Sundays, when appropriate, where we took the time to keep the Sabbath day as best we could in the woods and mountains of the high Sierras of California. Some of these I still remember as extremely “spiritual” and notably emotional. We had Family Home Evening most weeks, and we had family prayers and “Scripture Time” most mornings.

My dad’s family were converts to the Church and modern-day pioneer immigrants to the USA from Denmark. My mom’s family has pioneer family lines associated with Joseph Smith and handcart treks across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. The stories about how admirable and brave and courageous my ancestors were are plentiful.

I attended an EFY camp at BYU and had a number of “spiritual/emotional” experiences there. I remember telling my mom as a kid that I could feel the “Spirit” during some of our church hymns. I remember praying to know if the Book of Mormon was true and having “good feelings” while doing so. These are the kinds of things I leaned on for my “testimony” as a kid and teenager and young adult. They were how I “knew” that how I was living my life was good.

Facing Doubt As a Missionary

Read full article on LDS.net.

President Uchtdorf and Spiderman
Image via Pres. Uchtdorf's Facebook page

We were surprised that this photo had such an inspiring story behind it! Thanks to LDS Smile for making this story a reality. 

We’ve all seen the viral photo of “Spiderman” shaking President Uchtdorf’s hand at City Creek Mall. But very few people actually know how life changing that moment was for the man underneath the costume.

Paul Lloyd, the man wearing the costume, shared his story with LDS S.M.I.L.E.

“I was a 27-year-old army veteran who was just medically retired due to the fear and confusion of PTSD. I was in such a dark place that I was ready to leave the Church and give up on God until the day when my daughter asked for a daddy/daughter date with Spiderman.

“I put on the suit and went on the ‘date’ for the benefit of my daughter who was sad to see me struggling. We had to be driven around by my sister (smiling in the picture) because it was difficult for me to see out of the mask.

Read the full story at LDS SMILE.

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image via ldsliving.com

Nearly 100 LDS athletes have competed in the Olympics, with another 14 participating in the 2016 Rio Games. While many stood for their faith while they made history, there are some who were still searching for truth when they showed up on the world stage.

Here are five famous Olympians who converted to the LDS Church.

Ambrose Gaines IV

Ambrose Gaines IV, better known by his friends as “Rowdy,” was one of the world’s fastest swimmers in the 1980s.

A 22-time NCAA All-American who broke several world records from 1978 to 1984, no one would guess Gaines had a rough time with sports as a boy—that is, until he tried swimming as a junior in high school.

In the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Gaines was predicted to win no less than five gold medals up until the United States decided to boycott the Olympic Games.

Thinking his Olympic run was over, Gaines retired shortly after graduating from Auburn in 1981. But when Gaines’s father encouraged him to keep swimming, he recommitted himself to the sport, and within a year he broke his own world record in the 200m freestyle at the World Championships.

image via ldsliving.com
image via ldsliving.com

See the others on LDS Living.

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Image from LDS Living

Bill Clinton a Mormon?

Believe it or not, that became a very real possibility when Clinton was growing up in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

It was there Clinton was approached by missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to an interview with BuzzFeed.

In September 2012, President Clinton also told a group of reporters that he had attended “recruiting presentations” for the Church in Arkansas.

Clinton spoke highly of the missionaries’ efforts as well as of the Church, saying he admired the high ethical standards Mormons keep as well as their belief in a celestial kingdom.

But it turns out that belief was also what convinced him not to join the Church. In “recounting the different degrees of heaven as was explained to him 50 years ago, [Clinton described] it as a pyramid with many levels that put Hitler and Stalin at the very bottom, faithful Mormons on top, and everyone else in between,” writes Zeke Miller.

But this idea offers a simplified and incorrect view of LDS doctrine.

Read full story at LDS Living.