LDS Convert Guest Post: Jessica, Part I

My name is Jessica and I blog at One Shiny Star. I am 22 years old, married, and one semester away from graduating college. I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for 12 years, and it has changed my life in ways I never dreamed possible.

My story is three-fold. Me, my family, and my husband.

I cannot count the number of churches I have attended. I have moved more than 20 times, so that is a jumping off point. My dad was raised Baptist, while my maternal Grandmother is Wiccan, and my Mother is blessedly sane – she did not grow up going to church. Don’t get her confused, she has never been a practicing Wiccan. Because of my parents’ varying backgrounds, while I was growing up, we attended churches of every variety. From the Catholic churches on the Army base, to the Presbyterian vacation bible schools, we attended a different church every Sunday. My parents were trying to figure out what worked for them, and my sisters and I were just along for the journey.

In 1997 my family moved to England. I was 10 years old. I did not fit in as the only American in my British school, and the only friend I had lived down the street. I was too young to have heard any of the things people say about Latter-day Saints. I just knew that my new friends went to a church. They asked me if I wanted to go, and I said yes – with out any prejudice, or expectations. I’ve been to churches before, this was nothing new.

But, this church was different. I can’t put a finger on it, but even as a child I felt more welcome. My parents had not found a church to fit them, but I started to attend church with my neighbor every Sunday. I learned that the reason I was going to church was not just to hear Bible stories, and it wasn’t just to put quarters into the passing plate. They didn’t even have a collection plate! I didn’t have to sit in the pews while every one else went up to the front to eat crackers. I will admit, at that point, I didn’t have a meaning behind church. I went because my parents went. But here I was, making this decision for myself.

I don’t know if you remember being 10, but as the oldest of four children my Mom tells me I was 30 at the age of 10. But I loved going to church. I enjoyed Primary (the Church’s program for children) and learned so much there. At home my parents were constantly fighting – later in my life my Mom would tell me the reason was religion. My Dad was not happy about my church attendance. It was a rough time for my family as my Dad was deployed, and my Mom was trying to raise four children in a foreign country.

I remember the first song I ever learned at Church, Hymn # 81. Press Forward Saints. As I was learning about a Savior, some one who loved me, even when my parents were fighting and the kids at school were teasing me. I found peace in reading my children’s bible, and singing church songs.

Press forward saints,
With steadfast faith in Christ
With hope’s bright flame alight
In heart and mind.
With love of God,
And love of all man kind

The second verse talks about finding peace in the scriptures, and I did. Over time, my Mom started going to church with me, and she brought my three sisters. My Dad stayed home. He did not approve. Eventually I started meeting with the missionaries. I remember the lessons about the plan of salvation, and that faith in Jesus Christ and the scriptures was the basis of this church, and everything was built from there. With out faith in both of these, everything else would fall apart. It all made sense. The tension and anxiety at home almost disappeared when I was at church, or praying. I told my parents I was getting baptized. I was a precocious 10 year old. But as I felt the Holy Ghost, and the comforting love of my Savior, I knew exactly what I needed to do.

I was baptized in the summer of 1998. The entire ward was there. My dad sat in the front row. It was a beautiful day, seeing my family together at the place where I had found solace. I did not want it to be the last time. After this event, my entire family started attending church. My dad went to primary with me, I remember him sitting with me, singing Love is Spoken Here. As the boys would sing “Mine is a home, where every hour, is blessed by the strength of priesthood power.” I would feel something missing. I didn’t have the Priesthood in my home, my parents were not working together to teach us. I remember once telling my Dad about this song, and saying that it upset me that he didn’t want to go to church, and I’m pretty sure I got in trouble for that one. As I said, I was outspoken. I realized that I needed to turn to my Heavenly Father because I was not going to change my Dad.

I fasted. I fasted every Sunday. I prayed that my Dad would be safe as he spent the next 6 months in Hungary. I prayed that his heart would be softened, that he would listen, that he could feel the same peace that I felt. When my Dad was gone, we had the missionaries over… a lot. I hate this thought, but with him gone, there was so much peace in our home. We missed him, but there was no fighting, no yelling. It was rather serene. A month after he left, a new sister missionary joined our ward – she was from Hungary. She would come over with her companion and teach us things to say to my Dad while he was in Hungary. It was the beginning to my answers. It was a connection. When my Dad would call, he and this sister missionary would talk, mostly about Hungary, but sometimes about church. And when he came home, he started meeting with the missionaries. He willingly attended Primary with me. He could feel the peace in our home. He could see the difference the Church was making, in my life, in the life of my Mom, and my siblings. He saw the love and support we were getting from our Church family. My loving Heavenly Father was softening his heart. I kept fasting though. I prayed that my Dad would love church, that he would get baptized, that he would be the spiritual leader for my family. I know – I was kind of a ridiculous 10 year old, but I knew what I wanted, what my family needed.

I remember the hot summer morning in 1999. I had gone on a Girl Scout camping trip, and returned early Sunday morning. My dad was at the bus stop, dressed for church, smiling. He told me to hurry up, he didn’t want to be late for church. I thought it was his military urgency to just be on time. I’m sure I was longing for a shower and a real bed. But my Dad took me and my family to church that day. As we walked into Sacrament meeting, over 20 minutes late, the meeting started.

Church doesn’t usually start late.

My family took our place in a side pew, all six of us. The Bishop stood up and announced that Brother *My Dad* was getting baptized the following Tuesday. My dad had a huge grin on his face, my Mom was stunned. I think I probably jumped up and down. My dad had met with the missionaries on his own, and made this decision on his own – he didn’t want to be influenced by me, or my Mama – and he had kept it a surprise. He really was baptized the following week.

Daddy’s Little Girl

I don’t want any one to think that this fixed my life forever. My parents still argued, I was still outspoken, and we continued to live our lives. But we were happier. I am so very blessed that my Heavenly Father answered the prayers of a desperate 10 year old, and he did it the way I wanted. But not everything always goes according to my plans. I know that not every one has a story like this to tell, and that many people leave behind nuclear family for a new church family. I knew that feeling for a short time, and I will forever be thankful for my family.

The next few years were like a dream, as I look back, but my family’s journey wasn’t over. We returned to the states from our military tour in England, moving to Kansas for 11 months, and then moving up to Washington state. It was incredible to move from state to state, every where we went there was a new ward (congregation) to welcome us with open arms. Looking back I see this as a crucial part of who I have become, because with out my friends from church, this awkward middle-schooler probably would’ve gotten in trouble, I was still rather precocious. But I was surrounded by people who had high standards, people who didn’t pressure me to sneak out, or drink, or do anything – the pressure was to behave! Gosh my parents got lucky. lol. What I love most is that often time, people will ask my Dad to come talk to the youth about where he served his mission – and of course he didn’t, because he joined the church in his late 30’s. But God has really done amazing things with his life.

A few short years after my family was baptized, we all went to the temple. This includes me, my three sisters (my little brother wasn’t born yet), my parents, and my maternal grandparents. Normally a couple is married and sealed in the temple from the beginning, but since my parents were not – and they already had kids, all of us went to the temple to be sealed together for time and all eternity. I don’t remember the words that were said, or the people (aside from my family) who were there, but I do remember the feeling. Being able to kneel at the alter with my parents and siblings as we were sealed together is still one of the best memories I have.

The whole clan.

I am so blessed to have my family, and I am doubly blessed that we are sealed together for eternity. As my family moved around the world, all over the United States and Europe, we had each other. Not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally. The church helped each of us grow into better people, and thus a better family.

This is only a part of my story, but it is such strong proof that Heavenly Father knows his children, and he knows what we need. He doesn’t do things too early, or too late. He puts people in our lives, when we need them the most. My neighbor, the Hungarian sister missionary, and our wonderful ward in England. None of these things were happenstance.

33 thoughts on “LDS Convert Guest Post: Jessica, Part I

  1. “My dad was raised Baptist, while my maternal Grandmother is Wiccan, and my Mother is blessedly sane – she did not grow up going to church. Don’t get her confused, she has never been a practicing Wiccan.”

    I’m not sure I understand this. Is the “sane” meant to be in contrast to “Wiccan?”

    Jessica @ One Shiny Star Reply:

    I guess I left some things out. I have nothing against people who practice Wicca. My Grandma is schizophrenic, and has manic depression. The home my Mom grew up in is very different from the “average” home, in contrast to what my Dad experienced. You’re right – that wasn’t very clear. It’s hard to write about myself and remember that not every one knows everything about me and my family.

    I hope that clears things up, I didn’t mean to offend any one. Thanks for reading. 🙂

    Hannah Reply:

    I don’t think you realise that are still implying that one would have to be insane to practice Wicca.

    Also, the sane vs insane dichotomy is not really acceptable anymore when discussing mental health. Schizophrenic and manic depressive people are not bad. They are sick. And our society does little to support or help them. Particularly a society like the US, which has a woefully inadequate healthcare system.

    Jessica @ One Shiny Star Reply:

    You’re right, I was trying just trying to explain the type of household my Mom grew up in, and I was woefully inadequate. I already said that I did not mean to offend, and I’m saddened that this is a huge sticking point – as it was written in passing. But you are right. I guess if I could re-word it, I would say

    “… My Mom grew up in a home where her mother was a practicing Wiccan, with a constant stream of short-term Dads, along with constant sexual, physical and emotional abuse through out her childhood. I do not know how I would’ve faired in this environment, but my Mom does not hold any grudges to here upbringing.”

    I am not calling any one insane, I am praising my Mother for having a rough childhood, and growing up to be an awesome woman. I guess I should’ve just said that. There are people of every religion who are bad people, and I could’ve just as easily said “My maternal Grandmother was Jewish/Catholic/Buddhist” – but in the same environment, with the same people, I would still be thankful that my Mother turned out the way she did.

    I was worried that my inability to keep up with what is politically correct would hurt me. Jenna is so eloquently worded, and I tend to just spurt streams and ridiculousness. I wouldn’t suggest reading my blog. lol.

  2. This is a beautiful story. I’m not LDS, I was raised Baptist, but I chose to be baptized on my own when I was 10. People told me I was too young to know what I really wanted, but I knew it was the right thing for me to do.

    How lovely to have your whole family join you in your new church family!

    I really loved this post.

    Jessica @ One Shiny Star Reply:

    Thanks. Some times I think, gosh 10 is young, but I still feel the same way I did then. 🙂

  3. This is a really interesting story. It looks like you found a family in the Church when yours was struggling and following the work you did it brought your family there.
    While I still don’t feel that LDS is something for me, I can not cease to be amazed by the strenght it seems to bring in families. There is definitely something there that I haven’t seen in other religions.

  4. I find the digs at other religions quite unnecessary.

    You’ve already backpedaled on equating “Wiccan” with “insane”, but I fail to see what is so wrong about the collection plate, when the LSD church also asks monetary contributions from its members. Also, “going to the front to eat crackers” is called Communion and you’d do well to remember that it is a sacred act for a lot of people.

    Virginia Reply:

    I meant “LDS church” – I’m sorry.

    Jessica @ One Shiny Star Reply:

    I meant that, until I started attending the LDS church, no one had explained the meaning behind these things. But up until that point, it was just crackers and quarters – if that makes sense. I had not learned any meaning behind these actions. I’m sorry that wasn’t clear enough for you, and I was not jabbing at any particular religion. I do hold communion/sacrament very dear to my heart now, and I know the difference the tithing people pay makes.

    Thanks for reading it though, and I’m sorry if you felt personally attacked, as this story is about me – and my experiences, and not any one else.

    Virginia Reply:

    I did not feel “personally attacked”, because I do not belong to those religions. But I do take it to heart when people’s most sacred beliefs are taken lightly.

    That said, your explanation does make sense and I wish your wording had been less inflammatory. Believe me, I do recognize that it’s hard to explain honestly why you chose one religion and rejected the others, without being offensive to the people who might have made a different choice, and I thank you for showing us your perspective.
    From one convert to another, your story is, indeed, moving.

    Cécy Reply:

    Personally I didn’t feel attacked by it, and I was raised Catholic. I read it as the 10 year old she was felt. I think she wrote it that way to give us an idea of her feelings back when she was 10 and was introduced to an other church. Obviously her parents “dragged” them to church but never took the time to explain what was going on.

    Jessica @ One Shiny Star Reply:

    I’m not out to get any one, I promise. Thanks for understanding, and I’m glad you’ve also found what works for you. 🙂

    Cristin Reply:

    I love that Jenna’s commenters expect the same precision with wording out of guest posters as we do out of Jenna!

  5. What a great story – especially considering you were only 10 years old when you made these decisions that so influenced your family. I must also say kudos to your dad – he took it on himself to seek the missionaries out and make up his own mind – and to surprise you like that! I’m so glad you all made it to the the temple – – I love a story with a happy ending!

  6. I’m very happy for you that you and your family found the Church- it clearly made a huge positive impact in your life. Thank you for sharing your story 🙂

    One aspect of your story stood out to me- the part where you were sad about not having a priesthood holder (your father) in your home. This is a close tie for the number one reason why, as an ardent investigator of two years, I couldn’t convert to the Church. It just seemed as though one couldn’t be complete, as an individual, within the Mormon faith, because it is a) so family based and b) gender segregated by role. What I mean is, let’s say I became a born again Christian. If my family members chose not to be Christian, this would be hard, but my own relationship with the church, and with God, would be complete, in and of myself, through Christ. But I often hear of the pain of mixed member families, especially when fathers or husbands are not in the Church, because there isn’t a priesthood holder in the home. I understand that having different, but equal roles helps bind a family together, but in cases where the family is not all Mormon it seems to be a sore subject. I chafed at the idea of an all male priesthood in general, but one night when an emotional family emergency was going on in my ex bf’s family, and his mother was saying they needed to call the bishop to administer a blessing, I just thought “why not just lay hands on her and pray over her through the power of your own relationship to Christ?” as we did in the church I attended of my own accord in high school. Perhaps saying the relationship wasn’t complete on one’s own isn’t the best wording… I hope you understand what I’m trying to say. It’s been a long tiring weekend, haha.

    I’m very glad your father was eventually baptized so that you could all be sealed and have a priesthood holder in the home. I hope you don’t feel like I’m attacking you or anything, it was just that this reminded me of my own experience in my potential conversion, and I remembered what a big sticking point the priesthood principle was to me. It seemed it was a big point to each of us, just in different ways, if that makes sense.

    Jessica @ One Shiny Star Reply:

    I’m so glad you commented. Honestly – some times I wonder the same thing, and I know people who, in their late 30’s or 40’s are feeling a little defunct in such a family oriented religion. I think one thing, in reference to your story, is that the priesthood is literally, “The Power of God” and not just based on how strong a man’s relationship with Christ is (which means, regardless of how strong some one’s faith is, a priesthood blessing is a priesthood blessing, as powerful from one person to the next).

    Honestly, I have thought about why women don’t have the priesthood (and it is NOT because women have babies… which is what I have heard “taught”.), and if I were to investigate the church right now, it would probably be a sticking point. But there is always be things, ideas, people, that rub us the wrong way. But for me, there is so much that DOES make sense, that I can step back and trust that God knows what he is doing.

    I think it is difficult to be a single person in a family church. Before I got married I did some serious soul searching, and I just felt like, God will lead me to what I need, and I attended different churches with friends, and even volunteered as a sign language interpreter as another church for a while, but I keep being lead back to the LDS church. There are plenty of things I don’t know, or understand – but I can’t change that, I just have to trust. Ya know? But I completely see where you’re coming from, and thank you for sharing your perspective. You need to feel good about what church you attend, and what you believe, and even if it isn’t the LDS church, I hope you’ve found it. 🙂

    Sophia Reply:

    I agree with you that sometimes, you just have to trust. I know many people- in all sorts of different religions- who have a few things where they will say “you know… I really don’t know about xyz, or abc, but I know I believe the rest”. I can totally appreciate that. Thanks for understanding my rambly, poorly worded, 4th of July weekend tired reply to your post 🙂

    Jessica @ One Shiny Star Reply:

    Haha… I am tired too… I think I said “honestly” about 20 times in that reply. What can I say, I’m just an honest person! lol.

  7. I am not a follower of the LDS, but your story was amamzingly written and I could feel the peace and joy.
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Jessica, I enjoyed reading your story. As I’m still learning about the LDS faith, I had a few questions you may be able to answer. Jenna may tell you I’m super curious and am always asking questions. 🙂

    Had your father not been baptized, could you and your siblings be sealed to your mother? Or are both parents required for a sealing?

    What defines a convert? Is it someone not born to member parents? Just curious on this one. I guess from my perspective, we are all born without religion and all choose it, in one way or the other, thus making us all converts of something.

    Lastly, I was hoping you could speak about to your prompting by the Holy Spirit. You said that you told your parents you were going to be baptized and that you felt the Holy Spirit. As I understand it (do correct me if I’m wrong), children in the LDS church receive the Holy Spirit after being baptized. But since you had not been yet baptized and had never received the Spirit, how could you feel its prompting? If this is too personal I understand.

    Long questions I know. Once again thank you for sharing. Your story of a family all coming together in faith is really beautiful.

    Jessica @ One Shiny Star Reply:

    I replied… but it was in the regular comment box, and not the reply. My brain is a little frazzled with summer exams (almost done!). Thanks for your questions – the answers are below!

  9. All good questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.

    1. If my parents had been married in the temple… from the beginning, then all of their children would’ve been “born into the covenant” – automatically sealed to them. Since it takes two people to make this covenant (husband and wife), kids can’t be just sealed to one of the parents. Because my parents were sealed later, all of their children at the time also needed to sealed to them. My brother was born after this event, so he was “born into it.”

    2. Every one is a convert, you are completely right. The way I was using the word, and they way most LDS people use it, “convert” refers to people who join the church by themselves, and not because their parents are LDS. I guess it is just easier than introducing yourself as “Hey I’m Jessica and I’m still new at this whole church thing.” (That last bit is my opinion…lol)

    3. Awesome awesome question. After baptism, everyone receives “The Gift of the Holy Ghost.” But I have been to Catholic churches, Presbyterian churches, and even a Jewish temple where I have felt the spirit. The Holy Ghost testifies of truth – and there is truth all around us. Once some one has been baptized, and given the gift of the Holy Ghost, it means that, as long as you keep the covenants made during baptism, you will Always have the Holy Ghost, a “constant companion.” Every one can feel the Holy Ghost though.

    I hope that answers your questions, and if I wasn’t clear enough, or sparked other questions – feel free to ask.

    Kristin Reply:

    Yes you answered them very well. Thanks again.

  10. I thought Sophia’s comment (above) was poignant and interesting. I have sought a Christian community in each of the cities that I’ve lived in, and to some degree, I have found pieces of such a community through church. But the way that Jenna describes the LDS wards and the service to the church as part of relationship building in the community – that is beautiful and I wish I could be a part of that.

    Another piece I love about the LDS faith is the sealing as a family. My grandfather just died and I have been craving a better connection to God & the promise of heaven. Somehow, if we’d all been “sealed” – I think I might feel the connection more clearly.

    I consider myself Catholic but often am advised by non-Catholics that because I disagree with some church doctrine, therefore I should not call myself Catholic. I found myself thinking the other day – If I could be LDS the way that some people are Catholic (with the picking & choosing of doctrine), that would be pretty nice! I hope that doesn’t offend anyone – I intend it to mean that I think the LDS lifestyle is really lovely and the traditions of the church are ones I’d like to see in my life.

    Jessica @ One Shiny Star Reply:

    I think what is beautiful about the LDS church to me now (because I didn’t know it when I was ten), is that so much of my own beliefs are really based on personal revalation. The church may say something, but it is also confirmed for me through my own prayers. I don’t need any one else to tell me whether something is right or wrong, whether I am a text-book Mormon or not, because what I believe is between me a God. Claim whatever you want. I think it is good to question things, and it doesn’t really matter what other Catholics say, or any one, as long and you and God are on the same page. Like I said, find what works for you, and stick with it.

    Thanks for the comment below this one too. 🙂 I’ve never written about religion on my own blog, so I was unprepared for the critique that can sometimes come with sensitive comments. Thankfully there are people there to back me up. 🙂

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  12. Jess, you are an amazing writer because you write from that place in your heart which most people hide. Please don’t censor your writing to be “Politically correct”. People will always assign their own interpretation to your words. Don’t let that become your problem, it is obviously their issue, not yours. I loved the “crackers and quarters” description. For you to remember that from your 10 year old perception is what makes your writing real. It is beautiful that you have become a beacon of peace for your family and your husband. The Holy Spirit works through you even though you may not see yourself as a missionary.

    Jessica @ One Shiny Star Reply:

    Thanks so much – I tend to be non-confrontational, so I was ready for people to read into what I wrote so much as to read exactly what was on the surface. 🙂

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