Saturday, September 4, 2010

Peek in the Past--The Grand Canyon and Later Conversion

At one point in our travels, East to West across America (click HERE for last month's post), my friend Pauline and I reached the Grand Canyon, and had to decide whether to take the Greyhound bus to Los Angeles (our final destination) via Las Vegas or Salt Lake City. For some reason, although I knew nothing about the place, I had a sudden desire to see Salt Lake City. We tossed a coin. Pauline won. We went to Las Vegas, and I forgot about Salt Lake.

I mentioned last month, that Pauline and I investigated different religions on our travels. I always felt each time that something was missing, and gradually became disillusioned with the whole concept of a “right church.” I was also unhappy about the way many of my peers lived. It felt like there was an ugly darkness and little direction in anyone’s life. Immorality, drinking, smoking, drugs—they all seemed alien to me. I could not believe that was how life should be.

So you can imagine my reaction to Las Vegas and its nightlife. Not good. We were both glad to climb on board another Greyhound bus the next day and head west.

Once in LA, I found a secretarial job working at Western and Southern Insurance on Wilshire Boulevard. I was there ten months and then decided it was time to return home to England—not just for a visit, but for good. My job involved more than straightforward shorthand and typing, so it meant I had to stay another four weeks to train the replacement secretary.

The young lady hired to replace me happened to be Mormon, and that began the most amazing four weeks of my life. I later came to believe this was the purpose for my whole trip across North America. When I heard Carolyn's religion, I was fairly interested. Her faith was a new one to me, and to be honest, I thought it would be just another concept for the “been there, done that” list.

However, I found satisfying answers to my countless questions, and spent the remaining evenings and weekends with Carolyn and her friends and family, talking mainly about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I eventually listened to missionary discussions crammed into little over a week. There wasn’t time to read much of the Book of Mormon at that point, but I had such a strong logical and spiritual conversion that I knew I needed to be baptized as soon as possible.

Nothing went smoothly. The worst obstacle happened when I came home from work one night and fell down the apartment building stairs, wrenching my ankle so badly I fainted for the first time ever. I was supposed to be at Carolyn’s apartment for the missionary discussion on baptism an hour later. Some friends saw me fall and carried me home. I thought I’d broken my ankle, the pain was that bad, and actually called Carolyn to cancel the appointment as I couldn’t even walk to the bus stop. She came and collected me anyway, and the evening was wonderful. The following weekend Elders Van Dyke and Abelhouzen baptized me. Two days later, I returned to England to a disbelieving family who took me to dinner and wanted to treat me to champagne. That was tricky.

I later discovered that Carolyn had been in the middle of a BYU English degree before she arrived in LA looking for a job. She felt impressed to leave her studies and work for a while, and live near her parents’ home in Van Nuys. She later returned to BYU and completed her degree, but always felt the purpose of taking that break was to meet me. I am forever grateful she followed those promptings of the spirit.

I had faith, and an embryonic testimony, but did not have instant knowledge. Friends held a farewell party in the Los Angeles apartment, and several young Irish men of dwindling Catholic faith were there. When they heard of my baptism, they ridiculed me, and taunted with questions I had no idea how to answer. But somehow, I instinctively knew the stuff they threw at me was false doctrine. All I could do was state my gut feelings and walk away. I quickly realized I needed to study a whole lot more if people were going to do that to me. I could not deny the burning confirmation I kept receiving that this Church did indeed contain the truth for which I had searched. However, it was a surprise to discover I would need to defend my beliefs from that moment on.

These days, my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has deep roots. It is the reason behind everything I do—especially my writing.


Michael Knudsen said...

Fantastic story, thanks for sharing it!