My Life as a Convert

The world expects you to pick a religion and stick to it, but when you grow up in a multi-religion family, the choice is difficult, especially when the choices are Southern Baptist and Latter-Day Saint (Mormon).  When you finally come to that big choice, is the world even ready for it?

My mom converted to the LDS church when I was 10 years old.  I converted about fourteen years and five months later.  You would think that that would give the people in the world, especially the people in my world, time to adjust to the fact that one day I might actually "sway that way".

The only person in my family who expressed joy over my conversion was my mother, but even she had her reservations, wondering if I was doing the typical thing she thinks I do, which is doing whatever she did.  I wasn't.  I was doing this because I believed it was my purpose in life.  I woke up one morning and it just finally seemed right.  Maybe I was still thinking that Katherine Heigl looked like she could manage having fun and being a Mormon, or maybe it was just that all those years of going through the lessons had led to me finally letting go of any notions that I would grow up to be anything else.

I let people online know about my conversion, but I didn't talk about it much at first.  I just let people know that I would be joining the church.  I was told not to rush into it.  Well, I don't know about you, but fourteen years isn't much of a rush job to me.

I went through the lessons for the fifth time in June, and joined the church on July 5th.  It was a lovely experience, except the part where I thought I would drown when I was baptized.  (Being afraid of the water is not exactly conducive to feeling safe when your head goes below the water.)  I came out of it looking a bit like a wet rat, but I dried off and listened to the speakers welcome me to the church.  Then, on the sixth, I got confirmed into the church.  When you're confirmed, you have the missionaries who taught you, the person who baptized you, the Bishop, and any other member of the priesthood come and put their hands on your head and give you a blessing.  They call it "Receiving the Holy Ghost".  When my mom had this part of her conversion happen, she felt all warm and gooey.  When it was my turn, I felt nothing, except a bit of annoyment that these people were touching my nicely done hair.  Maybe that's just because I'm young or maybe I was doing something wrong.

After you become a member of the LDS church, your lessons do not end.  First, you go through Gospel Principles, which is an extremely fun class where you learn about the church.  I was told that this class did not have a time table and I could leave and go to Young Single Adults anytime I wanted.  In Gospel Principles, I was the youngest person in there.  In YSA, I'm one of the oldest.  You also have to go through something called new member lessons, which are the missionary lessons, except they're expanded a bit.  Instead of being taught by your ward's missionaries, they are taught by your family's home teachers.

There is also fun stuff in converting to the church, like going to YSA events.  I enjoy going to Family Home Evening at a local YSA's house.  I also enjoy going to Institute, which from what I've heard is also a college class at BYU.  Institute is basically the study of the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, etc.  Sounds boring when you first hear about it, but it's actually a lot of fun.

There is one big issue I'm having with joining the church.  It's not the blatant hatred that is apparent in some people's attitudes towards me when they find out about my religion.  It's the fact that I feel like I have to hide a part of myself from my church friends.  I'm about as bleeding heart of a liberal as they come in Alabama.  I'm probably quite liberal compared to people in more liberal areas of the country.  I can't talk about my political beliefs at church, though, because there's that part of me that doesn't want to be told that I'm being bad or something silly like that because I support certain things that are not approved by the church.

There is also a little issue, but I'm learning to cope with that.  As a convert, you tell the missionaries that you will follow all of the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity.  I can follow the latter, but the former is giving me some trouble, since I used to love drinking coffee drinks at Starbucks.  (I didn't do it often, I just did it when I had a little extra cash.)  I see ads for coffee, and I start to crave it.  I know it's just a temptation that is always going to plague me a little, and will probably get better as time goes by, but it is difficult to just say no to something that tastes so good.  It's saying, "Come to the dark side, we have caramel fraps" and it's just so hard to say no, but I do.

I haven't told all the members of my family that I've converted yet, which will probably end up being a bigger issue than the struggles of hiding my liberalism.  When I do, they may disown me, or send missionaries from the Baptist church to come "lead me back".  That's what they did with my mom, so it wouldn't surprise me if it happened with me.

Another hard aspect of being a convert is that people in the church expect you to not know much about the church.  I take issue with that, since, in a way, I grew up in the church.  And even though I didn't join the church until I was twenty four, I still was able to research it from good places, like BYU textbooks.  I even wrote a paper for a college course on what Mormons believe, which became what the teacher taught by.  I would say that I'm not that uninformed when it comes to my "new" faith.

I'm just a bit unaccustomed to the fact that it has become mine. 


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