Hugs for Debbie Johnson


IHACD 3 stories   It is amazing how the Spirit can whisper truth even to a very young child.  I was raised in a home that did not believe in a God.  Both my parents considered themselves atheist intellectuals.  If I ever heard God mentioned it was with disdain and sarcasm. Yet I knew there was a Heavenly Father and he was very real to me.  I remember being very young, probably under 5, and drawing a picture of Heavenly Father-I knew exactly what he looked like!  When I showed it to my mom she laughed and threw it in the trash.  I learned quickly to keep the spiritual parts of my life to myself.

When I was in 2nd grade, there was a story in our history book called “The Miracle of the Gulls” and I was so excited.  I was so full inside and I ran up and asked my teacher who these “Mormons” were and where was Utah anyway? It was a church!  It taught about God!  At that moment I knew this was all true.  From then on, everywhere I went or moved I would check out everything libraries had about this church that taught such wonderful things! A living God, prophets, temples WOW!!  I would always look in phone books to try to find where this incredible church was.  Now remember, this was mid to late 60s and there were not that many wards in the places I lived.  But when I would find one I would ride my bike past it but never had the courage to go in on my own.  I mean, I was a kid!

Somewhere around 8th grade a new group came on the music scene-the Osmonds.  Not only were they amazingly awesome and good looking but they were Mormon!  I couldn’t get enough of them.  I would listen with baited breath to them talk for any little nugget about their faith.  By this time I had read the Book of Mormon multiple times, Doctrine and Covenants, Jesus the Christ. One night however Merrill Osmond was being interviewed. He had just gotten married and whoever he was talking to was skeptical because he was so young.  He talked about eternal marriage and being together forever as a family. About how being married in a temple is different from worldly marriages.  I just sat there and cried because the Spirit was so strong around me.  It is true!!  Yet, I had never attended church or even met a Mormon (that I knew of).  But I started praying and kept reading.

One April Sunday when I was in 10th grade I was flipping through the 3 channels we got back then and something caught my attention and I stopped and sat back amazed.  I knew that man speaking!  Well, I had seen his picture on a book I had just read. Spencer W. Kimball.  Somehow I had stumbled across the 1 session of General Conference that the church made arrangements to broadcast on regular TV in the Atlanta GA area.  Remember, this was before, satellite, cable or anything.  What a miracle and a tender mercy in my life.  And look at all those people!  They all are Mormons! And that man is a Prophet! At the end they said they would reconvene 6 months from that day.  I ran and put that on my bulletin board and yep, the next October found me waiting to watch.

The following February of my junior year I had gone out with a bunch of kids from our HS band for pizza.  Some of the seniors who were 18 had ordered beer (back then it was legal to buy beer at 18 just so you know) and were passing it around. It came to this geeky freshman who didn’t take any.  Some of the guys were giving him a hard time and he finally said he didn’t drink because he was Mormon.  MORMON!  My head whipped around and I almost jumped across the table into his lap-poor guy.  “Your Mormon?  Can I go to church with you tomorrow?”  He told me later he looked at me and thought “how am I going to explain this hippie girl to my friends?”  but he said sure, he and his parents would pick me up in the morning.  So I shaved my legs, pulled out a dress, took off my headband and headed into my new life. Two weeks later I was baptized.

Not that it has always been easy.  The wailing and gnashing of teeth when I told my parents I was getting baptized-that was quite the battle but it was ok because I was “just going through a phase” according to my mom!  Then when my sweet husband went to ask for my hand in marriage my mom’s response was “why can’t you be more like your brothers and sisters and just live together!”  The nice Mormon boy about fainted.  Having children was going to ruin my life..yada, yada, yada.  But when it is true nothing matters and it is true.  As true today, as ever.

This past April I sat with my husband and youngest daughter in the area for general authorities in the Conference Center.  I hugged friends I hadn’t seen for awhile and greeted new friends.  I looked around and thought “how did a crazy hippie girl get here?”  Then I looked at the TV cameras and thought that somewhere someone is watching and thinking “Wow!  Look at all those Mormons!” and I want to tell them, just follow that Spirit that is whispering to you.  Have a believing heart. The Gospel is true and changes lives forever.

Debbie Johnson

Debbie Johnson


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  1. I love this story. Thank you for sharing. I will be sharing it with my kids at Family Home Evening tonight.

  2. To believe like that and know the truth when you hear it is a gift of the Spirit if I ever saw one. We’ll take all the hippie girls we can get if they’re as awesome as you! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Debbie,
    I had no idea how great your conversion story is! So fun to read it, and hear all these little details. You were certainly prepared to receive the gospel, and you’ve blessed many lives.

    miss you,

  4. Debbie, I didn’t even know you work convert. What an amazing story and so beautifully written. Thank you so much for sharing it with all of us!

  5. Another reformed hippie chick here. When I walked into church for the first time, a week before my baptism, a very young former coworker gasped and said, “Lynn, what are YOU doing here?” (No malice. Also no tact.) Hugs from Texas.

  6. Debbie, I have heard of you but haven’t met you, I don’t think. Thanks for sharing your story. I really touched my heart. I am a born in the church member and it was many years later before I had that feeling but am so happy that I stuck to it long enough to feel the gospel as I do now. I love your daughter Lena. She married my grandson Scott. Great family. LaRae McMillan

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