My Conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints
I was raised as a Baptist. I canʼt remember a time when I did not know and love Jesus. I always wanted to “be good” for Him. I loved the scriptures, but they often evoked more questions than answers for me; questions that Baptists pastors could not answer. Even as a young teen I wanted to know who the other 2/3 of the “host of heaven” were. You know – the ones who werenʼt kicked out of heaven for rebellion. I wanted to know why our Baptist church wasnʼt organized like the one Christ established. I wanted to know about baptism for the dead as mentioned in the New Testament and who the “other sheep” were. My young mind was filled with so many questions that no one could answer. I would later come to understand that those were seeds planted by the Holy Ghost to help me recognize the Lordʼs true church when it was presented to me.
When I was a junior in high school, we had a new choir teacher that was a Mormon, Mr. Richard Dastrup. None of us had even heard of Mormons, but we sure loved Mr. D. It was at this time that our Baptist pastor began giving anti-Mormon sermons. Those sermons were vigorous and hateful. They didnʼt align with what I knew of Mr. Dastrup at all. I knew him to be a good and virtuous man who wasnʼt scary at all, and he certainly didnʼt have horns, and he only had one wife.
After high school, I moved away and gave no more thought to any of it. I attended whatever Baptist church was nearby wherever I lived. One day in the spring of 1970, while living in Long Beach, California, two young men appeared at the door. They both had the first name of “Elder”, which I thought to be strange and just a bit too coincidental. They introduced themselves as missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints. I knew there were “Mormons”, and I had seen a building once with the full name of the church on it, but I never made the connection. Before I let the missionaries in the door, I asked them one question figuring it would stop them in their tracks and I could dismiss them. I had been told that Mormons worshipped Joseph Smith, so I posed one simple question: “What do you believe as far as Jesus Christ?”. The answer stopped ME in my tracks and silenced any criticism I may have tried to muster. The missionaries basically gave the first discussion about Jesus Christ being the very head of the LDS faith and church. Their testimony was so pure and sincere that I could not deny it was the truth. I moved the next week and never saw them again.
Two years later, I was married and living in Kingman, Arizona. I worked with a woman who invited me to lunch one day. She told me of her upcoming plans to get married “for eternity in the temple”. I asked what that was, and she proceeded to teach me about eternal marriage. As a newlywed, this was very intriguing to me. She offered to send missionaries to tell me more. My husband was willing to listen because he knew the Mormon church had softball and basketball teams, which he was very good at. The missionaries, Elder Fila and Elder Hansen (strange first names once again) came over and taught a lesson on the pre-existence because of questions I was throwing at them. I already believed in Christ and knew that they did too, so the first discussion wasnʼt necessary. That set off a chain reaction of lights, bells and whistles going off in my head and heart, as everything they taught seemed to be something I had already known
but wasnʼt fully aware off. Every religious question I had as a teenager was answered over the next two weeks, and it seemed as if I was simply being reminded of eternal truths that my spirit had always known. It only took two weeks before I made the decision to be baptized. I hadnʼt read any of the Book of Mormon as the missionaries requested, but I knew from an organizational perspective that the Church of Jesus- Christ of Latter-day-Saints was Christʼs true church on earth. Roger and Rosario (Chayo) Ellis a young couple assigned to fellowship us, came over frequently and we quickly fell in love with them. My husband and I were baptized on March 22, 1972 by Roger. I joined the church because I knew it was true. My husband, well, for him it was more like joining a club to play sports. Over the remaining 2 months that we lived in Kingman, Roger and Chayo continued to teach and fellowship us and show us what LDS living was all about. Even though we moved away, they remained life-long friends.
It was another 8 years before I gained a personal testimony of the Book of Mormon. I had begun reading it many times. I would get through 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob……then the words of Isaiah would frustrate me, and I would stop reading. From the time of my conversion, I had another problem. Whenever the Book of Mormon was quoted, I wanted to know where that scripture was in the Bible as well. As long as I could back it up with the Bible, I accepted scripture from the Book of Mormon. Then, in 1980, I was called to teach Spiritual Living in Relief Society. I knew I would have to bear testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon at some point. However, I knew I could not give false testimony. Until I knew, I could not tell others I did. I decided to finally put the Book of Mormon to the test. I prayed before I started to read, explaining to the Lord my desire. This time, instead of starting with the first book, I opened up to 3 Nephi. I read 3 Nephi 1:13 “Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.where the Lord spoke to Nephi,“ As I read those words, it seemed as if the print became large and bold and the spirit bore witness to me right then and there that I was reading the word of God. I wasnʼt told simply that the book was true. I was specifically told that it was the Word of God. That was the confirmation I needed. From that time on, the Book of Mormon has stood on itʼs own for me. I know it to be a companion to the Bible with all the power and truth that the word of God holds. Finally united in one firm testimony, the truthfulness of the organization of the LDS church and the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon as the word of God. There is no stronger faith when one believes both. I once heard Elder Hartman Rector, Jr. teach, “If you are converted to the church by any means other than the Book of Mormon, you have entered through the back door and your testimony will eventually fail. You must be converted through the Book of Mormon. For if the book is true, Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and everything else he did as a prophet is true, including the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints.”
As I reflect upon my young life leading up to my conversion, I can see how the Holy Ghost gently guided me along through questions, ponderings, and a desire to please Jesus Christ. So many seeds were planted then nurtured, starting with a very good
man who was a choir teacher, the full-time missionaries, and by faithful young member missionaries willing to fellowship.
42 years after joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints, I was able to locate one of the missionaries who taught me and send him a letter of gratitude. This following is what I wrote:
Dear Elder Fila,
I am one of your converts from the mission you served in Kingman, AZ. You and Elder John Hansen taught me and my husband the discussions and we were baptized quite quickly. My name at the time was Kathie Duncan and my husband was Bob Duncan. A member couple participated in the discussions and were also instrumental in our conversion. You may remember Roger and Chayo Ellis. I remain friends with them to this day. They live in Logan but are currently serving a mission in Mexico.
So many times throughout the years, I have wanted to find “my missionaries”. I wanted so very much to thank you and Elder Hansen for your efforts. I’m sure all missionaries wonder what the fruits of their labors were. At the time I was baptized, I had no idea what being a member of the church would mean to me or the impact it would have on my life and in the lives of my children and grandchildren. While Bob and I divorced in 1976 and he is no longer involved with the church in any way, I remain faithful and active. I married a wonderful man, Roy Porter, in San Diego. He was a convert of only 3 months when we met. We were sealed in the Los Angeles temple in 1977, and my two daughters were sealed to us. We had a whole pack of girls ourselves. I have 7 daughters in all. Five have been married in the temple and are raising their children in the gospel. Roy passed away 3 years ago. The knowledge that we have of the eternal nature of families has brought us all much peace and comfort. We have committed to one another to live worthily enough that our sealing will be effectual, and we will all be together in the presence of Heavenly Father one day.
I have served in many positions in the church. I have been chorister for sacrament and auxiliaries more times than I can count. I served as a Relief Society president, Stake Music and Recreation chairman (before stake RS boards were disbanded), Laurel Advisor, RS secretary 4 times, taught Relief Society many times, Stake RS Reactivation missionary, Primary second counselor, and of course as a Visiting Teacher always. My daughters have also served in many positions and magnified their callings. I don’t mention these callings to boast but to let you know some of the fruits of your missionary labors. You served well, thus setting up at least 3 generations (so far) of faithful members. 7 daughters, 23 grandchildren……….all have been taught the gospel. Not only my posterity, but my ancestors. I have been able to do temple work for many of them.
There are no words sufficient to convey my gratitude. Kingman was just a dusty, windy little town and we were only there for a few months. But, the Lord, in His mercy and
goodness, brought you to us. It could not have happened any more timely. Had we left Kingman before being taught, we may never have had the opportunity again. I don’t know if you had any other converts during your time in the mission field, and you may have wondered what your impact was as you considered the value of your service. As for me and my family, consider the scripture in D&C 18:15 “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father.” Well, from those two souls you saved back in 1972, add another 7. From those 7 add another 23. In addition, consider their countless ancestors.
I will add but one more thought…….”Well done, thou good and faithful servant of the Lord”. May the Lord bless you always and may your joy truly be great.
Sincerely, Kathryn Porter