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baptism

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1951 was an important year to me. I wasn’t born yet, but the ramifications of what happened will live with me forever. Pull up a chair, and I will tell you all about it…

A teenage girl, living in Gresham, Oregon was looking to find a church she could attend. She and a friend went “church shopping” until they came across the L.D.S. Church. After attending, she met with the missionaries, and received the lessons. A bit later, just before her 18th birthday, she was baptized a member of the Church.

That’s it.

That’s the whole story. One of the most crucial and far-reaching events that impacted my life can be told in one simple paragraph.

That young lady was my Mom, and that is the extent of my knowledge regarding her conversion. Pathetic, no? I don’t know if it was just never the topic of conversation, or if I just have a cruddy memory, but that’s all I got. I talked to my sister and she told me essentially the same thing. I called a cousin who has, by attrition, become the “memory of the family.”  She didn’t remember any details, either.

Easy answer? Ask Mom.

Problem? She died in 1999, and Dad followed a few years later.

Unless some eighty six-year-old returned missionary who served a mission in Oregon back in the ’50’s stumbles across this blog post, it looks like that is all the info we will have regarding my mom’s conversion. We won’t know what motivated her, how she gained a testimony, what the circumstances were surrounding her conversion, how the family reacted. Nada.

Now, who shall I blame? I can shoulder part of it for not being more curious when she was around. I should have asked questions, and remembered the answers. I can also fault her and my dad for never telling/reminding us about it. Ultimately, the fault is on all of us because…

Nobody ever wrote it down.

There’s no journal entry, no family history, no personal history, no notes from a talk, no audio recordings – nothing. It may not have mattered to me then, but it does now, and the resources are gone. The story is lost to me and my kids, and my grandkids. This is especially egregious because I love conversion stories. They build my faith, and strengthen my testimony.

Lame.

Two weeks from today I will be hosting my annual event: International Hug a Convert Day. To any and all of you who are converts (by the Church’s definition) who have not written down your conversion story, please get on it. Don’t leave your posterity in the dark.

If you have an aging parent, or a young parent who is a convert who has not written their conversion story yet, help them out. Interview them, get some details. Don’t leave it hanging, like our family did. You will regret it.

Then, after you have your story written, send it to me at mmm@middleagedmormonman.com. I will gladly publish it on Sunday, September 3. Your story will be read by people all over the world. It will bless their lives. Writing it will bless YOUR life, and the lives of your posterity.

Get to it!

There is one more part to my mom’s story that I heard from her. Still, details are sketchy, as nobody wrote it down.

Apparently, before my mom (Marlene) was baptized, she sat her parents down and had a conversation that went something like this:

Marlene: “Mom, Dad, I have been searching for a church to attend, and I have decided to take the missionary lessons and join the Mormon Church.”

Gramma & Grampa: “That’s a coincidence – we’re Mormon, too!”

Marlene: “Wha…?”

Grampa: “Sure. We’re Mormons, we just haven’t been active. We come from a long Mormon Heritage. In fact, my great grandfather was Parley P. Pratt. He was a famous one. That’s why I am named Parley Pratt Grigg.”

The very next year my grandparents – who had already been married for 30 years – went to the temple, received their endowment, and were sealed to each other, and their kids – mom included. I don’t know anything about how this came about – did my Mom’s baptism “stir them up again in remembrance?”

I won’t know until I can ask them person.

Bummer.

Start typing.  Please.

*Yes, I am the adorable little tyke in the center of the photo.

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IHACD5 Sumbit

Believe it or not, June 5th marks the 5th official “International Hug a Convert Day.” What started out as a whim has become something that many of us look forward to each year.

As my long-time readers know, the first Sunday in June has been set aside, (by me) as International Hug a Convert Day. (Or IHACD, for short.)  IHACD has become one of my favorite things on this blog, and I can’t believe we are already in our fifth year. You will laugh, you will cry, you will be strengthened.

I love converts. I stand in awe of them. I want to hug them. (Both figuratively and literally) I love to hear their stories – the challenges they overcame – the faith they relied on – the miracles they experienced – the way the Lord lined up the dominos just right. I also have come to realize that publishing these stories is my small way of pushing back against the morass of those willing to shout their stories of de-conversion on the internet.

CONVERTS:

If you would like to share your own story on IHACD5, I would consider it a great honor.   This year I will be running ALL of the stories on June 5th. Type yours up, and email it to me at mmm@middleagedmormonman.com, and be sure to include a photo. It doesn’t have to be long, or fancy. Short and simple is just as powerful.  I will include as many as I can. This is a safe place, and I won’t allow any critical comments.

Remember – this truly is international. We have been blessed with stories from all over the world: Hungary, England, China, Australia, Germany, etc.

Even if you do not want to publish your story – write it down anyway, and give you loved ones a copy before you file it away. Too often we let those important events slip by without documenting them. There might be rough times where you might need to revisit those experiences and feelings.

If you are hesitant because you don’t know how to write it up, please look here: “Conversion Stories.”  I have archived most of the stories from this event over the past four years. They are not all fancy, but they are sincere.

READERS:

• Read, and comment. Nicely. IHACD is a day where only love and appreciation will be acceptable on the comment page.  Also, spread the word on Facebook or Twitter, or whatever your favorite social media site.  I will post Facebook links throughout the day on June 5th.

• You can also help by sharing this link today so that more converts know that we are excited to hear their stories.

• If you know someone who you think might be willing to share their story, please pass this on to them, and encourage them.

• If you are interested in how this idea came about, read this post from 2012.

• June 5th is also Fast & Testimony Meeting for most of us.  It would be a great time to express appreciation for those who had the courage to join the Church – whether in your family history, or someone else’s. We are all here because of someone’s conversion story.

• For every conversion story, there is usually a missionary story as well. Write those down.  Your posterity needs them, and you might, too.

FINAL REQUEST:

Please, I beg of you, don’t write a comment saying, “We are all converts.” I will delete it.

I know, I know – at some point in time, we all need to experience a conversion. But unless your conversion required you to have an interview with missionaries, be baptized, and be listed on the church records as a convert baptism – I’m not talking about you – even though I am extremely happy you are on board.  Maybe one day we will have a “Hug Someone Who Already Belonged to the Church, and Then Was Converted Day.”  June 5 is not that day. (But if you need a hug, let us know.)

MMM-logo-small

Katrina Brooks baptism

(Katrina Brook’s Baptism)

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Wise Counsel:  Read the comments to this post. They are remarkable.

I was born into the LDS Church. Mom and Dad were as active as humanly possible, my siblings, too. We even had giant glass decorative grapes on our living room table, and Mom put shredded carrots in the Jello – proof positive that we were stalwart. There was never a time in my childhood that living an active LDS lifestyle was not just part of my normal existence.

Fifty years later, I am still rock-solid in the Church, my wife is as active as humanly possible, all the kids are active too. (Fortunately we have abandoned the traditions of giant glass grapes and shredded carrot Jello. (Score one for my generation.)

I have never had a time in my life where I have not been a regularly attending member of the Church. It is all I have ever known. It is part of my DNA, part of who I am – part of who I have always been.

I don’t know why.

I don’t know why Heavenly Father sent me to the home He did. An LDS home, with righteous parents, where I was immediately set on the correct path. I mean what are the odds for that? (Rough calculation of active LDS members to world population:  A million to one.)  Why me? I figure I will just put that  on the list I have of questions to ask God when I see Him.  Although I don’t know, I have thought through a couple of possibilities:

1)  I was just so incredibly awesome in the pre-mortal life that being born into these privileged circumstances was a well-deserved blessing. That’s me, “Mr. Extra-Valiant Spirit Man.”  Or…

2) God knows me well enough that He felt that if He left it up to me, I would never have found the Gospel. (Yeah, a bit sobering.)

I tend to lean towards the the second. By nature, I am a questioning, often cynical guy. The kind of guy that some a pair of fresh-faced missionaries would dread. I fear I would also be prone to many different addictions and distractions that might discourage or prevent me from embracing such a demanding faith. And I am stubborn.

Either way, it was not required of me to find and embrace the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was nicely arranged on the buffet table of my life – and I partook. And it is great.  I know someone will comment and say “But at some point you had to be converted and find your own testimony.”  True. And I did. But it was not hard. It was a natural progression through a life filled with constant exposure to the love of God, the Spirit, the truthfulness of the Gospel, and the miracles  that come with it.  Yes, I was converted, but it was really, really easy.

Because I have had it so easy, I have this sense of awe towards those who came to the Gospel and joined the Church as converts.  You could say that I am a bit star-struck.  Partially because I question if would have ever made that choice, and partially because I know the struggles some go through to make the conversion.

To any of you readers out there that are converts to the Church: You are amazing. 

Over the years I have been deeply involved as people have joined the church, as a full-time missionary, a friend, and a priesthood leader. I know that sometimes the decision to convert can have a devastating impact on one’s life. Some are disowned, some are shunned, some lose their jobs, friends, families – all in exchange for the opportunity to enter into the Lord’s KIngdom on the earth.  A Kingdom that is highly demanding, wrapped in a confusing culture, and different than any other religion on the earth.

Like I said before: Converts are amazing. I hope you understand how much I love and respect you for finding and embracing the truth. I’m not trying to embarrass anyone, but I think you are deserving of our thanks and praise.

Converts to the Church bring an excitement and a vibrancy, with them. They serve as a reminder to those of us who have been at this a long time that it is more than just a way of life. It is a wonderful decision that rains blessings down on us every day of our lives.  Sometimes we just forget.

Everyday, my FB friend Barbara reminds us what day it is.  For example, yesterday was “Heimlich Manuever Day”, and “Doughnut Day.”  Now I don’t know who comes up with these ideas – many of which are stupid, but some are good reminders of really important things – like “Doughnut Day.”

So, I have taken it upon myself to make the following declaration:

The first Sunday in June will hereafter be known as:

“International Hug a Convert Day”

It is a world-wide Church, after all.  Now I’m not just being silly.  I am going to celebrate this day – and I invite you to join me. I intend on honoring the day by doing several things:

1) I am going to seek out the people at church who I know are converts, hug them, and thank them.

2) I have had the privilege of being involved as some people have joined the church. I am going to write a letter to one, or more, of them to see how they are doing, and to express my support.

3) I am going to look at our family history with my kids and try and pinpoint who the convert was in each of our lines that made the choices that resulted in the blessings that we enjoy.

4) I’ll do this one right now… A “digital hug” to all my awesome readers who are converts.

My heartfelt thanks to those of you who found the truth, made the sacrifices to embrace the Gospel, and joined the Church. I am grateful for your faith, your example, and your testimonies.

I am in awe.

———

A couple of housekeeping things:

• I would LOVE to hear comments from those of you who converted to the gospel. Share as much as you are willing.
• Please don’t make comments that aren’t supportive or instructive today.  I don’t want to debate this. But I will delete.
• Feel free to pin, share, or steal any or all of this. I would like to see it circulate.
• Sorry I didn’t announce this earlier…