Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Conversion Story, Part 2, in which I Figure Things Out

Baptism became the elephant in the living room very early in the How to Be a Mormon instructional process. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly. Joining the Mormons is not like joining Toastmasters.

My now ex-husband claimed neutrality on the matter. “Do what you want. But you really ought to just do it or not. Decide.” He had a point.

I had some serious reservations. Baptism would require me to make major lifestyle changes. Beer and pot would have to go.[1] I had quit smoking just before I got pregnant with the baby mentioned in Part 1, so tobacco cigarettes were no longer a concern. However, coffee and tea were problematic. At least nobody seriously expected me to only eat a little meat during the winter.

The Joseph Smith story was not one that sat well with me. Angels and gold plates that the angel took back when the translation was done. Riiiiiiiiiiiight. How convenient!

The doctrine of baptism for the dead did not make the decision any easier. Why couldn’t I just forego baptism in this life and wait for the next one? It offered the best of both worlds: I could have eternal life later, without giving up my entrenched word of wisdom vices. The elders responded that my refusal to be baptized would inform my spirit in the post-mortal world; having refused the ordinance once, I would not be likely to accept later.

On the plus side, I liked church. I felt like I could be part of something bigger than myself. I liked the idea of making a commitment to a path that looked like a good one. Those plusses made me take the issue seriously. I didn't feel like the negatives made baptism an obvious non-starter.

By the time I brought up the subject of being baptized to the elders, I had been thinking about it for a couple of weeks, but I’d never really prayed about it. When they assured me I was ready, I decided to decide.

That night, after I went to bed, I prayed. I wasn’t really sure where to start, or what to ask, so I asked God about the issue that was MOST problematic for me - if the Book of Mormon was really a scripture like the Bible. I didn’t ask about anything else; asking that part was difficult enough. The words caught in my chest and pressed on it like a weight on the inside. It was hard to catch my breath. I choked them out anyway.

I heard a very clear “Yes.” Not audible, but the thought, fully formed, along with the very strong impression that baptism was the right thing to do. The weight lifted. I could breathe again. I felt relieved.

The elders came back a couple of days later. I asked them when we could schedule my baptism. They practically jumped out of their chairs to pull out their planners. We set the baptism for after the next missionary zone conference, in less than ten days, so Jake could be there to confirm me.

[1] Well, beer at least. There was that whole “useful herbs” part of the Word of Wisdom that might act as an escape clause for giving up pot.

Part 3: Nobody mentioned that I needed to bring a towel...

4 comments:

Beijing said...

It's so funny how we phrase those key questions in prayer. Many ex-Mormons comfortably believe the Book of Mormon is "a scripture like the Bible." Their estimation of the Bible is probably a lot lower than yours is/was, though.

The only question I managed to choke out to God during my BYU freshman crisis of faith was "Will I be able to live a worthwhile life as a faithful Mormon?" The answer was "yes," of course. But only in retrospect did I notice how scared I was that the answer might be "no" to questions such as "Is it the Only True Church?" or even "Is it the best of all possible paths available to me right now?"

Stephen M (Ethesis) said...

Nobody mentioned that I needed to bring a towel...

I'm looking forward to that as well.

Capt. Obsidian said...

Nobody mentioned to me that I needed to bring extra underwear. I finished the meeting "commando."

annegb said...

I love the Plan of Salvation. As much as I know anything, I know it's true. So I overlook the problems I have and trust they will be worked out. Many of them have been.

My biggest problem with the church is one of personalities. People piss me off. Jerks who are in positions of authority make me question whether I want to go to church or not. Not the basic doctrine.

Watch, one of these days, I'm going to pop my stake president. Watch for me in the National Enquirer.