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Methodist Mom: How My Son's Mormon Mission Changed My Life

by | Nov. 15, 2017

Mormon Life


A Stirring Within

About a year after Harry returned, I had the opportunity to meet a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “How do you explain to people,” I asked, “how you get tens of thousands of young men and women to take such a long break from their lives to do missionary work?”

“It’s very simple,” he said. “They know. They know it’s true. You can’t talk to 19-year-old boys with their own car and a girlfriend, having the time of their lives, and say to drop all that and serve a mission unless they know it is true, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. They could not survive out there if they did not know it.”

As I absorbed those words from this man—with my head, heart, and soul—I thought about how the mission shaped my son and how the experience changed me—forever and for better.

I’d known the vibrations in my core at the MTC were distinctly not separation anxiety. I’d been an active listener as Harry learned about the Church. After I sat in on one lesson, I realized I was asking so many questions that the missionaries were addressing more of my needs than Harry’s. During subsequent lessons, I stayed in the kitchen, where I could listen to them in the dining room while I made dinner. When curiosity got the better of me, I popped in but withdrew as soon as my question was answered.

While Harry was on his mission, I had what I call my “mountaintop experience.” One crisp October afternoon, I’d been to our Methodist church for a picnic, where I spent a lot of time talking to the two LDS men whose Salt Lake City company had created our new steeple. One of them had served his mission in northern Italy, where Harry was right at that moment, and we really connected over that.

Driving back home, I received this message: “You know it’s true—your heart leaps when you talk to them.” It was not delivered in a Charlton-Heston-as-Moses voice, but I was positive it wasn’t from my own musings. I tightly held this miracle inside for quite a while, not wanting to upset Chuck, who was not on the same page. He was wary of my often-stated attraction to the otherworldly happiness and peace that, to me, Mormons exuded. He knew I was a seeker, a restless Methodist who had been raised Catholic and who had journeyed through the born-again world and was happy at an evangelical Presbyterian church before I met him.

My “mountaintop message” that this church was true made me feel comforted and blessed, but I oddly had no sense of urgency. I sauntered along my own spiritual path pretty inefficiently for more than a year, meeting with missionaries, getting close, backing away. I would read the Book of Mormon for a stretch and then put it aside.

Back at BYU, Harry was supportive of me but also sensitive to Chuck’s concerns and my need to come to my own conclusion. I had some soul-stirring moments during prayer with LDS friends. I thought I’d always read the Book of Mormon with real intent, but at a meeting with missionaries at a friend’s home, I realized that I did not have real intent: I had not been ready to act.

Running round in circles on this spiritual track, I knew my main hurdle was that whatever victory I achieved for myself had to honor my marriage. Chuck had nothing against Latter-day Saints or the Church. He had more than a few Mormon friends and was comfortable in LDS services and events, but understandably he dreaded the unknown of how—and how much—our life might change if I converted.

Through it all, whenever I had uneasy moments about a point of LDS theology or my journey in general, I reminded myself that I was a follower of Christ, and Christ was surely leading me. Although my path was uneven, I mostly felt tortured by my inability to commit.

It was such an issue that Chuck and I went to therapy. We worked diligently at navigating the waters I was agitating. I met with our congregational care pastor, who urged me to travel my revolutionary road. She said, “You are not here on earth to make your husband comfortable.” That was all well and good, but I was too grateful for a strong marriage to risk damaging it.

The following spring, Chuck and I spent time in New Hampshire with his dying brother. Afterward, I went to our Methodist church to attend a special contemplative worship service. I thought peacefully in a candlelit room full of still, centered people. During the silent half hour, I had a revelation: I might not have to choose one path over another.

Soon afterward, I told Chuck that if I were to receive a diagnosis similar to his brother’s, my greatest regret would be not resolving my spiritual unrest. He understood, really understood, and I felt it was safe to move forward.

I promptly met with the bishop and asked if I could be baptized if I intended to attend half of the time and continue to worship with Chuck on alternate Sundays. He said he didn’t see any reason why not and stated emphatically, “Your marriage comes first.”

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In the summer of 2012, my returned missionary son baptized me as my older son and husband smiled on, among so many friends who were instrumental in my quest. For all the angst that went into my decision, my first full year as a Latter-day Saint has gone very smoothly.

Validation of God’s perfect timing can be found in my happy marriage. This may not say much for me, but I have not changed so drastically that I’ve rocked our marital boat. I promised Chuck I would not try to win him over. I respect his faith and am very happy to be able to live out mine.

When people ask me about what led to my decision, I often tell them that I first fell in love with the Latter-day Saints, then I embarked on my investigative journey. It was in a backwards way that I came to believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true. One declaration by a recent convert will always penetrate my heart: “Joining this church was like falling backwards into heaven.”

Instead of being torn and conflicted, I now enjoy attending services at both churches. My soul is at peace because I feel my Heavenly Father is with me wherever I am.

This story originally ran in 2013

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