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What Happened When a Jehovah's Witness Tried Converting Latter-day Saint Missionaries

The following is an excerpt from Converted. In the book, Lee Nobleman details his exposure to religion in his younger years—growing up Episcopalian, attending a private Catholic school, and learning from Jewish relatives—as well as how he became a Jehovah's Witness. Then he relates the following account: 

One afternoon there was a knock on my front door. When I opened it, I discovered a pair of Latter-day Saint missionaries with broad smiles standing on my doorstep. I invited them in, but it was not what would call a cordial meeting. They taught, and I firmly refuted their teachings. They left, never to return. In retrospect, I feel bad about what occurred. But they had knocked on the door of a committed Witness. I certainly wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to teach and testify to my young, misinformed friends.

A few months later there was another knock on the door. This time I was greeted by sisters, rather than elders. I discovered that I lived in an apartment that had apparently been previously occupied by a less-active Latter-day Saint family, and the missionaries were out looking for members who had “gone off the grid,” so to speak. Hence the two visits in such a short window of time.

As with the elders, I invited the sister missionaries in. I suppose I was a bit better behaved this time—but only just. Once again, we spoke, we argued, and we were largely unproductive. However, they came back—and we became friends. And, over time, I found myself developing respect for the missionaries and also for the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And, even though I felt their knowledge of the Bible was sorely lacking, I could not deny the goodness of the people I had met.

By way of confession, I have to admit that I allowed them into my home—and spent months discussing their religion—not because I was looking for something I felt I was lacking, but really for two other reasons. First, I thought I could convert them, and I was up for the challenge. (Clearly, they were thinking the same thing about me!) Second, Jehovah’s Witness literature often provides information for its members on other religions; but there was almost nothing in the literature about the "Mormons". That struck me as strange—very strange—and so I was curious to know a bit more about what Latter-day Saints believe.

When a Challenge to Be Baptized Turned Into a Fiasco

You often hear of missionaries who challenge their investigators to be baptized the very first time they meet. This wasn’t the approach the missionaries used with me. On the contrary, they took things very slowly with me. We moved methodically from one discussion to the next, and I agreed with very little of what they shared. After months of them teaching and me disagreeing, one of the sisters asked me if I would “follow the example set by Jesus and be baptized.” I burst out laughing because the question was absurd—so absurd, I thought it was a joke! I kept laughing for some time until I realized I was the only one laughing. Sister Bonny, who had asked the question, was now openly crying.

I quickly apologized and told the sisters that, while I greatly respected them, after talking to them for months I was more certain than ever that I had the truth. Their efforts to teach me had only convinced me more that my Church was true and theirs was not. In addition, how could I be baptized when we agreed on nothing! Sister Bonny excused herself and ran to the bathroom. Her companion quickly followed after but first took the time to tell me that I was a “jerk.” While there was very little the sisters had taught me that I could agree with, unfortunately, they were right about this—I was a jerk!

Feeling the Spirit for the First Time

After what seemed like an eternity, the two sister missionaries came out of the bathroom, gathered their things, and prepared to leave. But just prior to leaving, Sister Bonny turned to me and bore her testimony. Her companion did likewise. I was absolutely overwhelmed! I had been active in the Witness faith for some 12 years, but I can honestly say that this was the first time I could remember ever feeling the Spirit.

It came with such power and certainty that I could not dismiss it. Indeed, I was in awe at the force and certainty of the missionaries’ testimonies. And yet, how could these young women be so sure when they struggled so much to support from the Bible the most basic of Latter-day Saint doctrines? It made no sense to me. And yet, oddly enough, I was no longer sure I had all of the answers. Thirty minutes ago I knew that I was right and that they were totally wrong. Now I stood in front of two 22-year-old girls, and I knew they knew more than I did.

Finding the Humility to Finally Listen

The sisters took their things and left; and I immediately found myself doing some serious soul-searching. How many things had I dismissed that I now needed to go back and—for the first time—sincerely listen to and consider? How many things had my arrogance prevented me from hearing? As the thoughts flooded my mind, I had to confess that the Church, as an international religion, was eagerly engaged in bringing the gospel truth to any who were willing to listen. (As a Witness, this was something of paramount importance to me—and something I largely assumed no one other than the Witnesses was doing.)

I suddenly realized that the message of Latter-day Saints was united and clear—something most Christian denominations could not claim. And, more importantly, the people matched their message. They were the epitome of the description Christ gave of His faithful followers. I suddenly knew that I needed to know more. I realized that I needed to shut up and listen; I needed to actually try to understand what they were teaching, instead of just trying to refute every little thing they said. I called the sisters and invited them back, asking if we could start over again. And we did.

We started from square one. They taught me what they had taught me before, but I actually listed this time—not only with my ears, but also with my heart. Many months passed, and I eventually joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have to admit, I didn’t want to. I suppose that stubborn part of me still didn’t want to acknowledge that for so many years I believed something that wasn’t true—and I taught that inaccurate view of the gospel to many, many people. So I struggled to humble myself sufficiently to want to be baptized, but I did it out of obedience to my Father.

Giving Up So Much to Embrace the Gospel

Truth be told, beyond stubbornness, one of the things that made conversion so hard was the fear of having to walk away from all of my friends, from all of the people and things that had, for so many years, given my life meaning and direction. Learning that I had been wrong in my beliefs was like having the rug pulled out from beneath me, and it didn’t just require a change in my doctrinal beliefs—it required a complete change in my life. I was going to lose a lot to embrace what I felt I had gained. Just gaining a testimony was a grueling process, but this next step would take a great deal of faith. As would be expected, when I told the elders who presided over the Witness congregation I attended that I was joining the Church, they indicated that I was in a state of apostasy—and I was disfellowshipped (which is the Witness term for excommunicated). Those who had been my closest friends now shunned me, and I was completely cut off. It was so very painful. I lost a great deal of weight—I suppose because of the stress—and I was, in many ways, devastated. But, gratefully, with the support of the many missionaries who had taught me, along with the help of the amazing members of my ward, I was able to muster the faith to embrace what I now knew to be true. . . .

As I look back on my life prior to my conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I feel much as Paul must have on the road to Damascus, determined and certain until blinded with almost overwhelming purity. For Paul, that purity came in the form of the resurrected Lord, but for me, it came in the form of a testimony borne by two valiant daughters of our God.


Image titleRead more inspiring stories from Converted.

Before Alonzo Gaskill was a popular BYU professor and best-selling author, he was an altar boy in the Greek Orthodox Church. Discover his journey firsthand as he and 14 others share their profound stories of conversion to the restored gospel from very different religious backgrounds—from Amish to Atheist and Muslim to Hindu. These inspiring true stories give you a new perspective on your faith.

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