Please bear with me, as my conversion story has 3 parts, showing that no matter what the tender mercies of a loving Heavenly Father and Savior, who always has His hand outstretched, is real and tangible.
When I was 9 my sister died. She didn’t live too long after she came to earth. I don’t remember much but the extreme sadness of my parents. My Father saying that people at work were telling him that “at least you didn’t bring her home and get attached to her” and how that infuriated him. Grandparents, often in tears.
We were not affiliated with any church. I occasionally went to church with my Dad’s great Aunts, so they had the pastor at their church conduct the funeral. My mother was very emotionally disturbed at some of the words he spoke…one phrase in particular; that her tiny body and spirit would be asleep in the ground until the second coming of Jesus Christ. That bothered my mother so much.
That night there was a terrible rain storm. My mother couldn’t sleep thinking that my sister’s body AND SPIRIT was sleeping in the ground with torrential rains. She carried that with her for months.
Several months later the missionaries were tracting in our neighborhood. I had been to primary a couple of times with a friend so we knew where they were from. When the missionaries came to our door I ran and told Mom that someone people from my friend’s church were at the door. My Mom spoke to them a little, then asked the questions that had been weighing so heavily on her mind. What happened to my sister when she died? Did she “die in sin”? Was her body and soul in the ground, in the casket waiting for Jesus to come? WOW, did they stun her with the answers she had been craving, and somehow knew before she asked that the pastor who conducted the funeral was so wrong. She asked the missionaries to come back when my Dad was home. 2 or 3 months later our family was baptized, in September of 1961.
However, I will say here that “MY CONVERSION” came later.
When I was a young child, probably around 6-9 years of age and before we joined the church, I was fascinated by someone called God. As I said…I went to church, occasionally with my Dad’s great Aunts. Our neighbor went to the same church. Often, early in the morning, I heard her in her large garden singing the song In the Garden. (If you haven’t heard the song, some of the words are…I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear whispering in my ear, the Son of God is calling; and He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.) I asked her about this Son of God, she sang about, once. She told me of a loving Jesus Christ, who gave all for all of us, even me. From then on I wondered about God and Jesus.
I craved information about Them. Sometimes I would watch kids’ shows that used to be on TV one called Davy and Goliath and a few others with information and talking about God and Jesus. Once, when I was about the same age, I read an article in a San Francisco newspaper about a life before this life. The writer described, not even knowing it, what it may have been like in the pre-mortal life. I don’t know what religion, if any, he was. He wrote that St. Peter was showing cherubs around heaven. He told them that God was asking for volunteers to go to earth. He showed them all the good and the evil in the world. The closing sentence really struck me, even as young as I was. “He said you’ve now seen everything that earth has to offer and that your chances of returning to heaven may be slim. He asked for a vote…and low the Ayes shook the very vaults of heaven.” That really fueled the fire to find out more about these two mystery people (as I thought of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ then). (Of course, later I learned that in the Grand Council in heaven…the sons and daughters of God shouted for joy…Our Heavenly Father gave us the opportunity to be born, to assume the responsibilities of mortality, which offered the opportunity of a fullness of joy but which also entailed risks of disobedience, sin and heartache. Yet, as our Father’s plan unfolded and we became aware of our divine potential for future immortality, we did all shout for joy.-Sister Winder)
These experiences prepared me for my Seminary year in studying the Book of Mormon. I gained my testimony of the Book of Mormon and of the tender mercies of Jesus Christ, and the possibilities of our eternal existence. If anyone would have ever told me as a teen I’d become inactive (not less active INACTIVE) I would never had believed it. However, I did for nearly 25 years. I didn’t break any moral commandments, or the word of wisdom…but I didn’t go to church or partake of the sacrament.
Enter two angels, my visiting teachers. Once something very emotional happened. At that time, one of my visiting teachers was prompted to call me. She did. As I was sobbing she said that she needed to know what was wrong, and if I didn’t tell her she (that sweet, sweet 84 year old woman) would be at my front door in a matter of minutes. I told her that I was feeling very alone and someone I loved had wronged me so terribly that I was heartbroken. She wrote me a note that I got a couple of days later. All it said was, “Please come to church and let your ward family heal you”.
I, was re-converted, went to the temple the following year and never looked back. Saying that it was the best decision I ever made, is an understatement. I have a wonderful ward family, who with their love, did indeed pave the way for me to see the road to repentance, and gain an understanding and closeness to my Heavenly Father and my Savior, Jesus Christ, that I would never have thought possible. So grateful for loving, caring visiting teachers; and a ward family who “took me in”.