Note from MMM: One of the basic rules of the “International Hug a Convert Day” is that it does not include members who were born into the Church – even if they are converted later in life. Chris submitted his story, and I was sad to see that I couldn’t run it on IHACD5 – however, that does not mean that I can’t share it on another day. Right? (My blog, my rules)
So, here is Chris Rock’s conversion story. Enjoy. Thanks Chris.
I am the son of converts and was born into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In fact I was born into the 7th ward, which is now the Thornton Creek Ward. I have wonderful memories of some of the individuals who will be congregating in our stake today, who supported my family and I during some very difficult experiences.
My parents became inactive while I was still very young. During this time my two brothers and I experienced some of the harshness and evils of the world. We would see and experience things that no young child should ever see or experience. Our early years of life were not ideal and full of much turmoil, but what we did have was the power of prayer, which we learned in our primary classes. We knew at a very young age that our Heavenly Father loved us and He comforted us during uncertain, sad, and at times very scary moments. I have used the power of prayer for as long as I can remember.
Eventually there were more stable times and for a short while my father was active in the Church again remarried to another member. This activity was short lived, but proved to be a very important moment in my life. During this time my younger brother and I would receive the lessons from the missionaries, we were baptized and given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The greatest gift man can receive; because of this gift I have never felt alone even during some of life’s most difficult struggles I felt the Spirit and the sweet mercy of the Lord.
Elder Robert D Hales gave his testimony of the Holy Ghost during this last General Conference saying,
I offer my testimony of the personal revelation and constant flow of daily guidance, caution, encouragement, strength, spiritual cleansing, comfort, and peace that have come to our family through the Holy Ghost. Through the Holy Ghost, we experience “the multitude of [Christ’s] tender mercies” and miracles that do not cease. End Quote.
For the next couple of years my family and I would attend church sporadically, and eventually I would receive the Aaronic Priesthood, but shortly after that we would become inactive again, and once again our new family structure had fallen apart. It is also at this very young and tender age of 12 a lifetime of struggling with the Word of Wisdom would begin. From this time on began a long and difficult time in the world. I was mostly a happy kid and for the most part always kind and gentle, but because of these struggles I found myself in dark places more than I care to count. But there is beauty in this story of struggle, because of a loving Heavenly Father, and the Holy Ghost, and Son who was willing to give up his life for me, to Atone for my sins.
In John 8:12 Jesus Christ said, “I am the light of the world: He that followeth me shalt not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” I saw glimpses of this light because of my desire to always pray and many times not in the clearest state of mind, but the Lord kept his promise and remained close to me. I lived decades waging a spiritual battle, having a desire to be close to my Heavenly Father, but so lost in the ways of the world.
About 12 years ago I found myself exhausted by this battle, and like Alma and his people in Mosiah 23 I began to cry mightily unto God, I tasted bitter tears for many nights, but like Alma and his brethren my burdens did begin to be light. Prayers began to be answered so specifically that I would begin to cry tears of gratitude. My life would begin to change for the better.
At this time of my life I was living in a home that had a basement apartment below me. This apartment was going up for rent and I would be getting new neighbors. With a strong desire in my heart for change I began praying every night for weeks that a member of the Church would move in and take the space. That I might be surrounded by a good influence and the Spirit. The day that my landlord and I would hold the open house many people came through, by late in the day, after interviewing many people I began to forget about my prayer. We had our list of potential tenants and began to lock up the apartment and return to my unit, as we began to ascend the stairs of the back deck we heard a voice come around the corner and say “hi are we too late to see the apartment”? My name is Ivy and this is my dad, we just drove from Idaho where I graduated from BYU , and sure enough, the Lord answered my prayers. She became my neighbor, this was no small miracle!
To express gratitude to my Heavenly Father I began reading the Book of Mormon, and eventually seeing my Family Home Teachers, I started receiving lessons from the Missionaries. The Spirit was so strong every time these loving and caring individuals came to my house. I would at times find myself in tears as my heart was so filled with gratitude and an uplifting of the Spirit.
I began feeling the Spirit so strong in my life that my dreams had even started to change. I dreamed in ways I never knew imaginable, I would see images and beauty beyond description. I was seeing the Lords promised light.
I eventually started going to church, something I had not done since the age of 12, I was feeling true joy for the first time in my life! I had never felt so good!
I wish I could say that this was the end of my journey back into activity in Church, but as quickly as the joy had come into my life, I allowed it to quickly fade. I did not keep my promise to the Lord and Satan had ahold of me once again. I struggled to follow the Word of Wisdom, and quickly that that joy I had felt for a couple of months had turned to anguish, pain, and suffering as I made one poor choice after another. I suffered anxiety so bad that I had I often felt a numbing feeling in my left arm, I had become so anguished and stressed. This lasted for months.
This is a reminder of the power and truth of the scripture in 2nd Nephi 2: 27 “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”
I truly had become miserable.
Eventually things began to normalize again in my life and I was comfortable again with the ways of the world, which is Satan’s greatest trick, because I was still spiritually lost.
But of course the Lord never leaves us, we only leave him, and once again I began to feel the Holy Ghost and the love of Christ in my life. I began to pray regularly once more, I started reading my scriptures, and the Spirit once again was filling my heart.
Because of that miracle which I mentioned earlier that occurred 12 years ago, I had continued to have different wonderful and faithful members of the church living below me a blessing of that great miracle. And once again my prayers would be answered specifically when a around 6 years ago another young faithful couple moved in below me. This time it was a little different though, they showed great interest in me, they became true friends! They had no idea that months before THEIR arrival that I had been praying once again for the Church to be apart of my life. Because of their examples of faith and friendship a burning desire once again arose up in my heart. It was time to end this spiritual battle once and for all.
I’m humbled to say that I have been a faithful member for the past 6 years, the repentance process was a difficult one, it came with many challenges, I made changes in my life 6 years ago that I would not have imagined possible.
During that time I was blessed with the Priesthood by becoming an Elder. I have been blessed by Temple worship and Temple service as I received my own endowments.
And of course, the greatest blessing of all, my Eternal marriage to my beautiful wife almost 3 years ago, she also has a great understanding of the challenges the world can throw at us, but also has one of the strongest testimonies of the Atonement of anyone I know. It is no small miracle that we are where we are today, an Eternal family that includes a most precious baby girl.
No matter that path we have come the Lord has provided us away back to him through the Atonement.
In Mosiah 7 verse 33 we read “But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in Him, and serve Him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, He will, according to His own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.” I am free.
I testify to you brothers and sisters that my conversion and the miracles that occurred to make it are because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ our Savior. Through Him alone we can be made whole. He knows us individually. He loves us. He will move mountains on our behalf.
I leave you with these words in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ.