I don’t share my conversion story lightly. It is sacred to me. I tell it here in the spirit of love and faith.
I grew up in a Presbyterian home. Presbyterians believe that all churches are God’s churches. So, for Vacation Bible School, we often visited other churches. As a young child I went to Jewish Synagogues, Lutheran, Catholic, etc. But instead of learning the “inclusiveness” that they were trying to teach me, I started to question. I remember as a seven-year-old, going to sleepovers with my friends. When bedtime and breakfast prayers were said, I wondered at the many different ways they prayed. I thought, “If God is the same ‘yesterday, today, and forever,’ then which way does He prefer we pray?” Also, around this time, I experienced two deaths. One was the death of Pres. Kennedy, and the other was the death of my eleven-year-old brother. These experiences, and how I viewed people’s reactions to death and life after death, started me on a quest to find the true church.
When I was sixteen, my mom and dad, my brother and I, went to Yellowstone National Park. On the way, we traveled across Utah, and saw the billboards for the Mormon Temple. Of course, we all wanted to go, because visiting other churches was something we did. I remember my mother, always the gracious guest, saying that since Jewish men and Catholic women wear hats to church, we should all wear hats, “Just in case.” We were disappointed that we couldn’t go in the temple, but we took a tour of temple square.
It was at temple square that I first heard the Joseph Smith story. As I watched and listened, I thought, “We have a prophet! We have a prophet!” I had no doubt that it was true.
In the following weeks and months I prayed several times to know if the church was true, and I received a confirmation each time. As I returned to school in the Fall, I found out that one of my friends was a member of the church, I expressed interest, and I began going to church with her. I was baptized in March of my junior year of high school.
My parents were not happy that I joined the church, but they didn’t prevent it either. As they saw the good friends I had in the church, they softened up a little. They let me attend BYU, and paid the tuition. I was married in the temple, and didn’t know until years later that they were hurt about not being able to attend; they were always supportive. My mother, through a mutual friend, even set up my brother with a returned missionary girl. So my brother was baptized about 10 years after me, was married the next day, and sealed to his wife one year later. Our parents never did join the church. After they both passed, my brother and I, and our deceased brother, were sealed to them in the temple. It was a wonderful day!
I bear you my testimony that the Church is Christ’s true church. Joseph Smith restored the fullness of the gospel to the Earth. I know that God answers prayers. I know that Christ lives. I know these things like I know I breathe and live. It is true. it is glorious. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
~ Cynthia Russell