Sunday, January 13, 2008

How I Became a Mormon--Part 9

Being an Investigator

A person who shows an interest in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is called “an investigator.” I came to realize how much import is placed on LDS investigators when, soon after I began checking out the church with some seriousness, I got phone calls and emails of support from Clint and Ted, my two high school-buddies-turned-LDS. Additionally, for one of the lessons taught at my home by the missionaries, they were accompanied by Tommy Friel, a Kamehameha alum and a member of the local LDS ward. What’s more, another church member, Moses Bergao, who lived just a street away from us in Kaneohe, also dropped by our house to express welcome to us. Wow, so much attention. I didn’t quite know what to think other than that these Mormons were friendly folks and also quite serious about getting us to join them.

The missionaries provided us with copies of the Book of Mormon (BOM) and suggested passages in it for us to read. I will admit that I wasn’t gung-ho nor diligent about getting the reading done, but the missionaries were consistent and persistent about showing up at agreed upon days and times and asking us if we had done the reading they had suggested.

After I had dropped the ball on reading the BOM, I finally decided that I had best read it if only to not having to keep saying over and again that I had not opened the book. I’ll confess that I didn’t have any epiphanies or spiritual experiences upon reading the book. But at the same time, I didn’t have any bad or doubtful feelings or thoughts either.

One of the keys to my conversion was when my wife and I and our two children attended a Sunday “meeting” at the local LDS ward. Being very naïve about the church and not being a very diligent investigator, I had expected an LDS Sunday service to include a pastor (or the LDS equivalent thereof) preaching a sermon about the evils of smoking and drinking and gulping down caffeine-laden beverages like coffee and Coke. I also expected LDS members to be automatons, reciting in unison chants like, “We shalt not smoke. We shalt not drink alcohol! We shalt not drink Coke!” yada, yada yada.

To my surprise, none of that happened. What did happen during that “meeting” is some excellent singing of hymns by the congregation (Mormons sing hymns? I never imagined that). A talk by a young man, Jordan Laimana, who was heading off to serve a church mission in Africa. A musical medley done by Tommy Friel, his wife, and their three children (one of the songs was “Love at Home,” which when sung was so touching to my wife and I that we were in tears). And a final farewell to Jordan by the all the members of the ward in attendance (probably over 100) where everyone stood up and sang him a traditional song—Aloha Oe. More tears flowed from my wife and I.

When I reflect on that day in church, I felt as if the whole thing were planned for my wife and me. Things seemed “right.” True, wearing a colorful polo shirt amongst all the white-shirt-and-tie wearing brethren of the ward, I did feel like the odd man out in that chapel that day. But that feeling of being an outsider diminished by the warm welcome extended to me and my family by members of the ward.

Were we baptized soon thereafter? No, not so soon, but the tide had risen dramatically, and with a few more forthcoming spiritual experiences, baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints would be in the works.

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