Joining the Saints- Taking the Plunge

It was now the summer of 2007, my wedding was only a few months away, and preparations for that were still ongoing.  And my faith was also growing rapidly.  We were now going to church every Sunday.  We stayed for the first meeting, and the second hour they had a class specifically for new members, and those thinking of joining the church.  The class was taught by Tim Whalen, a convert himself, who had gone on to serve a number of callings for the Church.  The class focused on the basic teachings of the Church.

I was getting asked more frequently if I was going to be baptised, and if I wanted to set a date for it.  By this point I was almost positive that I wanted to be baptised, but never felt quite ready for it.  I didn’t really set a goal for myself to know when I would be ready, so I was sort of playing it by ear.  Originally, I had thought that I would want to read all the Mormon scriptures, understand them, and have a testimony of them before I would join the church.  That didn’t seem like it was going to happen very quickly.  I can’t say I fully understand the Old and the New Testaments, which I had grown up with, but never read cover to cover either.

I had finally started to go to all three hours of Church, and I wondered what took me so long.  The third hour for me is called Elders Quorum, its the younger adult men of the Church, generally ranging in age from about 20-50.  They have a President, and two counselors who run the Quorum, and look after the needs of it’s members and teach the Sunday lessons.   There’s also a secretary.  It was one of the counselors, Mike Kester who personally invited me to stay for the third hour, and the Quorums secretary, Bryan Rowzee, who would become one of my closest friends from the church in our first few years there.  Elders Quorum was great, I loved the discussions we had, and the way that we took care of each other as a group.

What really started to focus my attention on setting a baptism date was the fact that the missionaries I had first met were starting to move on to other areas, or go home.  Missions are only 18-24 months long, and our mission field covers the majority of NY state.  Every 6 weeks, theres the possibility of missionaries being moved from one placement to another, but the average time in one place seems to be 4-6 months.  So the missionaries I had first met were all gone, and the ones who did the majority of the teaching were leaving now too.  I knew I wanted to be baptised for sure now, but I still felt not quite ready.  Plus my wedding was getting really close.

Rather than aiming to understand an entire set of scriptures, I decided I would focus on the Articles of Faith, 13 statements that define what it is we believe in.

1 We abelieve in bGod, the Eternal Father, and in His cSon, Jesus Christ, and in the dHoly Ghost.

2 We believe that men will be apunished for their bown sins, and not for Adam’s ctransgression.

3 We believe that through the aAtonement of Christ, all bmankind may be csaved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

4 We believe that the first principles and aordinances of the Gospel are: first, bFaith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, cRepentance; third, dBaptism by eimmersion for the fremission of sins; fourth, Laying on of ghands for the hgift of the Holy Ghost.

5 We believe that a man must be acalled of God, by bprophecy, and by the laying on of chands by those who are in dauthority, to epreach the Gospel and administer in the fordinances thereof.

6 We believe in the same aorganization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, bprophets, cpastors, dteachers, eevangelists, and so forth.

7 We believe in the agift of btongues, cprophecy, drevelation, evisions, fhealing, ginterpretation of tongues, and so forth.

8 We believe the aBible to be the bword of God as far as it is translated ccorrectly; we also believe the dBook of Mormon to be the word of God.

9 We believe all that God has arevealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet breveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

10 We believe in the literal agathering of Israel and in the restoration of the bTen Tribes; that cZion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will dreign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be erenewed and receive its fparadisiacal gglory.

11 We claim the aprivilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the bdictates of our own cconscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them dworship how, where, or what they may.

12 We believe in being asubject to bkings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in cobeying, honoring, and sustaining the dlaw.

13 aWe believe in being bhonest, true, cchaste, dbenevolent, virtuous, and in doing egood to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we fhope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to gendure all things. If there is anything hvirtuous, ilovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

Once I understood these things, I knew I was ready.  But there was still one thing gnawing at me.  Patriarchal Blessings.  Basically it’s personal revelation given to you by an ordained Patriach, someone who is very close to the spirit.  Well, I just didn’t get it.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  But I wasn’t asking for help either, I was trying to look up the answers myself, and was praying to understand it better.  I’m not someone who generally gets a quick and direct answer to a prayer, but this time I did.  In sunday school class that week, despite the fact that the lesson was not about Patriarchal Blessings, and the fact that I had never asked the teacher about them, he just started talking about them for a good chunk of the class, and it made sense to me.

So that was it for me, a date was set.  I needed to select someone to actually do the baptism.  I picked one of our missionaries, Stephan Harris.  He was at the end of his mission.  The baptism was Sunday before church, and he went home that Wednesday.

I don’t remember too much about my baptism except for how at peace I felt.  I few thoughts kept swirling through my head.  I kept imagining the easiest maze ever.  It was simply a straight path from point A to point B.  But over time, the path would become more complicated and tricky.  The thought I had was something to the effect of “Pure goodness is a very simple thing”  “When you always make the right decisions, the path is not complicated”  stuff like that.  It made me think somewhat about Lehi’s vision, which occurs early in the Book of Mormon, and the concept of enduring to the end.  Doing the right thing, and then sticking with it until the work is through.  Due to some complications with scheduling, it took me a week to get confirmed a member of the Church, but the path was set, and I was on my way.

My next post will be the last of my conversion story, covering what I’ve been up to the last 5 years.  But if there are any questions, or topics you’d like me to cover, send me a message on here, facebook or e-mail, Page017@yahoo.com and I will try to cover them before moving onto other topics.

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About garybraham

I grew up in Mahopac NY, studied geology at Colgate University. I've moved to Queensbury NY to teach HS earth science. I also coach soccer and wrestling, take pictures at local sporting events, and am the Scoutmaster for the Glens Falls ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My wife and I will be married 5 years this October, and we have a two and a half year old little girl.
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