Former Member Of Unitarian Church
The Symbols Fell Into Place
By Andrew Burns
I have always been interested in the organized
religions of the world, but I had done pretty well without them. So
then why did I decide to finally choose one, and why the LDS church?
I made it a goal for myself to start to attend
religious and/or spiritual functions on a regular basis for the year
2005. My previous employer had always said that I worked way too
hard and way too much and that I needed a balance in my life. OK.
What would that be? Zig Ziglar, one of my
favorite motivational speakers and personal heroes, always talks
about having a balance and strong personal goals in areas of life
including one which I had never had, the religious/spiritual side.
In hindsight, it is ironic that the fraternity I
had joined in college referred to each member as The Balanced Man.
However, I would not be considered such because of my lack of faith
and religion in my life. People have asked me time and time again
what religion I was or if I was Jewish because almost half of our
fraternity was Jewish? I never had an answer, except that I was a
This statement was really a falsehood; I was just
lying to myself as well as to everyone else. My only exposure to
religion was attending a Unitarian church a few times when I was
really young, attending Mass at the Cadet Chapel at West Point when
I lived there, and getting into lengthy conversations with my
grandmother about metaphysics, the New Age, and the Unity Church.
I also happened to take a religion class in
college, which is rather notable since I received my only Dís at
Arizona State University twice after I retook it. However, never
once was the Church of Latter Day Saints mentioned I might add.
Growing up as an only child was tough at times. I had no one to
model for or anyone to model myself after. There was also very
little extended-family interaction.
I always wished for a larger and closer family.
Since my mother had died in 1999 from cancer, I have not since
spoken to anyone on her side of the family? How is that for a
family? Losing two important people from a very small family
already--my grandfather and mother, who simply were amazing
people--made it even more of a challenge. The LDS church believes
families can have an eternal family.
I wanted this, so I truly believed it is possible!
One of the books that my father gave me at an early age, which had a
wonderful impact on my life, was The Seven Habits of Highly
Successful People. I have always wanted to be successful, and I
strive to make this a life-long dream. The author of the book is a
member of the Church and I did not know that some of the basic
principles in his book are based on principles found in the Book of
I was interested more and more by the LDS church
after finding this out. Oddly enough, I love the game show Jeopardy.
And who recently became the reigning champion but another member of
the Church: Ken Jennings. His total winnings on the show were in the
$2 million dollar range. The second closest winner garnered only
about $184,000 in comparison. Strange as it might sound, this was
another tidbit about members of the Church that strengthened my
The gentleman who is considered to have formally
introduced me to the church was Michael Garrow. I had actually met
him when I was a VIP doorman in the club business in 1999. We
instantly hit it off and at the time he was not a convert or even an
investigator. Summer business in Arizona always slows down
especially when the college students were back home and Michael was
at the club on one of our slower nights.
Not being familiar with or having ever seen him,
he had asked to go inside and look around the club before he paid.
Michaelís calm, cool nature intrigued me, and since we were so slow
that evening anyway, there was no harm in letting him in and see the
place. Our relationship did not develop much more than becoming
occasional running partners and we eventually lost touch with each
other. Almost three years since I had last spoken to Michael, I had
sent out an email to all my contacts stating that I had left the
restaurant/service business to begin my new career in my true
calling and passion in life, the personal finance field.
He was one of the only individuals to reply about
his excitement for me and had even told me what he was doing for
work. He had become the CEO of a Native American casino in Idaho
(which is an oxymoron in the church), and he stressed how mentally
successful he had become. I again was intrigued by his statement and
asked what he had done.
Well the main reason I had not seen him for so
long was because he had become a member of the Church. I was
instantly interested in his decision and wanted to learn everything.
He had not only gone to Berkley, but also got his MBA there, so
respect had been fully developed around the time when we first met.
He just so happened to call me on New Yearís Eve
and having the goal to explore a faith in depth, here it was! Since
I was being rather low-key for the first New Yearís since grade
school and just having dinner at my friendís/first clientís house, I
had time for him to explain everything and why he had come to the
church. It all sounded really good and I wanted to learn more.
Michael called the bishop--who was his bishop at
the time of his own conversion--who in turn called me the following
day and invited me to Church that next day. Members had told me that
Bishop Painter was an exception to most bishops in that he was truly
more extraordinary than most. From the first time I met him, he had
not only been a true role model, but an inspiration as well.
Being a convert himself, he told me about how he
came to the Church and the life he wanted to lead. He was always
there for anything that I needed-- a spiritual shrink, in a sense.
If I ever had any questions or issues, he was there for me. Being
interested in the field of psychology, people pay large sums of
money to have people listen to their struggles while an investigator
received this at no charge at all.
I have always wanted that and at that time knew
that I it was finally mine, but in a new way. Another personal
interaction with the Church occurred with the chairman of our
company, who had an instant impact on the associates of our company,
which compiles all non-members.
At a conference from a previous company we had all
been a part of, James Catledge had been the
absolute highlight of the event. Everyone had said that during the
two-day event, the first day was the best because of James and his
powerful speech. He had made an instant impression upon me when I
heard him speak for the first time. Finding out that he was a member
again strengthened my desire to become a member of the Church.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is
a Church of perfection. I have and always will consider myself to be
a perfectionist in a sense. However, while members of the church are
by no means perfect, including myself, the Church itself is. I am
thankful and extremely lucky to have been brought up without a faith
and open to see how all the pieces fell into place.
My father had always stressed to do the right
thing while growing up and I would never have to worry. When someone
had explained to me what Choose The Right (CTR) ring meant again
another symbol piece fell into place. There are a number of reasons
for me to have an interest as an investigator and--as of Friday, May
22, 2005--a new member. In order for non-members and active members
to fully understand my story, I had to write this out.
Every time I read this there are new things that I
add and my testimony grows stronger and stronger. I know that the
LDS is the only true Church of God and that he atoned for all of my
sins. I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and today
Gordon B. Hinckley is as well. I am blessed to have found the Church
and am honored to be around such strong members.