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Former Catholic Church Member

 

I Found The Truth

By Richard Gaines

When JFK was shot in 1963, as a 5 year old and I watched my mom cry....then asked her if I had to die too, and what was going to happen after I died.....I don't remember her specific answers, all I remember is that I was not satisfied with them and for the next 3 years pondered why I existed and where I came from and what lay beyond death.

At 8 I had a singular experience. In the midst of such pondering, I had an almost veil parting experience......a strong impression came to my mind that I lived somewhere before I was born. I was not told in what form or where--just that I did indeed live before birth.

Then, at 14, my dad informed me that two years before I was born, I had an older brother born who lived a few hours and then passed away. Being lukewarm Catholics, I knew he needed to have been "baptized" (aka : sprinkled) before he died in order to avoid purgatory.

So I asked my dad right then and there was Maurice baptized (no). What then followed was a private examination or re-evaluation of my church's beliefs.

Maurice was going to spirit hell (purgatory) because, through no fault of his own, he was not baptized? Something he had no control over consigned him to endless suffering? How could this be? This was not fair. This was not just. God would do this to a baby?

Yet, I knew the Catholic church was the largest Christian church by far, and to my mind, that HAD to be evidence it was the Church of Christ on earth.

I had already concluded that the Protestant reformation of Luther and others rendered them to be apostate splinter groups of the mother tree; they had severed and broke away from the true church of God and were therefore categorically wrong.

There could be but one true faith, and Catholicism HAD to be it. History was on its side. But my history education was deficient to be sure! I only THOUGHT I was knowledgeable about the history of Catholicism.

But back to my story. "So" , I reasoned to myself, " God's church condemns little babies to purgatory because they did not get baptized before the die? Well, if it is the case that God is the author of such unfairness, I could care less about God--I want nothing to do with him, or "his" church. Within 30 minutes I was a quiet atheist.

6 months later, my older brother Glenn (by 4 yrs), my mortal Messiah, my 1st team ALL-CIF stud linebacker-brother with the most beautiful cheerleader/girlfriend in the whole Antelope Valley High School--MY HERO whom I wanted to pattern my life after, was accidentally shot.

I had come home to an empty house-except for grandma un-expectedly being there. After learning Glenn was in surgery, I went to the bathroom and locked the door.

A young atheist now had a crisis. My atheism was put to a severe test. I could not afford to lose my earthly messiah figure! An avalanche of tears started, and then a "fox-hole" rudimentary prayer ensued, begging a favor of Someone who I did not know even existed.

Well, Glenn survived!! So I converted. I was no longer an atheist. I was an agnostic. I was open to the possibility that God did exist, just not convinced--yet. At 17, Joanie and I were breaking up.

I went back to Catholic mass seeking help and answers, after 45 minutes I left, concluding I was getting no answers because of ME. I determined to come back the next Sunday and try again.

The next week I did so, and after 30 minutes I concluded the problem was NOT me. I left, never to return again. Joanie and I did not make it. I did not cry.

At 18, I climbed the ladder at the music store, and was the manager in short order. I had money, a degree of status and popularity, I had women chasing me.

I had it all--or so I thought. Then, despite these worldly elements gobbling up most of my time and attention, I began to ponder while at the store what was my purpose in life. I intuitively knew these things were leaving me empty.

I was hungry for something, I just could not put my finger on it. I even considered going home and attempting a prayer. This went on for two months. This desire grew sufficiently strong that I decided to DO IT.

With the best of intentions I would leave the store determined to fulfill this idea of praying once home. For some reason I would get distracted and fail to follow through [ in retrospect, I now know WHO was distracting me from reaching out in prayer ].

But finally I DID do it. An interesting phenomenon then followed. I began to see what I thought were New York Life Insurance salesmen around town. I would see them everywhere it seemed, for two weeks straight.

Lancaster in the summer hits 110 degrees often, and these two guys wearing dark slacks, white shirts, ties and sunglasses(!) would be RIDING BIKES!! [ I thought to myself, wow, you guys must be really bad at what you do--can't even afford a car...tsk, tsk]

One day these two bad salesmen came into "my" store to buy rock music on cassette (this was 1977 folks). Hard rock music--NOT the carpenters. I noticed they had name tags on. Strangely, both were named Elder, so my curiosity got to me as I am pulling down the Rolling stones and Neil Young for them.

"What is with the same first name of elder?" oh that is just a Church title we have. "So what is it that you guys do?" We teach people about our Church and how it got started.

"oh." [at least I now knew the were not from NY Life...I could see they were from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which I did not then realize was connected to Mormonism, which I knew very little about---only thing I knew about Mormons was Brigham Young leading 150 of them west to settle Utah]. They paid for their music, and walked out--without asking me if I would like to know more.

So, the Lord then sent a woman when the elders failed to recognize a golden opportunity. A BEAUTIFUL blonde woman (we will call her Carola). A beauty queen who happened to be a Latter-day Saint.

Gary had opened a 2nd store in Palmdale, and I, as the #1 man, was sent to run it. Pictures of Gary and I were put in the local newspaper. Carola saw the pictures, and decided to come down to the new store under the guise of buying something.

She then kept coming back, hanging around the store 3-4 times a week, for 30-90 minutes each time. This went on without fail for 5 months. I knew she wanted to be my girlfriend, but I hated women at that time because of Janie betraying me. Over time though, even the hardest of hearts cant resist such a beautiful face.

One day at the store, I took the name of the Lord in vain. Carola asked me why I had to talk that way. { already having a deep mistrust of organized religion because of previous ruminations laid out herein, I saw Carolas gentle rebuke as an effort to convert me to Mormonism ).

I told Carola in no uncertain terms, that I am who I am, that I would NEVER be a Mormon, that her man-made church is like the rest--there to collect money from people--and if she ever brought up her religion again in any way it would be the LAST TIME she would ever see me.

Which is why what she did is so remarkable. Two months later, she came right out and bore her testimony to me. Now I will admit that by this time, she had painstakingly, brick-by-brick pulled down my "wall."

She took a great risk of losing the relationship, but her faith and testimony was a fire burning within her, and she could not contain. I did not end the relationship as promised [ there is a lesson in that for all of us ].

One months later she asked me if I would allow her to take me to dinner in LA (for my birthday) and "could we then go to the temple visitor center afterward?" I STILL had my wall up against organized religion, but because I now loved her back, and because I felt some degree of sheepish guilt (for my rebuke of her earlier), I felt some necessity or obligation to her to make it up to her, so I said yes.

I had no idea what I was up against. When I saw the display, side-by-side, of Jesus amongst the Jews and John 10:16 being quoted, and Jesus amongst the neophytes/laminates and 3rd Nephi 15:21 being quoted, it conjured up a remembrance of something taught me in the 5th grade (by my conniving, non-disclosing Mormon teacher...)

When Columbus, Hernando Cortez and Francisco Pizarro arrived on the shores of the New World, EACH of them was received as the returning "white, bearded God" who had once visited their forefathers, who had promised to return one day in the future.

I bright light clicked on in my head!! This made total sense!! THAT is why these Spanish explorers of the New World were mistaken for a returning God--because Jesus WAS that God who visited them centuries earlier.

The missionaries knocked on my door two weeks later. STILL resisting their "organized religion" smell, I began to shut the door, but something stopped me, and I agreed to hear them--but NOT at my dads house.

We had the first discussion at the ward building the next day, and when the flip chart showed a young, 14 yr old boy, looking up at two bright heavenly beings, I knew upon sight it was an event that actually occurred. The elders asked me if I believed it could be true. I told them I could totally believe it happened, because in my own searching's I also became disillusioned in the religions of the day.

They asked me to be baptized. I gave them a qualified, tentative "yes"...with the caveat that I needed to hear more first before I committed to that drastic step.

The next day they taught me the plan of salvation....including the doctrine of the pre-earth life!! [ I was now beginning to get excited inwardly...].

They quoted me Jeremiah 1:4-5. They asked me what I thought of the idea that we lived with God before as spirits? I told them I could EASILY accept that, for at the age of 8 I had it revealed to me that I did indeed live somewhere before I was born in the flesh!!

They again asked me if I would be baptized. Intuitively I sensed that this was not some man made church. But I HAD to know, "Do any of your ministers or pastors get paid?" When they told me no one gets paid, everybody serves for free, I got REALLY excited!! So, THIS time I did not give them a qualified yes....I gave them an UNEQUIVOCAL, RESOUNDING, YES!!!!

I was myself on a mission for the Lord 14 months later!!
 

 

 

 

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