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Former Catholic Church Member


"A More Compassionate Person"

By T.J. Leyden

My wife Julie and I were married on May 19th 2001. I was raised Catholic and was not into the whole church thing for more than fifteen years.

Julie had been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all her life, although she had not been very active in the Church. Still, she had never, ever lost her testimony. When "we" became pregnant, Julie wanted our baby to be blessed in the LDS church.

I had studied enough religions and philosophies to know I didn't have any desire to get roped into anything. I found so many different ideologies fascinating, even before my studies at the Wiesenthal Center, but none of them worked for me.

"Why don't you give me a Book of Mormon?" I asked, "So I can understand why this is so important to you. But don't get any ideas, I am not converting."

My mother-in-law gave me Julieís old copy of her scriptures right before I left for a two-day trip. By the time I returned, I had read all the way to Alma, in the middle of the thick book.

I was intrigued, inspite of myself. I finally told her mother to have the missionaries stop by. I told her not to get her hopes up. A couple of days later, two young men came by. I talked to them with such enthusiasm and passion in a way I don't think anyone ever talked to them during their entire two-year mission.

"Iíve got a bunch of questions," I told them. They answered as many as they could in the time we had, and I wanted more answers. I asked if they could come back the next day. They had other appointments, but agreed to return in a few days.

By the time they visited three days later, I was done reading the Book of Mormon. They asked me to pray about it. But I already knew it was true, like nothing I'd ever read or known before in my life. At that point it was just formalities, but I still had more questions.

The missionaries came to teach me all the discussions so I would have a good background on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) beliefs. My son, Tommy, asked to sit in on the discussions. He was 11, and was intrigued by the spirituality of these two young men and the changes he was beginning to see in me in so short a time.

We went through all the lessons. Before the last lesson on baptism, the missionaries asked if I wanted to be baptized. Before I could answer, Tommy called out, "I want to be baptized!" Well, so did I, so we were baptized the same day: June 22, 2002.

Shortly thereafter, my younger son, Konrad, started taking the lessons, as well. What we didnít know is that he had been listening in the hallway as Tommy and I were taking the lessons! When Konrad turned eight, I had the privilege of baptizing him," which was one of the greatest honors and blessings Iíve ever experienced.

Since then, I have baptized and confirmed all my sons, except Gavyn, who was born later that year, and as of this writing is too young to be baptized. Mormons believe that the age of reason (being able to tell right from wrong) is the age of eight. Julie became active in the church again, too.

One thing that becoming a member of the LDS church has brought me is that I am definitely a better husband and father. If you ask my kids, they'll tell you straight up that I'm now a better dad.

Some things are more apparent than others, but I became acutely aware of my responsibilities towards my sons, and how even little actions make a difference. Even with the changes I made in my life, turning away from the Movement, people who know me the best say that Iíve grown more since Iíve joined the Church than I ever did before.

There has been one major ramification that I was not quite prepared for. In all my years as a Skinhead, Nazi thug, and then as a "traitor" against the Skinhead movement, I never, EVER felt the sting of prejudice. Never, ever had I experienced the other, bitter side of bigotry, judgment, labeling and discrimination until I became a member of the LDS Church.

People have judged me much more harshly by my religion than even my tattoos. If Mormons believed in karma then it would make perfect sense. People have talked down to me, told me I was crazy, wrong, stupid, ignorant, and even delusional. I am learning as much from this situation as any experience I have been through. I only hope it serves to make me a more compassionate person.





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