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Former Catholic Church Member


There Was A Hole In My Heart That I Could Never Fill

By Paula Vario

When I was 15 years old I got married. But that's not the story I wish to tell right now. I want to tell you how I was converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

My new husband, Tom, was L.D.S. as was his whole family. His mom wanted me to be baptized into the Church right away.

She arranged for the missionaries to come and teach me the lessons. I sat through the lessons, but my stubbornness kept the Spirit at arms length, and I declined the invitation to baptism. I had only been to the Catholic Church for Catechism and Mass, and felt that even though I had never been baptized, I was a Catholic.

During the next year or so I took the lessons again for my mother-in-law, Billie, with the same result.

Then, when I was 17, I became pregnant with my son, Bill. We were living in the small town of Altamont, Utah. Tom was driving and truck and working in the oil fields. We had a little trailer there and I spent all of my time waiting for Tom to come home.

One day there was a knock on my door. Two young missionaries were on my doorstep wondering if I would like to learn about my Savior, Jesus Christ. I was lonely, and invited them in. In those days, the rules weren't quite so strict about teaching women alone in their homes.

My first baby had died at just 27 hours into his life. I was 16 and almost died myself. So, as I listened to the young elders talk about families being together forever, I began to soften.

I listened to the lessons and decided to get baptized. I was a bit scared of the whole childbirth thing and at least, if anything went wrong this time, I wouldn't die unbaptized. I was eight months pregnant when we went to the stake center and sealed the deal.

I went to Church with my missionaries exactly one time after I got baptized, and left half way through Sacrament Meeting. I became ill and went home, and that was that.

Through the years that followed, I went to Church a few times, but never regularly. Life was busy and the kids came and the first husband went. I never should have married at all at 15, but you know what they say about hindsight.

Then, when I was 27, married to a wonderful man, kids growing, working hard, I felt like there was just a hole in my heart that I could never fill. I was still mourning the loss of my first little boy. My mom and I were avid readers of romance novels. It passed time for her and provided an escape from everyday life for me.

One day, my mother gave me a book called "Woman of Destiny" by Orson Scott Card. She said it was about Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church and was a really good read. I told her no thanks. Even though I didn't go to Church, I didn't want to read anything negative about it. She kept trying to give it to me until I finally gave in and took the book.

As I said before, I loved my husband. But our family life was not perfect. Harry drank quite a bit and ran around with is buddies. I was always at work or home with the kids. It frustrated me, but I didn't know what to do about it.

One night, Harry was out as it was Friday night. I picked up the book Mom had given me and began to read. It was so interesting, and touching. I had always had a problem with polygamy. It was a real spiritual stumbling block for me. But in his book, Mr. Card really helped me understand.

It was as though I was living through those earliest years of the Church and felt their doubts and struggles, their hopes and their joys. Before I realized it, I looked at the clock when I heard Harry's friends pouring him out in the driveway. It was almost four in the morning! I helped Harry in and got him to bed.

Then next morning I finished the book. With tears streaming down my cheeks I knelt by my bed and prayed for probably the first time in my life. Truly prayed to Father in Heaven to show me what He wanted me to do. I was still on my knees when the doorbell rang.

I dried my eyes and went to the door. It was my visiting teachers! Edna still had an apron on and her partner, Bonnie, asked if they could please come in and talk to me for a bit.

She told me she was sitting in her house down the street from me practicing the songs she would play in Relief Society the following day when she suddenly got the feeling that they needed to come and see me, fast! She ran down the street and pulled Edna away from baking bread and they came to my house.

At that, I burst into a fresh bout of tears and told her what I was doing when they rang my bell.

Bonnie invited me to Church with them the following day. At nine o'clock the next morning I was ringing her doorbell. We sat in Sacrament Meeting and it was great. Our closing hymn was How Great Thou Art.

After meeting she handed me to another sister who took me to Sunday school and then took me back to Bonnie for Relief Society. Then after that, Bonnie said that she had decided during our closing hymn to invite me to join the choir, so we stayed for choir practice! It was a blast, I didn't realize that Church could be so fun!

Two years later, Harry and I were sealed to my little Tommy by proxy in the Jordon River Temple. And I'm happy to say that even though he's no longer really "active" he has a strong testimony and has not been "poured" into our driveway since.

My patriarchal blessing said that the majority of my work would be with the children of the church. I've been in almost every Primary position at least once and I'm still there 24 years later. And I was brought to them by a sweet mother pushing a romance novel!





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