5 Things I Saw in Latter-day Saints That Opened My Heart to the Gospel of Jesus Christ: A Convert's Perspective



I did not grow up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was just baptized a year and a half ago.  Many of my friends and colleagues knew me as a really nice girl who drank a lot of coffee. They were surprised to hear that I joined the church, and I would get these anxious calls that went something like this:

"Melissa, I heard the craziest rumor that you joined the church. Is it true??"

The tone of their voice when asking contained a bit of judgment (like are you crazy?) and fear. They were asking a question, but also making a statement about their opinions of the church. These interactions made me think about people, their hearts, and what underlies their fearful questions.

Experience has taught me that most people are looking for peace and happiness. The world teaches people that happiness comes through the pursuit of self, money, power, and numerous other false beliefs. In the U.S., we spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on books and classes that promise to teach the path to happiness but often push people further away from God. Many people are searching, but how is it that people get to a point where their hearts are open to listening to the gospel message?


Does hitting people over the head with doctrine convert them? Does judgment compel people to come to Christ?  Do arrogance and pride draw people in? I don’t think so.

I observed five characteristics of Latter-day Saints that made me want to learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They had something I desired, and I wanted to learn how to obtain it.

1. A calmness that emanated a spirit of peace and love

I listened when I felt peace and love around a person. As I observed how some inspiring yet imperfect people lived, I sensed the peace and happiness that they felt even in the midst of challenging situations. I recall my running buddy, Marci, and her husband Jeff, who are both members of the church. Their daughter died last year unexpectedly and she was only 22. She left a son that they are now raising. Losing a child is among the most difficult of life’s challenges. I watched how they responded. It was amazing. They were so sad, but not broken. They knew they would see her again and they had faith in God’s promises. I am sure that they had very dark moments, but they held on. They smile and still help others. They still serve. They still have a heart of gratitude. They are truly converted and it helped to convert me.  

2. Patience and faithfulness
                                     
Others helped in many ways, but the underlying observation was the same – I felt peace and happiness around them that was present even when life was hard. I was curious about the source of the peace. My best friend Jamie, who is also a convert, was patient and faithful. Over the years, she consistently lived the life. She did the right things for the right reasons, and she loved me, and my children, despite my lack of willingness to hear the Gospel message for years. Jamie and I were friends for five years before my heart was open to listening to the Gospel message. I thank God for her faith, prayers, and patience. It mattered.

3. A desire to be inclusive before I was interested in the church

I think of Julie and Josh and how our sons have been best friends for years – even before I was interested in the church. I never felt excluded or judged. I also did not feel like our friendship was conditional on me believing exactly as they did. I felt that they cared about us as people and I appreciated them seeing the good in my family and me. I appreciated their genuine friendship.

4. A willingness not to judge

Marc, who is now my husband, was a great example. I met him before I had a testimony of the Gospel. I never felt judged by him. His peace, which I could not understand at the time, drew me in; and his nonjudgmental attitude allowed me to learn without being defensive. He is the best man I know. His patience and faithfulness changed my life.

5. True discipleship

The common thread in the people who impacted my life was their sincere desire to follow the example of Jesus Christ. I think the first step in missionary work is to fully embrace the Gospel message personally and become converted. We have to truly love Christ and the Gospel plan more than we love our jobs and our hobbies and our possessions. But how do we become converted?

Elder D. Todd Christofferson has taught that conversion occurs when we make the gospel of Jesus Christ the very core of what we are and we do this by:[1]

1. Laying aside pride, i.e., the attitude that rejects the authority of God to rule in our lives.
2. Truly studying the scriptures. For the gospel to be written in your heart, you need to understand it more.
3. Praying for pure love. This love is given to those who ask for it with all of their heart (see Moroni 7:47–48). Tasting this love is a major part of your conversion because once you have felt your Savior’s love for you, a love for Him and for your Heavenly Father will grow. You will want to do what they ask.

4. Serving others. To be converted, you must not only open your heart to a knowledge of the gospel and the love of God, you must practice the gospel law. You must look outward and care about others. As you do, the gospel of Jesus Christ will become a part of you.
5. Offering yourself as a gift - As you seek the blessing of conversion, you can offer the Lord the gift of your broken, or repentant, heart and your contrite, or obedient, spirit. In reality, it is the gift of yourself—what you are and what you are becoming. Is there something in your life that is unworthy? When you get rid of it, that is a gift to the Savior. Is there a good habit or quality that is lacking in your life? When you make it part of your character, you are giving a gift to the Lord. Sometimes this is hard to do, but would your gifts of repentance and obedience be worthy gifts if they cost you nothing?

I started with a story about how my friends ask if I had joined the church. The tone of their questions can elicit a defensive response, but that is not how I respond. I smile and have compassion. I tell them a little about what I believe and a lot about the peace and happiness I now feel, even when life is challenging. They believe me because they can see it in my eyes and feel the peace that stems from faith in Jesus Christ. I then ask if they want to learn more about the church. Most of the time I just get a smile and a “no thanks.” But, the door is open and I believe that they know they can come to me for nonjudgmental answers to questions they have about the church. I have a testimony that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, our Redeemer, and the head of our church. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet who restored the church and I am thankful for his courage. I feel the Spirit when President Monson speaks and I know that his words come from our Father in Heaven. I am so thankful for knowledge of the Gospel, for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, for temples, eternal families, and for true peace. I say these things humbly in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Melissa F. Western is a professor in the School of Business at the University of Utah and is on sabbatical this year at BYU. She joined the church in January 2014. She grew up attending a non-denominational church, but grew discouraged with what she observed. In her heart, she knew that actions revealed the characteristics of the heart. She left her church and tried to be a good person on her own, but without the help of the Spirit, those efforts were not fruitful. In 2011, a tragedy brought her to her knees and she knew she had to quit trying to be good on her own and find the right path. Her quest began, and she spent the next few years studying the scriptures, praying, seeking wisdom, and trying to follow the Savior’s example as best she could. In January of 2013 she prayed differently and communicated to Heavenly Father that she was ready to do whatever it took to follow Jesus Christ. She prayed to be shown the path and she committed to follow it. A few months later, her world changed as her heart opened to the Gospel plan and she realized that there is a way to feel peace, to know right from wrong, to become better than we could be on our own, and to be forgiven. She first met with the missionaries in October of 2013 and was baptized in January of 2014.  


7 comments

  1. Melissa I love this. We miss you and hope all is going well for you!!!

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  2. This is so wonderful. Melissa, I am so glad you wrote this! I have heard wonderful things about your for years. Both Scott and I admire you very much!

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  3. Enjoyed your article, Melissa. May God continue to bless you and your family.

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  4. These all seem like reasons one might give for converting to many different faith traditions. I personally know Muslims, Catholics, and evangelicals who would fit the five characteristis the author outlines.

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  5. Melissa, thank you for this very heartfelt story of your conversion.
    To me, the Spirit works much like the little parlor game of “warmer-warmer, colder-colder”. If we continue throughout our lives to follow the “warmer-warmer” feelings as you have done, we will end up where we want to be.
    As the scriptures tell us:
    “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy;” (D&C 11:13)
    “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.” (D&C 42: 61)

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  6. I have friends named Julie and Josh who live in FW and have sons. Would they be your Julie and Josh?

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