Monday, December 19, 2011

My Conversion

So, for my newest blog post, I've decided to simply regale you with a personal story that's very near and dear to my heart: My conversion story. Now, if you know me pretty well, odds are you've heard this story, at least in part. There are several people out there who know a grand portion of it, many who know all but the finest details, and a few that were there for it. However, even those present from the beginning to the end... well, actually, no one was there from the beginning to the end. But, those who were there for the time of investigating this Church, even they are devoid of some things. So, for those who don't know me or my story, or those who want to learn more, or even for those who just want to hear it again, here it is:
It all started, I guess, when I was born. I was born into a good Christian family, and baptized into the Methodist Church as a baby. There we went for several years before moving to Massachusetts. Upon returning to Colorado, we started attending a Presbyterian church. That lasted another few years, until moving to an Evangelical church. We were pretty well rooted there, and attended regularly for about three years. At the age of twelve, my dad passed away. This shook me to the core. It's never easy to lose a parent, especially at that age. This made me question a lot of things, including the existence of God. Thanks to some friends who already weren't very religious, or who were also at that time questioning the same thing, I very quickly fell away from religion. What at first was simply a dislike for church turned into a dislike of religion, which became very heated and angry. I became hostile and antagonistic to people of faith, especially when they tried to talk to me about it. I would go out of my way to make sure religious people knew that I had nothing to do with their silly ideas. I even remember a specific occasion after a football game at my high school. I went to talk to a friend of mine who was talking to a girl. It quickly came out that she was Mormon, and if there was any religious person I would give a hard time, it was those crazy Mormons. This being the first time I'd ever met her, I still had no problem giving her a hard time about it, making her angry enough to storm off. Yep, that was me.
During this time, from about 13 to 17, I developed some very interesting views on... well, everything. In a nutshell, I was anarchist, atheist (and eventually even nihilist), anti-American, anti-big business, anti-media, anti-... everything. Like the line from the Marlon Brando flick "The Wild One", when he's asked what he's rebelling against, he answers "What've ya got?" That was me! I made my views and opinions very well known, and would never shy away from a debate or argument. At this time, I also grew into a new social/fashion statement, by subscribing to what is commonly referred to as "punk". 9-inch tall, blue mohawk, plaid pants with zippers and patches, band shirts, studded jackets or vests, covered in patches, pins, band logos, etc. Children were terrified of me, their parents even more so, and, at least once, people actually crossed the street to avoid me. I had absolutely no problem with this. I had my group of friends, and they were all I needed.
However, just as is common amongst all teenagers, something had to give. I couldn't just keep this up forever. Cue the Mormon girl. I started working at a movie theatre that my brother worked at shortly after I turned 16. A few months later, a coworker's younger sister started working there too. We started a friendship, mostly based on being coworkers, but it soon became a legitimate friendship. We started hanging out on our time off, and talking pretty frequently. We both were very aware of each others views, and that they conflicted entirely. Eventually, with seemingly no reason, I actually developing feelings for her; feelings that were not reciprocated. After several painful months (painful because of my unreturned feelings, and painful because of how much it reminded me of the typical teenage love story on movies and TV shows), I finally won the girl. The details of this part, and the relationship overall, are unnecessary to the story. After a while (and after winning over her family, which was, believe me, no easy feat), the subject of religion came up. At first, very little. Just a mention or a question here or there. Eventually, those questions started coming from me (the first question I even asked was why they crossed their arms when they prayed, instead of just folding their hands).
I was soon asking a lot of questions, many that my girlfriend couldn't answer. She suggested I ask missionaries. I firmly said no. I then started asking my very good friend, who had some, but not all, the answers. He then referred me to his dad, who was the Bishop. I had a pretty good relationship with him already, so I was okay with that idea. I asked him every single question I could think of. I could tell that this made him, my girlfriend, and her family rather excited. However, once I was done with my questions, I was done. There was no further interest expressed. Some time later, my girlfriend got a restrengthened testimony, and realized just how important the Church really was. She became more persistent in her intents of me at least investigating the Church. After many arguments and excuses on my part, I folded.
I started meeting with missionaries (Elder O'Brien and Elder Higley), at first simply to appease my girlfriend. The first lesson was probably rather rough for them, and I made no intent on showing interest. However, what God wants, He gets. The next time we met, they went over the Plan of Salvation. Something about what they said struck me. I will now make a quick side note: Nothing about an afterlife was new to me, and it wasn't a specific doctrine that they taught me that got me. I can't say that one specific thing they said really made me pay attention. I can't even be sure it was the principles themselves. Simply stated, I felt something as they were talking. I attribute it to it being the Plan of Salvation, with my father having passed away. It may not have been nice to know what actually happened to him, but at least to know that something did happen. Back to the story: They could tell something was impacting me. My demeanor, my posture, everything changed. They cam back with renewed vigor, and finished the lesson. At the lesson, besides the missionaries, were also my girlfriend's dad and the Bishop. At the end of the lesson, my missionaries asked me to say a prayer. I hadn't prayed in about 6 years, and the idea terrified me. Elder O'Brien suggested that we all kneel down, and each person, starting with him, then Elder Higley, then my girlfriend's dad, then the Bishop, would offer a prayer. When it got to me, if I felt inclined to go ahead and pray. If not, I would just give him a little head nod, and he would end it. When the prayer got to me, I was quite ready to have it just end, until, without thinking about it, or what I was saying, and with no recollection of anything I said, even to this day, I offered my first prayer in years. Upon saying Amen, I was greeted with happy, excited faces and handshakes. All I could think was "Oh, crap".
It still took several months to get me ready. In that time I still met with the missionaries and progressed. When I finally decided to be baptized, I told the missionaries "I'll do it, but give me time. I need to tell my family". It took me a long time to work up the courage. I was quite aware of the feelings members of my family had toward the Church, and what they would think if I told them I was joining. Finally, I buckled down, worked up my courage, and broke the news. The reaction was about what I expected. I moved forward anyways. A few weeks later, on July 2nd, 2008, I was baptized by Elder Higley. Elder O'Brien got transferred about a week before. I would like to say that, after this, everything went smoothly and life was grand, but that would be a lie. Don't ask why, don't try to figure it out, and don't try to have me figure it out, but shortly after baptism, I reverted to old ways. I once again denied a God, and did some pretty stupid things. Sometimes, God brings us low, just so He can raise us up. My girlfriend dumped me. Talk about sucky, huh? Amidst lots of moping and self-pity, and more than a little bit of House (great show), I had quite the experience. I was sitting in my living room, watching TV, when, clear as day, I heard a very distinct voice in the back of my head say "God has always been there for you. So has Jesus Christ". Nothing eloquent or fancy, a simple statement just like that. There was no way I would have thought that on my own. Not a chance. Why would someone who denied the very existence of a God have a thought like that? This made me realize that I should at least try this thing out. What would it hurt?
Me with Elder Higley (left) and Elder
After that, I decided to go to church voluntarily. I started going to the student ward with my friend, and making my own friends. Soon, I told my boss I could no longer work Sundays. I was meeting with the missionaries weekly, and reading my scripture and praying. I was making huge changes in my life, and even started admitting, to my friends and to new acquaintances, that I was LDS (however, I was using the term Mormon). About 6 months after I was baptized, I went to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead. A few months after being baptized, I decided I wanted to serve a mission. Almost a year later, I got the Melchizedek Priesthood, being ordained by Elder O'Brien, who had gotten transferred into my student ward. After many other helpful moments, both good and bad, I was finally able to submit my mission papers, and in February got my mission call to labor in the Montana Billings Mission. I reported to the MTC on May 5th, 2010, and have enjoyed every second of it, to this day.
My story is nothing amazing, or even unique. Everyone must have a conversion. At some point, we all need to know that the Church is true. My baptism wasn't anything of extreme import. The only difference between mine and a life-long member was mine was 10 years later than normal. I am so incredibly grateful for the experiences I've had, and for this long process that has brought me to this point. I've experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. As much as I'm grateful for that, I'm grateful for this opportunity to share the Gospel and what I've found for myself with others. I love my Heavenly Father and am eternally indebted to Him for all He's done for me. I love my Savior and His selfless sacrifice for me and everyone. I'm grateful for the people who have helped me along the way and who have impacted me so much. I'm grateful for this Gospel and this Church.
Me after my farewell talk


  1. Elder Holbrook, I am very thankful that I read your blog, on Shakira's suggestion, today. My heart has been touched and I truly needed that. You are very, very precious.

  2. Happened upon your blog by accident and I am so glad I did. Thanks for sharing about your conversion. Reading your story warmed my heart. I converted at age twenty-one and can relate to your experience in many ways. I've put it to the test and life is so much better with the gospel. Wishing you all the wonderful things the gospel brings.