My Journey Into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
By Kelvin Rodeo
Once we got there and sat down in one of the classrooms, they asked if it was okay if they started with a prayer. Oh boy, here it is…they’re gonna start the process of trying to actually convert me now, I thought to myself. “Sure, I guess,” I said to them. So they started off with a short prayer, and then they began what was essentially my first lesson with the Mormon missionaries.
“So, since you asked us so many questions on campus, do you mind if we start off by asking you a few questions, too?” Elder Ebanks asked.
“I guess so,” I replied.
They proceeded to ask me a wide array of questions about what I believed about certain things, such as the afterlife, or why there is suffering in the world, why bad things happen to good people, etc. And every single time that I would answer their questions, they would laugh and open up to a scripture within the Book of Mormon, and then they would ask me to read the few verses that they had pointed out to me. Upon doing so, every time, I began to laugh, myself, because the very verses they had me reading were almost verbatim what I had just told them that I believed. Alright, they might just be onto something here, I thought to myself.
The lesson ended with my curiosity more than piqued, so when they asked me if I’d like to meet with them again, I said, “Sure! I still have a couple of questions that I’d like to ask you guys. But I just want to emphasize again that I have no plans of joining your church, so I don’t want to waste your time if that’s what you intend on happening from these meetings with me. I just want to learn about what you guys believe, but I’m not going to join your church.”
“That’s perfectly fine, we understand. We’d still love to meet with you again, for
sure,” Elder Johnston said. So we scheduled a date and time for the following week. The next time we met, they began to actually teach me what I learned later on (after I had become a member) were the core lessons that missionaries teach to all investigators. Every time I sat down with them, I found myself more and more interested in what they had to say, but I still did not want to join their church, so I would always end our lessons with that little reminder, and they would always respond with saying that it was ok, and so we set dates up for every week after each lesson.
Then, the day came when, despite my many reminders over the previous weeks, they talked to me about baptism. “Knowing all of these things that we have taught you, will you get baptized into our church?” Elder Ebanks asked me.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” I said. “I told you guys from the beginning that I had no intention of joining your church, I just wanted to learn more about what you guys believe, remember?”
“Well, yeah, we understand that,” Elder Johnston said. “But can I ask you a question?”
“Sure, go for it.”
“Why do you think you don’t want to get baptized?”
And then it struck me that I had no idea how to answer his question. I sat there in deep contemplation over what I was going to say, but I couldn’t figure out an answer. “You know, I honestly don’t know,” I told him.
He opened up his scriptures to Mosiah 18:8, and handed them to me. “Would you read verses 8 through 10 for us, Kelvin?” He asked.
“Sure,” I said, and I began to read. “And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?”
There was a brief moment of silence after I finished reading, as I sat in contemplation of what I had just read. What do I have against baptism? I wondered to myself. “What’s going through your mind right now, Kelvin?” Elder Ebanks asked me.
“Well, I’m just thinking that I really can’t think of a reason not to get baptized, but I still don’t feel like I want to join your church,” I replied.
“Do you think you could pray about it tonight?” Elder Johnston asked me.
“Sure, I guess I could,” I said. With that, we scheduled another lesson for the following week and went our separate ways.
That night, as I lay in my bed thinking about what the missionaries had told me, I decided that I really should pray about getting baptized. “Heavenly Father,” I said, “I don’t really want to join any church, but if I really am supposed to get baptized into the Mormon church, please, send me a sign so that I know for sure that that’s what I’m supposed to do.” I nodded off to sleep not long after I said that prayer, and what happened next is something I can only describe as the most in-my-face sign I’ve ever gotten in my life.
I remember having a very vivid dream that night. In this dream, I was dressed in all white and I was inside a room that had these double doors at the front that opened up to reveal a glass panel that showed a deep pit that had steps leading down into it. It was filled with water and had mirrors overhead that displayed the reflection of whatever was happening in the pit to the people in the room. I was being led down the steps and into the water, and all I can remember is that I felt such tranquility in that moment. The rest of the dream was somewhat of a blur to me, but when I woke up, I knew without a doubt that I had received an answer to my prayer and that was the sign that I had asked for.
The next time I met with Elders Ebanks and Johnston, I told them that I would get baptized, and I told them about my dream and how it was a clear answer to my prayer. We then set a meeting date and time for me to take a tour of the church building in Glendale. When I met them at the church for the tour a few days later, I could not believe my eyes. The baptismal room that we walked into was the exact same room that I had seen in my dream! I knew then and there without a shadow of a doubt that my dream truly was a sign from God, and I was determined more than ever to get baptized. We set a date for December 23, 2012 and I agreed to start coming to church every week leading up to that date.
I went to church for a few weeks after that, but then everything changed one day in early December. I got into the biggest fight with my dad that I have ever been in before. Things got real heated real quickly and the situation continued to escalate, and he essentially told me that I was a worthless 23 year-old kid who just sat around playing games or watching TV all day and that I needed to grow up. I was so furious with him at that point that I thought to myself, Well, if he thinks that I’m worthless, then I’m going to prove him right! So from that point on, I completely gave up on life. I stopped going to school, I stopped looking for work, and I stopped replying to the missionaries when they would text me or call me. I sat in my room all day, every day, just watching TV shows and playing games, and I would hardly ever go outside.
I was in this state for a few weeks, and then one day, my mom forced her way into my room and made me explain what was going on. I told her about the fight and said that I no longer had any drive to do anything in my life because if that’s what my own father thinks of me then nothing I ever do will ever be good enough. I guess mothers really do always know exactly what to say, because somehow she convinced me to keep on trying, to keep on pushing forward with my life.
And so that night, I prayed to God and said, “God, if you’re listening, if my mom is right and I’m not completely worthless, then please show me a sign and prove it to me. I’m not asking for a miracle, all I want is a sign. Anything. Please, just show me a sign and prove to me that I’m not this completely worthless waste of a life that I think I am.” I went to bed that night not knowing what the next day might hold for me, but hoping that something good was on the way soon. I guess, at my core, I really did want to go on living, but I had been so battered down by my circumstances that I no longer wanted to believe that.
TO BE CONTINUED...