I’m a Mormon, an USAF Sergeant, and a Father

About 12 years ago, I became a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; a Mormon.

Shortly after moving into a 2-bedroom apartment with a friend, we had a house warming party with plenty of friends and booze. I had just got my own BBQ, a gas burner grill. It was awesome and the party was a perfect opportunity to break it in.

I told my girlfriend, an “inactive member” of the LDS church, “…we should go to church this weekend.”

Surprised and thinking I was joking and/or drunk, she said “Oh yeah! Which one?!”

“Well yours of course!”

This led to us discovering and rediscovering the church. We located our assigned meetinghouse on LDS.org and determined our meeting time. My girlfriend was astonished that I was serious. She had not displayed any interest in going back to church, so it was a mystery why I even thought of this idea, but I’m glad I did.

We parked in the lot and walked in to the building…

One step in the door and I immediately knew without a doubt, this was the place to be. I had a feeling; more than a gut feeling. The holy spirit washed over me. I was warm, happy and calm. I wasn’t flushed and warm. Or nervous about an incredibly new path for me. Nope, I felt safe and welcome. I felt home. Some people describe it as a “pillar of light” story, but there was no pillar of light. I did feel like I was basking in the glory of the lord though. That is not an exaggeration, that is how truly amazing this feeling was to me.

We walked into the chapel, greeted by the missionaries with a program for the meeting, called Sacrament Meeting. My girlfriend wanted to sit in her comfort zone, toward the back, maybe off to the side. I was so moved by the experience, I dragged her to the front of the row of pews. She resisted at the end, so I compromised and we sat in the second row from the front.

A typical meeting starts with an opening hymn, giving everyone time to get situated and sit down. Next, a member of the congregation, preselected by the bishop, comes to the stand and delivers an opening prayer. After the prayer, the bishop or one of his assistants ‘conducts’ the meeting by delivering any information about church business or callings. A calling is when you are given a responsibility in the church. Every position in the church is a result of a calling. Sunday school teachers, children’s teachers, even the organist and musical conductor, are called. The next part is sacrament, which is why it’s called Sacrament Meeting. We take a small piece of bread and a tiny cup of water. These represent the sacrifices of Jesus Christ. In doing this, along with the prayer, we can be forgiven of our sins.

The rest of the time is given to a couple members who have been called to give a talk. This is one of my favorite things about the Mormon church, rather than the pastor or bishop or other leader spending the whole time at the altar or stand, members research a given topic and deliver a speech about it. Young teens to elderly may be up there giving a speech. This is an inspired way for everybody to learn about the given topics. The speaker does their research, potentially learning something new every time. And the congregation gets to hear even an old topic from a brand-new angle.

The whole time we sat there, I was nearly giddy yet simultaneously calm. It was like a feeling of pure joy. After this meeting, we met with the bishop and introduced ourselves. His name was Bishop Lemuel Galuka. As such an unusual name, I have remembered it all along.

The next step was to talk to the missionaries. They teach people interested in the church, or “investigators,” about the gospel through “the discussions.” The discussions are a series of lessons, basically describing what makes the LDS church different from other churches. We spent a lot of time with the missionaries during this time. And it was a wonderful spiritual time.

I remember when I was younger and a pair of missionaries came to my friend’s door. We hid and turned out the lights, just hoping they’d leave. Now, having met upwards of 50 different missionaries, male and female, I feel bad looking back at this. I have had a positive experience with nearly every single one. They are very respectful, they always ask first if they can share a spiritual message, even though I am a member. Missionaries follow some rules which may seem strange, but are intended to protect them and to protect you; primarily to avoid situations where one or another’s actions could be called into question.

My girlfriend and I got married. Now we were not living together in sin and I had been attending church; doing everything right. After this I could get baptized. Everybody was very supportive, including my parents who were not of any faith. My wife’s parents came out and her father baptized me.

I recently learned something interesting about the baptism process as we do it. You may have heard of the term born-again, well, the LDS church baptizes by full immersion in water. The font, or pool of sorts which we are baptized in is below ground. Symbolically, when you’re baptized, the old you is buried; laid to rest.  When you come out of the water, you are reborn; resurrected. You are born again, Christian.

During the eleven years of my marriage, we found it difficult at times to attend church. We moved quite a few times, to different wards and different towns, even states. It became to easy for us not to attend church. We had four kids, for whom we should have prioritized church, but we didn’t. Like so many parts of our marriage, we failed. Looking back, I’ve realized many things; many failures. Most importantly, when we were not active in the church, life was hard and we struggled. When we were active and attending church regularly, life was good and love prevailed. At the end of our marriage, getting to church was a struggle.

Now that I am divorced, I am finding my way back to the church I strayed from during my marriage. It is a great feeling to come back to the church. I am blessed. I feel blessed. At first, many of the ladies in the church seemed to be on my ex-wife’s side, but now they have warmed up to me. It seems every week, somebody introduces themselves to me. I feel welcome. Like a homecoming, and I’ve been gone far too long.



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