One of my great friends Emily was converted a couple years ago. I'm pretty sure she knows WAY more about the church than I do, and she is one of the most intelligent people I know. Her faith and spirituality are rock solid. I NEVER would have guess she has only been converted for a few years!
After hanging out one day, I asked her about her conversion story and how she even found out about the "Mormons" since she grew up in a very Catholic family out here in the Midwest. After hearing her story, I felt the need to share it with you all... so here it is! Enjoy.
We in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are hearing our beloved leaders encourage us more and more to use social media to hasten the Lord's work as missionaries and members. It may seem repetitive, and even I have fallen into the trap of idleness - saying or thinking something like "Oh another missionary talk... yeah, yeah I get it. I could give this talk myself by now."
Then I had an opportunity recently to reflect on my own conversion a few years ago. I realized that without the Internet, specifically Facebook, my story would be a lot different. I may not even be a member today without it.
I had a lot of frustrations about religion at the beginning of high school. I longed to be closer to God, but I felt that I had hit a spiritual wall and could not grow any more without help. I talked about it with church leaders and visited other churches, but nobody seemed to have an answer besides "just keep trying."
I met a friend in high school who gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon. I practically begged him for it - I felt a burning in my heart to ask him more and more questions about his church, and his answer to me was this book. Great missionary story right? He gave me the book, and I got baptized... But it was not quite so simple.
We didn't talk about anything to do with the Church for months after he gave me the Book of Mormon. It wasn't until the next school year when he asked me - via Facebook message - if I had read it. His message was short, casual, simple, and private. I did not feel pressured to answer like I may have felt had we been talking in person. But it was the proverbial kick in the pants that I needed in order to start seriously thinking about my relationship with God again.
So, I read. As I read I had questions. I felt comfortable asking my friend questions online - out of the sight of friends at school and under the radar of my parents.
As I got more interested, my parents got more fearful. I could only meet with missionaries every other month or so because of this. I bet I frustrated many a companionship, and many missionaries probably thought little of my progress. What they didn't know is that <i>I was learning so much when they weren't looking</i>.
I hope all missionaries understand that the Restoration is a HUGE concept for anyone of mainstream Christianity to process and accept. For most people, it takes longer than a few discussions. I was quiet during their lessons. I was soaking in their facts and their beliefs, and later I would go home to ponder and process. THEN I had more questions, but the missionaries couldn't be my resource. Back to the Facebook PM I went.
I had time to step back and ask meaningful questions, not because we were pressed for time or the Elders had other appointments or it was getting late. I could ask a question whenever I thought of it, and my friend would consider my questions, study the scriptures, and find an answer for me. He had time to search, study, pray, and clarify for me in a way that he would not in normal conversation. He also directed me to mormon.org where I could find many answers myself and links to scriptures in D&C and the Pearl of Great Price. With so many resources at my fingertips, the internet became my key to understanding truth.
After months of this, I was looking online one day at pictures of temples. I had found a website that someone had created in their own time - not an official Church website. As I was looking, I felt the same burning in my heart. I suddenly thought, "I don't want to live my life without this Church." I knew I wanted to FINALLY wanted to be baptized.
Most of my initial growth in the Gospel was facilitated by discussion through social media and the online tools available by the Church and by members. Many of these members have never met me, and I don't even know who they are... but their influence and testimonies borne online helped me learn at a critical time of my life.
I was spiritually prepared to receive the Gospel, but I needed help. I was searching, and there are others who are still searching today. Things you post online can answer people's prayers if they are looking for truth. I have a testimony of online missionary work, and I hope we can all remember that this is not something about which to say "Oh yeah, another talk about missionary work..."