“Diary of a Convert,” Ensign, July 1988, 24
17 July 1960
Today I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I told my sister Marilyn, she said, “Why did you do that?” When I told Mom and Daddy, they responded as if they didn’t want to hear it—as if I had done something wrong. They don’t understand. No one does, not even Norm.
My decision to join the Church had not been an easy one. I knew no active members of the Church. Everyone close to me was either antagonistic or indifferent to what I had done. My husband, Norman, was afraid that I would push him to reactivation in the Church. I felt alone.
Every week the missionaries would ask, “Well, Sister Sorensen, there will be a baptismal service this Saturday. Will you be ready?”
Over and over, I gave the same reply, “No, I don’t think so.”
As the elders taught me the precepts of the gospel of Jesus Christ, my questions about life were answered. Using reason and logic, along with my prayers, the truth of the doctrines became crystal clear. I wanted to shout to the world, “At last I have discovered meaning to life! It is true! It is true!”
Yet, in spite of all my zeal, I was terrified to be baptized. I was taunted by thoughts such as: “Mom and Daddy won’t like it. They’ll be so upset with me. Norm doesn’t really want me to. I don’t want to be called a Mormon. People think Mormons are strange. I used to think that myself.”
I was young and distraught with fears of not being accepted. But I was convinced that what I had been taught was true. Knowing that, I could not turn away; and so, lacking the courage to be baptized, I sought the Lord.
One night I had gone to bed early—a rare occurrence for me. I could not sleep; my mind wrestled with the same indecision. In total surrender and frustration, I cried to Heavenly Father, “Father, I think that the Church is true. I believe that what I have been taught is right, but in order to stand up to those who will be against me, please, I must know for sure. Then I will be baptized.”
Immediately I experienced a spiritual bathing that would change the course of my life and, consequently, the lives of others around me. A wave of warm light washed over my body. It seemed to enter at the crown of my head and flow through my body to my feet. I felt that I surely must be glowing. Like the prophet Lehi, I tasted of the love of God, which “filled my soul with exceedingly great joy.” (1 Ne. 8:12.)
One week later I was baptized. None of my family came except my husband, who came reluctantly. The months that followed were disheartening; my acceptance of the gospel seemed to alienate me from both my husband and my family. There were times when I wanted to run from my decision—run from the theological concepts and organization—but I could not run away from the experience I had had that night. I could not run away from the love of God, for it was too sweet, too precious.
In time, things began to change:
28 August 1961
Today Norm, Donnie, and I drove down to San Jose to attend the baptism of my sister, Anita. I cannot believe it! The Spirit was vibrant as we—the six of us—-gathered together in a little room of an old chapel. My sister has never looked more beautiful!
My sister Anita and I grew up together—she was eighteen months older. Soon after I began the missionary discussions, she became interested and joined me in the evenings to discuss the gospel with the missionaries. Actually, Anita had been contacted by some elders earlier, but after one discussion, she realized that neither the time nor the place was right to investigate the merits of Mormonism. Daddy was very opposed to all religions—a conclusion he reached after years of studying religious history and seeing the crimes that were commited in the name of Christianity.
Daddy’s feelings were still so intense when Anita started meeting the missionaries in our home that she stopped coming. Even that caused resentment. The time was right for her, wrong for Daddy.
She left for San Jose State College in the fall, and the following spring she once again began studying the gospel. By August she was ready. One month later, she began attending Brigham Young University.
1 March 1963
Tonight my sister Marilyn had her first discussion with the missionaries. I have been teaching her for some time now. It’s difficult to believe it is happening! She asked to be baptized tomorrow, and she wants Norm to baptize her. I thought Norm was going to faint. He’s been going to Church, but he still smokes. He told her, “Marilyn, either of these missionaries can baptize you. You don’t have to have me.”
She was adamant. “If you won’t do it, then I won’t be baptized.”
He just stood there warming himself by the wall heater. Finally, he said, “I will do it.”
After they left, he threw his last pack of cigarettes away. Is this for real?
The next day my husband went to see the bishop. This kind bishop allowed him to baptize my sister with the agreement that he would keep the commandments. When my husband came out of the baptismal font, he, too, had experienced a rebirth. On the way home he smilingly said, “Now, Honey, I think it’s time that you and I were sealed in the temple; we can’t put these things off, you know.” This has been my great desire for the past three years!
One month later he was ordained an elder. One month after that, we traveled with our two tiny sons to the Manti Temple where, like generations of Sorensens before us, we were sealed as a family.
7 June 1963
Today Norm and I went through the temple with Harvey and Anita. They were sealed in the Los Angeles Temple. We believe that Heavenly Father has blessed Anita and me so that we could be together for this occasion. Who would have guessed that we would be sealed to our husbands just over one week apart! And just two months after Marilyn’s baptism!
Still my heart yearned for my family—Mom and Daddy, my brothers.
Daddy and I seemed to lock horns whenever the subject of religion came up—until one night.
23 November 1963
I’ve had it. I don’t know why I even talk to my dad about the Church. Every time I try to convince him that the Church is true, he won’t listen. Tonight I asked him, “Daddy, why are you an atheist? How can you be an atheist?”
He answered, “Now, Honey, you know better than that. I’m not an atheist; I just happen to believe that there isn’t anyone on earth who knows any more about God than I do.”
Why won’t he listen?
Daddy is brilliant. He was too good at debating for me, and too knowledgeable. As a small child, I would sometimes get up in the middle of the night and find him at his desk, studying some book. He was well aware of the history of Christianity and the falling away of all churches. He was convinced that none of them was right.
One night, I knelt by my son’s bed to inquire of Heavenly Father regarding my dad. I wanted to know if he would ever listen. “What about my dad?” I asked. “Will he ever be open to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ?”
The answer came immediately. Yes, he would accept the gospel, and through him my mother.
My heart soared! Ten years after my baptism, the time was right.
After Marilyn was baptized she began to work on Mom and Daddy, but in a different way. She was warm, loving, and affectionate. While she was attending BYU, she would send them articles, books, and letters of affection. Mother and Daddy would read her letters over and over. They even posted them on the family bulletin board. Mother fell in love with the writings of President David O. McKay. Daddy kept on reading, but said nothing—at least until September 1970.
10 September 1970
Today Mother called to say that Daddy has cancer! Oh, everything seems so bleak.
He will be operated on next week. But there is a ray of hope; he has asked to be blessed by Norm and Ray (Marilyn’s husband).
21 September 1970
I have been staying at the hospital every day to be near Daddy. He is in great pain from the operation. The doctor removed one kidney. Daddy holds onto my hand like a little boy. He is so appreciative of my being there. I take two-week-old baby Shiloh with me every day. It seems odd that for so many years my daddy and I have not been able to converse without arguing, yet now we converse even without words. Our hearts ache together.
5 February 1971
Daddy has retired, though he is young to be retired. He has time to think, and Marilyn and I feel that he is ready to hear the gospel. But what can we do? We can’t let the missionaries teach him; he’ll steamroller over them. Mother has been curious for years.
7 May 1971
An interesting thing happened today. Marilyn and I have been praying to know how Mom and Daddy should be taught the gospel, and today two elders knocked on their door while out tracting—and Mom and Daddy agreed to take the discussions! We will all fast next Sunday that all will go well!
19 June 1971
The most beautiful birthday present of my life. Today my mom and daddy were baptized into the Church. They are so thrilled—so ready. After the first discussion, Daddy stayed up all night cross-referencing the Bible and the Book of Mormon. He wanted to make sure that all the elders had taught him was true. He and Mother have spent the last six weeks studying and praying. I have never seen anyone more prepared for baptism. Joy! My heart is full! I will always be grateful for the elders—especially Elder Adams who was humble enough to teach and to be taught by my intelligent Daddy.
One year later I recorded:
2 September 1972
Today was the second-most-special day of my life—the first was when Norm and I were sealed. Today I was sealed with my two sisters, Marilyn and Anita, to Mother and Daddy. A clear, see-forever day! I am no longer alone!
Just a few months ago my brother David said to me, “I don’t know what’s happening, but I feel that something is changing within me. I feel myself led to do something, maybe to find out for myself if there is a God. Now, don’t push me; it’ll come in its own time. But just keep praying for me.”
Thus, the love of God works its marvelous way. I have learned the truth of the Lord’s promise: “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another.” (D&C 90:24.)