My 16-Year Conversion
August 2000

“My 16-Year Conversion,” Ensign, Aug. 2000, 66

My 16-Year Conversion

I’ve heard it usually takes at least three contacts with the Church before a person agrees to hear the missionary discussions. For me, it took seven.

As a girl, I spent the summer of 1964 in New York City with my Aunt Alberta and Uncle Spencer. We attended the World’s Fair often, and the Latter-day Saint pavilion made a deep impression on me. I remember the peaceful feelings I felt, and I thought the replica of the Salt Lake Temple was beautiful. I was particularly interested in a mural that showed departed loved ones welcoming a person to the spirit world after death.

The following year, my mother unexpectedly died at age 43. In my grief, I held the message of that Latter-day Saint mural close to my heart. Not long after, I became friends with a Latter-day Saint neighbor girl. I enjoyed being around her family, and I’m sure I would have attended Young Women activities or Sunday services if I had been invited.

I met my next Church member in 1974, while I was working as a nurse. My charge nurse was LDS, and I thought she was kind, just, and fair. She told me about her calling as a Primary teacher, and I was impressed by her love for the children and her careful lesson preparations. I’m certain that if I had received an invitation, I would have attended church with her and taken my son to Primary.

One day in 1976, I experienced a flat tire on my way to work. I was wearing my white nurse’s uniform, and I didn’t want to soil it. As if in answer to prayer, two young men appeared on their bicycles, wearing their Sunday best despite Virginia’s summer heat and humidity. They changed my tire, and I thanked them. I’m sure that if they had offered, I would have loved to hear the discussions.

In 1978 I decided to move to Salt Lake City. Before I left Virginia, I sought out an LDS surgeon where I worked and discussed the Church with him, but I thought I had to go to Salt Lake to learn more. After I moved, I found the social adjustment difficult. At Christmastime, some Latter-day Saint neighbors gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon. But by then my heart had hardened, and I decided the book was a fairytale. Over the next couple of years I went through four sets of missionaries. While I was cleaning one day in 1980, I came across my copy of the Book of Mormon. I decided to give the gospel another try, and this time I was finally converted. I was baptized on 19 March 1980, about 16 years after my first contact with the Church. In October 1981 I was married in the Salt Lake Temple, and my son was sealed to us. Then in March 1982 I did temple work for my grandparents and mother. I sent my aunt and uncle in New York City a copy of the Book of Mormon for Christmas, and my aunt was later baptized and endowed.

Since I joined the Church, I am more tender, more understanding, more peaceful, and more loving—and yet I have a new strength. I know from firsthand experience how important it is to share the gift of the gospel with others.

  • JoAnne Nolen is a member of the Cannon City Second Ward, Pueblo Colorado Stake.