It is interesting that all that was required for me to have a desire to learn about (and eventually join) the church was just a friend mentioning a change in religion. That, along with Elder Holland’s recent counsel that, “an invitation that is born of our love for others and for the Lord Jesus Christ…will never be seen as offensive or judgmental,” give me confidence when I share the gospel with others.
It is quite remarkable the ways in which divine intervention can change what would seem like a small, insignificant, meeting into something that alters your life (and even your eternity). Who would have known back when we were little tikes that, one day, Lars would be acting as a witness at my wedding? Here is the beginning of my conversion story.
When I was about 11 years old, I went to
Camp Hiawatha, a summer Bible camp a few miles north of my hometown of . Among my pen-pal friends that I made that summer, was a boy named Lars Peterson. Since 11 year olds aren’t the best at communication skills, Lars and I lost touch – as I did with everyone else I met at camp. However, it was interesting because every time we seemed to lose touch with each other, we would somehow find one another again. Grand Rapids, Minnesota
The summer before my junior year of high school, I had a softball game against the Lars’ hometown team. Two of Lars’ sisters were going to be playing. When I got to the game, they weren’t there. I was confused because the night before I had talked to Trisha and she said she was excited to see me the next day. I was quite distraught by their apparent change of plans. After the game, I decided to go ask their coach if he could tell me why they weren’t there. He told me that Myrna, Lars’ mom, had been in a horrible car accident and was transferred to the
Duluth hospital for better care. They didn’t think she would survive and if she lived, she would more than likely be paralyzed. She did survive but was paralyzed and was going to be staying in Duluthat hospitals and rehab clinics for an indefinite period of time.
At this stage, my friendship with Lars shifted a bit. I became closer to Trisha while Lars and I drifted apart. However, I do remember talking to him about how all of a sudden he was the ‘parent’ and was in charge of a number of things and had to do a lot of growing up at a very young age. Lars and his three sisters had moved in with their father who was quite busy and out of town frequently.
At some point, Lars and I strengthened our friendship once again and it continued throughout high school. However, like most friendships, it did not fare well when we both headed off to college. We kept in touch but it became less and less.
In Spring of ’01 (my senior year in college), I was going through a lot of difficult times, so I emailed Lars, to kind of vent my frustrations. He wrote back and said, “I believe that all things happen for a reason.” Considering what had happened with his mom, that really meant a lot to me and I took his words to heart.
That fall, I headed off to
Chicagoto start graduate school at . I was a bit homesick for Minnesota one day and ended up emailing Lars. He wrote me back and said that, on a whim, he had moved to Northwestern University Utahwith a friend and would be working on the bobsled track crew for the Olympics. He also told me that his mom was now in the care facility that was attached to my undergraduate institution.
I went to see Myrna while I was in
Minnesota for Christmas vacation. She was doing quite well. Due to a surgery she had that past summer, she had gained much more mobility in her lower extremities and was working to get the muscles back in shape after years of immobility. We talked a lot about years-gone-by and Camp Hiawatha. We then started talking about how Lars was not only going to the Lutheran church but also the LDS church each Sunday. I was intrigued but didn’t dig too much deeper into the subject at that point.
When I got back to Chicago in mid-January, I gave Lars a call and we talked about the differences and similarities of the LDS church, (which I then learned was the “Mormon” church), and the Lutheran church. I learned that they were quite similar and that the LDS church just added a bit more to the story. The conversation, and hearing his passion for it, piqued my interest and I started looking on the internet for information on the LDS church. I found websites that gave all different angles – some affirmative and some negative. I called Lars about a week later and he informed me that he had been baptized into the church the previous Sunday. This only intensified my interest.