Sunday, July 24, 2016
Andrew's Conversion Story
Our Stake President asked us to record our conversion story - here is mine:
Andrew Brown – Conversion Story – as recorded July 22, 2016
Recently I got to help at a girls’ camp activity where we hiked to Fossil Creek’s waterfall. We swam and jumped through the lower portions of the waterfall and could see there was another area next to the canyon wall that looked fun to explore. As I went to investigate I felt the current pushing the hardest along this side of the stream, I braced and dove into the current trying to get to an area I might be able to pull myself up and explore. The splashing intensified as I tried to rise above the water to breathe while reaching under the water for a surface I could secure myself to. I had to push fairly far into the current before my hands started discovering a secure surface. I planted my palm down and used the little bit of leverage it offered me to pull myself out of the spray and began looking for a way to get my feet in a secure location. Found it! I excitedly walked through the spray of the waterfall and found I could get behind the veil of the waterfall about 20 feet above the pool, with a solid hand hold I pushed my body through the veil of the fall to see the group surrounding the waterfall. I was so coated in the water fall spray I’m not sure anyone could see me, I ventured further out and people waived. The water beating on me was intense but made me feel alive and excited for adventure. I withdrew from the chaos of the waterfall back into the cave and worked my way back down to the area I had originally climbed up. There I discovered that I could sit down in the water flow above the pool of water and the water behind me would build up until it would rush under me and float me down the rocky slide in the pool of water. As I hit the pool of water the current would push me into the canyon wall where there was a shallow shelf to walk across and begin the adventure again. Others watched me and soon were on their way over to participate in the adventure. Most struggled with the process and I found I could place myself in an area to encourage them and grab their hand and give them the necessary pull or instructions to get them into this pocket of adventure. Soon the cave was full of girls exploring the area including my daughter Allie who needed a bit of coaxing before she relented. The more we played the more I wore my palms and finger tips nearly all the way through, it was so much fun I couldn’t stop. Some of us jumped off the water fall after piercing the veil of the waterfall, others floated down – we all had a great time.
I preface my conversion with this story to communicate what seems so unglorified and simple with being the very event that opened up the understanding and joy of life for me. My conversion story begins with my biological parents Matthew Oman Morris and Julie Ann Broderick. Matt as a convert met mom at BYU. They fell in love and married having first Arick Louise Morris and then me. By the time I was born my parents’ marriage had deteriorated resulting in divorce. Both parents remained strong in the church an ensured I was taught Gospel principles and attended church regularly. I grew up mostly in Provo and Grantsville, Utah except when I was spending the summer with my Broderick grandparents in Phoenix, Arizona. I was taught the Gospel everywhere I went. I was excited when I turned eight years old to be baptized and recognized that I’d have to clean up my act since I would be accountable after I was baptized. While I had a lot of exposure to the Gospel, I was only eight and I was limited in what I could process. I continued to be raised with family prayer, family home evening, and scriptures being read. I felt like when I prayed my prayers were listened to and as I needed help or answers they came. Probably when I was ten or eleven I started realizing that I’d need to one day have my own testimony and not rely upon my parents testimony. I remember being proud of myself for getting myself to church when my parents were both sick one weekend. I remembered feeling I was making good decisions on my own but still I hadn’t detected if I had my own testimony. As I aged to twelve and thirteen after moving to Phoenix, Arizona with my family I continued to have answers to my prayers asking Heavenly Father for a testimony of the Book of Mormon and if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was true. The answers were usually something along the lines of: “Andrew, you know it is true” and I’d respond, “but I want that spiritual confirmation”. I continued to get these types of answers as I turned fourteen. I was blessed to have some of the most amazing leaders in Young Men’s including Douglas Baker (Doug) and William Alexander (Bill). My Bishop was Scott Marvin Larson and his son became my best friend. I saw greatness in the Baker, Alexander, and Larson home similar to the greatness in my own home. The Gospel understanding in all of these homes was strong and the way they lived their lives was a living testimony to the truths they adhered to.
When I was fourteen, our ward had begun joining Bishop Larson’s brother’s ward in doing projects in Caborca Mexico. Jason Alexander was a Priest at the time and had arranged for a service project to occur in Caborca (painting a Catholic school). Jason got sick and that resulted in my getting to ride with Bishop Larson and my friend Benjamin Scott Larson (Ben). Through the service with the church members and comradery with our host family in Caborca, singing Hymns in Spanish during the Sacrament meeting all seemed to have an effect on me. I remembered having a chance to internalize all things Spiritual that I knew at that time that didn’t seem to be bound by country or language and I began to feel like I was close to my testimony being confirmed. The project ended and I visited with Bishop Larson and my friend Ben as we drove back home. Bishop Larson had a business court hearing he needed to attend in Tombstone, Arizona and so we took a detour from the church caravan returning home. In the silence of that trip I prayed again for confirmation that the Book of Mormon was true and that the Church was true – again I got the response that I already knew it was true, I sought for the spiritual confirmation…and then it came. I had the knowledge and exposure sufficient to know that the Church was true and the Book of Mormon was true and now I had a spiritual witness to confirm what I already knew. This gave me new confidence and allowed me to understand that the commandments were actually the laws of happiness. I came to know that if I wanted to have lasting happiness that I had this pattern laid out before me by my family. I knew that I needed to become better at doing what had been taught to me to truly receive the blessings available to me from my Heavenly Father.
Similar to my experience at Fossil Creek’s waterfall, I had to dive into the current of the question “is it true” and explore the possibilities. As I received my spiritual witness it was like my hand finding that solid hand hold that allowed me to pull myself beyond the questioning currents of life and securely plant myself in a position to explore life from a higher perspective. I’ve been able to raise my understanding of the Gospel as I explored it through different callings and service opportunities that have come my way in life. I pierced through the veil of the waterfall and viewed the great work that was available to me because of my mission call; with a bit of anxiousness I jumped off the top of the waterfall of life into the pool of serving all of God’s children in the Canada Winnipeg Mission. Others saw my example and worked their way over to the waterfall and firmly grabbed my hand and allowed me to assist in their progress of becoming members and confirming their own testimonies of the truthfulness of the Gospel that they too might have the vision and understanding that is afforded to those that rise to the challenge of asking “Is it true?”
I have been blessed to continue to have great men and women in my life as I have continued the adventure of life with the perspective the Gospel offers. I know who I am, I know God’s plan and everything in my life is now filtered through this understanding. This understanding has driven me to strive to serve on a higher level, to face challenges both spiritually and temporally with the confidence that I am a son of God and am worth all the blessings He has to offer if I will live my life in a way that he can bestow these gifts upon me. We are here to have a physical experience and I feel I’m able to position myself to enjoy nature, human nature, relationships, and to love and serve in ways that are heightened because of my conversion.
Am I a life-long member? Yes. Am I a convert to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Yes. My conversion is ongoing as I explore this great pool of life and live and love and serve so when the day comes for this Earthly adventure to end I’ll have worn my palms and finger prints off, I’ll have scrapes and scratches of having lived and my eyes will sparkle with excitement for the great adventure I got to be a part of. Finally, I’ll be expecting Jesus Christ to be waiting for me as my Savior and Redeemer to return me to my Heavenly Father if I enabled him to do this by following His teachings. I am sharing his yoke, my burdens are light and I will continue to seek to align my will with His so that I can enjoy the great blessing of this Eternal progression.