Sunday, February 10, 2008

Rusty Curtis' conversion story

February 27th marks my ninth year as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It surprises me to think about how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned in so short a period of time.

I am often asked about my conversion story. I have given it so many times, that I generally make the story very short so as to not bore the unfortunate asker to tears.

Many of you have become regular readers of my Truth is Restored blog. I thought I should take the time to re-write my conversion story for you, as well as anyone who might happen to stumble upon it. I will try to include the pertinent details, and spare you the superfluities.

I was born and raised in Las Vegas, NV. My father was a glass-blower who converted to Judaism around the time I was born, and my mother was Presbyterian (which I was baptized as when a baby). We moved to Big Bear, CA when I was about five. My parents were divorced shortly thereafter.

My mother and I moved to live with her Mother in Townsend, MT. We then moved to White Sulphur Springs, MT. Within two years we were back in Las Vegas where my mother planned on teaching. She soon started working two jobs and we did not see each other that much. At seven years old I would have to wake up in the morning and go to school because my mother would still be working her swing shifts. I grew up very independent and learned how to take care of myself for the most part. I also learned at a young age how to get into a fair amount of trouble. By the time of my conversion I was considered one of the party kids.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) make up a sizeable percentage of much of the Southwest; Las Vegas is no exception. I had good Mormon friends going up and I always liked and respected them. Fortunately I had a descent enough head on my shoulders to recognize that those who did not live their teachings should not be used to judge the organization to which they belonged. –The term “jack-Mormon” was even known and understood by those not belonging to the Church. I still teased LDS friends and I’ll always appreciate a certain day when a member of the Church called me on it.

I had two LDS friends whom I sat next to in one of my classes (HS Sophomore English). One day (Wed., Feb. 3rd, 1999 to be exact), in the middle of some of my jests about the Church towards the Church, one of these friends turned to me and said “Why don’t you just come to seminary with us?” I had known that the LDS kids went to seminary and said I would like to go.

We went that afternoon (some kids could not make early morning seminary, so they held an afternoon class to accommodate). I can’t recall what was the subject, but I remember that I enjoyed myself and wanted to come back. Well, two days later (Friday), the seminary was holding a six-hour Book of Mormon “Read-A-Thon” for the seminary students, followed by a dance. For those of you who are LDS, you’ll get a kick out of it that I really enjoyed myself during the read-a-thon. I was fascinated with the Book of Mormon. I had pretty much made up my mind that night that I wanted to be Mormon.

One of those two friends (who later became nearly as close as a brother to me) invited me to Church for the coming Sunday (two days later). I remember standing outside my apartment complex in -what was then- my Sunday best and wearing my earring. At Church, the missionaries approached me, and I asked them what I needed to do to get baptized. Needless to say, that somewhat made their day. They gave me a Book of Mormon, asked me to read 3 Nephi 11 and set up our first discussion for Wednesday night.

This is where my conversion truly took place. I went home from Church, locked myself in my room and started reading, and then I kept reading. -From this day forward I started studying the gospel about 3+ hours a day (sometimes more, sometimes a little less). When I met at my friend’s house with the missionaries three days later, I had read 3 Nephi 11, and then from 1 Nephi to the end of Jacob. Nearly every page I read brought tears to my eyes. My deepest questions were being answered and I came to know my God. The Holy Ghost bore powerful witness to my soul of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

About two weeks later (if I remember correctly) I attended the baptism of a young man slightly younger than I was at the time. I was struck, powerfully, at this event. After the baptism, everyone left the room, except for me. In those few minutes alone, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that there was a God, that he was very aware of me and loved me, and that I now knew who my real father was. I did not have the opportunity to be around my earthly father very much because of divorce and distance. I now knew who my real father was, and have since then tried to do whatever was in my power to do his work. –Not so I could claim rewards, but more out of love and gratitude to Him.

One week later I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have never regretted that day; I only feel deep gratitude to my Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ for their sacrifice on my (and everyone else’s) behalf.

**I'm the second to left (red hair). Standing next to me is a man I deeply respect and who has become a type of "father-figure" for me in my life.**

I prepared with vigor for my mission. Three-and-one-half years after my mission I hit the streets of the Missouri St. Louis Mission. I worked and gave it my all. I wanted to share the joy and peace I found in the Gospel with anyone, and everyone I could. After my mission, I continued to study and serve in whatever capacity I could.

I know that the blessings promised by the Lord are real, and that He truly is no respecter of persons. I was not born into the Church, and I had no money or fame. I have a beautiful wife, I am financially taken care of, and feel that I am generally on the right track in life. Through obedience to the commandments of the Lord, and my best efforts, he has helped me come this far. And I will continue the course laid before me and strive do do whatever I can to advance the causes of God.

I have now found an outlet where I can reach out and help others who are looking and yearning for the truth. It’s a great and glorious work we’re involved in, and there’s no other work I’d rather be helping to move along.

Best Wishes,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rusty....thanks for re-surfacing the wonderful thoughts and feelings. I can tell our Heavenly Father has blessed you so much. Continue carrying the message brother.

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