When I was 10, I was introduced to the gospel by my friend Stephen Bulleigh when we played together on the same little league baseball team. My parents were divorced, and my kind and wonderful mother was left to raise three children. Realizing the need for male role models in my life, my mother insisted that I participate in sports. There I made friends and grew particularly close to an LDS family, the Bulleighs.
I sometimes spent the night at my friend’s house. There I met Stephen’s family: his father, Roger; mother, Juli; and their eight other children. I saw the happiness and love that they had, and I wanted the same in my own life.
I was raised in a nondenominational church and learned a lot of misinformation about the LDS Church. Believing what I was told, I was convinced that Latter-day Saints were wrong. I often told my school buddies that they shouldn’t listen to the Mormons. I even convinced some of my friends who had an interest in the Church not to listen. I spent six years of my life as an enemy to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I often had the opportunity to discuss religion with the Bulleighs. From them, I learned that Mormons believe in Christ. Point by point, and precept by precept, I began to see that the teachings of the gospel made sense. How could God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit be the same person? Are we saved by faith alone or is there more? What must I do to live with God? Questions such as these and many more began to prick at my heart as I considered the things the Bulleigh family taught me.
My LDS friends invited me, at age 16, to attend a youth conference held at a Church-owned ranch in northern Oklahoma. The Church leaders asked all the youth to read 3 Nephi in preparation for the youth conference. I decided I would read it. I remember reading the last page of 3 Nephi and then going to the Bible to read. I picked up where I had left off in Acts 9. I remember the words of the Savior as he chastised Paul (Saul). “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:4–5).
I had persecuted the Lord as Paul had. I had kicked against the pricks of the Holy Spirit for nearly seven years. I decided at that moment that I would join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I went to the youth conference. Near the end, a time was allotted for testimonies. I stood in front of more than 1,000 people and bore testimony of this gospel and of this Church. In front of the very people whom I had persecuted for nearly seven years, I expressed my desire to join the Church.
I returned from youth conference and informed my mother (who by this time had remarried) and my stepfather of my desire to be baptized. They did not like the idea and grounded me indefinitely. The tables were turned, and I spent the next two years of my life being the one persecuted. For two years I was not allowed to date any LDS girls, go to Church activities, or even have a Book of Mormon in my possession. I tried to share the beauty of the Book of Mormon with my mother and stepfather, but my stepfather threw it across the room and demanded I return it immediately.
With tears in my eyes I rang the doorbell of the Bulleigh home. Joel, one of their sons, answered, and I returned the borrowed Book of Mormon he had given me. Would my testimony of the Book of Mormon be strong enough to support me until I turned 18 and could join the Church? Sure it was.
At 8:00 A.M. on my 18th birthday, my mother and stepfather asked me to leave their home, and I joined the Church one week later. I moved in with the Bulleigh family and used the $9,000 I had saved by working between the ages of 16 and 18 to support myself until I graduated from high school seven months later. I read the entire Book of Mormon after being baptized and learned of a prophet named Alma who had also persecuted the Church of God. He spent the rest of his life preaching the gospel to amend for his past transgressions. I decided also to serve a mission.
After graduating from high school, I continued to work and save money so I could pay for my mission. I recently finished serving in the Bolivia Cochabamba Mission. Choosing to be a missionary cost me my family, my home, and a lot of money.
I am thankful that at the age of 10, God sent a Latter-day Saint to play baseball on my team. That event has changed my life forever and enabled me to help change the lives of many others with whom I labored on my mission.