My Conversion Story
Like many who were born to members of, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints," I was taken to church on Sunday's, in those days there were meetings throughout the day, and we also had Primary, and when older, Mutual/Scouts during the week. These meetings were not optional in my family. Both mom and my step-dad insisted that we attend. Our blended family was not one that I can honestly say I enjoyed a "normal" childhood. Because of this, I became a very rebellious child, especially in my teen years. To be honest, I started breaking the 'word of wisdom' not too long after baptism. I was able to get away with this for years because 'dad' smoked in the house and that smell permeates everything.
(Telling you this next part of my story I want you to know that my mother has been the only constant in my life. She has never shown that her testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has ever wavered. Her example is what I was able to lean on later in my life.)
In the mid 1960's my parents were divorced. At that time there were three children, and I was the middle child, with an older sister and younger brother. After a year or so, mom met, then married a man that didn't have any children, and was 4 years younger than her. He too had been married and divorced before. After they were married civilly, 'dad' became religious. He quit all of his bad habits and they were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple.
During this time, I turned the magical age of 8 in September of 1969, he wasn't quite ready to honor his Priesthood but in December 1969 he baptized me in the Tooele 5th Ward. To me, this was a wonderfully enchanting time. I remember the feeling I felt right after. I was confirmed by him the next day in Sacrament Meeting.
Directly after this, our father gave up his parental rights and gave permission for us, the three children, to be adopted by mom's husband. It was at this time my last name changed from Yates to Rhodes. Not too much longer after that 'dad' went back to his former ways. In telling you this background story I only wish to explain the example that was set for the children in our home.
He, 'dad' was a very strict, verbally, mentally, and physically abusive man when it came to the three of us, especially my younger brother and me. Suffice it to say that the abuse did not promote an environment of love and support in our home. Volumes could be written about this time in our lives. We knew mom loved us, but we felt 'dad' didn't. Things didn't get any better when mom delivered his firstborn child, a little brother that I'm sure was supposed to bring the family together, however, in our young eyes, favoritism couldn't have been shown more flagrantly.
As time went on my rebellion continued and I turned to cousins and friends who did not have the gospel in their lives as examples. I was still going to church, and progressing through the Aaronic Priesthood right up the being ordained a Priest. School became something that didn't really matter to me, my grades plundered, while my mind was altered by many different things other than the influences of man. I dropped out of High School halfway through the 11th grade and started a job working for the truck stop in Lake Point, UT. I was 16 at the time.
In late May of that year, I decided to go travel with a carnival. After traveling to and working in two different towns we arrived at a third, that night I slept in the semi-trailer with all of the stuffed animals. I awoke the next morning right out of bed stating that my grandfather had passed away. Just then I heard his brother outside the trailer asking about me. He verified that grandpa had passed so I left the carnival traveled with him back to Tooele.
After the funeral, my cousin and I boarded a Continental Trailways bus and traveled for three days to Fayetteville, NC where we stayed with two of my other cousins who were stationed there at Fort Bragg. I stayed with them until late September after turning 17. I wanted to join the US Army, but I had to have my parents give their written permission. So mom bought me a plane ticket and I flew back to Salt Lake, joined the Army, and in early November I reported to Fort Dix NJ for Basic Training.
Six months later, after my training was through and I had been stationed at Fort Carson, CO for a few months, I traveled to Blanding, UT and married a gal who was also 17 years old. I met her while working for the carnival one year earlier. We married without ever dating and without ever knowing anything about one another except for through letters and some phone calls. By the time we were 19, we had two children who were 13 months apart. Only kids, one being trusted with serving his country, both deciding to take on the responsibility of raising two children while trying to learn what marriage was all about.
In September of 1982, I was given orders to report to Camp Casey, Korea. Because it was an unaccompanied tour, it was decided that the family would stay in Tooele where they could be helped and looked after by my older sister. While traveling from Ft Bragg, NC where we had been stationed for only a year after I reenlisted, we stopped to visit her family in Farmington, NM.
Her mother told me that my family was not going to stay in Tooele, but was going to stay in Blanding permanently, that I was free to do whatever I wanted, but that my wife wanted a divorce. I was heartbroken, for the first time in the past decade or so, I felt true sorrow. Traveling the rest of the way to Tooele I was very angry, not with my wife, with myself for not just continuing on to Tooele without stopping to visit. I wasn't worried about the why of it all, I was just upset.
Because of the situation, I now found myself in, traveling on to Korea was not a good idea so I filed for a compassionate reassignment to Ft. Douglas in Salt Lake until this could be resolved. This brings me to the age of 20, a dropout, a specialist in the Army, married to a girl I didn't know for three years, with two children. This all done before many of the guys I knew in Tooele had returned from their missions. The stories I could tell about this time in my life!
Back in the town of my youth, I found my former friends all employed at the mine making three times the money I was making in the service. Nothing had changed with their social life other than they could afford to live in a better place and buy more mind-altering items. I reported to Ft. Douglas and received a temporary reassignment. I then filed for a divorce and became involved with my friends again.
One night in late October 1982 I was with a few friends up in "Middle Canyon" we were doing things that we shouldn't and I felt something very odd, the thought that I was going to die hit me with a great force. I couldn't shake it. No matter what I did that thought stayed with me. I was going to stay with one of my friends that night so I followed him to his place. I sat in my car too long so he came over and told me to come on up. I still had that thought going on so I decided to go to my mom's place and see her.
Sitting in the kitchen on the floor, mom at her sewing machine, she could see there was something wrong, you know how mothers are. She asked me what the matter was. I told her that I couldn't shake that thought, it was so strong. She smiled, can you imagine that? My mother smiled. Then, she got up, walked to the hall where she had a bookcase full of books, picked one and brought it to me. Handing it to me she said, "I've been waiting and praying for this time to come, I want you to take this book and read it." The book was, "The Miracle of Forgiveness" by President Kimball.
Because of the feeling I was having, I took the book and drove to Fort Douglas to the barracks. That night I began reading that book. I stayed up most of the night reading. I had the scriptures with me for some reason, I'm not sure if mom gave them to me or not but while reading this book I spent the time going to the references in the scriptures and reading them. The next morning I was in the common living area when a new guy came in, he saw me reading the scriptures and started talking to me. He invited me to go to church with him the next Sunday.
By Sunday, just a few days had passed, I had read that book and was reading, "The Book of Mormon" for the first time in my life. Mel and I went to church, the meetings were amazing, and I found that they had changed to a 3-hour block. During Sacrament Meeting I decided that I would make an appointment with the Bishop for the next week. I did so. The next week I was invited to a member's home for dinner where I first learned that people actually listened to classical music in their homes while visiting, a far cry from the loud rock I was used to.
Before my appointment the next Sunday I had read "The Book of Mormon" cover to cover and took the challenge that Nephi gave. Even though I had been living a riotous life, I was given a testimony of the truthfulness of this book. I met with the Bishop after church Sunday. I think this was the first meeting with a Bishop, since my baptism interview, that I was completely and totally honest. Ending that meeting with prayer, Bishop Pack told me that everything was going to be ok. "Just keep coming to church, say your prayers, and keep reading your scriptures."
Bishop Pack also told me to call my wife and talk with her about what was going on with our marriage. I called her that night, she was happy to hear my voice and we talked for hours. She wanted to reunite and come to live in Tooele. I expressed my sorrow for the many things that had transpired during our marriage and asked her forgiveness. I drove to Blanding and picked up my young family, we moved them into an apartment in Tooele and I started to prepare to go to Korea for my 1-year assignment.
From November 2nd, 1982 thru January 10th, 1983 so many things took place. I had repented and changed my life completely. I read the "BOM," the "Perl of Great Price," the "D & C," "Spencer W Kimball" biography, and was nearly halfway through the "Bible". We were attending church with my mom in the ward I grew up in. The Bishop knew me from my earlier youth, yet he set an appointment with me without my requesting one. Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive.
In the Bishops office, sitting directly across from him, a desk in between us, our eyes looking directly into one another's, the Bishop asked me a question. "Lonny, is there anything wrong in your life that you have not discussed with an authority in the church, that needs to be brought up at this time?" He had to have seen the surprised look in my eyes, the wonder of it all, the questioning look I had to have given as I pondered his question. After a few minutes, I was able to say, with complete honesty, that there was nothing I had not spoken with Bishop Pack about.
My questioning look was answered with the Bishop telling me that he had been prompted to interview me to receive the Melchezedic Priesthood. We spent some time going over the questions while I took the time to make sure. I did not want to make any mistakes with this opportunity. Bishop Steadman was so awesome, he treated me with loving kindness. He then interviewed me and gave me a recommend to get my Patriarchal Blessing, from his Father Patriarch A. Steadman.
An appointment was set up with the Stake Presidency for later that day. It just so happened that the appointment was with a former Bishop of mine, President Droubay. Ok, you think my apprehension was bad in the Bishop's office? I was so anxious. I had been untruthful with this man in the past, and he knew it. I know he could feel what I was feeling, but he had to move forward and I had to own my actions. This interview was one of the toughest I personally have ever had to go through. I had repented, but seeing him I was feeling a lot of shame. Shame being, a new emotion for me I was having a tough time.
After reading, and having them explained to me, the 84th and the 88th section of the D&C we went through the interview questions. Again I was able to answer them positively. What an amazing feeling swept over me. I had been called into an interview by a Bishop who had been prompted by the Spirit to prepare me to receive the most important blessings I could get prior to my departure to Korea. Our Father in Heaven wanted to make sure I had the protection I needed in order to help me through this unaccompanied over-seas assignment.
On the weekend that included the 9th of January, 1983, I received my Patriarchal Blessing, my younger brother conferred the Melchezadic Priesthood and ordained me to the office of an Elder, and I flew off to Korea. Landing in Seol Korea, I was armed with all I needed to make it through the next year.
Joseph Smith could not deny that he had seen God the Father, and our Savior Jesus Christ without offending them. I too cannot deny my testimony of them. I know that They live! I know They appeared to Joseph Smith as he tells it! I know that Joseph was the first Prophet of this dispensation! I know that Joseph was the tool used to bring "The Book of Mormon" out of the dust! I know that the "Plates of Gold" exist and that the Three witnesses were shown them by he who guards those plates, even Moroni himself! I know that President Nelson is a Prophet, and is currently the only man on earth that is authorized to use the "Keys" given to Joseph to manage this dispensation! I know that he is the only one authorized to receive revelation for the entire church at this time! I sustain him! I love him! I know the Apostles are also Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, preparing to become the leader of the church if, called to do so! I also know that we can receive personal revelation from our Father in Heaven to help guide us in our lives! Through study and prayer, we can all know the truth of these things through the power of the Holy Ghost, and, if we live worthy, we can have the Gift of the Holy Ghost to teach us truths and help guide us throughout our lives. I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen