Wednesday, May 10

M2C Conversion Story - Mike

I found this conversion/reversion story on the Catholic Ex-Mormon boards on Yahoo. I asked Mike if I could post his story on my blog, and he not only said I could post it, but he edited it to make it more thorough and blog-friendly. Mike was a cradle Catholic who joined the Mormon church, only to come back home to the Catholic church a few years later. Thank you so much, Mike, for allowing me to get your story out!

So how does a cradle Catholic go from leaving the Holy Catholic Church for Mormonism only to find his way back home 5 years later? I hope that this brief story of my ‘reversion’ to Catholicism will serve two purposes: First, I hope that those that are joining, returning to or strongly considering and praying about becoming one with the Bride of Christ can appreciate the developmental process I had to go through to come to an understanding, or better yet, gain a testimony of the truthfulness of the Catholic Church. During my re-investigation period the testimonies and conversion stories of others were paramount in my return. Second, for those critically and judiciously investigating the doctrines and beliefs of the LDS church, I hope to expose the truths about the doctrinal developments in Mormonism over the last 200 years juxtaposed to Biblical Christianity.

For starters, here’s a little about my background. I grew up in a very strong Catholic family in East Central Ohio. A lot of my earliest memories consist of my family going to Mass together on Saturday evening and then spending Sunday together with extended family. Although I did not attend Catholic school, I was active in the CCD program until receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation at age 14. Through high school and during my undergraduate studies I never questioned Catholic doctrine; I looked at how the Church had strengthened my immediate and extended families. In hindsight, however, I never underwent a full conversion process allowing me to discover the fullness of truth that resides in Catholicism. Towards the end of high school I met a nice Catholic girl who would eventually become my wife. We were married in 1999 right before I started graduate school at the University of Iowa.

Within the first week of moving to Iowa City LDS missionaries made their way to our doorstep. Where I grew up there is virtually NO LDS population; I hate to confess this but upon my first encounter with the missionaries I did not know that Mormons were also Latter-day Saints. I had never heard of Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon. Upon our first encounter I took a Book of Mormon and told the Elders that I was busy and that if they came back some day and I happened to be home I would talk with them. Within that academic year LDS missionaries and members of the LDS church were constantly in contact with us. It was pretty intimidating to say the least. We took the 6 missionary discussions; however, we were unconvinced at that point that Mormonism was true. Our ‘lessons’ with the Elders varied in quality considerably. There were, however, a handful of missionaries that were fairly well-versed in other aspects of Christianity other than Mormonism. During this time of ‘investigation’ I also stumbled upon Mormon apologetic groups such as FARMS and FAIR. It struck me how it always seemed – or at least they painted the façade – that Mormonism was always under attack, yet they were always on the defensive, defending the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. The format of the missionary discussions was also presented to make Mormonism appear like any other Christian church. As we would eventually discover, the pivotal doctrines that truly make Mormonism unique are cautiously not included in these initial discussions. Growing up Catholic, we wrestled with the doctrine of a “great apostasy’ necessitating a restoration of truth through Joseph Smith, Jr. (Even after our ‘conversion’ to Mormonism all of my questions were never completely answered.) In 2000-01 I was awarded a DAAD Fellowship to study in Marburg, Germany. It was during that time that we ran into LDS missionaries again and continued to investigate Mormonism. From the LDS apologetic material that we had found and read and from what we perceived at that time to be a ‘spiritual witness’ from the Holy Ghost, my wife and I decided to join the LDS church in March 2001. All together we had investigated Mormonism for almost 2 full years (ca. 22 months) and felt that we were doing the right thing.

In the fall of 2001 we moved to Lawrence, Kansas were I began my Ph.D. coursework at the University of Kansas. Upon moving to Kansas we became very active in the LDS church. I held callings as a ward missionary and councilor in an Elder’s Quorum Presidency, whereas my wife worked in the primary (Sunday school) program and eventually served in the Primary Presidency. The one thing we loved about the LDS faith was its encouragement to read the Scriptures (of course, the Catholic Church also calls its members to a life of active Scripture study). During our 2-year process as “eternal investigators’, we had become quite facile with the Scriptures. My wife and I feverishly participated in the Church Educational System’s (CES) Institute Program and graduated from the program with a 4-year diploma in only 3 years of course study. (We also co-taught a course on the Doctrine & Covenants.) We often accompanied the missionaries when they were meeting with lapse Catholics. We also attended the temple in St. Louis and Winter Quarters as much as possible.

One of the members of our ward that we were quite close with always spoke to us about a ‘spiritual’ conversion and a ‘social’ conversion. Although we had bought into the ‘spiritual’ side of Mormonism, we struggled mightily with what I term ‘social Mormonism’. Everyone was quick to point out to us what we should and shouldn’t be doing in our free time, how their personal version of Mormonism was more righteous than everyone else’s, etc. Being both converts we simply tried to do the right thing yet still really felt out of place. Looking back on things it was our ability to take a step back from the social aspect of Mormonism that enabled us to critically evaluate our newly adopted beliefs and return to Catholicism. In mentioning our disdain for Mormon culture, I don’t mean to paint too bleak of a picture; we did have quite a few friends – or those who we at least thought were our friends – during our time as members of the LDS church. As could have been expected, however, our departure from Catholicism led to a bit of a schism with our parents and immediate family. Although our parents respected our decision they were quite puzzled and disappointed with our decision. Having on our ‘Mormon blinders’ we couldn’t understand what possible problems our parents would have with us being active in another church? After all, we had found spiritual truth whereas they were just clinging on to what was familiar to them (at least in our minds). ‘Social Mormonism’ does an excellent job of making its members feel like they are the only ones who truly live an active Christian life of charity and service (cf. Mosiah 2:17), where as Catholics – as well as other ‘apostate’ Christian groups – are generally not active in their faith nor to they very often serve the greater community. I’ll come back to this point later in the story.

All was going fine in Mormonville for both Jill (my wife) and I until the spring of 2005. At this time Jill was a member of the Primary presidency and I was a councilor of an Elder’s Quorum presidency when the full-time missionaries met a postmaster who was a fallen away Catholic (for the sake of anonymity, let’s call him George). They missionaries inquired if I would meet with him, which I most certainly agreed to. From my first meeting with this guy it was clear that his life was in shambles and he was just looking for some companionship; his wife had recently left him and he was just one lonely guy. I was quite skeptical of the missionaries’ tactics with this guy knowing that he was at such a point in his life that he was most likely unable to make a leap of faith the magnitude of the missionaries’ desires. Although a fallen away Catholic, George was very well versed with official Catholic doctrine. He was so well read and learned in the Catechism that I purchased an official copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that summer so I could better understand his point of view. The clarity with which he explained Catholic doctrine was something I had never experienced before in my life. With that being said, I don’t mean to portray my parents as lazy Catholics who were unaware of doctrine nor do I blame my former CCD instructors; however, one thing was perfectly clear: I didn’t understand Catholicism as fully and deeply as I once thought I did. Many of my ‘concerns’ with Catholicism that lead to my ‘conversion’ to Mormonism turned out in the end not to be ‘concerns’ at all. An example of this would be the veneration of Saints; I never understood why we should pray to them. After re-reading the Book of Revelation (8:3) it was clear that the Saints did function in the role clearly explained by the Catholic Church. The list of instances such as these goes on and on. Rather than merely study Catholicism for the means of having ammo to convert George to Mormonism, I took the time to really learn the Catholic faith for the first time in my life. I turned quite often to the Early Church Fathers, in particular Father Jurgen’s excellent three-volume set on the writings of the Early Church Fathers (and even with three volumes he’s only just scratched the surface!). After turning to these sources, it became clear that Catholic rather than Mormon doctrines abound in early Christianity. LDS apologists are quick to scrape the bottom of the barrel or gerrymander obscure segments of apocryphal Christian works.

By the end of the summer I was convinced that I needed to take more time to re-investigate Catholicism; however, that seemed almost impossible to do. My calling eliminated a lot of my free time and every other waking moment I was consumed with writing my dissertation. (I also had a band – yes, a ROCK BAND – I told you that I wasn’t really into the ‘social Mormon’ scene! ) After finishing my doctorate, I accepted a position as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Michigan last fall (2005). At the end of the summer we also found out that we were expected our first child. My level of skepticism and dissidence with the LDS church had grown to a point where I had to talk to my wife about my feelings. At first she didn’t accept it well, even though we had always felt that something was missing and that we just didn’t ‘fit in’ with the whole Mormon scene. Upon her request, we decided to stick things out for a little while longer to see if the situation would improve. The minute we walked in the door at our new ward we had new callings. I was called to a Young Men’s presidency and Jill as a nursery teacher. Again, we had no time to really ponder our relationship with God, and discussing this with anyone would be simply out of the question for two reasons: First, any serious questioning of LDS dogma – be it honest or not – would most likely be viewed as a form of apostasy on our part. Second, the answers we had received in the past when issues like this had been brought up were very superficial and never really addressed our concerns.

There were two incidents immediately upon our arrival in Michigan that prompted our departure from the LDS church. Anyone who’s ever been involved with the LDS church or has Mormon friends is familiar with the “every member a missionary” slogan. Some people truly do care about their neighbors and handle their ‘responsibility’ to proselytize their friends, family and neighbors with dignity and respect; however, more often than not Mormons can be quite pushy about their church and beliefs. The ward mission was quite big on involving the youth in active missionary activities. At first I had no objections to this at all; I thought it was cool that teenage members of the church had the opportunity to expose friends of other faiths to our activities. It made us seem a lot less cult-like. That all changed really quickly. The Stake Young Men’s presidency provided us (the ward Young Men’s presidency) with a list of “less active” members and those who had requested to be placed on the “do not contact” (DNC) list. The Stake presidency had done their homework and had isolated families with teenage children. Our responsibility was to encourage our youth to befriend the children of these ‘fallen away’ Mormon families, even if it meant disregarding their wishes to not have contact with the church. The immediate thought that raced through my head was “Is this legal?” Rather than keeping my thoughts to myself, I asked the question, which of course was greeted with a rather suspicious look from the Stake Young Men’s president. He was all too happy to inform me that this was a “loophole” in the system through which we could potentially maintain contact with these families. I was appalled. The second event that led me to leave Mormonism was simply a phone call from the missionaries. They were working with a young Catholic family and wanted to know if I could accompany them to perhaps inform them of my own spiritual journey. I knew right then and there that my faith in Mormonism had been shaken and that I could lie to that family. I respectfully declined citing a prior commitment interfered. The event with the Young Men’s presidency also shook my wife’s faith considerably. After that event she began to earnestly re-investigate the teachings of the Catholic Church and realized that we had been hoodwinked by the romantic edited version of Mormonism that we had been spoon fed. In the beginning my wife was much more skeptical than I was about Mormonism. As a matter of fact, if it would have been up to me, I would have joined much earlier than I did. I respect her spirituality a lot and knew that if we felt the same way about this that we needed to talk to our bishop.

So we scheduled an appointment with our bishop to discuss our ‘concerns’. He followed protocol and asked us to turn in our Temple Recommends and asked us if either of us were here due to being offended by another member of the ward or due to gross misconduct on our part. In other words, before even hearing us out it was thrown at us that some how this had to be our fault. We had put our hearts and souls into the LDS church and to have someone flat out ask you that really hurt. We said that we wanted to search out our feelings about returning to the Catholic Church. He respected our wishes but subsequently bombarded us with missionaries, home teachers (funny that they never showed up prior to this meeting!), visiting teachers, etc. that became so overwhelming that we requested to be put on the “do not contact” (DNC) list immediately thereafter.
To make sure that our ‘feelings’ weren’t misleading us again, we decided to attend Mass regularly at a parish called Christ the King in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After participating (and that’s the key word) in the celebration of the Mass we both knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we needed to return to the Bride of Christ, the Holy Catholic Church. We immediately contacted the Priest and had a few meetings with another Deacon. After telling them the details of our spiritual journey and our experiences with Mormonism they both felt that upon receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation we could once again fully participate in all of the blessings and Sacraments provided under Christ’s true Church.

Our break up with the LDS church has been messier than I would have imagined. We harbor no ill feelings towards the church or any individual members; however, they have fought us tooth and nail regarding our desire to leave. We have tried to clear the air that our desire to recommit ourselves to Christ through the Holy Catholic Church is not due to anyone offending us or due to our inability to “live the gospel” due to any grave transgressions that we have committed. Our return to Catholicism is solely due to its centered belief in Jesus Christ and the truthfulness of its doctrine and teachings. Many of our former LDS ‘friends’ have written us off completely, but it just goes to show that they really didn’t care about us in the first place.

Since our re-version to Catholicism I have had the privilege of talking to other Catholics in forum settings about honest theological differences between Catholicism and Mormonism. We have even helped a couple that was struggling with their Catholic faith and strongly considering joining the LDS church to return to activity in the Catholic Church. In the future we will undoubtedly become more active in our new parish (we’re moving again…this time I’ve accepted a position as an assistant professor at Michigan State University); however, for the time being we’re enjoying our role of strengthening our relationship with God – something we NEVER had time to do in the LDS church. Perhaps sometime in the not-too-distant future we will become involved in RCIA or some other faith-promoting venture such as an adult Bible study; however, for the time being, we’re just happy to be back!

This weekend our 3-month old daughter Abigail will be baptized by the priest who married us almost 7 years ago. We are elated that our daughter will have the opportunity to learn the truth about God and His relationship with the human family. For those of you entering, returning to or seriously considering joining the Catholic Church I hope that our story will help you in your journey of faith. Although as a member of the Catholic Church you will not receive a formal calling from local clergy, you will have the opportunity to participate in the Mass. Your participation will be aligned with the celebration that also occurs in heaven (cf. Book of Revelation). Unlike Mormon meetings where spontaneous talks are given on a wide array of topics ranging from food storage to tithing and Mormon chapels were the pulpit is the centerpiece of the room, the Holy Catholic church focuses solely on the worship of Jesus Christ. At the center of Catholicism is the altar where the Great High Priest Himself invites us to partake of Holy Communion with Him. At the celebration of the Eucharist we are invited to “come unto Christ” (cf. Moroni 10:32) in a way unavailable to Mormons. I am thankful to once again be a member of the Bride of Christ. If there’s anything I can do to help any of you in your journey of faith, don’t hesitate to be in touch!

God bless!


At 2:12 PM, Blogger -RR said...

Mike's story about contacting families on the DNC list is interesting. When I was in the Missionary Training Center, I had the opportunity to work in the telecenter where we took callers' information in order to send them a copy of the Book of Mormon or Bible or video (from TV offers). Some "projects" we worked on dealt with calling back those who had called us. Some of the time it was just a follow-up call, while the rest of the projects were cold-calls ... we would call up the person who had called us a few or even several years ago. Rarely did we get the person who actually placed the call. If we got someone else on the phone, we talked with him or her and tried to send the missionaries to their home to share a message. Some of those conversations were pretty interesting. Some people wanted to receive the message (discussions) while others declined (respectfully or otherwise).

Now going on to the question, "is this legal?" The Church is not a for-profit organization and therefore it probably IS legal to contact people on the DNC list. I'm not a lawyer, but I seem to remember hearing this reasoning at some time ... I think it was around the time the Do-Not-Call registry came out.

At 2:29 PM, Blogger Cynthia said...


It may be *legal* to contact those on a DNC list, but why would anyone in the Mormon church want to contact people who have specifically asked not to be contacted?

I can understand getting in touch with less actives (although that hasn't happened to me in the 5 years I've been inactive), but to specifically contact those who have asked not to be contacted seems to be bordering on harassment.

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Vajra said...

Mike, thank you for your story. You make me wish I could go before the Blessed Sacrament right this minute. I remember when I was a child Catholic churches were almost always open, at least until 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. We could drop in for a "visit" whenever we wished. I remember that as a little one I could not pass a Catholic church without desiring to go inside and whisper "hello" and "I love you" to the Baby Jesus. I so loved the Incarnation and I understood that He was present there for us all.

At 6:04 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

Just to clarify, the young men and young women of our ward were encouraged to contact and potentially befriend the children of the families on the DNC list. If genuine friendships already existed between these kids, that would have been 'ok'. But using this as a way around the DNC list and involve the children of parents who said 'no thanks' to the LDS church is a little odd. This is the same reason that investigators can't be baptized until they are 18 without the consent of a legal guardian, right?

God bless,

At 7:24 PM, Blogger lma said...

In reply to rocky's statement about it not being illegal to contact those members of the Mormon church who request to be put on a "do not contact" list:

I don't think the issue of legality even enters into it. It is just profoundly disrespectful of those people to continue to pester them when they have explicitly asked not to be contacted. This just illustrates one of the most pernicious aspects of Mormonism, in my mind - the lack of any normal sense of personal boundaries. Mormons seem to think that everyone else's business is their business, even if they have been told point-blank that their interest is not appropriate or appreciated.

I really think that Mormons are the only group of people I have ever had any experience with who don't see anything strange or wrong about the concept of "assigned friends". That, after all, is really what home teachers, visiting teachers and, yes, those teenagers who were instructed to form "friendships" with teenagers of families on the DNC list are - assigned friends. I want the people who associate with me to do so because they genuinely like me and value my friendship, not because they are trying to coax me back into a church that I no longer have any interest in being a part of.


At 9:48 AM, Blogger -RR said...

In response to the other comments:

'why would anyone in the Mormon church want to contact people who have specifically asked not to be contacted?' I think for the most part, LDS will respect others' requests to not be contacted. I think the issue is that new leadership comes in, people are moving in and out of the ward all the time and in an attempt to fellowship people whose names are on the ward list, the Elders Quorum will go out and find these "lost sheep" and try to bring them back into the fold. I don't think (generally speaking) that the same person would continually attempt to visit a family once that family has SPECIFICALLY requested not to be visited.

Personally ... if someone tells me that don't want me visiting them, then I report that to the Elders Quorom president and leave it at that. Otherwise, I will continue to visit that family and be their friend and truly help them and be there for them. There are so many instances of a member visiting a less active family time and time again before that family comes out to church again. And once that family begins attending again, they are grateful for the persistence of the home teachers. If that's what it takes to "save a soul" then it's worth it.

'I don't think the issue of legality even enters into it.' Mike, the poster brought up the issue of legality. I was providing some justification. Otherwise, I agree with the comment. It is disrespectful to ignore others' wishes not to be visited. I would never do it personally.

On the other hand, if that family or person really doesn't want to be contacted, they they should contact the bishop/stake president and have their names officially removed from the records of the Church.

At 9:32 PM, Anonymous mormon fool said...

I would like to thank Mike for sharing that story with us. I wish him well on his spiritual journey. I admire that he deliberated his decision to leave the Mormon church for a long time before deciding to leave. I wish that investigators would investigate Mormonism that way before joining. Brigham Young took two years of study before joining, but it seems the rare individual that can maintain interest in anything for very long without making some kind of commitment to it. A young, uneducated mission force seems to cater to the needs of most converts and aren't well suited to helping someone acquire a lot of book smarts that some people need to have a good foundation. In many ways RCIA does a better job of getting older members to help meet intellectual needs and Catholicism has an efficient, paid apologetics force.

Mike mentions that some of callings took away from his time to get closer to God. I am confident that if he had spent less time investigating controversial issues, he could have used it towards that purpose. Likewise other mormons, choose to spend time for devotional purposes and not become experts at answering criticisms directed at Mormonism. The means very little of the membership of the LDS church can be helpful at resolving legitimate concerns raised by critics. Mike chose not to keep his doubts secret because he thought that it is unacceptable to publicly express his doubts. Yes, he read the defensive minded FAIR and FARMS literature, but it doesn't appear that he ever looked for a knowledgable LDS to converse with. I don't think there is any substitute for having a non-judgmental mentor(s) to openly discuss concerns with, when one delves into challenging literature, even if one is a Ph.D. student.

Regardless of how I wish events had unfolded, Mike's story reveals weaknesses in how LDS handle doubters. I will take his story to heart and try to be more understanding to those who might be silently struggling with issues within my sphere of influence.

At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, Thank you for such an awesome conversion story.

Mormon fool, I don't understand how you can expect someone to learn more about the LDS before leaping into it when the church keeps secrets from people until they are deep into it. I have no doubt that the missionaries who came to Mike's door left out the part about becoming gods on their own planets some day.

At 11:08 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

Thanks for everyone's comments...I didn't expect so many people to actually comment and respond to my story.

To clear the air a bit, I joined the LDS church with the fulless of intentions of it being true. I didn't spend my time trying to investigate all of the space doctrine and difficult points that exist in LDS theology. Rather, I tried to gain a concept of the Scriptures through CES. I'm a little hurt that Mormon Fool touts that I didn't spend time trying to become a discipline of Christ, but rather an apologist of some sorts. For what it's worth I really gave it my best shot.

The missionaries we met w/ over the years were well-intentioned young people who did the best they could. I don't feel that they pulled any punches with us. They presented to us the teachings and doctrines of the LDS church as they best understood it.

I know this may be hard for Mormons to believe, but I left through studying the Early Church fathers (not polemic anti-Mormon garbage) and spiritual experiences by attending Mass. It became clear to me what God's will was for both my wife and family.

I had doubts, but nowhere to turn. I basically became an outcast in Mormonville.

Again, thanks for your comments.


At 1:31 PM, Anonymous mormon fool said...


I think it is reasonable to expect that investigators of Mormonism should hold off making commitments until they understand what they are getting into. Everybody needs to take personal responsibility for their own choices, even if they made them on limited information and pressure from others. (I would put Christ's apostles in this category, they dropped their nets and clearly didn't learn some of Christ's harder doctrines until much later.) In this information age, there really shouldn't be much excuse for an educated individual to claim information is hidden. Yes the LDS church has guidelines on what should be discussed in devotional settings and emphasizes the more fundamental doctrines like Christ's atonement and distinctive doctrines like the need for continuing revelation; but devotional literature and missionaries typically avoid speculation like gods owning planets because so little is understood about the afterlife and there is room for disagreement. One can find such items addressed by faithful LDS in books and many other forums.

But in any event, I can understand making a premature commitment, feeling a lot of discomfort upon breaking those commitments, and the compulsion to feel like one is a victim. But, even after joining a faith one should not quit re-evalauting their commitment in light of new information and experiences. I don't think we will ever have time to process all the information that has bearing on choosing a religion, so at some point a leap of faith has to be taken.

At 2:26 PM, Anonymous mormon fool said...


Thanks for clearing the air. I admit to selectively reading your original post and not catching some of the nuances of your story. Now that I have read your post 3-4 times, I see I overeacted to your critique of LDS missionary discussions while not putting your 2 year pre-LDS study or volumious post-LDS studies into context. I now consider you an exemplary case of what I advocate, which is to relentlessly seek out knowledge and letting it inform your faith commitments. I don't want to add the hurt or ostracism you feel, I just hope for a healing process.

So I retract my comments that question how you prioritized time as an LDS member and ask for forgiveness for making unwarranted assumptions. Clearly there is some institutional breakdown on the LDS church's part in how handle exiting members. I ask your forgiveness and I will try to evaluate how I can improve as a dialoguer as a result of making such an error. I re-read what I wrote and I feel like a pompous idiot right now.

I take heart that anti-mormon and anti-catholic garbage doesn't appeal to you either. I am glad that it was Catholicism's positives and your study of Early Christian history that figured most largely in your reversion. If I ever become Catholic, I would hope I could look back and say the same.

You wrote:

>>Second, for those critically and judiciously investigating the doctrines and beliefs of the LDS church, I hope to expose the truths about the doctrinal developments in Mormonism over the last 200 years juxtaposed to Biblical Christianity.

Exploring this very subject in an intellectualy responsible way, while leaving room for Holy Envy, is exactly what I envision for the Mormons and Catholics site. If you want a forum to explore these ideas, you have an open invitation to become one the group bloggers. Let me know if you are interested.


At 3:37 PM, Anonymous Mike said...


I appreciate your honesty and kindness. By responding the way you did you showed to me (and others) that you are a sincere follower of the Lord. Thanks for taking the time to re-read my post and permit me to clear the air.

I've visited your website that you host w/ Brad Haas and have been impressed with the charitable exchanges on the doctrines which unite and separate us.

In close, I have nothing but positive things to say about my experiences with the LDS church or the friendships we built during our membership.

Feel free to be in touch w/ me anytime if you would like:

God bless!


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