One Mormon's Conversion
In spite of my reluctant entry, I was hooked almost immediately. The first discussion I took part in was on the Plan of Salvation, and I found what the missionaries taught interesting. In addition, they could answer all of my questions, which impressed me very much. It took me more than one session to figure out that they had memorized their presentations as well as the answers to my questions, but it didn't matter. They could answer them. That was what was important to me. Everything they said made sense. Like many looking into the Church's teachings, it seemed as if they were teaching me things I had always believed, even though I knew I hadn't. I felt at home as we talked, comfortable with what I heard.
The missionaries continued to teach us for months. I continued to find what they had to say thought provoking, and I learned to admire them in spite of the fact that I thought them strange: they were serious, studious, religious young men who couldn't take off their black suit jackets when they visited us, even though almost no one in those days had air conditioning and it was 95 degrees outside with 95% humidity; they lived together, drove a Rambler, and couldn't date; they couldn't listen to the radio and consequently knew nothing about the Shirelles or Chubby Checker. But despite the fact that we continued to study with the missionaries, we weren't getting any closer to baptism.
During the last week or two of January 1962, my mother and I were in the kitchen doing dishes and talking about the Mormons. I don't know which of us said it first, but we decided we would like to be baptized. However, since my father was still not sure what to think, we agreed not to say anything to him. Though I found comfort in the fact that the missionaries could answer any question I put to them, he was bothered by that. He didn't believe someone could have all the answers (and, of course, they didn't, but we didn't know that then). Mom and I waited for him to make up his mind. Shortly thereafter, perhaps even the same day, I don't remember, my father came to us saying, "I don't know about you, but I've decided to join the Mormon Church." Looking back, I suspect he was telling my mother, not me, but it seemed then that he was telling both of us.
Within a day or two the missionaries came by once again. When we opened the door, one of them said, "We have something we have to tell you." My mother answered, "First, let us tell you something: we have decided to be baptized." Needless to say, they were surprised. From their perspective, they had been teaching us for eight months or more and, though we had become friends of the Church, we were not close to being baptized. We were wasting their time, and they had come to tell us that the mission president had advised them not to continue to work with us.
We wanted to be baptized right away, but since we were very involved in the First Christian Church of San Antonio, we had to make some arrangements. We had, at least, to tell the minister, Dr. Sandlin, what we were doing. Not to do so would have been rude as well as disruptive since my father was one of the church's elders, and it was at Dr. Sandlin's urging that I had begun to think about a career in the ministry. Besides, the missionaries said we needed to attend an LDS service at least once, something we had never done.
Dr. Sandlin took the news of our conversion poorly to say the least. He came to our house and spent some time with us trying to talk us out of making the change. It was the first time I heard anyone talk about the Mormons as cultists. Though that isn't the word he used (no one did then), that was the message he brought. Dr. Sandlin was sincere and he was our friend, so all of us cried together as we talked about our leaving. But we didn't change our mind.