By Tony Hansen
I was raised in a loving LDS home that encouraged me to see God’s plan and love in everything. When I was 19 and in college, I felt God suggesting I go on my mission after that semester, despite my plans of going after graduating with a degree. I was sent to Ukraine and immediately fell in love with the beautiful icons in the Orthodox and Catholic churches. I now consider this the earliest stages of my conversion to Catholicism.
While on my mission, the mission leadership challenged us all to reaffirm our testimonies of the Book of Mormon by praying about it and asking God if it was true. I had always believed the Book of Mormon was true but never experienced what I would consider a spiritual witness of this fact. This began to bother me as I started to pray and look for a spiritual witness as I was instructed to by my church leadership. Being less of an emotional person made this even more frustrating as the vast majority of references to spiritual witnesses involve some form of emotional response. This lack of spiritual witness continued throughout my mission and after I returned home.
Upon returning home, I continued searching for a spiritual witness that the LDS church was true. Through 6 years of searching, the lack of the expected result slowly led me to stop wanting to attend church, read my scriptures, or even pray. I felt like I couldn’t claim to be LDS because I didn’t have the all important witness from God that it was true. At my sister-in-law’s wedding Mass, I realised that I wasn’t living as the man I had promised God and my wife I would be. I always wanted to be strong in my faith for my family and I simply wasn’t living that way.
To rectify this, I dove into my search with renewed vigor. I started rereading the Book of Mormon and the Gospels (always my favourite part of scripture) for the umpteenth time. I also tried to go in with a mind more open to Truth in general rather than trying to only reaffirm my LDS faith. While reading the sixth chapter of John, the same prompting that told me to serve a mission told me to think about why Christ would say “Verily, verily” (or as it could be translated “Truly, truly”) about eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood. At that moment, I realised I really only had 2 choices if I wanted to follow where Truth led me, Catholicism or Orthodoxy. Being raised LDS had left me with a strong opinion on the need for a leader among the Apostles, which the Papacy provides. In under half an hour, I had gone from being an inactive LDS to researching what I needed to know and do to become Catholic.
After several weeks of study, I decided to tell my wonderful wife that I thought I needed to become Catholic. Her loving response was to laugh at me for several minutes. Before we even got engaged, the plan was always for us to attend both her Mass and my LDS services and to never try to convert the other. She couldn’t believe that I was converting on my own. Throughout my journey into the Catholic church, she made sure to constantly challenge me and ensure that I was converting for the right reasons and not because I just wanted a new church or that it would be easier to attend the same church or that I thought it was what she wanted. I frequently say I became Catholic despite my wife because she took longer to convince that it was the correct decision than I did. The next big steps were getting over being raised non-Trinitarian, praying to Mary and the saints, and telling my family I was converting, especially my mother who had converted from Catholicism to LDS before my birth.
After another month of study, I finally gathered my courage to pray to know if I should become Catholic. Despite all the other signs, it was important to me to get the spiritual witness I never found in the LDS church. I was blessed to receive this witness and also the gentle encouragement to share this with my family. My wife also gave me her support and I made several phone calls that day. First to my Catholic in-laws so that I at least had someone happy for me. Then I called my mother and father. I am very blessed to have such wonderful parents who, while disappointed I was leaving the faith they loved so strongly, expressed their sincere support of me and even went so far as to offer to not share their faith with any of my future children if that’s what I want. Now I just needed to assure myself of the truth of my final questions about Catholicism.
Mary and the saints was probably the easiest hurdle after Transubstantiation for me to get past. I already had a good belief in the righteous dead supporting us, a version of Purgatory, and most of the Marian dogmas (the Assumption and Immaculate conception also made sense once explained to me). Once I learned that praying to saints is completely optional, I thought I was golden. Then reading Kimberly Hahn’s experience in Rome Sweet Home made me realise what role Mary and the saints can actually play in our lives. The Trinity was much harder to wrap my head around until I heard an RCIA instructor on YouTube explain it as the Father’s perfect self-knowledge begat the Son and the Spirit proceeds from Their perfect love. Before then, everyone had tried to use analogies that always left me more confused than before. Once the Trinity made sense, I contacted our local parish to start RCIA.
In RCIA, I was known as the one who already knew all the answers and would sometimes have to correct the catechists. I also chose to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church from cover to cover during the Advent and Lent preceeding my baptism. Being able to finally partake of Christ after over a year of knowing it is something I need to do was and is one of the sweetest moments. Since being baptised, I have volunteered my skills developed in the LDS church as a cathechist with RCIA and my wife and I have been the RCIA coordinators the past 2 years.