Bill Pringle - Bill@BillPringle
14 Feb 2010 Bill Pringle
I have been asked to speak about my conversion story.
I was born and raised Catholic. I was a choir boy starting in the 4th grade. When at college, I attended Mass twice a day. Sometimes I was the choir, and sometimes I was the altar boy. I also belonged to the Legion of Mary, which is a Catholic missionary organization. I was very active, and then suddenly I became an agnostic.
I had two main problems with the Catholic Church when I was growing up. At that time, the church taught that only Catholics could get into heaven. My dad was a Presbyterian, and it made no sense that he would not be allowed into heaven. There was also the issue of someone at a remote location who had never heard about the Catholic Church, or Christianity. If they led a good life, how could a just and loving God deny them entrance into heaven?
While I was at college, I became friends with an atheist and had many debates with him. When I was young, catechism class consisted of memorizing the questions and answers. There really wasn't much thinking involved. We were told what questions we would be asked and what answers we could give. The problem was, my friend asked questions I couldn't answer and refuted the answers I was taught.
I recall lying in bed and asking my self, "Well, what do I know for sure?" The answer was that I didn't know anything for sure. This was very traumatic for me. I decided That I would never believe anything unless I knew for sure that it was true. I also would not join any church unless I knew what it taught was true.
The first question I tried to answer was "Is there a God?" While I couldn't prove that there was a God, I also couldn't prove that there wasn't a God. That made me an agnostic.
I read & studied a lot, and visited a number of churches. There were many that I liked, but I couldn't prove that any of them were true.
I love to read all kinds of things, and I read many articles about the interesting architecture in S America. There are huge blocks of stone perched high on top of structures that seemed impossible to explain. There are structures that look very much like the Egyptian Pyramids; so much that in one case, an archaeologist was able to find a hidden chamber by comparing it with a similar pyramid in Egypt. These strange things were used to "prove" all kinds of wild and hair-brained theories, including Flying Saucers, and The Lost continent of Atlantis.
At one point I came across some Mormon missionaries who showed me a film strip. It started out talking about the strange architecture in S America. It then had a line: "Wouldn't you like to read the records of these people?". My hair stood up on end. It then claimed that you could find these records in the Book of Mormon. I immediately started to read the Book of Mormon, thinking it was yet another hair-brain theory to enjoy.
I almost couldn't read it. When I read, I sub-vocalize (which means I hear the words being pronounced while reading - kinda reading out loud but not making any noise), I also picture the story in my mind as I read. Now if you have read any of the Book of Mormon, you are no doubt familiar with the phrase: "and it came to pass". This drove me nuts. Several times I threw the book down and didn't ever want to pick it up again, but each time I would try again.
I started reading out of curiosity, but the more I read, the more I felt that this wasn't just a story. It felt to me like this was real, but I couldn'y explain how I knew that. I refused to believe if I didn't know for sure. But how could I know for sure? How could I go from believing to knowing for sure?
The answer came when I got to Alma 32, where Alma compares faith to a seed.
In Alma 32:27 we read:
27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
This was my answer. I could experiment to find out if it was true. In reality, this is nothing more than the standard scientific method - you develop a theory, perform some experiments, and then analyze the results and compare the fact swith what your theory predicts. If they differ, then your theory is wrong. If they are the same, then you perform some additional experiments and compare the results. After you do this enough times, you begin to accept the fact that your original theory seems correct.
By the time I finished the Book of Mormon, I was absolutely convinced that it was true. Since it was true, then I knew that Joseph Smith had to be a prophet, since how could somebody fake a book of scripture that I knew to be true? The next question was if the Mormon Church was true, and after reading about how Brigham Young was transfigured to look and sound like Joseph Smith at a meeting after Joseph's death, I accepted that the Mormon Church was the true church.
I admit that I am a bit obsessive, and I probably worried more about this process than most, but I was determined to not repeat my mistake. If I was going to believe something, and especially believe in a church, I had to know beyond a doubt that it was all true. The poor missionaries, I caused them a lot of grief. They are used to convincing people who believe the Bible that the Book of Mormon is true. For me, I already believed that, but they had to prove to me that the Bible was true.
The Lord provided several ways for me to know I was on the right path.
My problem with who would be allowed into heaven was answered by learning the practice of Baptism for the Dead. Anyone who didn't have a chance to accept God in this life would get a chance in the next life - up until the judgment day.
When I started reading the Book of Mormon, I was a heavy smoker and drinker. I had quit smoking several times before, but nobody wanted to get near me for at least the first two weeks that I quit. I hate to think of how many packs of cigarettes I smoked while reading the Book of Mormon. As my belief increased, I realized that I had to quit smoking, and to my surprise, I had absolutely no nicotine withdrawal. I wasn't tempted to have a drink. Obeying the Word of Wisdom was completely painless for me.
When I first joined the church, I was given callings that I knew I could not do. And yet, somehow, the Lord helped me do them. I was constantly reminded of how the Lord blesses our lives when we agree to do what we are asked.
I know that the Book of Mormon is true, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true I know this because I have proved it to myself by doing what Alma said: experimenting on the word. If you don't know that yet, I promise you that you can learn it, if that is your desire. It is my hope and prayer that everyone here can find the joy and happiness that I have found from my knowledge of the truth. And I leave this with you in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.