Our conversion story today comes from Maria Moreno from Santa Ana, California. Her daughter is currently serving in the Italy, Milan mission! Here are her words:
My conversion has been a slow process, I believe. It began with the death of my biological father when I was 7 years old, followed by my paternal grandfather, my maternal grandfather and my maternal grandmother within a space of 2 years. Amidst the rosaries and the Hail Mary’s, the Masses, candles and the incense, I discovered that the essence/spirits of my loved ones was gone; they had gone to a better place, and what was left in that coffin was an empty shell.
From then I refused to pray to the saints as is customary in the Catholic church and instead directed my prayers to God directly and looked upon Jesus Christ as my Savior and mediator with God the Father. No one taught me this. I just intuitively knew it as a child. Amidst my grief, since my mother and paternal grandmother were devastated over their loss, I was left on my own to come to my own conclusions. I believe I was comforted by the Holy Ghost and I felt a deep love for Jesus Christ. I knew He loved me so deeply and that He died for me and no one else loved me as much as He did.
At the age of nine my mother and I left Mexico and came to live in Santa Ana, California where my mother met and married the most wonderful husband and father a person could ever ask for. I was blessed with two wonderful fathers; the first one gave me life and love, and the second one gave me unconditional love and the emotional stability I needed.
I attended private Catholic Schools and would have continued with private schooling, but I missed the entrance exams for the local Catholic High School and attended Westminster High School instead, where I was surrounded by Mormons without me knowing it.
In my senior year in High School, while thinking of my options after graduation, I decided I wanted to be a missionary nun and serve in a leper colony in Africa, not an unusual thought for a good Catholic girl. I had heard missionary nuns speak to the youth while growing up and I was fascinated by them and wanted to wear the black & white habit. I went to speak with my local priest about becoming a nun and his first words to me after I related what I wished to do were “You are much too pretty to be a nun in a leper colony.” He was a very wise old priest and I still remember him with fondness. His second words to me, for which I am very grateful were to “search other religions and see if Catholicism is true and come back and see me about becoming a missionary nun.” As a good Catholic I took his words of advice to heart and begin praying for guidance and for God to show me the way and let me know if becoming a missionary nun was what he wanted for me.
I begin attending and studying other religions such as Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Church of God, and Jehovah Witnesses. I even looked at the Hara Krishna and checked into the occult. I joined the Christian club at school which met at lunch to study the Bible, but was not very welcomed since I was still very much Catholic.
In the meantime, my mom and I would go to the local laundry-mat to do our laundry and I was always intrigued by a little box that said “Christ in America” or something to that effect with a picture of Christ with the Nephites. It had little cards to call and ask for more information. I never did, but I did believe that Christ could have come to America, since I knew He was the Savior to all the world.
My best friend went to Utah on vacation and sent me a postcard of the Angel Moroni and said, “I thought you might like this since you are studying the Mormons right now, aren’t you?” When she came home I corrected her, since I was studying the Jehovah Witnesses at the time and came very close to joining them. I admired their zest and their courage to knock on doors and put up with all that rejection. I do still admire their zealousness and their conviction, a bit off the mark, but, at the time I was very interested in them.
This whole time I was on my knees praying to know the truth and lo and behold the Spanish speaking missionaries came knocking on my door. When I saw they were wearing suits and ties I was very intrigued, since, I had seen the Angel Moroni on a post card I had assumed all Mormons wore long tunics like the Arabs did. Not only were they wearing suits & ties, but they were young, cute and “white anglos” speaking fluent Spanish, definitely out of the ordinary. So, I let them in the door. Hispanics have a creed we live by, “mi casa es su casa” which means “my house is your house” and so, my mom offered them refreshments and made them feel welcomed. They of course proceeded to teach us the discussions. My dad and I were very interested. I think my mom was just looking for eligible young men for me so that I would not become a nun.
In the 70’s they had cute flannel board figure/stories and when they taught the priesthood authority I knew it was true. When they mentioned the Book of Mormon and gave us a synopsis of it, I knew it was true without even reading it. Angel Moroni coming to New York, the First Vision, all true as far as I was concerned. I had known it deep down in my soul since I was a little girl.
My dad also knew it was true and something he had been searching for as well. As a child he had gone to various other religions, but a member of none. When he married my mom he had converted to Catholicism because we were Catholic, but, when he heard the discussions, he also knew in his soul that it was true. My dad and I were baptized as soon as we were able to and my mother was baptized a few months later due to her being injured in an automobile accident.
Needless to say, I never did go back to my wise old priest who told me to search for the truth, but, to this day, I know that there are people of God in every religion, and even though they may not know, they help the gospel grow, like my wise old priest helped me to discover the truth. I pray and hope that my daughter runs into those people of God like my wise old priest helped me. I am thrilled that my daughter is going to be one of those sweet loving missionaries that brought the gospel to my family and me. I feel in a way, like my daughter is repaying the Lord my debt by serving a full-time mission. I am very grateful that Heavenly Father has blessed my daughter with this opportunity to serve in Italy.