March 12, 2014 by Chris French
My story of faith is by no means what you would call “traditional.” I was born and raised Mormon (or LDS if you prefer) for the majority of my life. My mother was converted into the Mormon church when she was seven and baptized into that church when she was eight. My father converted to Mormonism sometime between the ages of 18-22 when he was in the Coast Guard. And the result of all that was a family that was distinctly and entirely Mormon. However, my father left the Mormon church sometime during the seven and a half year age gap between my brother and myself. The religious rift that was created between my parents was an insurmountable one and they divorced when I was just one year old. But not before I was blessed as a child of the LDS faith.
My mother continued to take me to church regularly and through the Mormon church, I was introduced to Christ. While I do appreciate the rigid Bible study that they introduced me to, and the habits of prayer and study; as I aged I began to see more and more flaws with the Mormon church. I found the way that they taught Christ and God was far too humanizing to Christ. That Christ was something that could be achieved, and not just something that we will fruitlessly, but ultimately still should, strive for.
My mother still went each Sunday, and my sisters both went to BYU and married good Mormon men. My father left the church and became kind of antagonistic towards church entirely but I believe he does still have faith in Christ and God. My brother kind of just became apathetic towards the whole thing. And a little over one year after the death of my brother, I found that the Mormon church did not and could not provide me with the relationship with Christ that I was unknowingly looking for. I left the LDS church and defiantly so. I requested my name be removed from the church rosters entirely. In the Mormon church, this is the one and only thing that can lead to eternal damnation. Mormons believe that the ultimate sin is to hear the “true” word of Christ and to still reject it. As such, my mother, local Bishop, and the Birmingham President (central church representative) all confronted me about it. But at 16, I still knew that my decision was the correct one and I told them all with confidence that I was certain of my decision.
After my leaving the Mormon church, I became very disillusioned with organized religion entirely. I was in a state that I would think my father is still currently in. I was never at a point where I didn’t believe in God or didn’t believe in Christ, I just found that thinking too much about it still brought up tough memories and I wasn’t ready to meet Christ again. It was several years before I gave the Bible or God more than a passing thought. And it wasn’t until the passing of my mother at 19 years old before I started to think about any of it again. And one of the primary reasons I started thinking about it again is because I was blessed with what you might call an “adoptive” family.
The Disons were the family of my childhood best friend who are very active in their church and they were always more than willing to provide a home whenever I need it. They became my go to family. They host me for Thanksgiving, Christmas, make me birthday cakes and even slip me a twenty now and then to help with gas. And through them, I began to feel the love and understanding of Christ again. And I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to express to them my endless gratitude for everything that they have done for me. One year after my mother’s death, I went with the Dison’s to a Sunday service which I had done many many times before. I went mostly just to spend more time with them, but this particular Sunday was different. Service couldn’t have been going on for longer than five minutes when I found myself in tears.
I was filled with an emotion that I don’t have the words to express. Something just struck me that day. My adoptive brother, Zach, was sitting next to me and saw it right away. That I was being overwhelmed with Christ. I remember so distinctly the hand he put on my shoulder for the majority of that service as the small reminder that he was a brother of mine in Christ. And when the invitation was given, there was no hesitation. I knew that if there was something powerful enough in this universe to make me feel the way I did, it was no longer something I could ignore.
Christ was no longer someone that I could put to the back of my mind as someone I’ll get to “eventually.” The joy and love and happiness that I saw in my adoptive family’s eyes was confirmation of my decision. The look of shock, and then of joy from Joel Dison who has stepped into the role of father so completely for me was a look I will never forget. I started going to church regularly again. I started to read my Bible again. And I was lucky enough to earn the love a woman who has been lucky enough to know Christ her whole life. And after two and a half years of attendance, and plenty of encouragement from family and friends about getting baptized, I had a dream about baptism.
I dreamt that there was a group of people getting baptized. I intended on getting baptized too, but for whatever reason, I missed getting baptized. In the dream I was crying and explaining myself to Jessica. I said, “It’s not because you expect it of me, or because my family expects it of me. I know that Christ expects it of me, and I missed it.” That was approximately one month ago. And I didn’t want to miss my opportunity to be baptized into Christ. I addressed Kerry Richardson with confidence and told him that I would like to be baptized. Most everyone should know the rest at this point, I came and got baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for the remission of my sins. And that is easily the smartest decision I’ve made in my life.
You can watch Jason’s baptism here