Conversion Experiences, Life as a Mormon, and Anything Else That Comes to Mind...

Friday, April 21

"Hovering Rats"

Last night, after a walk through the Hub with a good friend on one of the nicest spring days I can recall, we sat at South Station (a.k.a. "Fast Lane to Suburban Hell") and talked while he waited for his train. We discussed our respective writing projects.

A professionally dressed woman eyed us as we approached the bench she sat on, conveniently the one where we wanted to sit and talk. Tip-off #1 that something unpleasant might commence. We sat down next to her.

After taking our seats, amid the cacophony of commuters moaning about either their work day, their commute, or both, and the PA system blaring departure/arrival announcements, my friend and I tried to concentrate on what we were saying to each other.

2 minutes later, the woman made a deliberate "show" of packing up her belongings. Having caught our attention, she whined to us in a voice that barely rose above a whisper about "you hovering rats." "Don't you know it's impolite to nose into someone's business?" she asked, before continuing her "hovering rats" tirade directed right at me.

My friend and I had no idea what she was talking about, and as her anger rose while her voice never did, she said, "Of course that's the reaction when you're guilty of eavesdropping." Puzzled, amused, and annoyed, I replied to the effect of "What are you talking about?" (my mind added a few choicer, not-so-kind words). She took off in a huff while we sat there astounded by her antics. We heard her laugh to a commuter behind us that she caught two "hovering rats" listening to her.

There are many problems with this woman's story. 1) We paid no attention to her. 2) She was listening to her iPod and was not talking to anyone. 3) She had no materials in view that she was reading, examining, writing on, etc. 4) She pulled the exact same antic a few minutes later when she accosted a different commuter nearby.

It's bad that I sat each workday in the transit world's version of the Black Hole of Calcutta for 2 years on a 90-minute commute each way. To return to it on occasion and see a stunt like this makes me glad that I walk and bike to work now and don't have to deal with people seeing "hovering rats" on their trek home.

A Blog's First Photo

Let's give this a whirl. This is a photo of Mrs. Married-to-a-Boston-Convert as she goes vertical (sideways) and nearly causes a human demolition derby at the starting line of the Boston Marathon!

Friend is running nearly off-screen, in the dark blue (cotton, no less...for 26.2 miles) shirt with white lettering.

It's been 4 days now, and she's finally feeling nearly 100%. Now it's on to a 10K this summer, and maybe this time, we'll cause a 50-person pile-up at the starting line.

Wednesday, April 19

5 Hours & 10 Minutes...and 1 Year

For Patriots Day in the Bay State, Mrs. Married-to-a-Boston Convert spent her day here.

It was remarkable. We got to see the Marathon begin in Hopkinton, and a friend and I managed to see my wife and our friend 6 different times along the route, which was truly miraculous (twice we parked our car in a neighborhood, walked to the route, and waited no more than 5 minutes before seeing Wife and Friend). She looked great until just before "Heartbreak Hill," but they kept pushing on...battling leg cramps, fatigue, boredom, distractions, a worried husband trying to stuff bananas, water, and power bars in a certain woman's hands, etc.

Friend used several mantras to push himself after enduring leg cramps since Mile 4. "I can see it, I can see it, I can see it," he kept telling himself. It was an inspiring sight to see thousands of people pushing their physical limit to run 26.2 miles. Maybe I'll run a marathon some day? (Does that statement sound hopeless or what? "Maybe"? "some day"?).

I'll post photos soon.

My wife has sworn off running a marathon again, though she is already involved in one...the marathon of marriage. That's right!

One year ago today, we got sealed in the Big House. It's been a great year! 4 years ago, I had no idea about temples, Mormons, or sealings, and had no relationships that were marriage material. Things have been so good ever since.

Monday, April 17

The 110th Boston Marathon!

This morning, my wife is running the Boston Marathon for the first time. We're currently in Hopkinton, near the starting line, thanks to a well-placed connection (an employee of Hopkinton High School, so we parked for free and in relative comfort) and a short walk to the start line in 2 hours awaits us.

I'll post later with an update of how Mrs. Married-to-a-Boston-Convert ran, and hopefully add photos. This is an exciting day! My wife's best run is 21.2 miles. Adding another 5 should be fine for her. She thrives off the enthusiasm of other people, and there will be tens of thousands of spectators! It should be great motivation.

Thursday, April 13

$7 for a 3-minute Hymn

Over the last several years, likely in direct correlation to tithing as part of my conversion, impulse buying has dramatically decreased in my life. For example, I read Time on-line (yes, that counted as an "impulse purchase" back in the pre-LDS days of 2002).

However, every once in a while, exceptions must be made. Look out, all you big spenders, because I aim to head the list of random, impulse purchases with this latest entry:

$7 for the October 2005 General Conference DVD. No, not for the talks or anything else...

Solely for "The Iron Rod," specifically as sung to the melody of "Jupiter" from composer Holst's The Planets.

It stuck with me for months, and I thought it was just a new arrangement. I didn't know of its musical heritage until I loaned several classical CDs from a nearby library, including Holst's Planets, burned them, and heard the melody to which "The Iron Rod" was sung.

The melody is also used in an old British patriotic song, "I Vow to Thee, My Country," which has stirring and/or controversial, jingoistic lyrics (depending on how you read the words) found here.

It's now in my top 3 of my favorite LDS hymns, along with "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" and "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," which we sang at my baptism and which, as I hear from numerous LDS friends, is gaining momentum to be included in the next Hymnal.

Could This Be Something Mentioned in the BoM?

I read this article months ago. I read it again this morning, Google'd for the piece, and found only 2 hits.

Mayan Collapse

Given that at some point, the article will no longer be available, here are highlights:

"Archeologists excavating the ruined Guatemalan city of Cancun have found the remains of what they believe is one of the pivotal events in the collapse of the Maya civilization--the desperate defense of the once-great trading center and the ritual execution of at least 45 members of its royal court. An enemy as yet unknown not only wiped out the royal dynasty about AD 800 but also systematically eliminated religious and cultural artifacts as well--in effect, killing the city and leaving it abandoned to the elements.

"After this event, cities in the western Maya lowlands in Guatemala were abandoned, most within 20 to 30 years, the researchers said. The displaced populations moved east and north, where they eventually depleted local resources and faded away...

"The city's occupants were clearly aware of the impending disaster. [Vanderbilt University researcher Arthur D.] Demarest and his team found a system of hastily constructed and unfinished stone and wooden palisade walls that showed a desperate attempt to defend Cancun from attack...

"The Maya dominated Central America for more than 1,500 years, from well before the birth of Christ to late in the first millennium. They established a complex network of kingdoms dominated by 'holy lords,' building large cities with palaces and pyramids throughout the region and reaching a peak in the Classical period from AD 300 to 900.

"Then, they disappeared. The mysterious nature of that collapse has captivated at least two generations of scholars, provoking theories including environmental despoiliation, drought, and vicious warfare...The discovery 'supports Demarest's view that the Classic Maya civilization collapsed by endemic warfare,' said archeologist Heather McKillop of Louisiana State University. 'The massacre is one of those rare events in archeology where an event is frozen in time,' she added."

I am no scriptorian. I couldn't tell you who did what, at what time, and where. I can drop names, but can't place them within 50 pgs. of where they are in scripture. However, I know that much content in the BoM concerns war, often of the "vicious" and "endemic" variety. And I think that some of the slugfests took place in the approximate area where these researchers were digging.

Whether that validates some of the events in the BoM war stories, I can't say. I just thought this article might corroborate some of the events in Alma (?) and later. Please chime in to correct me or add thoughts.

Tuesday, April 11

3-plus Hours of Church=Longevity?


Inspiring Interview

Today at my Office with a View (of a Subway and a parking lot--urban splendor at its best), an acquaintance came to talk with me about his experiences serving in a neighboring Stake. He is one of the most dedicated LDS'ers that I know of. Put him anywhere in the church, and he would do inspiring work.

Yet, in his remarks concerning the people in a language unit in which he has served for 7+ years, he told me wonderful anecdotes about people whom he holds in high esteem--single mothers who walk with their kids to church because they can't afford the T fare; of undocumented workers earning $5/hour, paying rent, paying tithing, and still finding dough to send back to relatives in their homelands; of a man who volunteered at his town's police station to help out, only to have the INS get wind of it, stick him in jail for 12+ months, and have him spend years getting back into the The Land of the Free to be with his family, and of the repercussions in his children's lives due to him being detained, deported, and struggling to reunite.

I could've spend all day listening to this guy talk about the unit he serves in. People who have next-to-nothing and still find hope in the world and in the Gospel.

This interview was for a book that is 8 years in the making by an LDS authority in the Cambridge area. I had a similar idea for a book, got wind of the major work that's already gone into this project, and volunteered to assist in interviewing everyday Mormons.

It is one of the choicest experiences I have had since I converted 3+ years ago. It's inspiring to hear accounts from people (15 so far) of how their lives have been blessed by service in the church. You'll hear it from here when the book is ready to hit the press.

Back on Track

A week has gone by, the Sox won their Home Opener this afternoon on a perfect spring day, and I am feelin' the itch to get going on this blog. The Great Hambino has made some great suggestions for actual relevent, topical content (See Comments section).

I want to make this site what I wrote about in a previous post . I think the daily topics idea is an awesome approach. That is the way to go--if not daily, then frequently.

Wednesday, April 5


The baseball FHE theme went off well, surprisingly. I compiled statistics that my wife probably considered meaningless (though she's a Math teacher, so she has a love of numbers--I guess not just of the ERA kind). I actually had a brainstorm while doing the intro to the lesson, wherein we read from D&C 60, verse 13.

OK, the last part of the sentence I related to ballplayers (cue brainstorm), specifically the thousands of ballplayers in the minor leagues who, blessed by God with an athletic ability, nevertheless only get called up to the majors for a cup of coffee. Thousands of these ballplayers then have to discover and use the other talents with which the Lord has blessed them to find work outside of the game.

But I also introduced my wife to players like Christy Mathewson, a legend who was accidentally gassed in a WWI training exercise and had to leave baseball. Also, Ted Williams, who missed 5 seasons in the prime of his career for military service. And Roberto Clemente, for whom the Majors have named an annual humanitarian award. I tried to illustrate that these men had a talent for baseball, but also had a desire to defend their country and gave service to others, in so doing using other talents aside from the ones displayed on the diamond.

I totally enjoyed planning this FHE. It went off much better than my usual FHE (think of 5 ideas, scratch 'em all, then read an article from the Ensign).

Maybe next week we'll do something more in a spiritual vein, like this.

Monday, April 3

Converts of the World, Unite!

I created this blog partly in response to the Reuters article about Church growth in New England...but mostly (hopefully) as a forum for Mormon converts--and those lucky enough to know them--to share ideas, express opinions and observations on a culture that likely is (or at one time was) new to many of get the idea.

From being in a singles ward in Cambridge for 2+ years, I personally know about two dozen young adult converts. There are thousands more of us out there.

Envision ConvertsCorner as you would like...and then write in to make that vision a reality.

FHE Tonight

Tonight's my turn in the household to plan FHE. Since my beloved Red Sox choked the Rangers this afternoon, 7-3, in sweaty Arlington (I've been to the stadium...believe me, despite airy concourses, it's a sweatbox) I have planned an FHE devoted to baseball.

Yes, you read that right: tonight's FHE will concern itself with the national pastime.

How will I weave a Gospel principle or spiritual thought into this? Although I'm no scriptorian, I'll surely find some reference to Heavenly Father bestowing talents upon His children in the Scriptures...and then it's on to an hour's screening of "When It Was a Game."

My Take: Reuters LDS Church Growth Article

Today's Reuters output includes a feature on the increasing membership in the Mormon Church in the Northeast.

I was interviewed for this article by the author, who wanted to know a little bit about why I stopped going to the Catholic Church and joined the LDS Church in December 2002. We spoke for about 5 minutes at my office. I was excited when the local church public affairs office contacted me to see if I'd be up for an interview, and I jumped at the chance.

I'm interested in writing about the church in the New England area, and thought this would be a great opportunity to discuss the church with the print media.

It's an informative article--one that I was told would run mid-week last week. It was published this morning, and has been linked to by numerous LDS'ers at Times & Seasons.

I write the following solely in the interest of clarification. In all likelihood, something just got lost in translation.

Unfortunately, the lead-in to my one quote in the article is not wholly accurate. The lead-in, as printed, suggests that the clergy sex abuse crisis in the Boston Archdiocese made me convert. Yes, shuffling victimizing priests from parish to parish was and is abhorrent; yes, Bernie is a pimp. And in an episode that hit close to home for my family, the Catholic Church closed the chapel where my mom was baptized, confirmed, and attended parochial school until 11th grade.

However, none of these factors "sealed" (as the article states) my decision to convert to the LDS faith. I decided to join because I came to know and believe that what I learned during my investigation was true. I explained that the LDS Church's structured system of giving service to others was one aspect that very much appealed to me. I wish that had been included in the article.

The author was a pleasant person to speak with. He asked me 4 or 5 intelligent, direct questions, almost all of them dealing with the crisis in the Catholic Church at the time. But I hadn't been going to church faithfully for 10 years at the time the crisis really hit the fan--a point I specifically stressed in the interview. I was a "Christmas-and-Easter" Catholic who was looking into other religions in 2001-2002 and hadn't even attended an LDS worship service yet. Bernie took off for Rome around the time I was baptized.

I am glad that I was asked to contribute comments for this article. It is a wonderful feeling to be asked to represent, in some small way, a community that I hold in high esteem and that has blessed my life in countless ways.

But I did want to clarify one point that, if not corrected, might make it seem that my conversion had nothing to do with faith, exposure to truths, or the kind acts of LDS'ers I knew.