The Conversion Story of Elder Mason Ford
Good morning brothers and sisters! I am Elder Ford from Saint George, Utah and I have been out on my mission now just under a year (11 months). Today I have been asked to speak a little bit about my own conversion and how I gained my testimony of this gospel. Now, I was raised in the church and baptized when I was 8 years old but I didn’t have a testimony or a true conversion until about a year to a year and a half ago. You could probably say that I was the typical teenager that went to church growing up because my parents made me. Luckily I had 2 of my best friends in my ward so it didn’t make church that bad. About 3 years ago my parents got divorced and around this time was when I started going less active. I went to church once in a while and when there were fun activities I went, but besides that I stayed home. To me it was way more fun to relax and watch NFL Football and keep track of my Fantasy Team than go sit in church for 3 hours and miss some games. This went on for quite some time until my senior year (last year). Growing up I never wanted to serve a mission. My mom would always read me a book called, “Mommy, Do I Have to Serve a Mission?” The book is about a little boy that always asks his mom if he has to serve a mission because he doesn’t want to serve one when he grows up. The mom always simply replies, “Son, I know that when you are older you will want to serve a mission.” The boy gets older and tells his mom that he will serve a mission if she will go with him, but if not then he won’t go. The mom says the same thing, “Son, I know that when you are older you will want to serve a mission.” Eventually the boy grows of age and does decide to serve a mission. 2 years later the mom gets a phone call from her son, “Mom, do I have to come home from my mission?” The book is very touching but I would say to my mom, “I won’t be like him, I can’t leave you, and I don’t want to do it!” My mom would answer as the mom in the book always did, “Son, I know that when you are older you will want to serve a mission.” Now let’s fast forward and get back to my senior year of high school. I didn’t really like the ward I was in because I didn’t connect with that many people. I was not reading my scriptures and I didn’t pray. I started hanging out with a lot of girls and others that didn’t have high standards and the things I learned at church kind of went away. Luckily, nothing that bad happened but I could see that something would happen if I kept staying on the path that I was on. I kept trying to figure out what my future was going to be, but I just didn’t know. Everybody in my family just expected me to go on a mission and always talked about it but they never really asked me how I felt about it. Being really confused, I read my Patriarchal Blessing and of course, that made me even more confused about my life. My Patriarchal Blessing doesn’t say the word “mission” in it once and that really threw me off because a lot of my friends told me that theirs talks a lot about their mission. I was so confused! As I thought about my future after high school, I kept thinking about my options and there were about 3. 1. Go to college 2. Get a job and start working 3. Go on a mission when I am 19. None of these sounded that appealing to me because I just wanted to stay a kid forever. In my mind I was thinking about colleges and what I wanted to do, the mission was at the back of my mind. I decided to pray for once and pretty much told God that I didn’t want to serve a mission and that I hoped he would forgive me and still love me for who I was. It just so happened to be that General Conference was that next weekend and a big announcement was made, the age to serve a mission was lowered to 18 for boys and 19 for girls! If I was confused at first, now I was even more confused! All everybody could talk about was a mission and at first it really got annoying but it eventually caught my mind and attention. All of my friends were excited because they could go right after high school and serve their mission. As time went on I started to pray a little bit more and read my Patriarchal Blessing. A mission started becoming more and more attractive to me. I was very unsure about leaving my family, friends, music, sports, and electronics behind, but I decided to think about a mission seriously. Around this time my ward split and
I got put in a new ward. There is no doubt that I got moved to a new ward for a reason. This ward was full of friends from school and it had the greatest Bishop ever. I decided to start going to church every week and I got involved again in church. I started blessing the sacrament again and I could tell that I was happy because I was in church with people that loved me and people that I loved. This ward was fired up about missionary work and it was projected that there would be somewhere around 24 or 25 missionaries from our ward serving by the summer of 2013. I got really fired up and met with the Bishop. Bishop really helped me out and made me want to serve a mission. He helped me repent of my sins and just showed genuine love for me and my mom. I decided to get my mission papers and planned on a mission, but I wanted to know if it was right. I looked at the papers and then I read my Patriarchal Blessing again and then I imagined myself with a nametag and I got really excited and felt peaceful. The Spirit confirmed to me that it was right to serve a mission, so there was no turning back from then on. I now stand here today as a missionary in the Washington Seattle Mission. I have learned so many things and met so many great people. Everyone says that the missionaries change their lives, but I am here to say that my life has been changed by everybody else. Never did I think that I would be here in this position but serving a mission has been the greatest decision I could ever make. I would like to close with one of my favorite talks is by D. Todd Christofferson called, “As Many As I Love, I Rebuke And Chasten” given back in the April 2011 General Conference. Elder Christofferson tells a story that was given by Hugh B. Brown.
He told of purchasing a rundown farm in Canada many years ago. As he went about cleaning up and repairing his property, he came across a currant bush that had grown over six feet (1.8 m) high and was yielding no berries, so he pruned it back drastically, leaving only small stumps. Then he saw a drop like a tear on the top of each of these little stumps, as if the currant bush were crying, and thought he heard it say:
“How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. … And now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me. … How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.”
President Brown replied, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and someday, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down.’”
Years later, President Brown was a field officer in the Canadian Army serving in England. When a superior officer became a battle casualty, President Brown was in line to be promoted to general, and he was summoned to London. But even though he was fully qualified for the promotion, it was denied him because he was a Mormon. The commanding general said in essence, “You deserve the appointment, but I cannot give it to you.” What President Brown had spent 10 years hoping, praying, and preparing for slipped through his fingers in that moment because of blatant discrimination. Continuing his story, President Brown remembered:
“I got on the train and started back … with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. … When I got to my tent, … I threw my cap on the cot. I clenched my fists, and I shook them at heaven. I said, ‘How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could
have done—that I should have done—that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?’ I was as bitter as gall.
“And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, ‘I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.’ The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness. …
“… And now, almost 50 years later, I look up to [God] and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”5
We don’t always understand what it is that we should do. We all face our own trials in life and we don’t understand why they are put in our path at the most inconvenient times. The Lord has a plan for us and it is our job to find out what that plan is through revelation that is available to us all. It is my prayer that we improve ourselves and not only do what we want to do, but to find out the expectations of our Father in Heaven and reach the full potential that he has planned for us so that one day we may say, “Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.”
In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen!