"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
July 12, 2013
My Father's Conversion
by Jeff Lindsay

On Father's Day recently, I contemplated some lessons from my father on the topic of faith and conversion. He grew up in an LDS family in a small farming community in the hills of Utah and went to church frequently. Was he converted? Not yet. Though going through some of the motions, he didn't take religion seriously. It wasn't important to him.

In the early 1950s, he would be drafted out of college and into an undeclared no-win war, or a police action, as the Korean War was called then. But it was war enough for anyone.

Spiritually unprepared for the rough setting he was in, he found himself drinking like the others he was with. He was a regular guy, I suppose, about to experience terror and horror for month after month of shelling, shooting, and carnage.

Seven times he had close calls in which he felt he should have been killed. Good men around him died, but somehow, he was allowed to live. Through these strange and sometimes terrible experiences, he came to realize that somehow his life had been protected miraculously.

In one case, for example, he heard a shell approaching and knew this one was for him. He covered his head in his foxhole and braced for impact, and felt a tremor as the shell struck nearby.

He waited for the explosion that never came. He turned and saw a hole in the soil, inches from his back, with a little trickle of smoke coming out from the rare dud that had spared his life. Why him? I don't have the answers, but I'm grateful for that blessing, of course, for that is why I am here.

He returned from the war believing in God, or starting to believe, and deeply puzzled about why he had been spared so many times, when so many others would die. Was there a mission for him to fulfill? Perhaps, he felt. Was he converted? Not yet. But he resolved that he should volunteer to serve an LDS mission, although he had not yet even read the Book of Mormon.

When he came home, he would learn that his mother had been pleading with the Lord to preserve his life, and had received what she felt was an inspired promise from a church leader she respected that his life would be spared.

Though he wished to serve a mission, he quickly realized that might not work out. The effects of the war on him were terrible. You cannot put a man or woman on the front lines of an artillery-based war or any other setting where one is constantly exposed to explosion and carnage, where one must constantly dive for cover with no notice, reacting to every sound as a matter of life and death--you cannot put a human through this for months on end without severely affecting the nervous system and the mind itself. For many, the damage is severe and often permanent.

In his day, this condition was not understood and people just used terms like "shellshock" to describe the many problems associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I hate war. I hate what it does to people, both civilians and soldiers. I hate what it does to economies and cultures, landscapes and lives. I am pained that my good father and good men I know today in China were on opposite sides, trying to kill each other.

My father tells me that one of the most troubling parts of his war experience was not just seeing many Americans and many Koreans die, but also seeing many Chinese people sacrifice their lives as they fought, often without adequate weapons and clothing, bravely throwing their bodies onto barbed wire or doing whatever else they were ordered to do. He felt so sorry for them and the North Koreans.

That's one thing that I respect about my father. Although he was a fierce soldier, he hated bloodshed and felt sorry to see enemy lives lost.

But yes, he was an effective soldier, beginning as a machine gunner and then promoted to platoon sergeant over the 50-plus men of the 75-mm Recoilless Rifle Platoon, where he would be decorated several times and would convert the recoilless rifle into a much more efficient and useful weapon, rewriting the army manual for its operation.

Faced with the affliction of PTSD, he soon told his bishop that he couldn't go on a mission after all. However, he later concluded that he would have the same problem whether he was on the farm or on a mission, and decided he might as well go and try to do something with his life. Thus, my father, in the midst of a serious case of PTSD, packed up his bags and began serving as a Mormon missionary, called to serve in the Los Angeles Mission.

As he began his mission, he was still a mess, often feeling panicked in small rooms or hitting the ground when he heard an unexpected sound. He received a priesthood blessing that he believed would help him, but the deliverance did not come right away. It came roughly one month later, on the day he completed reading the Book of Mormon.

As he finished the book, he was deeply touched by its power and message. He jumped up and held the book in the air, shouting to his startled younger companion, "This thing is true!" It's wonderful to hear this story from his lips, so many years later. That thing is still true for him, as it is for me.

With that change in his spiritual life came an even more dramatic change in his temporal life: all symptoms of PTSD left him on that day.

He would lead a successful mission, applying the leadership skills he had developed in the battlefield as a leader of 50 men, and help bring many souls to Christ.

This miraculous deliverance from PTSD would last for more than 50 years, finally returning recently after a heart attack did permanent damage to his heart, and the irreversibly weakened heart brought a return of the PTSD. Now he's struggling again. But for 50 years, he was whole, and as a young father had the energy and health to run and play with me, the first of six children.

He was able to take me fishing and camping, and to play Stratego™ and other games with me, sometimes trying hard to lose in my early days of game playing so I wouldn't cry. He gave me the love, time, and guidance I needed.

I never realized until now what a miraculous blessing it was to have him. I never understood that he had cheated death and the ravages of war and had been loaned to me, a tender mercy that cannot be taken for granted in this complex world.

My father's conversion began with teachings in his childhood, grew with the experience of miracles in the midst of brutal war, and became more complete with the reading of the Book of Mormon, and then his experiences on his mission and later in life. Many steps, many changes. Now he's facing a deeper trial of his faith.

His steps toward conversion offer lessons for all of us. Miracles can help but are not the key to conversion. Prayerful time with the scriptures can be vital. Steady, patient service can strengthen that testimony. But the journey is never over and we will have ongoing challenges to face and a continuous need to nourish the Spirit and be guided by the Lord.

We learn more about conversion from the life of Peter. He followed Christ and sat at his feet, witnessed miracles and saw the son of God in action. Was he converted? I would think so. In fact, Christ told him that Peter's testimony of Christ had come through revelation from the father (Matt. 16:15-17). But the man who, thanks to revelation from God, could say "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," would soon deny Him three times.

Shortly before the Crucifixion, Christ warned Peter of his need to become converted:

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to … sift you as wheat:
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. (Luke 22:31-32)

Testimonies are not like the rock of Peter's name, but can be more like water and can flow out of leaky containers and be lost. The living water of testimony must be protected and replenished. That water is not meant for us alone, but must be shared with others to strengthen them. In giving of this water freely, we find our reserves are renewed and refreshed.

My father's testimony and his many experiences have been a strength to me throughout my life. I am grateful that he has shared his testimony with me and many others, and grateful for the blessings and miracles that allowed him to be my father, helping me to grow and gain my own testimony along the way.

I am grateful for his life, his conversion, and his witness of the Gospel, and hope I can continue growing and sharing as well.

For more from Jeff Lindsay, see Mormanity at http://mormanity.blogspot.com and his Mormon Answers section at http://jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/.


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About Jeff Lindsay

Jeff Lindsay has been defending the Church on the Internet since 1994, when he launched his LDSFAQ website under JeffLindsay.com. He has also long been blogging about LDS matters on the blog Mormanity (mormanity.blogspot.com). Jeff is a longtime resident of Appleton, Wisconsin, who recently moved to Shanghai, China, with his wife, Kendra. He works for an Asian corporation as head of intellectual property. Jeff and Kendra are the parents of 4 boys, 3 married and the the youngest on a mission.

He is a former innovation and IP consultant, a former professor, and former Corporate Patent Strategist and Senior Research Fellow for a multinational corporation.

Jeff Lindsay, Cheryl Perkins and Mukund Karanjikar are authors of the book Conquering Innovation Fatigue (John Wiley & Sons, 2009).

Jeff has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University and is a registered US patent agent. He has more than 100 granted US patents and is author of numerous publications. Jeff's hobbies include photography, amateur magic, writing, and Mandarin Chinese.

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