Saturday, May 28, 2011

If This be the Desire of your Hearts

The honor of the first conversion story shared at A Blessed Defeat goes to none other than…drum roll please…Jamieson Livengood! Does this guy have an awesome last name or what? It fits him for sure.

Jamieson, a college student here in Ashland, has been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for exactly one year this week. When you meet Jamieson, the first thing that strikes you is his shining countenance – he seems so happy you expect his skin to start glowing. This is a young man who knows he has made the right choices for himself in this life, a young man who is outgoing and a friend to everyone he meets.  Jamieson admits that the story of his conversion is a long one, but I doubt he would change one step he took along the path that ultimately led him to where he is today.

Jamieson’s story begins in 2009, when he was working a summer job at a movie theater with an LDS friend. There, he and his coworker talked about their religious beliefs, what they thought about the afterlife, and what they believed was the purpose of life. His friend was open about his views and always invited Jamieson to come to church on Sunday. As Jamieson puts it, “I knew nothing about Mormonism and I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ He told me about some of the commandments…I was like, ‘That’s too much.’”

His friend didn’t need to ask for very long, though. Jamieson first attended an LDS church meeting on Father’s Day of 2009. He says he felt like sacrament meeting was “pretty normal,” as it was the part that most resembled the religious upbringing he was familiar with, having been raised by Catholic and Baptist parents (for those readers who are new to LDS lingo, sacrament meeting is the first hour of the church block. The congregation sings hymns, takes the sacrament, which is similar to communion, and listens to talks that are similar to sermons). He only felt truly out of his element when everyone broke up into separate groups, or quorums, for the third hour of church.

“Two missionaries came up to me,” says Jamieson about what happened at that point, “Because they could tell I wasn’t a member because I had no idea what I was doing [in elder’s quorum].” One week later, he met with the missionaries to take the first discussion. He continued to take the missionary discussions throughout the summer, but stopped after awhile.

“I knew deep down that it was true,” he says, “But I just wasn’t ready to change yet.”

He spent a few months thinking things over, talking to good friends who were church members, but still feeling not quite ready to move towards baptism. He says his testimony of the Gospel accumulated over time, not hitting him in one jolt as it does with some investigators. Five different missionaries taught him before he felt he was ready to take the next step.

Last May, after a choir trip to Six Flags and more deep discussions with a good friend, Jamieson felt inspired when he got back home to “[Get out my] Book of Mormon, read my scriptures, and pray.” A week later, he was ready to commit to baptism. I asked him what ultimately led him to make the decision to be baptized. Without hesitating, he rattles off a scripture reference, “Mosiah, 18:10.”

Then he grabs his scriptures and flips to it.

“Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?”

On May 22, 2010, just a little under a year since those first conversations with his friend at the movie theater, Jamieson was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“And here I am today!” he says proudly, as we sit on a couch at the Institute of Religion in Ashland, having just shared a delicious lunch with our friends. Now 19 years old and a faithful member for a year, Jamieson is eligible to go on a church mission. He plans to begin filling out the paperwork as soon as the spring term is over. I asked what his parents, who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, think about his decision. He says his mother wanted him to wait until after college to serve a mission. He wanted to respect his mother’s wishes, but, he says, “I just felt so unhappy and so miserable [about postponing my mission], it was all I ever thought about.” He talked about it with many friends and mentors, finally arriving at his current decision.

“No one pressured me to go. It was all my choosing,” says Jamieson. His parents are not yet convinced he’s made the right choice and will cut him off financially unless he changes his mind. But with his unfailing optimism, Jamieson says, “At first that was kind of a hard pill to swallow…but now, I feel fine about it. Maybe being poor will keep me humble,” he adds with a smile.

It certainly hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Jamieson since his initial conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Another trial came during his first term of college. “I kind of felt like I was going astray,” he explains. The next term, he signed up for classes at the Institute of Religion, an educational facility near campus where LDS students can go to take the religion classes they would normally only get at church schools like BYU. “I took every class,” says Jamieson, adding that the friendships he made and the support he received at Institute helped him to cement his testimony and stay strong on a campus where not many of his peers shared his views.

Jamieson finds that keeping up with the little things, especially scripture study, helps him feel closer to his Heavenly Father. He makes an effort each day to read the Book of Mormon for one hour, and says that even though that might seem like a chore, the time really does fly.

“Being diligent in the scriptures like that, you just find so many things that apply to your specific situation, even though the words never change.” Spoken like a true missionary.

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