I came across the Baha’i Faith while serving as a missionary for the Mormon Church. Religion had always been a part of my daily life and included scripture study, prayer, church attendance and serving the congregation.
The residual blessings of church involvement were obvious because there was not an aspect of my family’s lives that was not affected by us being Mormons. We benefited socially, spiritually, financially, educationally, and physically.
My mother’s side of the family had been Mormon since the church was founded. My father converted when he was a teen, and his participation allowed him to be a better husband and father than he would have been otherwise.
I chose to serve a mission because as a Mormon, I wanted to be able to look honestly at any other religion and say, “We have all those good things and more,” and because I believed there must be more people who, like my father, would find greater happiness living greater truths, if only they knew where to find them.
While knocking on doors near Minneapolis, Minnesota, my missionary companion and I were surprised to be warmly greeted by a couple who said they would be happy to listen to our message if they could share about their faith—Baha’i. I almost salivated! It was a religion I’d never even heard of!
After presenting a brief history of the Baha’i Faith, they explained progressive revelation which hit me like a locomotive. Mormon doctrine holds that other religions may contain elements of truth, but because they no longer have living prophets to share ongoing revelation, they have devolved. For Mormons, revelation was restored with the founding of the church and remains intact through its priesthood.
My study of the Qur’an and other belief systems had convinced me that there was more at play, though I didn’t know what. The paradigm of progressive revelation shared by this Baha’i couple was an elegant reconciliation of doctrinal teachings and my own personal experiences.
I remember thinking as I left that night that my entire universe may have just been turned upside down, but felt reassurance that this was neither the time nor the place to pursue what I’d learned. I would know when I needed to answer the “Baha’i question.”
Two years later, after finishing my mission and returning home to Utah without any further contact with the Faith, my boyfriend was deciding whether or not to convert to Mormonism. He expressed regret at not having investigated multiple religions, but how could he know where else to invest his time? Like an involuntary reflex, I heard myself say, “That’s easy. It’s Mormonism or Baha’i.” It was instantaneously clear that it was time for me to address the issue.
I got my hands on some introductory books and was impressed to find that the teachings seemed water-tight. One particular teaching helped me overcome my life-long bane of anxiety. I heard a description of the Baha’i interpretation of sin—not that we do good or evil, but that we are always pursuing God, sometimes by looking to the heavens, and sometimes by looking to the dust. The peace I felt as I considered the idea is hard to describe.
I studied the faith on my own for three months, then contacted the closest Baha’i community.
I tried to be 100% Baha’i and 100% Mormon for another three months, at which point I knew where I belonged. I went from almost weekly temple worship, 30 minutes of daily study from Mormon scripture, full activity in my congregation, regular prayer, three and a half years of perfect church attendance, and an almost completed degree from Brigham Young University, to a declared Baha’i.
I signed my Baha’i registration card and informed my immediate family and a few close friends of my decision. After the initial shock, they all expressed full support. In some ways I feel I never left Mormonism. My beliefs were already Baha’i. Leaving the church community, though, was like getting divorced from a spouse that I was truly in love with.
That turned out to be a time of massive transition for me personally. In addition to becoming a Baha’i, I graduated from school, quit my job, moved to Minnesota, started a business and got married. In retrospect, that was probably too much change in too little time! Learning the subtleties of involvement in Baha’i communities has also been a challenge. I had been accustomed to the more developed structure of Mormon congregations. However, I have never looked back. I’m blessed with daily confirmations that I made the right choice, and I’ve found ways of using my religious and spiritual education to make my unique contribution.
Most importantly, I have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of family members (like my father and my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather) whose courageous decisions to join a little-known spiritual movement have impacted generations to follow. Of all my blessings, I am most grateful to know that my own children will be raised steeped in the teachings of Baha’u'llah.