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In this episode, I sit down with Austin Weldon, a sophomore studying psychology. He tells the story of how he joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and why, as an 8-year-old kid, men in suits scared him. Listen to how he overcame his fear.
Farner: [00:00:01] I’m sitting here with Austin Weldon. What is your major? What are you studying?
Weldon: [00:00:05] Right now I’m in the social work program, taking prereqs for it.
Farner: [00:00:09] Awesome, awesome. Good deal and what are you, a sophomore?
Weldon: [00:00:12] Yeah, right now.
Farner: [00:00:14] I heard this story (we’re in the same ward), you gave, over the pulpit, little bits and pieces of it I guess anyway. And so I found it pretty compelling, and I’m glad you agreed to sit down and kind of tell me more of the detailed story. I do think that people listening will enjoy it. So you go ahead, you start wherever you want to start and we’ll go from there.
Weldon: [00:00:38] I wasn’t born into the Church by any means, and I didn’t really know much about God or Jesus Christ even.
Weldon: [00:00:48] I actually grew up originally on Long Island, New York. I mean we didn’t really have much we always worked what we got with five people in our family we were in a two-bedroom apartment. And basically what happened was growing up as a kid, my dad was never home with the house and my mom she dealt with some issues.
Weldon: [00:01:09] Long story short, as far as with God and Jesus Christ I believed in them, I knew they were a thing, but I never prayed before my life, I didn’t know how to pray. I’ve heard of the Bible, but I never read the Bible. But one day when my dad was just sitting down watching TV, he actually saw an advertisement on the TV about a DVD called The Lamb of God and it was sponsored by the Church that showed the logo and it had a 1-800 number on it.
[00:01:36] My dad thought this was an answer to his prayer of, you know, I need some religion in my life, I need something to help my son and I. And so my dad called them up and he requests the copy of the DVD and it ended up coming not even in the mail, but actually there was two guys in suites that came over and showed the DVD as well as another little blue book that they had in their hand. And so the first time they came over the house they knocked at the door, and I went so go initially answer the door. And as soon as I saw people in suits I got scared and I ran away. Last time I saw people in suits they were the people who took away my mom and my dad. And so I was afraid. So I ended up not even talking to them. Most of what I could portray with the first interaction was with my dad and what I remember him telling me. But I remember my dad let them in and they showed him The Lamb of God DVD. And there was another guy who I saw from a distance just watching not even bothering to listen in, but he had this little blue book in his hand. And so they mentioned that they were missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to my dad. They spoke to him and said specifically that there’s a message we want to share with you. It goes on line with The Lamb of God but also another testament of Jesus Christ and to which the other elders showed him the Book of Mormon. And my dad kind of got a little bit passive and he just said, you know I’m Catholic. For us it was just that’s all that we knew. And so my dad, knowing that it wasn’t anything he heard before, he just said, you know I’m Catholic I’m not sure if I want to deal with this. And without even really knowing them for more than five minutes one of the missionaries kind of stopped my dad in his tracts of explanation and told them, it’s like well sir, I may not know much about you, but I do know that this book is true and I can promise you that what we’re sharing with you in this book and in this DVD is something that you and your son are looking for.
It kind of stopped my dad a little bit in his tracks. He didn’t really know what to say and he just thought on it for about a good minute or two, and my dad agreed upon missionaries coming back. Well he had been agreed upon most initially taking the book and being able to read it. My dad’s like, OK I’ll do it. And so they invite them to the introduction of the Book of Mormon and he takes the book and they left. And that was about the end of it for the night. And so my dad put the book on his pillow of his bed and when I went to bed that night, I noticed my dad ended up opening the book and he had a lamp out and it was dark. And he started reading it a little bit and I ended up going to bed. I remembered I went to bed and I just thought oh he’s read the book that they gave him. I don’t know when the video is going to come around, but I woke up in the middle of the night had open about 3 in the morning and I went to go use the bathroom, and I saw my dad hadn’t moved. It looked like he didn’t move from his own spot. I thought this is weird because I never saw my dad read a book. My dad was always on like a garbage truck, on lawnmower. He worked on sewage tanks. You know he did all these hard like laborous jobs, I never saw him in my life as being the type to read a book. So the fact that he was reading the book was surprising and the fact that he was still reading didn’t make sense to me. So I was like wow. So he must have been reading for about four or five hours and he didn’t put the book down. I ended up waking up the next morning — my dad woke me up for school and so he goes to nudge me and he’s like “Hey, Austin. Hey, wake up. I start opening my eyes a little bit and I see his face right over me while I’m sitting down, my back against the bed and I just see this big smile on his face he said, “Hey, what are you what are you doing?”
[00:05:31] Because my dad always woke me up. He wasn’t always happy. He would just like nudge me and then walk away. And this time he had this big smile on his face. I was confused and he was like come on and said I got breakfast ready for you, just come downstairs. Usually he’s not this prepared or collective. So I knew something had a been up. I don’t know what his mood was but it was better than most days. I walked down stairs and we ended up having breakfast and everything. I was eating and my dad was explaining what happened to him with this whole book. And so my dad is like “hey, I got to tell you some so that book those two young guys gave me the other day in a suit. I don’t know what it was. But as soon as I read, I started reading it I just felt this feeling come over me and my heart. I couldn’t put the book down and it was so interesting. There was talk about guys in the Americas and what they saw with God and how they saw God. I just I couldn’t put it down and there was this feeling. I couldn’t stop.” And so my dad set up an appointment for the missionaries to come over that next Saturday. A week goes by. [00:06:33] And the missionaries come over and they knock the door and the doorbell again. And they came through and I met him at the door to see who they were at least, and so when I saw them, I got scared. I ran the opposite direction. I didn’t want to look. The elders who were there got confused a little bit were concerned and my dad was explaining to them. He grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “Hey, these guys, you know, they’re good people.
[00:06:57] “They talk about God, they’re here to help us go ahead and shake one of their hands.” I thought. Like mom and dad were leaving again. Or my dad was leaving. So I didn’t want to talk to them, but my dad ends up taking me and one of the Elders was actually down on his knees almost about eye level with me as I walked up to him. As I was talking with this missionary or at least trying to speak to them. And before I could shake this one missionary’s hand he looks me he’s like hey don’t worry the little guy, we come in peace. And he ends up hitting his name tag. There’s a little black card that I saw, and the thing that I noticed he pointed specifically at were these big words that said Jesus Christ on it.
[00:07:46] As soon as he pointed out that I just remember this whole just feeling a peace came over me and everything was covered.
[00:07:55] I was sobbing at the moment. But then it all just stopped from there. And it seemed like time just froze for a minute. I just had this comforting feeling that came over me that I didn’t understand. And it was all from making this recognization (sic) of at least now knowing that whatever he was talking about what he meant was he was representing Jesus Christ and that because of that he was here to bring us peace. That hit me hard at least emotionally at that moment. But now even more than before. And so they once my dad and they specifically asked if he wanted to be baptized to which my dad agreed. Then they looked over to me and they asked me a little 8-year-old kid to be baptized. And I remember thinking to myself that experience I had with that one elder who pointed at the tag to me, that came back into my head. Some told me it was just a good thing. I got that same feeling again. And so from that as just a little kid I agreed. I was like yeah, I’ll do it.
[00:08:57] And the rest has been history at the same time it’s been progressive since then. I mean the gospel still been strong that I ended up serving a mission as soon as I graduated high school. I served out in Lansing, Michigan. But I had the chance to serve there and share a little bit of this experience as well as, you know, give people back that same experience I had. I remember just how much it changed my life. I wouldn’t be the same person I was today if it wasn’t for the gospel. Because there are things that I’ve learned that have saved me. I know that the gospel is true specifically because it provides a form of stability in our lives and it gives us strength beyond what we can be able to muster ourselves. I know that Joseph Smith did restore the Church. I know that’s the Book of Mormon is real and true. I know that this is a true church because without it not just change my life but I would not see that happiness and the unity that has brought in my family, that has brought my family together greater than what I could to be able to do my father all by ourselves. And you know not everybody is going to have this story. Not everybody has these experiences. And that’s not necessary and you missed out on something because of it. I would just say it happens different for everybody but this for me has been just what I needed. And I’m so thankful for what I got. I wouldn’t be the same man today if it wasn’t for it so I’m forever grateful for the two missionaries who gave my dad not only a DVD but also a book. And that same book that changed our lives.
Farner [00:10:45] Absolutely. I appreciate the testimony, and that’s the point of this whole thing right, is so that we can try to get that conversion fire kind of building in those who listen to this and a testimony is always a good will do that. So last question. What’s one thing that you do that you would suggest for others to do to keep that fire going?
Weldon [00:11:10] Keep it up with the basics. This may sound really simplistic but the same reading the scriptures and going to church. Be involved. So in other words, not just reading the scriptures but leave a notebook with you take notes. I have notebooks that are stacked in random places that I leave just notes that I write from conference talks and certain passages that I read and I make sure I look back on it because I cannot retain anything unless I have a personal experience with it. And so don’t be afraid to take notes. Do a lot of them. I would personally say because that’s helped me tremendously.
Farner [00:11:45] Thank you so much for coming here and telling us that story, and I hope that those listening will be able to kind of catch that fire just from hearing that story. It’s very inspirational, I appreciate it.