Former Catholic Church Member
It Made All The Difference
By Joseph P. McManus
I suspect that I have a rather surprising story. I
am a cradle Catholic born into the Roman Catholic church. My father
is a devout New York Irish Catholic but was always very private
about it and did not like to discuss spirituality except to make it
clear that he expected us to be Catholic like him.
My mother grew up on a farm in the Idaho panhandle
and her family were Assembly of God protestants. Mom converted to
Catholicism to marry dad but was really a spiritual seeker
interested in finding truth in all religions and denominations and
is Catholic in name only.
I was happily ignorant of any alternatives to
Catholicism until I went to college and met many people with other
beliefs ranging from LDS to protestant Christianity to Judaism to
Islam to atheism and everything else.
I lost much of my conviction that Catholicism held
the only keys to the kingdom but I remained nominally Catholic. And
this is how it was until I was in my early forties and my sister
bought me Jon Krakauerís book Under the Banner of Heaven for she
knew I had enjoyed Krakauerís earlier books written around
mountaineering and adventure.
Krakauerís book filled me with fascination about
Mormon history and I began reading everything I could on the
subject. When on a vacation that summer to the north rim of the
Grand Canyon I found myself leaving the highway and exploring the
polygamous enclave of Colorado City/Hildale and marveling at the
faith and tenacity of a people who, while reviled by society and
exiled by the mainstream LDS church for their polygamist beliefs,
held fast to what they believed to be the true tenets of the church
of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor.
Ways that are extremely unpopular and embarrassing
to the mainstream church. The following spring I was in San Diego
for a soccer tournament and spent part of a day in Old Town San
Diego where I paid a visit to the Mormon Battalion museum.
I explored the museum, watched some films about
the Mormon Battalion and then had a pleasant discussion with an
elder there who took my name and promised to have someone provide a
Book of Mormon to my home.
I began having excellent discussions with several
missionaries, one of whom was from Taiwan, and he and I really hit
it off. Ultimately I began going to meetings with my missionary
friends and was baptized.
I love the church. I love the people in the
church. I love the fascinating history of the church. I learned much
from the missionaries but Iíll bet they learned more about church
history from me and my previous studies than they had in all of
their seminary and institute classes.
So, incredibly, I was led to the church by Jon
Krakauer, whose book is definitely frowned upon by the church
hierarchy. I became a latter day saint after a free and open review
of church history and writings, including many that the LDS church
hierarchy would love to ban from my fellow saints, and has done
everything in their power to do so.
In the end I am LDS because I chose to be, not
because it is a family tradition or because I was forced to or
because I was hoodwinked by agents of the church. And that has made
all the difference.