I have been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 39 years, since I was a Freshman at Yale University. The funny thing is, it’s the end result of trying to live in the manner that I was taught to live by my mom who was a fairly strict Roman Catholic. Along the way, I’ve learned that the Book of Mormon is true (to use the Mormon term) and had spiritual experiences in the midst of much adversity. Those experiences have given me more and more certainty of the existence of Jesus Christ and the truth found in Gospel.
A Curious Young Man in Search of Truth
My only contact with the Church before I started high school consisted of reading a book when I was 10 or 12 years of age called “House of Many Rooms”. There were interesting ideas that stuck with me from reading that about the importance of marriage and family and enduring through adversity.
In the summer before I started high school, my family moved to Redding, California. When we got there, my dad signed me up for two two-week long summer classes taught by a teacher named Doug Gordon. These were Mountain Ecology classes which were taught at the Warner’s and Field Biology at Patrick’s Point on the coast of California. It was a very important learning time for me. Scott, Doug’s son, who was starting eighth grade, went along on the Mountain Ecology hike. I found out Doug and his son were Mormon and asked Scott a lot of questions. I liked the answers, but other than being curious, I felt nothing particular spiritual.
Mathematics, Intellectualism, and a Spiritual Experience
However, one important aspect of my becoming who I am was a spiritual experience I had in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, in Redding, California. I was in a college prep math class with a teacher by the name of Mr. Krantz, and I was having trouble understanding how to do a mathematical proof. So I was at Mass one Sunday, and this particular theorem came to me. And I knew it was right. So on Monday, I went to Mr. Krantz and asked him how to write the proof – how to prove what I had felt was true. He showed me, and I finally understood how to do a mathematical proof!
So even though I’d felt the Holy Ghost and had that experience, and I knew it’s true source, I was bordering on atheism in my junior year at Shasta High. I thought of myself as “too much of a scientist” and also I was young and stupid. However, I finished Catholic Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD). I used to ask questions, but I didn’t get very satisfactory answers from the instructors. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I was listening very much. I was looking for a source of spirituality, not another church, because I was empty, sad, and scared. I used to stare up in the sky and see the immensity of nothing, and it frightened me.
A Book of Mormon and a Mormon Roommate Equals Conversion
I hung out with Scott and his friend Eric and other people in the Redding 1st Ward, and something about them interested me. Yeah, they were cooler than me, but they weren’t that cool. Scott is kind of a dork. He always has been. I was just curious. So when I was about to leave for Yale, I asked Scott for a Book of Mormon.
Now, when I walked into my room at Yale, my two other roommates said, “You get to share a room with Henry”. So I walked in our bedroom, and Henry Chiou, from Long Island, had a Bible on his desk. And I recognized it, from Scott and Eric, as an LDS seminary Bible. And I said, “Henry, why do you have a seminary Bible?” And he looked at me with a puzzled look on his face, like, “How did you recognize that?”. As it turned out, he was from an LDS Ward on Long Island.
Now, I was dutiful and obedient son, so I went every Sunday to the very nice, old Catholic church down the street from my residential college. The one associated with Yale was too far away and way too cool for me to attend there. But I had the Book of Mormon, and decided to read it. It contains several places where basically, the challenge is issued to use the scientific method:
1) Create a hypothesis
2) Apply a test
3) Evaluate the results
4) Decide if your hypothesis is true.
As someone who thought of himself as a scientist, I had to do it. I found answers for myself that not only made sense (for me), but now I had evidence in my senses and in my heart. It was the exact same feeling that had lead me so many years before to know that a mathematical theorem was true. Only this time, it was at the end of my testing, not at the beginning.
So I asked Henry if I could go to church with him. I liked that parish I was attending (and in fact, in later years, gave blood there, ’cause the little old ladies made great sandwiches), and went directly from that to going to the LDS ward out in Hamden, Connecticut.
Henry didn’t hound me or insist I talk to the missionaries. But I could and did feel the Spirit again and again at the Ward. Later, I asked Henry if there weren’t some sort of lessons from the missionaries I was supposed to take. He responded, “Uh, you mean the discussions?” So the Mormon Elders came over to my room for about six to eight weeks. And I just loved it, and everything they taught me rang true.
So I decided to be baptized. But before doing that, I made sure my Mom and Dad knew what I was doing. My Mom asked that I go talk to the priest at the Yale parish. I suppose I sort of cheated on that one, since I could have told her that I’d been attending the parish two blocks from my residential college. Like I said, I was doing what my Mom had taught me to do, even if it wasn’t the same exact things she taught me. Things like loving my fellow-man, service, kindness, truthfulness, and living by the truth. The priest was a nice guy, but he was probably used to Yalies, so he said, “Have a nice journey.” After I was baptized LDS in my Freshman year, my Dad’s only comment was, “You know, you’re hurting your mother.”
I became a member of the New Haven Ward and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on February 25th, 1976.
Frank C. Martinez IV has a degree in Biology that he obtained in 1979. He’s been a computer geek for some thirty-five years, currently working as a Database Administrator for a large scale Data Warehouse for a very large bank. He’s been a scouter for 34 years, an historical interpreter of both the Spanish Colonial and Old West. He speaks Spanish and is the father of six children and Tata to (right now) a granddaughter (hey, another one coming soon).