Elder Hartman Rector’s Conversion Story

hartman-rector-jrAs most of you are aware, I am a convert to the Church, having been baptized in Tokyo, Japan, back in 1952 while serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean conflict. I was born and reared in Missouri, where much of the early history of this church took place. But I had never heard anything about the Mormon church. I was looking for the truth, and although I had read the Bible and believed that Jesus Christ had lived on the earth and had been resurrected, yet I had so many unanswered questions—questions such as: Why doesn’t God speak to man today as he did anciently when the Bible was being written? How can Jesus be his own father and the Holy Ghost too? Why did Jesus have to be baptized when he had no sin? Where was I before I was born, and where do I go when I die? How can just believing in Christ save me when I haven’t kept God’s Ten Commandments?

I knew there must be answers that I had not heard. The answers came when Elders Ted Raban and Ronald Flygare knocked on my door in San Diego, California, in July 1951. My wife, Connie, let them in and accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon from them. I was in Hawaii at the time, attending a fourteen-week training course preparatory to deployment to Korea.

When I returned home, Connie gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon, and I began to read. I knew the book was true before I had finished 2 Nephi—Nephi had converted one more—and began to attend church in the old Valencia Park Ward in San Diego. Because of my preparation for deployment, I was not able to study and attend church as I wanted to and longed for the time when I could. The time came aboard the aircraft carrier Philippine Seas, where I read fourteen of the best books that have ever been written. They included the standard works of the Church, plus the writings of each of the Presidents of the Church from Joseph Smith, Jr., to David O. McKay, plus Parley P. and Orson Pratt and a few others. I was like a starving man who had found food and drink for the first time. I loved it. When we arrived in Japan, the LDS group aboard ship decided I should be baptized. So we traveled to the Tokyo mission home, where I requested baptism. I was informed that I had not been an investigator for the required one-year time period; therefore, I could not be baptized. However, I persisted. I asked to be interviewed. The interview took an hour and a half, but in the end I received a recommend for baptism and confirmation. McDonald B. Johnson, the LDS group leader on the Philippine Seas, baptized me, and Fred Gaylord Peterson confirmed me, and I became a member of the Church on 26 February 1952. I was ordained a deacon that day and subsequently to another office in the priesthood each time the ship returned to Japan, until, on 26 July 1952, I was ordained an elder and returned to San Diego in August, where my wife had been baptized on March 1 of that same year. We were a united family in the gospel of Jesus Christ and were looking forward with much anticipation to being sealed together with our three children in the Mesa Arizona temple, which happened in May 1953.

Sixteen years after baptism, I was called by President David O. McKay to be a member of the First Council of the Seventy. That was in April of 1968. I was the first convert to be called as a General Authority since John Morgan, a period of eighty-six years. I have served in this capacity for twenty-six years. (Elder Hartman Rector Jr., Endure to the End in Charity, October General Conference, 1994)

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About LDS Scripture Teachings

I write about ways scripture applies in our lives: LDSScriptureTeachings.org
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