Eugene England’s “Reconversion” to the Book of Mormon

Eugene England wrote a book titled, Converted to Christ Through the Book of Mormon. Following is part of the introduction he wrote for the book. He makes several important observation  about the power of the Book of Mormon:

1.  To reconvert life-long church members by bringing them to Christ.

2. “What can we do about our sins?”

I had my “reconversion” to the Book of Mormon (to use the word I have chosen for the experiences of life-long Mormons) when I was a missionary in Hawaii in 1956. Yes, I had read the book and studied passages for talks, but I had not been brought to Christ by it.

Near the end of my mission (Charlotte and I had been called to Samoa together right after our marriage and transferred to Hawaii for our first child’s birth, then she had gone home), I faced the most difficult spiritual challenge of my life to that point. A man we were teaching on the island of Maui had come to believe the gospel was true, but he couldn’t find the strength to repent. He would make promises to change his ways, to get rid of habits very harmful to himself and his family, but he would break his promises and then suffer terribly from guilt. He felt ashamed, not good enough for Christ, and too weak to become good.

We tried all kinds of ways to help him be strong, from telling him about the hell he was making for himself and about the heaven with his family he was destroying, to hourly calls to check up on him, to going over and over the logical “steps” of repentance. Nothing worked, and his family, who had joined the Church, and we missionaries were all near despair. Then I remembered Joseph Smith’s claim that the Book of Mormon was “the most correct book” in the world and that its principles provided the best way to get near to God. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938], p. 194.)

I studied the Book of Mormon, looking for ways to help our friend. As I did, I went back over my notes from Lowell Bennion’s institute classes, which I remembered had stressed the new vision of salvation through Christ’s atonement given by the Book of Mormon. Slowly I found again the key I had been taught but which had not meant enough until now when it was needed so badly. Then we read the main passages about Christ from the Book of Mormon with our friend, and he felt the spirit of complete love from his Savior. I remember when we came to the sermon of Amulek, in Alma 34, where he teaches that the suffering of Christ brings about the bowels of mercy, enough to break through the bands of justice and give us the means to have enough faith to repent. This was exactly what our friend needed-and as he read the Book of Mormon passages he finally understood and felt it and thus was able to accept Christ’s love and repent. I believe his wife’s love, never critical, always encouraging (and our own struggling efforts to be like her) played some role. But the turning point was when he felt love from Christ, conveyed by the promises and spirit of the Book of Mormon. He said, “If Christ can have this kind of love for me, who am I to refuse to accept it-and not accept myself.” With this new strength, he became a new person, almost overnight.

My own life didn’t change as much, but I saw clearly then that the Book of Mormon had the best answer to the chief human question, “What can we do about our sins?” and that it also contained the best direct help to actually bring people to repent. My sense of Christ’s atoning love that began there on Maui has become central to my own efforts to change, to my way of seeing literature and politics and human violence and healing, and to my efforts to counsel people.

Once, when I was bishop of a married student ward at Brigham Young University, one of the ward members asked me to talk with a friend who had tried suicide and was often terribly depressed. As we met, I quickly found that, like many young Latter-day Saints I had counseled, she had a strong sense of justice and self-condemnation but a very weak sense of Christ’s mercy and love. She spoke quickly and harshly about her failings and her despair. I felt I should not talk but simply read with her, from the Book of Mormon, those passages that teach the Atonement and convey its spirit. After a while peace visibly came over her and she began to weep, and when she left she had been helped.

The Book of Mormon is the unique tangible witness in the world of the most important intangible reality, the love of Christ and His power to heal and save us. I feel this power, after many readings and much study, whenever I turn to any part of the book. I immediately am brought close to tears by the Spirit of Christ that comes from every page. We who have felt that tangible power in various ways-like electricity, or with burning that is a fire in the bones or that fills the body, or through the way the book physically calls attention to itself or seems to be able to affect its environment-use quite similar language in our descriptions, whether we are from Barbados or Hungary or Utah, whether college professors or cowpunchers…My father is a good example of a reconversion. He was raised in a Mormon village, Moreland, Idaho, by goodly Mormon parents, but it wasn’t until he left home at seventeen for a job in a Union Pacific paintshop in Pocatello and read the Book of Mormon before work each morning that he came to know the Savior. During that time, he had a dream in which Christ came to him and told him He loved and accepted him. It is clear, as he tells me this again nearly seventy years later, that he can still feel that first presence of grace. It led him to change his life in many ways, large and small: to go on a mission instead of becoming an airline pilot, to marry my mother because the same Being brought her to him by the hand in a later dream…


This entry was posted in Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ, Repentance. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *