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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

From This Day Forth: The Conversion Memoir of Beatrice Ann Oz, Part Two

Sister Ligon, Beatrice Oz, and Sister Makihele


 This is the second part of the conversion story of a dear friend I met and taught the Gospel to on my mission to Australia. I have changed her name to Beatrice Oz in respect of some pressing circumstances in her life that require some anonymity. The first part of the account can be found here on this site on the previous post here. So, without further ado, part two: 







8th December 2000

I am a bundle of nerves. This new humbleness I feel is so alien to me. Never have I felt like I needed some one to rely on. But I do and I am humbled by the power of the love of God. I know that without him in my life I am nothing. 

~

8th December 2000

O.K. By the 3rd visit by you and Elder Webster I was seriously wavering. I had prayed asking if the Book of Mormon were true and if Jesus Christ was my Savior. I wanted to know. But I was afraid of the answer. I was a little afraid of having to change my life habits. I wondered if I would have the strength to live by that answer.

Mostly I was afraid because I felt so unworthy. I have always felt I loved "God" with all my heart, often I have said that I believed in God with every breath I took. But which God?


On the point of my feeling unworthy. After you guys left I cried almost inconsolably. I couldn't find any reason for feeling this way. All I can think is that perhaps way down deep inside I knew the truth. That I had always known the truth and had denied it.

Quick tangent. I imagine the person I am writing to, to be here with me, like I am talking to them. So please imagine some hand waving and tears. So if any pages are splotchy you will know I have cried while writing it.

O.K. back again.

I also felt wretchedly unworthy because if in my heart of hearts I knew Jesus Christ to be my Savior I had been so easily deceived by Satan. It hurt so much, it still does. I thought I was a good person. I thought my heart was good. But if all this was true. If you and Elder Webster spoke nothing but the truth to me. Then I was a lie. I held tightly to my watermark then. I wanted to believe I was who I thought I was. I wanted to believe I still walked in the light. I had worked so hard for years to rise above the life I had tried to lead when I was still an Apprentice Chef.

But still I wavered. I wasn't ready to change. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know if I could be happy and maintain my covenant with God. Everything else I knew (Wicca), it was comfortable. It was familiar. But familiarity brought complacency with it.

I clung to my sins because I was ashamed of them. I did not want Jesus Christ to take them from me. I felt it would stain him and I couldn't do that. I knew I loved him, I knew him to be true. But I couldn't do it.

I understand I needed to repent and in my heart I had. But still I fought it. I didn't know then that Satan was probably standing by me rubbing his hands with glee. Using my guilt to keep me from Jesus Christ. Feeding my feelings of unworthiness.

I was afraid then that Jack may have been less than I believed him to be. That hurt because I had always loved and trusted him. I wanted to call him back, I wanted to hear it from him if he worked for me or against me. But I didn't. I knew I hurt and was vulnerable and I knew I would gladly listen to anything just to be near him and feel safe again.

The next visit I met sister Ligon and Sister Makihele. I loved Sister Ligon on sight, she was so much like me, except she had this inner glow that I, until then, thought that I too had.

Sister Makihele seemed equally cool but so quiet (well now we know why) but she seemed a little frightened by me and especially Jack.

I said that I had chosen to go back to Wicca. To the beginning. I still struggled with the concept of Jesus Christ  and I wanted to be the person I thought I was. I thought if I went back to the beginning I could be more vigilant of the presence of evil. I am sorry for the look in your eyes. I thought you looked as though inside your eyes you were crying. Actually I heard you. You said, "NO, Beatrice. No, you know this not true."

Elder Stewart, I am so sorry. I do not try to hear what goes on in people's heads. It depends on their emotions at the time as to how loud their thoughts are. I try to block it out but some times it is like they are shouting in my ears and not help but hear. I know this to be a gift and I will never use it to my or anyone else's advantage.

I know that this is the purpose of your mission. To bring the true word of Jesus Christ to his people, but I have always been thankful that all of you came to me. I used to believe in pre-destiny, but now I know it was part of the Lord's plan to send me those of whom I could from the most.

Anyway upon your next visit I was still wavering. I knew I could swing back and forth forever. I knew also that I would not progress unless I was not afraid to let go of the past and jump. I knew if I jumped and reached out for Jesus he would catch me. But still a voice inside me wavered. It said, are you sure he'll catch you? Are you sure he wants you?

I stood up to make us all another drink. I needed to get that voice out of my head. Because I was starting to listen to it.

So I turned and said that I was ready to be baptized.

Excuse me while I laugh for a minute.

I have never wanted to hug some one so much as I wanted to hug you then. You look so stunned. Happy, ecstatically happy, but stunned.

Elder Webster looked like he had missed something and wasn't sure I had really said what he heard. Sister Ligon mirrored your expression. Sister Makihele looked relieved, also shell shocked like Elder Webster, like she was wondering where that came from.

Me, I held my breath. Would Jesus catch me?

I knew Satan was waiting but then I felt it, a soft hand beneath me, a safety net. I felt it lift me up out of Satan's reach. I felt giddy with love for the world. I wanted to laugh, cry, sing, dance, shout, jump about and sit perfectly still all in one moment.

I felt a silly grin on my face but I could not remove it.

Oh I jumped one. I forgot the visit before I went to Church! Well same old, same old at that stage. Could I? Couldn't I? Should I? Shouldn't I? Will I? Won't I? Do I believe? Do I not?

I was nervous to go to Church. I did not know what to expect. I certainly didn't expect to feel the urge to stand in front of all the congregation and say that I believed and that I wanted to be baptized. The urge was very strong, especially as I could see the bright man standing near the podium.

But I held it down. I did not know if I should as I was only there as a silent spectator. I also didn't know how to express what I felt and saw.

Also quite honestly I still had an ear turned to Satan and if I stood there in front of all and sundry and told them what was in my heart then he would lose his grip. And his soothing words still effected me.

I am glad that I got to see Sister Ligon before she left. I wish she could have been here today. But I am glad of Sister Steed's quiet friendship.

This brings us to our next meetings where we kept tangents to an absolute minimal. Did you know that when you talk of Jesus Christ and things you know to be true your voice gets softer and your eyes shine? As does Sister Steed's. Sister Makihele's voice gets stronger and clearer as does Elder Webster.

I noticed when I read the Book of Mormon, especially in the past two days, I felt stronger and more confident. The "how dare I read from the Book of Mormon" feelings have gone.

Yesterday at Sister Miller's I felt nervous but welcomed. Like I finally found where I belong. I had not met Elder Trimble before. After weeks of the gentleness of Elder Webster and your ever present happy smile, he was a shock. I wanted to like him, but he was so different. Elder Brimhall is exactly like you. Sometimes I think you should both burst you are so full of the love of Jesus Christ.

But upon further acquaintance Elder Trimble is pretty cool. I like his dry sense of humour.

Sister Miller is a blessing. I never thought I would feel so welcome and comfortable. That Wentworth and Brandon play well is an even greater blessing as I know he will need a friend.

I was quite terrified of the "interview" with Elder Brimhall. I guess a residual of feeling unworthy. But I felt at ease. Though I confess he was alarmed when I told him that the Bright Man had followed him in. I described him to him, telling him that all the light seemed to come from him but be drawn to him as well.

I knew when I saw him that I was making the right choice.

I have left out until now Jack leaving. The bright man was in the doorway when Jack woke me. Jack looked the same but different. There was peace in his face. He looked somehow younger. I guess I have been a trial to him to have made him so grey. Jack told me that he had been restored and was to take his place. I begged him not to go. Because I needed him. He said that I had been bought back to Jesus Christ and that the Holy Spirit and God would fill his place. That I would never be alone again.

I started to cry. I said that I wasn't strong enough that I couldn't handle him leaving me so soon after Peter had left.

Jack told me it was time to cry and mourn for the end of my marriage, but not to feel ashamed as I had been everything I should. He said he would take Peter from my heart so that I could begin to heal and not always be wanting him back because I love him. I still love Peter but as a fellow human being not as the man I have my heart to.

Jack also told me that if I looked inside my heart I would find my childhood dream. I am hopeful that one day I will meet the man who will complete me. Be my friend, my support, my equal, my leaning post when I am weak, my strength, my everything. So there is hope also for the large family I always wanted. To share everything with, to hold each other special and sacred.

I thanked Jack for the peace in my heart and for the life with him in it. But still I wondered if I had the strength and conviction of heart of heart to be all that I should.

Before he left Jack reminded me of a guy I went to school with. I was 17 at the time. We did not like each other at all. For 5 months a civil word never passed between us. Ever. One day while we were still waiting for the school bus I noticed he was especially quiet. He allowed my arrival to go without an insult. I thought I would get in first. But then I heard his heart crying. Though his face was expressionless. I walked up to him and stood in front of him. We looked each other in the eye. I could see his eyes harden waiting for my insult. I surprised us both. I put my arms around him and hugged him. At first he he made to pull away but I held on. Then he relaxed and hugged me back. His grandmother had died and he could not go to her. Somehow I knew. After that we were cordial to each other. No more, no less.

Jack reminded me of that, telling me that at that moment I acted with pure love and I was still capable of that if I would let down my defenses and just accept Jesus Christ. No explanations. No proof needed. Just acceptance.

To me hugging is nice, a hand shake is a respect thing, but to me to gently lay your hand on some one's cheek is to give them all the love that is in your heart. Freely, without condition. It means more to me than anything. At that time I wanted to touch Jack's face to tell him in that one touch that for everything and forever I loved him.

But I was afraid. What if I went right through him again? Now I will never know. But I pray he knows how much he meant to me.

Hmmmm this brings us to Wednesday. When Darcy was sick I could hear your voice warning me of Satan's attempts to prevent me being baptized and following the right path.

I surprised myself at my faith in Jesus Christ. When I began to pray on my way to the hospital with Darcy, it made me cry to realize that I truly did believe with all my being, not just "lip service."

I wondered if I could call and ask you to baptize me immediately. I felt I needed to protect Wentworth. I wanted to ask you to pray for Wentworth or anything to help me protect him.

By the time you called I was calmer but still felt fear in my heart. I can not tell you in words how I felt when you and Elder Webster offered to come and bless Wentworth. I am forever grateful.

The fact that within an hour he was nearly back to normal showed me the true power of God. I knew then there was no more doubt in my heart or in my head.

I knew also to deny God and Jesus Christ would take more of a lie than I could ever conceive possible.

I know Jesus Christ is my Savior. I know the Book of Mormon is true and I know that Joseph Smith is a true prophet.

This brings us to today.
My Baptism.

This morning I was nervous yet calm. Excited yet frightened. Ready and yet so fully unprepared. Every emotion you can think of, I think I felt.

I am actually quite shy so to be the center of attention unnerved me. Hence hands on that beautiful Lemon gum tree to calm my nerves. Also me and white. I don't think so.

That you all were there was important to me. To have a familiar grounding as I took a new step into the unknown was important to me.

That Amanda was with me meant a great deal to me [Amanda is Beatrice's Christian friend who was initially very opposed to Beatrice joining the Church and had given her anti-Mormon literature and tried to convince Beatrice we were a cult. But at one point Amanda later asked me to give her a blessing, in which I felt to prophesy that she would join the Church. She did, indeed, later join the Church. --M.S.], we share every aspect of our lives so I wanted her there. Also when we began I noticed the Bright Man step out from behind Elder Brimhall, I know you all could not see him but it reassured me to know that he was there.

Elder Webster I think was as nervous but confident as I was, he did a wonderful job [I had recommended that Elder Webster have the privilege to baptize Beatrice, since he hadn't been able to baptize anyone yet in his mission, even though I would have very much liked to do it. However, I must admit, I was very fond of being the one to perform the ordinance of bestowing the Holy Ghost on converts we had worked with, so I felt I got the wonderful end of the deal there. --M.S.]. I am glad he baptized me as I feel a little closer to him now. With you it's different. I guess it's because you, Sister Ligon and I tangented so often together, I feel comfortable with you.

While I was under water it felt so right, like I was coming home.

I felt a little shy after I had changed and came back into the temple-- is that the right word? [Chapel. --M.S.] But I felt that same silly grin crawling across my face.

I feel the same. But I feel a gentleness has arrived in my heart and has set up a little heater there, which is gradually warming me from inside out.

You know, Elder Stewart, every time I hear people praising God and Jesus Christ I always get uncomfortable. A part of me thinks these people are weak and need Jesus Christ to help them live their day to day lives. I wonder why they don't acknowledge that they themselves are the ones doing theses things. Building homes, getting jobs, etc. But now I can't stop praising God and Jesus Christ. I know that I can do anything I put my mind to but I also know I can do it better with the help of the Lord.

I love Jesus Christ and I am thankful to be back in his fold. I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Sainst to be the one true Church.

I say all this and know in my heart it to be true in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Beatrice A. Oz

~

I give this book to you today the 8th December 2000. 

But I ask if I may add to it after my Confirmation. 

Beatrice. 

That's where I am going to end Part Two, but that's only about 2/3 of the book. I will create another couple of parts in posts at a later time. But I hope you have enjoyed Beatrice's story so far and recognize how unique and special it is. Having experienced all of this in Albury, New South Wales, Australia at the turn of the 21st century was one of the great privileges and blessings of my life. --Mahonri Stewart 

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