James / Jamal Lutfi
I was raised in a Mormon family (my father was a Bishop) but also attended a Pentecostal Church. I converted to Islam about two years ago. My parents converted to Mormonism (LDS Church) when I was only 3 and so it was the only religion I knew up until I was a teenager. I lived in Central Florida (Bible Belt) where there was little tolerance for Mormons, much less Muslims. I really tried to get a grip on the Mormon faith. I went on Temple trips to do the baptisms for the dead, I read the Book of Mormon, I prayed, etc.... However, I never received that testimony they always talked about. Sometimes I think we can convince ourselves of anything (gain a testimony) if we tell ourselves we want to believe something enough. I became so frustrated with teaching in the Mormon Church and nobody could answer my questions (why could African Americans not hold the priesthood until 1976, why would God curse someone with darker skin, why could Jesus create wine but we are forbidden to drink it, why could we not drink coca cola through my whole childhood and then when the Church gets stock in the company we can drink it and nothing is wrong). I left the church with much heartache.
I used to go with my friend to his Catholic Church but that made no sense to me at all.
The first time I heard of Islam from a Muslim was when I was in the Army training as a radio repair technician. While training we had a soldier from the Jordanian Army training with us, I believe his name was Sergeant Mutasum. I thought Islam was
somewhat like Hinduism so I questioned him about how many gods he believed in and what he thought of Jesus (peace be upon him). I was really shocked when I found his beliefs were not all that different from mine except he believed in a Prophet named Muhammad (peace be upon him). I lost track of the Sergeant after the school ended and never thought much of Islam after that day. While in the Army I attended a small Pentecostal Church a few times and thought I would give it a go when I got out.
After leaving the Army I met some people that were Pentecostal and decided to join the mainstream Christian community. The people seemed really friendly and well intentioned. After about a year of going there I began to question again. Why were these people so caught up in emotion with no theological study? How could Jesus be God and make claims against it? What was this speaking in tongues nonsense, the people did not understand what they were saying? I felt there was more to the religion that Jesus left but I didnt know where to find it. I quit the Pentecostal Church and went back to Mormonism.
Later in my life I travelled to Ogden, Utah to go to Weber State University. I wanted to give the Mormon Church another try. I signed up for religious classes at the LDS institute. I was not on a pilgrimage to get a theological degree but I wanted to be in the Mormon stronghold where I was not a minority. I really liked going to college and started going to Church regularly. While there I met a woman in an institute class. After one year of school and a stronger belief in the Mormon faith I decided to get married and it was sealed in the Salt Lake City temple. Everything was perfect, or so I thought.
After a few weeks of marriage I began to feel those thoughts of doubt about the Mormon Church and what they taught. I tried to believe so hard but it is difficult when the teachings are so contrary to what I perceived God to be. Can a man become a
God? Can a God become a man? Can I create my own world one day? etc.... My ex-wife and I got along perfectly except in the area of religion. Eventually, after 4 years, we separated quite amicably and were better off. I felt that my lack of faith tore her down and I could not believe some of what I considered non-sense.
After my divorce I began searching the Internet for truth. I joined chat rooms on religion and joined in discussion boards. I met some Muslims and was fascinated. The beliefs they held were so close to mine. I did not believe Jesus was God, I believed Jesus was more than a normal man (a Messenger). After talking online I wanted to go meet some real Muslims so I went to a Mosque in Tempe, Arizona (next to Phoenix). While there I met a group of American Converts that were doing Dawah (basically telling people about Islam). They were just getting ready to leave when I walked in and told them I wanted to learn more about Islam. I told them where I stood and that I already believed much of what they did. After a long discussion and a study from the Quran and Bible I came to conclusion that I was a Muslim at heart, it was my parents that has raised me with those beliefs contrary to Islam. I told them I wanted to take my Shahadah (declaration of faith) and I embraced Islam that day. Imagine my surprise when the first time for Jummah came (Friday, the congregational day for Muslims to gather) and the Imam (leader) announced my conversion to Islam. I had hundreds of people giving me their phone numbers, hugging me, and accepting me as their brother. That brother hood and my faith have not wavered to this day. Anytime I have a question it is answered and that is the beauty of Islam.
Holy Quran 39:18*
Those who listen to the word, then follow the best of it; those are they whom Allah (swt) has guided, and those it is who are the men of understanding.*