"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Conversion Conversation

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Conversion Conversation

I've long been interested in conversion and other religious experiences. As Laestadians and ex-Laeastadians born into that particular faith, perhaps conversion seems like an odd topic to bring up. However the first converts to Laestadianism seemed to have profound religious experiences that undergirded their understanding of what it meant to be Christian.

Even within a modern day Laestadian church service, I think the purpose behind some of the harsh preaching is to generate a crisis emotional state leaving one open to conversion to a deeper level of faith.

Of course, conversion is not the sole property of Laestadianism, or even conservative/evangelical Christianity. I recently read a fascinating article about Sara Miles that illustrates that even left-leaning liberals have conversion experiences:

What makes God laugh? According to a much-quoted saying, it's people making plans.

God probably had a few good giggles over Sara Miles' conversion. The San Francisco writer and former restaurant cook was a happy atheist, a probing journalist who covered wars and revolutions in Central America -- and a woman married to another woman. She certainly didn't intend to become a Christian or -- as she describes it -- "a religious nut." But early one morning she ambled into St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church on Potrero Hill, took Communion and her life changed. That day Miles found both God and her life's mission: feeding the hungry.

I can post about my own experiences in more detail later if anyone is interested, but for now I'll say that I had a typical conversion experience as a teenager in the ALC at a youth rally --which didn't "take." I was flying high on the emotions of it all for a few days. After the experience wore off I became slowly disillusioned over a period of many years. I was an atheist for a time (having left Laestadianism much earlier) before I had a second conversion experience that propelled me along a left-liberal "reconstructionist" (for lack of a better term) version of the faith.

I'm interested in hearing from others on this site about their own experiences with conversion. Did you have one? Did it make a difference in how you saw Laestadianism?



  1. I have written some of my conversion in a previous thread, but just vaguely.

    I was out of the LLC for about 14 years, no interest in God or church. I started having thoughts of going to church after all those years,and I put it off for a while. Then I started church shopping. I was at the point where I didn't know if these other churches were the truth or the LLC was the truth. I was VERY confused. Who is telling the truth? So I started praying for answers for many days. One night God came to me. Its something I can't really describe fully. I felt a presence in the room and I immediately knew in that instant that he wanted me to seek him, have a personal relationship with him. It felt like he was just going to walk right into the room, the presence was that strong. A peace, love and joy that I have never felt before overwhelmed me. I have never been the same since. I feel like a new person, like my eyes have truly been opened.

    How did I see Laestadianism? Well, this site helped alot. I started researching Laestadianism because I wanted to know why they preached only they had the Holy Spirit. I knew that the Holy Spirit had come into me that night. I seen spiritual abuse on this site and started researching it. It shocked me to my very core. I couldn't believe it. I just thought it was a strict church, but they have almost all the characteristics of these type churches, fundamentalism, spiritual abuse and even cultish characteristics. It freaked me out big time. But the evidence was there. Now, I just have compassion for those people. They have been blinded (in my opinion) to what the real truth really is. That you don't have to be part of one specific church to be a part of God's kingdom. Gods kingdom is within you.
    I have very strong concerns for those churches and a real problem with some of the doctrine. But, what can I do? I have voiced my concerns to some family members, but have not been taken seriously. I have been accused of the devil stealing my heart and causing me to believe I have found God, that I am just being critical, etc. Not the case. I just felt I need to tell them what I have learned. I guess I told them, what else can I do but just try to be a good example of Christ, and maybe someday they will realize the entire truth? One can only pray.

    I am interested in hearing about yours Tomte. I love hearing about how people came to know Christ. Its so neat. God is just so neat. I am in awe of him. Having a relationship with him is one of the neatest things I have ever experienced. Its so awesome!

  2. I forgot to mention that right before I felt his presence in the room, I had been praying for answers AND had asked for his forgiveness for some bad things I had thought about him. I know I'm forgiven!

  3. Tomte, this is an interesting subject. I know the OALC believes you must physically show a "truly broken and contrite heart" to be considered saved.

    Since leaving those beliefs behind, I have prayed and meditated, hoping to have a message given to me, some form of understanding and/or enlightenment. Nothing.

    I began wondering if God was just ignoring me. Now I think I need to do more heart-and-mind work, and I know I may never get my "sign". That's OK. It's been decades, but what's time to God? He works outside of time, and I have to accept that. I must admit to a certain amount of impatience, though. I SO wanted a blinding flash -- or SOMEthing!

  4. After I left the church, I tried to put anything to do with religion behind me. I didn't want to think about it because I was so confused about what was right, what was wrong. If there was a church that was right..stuff like that. I've always beleive in God, I just didn't know what to do..at all. I hadn't even heard of having a personal relationship with God until I left the church, and I didn't know what it meant. Now I'm not to against trying to learn about religion, and stuff to do with it. I'm just against any church that beleives that they are the only ones that are going to heaven. I beleive that there are lots of people that will be saved, that you just have to believe that in God and Jesus, and that Jesus came to save us all...and of course be decent people.. other than that, I really don't know. I've sure come a far way since right after I left the church, I'm more at peace with myself..and I want to know God and have that relationship with Him. It's pretty hard leaving..there's so much I was taught was "sin" and after I left, it was hard to know what was really "sin" and whats not..
    Its really interesting hearing others stories..how they felt after leaving and all that.

  5. Linnea LeBaron says:
    Hi - I'm not sure where I should post this - but I created a group called "Lars Levi Laestadius" on facebook.com

    I have a link to the extoots site and would like to welcome everyone on this site who has a facebook account to join.

  6. I can relate to what tomte said about the different churches doing different things that I thought were strange. Like clapping during the music, raising hands in the air, one church had no music, women pastors, speaking in tongues,etc. It was all so foreign to me. I was very judgemental before I was converted. After my conversion it all changed. Who cares about these minor differences? God certainly doesn't. He appreciates all forms of worship. And who am I to judge if someone can speak in tongues or not? The bible speaks of it. It seems strange to me, but not to them. People have different gifts and I have come to appreciate them all. I find it so fascinating how God has changed me and my thinking. To look past all the outward stuff and look deeper.

  7. Just back from vacation and noticed that free closed conversation on the subject where Another Finn was writing reams of socialist/liberal thinking. Somehow I don't think writing reams of conservative thought would have been tolerated in the same way. Just observing.

  8. The final and best means of strengthening demand among consumers and business is to reduce the burden on private investment. JFK

    In short it is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now.JFK

    JFK the founder of Reagonomics. These quotes were uttered before he gave large tax to the RICH. Much larger than any tax cuts Bush has given to the rich.

    Another JFK quote.

    There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction. -JFK

    I can keep the JFK quotes coming. He's the equivalent of the modern day conservative and there is plenty of quotes out there to support that.

  9. that's large tax cuts to the rich

  10. As a small correction: FDR quote, I meant to say, not quotes. Umberto Eco, who that other quote comes from, is a very interesting author (and an extremely well-read person, I´d like to add; this comes across very clearly in his books) who has written much more indeed worth reading than just "The Name of the Rose" he´s best known for.
    Hyvää jatkoa edelleen, free.
    Another Finn

  11. Does this sound like a conservative?
    "Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies." JFK

  12. What happened to discussing religious conversion and how we see the laestadian church after? why do people have to keep talking about the US politics?!?!?!?!?

  13. The reason that the political post was put in this thread was because Free stopped posting to thr thread where the political posting was taking place. There was no desire or intention to hijack this thread.

  14. Many Trails Home6/24/2007 11:54:00 PM

    "Conversion" is not a concept I can relate to, but I did feel that I had an "awakening" at about 40 (which had been predicted by a palmist when I was in my early 20's, interestingly enough). It was an awakening to the knowledge that we are first and foremost spirit, secondly human, and that Spirit (God) is readily accessible to each one of us, for the asking. It lifted me out of my 2-decades-long "dark night of the soul."
    I have had a number of encounters with "spirits" including Jesus (through an intermediary), Mary (directly), etc. which have only served to reinforce what I know. And one thing I know is that there is boundless love and compassion for us coming from those in the spirit world. And another thing I know is that the conservative "Christian" concept of God and Jesus is very, very limited indeed. Only if we try to (or at least imagine what it would be like to) love everyone as much as we love our own child, mother, etc. UNCONDITIONALLY, only then will we even begin to understand the love that is directed to us from the spirit world. And this can be a source of great joy.
    Many blessings to you all. MTH

  15. I guess I look at conversion from my experience as being I was once lost and now I am not. My old self fell away and I began a new life in Christ. It started after I encountered the Holy Spirit, which was a huge awakening. Like I have new eyes. Like Tomte said too, you can't really explain it, its a vision you have, not visible with your physical eyes. It is a lot of love, I agree. Its really amazing.

    Maybe someone else has a different explanation of conversion, thats just mine.

  16. Can you please, please, please help me?

    I am a Missouri Synod Lutheran and I have been dating someone that belongs to the First Apostolic Finnish Lutheran Church for 2 years. We have been thinking alot about getting engaged very soon, but issues between his church and mine are starting to make me think we will not make it. I am absolutely heartbroken.

    I have tried to attend and even join my boyfriend's church, but I cannot accept the strict and sometimes hurtful doctrine it preaches. I do not mind the rules against drinking and dancing, but his church and family do not believe I or anyone else besides their members are going to heaven. This is something I cannot accept, my boyfriend understands this and respects it.I am very confused because his church members and his mother and father are so good to me and treat me so nicely, but deep down I don't see how they can support our relationship.

    I have not been attending church for about 4 years now, and I would really like to start going to a Missouri Synod Lutheran church again. I asked my boyfriend to come with me as support, I do not want to change him or his desire to keep going to the Finnish church. But while he really wants to help me, he is scared silly. He keeps saying that he is afraid he will "lose his faith" if he comes with me. We have this conversation over and over. Once he thinks that he can come with me, he freaks out that someone from his church will see him or find out, and that he will "offend them" which I guess is something else he is not allowed to do.

    We talked and I don't think that we can move any further in my relationship with him unless I can share the experience of church with him as my husband. I think this is so important. He wants to do whatever he can to be with me, but I can tell his is very afraid to come to church with me and let his family and church know that he is doing it. Even though I find his church hurtful I told him I would continue to visit it with him if he would do the same for me at a Missouri Synod Church. But I just feel like everything is set up for disaster. He is terrified of coming with me.

    Have any of you had this experience? We love each other so much, but the people and words of his church are keeping us apart. Will it ever be possible for us to be together and happy.

    I beg you for any words or thoughts .


  17. Many Trails Home6/25/2007 12:43:00 PM

    Maybe not. Rigidity, religious and otherwise, has ruined many a love relationship (Romeo and Juliet, for starters). Don't expect to change him, or them. You will have to decide for yourself what you intend to do about this. I see that you have two options: 1. Move on. 2. Accept what is, marry him, and play the role of his wife in his community. Even this could be a disaster (ask cvow). You could possibly pull it off by being always loving and non-judgmental without buying into their negative beliefs. This could be tough, and you would likely not be accepted anyway, as buying into the negative beliefs is one of the things that holds these groups together. Try not to blame him: fear (cowardice) is built in to the structure of these communities. Many blessings to you, dear. You've got a painful fork in the road ahead of you. MTH

  18. Jayna, I was raised in the church of your boyfriend. His words to you make me believe that he is not worried of losing his faith, he would probably leave and join your church in a second if he was not scared of his families and friends reactions. He most likely will have his immediate family around if he left, but he will probably lose his friends, and he will have to deal with some emotional blackmail. That's scary, but that is life. Do you really want to be with somebody who is so scared of what others think? How long do you drag this on for? If he is really important to you, maybe you should both move to a place where there is no church for him to go to and he can just slowly fade away from the church. AA folk call that "pulling a geographical". (Not a member, but worked with many).

    As far a s conversion experiences, I have had two, but both were explosions of understanding that almost felt mystical. The first one was when I had my conversion from being in the Finnish IALC to knowing knowing I did not believe anymore, if I ever did. My really good friend when I was 17 was lamenting about how he was confused by the Church and how he did not get many of the teachings, I started to do the normal platitudes when it struck me like a thunderbolt (We were outside the Minneapolis Church in the dark while Saturday night services was going on)that I honestly felt the exact same way, I mean, how could I possibly believe the doctrines of that church as a half way intelligent adult? I shut my mouth and was horrified that I was going to be found out, I carried that with me for 4 more years till I was able to start making my slow break and pull my own "Geographical".

    My second experience was when I was away at school (850 miles from home, wasn't anybody who would know me there!) It was night time again, and I was walking across campus on a humid evening during Indian summer, I had been having the best time recently, and it hit me, the secret to happiness, the secret to joy, the secret to being a good person was not all in some book, some anonymous man in the shy did not need to dictate how i lived. It was up to me, I was responsible, the more I put into life, the more life gave back to me. I felt liberated, enlightened, drunk with contentment, excitement and joy. The next day I went to the library (pre-internet)and looked up those terms that would not leave me "liberty, enlightenment" and I found a tresure trove of authors that had already had similar epiphanies. I still love them Jefferson, Mill, Locke, Voltaire, they are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Was it mystical, no, I believe experiences like that is our brain taking all these things we have been learning and hearing and finally making it all come together in that one brilliant "Eureka" moment of ecstasy. I still strongly believe that fervent Prayer and Meditation are devices that cab used to quicken this process.

    Long winded, but interesting topic.

  19. I really thank you for all of your posts. They mean alot to me and this whole blog and whole community are so informative and understanding. Thank you for putting this information out there. I am taking all of your suggestions, and things may be looking up.

    Thank you so very much,

  20. mia from the llc6/26/2007 10:01:00 PM

    I have seen marriages where one person was part of the Laestadian church, and one was not. Some of these worked very well, and some, not so well. It depends on the individuals involved. The ones that worked had a strong characteristic of mutual respect. In the ones that didn't - the "outsider" was miserable, the children were raised in the LLC church and openly talked about the non-LLC parent as an unbeliever.

    Either option is possible. I agree with free, though. Keep the communication as open as possible. Frank discussion of faith is the best way. And a deadline may motivate him, but it will also protect you from being dragged through limbo for the rest of your life.

  21. Jayna, My advice would be to run. Run like the wind, as far away from that church as you can. I realize that the others have more thought out answers, but that gives you a sense of how challenging life may become if you commit for life to someone fearful of even setting foot in your church. God bless you.

  22. I think the most important thing in a marriage is that you are in union in your spirituality. It makes it very difficult for a marriage to work (not saying it cant) when you are on different sides of the fence. I have seen it personally in a family member. He's in the church, she's out. They are struggling big time. Especially when you have children involved. One wants them to go to their church, the other wants them to go to theirs. Its a battle. Best of luck to you.

  23. Having been in the church for a long time with my heart outside of it, I know first hand how hard it can be to leave. He may never!

    If I were in your situation, I would cut my losses now and focus on letting go before you are in so deep that it becomes near impossible to do so. This is no small hold on him. This is his whole life. He has been indoctrinated his entire life that he CANNOT leave without losing everything. His salvation, his friends, his family...and he's right. I left, and lost everything. Except my salvation. :) I found it after I left! No good news or hopeful platitudes here. Cut and run, is my opinion, for what it's worth.

  24. Jayna, RUN. Run away from this church and run away from this boy friend who is more concerned about being seen in a "Wordly" church by his peers, than he is in his feelings for you!

    He was raised to believe all churches but his are "of the Devil", and you have no chance getting him to compromise. I have much experience with these Laestadian churches, and in my opinion, you should run and find a good bible based church. The MS Lutheran or WELS Lutheran would be a good place to start.
    Sorry I don't have any good news to give you. Giving up on a loved one would be very difficult, but it is better than spending the rest of your adult life in a bad marriage.
    Good luck and God Bless.

  25. Jayna,

    I think you may mean the IALC, as Mr. Smith said earlier. I say this because your name/story is familiar to me even though I do not attend the IALC any longer.

    I have seen some interfaith marriages work in the IALC, and I have seen some fail. I honestly don't know what went on in either type of relationship that led to success or failure.

    It does not surprise me that your boyfriend is nervous about going to your church. Remember that to him any non-IALC doctrine is, as he sees it, a threat to his faith that he would prefer to avoid. It is wonderful that you gave his church a chance, and speaks much to your open-mindedness. What you need to ask yourself is whether you can see yourself living for decades with a person who does not really share this open-mindedness.

    From my perspective, the IALC is not nearly as scary as some of the other Lestadian churches, so I do not necessarily urge you to run away without thinking. On the other hand, you should definitely think hard about what you need to lead a happy life. If an interfaith marriage is going to be a large barrier to that happiness, step very carefully.

    I wish you luck, and hope whatever decision you make brings you joy.