Little by Little, Layer by Layer
by Chris Boyce
Little by Little, Layer by Layer
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The Layer family conversion story into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
As I look back, several life-changing events have been especially meaningful to me, but one in particular has made all the difference. It happened when I was 16.
Growing up, my parents and we three children were very involved in the Atlantic Methodist Church located in Long Beach, CA. My dad sang in the choir, my parents met and married in this church, and basically our whole spiritual and social lives revolved around our attendance and participation.
When I was around 9, mom started to question some of the policies of their church. First of all, the minister, who for years had taught abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, changed his teachings to ‘moderation’ because that is what the congregation wanted to hear. Furthermore, my parents attended a young marrieds’ Sunday School class taught by the Webeckes. My parents thought they ‘walked on water.’ All of a sudden, the Webeckes were not coming to church any more, and the rumor was that they had gone and joined the Mormon Church! My parents had never heard of this church, and could not imagine in their wildest dreams why such a good couple like the Webeckes would leave the church of their youth and go to another.
Mom needed guidance, and fervently prayed about her concerns. On Wednesday morning the 26th of April, 1956, my brother had a rash, so she missed her weekly cooking class and kept him home from school. She NEVER let us miss school unless we were seriously ill as she felt strongly about education. While home there was a knock on the door, and two nice-looking young men, who both had the first name of ELDER, introduced themselves as Mormon missionaries. She was overwhelmed! These men represented the same church the Webeckes had joined! She knew this was an answer to her prayers, and immediately let them in. This was the beginning of our seven-year journey into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The first-time dad walked into a Mormon Church he said he would never return. I am sure there were various reasons, but one was that the music lacked the vitality of their Protestant church! But he did return…because of mom. She knew right away this church was the Lord’s Church, and was immediately ready for baptism. Strong opposition from extended family members did not sway her as she could not deny what she felt. We had the elders over for dinner on a regular basis, where dad enjoyed feeding them chocolate covered ants and grasshoppers for the shock value, which worked! We went to church as a family, which was very important to dad, and attended every activity possible. But he was not ready to commit, one reason being that he loved his cigars, pipes and coffee.
Tithing was another issue. I know my parents contributed to their former church, but 10% was a little hard for dad to swallow. After we attended church for a year or so, mom used the psychology only she could with dad and talked him into contributing 5% of their income that year to the church, which he agreed with. The next year it went up to 6%, and so on. During this time, we were extremely active, and people just assumed we were members. As crazy as it seems today, mom was called into the primary presidency as a non-member. I am guessing this was because of her total commitment to the gospel and unbendable faith. While she served in the primary, dad was asked to lead the singing at the monthly scout Pack meetings, which was a natural for him.
During the summer of 1958, some of mom’s friends at church invited her to attend BYU Education Week in Provo, Utah. This week of spiritual and educational insights did even more to strengthen her testimony. This life-changing experience also solidified her desire to go back to school and receive her teaching degree so we children, down the road, would be able to attend and feel the spirit of the “Y” as she had.
After three years, dad was still not ready for baptism, but told mom it would be fine with him if we children were baptized. On 15 Aug 1959, when I was twelve years old, we were baptized by Leland A Poole and confirmed the next day by Duane A Kesler. Both of these men and their families were our greatest supporters, and we spent lots of time with them – barbecues, attending an LDS family camp in Northern California, camping, and so on. Basically, we had wonderful friends who accepted us exactly where we were.
On the 5th of August, 1961, mom went ahead and was baptized as she figured her example might pave the way for dad.
During these years we knew every set of elders, and the mission challenge, or so we heard, was for one of them to get ‘Brother Layer’ to commit to baptism. Dad loved their visits and comradery, but he still had reservations about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and lacked a testimony of Joseph Smith. He did, though, love the emphasis of family, and among other things thought it wonderful that we children had opportunities to speak in church. I think he still struggled with the word of wisdom, but by now was a full tithe payer, thanks to mom.
In 1963 one phone call changed everything.
Dad, who had already struggled with the effects of polio since he was six, went in for some medical testing. A week later a lab tech from the medical center called and said, “You have colon cancer. I’m sure glad it’s you and not me.” This was devastating, as he was a relatively young man at age 42, and in ’63 colon cancer was a death sentence. He fervently prayed and bargained with the Lord. He promised that if his life was spared and he could raise his family, he would be baptized and do anything the Lord asked him to. The Lord kept his part of the bargain and my dad kept his!
At the young age of 16 I can still, to this day, remember his baptismal service. It took place on September 7th, 1963, when he humbly entered the waters of baptism and became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I cannot express my happiness at that time as I felt we were complete as a family and could then be sealed in the temple for time and all eternity. But that is another story!
Dad passed away in 2016 at the age of 95. I look at the legacy my parents have been blessed with: three children, 15 grandchildren, 48 greats and one second-great. Every descendant of my parents has been blessed because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I want my posterity to REMEMBER their roots and the story behind their grandparents’ decisions made out of love, faith and sacrifice. I thank the Lord for loving our family enough to introduce us to HIS plan, the many elders who patiently taught us, and our wonderful friends who stood by us. I credit my mom for being spiritually in tune to the Lord’s will, my dad who humbly made and kept promises even though not easy for him , and just as importantly the Webeckes who, even though not members of the church years ago when they were my parents Sunday School teachers, set such great examples of Christlike living that they opened the door to our conversion.
I am a mother of 8, grandmother of 28 (including two sets of triplets) and great-grandmother of one.
Even though not a writer, I chose to take this writing class to help motivate myself to write down and pass on to my posterity that which I think is most important. Listening to other class members as they shared their very inspiring stories of life-changing events, and being given tools to help in writing, made all the difference. Hopefully I will go on from here and record other events in my life that I feel would be beneficial for my descendants.