Sometimes, one of the best ways to strengthen our testimonies is to listen to the testimonies of others. Here’s the conversion story of one of the most spiritual people I’ve ever met, who came to learn of our Savior, Jesus Christ, because of an innate desire to learn the things of heaven as a child.
I met Ryan Eldridge when I moved into the Provo YSA 161st ward back in April. He was the very first person I met, because he happened to be going from door to door of girls’ apartments offering to take out their trash. When my car broke down just a few days after moving there, he was the person who picked me up so I wasn’t stranded, took me to the grocery store, and gave me a friend I knew I could count on. He also became the best home teacher I’ve ever had, and the best example of an Elder’s Quorum President I’ve ever seen. Basically, he’s a pretty great guy, and he radiates great light.
Ryan joined the church when he was 21 years old. I have been truly fascinated by his story on the various occasions I’ve been blessed to hear parts of it, so I decided to take the time to write it down in a post for people to enjoy.
Born in California, Ryan didn’t know who his father was until he was 6 years old. His mother bounced around from boyfriend to boyfriend, and even as a child, Ryan could tell that his mom deserved better. “I always noticed that she chose bad men,” he told me. “They were abusive verbally and even physically, and that planted a seed in me—I never wanted to be that type of man. I wanted to treat women with love and respect at all times.”
Ryan came to learn of his dad, whom he began to see once a week. At 7, his mom became too unstable to take care of him anymore, so Ryan was taken to live with his grandmother in Nevada, leaving his sister in California with their mom.
“At a young age, I saw the importance of having a father—because I didn’t have one.” Said Ryan. His Grandmother did a good job raising him, he says, and he became heavily involved with sports in his area. It was a way for him to fill the void left by his father.
Baseball, wrestling, and anything else he could get involved in sports-wise soon filled the majority of Ryan’s time, making him feel more normal than he had before. He says that as he got older, he continued to feel strongly that he wanted to be the father he’d never had some day. (This was as a CHILD, you guys. Ryan was clearly full of light even before he knew the first thing about the gospel. I love his story because it highlights how faithful children can be, and how they seem to know something without even knowing it. Anyway, I’ll continue…)
When he was 10, Ryan started watching a show called, “Left Behind”, which gave him a greater interest in what happens after this life. He started going to the Calvary Baptist Church—by himself—as a fifth grader. He went there for three years before returning to his mother, who was living in Tennessee.
“I always loved my mom a lot, but we didn’t have a typically mother-son relationship,” he explains. “I didn’t like it in Tennessee, so I started looking for a church again. I went to two or three of them and they didn’t feel right. In 7th grade we moved to Arizona, where I was slightly happier because there were more sports. I went to two more churches there and also didn’t like them. Finally, I moved back to Nevada because I wasn’t getting along with my mom. I returned to the same church I’d gone to before, but still felt like something was missing—even though my Grandma had started going, so I wasn’t going alone anymore.”
From that point on, Ryan spent his Sundays watching football and Nascar. He describes his freshman year of high school as “just normal”. Completely dedicated to sports, Ryan never had an interest in drinking alcohol or anything like that that other kids were doing. He became best friends with a boy called Kamas. He and Ryan dated sisters for most of high school. Kamas was LDS. He was the best athlete in their school, and was like an older brother to Ryan, who confided in him about a lot of things.
When they graduated, Kamas moved to Utah. After a few semesters, his girlfriend cheating on him, and an unsatisfactory church experience again in Nevada, Ryan moved to Spanish Fork. He had an LDS roommate who he says, “wasn’t the best example”, but had a testimony. One day, Ryan went into his room to find him reading scriptures because he was going through a hard time. It intrigued Ryan that he’d turn to the scriptures during difficulties like that.
Soon, Ryan began going on some dates with an LDS girl, Kaylene, who no doubt appreciated his Christian manners toward women! They visited the Salt Lake Temple and watched The Restoration. “I don’t remember a lot about the video, but I remember asking myself, “Why would this guy do this? All his kids were killed, he was tarred and feathered, he went to jail…. I didn’t know what the feeling I had was. It felt weird. I never cried, so I tried to hide my tears from Kaylene.”
They also visited the Visitor’s Center on Temple Square, where Ryan listened to two missionaries bear their testimonies of eternal families. He started to cry, as did Kaylene and her aunt, who they were with. Ryan filled out the pamphlet the missionaries gave him and started taking the discussions.
“I’d gone to a Christian church for years and I just didn’t know anything,” he said. “One Sunday I listened to someone’s homecoming talk in Sacrament meeting. He talked about a companion of his who had a speech impediment, so was unable to bless the Sacrament. Before that missionary went home, he was able to bless the Sacrament. When I heard that story, I got the same feeling again that made me want to cry, and it didn’t make sense.”
It was at this point that Ryan started to seriously wonder what this whole Mormon thing was about, and whether or not there was actual truth to it. After some procrastination, he accepted Moroni’s invitation, and prayed to know if the Book of Mormon was true. He happened to be in a car with his friend Kamas and his wife at the time, so he put his headphones in and read his scriptures, all the time pleading that God would tell him if this was the right path or not.
“I asked the Lord to tell me if this Church was His church or not,” recounts Ryan. “As soon as I finished “in the name of Christ”, the strongest feeling came over my whole body. It was the Holy Ghost testifying to ever fiber and intelligence of my body that this was the path for me. I started bawling. I realized that I’d received an answer from a celestial being. God had answered my prayer.”
Ryan was baptized shortly after, and went on to serve a mission in Mexico a year later. He was recently released as Elders Quorum President of the Provo YSA 161st ward, as he will be marrying the love of his life, Kelsey, on December 20th.
At the conclusion of my interview with Ryan, he said;
“Obedience brings blessings, but exact obedience brings miracles.”
Let us know in the comments if you want to hear part TWO of Ryan’s journey in the gospel, including how he knew he should serve a mission, and how his mother came to join the Church! 🙂