The relationship ended long ago.
But for Hilary Taylor, it served its purpose.
Because she had an irritating boyfriend
who asked relentless questions about her religious beliefs, Taylor
finally decided to take the missionary discussions and put this Mormon
puzzle together once and for all. Spiritually, she was ready, thanks to a
seed planted by a childhood friend.
Months later, she was baptized, drawing a
mixed reaction from family, friends and teammates. The former Utah
volleyball player has been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints for more than three years now.
A seed planted
The LDS Church was nothing new to Taylor.
She had been around members her whole life. She had even been to girls
An only child, Taylor was raised in the
Salt Lake Valley by her mother. The family attended a local Baptist
Taylor was introduced to the church at a
young age by a friend. Teri Matsumura invited Taylor to church and other
activities like Young Women, family home evening, scripture study and
nightly prayer. They also played sports together.
Taylor said some things were strange, but
she enjoyed Matsumura's friendship.
\"Some things were hard to get used to,\"
Taylor said. \"I remember she couldn't play on Sunday. 'Why not? Why does
it matter?' I didn't understand why girls shouldn't wear a tank top.\"
Matsumura says there was no preconceived
plan to convert Taylor. She simply enjoyed her company.
\"It's funny. I invited her to church
activities because she was my friend,\" Matsumura said. \"It was just fun
to have her around.\"
When the girls were playing basketball
for Cottonwood High School, Matsumura decided to give Taylor a Book of
Mormon with her testimony written inside for Christmas. She felt awkward
about it, so she slipped the book in Taylor's gym bag after a game.
\"I never thought she would be interested,
but she told me thank you,\" Matsumura said. \"I was surprised (years
later) before leaving on my mission when she called and said she was
meeting with the missionaries.
\"I was just so happy and amazed with the
way things turned out. Later, she wrote me a letter telling me she was
reading in Alma about planting a seed. She felt like I had helped her do
that. I had forgotten all we had done and had never thought about it
Volleyball and the boyfriend
Taylor started out with a dream of
playing in the WNBA but found more success in volleyball. She also had
aspirations of wearing University of Utah crimson.
The 5-foot-9 outside hitter was named
all-region and all-state as a senior at Cottonwood but didn't get the
big offer she was hoping for.
agreed to play at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs. Her
main reason in going was to play with her friend, Ingrid Solomona, but
things didn't work out as planned.
\"She ended up not playing,\" Taylor said.
\"I said, 'You are leaving me in Wyoming? I am the only black female
athlete at the school.' I was mad.\"
But she stuck it out, made new friends,
worked hard and performed well. She was twice named an all-region,
all-conference and all-tournament honoree, not to mention making the
dean's list. Her coach asked her where she wanted to play next.
\"Utah,\" Taylor said.
Before long, she was playing phone tag
with Utah volleyball coach Beth Launiere. Taylor was offered a spot on
the team, much to her delight.
While things were going well with
volleyball, Taylor began dating a Mormon returned missionary whom she
wants to remain nameless. He was a nice guy, she said, but had an
annoying habit of pestering her with religious questions.
This irked Taylor but pushed her to do
something she had never considered before — take the missionary
\"We would argue about what religion was
right, what was wrong. I said, 'Stop asking me all these questions;
leave me alone,'\" she said. \"Toward the end of our relationship, I
decided I wanted to at least take the missionary discussions, just to
She went to trusted LDS teammates
Stephanie Hodgman and Chelsie Sandberg and asked how one initiates
communication with the Mormon missionaries. She also informed her
soon-to-be ex that he wasn't invited.
\"But I care about you and want to be
involved,\" he told her.
Her response: \"This isn't about you
whatsoever, and I don't want you to be involved.\"
\"He somewhat took offense to that,\" she
Taylor didn't want to be forced into
anything, and Sandberg and Hodgman were exactly the friends she needed
at the time. They let Taylor set the pace.
\"The best thing is they would never bring
it up. They didn't ask me questions about what I wanted to do. They
didn't try to persuade me,\" Taylor said. \"They were just being friends,
and that was nice.\"
Baptism and beyond
When Taylor made her decision to be
baptized, she was so excited she invited everyone on her long cell phone
contact list: teammates (both current and former), coaches, friends and
The reaction was mixed. Many on the Utah
volleyball team were supportive, including nonmembers. Her mother was
supportive. People referred to her as \"the girl who converted.\"
But it was not
uncommon to hear people say things like, \"What is wrong with you, Hilary
Taylor? Of all the people to convert, I didn't expect her.\" Some
accused her of getting baptized for the guy she had been dating, but
they had broken up, and he eventually married someone else.
One family member told her, \"Why are you
doing this? I am never going to talk to you again.\"
Hodgman said Taylor was courageous in
standing by her decision.
\"Close friends who were anti-Mormon told
her she was going to hell, but she had the faith to look past that,\"
More than three years later, Taylor's
volleyball career is over and she was recently accepted into the nursing
program at Weber State University. There are aspects of the church she
is still adjusting to, like the lack of noise in a church meeting and
refraining from clapping. \"When I saw President (Gordon B.) Hinckley
walk out at conference, my first impulse was to clap,\" she said.
Taylor has no regrets about joining the
\"When you grow up doing things one way,
then switch to something new, it's not easy, but I am happy with my
decision,\" she said. \"I am still asking a lot of questions, but I still
stand by my decision.\"
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