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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Hilary Taylor decided to join the Mormon church after a relationship and friend made her think about her beliefs.

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

camp.

An only child, Taylor was raised in the

Salt Lake Valley by her mother. The family attended a local Baptist

congregation.

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

that way.\"

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.

Eventually, she

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

discussions.

\"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

see.\"

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

said.

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

family.

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,\"

Hodgman said.

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

church.

\"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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