Sometimes our path to discovering and living the gospel may seem difficult. For some people that path is practically impossible. And for all of us, the path to our Heavenly Father is miraculous. Alone, we simply are not wise enough or strong enough or talented enough to return to live with God. We all need the blessings of the atonement and the plan of salvation.
Tito Momen was raised in Nigeria in a Muslim family and named Muhammad, after the prophet of Islam. “I am the last person you might expect to become a Christian,” he says. “I began memorizing the Qur’an at the age of five. My father expected me to become a leader among clerics. And though I spent more than two decades striving to fulfil his dream for me, my life took an unexpected turn when I found the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
AfterTito left home to pursue a degree in Islamic studies, he began to doubt his religion. When those doubts were discovered, he was expelled from the university and his father disowned him. For some years, he abandoned religion altogether, living wildly and feeling lost.
Then one day in 1988, he went to visit a long-time friend, Gaston. To his amazement, his friend no longer smoked and had no alcohol in the apartment. His friend explained that he had found the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that the Church taught that these things should be avoided because they were addictive.
Tito was curious to learn more about this new Christian church, so he accompanied Gaston to a Church meeting. He reports, “As I listened to the references to Christ and love, I felt as if wind were rushing through me. I couldn’t escape the feeling I had inside. There’s something here, I kept telling myself.”
Realizing that he knew nothing about Christ, Tito asked for a Bible and a Book of Mormon. Then, he recalls, “I ended up spending the entire weekend working my way through the Old Testament. I didn’t leave my apartment once.” Within a week, he had finished the Old Testament and started the New Testament. “Please, God, let this be true,” he whispered.
After attending the Church for many weeks, Tito became certain he wanted to be baptized. “I had compiled quite a collection of sins. More than anything, I wanted a clean conscience. I told my Mormon leaders that I wanted to be baptized.”
However, leaving Islam and becoming a Mormon was not legal where he lived. After some time, a way was arranged for Tito to be legally baptized, but when he returned to to his apartment, he realized he was in trouble. His name was on a watch-list, and he was under surveillance.
Within a short time, he was put in detention and eventually sent to prison, where he remained for ten years. He began to have severe health problems. “Where is God?” he wondered.
Then the miracles began to happen. A Christian group became aware of his plight and began to send him letters of support. As he remembers, “My eyes welled up. Some stranger in a faraway land had taken the time to write me.” Within weeks, more letters came, and Tito answered them all. “The more I wrote, the more letters I received. A few letters turned into hundreds. I was so encouraged that I decided to write a letter directly to Gordon B. Hinckley, the head of the LDS Church. I didn’t actually expect to hear back, but I did. President Hinckley encouraged me to keep the faith.” Later, when Tito was in the hospital with heart problems, President Hinckley sent him a leather-bound edition of the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and the Church Social Services office let him know that they were in contact with Church leaders in his city.
Their letter of encouragement gave Tito the desire to persevere. “Remember, Brother Momen, the Lord knows you by name. He loves you without limitation. May the Lord bless you with the faith to follow Him and do His will,” they wrote.
Eventually, Tito’s health problems were the key to his being released from prison after 15 years, and representatives from the Church were able to help him settle in Ghana. He was able to visit and reconcile with his dying father.
Tito’s story of faith and perseverance inspires us all to remember the admonition in the 13th Article of Faith: “We have endured many things and hope to be able to endure all things.” And as the Lord encourages us, “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted” (D&C 90:24).
Taken from the book My Named Used to Be Muhammad, Deseret Book
Excerpted by Marnae Wilson