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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Jessie Streater, November 10, 2001. Interview R-0165. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Seeking religion and finding Mormonism

Streater remembers that she sought spiritual fulfillment at a variety of churches before discovering Mormonism. She remembers a welcoming community that provided a unique setting for spiritual awakening and membership in a religious fellowship she eventually experienced.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Jessie Streater, November 10, 2001. Interview R-0165. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BARBARA COPELAND:
How important was religion and religious training in your home when you were coming up?
JESSIE STREATER:
Well, I don't think it was really important because my mom and my dad didn't go. So it was up to us whether we wanted to go or not. If we went, that was fine. If we didn't, that was okay. But I had a godmother that stressed the issue of going to church, and I stayed with her a lot. So I went to church a lot.
BARBARA COPELAND:
Did you feel that religion was very important in your immediate household with your children once you started bringing them up?
JESSIE STREATER:
I did. But it was just, it was I went to so many churches trying to get the feel of what I felt was right, and so it was hard for a really long time.
BARBARA COPELAND:
What types of, what church denomination did you belong to when you were a child?
JESSIE STREATER:
Mostly Southern Baptist.
BARBARA COPELAND:
Southern Baptist. And so in your adult life you were Southern Baptist also.
JESSIE STREATER:
Yeah, but then we changed to Pentecostal and Holiness. We went to quite a few of them.
BARBARA COPELAND:
What were some of the things that you liked or disliked about the church, those churches?
JESSIE STREATER:
I had a lot of questions and they would answer them, but it just wasn't satisfying to me. Some of the things that they did I didn't think was right. So I just decided that I'd just go to the next one and try the next one and keep trying and keep trying until I felt comfortable with whatever I was learning from that particular church.
BARBARA COPELAND:
So then you were soon after that you decided to go to the Mormon church. Can you tell me a little bit about that, that conversion?
JESSIE STREATER:
Well, my sister lived in Wilmington. She moved to Wilmington. My children went there for the summer, and they just kept telling me about this church that they went to and how nice it was and everything. So I said when we, my husband and I came we would go to this church and see what it was about. Actually my brother in law introduced us to the church, and we went to the church, and we had the missionaries come out and give us some lessons.
BARBARA COPELAND:
So what exactly did you like about the Mormon church that was so different from the other experiences that you had at the other churches?
JESSIE STREATER:
Well, in the beginning it was the same questions that I had asked other churches I asked the missionaries and of course the bishop of the church and everything. The answers were more satisfying to me. I thought that hey, this must be what I'm looking for. So I continued.
BARBARA COPELAND:
What were some of those like questions and then answers?
JESSIE STREATER:
Well, my first question was why did I need to be baptized because I was afraid of swimming. I don't know how to swim, and I didn't want to be baptized, and just about every church you go into they tell you in order to be a member you have to be baptized. I was saying, ‘Well why do I need to be baptized? What is the significance of being baptized and everything?’ One of the churches told me so you can work in the church, but I was already working in the church. So if I was already working in the church, I didn't need to be baptized. But when I went to the Mormon church and I asked the same question, the answer was totally different. It was that I was making a covenant between God and me for certain things and that that's what baptism was. It was like, I thought it was to work in the church. That was what was told to me.
BARBARA COPELAND:
Did you see or feel any spiritual differences being in the Mormon church from the other denominations.
JESSIE STREATER:
It felt really funny the first time I felt the spirit in the Mormon church because usually in the other churches you have the piano, the drums and all these other things. Of course you feel this feeling all over you that makes you want to move and everything in the other churches. But when I went to the Mormon church, there weren't all these drums and everything. Of course there was the piano and the organ, but when the spirit just came over, it just felt so different. It just tingled all over, just made me want to cry, just bust out and cry. Everybody was asking me what was wrong with me. It was nothing that I could say was wrong with me. The only thing I know was I just felt weird on the inside.
BARBARA COPELAND:
That's good. So could you tell me a little bit about your children's experiences once you decided to continue in the Mormon church? How do you see that it had an impact on them making the switch?
JESSIE STREATER:
Well, when we joined the Mormon church, my oldest child was nine and so that means that only she and I and my husband could be baptized because you're baptized when you are eight in the Mormon church. We were baptized and everything, and then she started going to all the classes, and they were increasing her knowledge in religion and everything, and it was just totally different. She felt a part of something. She wasn't just going to church sitting beside mom and dad. She felt that she was a part of something because they had their own little Sunday school, and they could testify in their own little Sunday school and she could give talks and all this stuff. Where in the other churches only the adults, well the preacher preached the sermon and all of this stuff. She felt really good about the fact that she could do these things. Even the other two felt really proud of themselves too because they had their own class and they could identify with the children that were in the class that they were in because they were the same age, and so it was quite different for them.