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Raised Jewish, Man Finds New Home Among the Mormons – The Arizona Beehive
Michael Morton (l), With Sister Kelsey Hamstead And Brother Ken Russell, Converted From Judaism And Joined The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints On His 57th Birthday. Photo Courtesy Michael Morton.

Raised Jewish, Man Finds New Home Among the Mormons

Michael Morton (l), with Sister Kelsey Hamstead and Brother Ken Russell, converted from Judaism and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on his 57th birthday. Photo courtesy Michael Morton.

Michael Morton (l), with Sister Kelsey Hamstead and Brother Ken Russell, converted from Judaism and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on his 57th birthday. Photo courtesy Michael Morton.

By Cecily Markland 

His trip from Colorado to Arizona was supposed to be a quick business trip. Nothing more. Yet, coming to Arizona in November 2012 set in motion a series of events that drastically and permanently changed life for Michael Morton—and, all for the better, he says.

He had been a real estate broker in Colorado for 14 years, “We had a good system going,” and he didn’t see any reason to change. Another aspect of life that seemed fairly set in stone was his religion. “I grew up Jewish,” and “I was happy being a Jew,” he says.

But, then, he came to Arizona. He stayed with Ken and Joanne Russell, who happened to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They invited him to the Mesa Temple Visitors’ Center and, there, he saw the film about Joseph Smith.

“That really hit me like a brick for some reason. I got really angry, sort of agitated, maybe because I had been persecuted, beat up and all kinds of stuff, growing up as a Jew,’” Michael says.

During his stay, he also heard about the temple being built in Gilbert.

“As a real estate broker, I love seeing different structures being built. So, I kept telling myself that I wanted to go see the architecture of the temple. The truth of the matter is that I felt drawn there. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew that I had to see the building before I left town,” Michael says.

On Friday, on the way to the airport for his flight back to Denver, they went by the site and stopped at the trailer that was set up to share information about the temple.

“The brother and sister showed us a short video on the LDS Church’s building of temples. I was fascinated. Growing up Jewish, I had an early education of Moses’ Tabernacle in the wilderness and Solomon’s great Temple. But why were these guys building temples?”

“To put it mildly, I was confused and overwhelmed at the same time.”

“Then,” he says, “something happened that I will never forget.”

One of the men asked if Michael could have a Book of Mormon to take with him. “They handed me a hard back edition of the Book of Mormon,” he says.

“As I held it, I looked down upon the book. Whatever anyone was saying in the room seemed to quickly fade. I was carried back to when I was a child of 13 or 14, sitting in Friday night services in my Jewish temple. In my hands was a copy of the Jewish Prayer Book, not the Book of Mormon.”

“Then a voice came into my head. … It was the same voice that I had heard at different times during several personal revelations that week,” Michael says. “The voice said, ‘The book is true.’”

“Even now, I have a hard time explaining all of the feelings that I had that day. It was the first time I had held a Book of Mormon in my hands or read a single word of the book. I knew, with all my heart, that Heavenly Father was telling me it was true,” he says.

In the ensuing weeks, he received other direction—telling him to sell everything and move to Arizona and letting him know he was to join the LDS Church. He did so on his birthday in April 2013. Michael is now a member of the Thunder Mountain Ward, Salt River Stake, and again working as a real estate broker, here in Arizona. On April 17, he received his endowments at the Gilbert Arizona Temple.

He says he’s grateful to know, “Who Mormons really are,” and to have found his new home among “God’s covenant people.”

 

Michael will present a fireside May 18 at 7 p.m. at the meetinghouse at 7752 E. McDowell Road in Mesa. To contact Michael, email mortonteam@hotmail.com.