One day a friend invited me to his house. I noticed that he was not smoking or drinking, as he had always been in the past.
“Are you sick or something?” I asked.
“No,” he said.
Then it comes to me. “Is it for religion?” I asked.
“Yes.” He said.
I was puzzled. As I was trying to keep away from religion, here is an African man who I would never consider to be religious, yet here he was embracing religion.
“What religion is that?”
To my surprise he said Christianity.
Then I asked him “Is it in your scriptures?” and again, to my surprise, he confidently said “Yes.”
“Can you show it to me?’” I challenged.
He went to the shelf and brought back a black book. In that moment I was thinking, Today I have the opportunity to practice all that I have learned at the school. I was born in Nigeria and raised to follow the strict teachings of Islam. Ever since I was five years old I would wake up at 4:45 every morning and follow my father to the mosque. There we would perform dawn prayer with all the other men in my village. When I turned six years old I was given paper and pencil and told to begin copying the entire Quran word for word. After copying the Quran over and over I memorized it, I could recite it like a recorder. I was being raised to become a leader among clerics. It was my family’s hope that I would one day lead a jihad. My mission was to convert nonbelievers to Islam.
I figured I would use my training on my Christian friend. But when he handed me the book and pointed to the Word of Wisdom, instead of coming up with a challenge to debate him, I fell silent.
I was feeling it hard. What I wanted to see was the difference between Islamic fundamentalism, where there is a law followed by a punishment. But this was something completely different. The way it came to me was that this is a loving and kind Father counseling his own children that alcohol and hot drinks are not for the body. Instead of punishments, there were promises. I really felt touched. I wanted to learn more. I asked if I could come to this church and he answered, “Yeah, everyone is invited.”
Days later I attended a Christian church for the first time. As I approached the meetinghouse my heart started racing. I actually had trouble breathing. I started thinking What am I doing? But there was this power drawing me to go. I couldn’t resist it. I had always looked the other way when walking past the Christian church, but now I was going into it.
That day it was testimony meeting. One by one children got up to bear their testimony. And they did it as well as the elders. I was deeply touched. I had never seen anything like that. In the Islam culture, children are never given the opportunity to speak publicly. We are forbidden from asking questions. By the time the day ended I was given my own set of scriptures. My first Bible and a copy of the Book of Mormon.
I studied through the Bible and Book of Mormon in just a few short days. I couldn’t put the scriptures down. And I knew that these books were true.
Little did I know that knowing the truth of these books would cost me my freedom. I would later be sentenced to life in an uncivilized Egyptian prison. But I never gave up hope, I always knew that God was watching over me. With the help of the Nigerian embassy and individual members of the LDS Church, I was released from prison after 15 years.
Tito Momen: Tito was born in Nigeria into a strict Muslim family. While he was being groomed as a Muslim leader, he found Christianity and was converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After being imprisoned for 15 years in an uncivilized Egyptian prison, Tito was able to find religious freedom. He currently resides in Utah and is attending Utah Valley University. Jeff Benedict: Jeff Benedict is considered one of America’s top non-fiction writers. He is the author of nine critically acclaimed books and over fifty articles. His writing has been the basis of feature segments on 60 Minutes, ABC 20/20, NBC Dateline, HBO Real Sports, and the Discovery Channel. He is a contributor for Sports Illustrated and his articles have also been published in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Hartford Courant. He is a frequent public speaker and a regular commentator on network news and cable television programs. He has a law degree, a Master’s in Political Science and a Bachelor’s in History. He is a Distinguished Professor of English at Southern Virginia University, where he teaches a class he designed called Writing and Mass Media.