By: Ashley Myers Henderson
Don’t underestimate BYU junior Angelynn Dorotheo. She might not understand cultural infatuations with funeral potatoes, ice blocking and “The Singles Ward,” but she knows a surprising amount about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Dorotheo, 20, a pre-nursing major from Canyon County, Calif., still vividly remembers the day she was baptized just a little over a year ago.
“I cried a lot that day,” she said. “I didn’t have control over my body. I was happy. I knew what I had just done was right.”
For Dorotheo, her journey toward finding the gospel was a calming process as she began to shed her childhood beliefs and find a new truth.
“Growing up, I never really thought about other religious standpoints because I was a pretty hard core Catholic,” she said. “I didn’t even know what a Mormon was until I was a sophomore in high school. Once I started to learn more about them, however, the more I wanted to learn.”
Dorotheo’s roommate Ashley Jackson, 23, a senior from Provo majoring in public health , said Dorotheo’s desire to learn is one of her most admirable qualities.
“I’m always impressed with her dedication,” Jackson said. “She gets up early so she can study. She’s really intelligent and thinks a lot. She’s so curious. She’s always asking questions about the gospel, always wanting to learn.”
Dorotheo said converting to the LDS church was a difficult change from Catholicism.
As a high school student, Dorotheo’s parents refused to let the missionaries come into their home, so every week she went to the ward mission leader’s house to hear the discussions.
There was a time in high school when she had a small desire to learn more, but didn’t want to go against her parents’ wishes, she said.
During her junior year of high school, now fianc?e Brett Signley, 22, a sophomore from Canyon County, Calif., majoring in civil engineering, invited Dorotheo to attend the baptism of his best friend.
“When I got there and saw so many people from my high school, I was amazed,” Dorotheo said. “I had no idea how many of my good friends were Mormons.”
Although Signley was unsure how Dorotheo would respond to the gospel, he said he felt certain she wouldn’t take it lightly and would ask good questions, he said.
The baptism proved to be an influential experience for her. She read for hours on end, often putting off other important activities in her life. She became overzealous in learning about the church, she said.
Despite her positive experiences, she said she still felt uncertain about the church. When it came time to choose a college, Dorotheo decided to head to Marquette University, a Catholic school, thinking she would be safe from Latter-day Saints.
“I didn’t want to have to make any decisions that would make people upset,” she said. “I didn’t fully understand that people are held accountable for what they know. I wasn’t ready to admit the truth to myself just yet.”
Before Dorotheo made her first official visit to Marquette, she decided to ask Signley’s father for a priesthood blessing.
“Even though I didn’t really know what was going on, I felt the spirit,” she said. “When you feel it, you feel it. I just kept thinking, ‘This church is right.'”
Although Dorotheo had plans to escape LDS members while at Marquette, Signley’s mother, Susan Signley, wouldn’t let her off that easily, immediately finding the local institute and singles’ ward for Dorotheo to attend.
“I felt it was really important Angelynn not lose what she had already gained,” Susan Signley said. “She learned and grew so much over her last year in high school. I just wanted to help her continue that growth.”
Less than six months later, on Feb. 8, 2005, Dorotheo was officially recognized as a member of the LDS church.
“I don’t know if there was something specific, but it was an overall effort by a lot of people who care about me,” she said. “And I really like the idea of a prophet. It made sense to me logically. If God’s unchanging, he wouldn’t change the way he communicates.”
Now, a member for over a year and a half, Dorotheo finds herself at BYU, learning from those who have lived the gospel their entire lives. And those friends are dedicated to quickly catching her up to speed.
On her one-year anniversary, Dorotheo’s ward honored her with a party that featured carrot Jell-O and the movie “Johnny Lingo.”
Dorotheo said she doesn’t mind when she doesn’t understand some of the LDS culture’s idiosyncrasies because they simply remind her of her past.
“It reminds me that I’m a convert,” she said. “It reminds me how happy I am. It reminds me how privileged I feel to be the first member in my family. It reminds me how important it is to help others find what I now have.”