Raymond Weaver and his wife, Laura, were among the first of three families to feel the pull away from their Amish church to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Raymond had been seeking to improve his business and checked out The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey from his local library in Ohio. One of his good friends, Harry Proudfoot, came regularly to his shop and together they discussed the book and the principles Covey outlined, as well as other things. This friend also gave Weaver a book to read—the Book of Mormon.
- In November 2011, Raymond lay awake for three nights after reading the Book of Mormon, trying to quiet his mind and sleep. He was lucky to get two hours of fitful rest a night. “Every joint in my body ached,” Raymond says. “It was the most harrowed up experience that I had ever had in my life. . . . I thought to myself, ‘If this is what the rest of my life is going to be like, I don't even want to be here.’ But I knew that the Lord was trying to tell me something.”
- Finally, Raymond walked to an 8-foot by 8-foot storage shed that housed the community phone. In isolation, he pondered the new truths he’d learned from Latter-day Saint scripture as well as an ancient biblical story. “Jonah couldn’t get away either,” Raymond distinctly recalls thinking about the prophet who faced behemoths and great depths after failing to act on what he knew was true.
- In that small shed, Raymond prayed. “I prayed that Heavenly Father would let me know, that He would let His will be done, whatever it is,” Raymond says. Within 10 minutes of finishing his prayer, the pain left Raymond’s muscles and joints. That night, Raymond “was instructed by the power of the Holy Ghost, and from the other side of the veil, about what to do to move forward with the gospel in the community.”
- “I knew that the gospel of Jesus Christ had come to the Amish community, and I knew that I was the vessel that the Lord had chosen to use for that to happen,” Raymond says. “And I wondered why it had to be me. It was the most intimidating, the most daunting thing that I had ever experienced in my life, but at the same time it was the most joyful thing I had ever experienced in my life.”
- Though Raymond didn’t know what would happen or how he would accomplish what he now knew he had to do, he says, “I knew if I followed the Holy Ghost day by day that Heavenly Father would help me navigate through this maze.”
Raymond, the son of an Amish bishop, knew that being baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would mean his lifelong community would shun him.
He began teaching his wife, who had noted a change in him. They began meeting with the missionaries at the Proudfoot home. “We had no knowledge of a preexistence or priesthood authority or the world after this life—it’s a lot to comprehend,” she says. By the second lesson, the missionaries told Laura about the reality of eternal families. “That is when the Spirit overcame me and testified that eternal families were true,”
They were baptized on January 3, 2012, and local leadership of the Church, including ward, stake and mission president, sought the Lord’s will for where the Weavers should attend sacrament meeting.
“By outside appearances, little had changed for the Weavers. They continued attending Amish worship services, wearing Amish dress, and their children continued to attend Amish school. But on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday evening at around 10 p.m. the leadership from the local ward and sometimes stake and mission president would come to the Weavers home to hold an intimate sacrament meeting as they renewed their covenants with the Lord. From a spiritual perspective, everything had changed for the Weavers.”
After the Hochstetlers joined the Church, they felt to approach another couple about the gospel, and the couple told Amish leaders. The shunning process started about six weeks afterward. It was especially difficult to bear when family shunned them. On September 24, 2012, the three families were excommunicated from the Amish faith.
- The most distressing change for the converts came in the loss of the community and family that had supported them their whole lives. But Laura Weaver testifies, “When I think about it, it’s painful that I can’t see them, but the Spirit helps me remember that someday we can be an eternal family—that keeps me going.”
“This was scary,” Raymond says. “Within the thinking of shunning, the Amish would say you were cursed. They shun you. They don't want anything to do with you businesswise. You can't sit and eat with them. You can barely visit with them. They don't want to hear what we believe.”
Raymond had to liquidate his furniture and manufacturing businesses. There were financial losses and family losses, which, over time, they could see improve with the care of Heavenly Father.
Their children were also shunned and not allowed to attend the Amish school. The Church called senior couples who taught the children for three years.
“It was just amazing how the Lord helped us every step of the way, even though it seemed at times like all the opposition was stacked against us,” Raymond says.
After three years of the three families meeting together, they were incorporated into a local ward. They were each sealed together as eternal families in the temple.
“In spite of all the opposition,” Raymond said, “the Lord wanted us to stay here and to prove to the [Amish community] that we could flourish. . . . I know that the gospel has come to the Amish community.”