On Friday, Feb. 21, I had the chance to attend the devotional at Southern Virginia featuring Tito Momen.
It was perfect.
Professor Jeff Benedict and Tito Momen sat in front of the student body and conducted a personal one-on-one interview, an insight to the process of how Jeff and Tito wrote their book, “My Name Used to Be Muhammad: The True Story of a Muslim Who Became a Christian.” It was really interesting to see how Jeff Benedict works and very moving to hear Tito tell his story in his own voice.
Tito Momen was imprisoned for 15 years in Egypt because he left Islam and joined the LDS Church. He endured torture and pain, yet he still has found forgiveness in his heart, even love for those who hurt him. That kind of forgiveness amazes me. It’s demonstrates such a true understanding and living application of the Atonement; and that is just so beautiful.
I was moved to tears when Tito bore his testimony about the Savior, forgiveness and love. He ended his testimony using the words “in my humble testimony,” and that is what really got me. “Humble.” He has endured so much — he’s such a spiritual giant — but he remains humble in his testimony of the Savior and full of undying gratitude. It was something else. I also liked that Tito’s focus in his conversion didn’t center on Mormonism — though he did bear his testimony of Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon — but on Christ.
After the forum, I had the opportunity to join Tito and Jeff for lunch with several Southern Virginia students. A friend of mine who was born in Libya, has lived in Pakistan and Malaysia, converted to Mormonism from Catholicism, lost a brother to Islamic terrorists, and had another brother who was jailed for seven years, was at the lunch with us. To hear her story, and knowing how forgiving she is in her heart, I was amazed at how lucky I was to be in that room.
I simply thanked Tito for his book because unlike my friend, I didn’t have any tragic stories. Though I’m from the United States and I have lived such a privileged life, I still felt such a strong connection to him because we are humans, we are children of Heavenly Parents and we have the same Savior and the same use of the Atonement. To read of his struggles and trials, though they are not mine, the feelings and emotions and faith process are the same, and that’s what I loved about the book. Knowing how closely connected I am to others in the way we feel things, that’s what moves me. That’s why I think most people could read Tito’s story and appreciate it. Humanity is a beautiful thing we have. As always, I found yet another reason to have a stronger desire to serve others.
Additionally, I was inspired to serve because I was lucky enough to meet the woman who regularly went to the jail in Egypt to give Tito his medicine. She sat in the filthiest of rooms and still, while there, was able to develop not only a love for Tito, but for the others in the jail. She saw them as children of our Heavenly Parents and that kept her from being afraid. That’s amazing.
Later that same day, both Tito and Jeff hosted a book signing in the bookstore on campus, spreading the message of their book and giving many more students, faculty, and community members the chance to meet them personally.
(Post by Sara Beth Helsel ’11. Photos by Hannah Benson Rodriguez ’13 and Jordan Wunderlich ’16.)