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Expo Murals

Conversion Stories | New York Expo: James Galovan Collection

John Swem Family Conversion

Gail Galovan, Gwendolyn Swem, John Swem, Ted Galovan (Galovans are Elder James Galovan's parents)

We had a referral card from the Mormon Pavilion at the New York Fair for a Mr. John Swem of Huntington Station, Long Island, NY, but had been unable to catch him at home on three earlier occasions. One Friday night at 9:30 PM as we were driving to our apartment I was impressed that we should try to catch Mr. Swem one more time even though it was late and we should have been turning in for the night.

It was a beautiful summer evening as we pulled up to Mr. Swem’s home. He was standing in the driveway watering his front lawn. We walked up his driveway and were greeted in a very friendly way and he told us he loved visiting the Mormon Pavilion. The reason he had stopped in was because in WWII he had met and become friends with an LDS sailor on board ship and had been so impressed with this young Mormon boy that he had always wanted to learn more about his religion.

It was apparent he was “golden” from the first moment we met him and we set up an appointment for the next night. Mr. Swem told us he was moving in 8 days to Niagara Falls, NY and was planning to spend the summer on a small island nearby in Canada. The time was short to teach him, but he was enthusiastic to get started.

His conversion and that of his wife and 11 year old daughter was something of a miracle—had we not dropped by that night nothing would have happened. As it turned out, we taught them virtually every day for 7 days, they attended church both Sundays, were baptized on the following Saturday night (6-20-1964) and moved on Monday.

Fifteen months later the Swem family traveled to Utah and in the company of his Bishop and my parents, were sealed on September 29, 1965 in the Salt Lake Temple.

My companion Elder George Goff of Minersville, Utah and I have never forgotten that experience and the faith and willingness to act on testimony displayed by the Swem family.

Before they left town Brother Swem related to Elder Goff and me what he felt when he saw us walking up his driveway--not knowing who we were. He told us that he saw halo’s around our heads, knew we were sent by God and that he was to listen to us.

In later years I had told that story to our three sons on numerous occasions but recognized that “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” So one family vacation through Utah when our boys were teenagers, we stopped in to see Elder Goff in Minersville. Without any advance warning, and not having discussed the Swem conversion since our missions 25 years before, I asked Elder Goff while I was filming, what Brother Swem saw when we walked up his driveway. Without any hesitation he answered, “Brother Swem told us he saw halo’s around our heads and knew we were from God.” The boys finally believed me!

Alice and Evelyn Renner Conversion

Elder Galovan with Renners

“Arise and be baptized”

On a Wednesday night two days before she was to be baptized my companion and I met with 22 year old Evelyn Renner. Evelyn and her mother, both nurses from New Jersey, had attended the Mormon Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. They were both “golden” and were very willing to listen to our message and pray for a testimony despite some family opposition. Evelyn said she had been struggling with the baptismal decision the past few days and had decided she would pray about it and then get an answer by opening the Bible and pointing to a scripture.

My companion and I were a little concerned about the randomness of this approach, and kind of held our breath while she told the rest of her story. Evelyn then explained how she had opened the Bible and pointed to a scripture--a scripture any active missionary would immediately know, Acts 22:16 which reads:

“And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

Evelyn and her mother were baptized 2 days later.

After my mission I lost track of Evelyn. Some 50 years later I was able to track her down and I brought up this very incident with her on the phone. She said “Oh yes, I remember it well.” Then she asked me “what scripture did I turn to?” I told her Acts 22:16, and she said “exactly.” I think she was surprised I remembered the scripture when I quoted it to her.

I told her that Elder Marlowe and I almost fell off our chairs. She laughed, and said she had faith that God would answer her prayers at that time. I told her how uneasy I was about “pointing to a scripture” at random. Her immediate response was “Elder Galovan, you don’t have enough faith!” We both laughed and I said “I guess not.” I told her that the experience with Acts 22:16 has always been a treasured memory of mine.

Evelyn went on to explain that she had often relied on the scriptures for answers. She was and is a woman of great faith.