I recently read Mario Facione's book, Mafia to Mormon: My Conversion Story, and I was blown away. Written by a man who was functionally illiterate into his middle-age, this story proves the loving care and watchful eye of our Father in Heaven over each of His children. He knows and loves each of us, even when we stray. The eye of the Shepherd is upon us, yearning for the day that we return to him.
In Mr. Facione's case, he didn't stray off the path, he was never on it--until a miraculous set of circumstances forced him to evaluate his life and what he really wanted.
Maybe others have wondered as I did in my youth why some men and women seem to have been granted a special opportunity to repent and return to the loving arms of the Savior. I think of Saul who persecuted the Apostles before seeing an angel and I think of Alma the Younger who experienced a similar miracle while actively seeking to destroy the church. Is it that these individuals were foreordained to do a special work? Or maybe, like in Alma's case, he had the powerful prayers of his prophet father pleading for him? The truth is, we have all been granted the miraculous opportunity to repent and come unto the Savior. That is what the atonement is all about.
Mario is the son of Italian Immigrants and the only thing he knew about religion growing up is that when someone dies, you put on a suit. When someone gets married, you put on a suit. He didn't grow up with a religious background. His father wasn't a prophet, in fact his family had ties to organized crime in Detroit, but like Alma, and Saul, and each and every one of us, our Father had a plan for Mario.
Even though he was associated with the Italian Mafia and was not seeking religion, our Father reached out to Mario and provided him with a portion of his spirit so that Mario could feel what he was missing, and see the path to eternal life.
I'm not going to tell you Mario's story here, because that would deprive you of reading it for yourself. But I will say that it is inspiring to know that each and every one of us can change, if we have the vision to know what we truly want and need, and if we know to what source we should look for a remission of our sins. This vision and understanding comes to each of us through the Holy Spirit.
My publisher, Cedar Fort, also published Mafia to Mormon. They were kind enough to seek out Mario and request authorization to give me his contact information. I am grateful to them for the effort and thankful for Mario taking so much of his time to talk to me as I asked him a number of questions. The man is leading an interesting life and is kind and generous. I could tell by speaking with him that he is truly converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and will do anything required to be a true follower of Christ.
From a life of organized crime to a life serving in the temple, teaching his family the gospel, watching his sons serve missions and experiencing his children being sealed in the Holy Temple, Mario's life today is worlds apart from the life of his youth. We are all capable of this kind of change, and even if our change of lifestyle is not as drastic as Mario Facione's, we all must be willing to give up whatever prevents us from being a true disciple of Christ. We all have just as much need for the atonement of Christ in our lives.
I hope you take an opportunity to find this book and read it. It is short and intriguing and well worth your time.
You can buy Mafia to Mormon here.