Previously I discussed one of my favorite LDS videos, Mario’s Conviction: One Man’s Journey from Mafia to Mormon. It is a documentary produced by Avalanche Studios, owned by my brother, David Lindsay, which tells the true story of Mario Facione. In addition to the main video which gives his full story, there is a bonus feature of a talk Mario Facione gave at an LDS fireside recounting his experiences.
Basically, he was raised to be a thief for the Mafia and became a very creative entrepreneur, eventually figuring out ways to steal large pieces of construction equipment for the mob. Yeah, could be a Harvard Business School case study on innovation, entrepreneurship, and supply chain management.
He has a trip to Salt Lake City and is touched by the happiness he sees at the airport with families greeting their returned missionaries. It puzzles him and he knows he’s missing something. Then missionaries knock on his door, and while he’s scared because they look like young Federal agents, his superiors tell him to go ahead and meet with them instead of running — that way, he could learn what they’ve got on him. When he realizes they are for real and have answers to questions that really matter to him, he begins listening and learning intently, and eventually makes the terrifying decision to be baptized and break ties with the Mafia. For someone who knew as much as he did, this could have cost him his life, and he knew that. In a dramatic encounter in a remote warehouse, he faces the boss and tells him he’s converted, he believes in God, etc., and then he bears his testimony and tells him to “do what he’s got to do.”
What saved his life was the integrity of the man who was then the recently elected Mormon governor of Michigan, George Romney, who had earned the respect and fear of the Mafia by turning down a $1 million bribe and being completely resistant to the normal tools that the Mafia used to compromise and blackmail people who didn’t cooperate at first (women, etc.). The Mafia boss smiled. “We know these people. You live what they teach, and we’ve got no problem with you.” Mario didn’t understand why he would say that, and for a while thought that this meant the Church was tied to the Mafia and that he had fallen for a huge and brilliant scam. It was meeting President Romney later at a church cannery on a Saturday morning, doing service work, where Mario learned more about what had happened and was able to bring all the puzzle pieces together to understand why he was still alive.
It’s an amazing story that reveals much of how openly and brazenly this petty but dangerous little version of a secret combination worked, and also a touching story of how one man’s example saved the life of another.
We watched this video with a lot of family over last night on Thanksgiving Day. What hit me in the video this time was how much the Lord loved a thief, a horrid little Mafia punk who had been ripping off honest people for years. The evidence of the Lord’s love for this man–and for all of us–is so clear in his story and gives hope that any of us can repent, return, and make something good out of lives, no matter where we are now.
Brother Mario Facione, thank you for your courage. Welcome home!