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Monday, Sept. 22, 2014

Lottery winner's misfortune leads to Mormon conversion

By Emmilie Buchanan-Whitlock, Deseret News

Published: Wed, July 3 5:00 a.m. MDT

 Clarence Jackson, right, talks with a politician at the Connecticut Capitol building.

Clarence Jackson, right, talks with a politician at the Connecticut Capitol building.

(Provided by Clarence Jackson)

Lottery winner Clarence Jackson thought he had lost it all when he missed the deadline to claim his winnings — $5.8 million — by just three days.

And he did — as far as money goes.

But for the Connecticut native, losing may be the best thing that ever happened to him.

If it hadn't been for the lottery ticket that never was, Jackson, 40, said he wouldn’t have gained a groundswell in the political arena. He wouldn’t be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he wouldn’t have had the chance to speak in stake conference in May 2007.

Jackson stood behind the pulpit holding a small white card high into the air for the crowd to see. It was his temple recommend.

“This is worth more than any lottery ticket, more than anything in the world,” Jackson said.

But, he didn’t always feel that way.

The lottery ticket

On Oct. 13, 1995, Jackson bought the would-be winning lottery ticket.

But it wasn’t until 1996 that he realized he had won, sparking a 15-year fight in the Connecticut Legislature to pass various bills that would allow Jackson to claim his substantial winnings.

After realizing the value of his “Quick Pick” lotto ticket on Oct. 13, 1996, Jackson was frantic to redeem the golden ticket.

It was the one-year mark of the claim deadline. As luck would have it, it was also a holiday weekend, and the lottery claims office was closed in observance of Columbus Day. Jackson was unaware that he could claim the ticket by going to the store where he had purchased it before midnight.

Depressed and desperate, Jackson, accompanied by his attorney, presented the ticket to the Connecticut Lottery Corporation on Oct. 16, 1996. Jackson claimed that extenuating circumstances had prevented him from claiming his ticket, according to a 2007 OLR Research Report from the Connecticut General Assembly.

He never received a dime.

The political realm

Jackson's in-and-out presence in the political sphere while fighting for his lottery ticket inspired him to consider a future run for a legislative seat. His only problem was deciding which party to represent.

"Prior to the ticket, I wanted to be a state senator. I love politics," Jackson said. "And here I am a high school dropout. I could never be in politics. But politics came to me, thanks to the ticket."

With experience as his educator, Jackson said many of his friends involved in politics have encouraged him to run for office in the future.

His political fight was his lifeblood for many years. That was until there was a knock at his door in March 2005.

It was two Mormon missionaries.

The conversion

Jackson’s mother, who had met with missionaries in years prior, was eager to invite the elders in.

Jackson himself was deeply religious.

"I was raised on the front seat of a Pentecostal church," he said.

But over the years, Jackson had become disaffected from any specific congregation. He instead found himself on a quest to find religious truth.

"The only way I would join is if it was 100 percent what I know is right. Not 99 percent, not 95 percent, I want to know 100 percent," Jackson said. "I will absolutely live for it and lay my life down for it."

Though he knew it was a high standard, in 1999 Jackson traveled the country looking for what he called the "perfect" church.

But nothing ever seemed to fit until the two young men in white shirts with black name tags stopped by.

The elders stayed for more than two hours, talking with Jackson and his family. As it turned out, the missionaries had decided to knock on doors on Jackson’s street only if all their other plans didn’t work out.

Over the next few weeks, the elders would set appointments with Jackson that he would purposely miss.

“I was scared,” Jackson said.

One day, they caught him at home. They began teaching Jackson, who not only related to their teachings but found that he was already living some of the standards of the LDS Church.

At this point in his life, Jackson was thoroughly depressed about the misfortunes surrounding his lottery ticket.

Jackson said his lessons with the missionaries helped his depression. But he still had some concerns with the doctrine that he couldn't reconcile.

Thanks to instituting a steady habit of prayer, Jackson found the answers he was looking for.

"I was waiting for a voice to come down, or some type of dream," Jackson said.

But the dream never happened.

Instead, it was a scripture from the Book of Mormon that taught him to fast and pray to know if something was true.

"After I read that, I started praying more," Jackson said. "I really started knowing and I felt that it was true. It was slow, but constant."

Jackson realized he knew what he had learned was true in August 2005, and on Nov. 6, he was baptized.

"I found this new joy that I had found the purpose of life," Jackson said.

And because of the new life it has given Jackson, his conversion helped him put the lottery ticket ordeal into perspective. His introspection has given him the blessing of hindsight.

Jackson’s cousin is famed rapper Snoop Dogg, and before the lottery ticket came into his life, Jackson had been making plans to have a career in the music industry.

In 1994, while living in California for a time, Jackson and another cousin, Jason Brown, started an artist management company called Dove Life Entertainment, which looked for local talent in Long Beach.

The time in California also helped prepare Jackson for the turn of events that would become his future.

When Jackson went to nightclubs in Los Angeles, he always drove past a big, white building right off the freeway. He didn’t know what it was, but he thought it looked like a church.

“Every time I would look at it I would think about life. I would think about family and the most important things in life. The building made me feel at peace.”

That building was the Los Angeles California Temple.

In August 2006, Jackson was able to go inside and perform baptisms for the dead.

"The church is the reason why I live. I have been able to evaluate my life because I didn't get the (money). If they had passed my bill in 1999 or 2004 or any other time, I wouldn't have found (the church)."

At the Democratic National Convention last year, Jackson says he ran into Steven Spielberg. Jackson says the director took interest in his story, but said it was missing a key component: a happy ending.

But for this convert, happiness has been almost six years in the making, And it started on the day he joined the LDS Church, Jackson said.

“You can lose money and get money again," he said. "The same with power and fame. But the church is everlasting. Something that money, power and fame can’t achieve.”

Email: ebuchanan@deseretnews.com

Twitter: emmiliebuchanan

Recommended
1. antodav
TAMPA, FL,
July 3, 2013

So Snoop Dogg's cousin is a Mormon. Whose story I can relate to a lot, actually. This I would never have guessed…

2. Tators
Hyrum, UT,
July 3, 2013

What a great story of contrasting short-term temporal things versus long-term spiritual achievement. The comparison is an interesting story in and of itself. I admire this guy for his choices and spiritual maturity. His conversion story is a great missionary tool.

3. Jessica Gillespie
Gilbert, AZ,
July 3, 2013

Wow. This article is so powerful. I really believe in the worth of souls and this brought all of my beliefs about God's infinite ability to recognize and reach souls to the front of my mind. Thank you for this beautiful story.

4. abtrumpet
Provo, UT,
July 3, 2013

I met Clarence as a missionary. He took all the missionaries out to pizza in New Haven. Was a really nice guy.

5. DodgerDoug
Salem, UT,
July 3, 2013

What a wonderful story with a "happy ending", even if Steven Speilberg doesn't agree! :)