91989_000_005Radmila Ranovic did not realize that deciding to stay with her parents in Switzerland, rather than going to school in Yugoslovia, would change her life.
Radmila was fourteen years old when her family moved from Yugoslovia to Switzerland. She didn’t think that it would make any difference whether she went to school in Switzerland or in Yugoslovia. But, four years later, in Switzerland, missionaries from the Church knocked on her door.
“I was an only child and my parents didn’t want to send me away to Yugoslovia,” says Radmila. “When I look back on those years, I think Heavenly Father must have wanted me to stay in Switzerland. I was being prepared to receive the gospel.”
Radmila was born and went to school in Sarajevo, in central Yugoslovia. There she was taught that religion was not necessary. Her father didn’t believe in God, and her mother was not an active member of her church. “I didn’t even know what the Bible was,” Radmila laughs. “I had heard of David and Goliath, but I thought that they were characters out of Greek or Roman mythology.”
But at school in Switzerland, Radmila met people who were active in their religious faith. Now she began asking herself questions about God, Jesus Christ, and the purpose of life. During this time, she began writing to a pen pal she found through a Finnish organization. Her pen pal was a girl in New Zealand who was a member of the Church. Although she never mentioned religion in her letters, she told Radmila that she had some friends in Switzerland who would come and visit her. Radmila was excited.
A few months later, in September of 1974, four neatly dressed young men appeared at her door. Radmila said, “Oh, yes, I have been waiting for you. Come in.” Radmila smiles as she remembers their excited faces at her welcome.
When she finally realized that they had never been to New Zealand and that they represented the “Mormon” Church, she told them she had no interest in their message. They surprised her by politely beginning to leave. But as they were going out the door, one of the missionaries asked, “By the way, do you know Kresimir Cosic?”
Well, that changed everything. “Everyone in Yugoslovia knows Kresimir,” she says. “He’s a real sports hero in Yugoslovia.”
In the early 1970s, Kresimir Cosic played basketball for Brigham Young University, was baptized into the Church, and then returned to Yugoslavia. There he played for the Yugoslav national basketball team, helping them win a world championship and a gold medal in the 1980 Olympics.
“I wondered how the missionaries had heard of him,” says Radmila. As they discussed Brother Cosic, the missionaries mentioned his relationship to Brigham Young University and the Church. They invited Radmila to a presentation at the local branch, and she agreed to come.
When Radmila walked into the small chapel in the basement of an apartment building, the first thing she noticed was a sign that said The Glory of God Is Intelligence.
“I was immediately impressed and moved,” she says. “I had always been taught that religious people were not intelligent and that they didn’t ever seek to learn. I wanted to learn.” The presentation was on the Book of Mormon. “Everything in the presentation seemed to focus on the fact that I could learn for myself whether or not what I was hearing was true,” remembers Radmila. “I didn’t need someone to tell me it was true—I could study and ask God for myself.”
She accepted a German-language Book of Mormon, took it home—and put it on a shelf.
A few months later, during Christmas time, Radmila began to hear more about Jesus Christ. There were shows on television about his life, and people talked about him more. She wanted to learn about him, and she remembered the Book of Mormon. She began to read it. “I couldn’t understand a thing,” she recalls. “It wasn’t that the German was too difficult for me, it was just that I didn’t understand words like repentance because I had never heard of them before.”
She decided she would call the missionaries for help. At the same time, two new missionaries were praying for inspiration about which investigators on their list to visit. They both felt that Radmila needed them. When they knocked, she opened the door and said, once again, “Oh, come in—I’ve been waiting for you.”
She still didn’t want to hear the missionary discussions, but she set up a study schedule with them. Each week she would read ten chapters in the Book of Mormon, write down her thoughts, and then discuss them with the missionaries.
“They were so patient with my sometimes provoking and unimportant questions,” she says. “One time I told them not to come in because I hadn’t read that week. They suggested that we read together. We started reading about Ammon, and then they said they had to leave. I couldn’t believe it. For the first time, I was beginning to feel the Spirit and get excited about the book. As soon as they left, I went to my room and finished the story.”
Then Radmila began to pray about the Book of Mormon. One day while she was reading in 3 Nephi about the Savior’s visit to the American continent, she suddenly felt very strongly that it had all happened. She felt that the Savior was real, and she couldn’t deny it any more. “Everything made sense,” she says. When the missionaries returned, they helped her understand how the Holy Ghost answers prayers, and she accepted their baptismal challenge. “Now,” the missionaries said, “we have to teach you the discussions.”
“Since I knew it was all true, I was able to accept all the commandments—tithing, the Word of Wisdom, everything—from the beginning,” says Radmila. “For example, from that moment, I never had a desire to smoke again.”
Radmila was baptized on 22 February 1975 in Zurich, Switzerland. She later moved back to Belgrade, Yugoslovia, where the Church was just being organized. In 1981 she served a mission to Montreal, Canada, the first missionary to be called from Yugoslovia. Now she is finishing a graduate degree in physical therapy at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. She also helps translate Church materials into Serbo-Croatian, the Yugoslav national language.
As she look back, Radmila says she feels Heavenly Father performed many miracles in her life. Once she questioned the existence of God. Now she knows that God has a strong love for her, and she wants to serve him any way she can.