Contributed by Dave and Colleen Solomon of the Hamilton Ontario Stake
"I love my bishop! He made me feel so comfortable. He was wonderful.” - Saren Sadler
From the outside, Dave and Colleen Solomon would have appeared to be living a classic Latter-day Saint family lifestyle: service in the bishopric and Relief Society, children who aspired to university education and missions, and in time, a number of grandchildren.
On the inside, their thoughts never strayed far from the concern they felt over their less-active daughter Saren. At one stage in her life, as she lived more than 3,000 kilometers from home, her actions did not emulate ideal Church standards.
“It was during that time that I felt prompted by the spirit to send our daughter a book entitled ‘Believe in Christ.’ I wrote some tender thoughts inside the front cover for her to ponder”, recalls her mother. Unbeknownst to her parents, at that time Saren was feeling absolute hopelessness.
In June 2008, a pair of missionaries decided to review the membership records of Saren’s ward. The elders discovered her name and realized that they had not seen her at church meetings. When the missionaries “dropped by” to encourage her participation in the Church, she had a ready response. “I am active! I just hop around from ward to ward. That's why you haven't seen me.” The elders accepted the explanation and then pursued their calling to testify of Christ. “They left a powerful spirit with the message,” says Saren's mother, “and that piqued her feelings.”
It was a turning point that Sister Solomon equates to the conversion of Alma 36:18-19:
“Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
”And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.“
As the missionaries left, Saren felt a familiar and sweet spirit. It caused her to pause and to think. Suddenly, she ran to the door and called to the missionaries, ”Elders, come back!“ The two young men returned and listened as Saren began to spill out the truth. ”Elders, the fact is, I am not going to church and I don't know how to come back.“ ”We do,“ replied the missionaries. That evening, the elders arranged an appointment for Saren with her bishop.
Saren's mother remembers the moment. ”My husband and I were walking along Queen's Quay in Toronto’s harbour front when we got the call from Saren. She said, 'You won't believe this, but I'm meeting with my bishop tonight!' There was excitement in her voice and we began to cry. It was a life changing event.“
Though Saren’s decision demonstrated faith and courage, there were yet steps to be taken. As she met with the bishop, a man that she didn't know, she felt some anxiety and fear. Following the 90-minute conversation, Saren called her parents. Her first words were, ”I love my bishop! He made me feel so comfortable. He was wonderful.”
Weekly meetings with the bishop ensued and the missionaries began teaching Saren the discussions. “She was on fire with the gospel,” declares Saren's mother. “She was reading her scriptures, praying, accepting church assignments, and going on teaching appointments with the missionaries. She stopped hanging out with people that would distract her and her social activities evolved around Young Single Adults.”
“When she was less active in the gospel, it never left our thoughts. We spent hours and hours on our knees praying for intervention somehow. We think the Lord tried to intervene on a number of occasions, and when he sent the two missionaries to her, she grabbed the lifeline and hung on. Part of the process was up to her”, recalls her mother.
Sister Solomon summarizes the happy ending: ”A year later, she met a returned missionary in her ward. They were married in the Toronto Temple in 2009. They now have two beautiful children and their home is infused with the gospel.”
“We told Saren’s missionaries, Elder Allsop and Elder Whiting, 'We hope this isn't lost on you, what you've done for our daughter.' They both agreed that helping Saren to return to the gospel was one of the highlights of their mission.”