The Ensign Effect


The story of how one person came to join the Church

“Thanks for a subscription to the Ensign, but you are probably wasting your money,” wrote my nonmember mother from Indiana in December 1971 when my husband and I announced our Christmas gift to her.

Still, after receiving the first issue, she wrote: “I looked through the magazine last night and read a little—looked like many articles I would find interesting. Thanks for the subscription.”

The Ensign entered her home month after month, year after year. Its influence on her was gradual but unmistakable. In July of 1972, she wrote: “I have the Ensign with the General Conference talks in it and have been reading them—all so fine and helpful.”

By October of 1972, reading the Ensign was becoming a habit: “The new Ensign came yesterday and I looked through it and read some as I ate my supper and snack last night and my breakfast this morning—so many good, inspirational articles and isn’t that picture on the front just the way children look watching TV?”

The next month: “The latest Ensign was on the arm of the davenport and Carol [my nonmember niece] started looking at it during commercials. Then I got out the one about the temples for her to look at. She had read about the one in Washington, D.C., so she looked at it, then back to the other one.”

By the following Christmas, mother wanted to share the magazine with others in the family: “Thanks for your card and the Ensign. It is a beautiful magazine and I do enjoy it. Don’t know how your brothers and sister would feel about it but have thought about lending or giving mine to Fred and Peggy.”

“No special news,” she wrote in March 1973, “just thought I should write to you. The April Ensign came just as I finished the Reader’s Digest—then the March one came a few days later. Thank you again. The Ensigns are such beautiful magazines with so much good reading.”

In December of 1973 we sent her an LDS book and other inspirational material, but were gently rebuffed: “I appreciate your concern for my soul in trying to convert me. I read the first testimonial last night, but please don’t send me anything more to read. I have been so busy cleaning, putting away and arranging that I have scarcely taken time to read the paper and am way behind with the Reader’s Digest and the Ensign. I had been reading a chapter or two or three of the Bible every night—plan to resume that after we return from our Christmas visit.”

Others felt the influence of mother’s Ensign. In March of 1974, she wrote: “I’ve been reading about President Spencer Kimball. He is quite a man! As was President Harold B. Lee! I had just finished the Ensign with conference reports when our minister called. I loaned it to him and told him he would get some good sermon ideas from it. I want it back when he is through.”

My nonmember brother visited her in August of 1974. She wrote: “Did I tell you that Tom has a beard and mustache? The Ensign was on the dining table and he looked through it. When he saw the pictures of the Youngs, he said, ‘I look like a Mormon.’”

By March of 1975, her letters reflected the expanding influence of the Ensign on her everyday activities. “I read in a Prevention magazine about an American woman writer who visited a South American Community of less than 1,000 people which had nine people over 100, one was 123 years, and all active, working, climbing mountains, etc., just as they had always done. So your church presidents and officials ‘up in years’ are in line with them.”

Her letters were now intimating frequent thoughts about the Church. In April of 1975: “Thank you for your letter. February, March and April Ensigns came in the same mail. I read quite a bit in February last night. There are so many interesting and worthwhile things people can do and most times ‘don’t get around to it.’ Have you heard the Mormon broadcasts about people not getting ‘a round 2 it’?”

May, 1975: “When I was soaping and rubbing the neckband and cuffs of the white shirts I have been wearing in the garden to reflect the sun’s rays, I wondered about your church missionaries and their laundry. Remind me when I visit you this summer to ask Wendell about that and other things I’ve wondered about his mission. Didn’t you say he went to New Zealand?”

June, 1975: “I have been busy doing last minute things around the house, so when you go to the hospital I can come immediately. I’m grateful for good health to be able to help you and a new grandchild and the rest of the family. I’m excited about coming.”

Her two-week visit with us was delightful, and we could see in her a blossoming commitment to the principles of the gospel. She was greeted warmly by our ward members and wrote to thank them when she returned to Indiana:

“Dear Bishop Roskelley: Please convey to all the people of your Logan 20th Ward my heartfelt appreciation for their friendship, fellowship, and Christian love expressed to me during my recent visit with my daughter and her family. Especially do I want to thank those who took time out of their busy lives to attend my baptism, and more especially those who took part in those services by their prayers, talks, and blessings during my confirmation. Their kind words and uplifting counsel will be an inspiration to me the rest of my life. May the Lord bless and keep you all.”

In 1976, the year after her baptism, she returned to Utah for her endowments and sealing to my father, to her parents, and to me. Today, at age 75, she is an active member of the South Bend Ward, Indiana, and is a Relief Society teacher and also responsible for mailing the ward newsletter.

And so the years pass. The Ensign still enters her home, her thoughts, her life. How grateful I am for the Ensign Effect.

[photo] Photography by Eldon K. Linschoten

Mary Ann Carpenter Nielson, mother of five, is a Sunday School teacher in her Logan, Utah, ward.