“How would you like to attend Relief Society today?” Leah Jacobs’s sweet voice sounded happy, as usual, over the telephone. She and her family had motivated us to investigate the Church, and we had been so full of questions there hadn’t been much time for anything else lately.
I hesitated before answering, fearing to make an assumption as to what “Relief Society” might be. It sounded like a ladies’ aid group, but who knew with these people? When we had been invited by Grant and Leah to go to a meeting at the stake center, my husband and I had mistakenly thought it was to eat steak. If that wasn’t bad enough, they had cautioned us on the way that we were not expected to eat a whole elephant at one time. We were much relieved to discover that this meant our learning process was to be precept upon precept.
The missionaries had given us the first two lessons, and we had been impressed with their clean good looks and eagerness to teach us. Everything about this church had a ring of familiarity, and our hearts burned brighter with each discovery. It was all too wonderful to comprehend.
To help us understand the Church, we had borrowed almost every book from the Jacobs’s library. We had listened to one of Elder Paul Dunn’s tapes as we walked around the golf course. At night we listened to tapes by men called “General Authorities.” Their talks were impressive.
“Are you there, Gaye?” Leah’s voice was filled with concern, and my thoughts returned to the moment.
“Of course, Leah. Yes, I would love to go to the Relief Society.”
When we arrived at the stake center, Leah escorted me into the Relief Society room, where we received a warm welcome. I chose seats for us right on the front row so I wouldn’t miss a word. We had just sat down when Leah received a message that she was needed at home. She left with the promise to return before the meeting’s end if she could. The butterflies in my stomach took flight as I realized I’d been left in a room full of strangers.
The young lady giving the lesson was full of spirit, though, and as she spoke my heart filled with a new, unexplained joy. Tears filled my eyes. What in the world was happening to me? Feelings of tenderness and love for all of these women became all-consuming. Never before had I felt such a love!
Through my tears, I studied the teacher to see if she had noticed my stifled gulps or my agitation as I twisted a soggy handkerchief in my hands. Finally I could contain myself no longer. Amid startled faces, I jumped up, and stammering and crying, poured forth my thoughts.
“Forgive me, but if I don’t tell all of you how happy I am to be here and the love I feel for all of you, I will simply burst with joy. My family is taking the missionary lessons. We have been studying and reading books and listening to tapes.” Now the words tumbled out in a stream, one over another. “I feel like an ugly duckling who has just discovered she is a swan and has come home.”
The silence in the room was deafening as I stopped to catch a breath. I looked around the room—all heads were bowed, and tears streamed down every face. The teacher was weeping openly.
“Oh dear”—I tried to find words—“Don’t cry, please don’t cry. I am so sorry,” I said weakly, then with sudden inspiration I exclaimed, “I believe in Joseph Smith!” That did not make them feel any better. They only cried harder.
Finally, one lady regained enough composure to say, “We have a fast and testimony meeting the first Sunday of each month.”
I did not have the slightest idea what she was talking about. I only knew that I had ruined the meeting and that these lovely women would never invite me again.
Without waiting, I fled from the room, stumbled to my car, and drove away as tears blurred my vision.
All the way home, I pleaded with the Lord, “Please, please turn this all to good; I love these people and I don’t know why I did that. Please let me come back.” I was convinced I had ruined everything. I finally reached Leah on the telephone and, in a rush of words, explained what had happened. She began to weep so hard that I knew I had lost my new friend, also.
Finally, Leah calmed down to say, “You haven’t ruined anything. You just bore your testimony. This is what happens when your heart burns with the Spirit.” She explained that a testimony is a spiritual witness that the gospel is true, that we have a living prophet, and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God through whom the gospel was restored. It is also a reflection of the sure knowledge that Jesus is the Christ and stands at the head of the Church.
At last I began to understand that I had not embarrassed these women. They had shared my joy and my new understanding of the gospel because the Holy Ghost had borne witness to me and had bid me share the wonder of my discovery.
I have since learned many times over that these women are truly my sisters. And yes, they did invite me back!