He Beckoned Me
I was born in Hungary, where I became a Calvinist minister. But after migrating to Australia thirty years ago, I began to realize that I was not teaching the true doctrine of Christ.
So I started writing a book about the Apostasy. Through my study of the Bible, I knew that there must also be a “restitution of all things,” and I eventually gave up my ministry to look for that restored truth. I wasn’t long in finding it, though I didn’t recognize it right away.
One evening in 1956, while driving from Geelong to Melbourne in drenching rain, I picked up two young men. They turned out to be LDS missionaries. When I dropped them at the mission home, the mission president gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon, which I gladly accepted. At the time, though, I did not join the Church; I did not even ask to learn more about it.
Then, one night, I dreamed I was on a beautiful beach. A man with white hair was waist-deep in the water. He had on white clothing and was holding up a copy of the Book of Mormon and encouraging me to come into the water, telling me that the Master wanted me. The next morning, I sketched a picture of the man I had seen in my dream. In the meantime, I continued my search for the truth.
Sometime later, two missionaries came to my home. Seeing that they held a copy of the Book of Mormon, I asked them in and showed them the picture I had drawn. The missionaries were very surprised. They told me it looked very much like a picture of President David O. McKay.
They asked if they could have the picture. Somehow the story of my dream and the picture itself got to Salt Lake City, and I received a letter from Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, who was then President of the Quorum of the Twelve. In the letter, he bore his testimony and counseled me to be baptized.
A missionary was given permission to extend his mission a week and stay in my home while we studied the gospel together. But, even after all this, my fear of making a mistake immobilized me, and I soon lost contact with the missionaries.
I continued to study the gospel, however, and one day, late in 1974, I left a note at the chapel in Wollongong, New South Wales, saying I wanted to meet with the missionaries. Once again they began teaching me. Three times they set a date for my baptism, and each time I postponed it. (Once they even had the font filled!)
My vacillation came to an end when I was offered an excellent position as a translator for the Australian government. For this position I would have to travel to Canberra each Sunday, making it impossible for me to attend church. I decided not to join the Church, and to take the job.
Not long after I made the decision, I suffered a heart attack, which left me unfit to accept the position. Once again I promised to be baptized, but this time persecution from my former minister friends made me change my mind.
I was then offered a position as a Calvinist bishop, responsible for all the migrants in New South Wales. As I contemplated this offer, I suffered another heart attack—my seventh. I realized then that I could die at any time, and that I wanted to be baptized.
At last, on 15 March 1975, after knowing the truth but putting off acting on it for so long, I was baptized.
I have a great desire now to share the gospel with my fellowmen—especially those in Hungary. I have translated fourteen tracts into Hungarian, and much of the Book of Mormon. One day I hope to return to Hungary as a missionary and share with my former countrymen the restored gospel—the gospel the Lord had been preparing me to receive for so many years.
I Filled Her Mission
I had been a member of the Church less than a year when I decided that I wanted to serve a mission.
As I discussed the matter with my bishop, I told him I was concerned because I was not financially prepared to go. He assured me that as long as I was faithful and sincere in my willingness to serve the Lord, a way would be provided. I accepted the call to serve.
I had been in the Haiti Port-au-Prince Mission for nearly a month before I learned how my mission was being paid for. In a letter, my bishop explained that shortly after I’d visited with him concerning my finances, Sister Melva Webb, an elderly woman in our ward, had come to him and expressed the desire to support a missionary.
She told him she had been saving money all her life so she could serve a mission. When health problems made it impossible for her to go, she had decided that the money should be used for a mission even if it wasn’t her own.
The bishop explained my situation to her, and she felt that supporting me on my mission was the perfect way to use her money.
I was deeply touched to learn that someone I didn’t even know was willing to provide her hard-earned money so that I might be able to serve in the mission field. In his letter, the bishop included Sister Webb’s address, and I immediately wrote and thanked her.
Sister Webb and I corresponded often throughout my mission, and I began to feel very close to her even though I had never met her. I was impressed with her faithfulness and the strength of testimony she expressed in her letters.
In one particularly touching letter, Sister Webb told me that I was serving the mission she had always wanted to serve, and that her one desire was to live long enough to meet me. Her health was poor, and she prayed daily that she would be able to hear firsthand about “our mission.”
When I had been in the mission field fifteen months, the First Presidency announced that the length of missions was being extended to two years. Those of us who had been called to serve for eighteen months had the choice of leaving after that time or staying an additional six months.
Sister Webb wrote and said that there was plenty of money to cover the extra six months if I desired to stay. I was thrilled with the opportunity to serve the Lord for another half year. However, as I prayed and worked during the next month, I received a distinct impression that I should return home after serving eighteen months.
I discussed my feelings with my mission president, and told him I had no explanation for why I was feeling this way. He told me that the Lord had called me to serve for eighteen months, and that for reasons we might not understand, that was all the time he apparently wanted me to spend in the mission field.
When I returned home to my family, I was anxious to meet Sister Webb. We had become close friends through our letters during my mission.
I visited her at home the day after I returned, and we spent many hours becoming acquainted and talking about “our” mission. Since it was her mission, too, I felt that she should be the first to hear my report and learn of my experiences.
My homecoming was scheduled for the next Sunday, and Sister Webb planned to prepare a dinner in my honor that afternoon. She had invited all her children and grandchildren to come and meet me.
As I was leaving, she took my hand and, with tears in her eyes, said that her prayers had been answered. She said her one desire had been to meet me and hear about the mission. Now that desire had been fulfilled.
Tears filled my eyes and a lump rose in my throat. I was unable to speak, so I reached out and gave her a hug. I left for home with tears streaming down my cheeks.
I spent the next few days getting adjusted to being home again and visiting friends and family. As I was preparing my homecoming talk Saturday night, I received a phone call from my bishop.
“Chad,” he said, “I have something to tell you, but I just don’t know how to say it.” He paused for a moment. “Sister Webb has been killed in an auto accident. I’ve met with her family, and they have requested that you be a pallbearer at her funeral.”
For a moment I was speechless. It was incomprehensible that my friend was gone. Then I told the bishop I would be honored to be a pallbearer.
As I spent the next few days thinking about Sister Webb and the few short hours we had spent together, I knew why I had come home after an eighteen-month mission. It was in answer to her prayers that she be able to meet the person who had served her mission for her, and to hear the experiences of that mission before she died.
As I started down the street, one hand pulling my two children in a wagon and the other balancing a plate of cookies, I wondered why I was even trying to make this visit. I already had my hands full with the seven squirming four-year-olds who came to my Primary class each week. Soliciting one more seemed unnecessary.
However, the Primary president had said that this particular little boy had never been to Primary and needed it perhaps more than any other child on the roll. Kevin had been afflicted with leukemia since the age of two. He was the only child of a less-active couple in the ward.
An attractive young woman in her late twenties answered my knock. I smiled and said, “Hi, Jill. I’m Kevin’s new Primary teacher. I live down the street and thought I’d come and get acquainted with you and Kevin.”
“Won’t you come in?” she asked warmly as she opened the screen door. “What cute children you have!” she exclaimed as she lifted my baby from the wagon and entered the house.
I took three-year-old Randy’s hand and followed her. Jill was so friendly that I felt completely at ease. From the beginning we talked away like old friends.
“Aren’t you lucky to have a baby,” she said. “John and I want another one, but so far, no luck.”
Just then, Kevin, a plump, healthy-looking, four-year-old with curly red hair, rushed in. I introduced myself and gave him the cookies I had almost forgotten that I had.
He shared one with Randy, and they both went outside to play while Jill and I talked.
“I remember going to Primary as a child,” Jill said. “I really enjoyed going, and I especially remember singing. As a child I called it ’singing church.’”
I noticed a piano in the corner of the room and asked, “Do you play?”
“A little,” she said. “I’m not very good, but I enjoy trying. I even have an old Primary songbook.”
I started to offer to come over regularly to give Kevin the Primary lesson, but Jill stopped me.
“Oh no,” she said. “The doctor says Kevin should go out more and be around children so he will be ready for school next year.”
I then asked, “May I come and pick Kevin up for Primary?”
Jill replied, “I would rather come and stay with him for the first time, if that’s okay.”
I nodded, and we headed for the backyard.
“See you at Primary, Kevin,” I called.
But several weeks passed with no sign of Kevin. I called his home several times; there was no answer. I walked by the house often, but no one was ever there. Then one day I learned that Kevin was in the hospital and that Jill was keeping a constant vigil at his bedside.
I went to the hospital that night and found Jill sitting beside Kevin. I could tell she was glad to see me.
“I just heard about Kevin. Is there anything I can do?” I asked, as I glanced down at Kevin’s now-frail little body. A feeling of love and compassion enveloped me, and I wanted to take him into my arms and hold him.
This was the third time Kevin had been so seriously ill. I didn’t know how his parents had been able to deal with such torment. Jill’s strength and endurance seemed to sustain the whole family. She never left Kevin alone and tried to make every moment pleasant for him. They had learned to live one day at a time.
One day, when Kevin was improving, I took a hand puppet I had used in a Primary lesson to the hospital with me. Kevin enjoyed the story and the puppet so much that I asked Jill if I could come every week before Primary to give him the lesson.
“Would you really?” Jill exclaimed. “I’m sure Kevin would enjoy that.”
I soon came to love Kevin. His smile when he saw me and his eagerness for the gospel touched me deeply. He listened intently to the stories, and he liked to hear me sing “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam” and “Give, Said the Little Stream.”
The last time I went to the hospital to teach Kevin, the lesson was on prayer. Kevin seemed to understand this lesson better than I did. I realized that he had taught me that God knows our needs and answers our prayers in wisdom if we put our trust in him. Within a week, Kevin slipped into a coma and died.
I also learned from Jill’s strength as she faced the loss of her son. I admired her attitude and courage. She and John found comfort among Church members and in Church activities, and it wasn’t long before they realized the blessings that come from full activity in the Church.
Jill accepted a call to be the Primary organist, and we became even closer friends as we served together. One morning I went over to pick her up to go to a meeting. I knocked, then waited for several minutes. Finally she answered, still wearing her housecoat, her hair tousled and her face looking very pale. I had never seen her looking this way before.
“Jill, what’s the matter?” I asked. “Are you sick?”
“Yes,” she said, smiling broadly. “I have morning sickness. Isn’t it wonderful?”