Mormon Journal

By


Mormon Journal

On Sacred Ground

As I stood on the grounds of the Santiago Chile Temple, I remembered attending Catholic school as a young boy on this very site. In the spring of 1970, our priest had announced that we would be selling our school to the Mormons. “You Chileans,” he said, “think that the Catholic church is the only religion.”

I thought, “Of course, what else?” Our priest continued, “All of you will write a report on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Since the mission home was only two blocks from our home, I went there to find information for my school project. When I got home, I looked at the pretty pamphlets about the Church and at the Book of Mormon. My copy of the book contained Moroni’s special promise right on the first page:

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moro. 10:4–5.)

When I read that promise, I received a spiritual witness that those words were true and that the Book of Mormon was true. But I was fifteen and not ready to be “religious,” so I decided not to do anything specific about my feelings. My interest had been stirred, though, and I earned the best grade in the class with my report on the Mormons.

After another religion class discussion, I began meditating on the nature of the Godhead. Through inspiration, I came to understand that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct beings but one in purpose. This cherished new knowledge would later help me recognize the Lord’s true church.

It happened years later, after our family had moved to the United States, when I was a student at the University of California at Davis. Randy, a friend who lived down the hall in the dorm, gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon. It sat in my room, unopened, for a long time. Randy and I disagreed on many things, but every time he talked to me about the Church, I felt the Spirit bearing witness to me that what he was telling me was true.

For Christmas vacation, I planned to take a flight home and decided to pack a bag full of books to read on the plane.

As I was packing, the Book of Mormon caught my eye and I threw it in last, thinking that I would read it after I had finished the other books. On the plane, however, the last book in became the first book out, and suddenly I felt a great need to read it. It took me four days of reading day and night to finish the Book of Mormon. As I read and prayed, I knew it was true. I could hardly believe what I was discovering!

When I returned to college in California, I immediately told Randy I believed the Book of Mormon and wanted to be baptized. He was thrilled. We called the elders, and I was baptized shortly thereafter.

How was I to know, as a youth in that religion class, that one day, on that very property, I would attend the house of the Lord—the Santiago Chile Temple?

Gregory Encina Billikopf serves as ward mission leader in the Modesto Fourth Ward, Modesto California Stake.

I Couldn’t Get Rid of the Book

When my infant son died, I lost what little religious faith I had and became completely inactive in the church I had grown up in. I felt that I was being punished in some way I could not understand and that God was being spiteful in taking my baby from me. As a result, I would not allow religion of any kind in my home.

But my life became increasingly unhappy as the months went by, and even though I was blessed with another son, neither he nor another son born to us a few years later seemed to compensate for the loss I had sustained. When my six-year-old Rodney prevailed upon me to attend church services again, and when he was granted his First Communion at age eight, I returned to my church. To my surprise, I enjoyed it.

Still, I seemed to be searching for something, and finally I realized the cause of my unhappiness. While I was terribly good on Sunday, I gave no thought to religion the rest of the week. Often I prayed, “Please help me to get closer to thee, to be a better mother, a better wife, and a better Christian.” Although I felt a deep urge to better my life, I just didn’t know where to begin.

Then one morning in January 1977, two LDS missionaries knocked on our door and asked if they could have a few minutes of my time. Begrudgingly, I gave them fifteen minutes to say their message and leave: missionaries were definitely not on my guest list. They came in—and left two and one-half hours later. I invited them to come back to discuss the literature I had agreed to read; but I would not take a copy of the Book of Mormon at first. The ideas, though plausible, were too far out for me.

When the elders returned later, they discovered that while I had read the literature, I had not prayed about it. So we made another appointment. I read more material, but found it hard going. Eventually, I asked the elders not to return.

Then something strange happened. They had prevailed upon me to accept a copy of the Book of Mormon, and although I did everything possible to get that book out of my sight, it kept popping up. The maid would find it and place it on top of the bookcase, or the children would bring it out. Because it was precious to the Mormons, who obviously believed in it, I didn’t want to destroy it.

One Sunday when I went to church and knelt, as usual, to say my prayers before the services began, I suddenly felt the urge to pray about this strange book. Gradually, as I prayed, I realized that I was not asking any more if the Church and the book were true. I was asking my Heavenly Father to give me the courage to accept this new way of life, to accept the fact that I was going to have a lot of opposition, possibly even rejection, from my family.

When I had finished praying, I felt as though all the strength had drained out of me, yet I also felt completely new and strong—as though I’d been scrubbed with a brush and had come up shining like a new penny. Tears were streaming down my face. I couldn’t wait to get home. My younger son was concerned about me, but I couldn’t explain to a five-year-old what I was feeling. I told him I was just happy—ladies sometimes cry when they are happy.

The next morning I went to the only Latter-day Saint I knew, an old friend of mine, and asked for a layman’s point of view about the Church. As we talked, the Holy Spirit was strong in our midst. I cried all the way home, and then rushed to the telephone and asked the elders to come and teach me immediately. Their enthusiasm was as great as mine.

Despite all the opposition I received from my husband, he gave his permission for me to be baptized just five weeks after I started the lessons. My oldest son, Rodney, convinced his dad that he was happy in the Church and never wanted to change. Eventually, my husband consented to Rodney’s baptism, and later he agreed to allow our younger son, Brendan, and our daughter, Sharon, to be baptized also.

I want to shout my happiness from the rooftops. I want to rush out and convert everyone in sight. I don’t want them to lose out on anything. If my testimony sows even one small seed of goodness and light in someone’s heart, then I shall be eternally grateful.

Elisabeth Carol Flanagan serves as a visiting teacher and as a ward music chairman in the Durban Berea Ward, in the Natal South Africa Stake.

The Blue Book

In the winter of 1971–72, I had a stroke. It was a mild one, but I spent a month in the hospital and had weekly appointments with my doctor after that. When I arrived at his office, he was often behind on appointments, so I would read the various magazines that can always be found in doctors’ offices. Before long, however, I had read all the magazines, and I started looking for something new to read. I found a blue book called the Book of Mormon.

I knew a lot of Mormons lived in Utah, but I knew little else about the religion. I opened the book, noticed some underlined passages, and began. I hadn’t read more than half a dozen underlined passages when the doctor was ready to see me. But the words I’d read stuck with me, and I thought about them often during the next week. The next time I had an appointment with the doctor, I arrived a bit earlier and went straight to the blue book.

It took me three weeks of arriving early for my appointments before I got all the marked passages read. They were all things I agreed with, felt good about. I had been active in a church all my life and had read the Bible regularly, but there was much I didn’t understand. This Book of Mormon made a lot of sense to me. When I finished reading the marked passages, I turned to the beginning of the book and started there.

One day I arrived for my appointment and looked for the Book of Mormon only to find that it was gone. I didn’t realize just how much it had meant to me until then. I felt as if a friend had abandoned me. I looked the next week; still it was gone. I stopped going in so early.

Two months went by before the blue book showed up again. As soon as I saw it, I grabbed it. When I opened it, I found a paper inside inviting anyone who was interested to write to a Roanoke, Virginia, address. A free copy of the blue book would be sent to them. I hastily wrote the address down.

After my appointment I hurried home to write a postcard asking for the book. I sent the card off, excited to receive my new treasure.

However, the week passed with no book. The second week came and went, with no book. I was disappointed. By the end of the third week, I wondered if I would ever receive my own copy of the blue book.

One morning I was cleaning my house, trying to get my mind off the book that I had become so interested in, when someone knocked at my front door. Thinking it was a salesman, I went to tell him I wasn’t interested. But when I opened the door I was surprised to find two of the cleanest-cut, best-dressed young men I had seen in a long time. I noticed that one was holding a blue book.

“Well,” I thought, “if I can get my hands on that book and get rid of these young men, things will be fine.”

The two men introduced themselves and came in for a brief moment. They wanted to schedule a time to present a lesson, but I really wasn’t interested. I wanted the book, and that was all! Finally they left, but only after mentioning that they’d be back the next week to answer any questions.

I had my book! The house didn’t get cleaned that week. In fact, except for going to work and running a few essential errands, I didn’t do much of anything but read. I was enthralled by what I found in that blue book. I don’t think I slept more than four and a half hours at a time all week, and by Saturday I had a lot of questions to ask the missionaries when they returned.

The missionaries gave me a lesson and answered my questions. They also invited me to their church. When I arrived, there was not one face that I recognized; but the friendly Latter-day Saints soon helped me feel comfortable in their meetings. After much thinking and prayer, I decided to be baptized. On a Thursday evening, I called my daughter, Linda. “I’m being baptized into the Mormon Church. Do you want to come?” She giggled a bit and then agreed to attend.

About five weeks later I got a telephone call. “Mom, I’m being baptized into the Mormon Church on Saturday evening. Do you want to come?” Of course I did.

Linda and I are the only members of our family who have joined the Church so far. But I have shared the story of the blue book with my loved ones often, and I hope that someday they will find the peace and comfort between its pages that I have found.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Robert McKay

Georgie A. Simmons serves as a Primary teacher in the Lynchburg Ward, Roanoke Virginia Stake.