The Exit Interview
One particular conversation has been a great blessing to me in my spiritual progress and will continue to be forever. When I finished my mission, I had an exit interview with my mission president. He talked about the changes that would come into my life when I went home. He told me that if I wanted to stay active, I needed to always have a calling, and if I didn’t have one, I should talk to my bishop. The other piece of counsel he gave me was even more emphatic. He said that if I wasn’t going to marry in the temple, I should not get married at all.
I followed his advice to the letter, and every time I was tempted to marry out of the temple, I remembered his words. They gave me the strength I needed to hold to my decision to marry in the temple.
Generally speaking, returned missionaries struggle because we want to get married soon. It is even more difficult when members of our wards and branches ask us why we’re not married yet. Time goes by, and if we aren’t married, we often hear conversations that are hurtful and may make us bitter.
But I’m grateful to my mission president, who gave me the wise counsel to marry only in the temple, because now I’m reaping the fruit of it. Ten years went by after my mission before I met my eternal companion. We were married in the Caracas Venezuela Temple in 2000, and it was a beautiful experience. While I waited, nothing could stop me from trusting the words of the Lord’s servant.
I now have the good fortune to be the mother of a little girl, and I’m glad I was able to give her the blessing of being born in the covenant. When I look at her, I see the impact of the conversation I had with my mission president.
Groceries or Tithing?
I was in my first year of employment with a cosmetics company. At the time I was divorced and lived alone with my two children. In December the company sent each salesperson large boxes containing the Christmas merchandise we were to sell during the holiday season. That meant, however, that a large amount had been withdrawn from my salary. When I calculated all my monthly expenses and tithing, I had enough for three people to live on—but only for one week. And this money had to cover groceries for the entire month and gas for the car, which I needed for my work.
When our home teacher came, I told him about our situation. I told him I would not be able to pay my tithing because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to feed my family. My faithful home teacher counseled me to pay tithing. He recommended that I do it faithfully, and the Lord would surely bless me. My home teacher had always been distinguished by faithfulness and reliability. I jokingly told him, “If I cannot buy groceries, I will come to you.” But I trusted him and did not want to disappoint him by not following his advice. So I paid a full tithing.
When I presented the Christmas merchandise early in the month, I was able to sell many of my goods. By the end of the month I had sold all of the Christmas items and all of the goods I had had in stock for several months. Had I had more products on hand, I would likely have been able to sell them too.
My home teacher’s promise was completely fulfilled. The Lord really did open the windows of heaven. We had more money than we needed that month. Later I inquired of my colleagues how their Christmas business had gone. They were not satisfied. At that time, a recession had caused a strong decline in sales in the cosmetics industry.
How grateful I am to that home teacher for giving me this good counsel. I have had a strong testimony of tithing ever since. When I visit teach sisters who feel they have too little money to pay tithing, I share my testimony about how much we will be blessed if we do so.
Your Book Is a True Book
The day the missionaries knocked on my door will always stand out as one of the pivotal moments of my life. It wasn’t that I was searching for meaning—I had been deeply religious since childhood. I had spent seven years in a convent, and although I had left that lifestyle because it wasn’t bringing me closer to God, I was involved in my church congregation working with the choir and teaching religion.
In fact, I had made a firm resolution not to discuss religion with any door-to-door missionaries because the spirit of contention frequently arose when conflicting interpretations of scripture were discussed. But the Lord, in His goodness, had prepared me for this visit. A few months earlier I had heard someone make a remark about a “Mormon book” connected to the mythology of South America. This prompted me to want to investigate any light such a book might shed on some themes I had already studied. I had filed this away for future reference, knowing that sooner or later I would read the Mormon book and investigate its mythological validity.
Answering the door that day, I was not thinking about books or mythological themes. I was a busy young mother spending most of my energy tending a small baby and chasing a very active three-year-old. But as I approached the door, my mind was overcome with a kind of vision, a mental picture of Abraham going to the door of his tent on the day he received an important message. I was impressed with the premonition that opening that door would bring a message of some importance.
Nevertheless, I was confused when all that stood there were these two young men labeled as Latter-day Saint missionaries. If it hadn’t been for the “vision,” I would have politely said good-bye and shut the door. I decided, instead, that I needed to find out what sort of message they had for me.
It started out all wrong. One of them asked me if I believed in prophets. Of course I did. But when these young men enthusiastically presented me a photo of 15 men in modern business suits and proclaimed that prophets and apostles were currently on the earth, credibility was stretched to the limit. I had been brought up in a religion whose clergy dressed the part, and business suits were not what they wore! So I decided, generously, to ignore the remark. And I searched mentally for some rational foundation for the “vision” still fresh in my mind.
I do not remember how I made the connection that “Latter-day Saint” missionaries might know something about a “Mormon” book. But once that thought crossed my mind, I was quick to pursue the topic.
“Don’t you have some kind of book?” I asked. They did. I told them I had not found it in the library and did not know where to get it. Maybe they could help me. They could. They volunteered to come back with a copy the following week. And I made a mental note to be unavailable for religious “discussion” so they could simply drop off the book and leave.
When I finally did receive my copy of the book, I thanked the young men and agreed, again without any sense of commitment, that they could come back to answer any questions I had. Later that evening with my husband home from work and the children somewhat settled down, I picked up the book and began to read.
Nothing had prepared me for what I found in its pages. And it was with awe, shock, delight, and some confusion that I shortly announced to my husband my most amazing discovery: “This is a book of scripture!”
There was no doubt at all. I had done enough serious scripture study and had read enough of the world’s sacred literature to become immediately aware that this book was not a record of myth or an ancient history text or anything other than the true word of God. It spoke to me with that spiritual voice, and as I began following footnotes and looking up topics that interested me, it gave me answers to many of the theological questions I had puzzled over for years. It was, without doubt, the most exciting book I had ever picked up, and it continued to amaze and edify me whichever page I opened it to.
When the young missionaries returned as they had promised, I was home. And I had a message of great importance for them. I told them something I felt they needed to know: “Your book is a true book!” And I demanded to know why it was the property of their church, feeling that it was entirely in the wrong hands!
At that point, I was ready to listen to what they had to say. After many months of investigation, I came to know that this wonderful book had not only brought me light and knowledge beyond my highest expectations, but it had also led me to the fulness of the gospel, the power of the priesthood, and the knowledge that those 15 men in business suits were evidence of the true Church of Jesus Christ, present again upon the earth.
Growing in the Gospel
My wife and I had taught our children to pray to Heavenly Father, but we did not attend any church regularly—we believed we could love God just as well in our home. Our lives began to change when two young missionaries came to my office in early March 1997.
They told me they would like to give me a special gift. I asked them to come to my home that evening when all my family would be there. That night they brought us not only a spiritual message but the gift of the Book of Mormon.
During the subsequent weeks, the missionaries returned to our house many times. We learned to pray sincerely, we learned new commandments from the Lord, and finally we were invited to become members of the true Church of Jesus Christ. Baptism would be the first step in becoming associated with the Church.
My wife and I were baptized on March 26, 1997. Three months after our baptism, our bishop called me to be Sunday School president. I resisted, saying that I could not fulfill this calling because I wasn’t prepared for it. The bishop, however, persuaded me to accept this challenge and gave me the Sunday School manual to study.
Two months later the Gospel Doctrine teacher called me during the week to tell me she could not be at church on Sunday to give her lesson on section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants. She named three other people who could substitute for her. I contacted them, but they all had previous engagements. As I hung up the phone after the last conversation, I felt that Heavenly Father wanted me to teach this class.
I was not familiar with the Doctrine and Covenants, but with the help of the bishop’s first counselor, the ward library, and the lesson manual, I was able to prepare the lesson.
I was nervous to teach ward members who knew more about the gospel than I did. But during my short time in the Church, I had learned that if we pray to Heavenly Father, He will help us. On Sunday before the class began, I asked for peace and strength. As I entered the classroom, the brothers and sisters were smiling and receptive, and they helped me. All participated attentively, and I felt that the Spirit of the Lord had blessed me to impart that important lesson.
Afterward I had the assurance that Heavenly Father only gives us tasks that we are able to fulfill—with His assistance and help from other members.
After eight months I received the Melchizedek Priesthood. My son, Anderson, who was not a member of the Church, had a skin problem on his neck and had already been examined by three doctors. But even after taking antibiotics he saw no improvement.
I believed the priesthood could help him, and I explained priesthood blessings to him, but he did not accept my offer of one. He thought the medications would soon heal the infection. Finally, after several months he asked me for a blessing.
This was the first time I had exercised my priesthood in this way. Five days later Anderson entered my room very happy. His neck was completely healed.
As the one-year anniversary of our baptism approached, I was called to serve as the ward mission leader. This time I had no hesitation in accepting my calling. My wife was called to serve as the second counselor in the Relief Society.
In April 1998 we were sealed in the São Paulo Brazil Temple. We will never forget that day, as we made new covenants with our Heavenly Father.
A month after our sealing, we attended a stake conference where a new stake presidency was called and sustained. Our bishop was called into the stake presidency. Much to my surprise, I was called to serve as the new bishop of our ward. I was astonished and insecure, but I never questioned the calling. In fact, as I accepted the calling, I had the assurance that God was blessing me and that He would help me to fulfill the calling of bishop.
As a bishop I learned that we are building the Church of Jesus Christ all across the earth and that through a prophet, seer, and revelator, He has commissioned us to take the gospel to all nations, peoples, and tongues.
Our lives have changed because my wife and I allowed the gospel to enter our hearts. Now we understand that if we are faithful to the covenants made in the temple with Heavenly Father, He will bless us in this life, strengthen us in our callings, and eventually receive us into His presence.