Sam John could hardly wait until class was over so he could talk with President Murphy. He had a very important question to ask—one that he didn’t want anyone else to hear.
At first Sam had gone to Brother Murphy’s classes because he liked being with the older boys and girls who attended. Then he kept going because of the lovely music. Finally he realized that what he enjoyed more than anything else was the feeling he had when he listened to Brother Murphy’s teachings.
Now he had to know if these things were really true. So Sam John waited patiently until almost everyone had left the class. Then he went up to the white-haired man to ask if he could talk with him alone.
A bench under a spreading tree made a perfect place for Sam to ask his teacher the important question. “Brother Murphy,” he began, “are these things you have told us about Jesus and Joseph Smith really true?”
The man looked down, surprised that a boy only eight years old could be so serious and sincere. Then he took the boy’s hand, looked into his eyes, and asked a question in return. “Sam,” he said, “do you think Sister Murphy and I and all the other missionaries who have been to these classes would spend money to come to Hawaii and take our precious time to tell you these things if we did not know they are true?”
Without hesitation, Sam answered, “I believe these things, too, and I want to be baptized into your church.”
“And what about your father?” Brother Murphy asked. Sam had to admit that he didn’t think his father would be very happy with his son’s interest in the Church, but he promised to talk to him.
A few days later Sam John’s father, a Chinese-Hawaiian, went to the mission home. “What is this you have been teaching my son?” he demanded. “He even wants to become a member of your church.”
“Mr. John,” President Murphy answered. “I’m glad you’ve come to talk with me. There is nothing we’ve taught Sam that you should not also know, especially since your boy wants to be baptized.”
The next night Sam’s father returned to the mission home to be taught, and the next, and the next.
Sam could hardly believe it when a few weeks later his father suggested that Sam wait a short time to be baptized so that he and Sam’s older brother could be baptized too. His mother had become a member of the Church when she was a little girl but she had never been active in it.
Now we are united as a family, Sam thought after he and his father and brother were baptized. And it seemed as if his heart would burst with happiness.
An unusual baptism took place in the Primary Children’s Hospital a few years ago. Ila Marie Goodey had polio when she was three years old and spent much time in the hospital afterward. She was there for her eighth birthday and the doctors did not think it wise for her to leave even long enough to be baptized.
Ila Marie was so disappointed that the people at the hospital decided to make their little patient have an especially happy birthday by arranging for her baptism in a Hubbard tank. This is the poem she wrote about it:
I couldn’t wait till I was eight
‘Cause then I’d be baptized.
But when I finally came of age
My limbs were paralyzed.
I begged to have the chance to join
The Church I love so dear;
I was the first to be baptized
In the Hubbard tank that’s here.
No other patient has ever had
To be baptized in the Hubbard tank
Here at Primary.
But the very most important thing
Is now I’ll always be
A member of the Church of God
Through all eternity.
Gray shadows of disappointment nagged at Karl as he walked home in the dark between the two elders who had just baptized and then confirmed him a member of the Church. He had prayed that he might know whether the Church had been dreamed up by man or whether it had truly been established by the Lord, and he had fully expected the horizon to lighten when he came up out of the Elbe River. But the night was still dark and the sky was still black. No sign had been given.
As the three returned home through the dark together, their discussion centered on the authority of the priesthood. One of the elders spoke German and interpreted for Karl, who spoke only German, and then interpreted for the other elder, who spoke only English.
Suddenly there was no need for an interpreter! For a brief time both elders understood Karl’s questions and comments, and Karl understood their answers whether spoken in German or English! Karl’s prayer at the time of his baptism had been answered.
The elders felt this strange experience was a special blessing for all of them, but they did not know then that Karl’s baptism would prove to be a great blessing to all of the Church. Karl, who became well known throughout the Church as Dr. Karl G. Maeser, was twenty-seven at the time of his baptism, and he held the position of der Oberlehrer (head teacher) at the Budig Academy in Dresden, Germany. A brilliant student and teacher, Karl had first learned of the Mormon Church through a popular pamphlet written to ridicule its teachings. He wondered what could cause anyone to have such hatred for a church, and he decided to learn more about it.
There were no Mormons in the country around Dresden at that time, but Karl accidentally discovered there were missionaries in Denmark. So he wrote to the mission president there for information and was sent pamphlets and books. Carefully studying the material, he became interested in the teachings of the Church and asked that a missionary be sent to Dresden to explain things to him. Two months later, in October 1855, Karl became the first member of the Church in that area of Germany.
In the spring of 1876 Dr. Maeser, who had emigrated to the United States, was called by President Brigham Young to establish the Brigham Young Academy in Provo, Utah.
“In the morning I went in secret before the Lord, and asked Him what was His will concerning me. The answer I received was that I should go to the south; for the Lord had a great work for me to perform there, as many souls were waiting for His word. On the 3rd of March, 1840, in fulfillment of the directions given me, I took coach and rode to Wolverhampton, twenty-six miles [away].
“I presented myself to [Mr. Benbow, a wealthy farmer, living in Ledbury, Herefordshire] as a missionary from America … He and his wife received me with glad hearts and thanksgiving, [and] rejoiced greatly at the glad tidings which I brought them.
“I also rejoiced greatly at the news Mr. Benbow gave me, that there was a company of men and women—over six hundred in number—who had broken off from the Wesleyan Methodists, and taken the name of United Brethren. They had forty-five preachers among them, and for religious services had chapels and many houses that were licensed according to the law of the land. This body of United Brethren were searching for light and truth. …
“I arose on the morning of the 5th, took breakfast, and told Mr. Benbow I would like to commence my Master’s business by preaching the gospel to the people. He had in his mansion a large hall which was licensed for preaching, and he sent word through the neighborhood that an American missionary would preach at his house that evening. As the neighbors came in … I preached my first gospel sermon in the house. The following evening [I] baptized six persons, including Mr. John Benbow, his wife, and four preachers of the United Brethren. I spent most of the following day in clearing out a pool of water and preparing it for baptizing … [and] afterwards baptized six hundred persons in that pool of water. …
“When I arose to speak [to a congregation of about a thousand] at Brother Benbow’s house, a man entered the door and informed me that he was a constable, and had been sent … with a warrant to arrest me … for preaching to the people. I told him that I had a license and that if he would take a chair I would wait upon him after meeting. He took my chair and sat beside me. For an hour and a quarter I preached the first principles of the everlasting gospel. The power of God rested upon me, the spirit filled the house, and the people were convinced. At the close of the meeting I opened the door for baptism, and seven offered themselves. Among the number were four preachers and the constable. …
“… The first thirty days after my arrival in Herefordshire, I had baptized forty-five preachers and one hundred and sixty members of the United Brethren, who put into my hands one chapel and forty-five houses, which were licensed according to law to preach in. This opened a wide field for labor, and enabled me to bring into the Church, through the blessings of God, over eighteen hundred souls, during eight months, including all of the six hundred United Brethren except one person. In this number there were also some two hundred preachers of various denominations.”—From the journals of Wilford Woodruff