“Now,” said Sister Searle, finishing her lesson on missionary work, “close your eyes and think of someone who isn’t a member of the Church.”
Thea, Annlouise, Michaelene, and Virginia leaned back in their chairs and squinched their eyes shut.
“Imagine yourselves telling this person about the Church.”
Thea smiled, Annlouise frowned, Michaelene squirmed, and Virginia sighed.
“Good. Now open your eyes. Your challenge for this week is to do what you just imagined—tell a nonmember about the Church—and report what happened next Sunday.”
The next Sunday each of the girls reported on her efforts.
“I picked the first name that popped into my head—my best friend, Jill. She knows I’m a Latter-day Saint, and she’s been to several Primary activities with me. I knew that she wouldn’t laugh or tease me if I talked about religion.
“The best plan, I figured, was to discuss the Church whenever I could, wherever we were, whatever we did. At first it was hard, and I racked my brain for ideas. But pretty soon I could relate anything to the gospel.
“At the swimming pool I told her that Latter-day Saints believe that our bodies are temples, that we should take care of them and keep them fit.
“After Mixed Chorus, I said, ‘This reminds me of singing for stake conference. We did a special number on the Book of Mormon. Have I told you about the Book of Mormon yet?’
“Yesterday Jill called and asked if she could come over and talk to me. I was really excited. I was sure she wanted to learn more about the Church. Instead, Jill said, ‘Thea, you’re definitely going overboard with all this Mormonism stuff.’
“I was shocked! ‘I-I’m just hoping to interest you so that you’ll want to be baptized,’ I said.
“Jill shook her head. ‘I like you, Thea, but I’m perfectly happy in my own church and I don’t want to change. Not now, anyway. You believe what you believe and let me do the same, OK?’
“‘OK,’ I agreed.
“‘Fine. Hey, let’s bike down to the creek.’
“I’m glad Jill’s still my friend. I guess I was a little too pushy.”
“People who are satisfied with their own religion are often difficult to convert,” Sister Searle said. “But if Jill ever does have questions, she’ll know whom to ask.”
“I didn’t feel good about the first person I picked, so after praying, I chose Natalie. She just moved here from France, and she’s still learning about America. Since the Church of Jesus Christ was restored here in America, I thought it would be easy to talk to her about it.
“I invited Natalie over and we looked through my photo albums. Natalie poured over each picture and asked zillions of questions. Pretty soon she came to the photos we took at the Joseph Smith monument.
“‘What’s that?’ she asked.
“I had my answer all ready. ‘It’s a special place in the state of Vermont where Joseph Smith was born.’
“‘Who’s Joseph Smith?’
“‘An American prophet.’
“Natalie stared at me. ‘An American prophet? How is that possible?’
“I told her about the First Vision and the restoration of the Church. Natalie set down the album and concentrated fiercely on every word I spoke. ‘Are you certain? Do you truly believe that? How? Why?’ By dinnertime my voice was hoarse and my brain felt numb.
“‘Could I borrow something to read about your church?’ Natalie asked before she left.
“‘Sure!’ I was ecstatic.
“The next day at school, though, Natalie cornered me in the hallway. ‘Annlouise,’ she said, handing me the books I’d lent her, ‘I’m sorry, but my parents disapprove of anything to do with the Mormons. They don’t want me to talk, read, or even think about Mormons.’
“I felt awful. I hadn’t wanted to get Natalie in trouble at home!
“‘We won’t talk about it then,’ I said.
“She avoided me for most of the week, and I was afraid she’d never speak to me again. But on Friday she sat next to me in the cafeteria, so I guess we’re still friends. Whew! For a while, I was scared. Sometimes being a missionary can cause problems.”
“We have to respect the rights of parents,” Sister Searle explained. “But you’ve planted seeds, and some day they’ll bear fruit.”
“Maybe if my family are good neighbors to Natalie’s family, they’ll think more positively about the Church,” Annlouise suggested.
“My story is very short. I settled on Mrs. Canfield. She’s an old friend of our family. She baby-sat us when we were little, and now she’s teaching me embroidery. She’s so warm and happy! I’d love to have her join the Church.
“It was tough deciding how to approach her. She’s very old and wise, and I didn’t want to sound like a smart-aleck.
“I stewed and fretted and finally just came right out and asked her. ‘Mrs. Canfield,’ I said, ‘would you like to learn about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?’
“She smiled kindly. ‘No, Michaelene. Churches—any church—aren’t important to me. But thank you for asking.’
“And that was that.”
“We can’t force the gospel on people,” Sister Searle said. “But you’ve given her the opportunity to choose.”
“She knows where I am, if she changes her mind,” Michaelene mused.
“I hated this challenge and didn’t want to do it. I thought of several people, but I got so nervous that I talked myself out of each one. Yesterday morning I knew I’d better get moving. Then something funny happened.
“I go to ballet on Saturday. As we trudged into the dressing room after class, sweaty and tired, I mustered all my courage, took a deep breath, and said to no one in particular, ‘What do you know about Mormons?’
“Tanya, who’s never serious about anything, replied, ‘Are Mormons those guys who ride bikes wearing white shirts and name tags?’ She smacked her forehead, giggling. ‘The guys wear the shirts, of course, not the bikes!’
“‘Some Mormons do that,’ I eagerly explained, ignoring her joke. ‘The ones who are full-time missionaries.’
“‘I see them every so often.’ Tanya giggled again and rolled her eyes. ‘So you’re one of them. Weird.’
“I flopped down on the nearest bench, my face beet red, and pulled off my slippers. I wished I’d never said a word! Then someone tapped me on the shoulder. ‘Virginia?’
“I jerked about in surprise. It was Eva, the best student in the class. I didn’t think she knew I existed.
“‘Are you a Mormon?’
“‘Y—Yes,’ I stammered, not sure what to expect.
“‘Good! I’ve seen those missionaries, too, but they never stop at our house. I’ve always wanted to talk to them.’
“My heart thumped wildly. ‘I can arrange it for you,’ I said enthusiastically. ‘Wednesday evening, say, at my house?’
“Eva smiled. ‘Sounds good. I’ll bring my mother, too, if that’s all right.’
“So they’re coming to our house this Wednesday for dinner and the first discussion!”
“Sometimes people we’d never think of as potential investigators turn out to be interested,” Sister Searle said.
“As a continuing class challenge,” Virginia proposed, “can everyone help friendship Eva and her mother?”
“That’s a great idea!” Sister Searle exclaimed, and the other girls nodded enthusiastically.
“Then are we still being missionaries?” Thea asked.
“Of course—this is just the beginning!”