Friend to Friend:

Keeping Promises

From an interview with Elder Kenneth Johnson of the Seventy, currently serving in the Australia/New Zealand Area Presidency; by Hilary Hendricks

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Fail not to continue faithful in all things (D&C 84:80).

When my wife, Pamela, was growing up in England, the Church was not very well established where she lived. They had a little branch, and they had a building to meet in, but they didn’t have a temple in England or anywhere nearby. Pamela remembers vividly her parents saying, “One day you will go to the temple,” and she believed them. The faith of her parents and her own belief in their faith was a wonderful thing.

Pamela’s father, Thomas Wilson, would go with the missionaries on Sunday evenings to the marketplace in the city centre, where they held street meetings. A crowd would gather as the missionaries preached the restored gospel, and Pamela’s father went along to bear his testimony. When Pamela was a little girl, she used to ask if she could accompany him and he’d say, “No, I don’t think that’s the best place for you to come.” He knew that the crowds were not always friendly. Sometimes people yelled to distract the missionaries and threw rotten fruit at them.

Just before Pamela turned eight, her father agreed that she could go with him one Sunday. While she was there, she saw the hostility toward the missionaries and toward her father. She relates that her father was standing on a box, so as to be seen, bearing his testimony. She was standing behind him, holding on to his coattails. She heard him bear his witness of Jesus Christ. To see her father stand in those circumstances and declare his testimony made a great impression on her life; it anchored her to faith in the Savior.

And so she grew up participating in the tiny Primary they had, still determined to go to the temple one day. She knew no young men, except for two cousins, who were members of the Church, and very few young women. Yet she grew up believing that she would be able to find someone she could marry and be sealed to in the temple.

Pamela and I met at a dance when we were teenagers. I asked her for a dance, and as we talked, she told me that she was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That was the first time I had ever heard of the Church. I wasn’t interested in religion then—but she was so different from the other young ladies I knew!

She had a strong character; she knew what she believed, and she knew what she wanted. Early on, she let me know that there would be no chance of any marriage between us, because in the temple was the only place where she would marry. She had made promises, covenants, with Heavenly Father, and she had the loyalty to keep those promises. Soon I realized that what made her so attractive was the gospel. She reflected truths of the gospel in her life. We met in April, and I was baptized that August. Three years later, she agreed to marry me. We were sealed in the temple at last.

I think one of the things that drew me to Pamela was her loyalty. My parents were not members of the Church, but they taught me that it is important to keep our promises and be dependable. When I was a boy, I played a lot of football (soccer). My father watched me play and gave me pointers. He bicycled long distances, often, to do that. But I always knew that if he said he would come and watch me, he’d be there. His quiet dependability meant a lot.

At age sixteen, I started to deliver newspapers. I had an old trade bike, a bike that has room to carry papers on the front. I loved cycling! One day I was cycling through the city, and in the bicycle-shop window, I saw a Coventry-Eagle bicycle. It was magnificent! It was lilac-colored with black trimming, and it had racing handlebars. I went home and told my father about it.

The next day, he said, “If you’ll save up half the price of the bike, I’ll give you the other half.” Great! It took me many months to get half the money together. I did not realize until long after the event that my father would not have had sufficient money to contribute to the purchase when I first asked concerning the possibility. He knew that as I was saving, he could also save. That way, between us, we could raise the amount needed. My father always kept his promises.

Loyalty and dependability are essential qualities for members of the Church. At our baptisms and in the temple, we make promises with Heavenly Father. Keeping those promises blesses our lives and the lives of our families. I’m grateful for Pamela’s loyalty, which anchored her in the gospel and led me to the Church. It is a privilege to be sealed to her for eternity.

Sister Johnson at age 19, when she first met Elder Johnson

As an 18-year-old at the time he first met his wife

By the garden shed behind his home at age 16

Elder Johnson and his wife, Pamela, and their son, Kevin

Between his mother and his brother Clive, at 2 or 3 years of age

Sister Johnson (right), about 7 years old, with her Grandmother Martins and Margaret, her sister, about 4 years old