Change of Heart


Based on the history of the author’s great-grandmother and the autobiography of Richard Isaac Mills Sr., the Isaac in the story; the words of the hymn they sang were written by John Ernest Bode in 1868
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution … ? Nay, in all these things we are … conquerors through him that loved us (Rom. 8:35, 37).

The clock struck nine. Flora watched her father thumb through the Bible’s pages to find his place. Elder Roberts, who had been teaching them about the Church, laid down the saddlebag he was mending. Flora’s sister, Matilda, set aside her needlework to listen to Father read: “‘Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee’” (Isa. 41:10).

“Amen,” Elder Roberts said as Father finished reading.

“Now, Elder Roberts, would you read from the Book of Mormon?” Father asked.

Elder Roberts opened the well-worn Book of Mormon. He cleared his throat and began, “‘Now this is the commandment: Repent … and come unto me and be baptized in my name’” (3 Ne. 27:20).

Flora leaned closer to Matilda and whispered, “You can be baptized if you like, but I never will.”

“Why not, Flora?”

“Just look what has happened to us for even listening to the missionaries. Mr. Cardston, who has always treated us like his own daughters, will not speak to us. He won’t let Amy and Gertrude associate with us.”

“It is hard.”

“But that isn’t the worst of it. Think of Isaac, driven from the street with stones. He was almost killed just for passing out pamphlets about the gospel.”

“But do you know what he whispered to me as I fed him his supper? ‘Matilda,’ he said, ‘I am so happy that I am baptized and that I am counted worthy to hold the office of a deacon in the Church and kingdom of God.’”

“Well, you can be baptized like Isaac and Father, but I shall not,” Flora declared firmly.

“Daughters,” Father said, “please say good night to Isaac before going to bed.”

“Yes, Father,” the girls chimed.

Isaac’s arms and face were black and blue with bruises. He moaned a little as he attempted to roll onto his side, but he forced a partial smile when he saw his sisters in the doorway.

“Oh, Isaac!” Flora exclaimed. “How can you stand what they have done to you?”

“There, there, Flora. I’ll mend in no time. You’ll see.”

“Weren’t you frightened when they began stoning you?”

“Yes, little one, my knees trembled, yet I did my best to magnify my office and calling.”

“You are so brave, Isaac.”

“It isn’t bravery—just love, Flora. My whole being is filled with the love of Christ. I even love those who threw the stones today.”

“How can you love people who were trying to hurt you?”

Matilda said, “I think I understand what you mean, Isaac.” She kissed his forehead on a spot that wasn’t bruised.

“Are you girls going to be baptized?” he asked.

“Yes, I am—this Sunday, in the Matlock Baths.” Matilda’s face was radiant.

“No, Isaac.” Flora sighed. “I just can’t.”

“Is it because you don’t know if the Church is true?”

“I know it’s true. When I read the Book of Mormon, my whole mind seemed filled with light. But I just can’t be baptized.”

“Why not, little one?”

“All my friends will turn away from me. And Father said that if we all join, we will sell everything and go to America. How can I part with everything and everyone that I love and hold dear? I’m afraid, Isaac.”

“That is to be expected. You pray and let God guide you.”

On Sunday, Flora was happy that Isaac, although still weak, joined her and Matilda as they made their way to where Matilda would be baptized. At first, the neighbors silently watched them. Then some began to shout horrible lies about the Church.

Flora’s stomach churned with fear. If only Father were with them! He had gone earlier with Elder Roberts to prepare for the baptism. She glanced at Isaac’s blanched face, perspiring from the effort of walking. He looked close to collapsing.

“This is as far as you go,” spoke a harsh voice. “There will not be any of this Mormon baptizing done today.”

Flora eyed the crowd that was closing in around them. She shuddered as she looked into their faces. Former friends now seemed like strangers, their faces dark with anger. Flora winced as a stone hit her ankle. “Let’s stone them!” someone shouted.

“Heavenly Father, I am so afraid. Please guide and strengthen me,” Flora prayed. Peace and love filled her heart, and she felt stronger. Was the Holy Ghost with her? She felt that He was.

“Do not be afraid,” Flora said. Her voice, clear and steady, easily reached the back of the crowd. “We are your neighbors, and we love you. We wish to show our love for Heavenly Father this day by being baptized in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ.”

An old woman shook her cane at the crowd. “They’re just children,” she said. “Let them alone. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.”

Flora held her breath as she listened to the angry crowd murmur. “Come now,” a man growled. “Beatrice is right. These children haven’t done us any harm.” The crowd slowly scattered.

“Who is the brave one now?” Isaac whispered. He smiled, and Flora knew he was pleased with her.

“Flora, did I hear you say ‘we’ are to be baptized?” Matilda asked.

“Yes, I said ‘we.’ You and I are going to be baptized today.” Flora linked her arm with Matilda’s.

So Matilda and Flora were baptized at the Matlock Baths. Afterward, they sang:

“‘O Jesus, I have promised To serve Thee to the end;
Be Thou forever near me, my Master and my friend;
I shall not fear the battle If Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway If Thou wilt be my guide.’”

[Be Baptized]

President Boyd K. Packer

“Everyone is invited to come and repent and be baptized. … “Despite opposition, the Church will flourish; and despite persecution, it will grow.” President Boyd K. Packer Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles From an April 2000 general conference address.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Brad Teare