When I had been on my mission in Germany about a year, I was assigned to work with a brand new missionary named Elder Keeler, who had just arrived fresh from converting, so he thought, all the stewardesses on the plane from New York to Frankfurt. Within a few days of his arrival, I was called to a meeting in another city and had to leave him to work in our city with another inexperienced missionary whose companion went with me. I returned late that night. The next morning I asked him how his day had gone. He broke into an enthusiastic smile and said he had found a family who would surely join the Church. In our mission, it was rare to see anyone join the Church let alone a whole family. I asked for more details, but he had forgotten to write down either the name or the address. All he could remember was that the family lived on the top floor of a big apartment house.
“Oh, that’s great,” I thought to myself as I contemplated all those flights of stairs. He also explained that he knew so little German that he had exchanged just a few words with the woman who answered the door. But he did think she wanted us to come back—and he wanted to go find her and have me talk to her that very minute. I explained that all the people who don’t slam the door in our faces did not intend to join the Church. But we went to find her, mostly to appease him. He couldn’t remember the right street either, so we picked a street it might have been and began climbing up and down those endless polished staircases.
After a frustrating hour, I decided I had to be frank (honest) with him. Based on my many months of experience, I said, it was simply not worth our time to try any longer to find her. I had developed a tolerance for the realities of missionary work and simply knew more than he did about it. His eyes filled with tears and his lower lip began to tremble. “Elder Hafen,” he said, “I came on my mission to find the honest in heart. The Spirit told me that, that woman will be a member of the Church.” So I decided to teach him a lesson. I raced him up one staircase after another, until he was ready to fall over from exhaustion, and so was I. “Elder Keeler,” I asked, “have you had enough?” “No,” he said. “We’ve got to find her.” I began to get angry, I decided to work him until he asked to stop—then maybe he would get the message.
Then at the top of a long flight of stairs, we found the apartment. She came to the door. He thrashed my ribs with his elbow, and whispered loudly, “That’s her, Elder. That’s the one. Talk to her!”
Brothers and sisters, not long ago that woman’s husband sat in my living room. He was in Utah for general conference. He is the bishop of the Mannheim Ward. His two boys are preparing for missions. His wife and daughter are strong, active members of the Church. That is a lesson I can never forget about the limitations of the skepticism that comes with learning and experience. I hope that I will never be so aware of “reality” that I am unresponsive to the whisperings of heaven.