It was twenty-eight years ago that two young women brought the greatest and most precious influence into my family’s life.
We were living in a beautiful little town in Texas. Life was calm. I was very active in my church, an officer in the choir, Sunday School teacher, active in our Christian service organization. I loved my fellow church members and my neighbors dearly. We had bought a little home, and we had four lovely children, the oldest ten and the youngest just a few months old.
From my kitchen window I could look through to the end of the block and across the street and watch the construction of a building of some kind. I didn’t know what it was, but something drew me to it, and each day as I did the dishes I’d look out the window and note the progress. Our neighbors were curious, too, and when we found out it was a Mormon church, we were so upset. I didn’t know the Mormons even existed in this part of the country.
Several months passed. The little church on the corner was completed. It was small, but tastefully done in pinkish stone. I never saw anybody with long skirts or funny hats go in and out, though I expected to. I was rather disappointed that the members looked just like us.
One day there was a knock on the door. There stood two young ladies, neatly dressed. I cordially invited them into my home, and, like any good Texan, immediately asked if they’d like a cup of coffee. They politely declined, and we soon entered into a discussion about God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. They told me some things I’d never heard before. They said God had a body—a real body of flesh and bone—and looked much like one of us. Imagine! God, whom I loved so dearly, looking like a person. It almost seemed sacrilegious. I remember saying good-bye to them at the door, thinking, “You’re wonderful young ladies, but you certainly have some funny ideas. Your church has certainly led you astray. But you really believe it with all your hearts.”
About the same time the next week, another knock came on the door. It was the same two ladies. I invited them in, offered them coffee again, and they graciously declined again. Another discussion. Another parting at the door. This time they told me about a present-day prophet! Out loud I said, “It must give you a very good feeling to believe you have a prophet to lead you.” They assured me that it did. My inner thoughts said, “How does this church get them to believe something so strongly?”
Another meeting. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like a cup of coffee with us?” Again a polite “No, thank you.” To my amazement my husband came into the room and sat in on the discussion with us.
We had more meetings each week. They told my husband and me all kinds of things—Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the stone cut out of a mountain without hands, Jeremiah’s prophecies, the two “sticks” that would become one. I had read all these things before. I loved the Bible—it was very dear to me. Even as a child I loved it. I read a chapter each night before I went to bed, so some of the things the young women talked about were familiar. But now they started falling into place in logical order. How exciting it was!
By now our children had joined with us in the discussions, and the two sisters who had originally knocked on our door had been replaced by another pair of lady missionaries. I would put the baby in his playpen, and then we’d start bombarding the missionaries with question after question. We found that the two sticks mentioned in prophecy were the Bible and the Book of Mormon. “Do we get to see the Book of Mormon? When? When can I read it? Next discussion?” This was going to be a long week—I could hardly wait.
The week was long. I kept thinking about the Book of Mormon and could hardly wait to get my hands on it. The day finally arrived, and I hoped in my heart they wouldn’t forget the Book of Mormon. I even thought they might finally have a cup of coffee with us.
As we discussed the Book of Mormon, they told me of a wonderful promise contained in it. Yes, we’d give it a try. We’d pray about it.
It took only a few pages of the Book of Mormon to convince me that it was true. It’s true! This is the word of God! And so, each morning at 6:00 I would take my cup of coffee out on the back steps of the house in the cool morning air and read until the children woke up. How forceful were the words! Who could ever deny, after reading this book, that it was the word of God? It is the word of God! What a feeling of excitement, of discovery, of awe, of warmth, of wonder.
We still had at least three more discussions left when we were interrupted. Our four-year-old daughter, Nancy, came down with what appeared to be polio. I was still teaching a class in my church—dreading now to go—but instead of teaching my Sunday School class that morning, I was feverishly getting Nancy ready for a spinal tap at the local hospital. Our suspicions were confirmed; she had polio. We took Nancy to the Children’s Hospital in Houston, and I packed my Book of Mormon, knowing there would be many hours of waiting ahead of me. Somehow I knew that she would be all right.
In two weeks she was released from the hospital, and I had read a great deal of my new book.
Once more the missionary discussions began. At the next meeting I finally learned why it was that the missionaries kept refusing when I asked them if they would like a cup of coffee. When they told me they abstained from coffee, tea, alcohol, and tobacco, my heart sank. I thought to myself, “Now they’re going to tell me they don’t dance, go to movies, cut their hair, and any number of things.” But I was ready to give up whatever they asked. I already knew the gospel was true.
Now we were near the end of the discussions, and the plan of salvation was being presented. I’ll never be able to describe the joy I felt when I was told that I had dwelt with God before—that he knew me and taught me before I was born. You mean he actually knows me? Me? Just think! God knows me! Me! I was overjoyed. I wept. This was the most beautiful thing I had ever hear—that I had dwelt with God before, and that he knew me personally. Now I could easily think of him as a kind Father, a God of flesh and bone.
When the elders were introduced to us, I was very excited. The sister missionaries had told us about the priesthood, and I was in awe of the elders when they came. I felt the greatest respect for someone who held the priesthood of God. It was such a new thing for me. The children loved them instantly.
Yes, we were baptized. We had knelt in prayer and for the first time, self-consciously and timidly, and prayed together vocally. In simplicity and humility we asked our Heavenly Father if these things were true, and, in answer, received the warm, sweet assurances that only the Holy Ghost can bring.
In the many years since our baptism as a family, there have been many joys—yes, and many sorrows too, especially the death of my husband. Yet we have known the security of the priesthood in our home, the comfort of home teachers. We have laughed, sung, cried; we’ve been down to the depths of despair, and up to the heights of spirituality. We have experienced the sweetness of a temple marriage, the meaning of eternal friendships, the strength of the iron rod when all seemed utterly hopeless. We have helped make peanut butter in welfare projects in Texas, and helped to weed beet fields and canned peas in Provo, where we now live with our new husband and father.
Above all, we are truly grateful to be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and for the missionaries who made it possible. And now we have sent our own David out as a missionary, with the hope that he will find other receptive souls and bring to them the joy and happiness that the missionaries brought to us.