In the course of our daily activities, we have many opportunities to teach others about the gospel. For six years, I have worked as an electrician on seagoing oil drilling rigs around the world. It is shift work—one month on and one month off. Relationships are temporary; if you want to make friends, you must concentrate your efforts because you may never see your fellow crew members again.
While working for an oil company in the North Sea off the coast of Great Yarmouth, England, I made a wonderful friend—a crane operator from Norwich, England, named James MacDonald.
One day as I entered the dining area for lunch, I saw James sitting at the table with his head bowed, asking a blessing on his meal. I was surprised to see someone so unafraid of being religious in the rough environment of the drilling business. Here was a man who truly desired the friendship of our Father in Heaven and who thanked him for his goodness. From that first day, I hoped I would have the opportunity to teach this man the gospel.
As I got to know James, we spent many hours discussing points of religious doctrine and comparing them with what the Savior taught. James had an excellent knowledge of the Bible. As our four-week tour of duty drew to a close, we both felt a sense of urgency. I wanted James to gain a conviction of the truth of the things I had taught him before we parted.
But there was one complication in our success: he was not sure that the Book of Mormon was really necessary. He had read it, and he said that it was a beautiful book. But he said, “Isn’t the Bible enough? We don’t need any more Bible. We have the teachings of Jesus to his people in our Bible.”
I then explained the principle of fasting and prayer and asked James if he would fast the next day. I told him that he should pray and ponder the questions he had in his heart until he felt he had received an answer.
As James retired to his room at the end of the day, he knelt in prayer to ask his Father in Heaven whether or not the Book of Mormon was necessary. He told our Heavenly Father that when he arose from prayer, he would open the Book of Mormon to find his answer. He knew that if it were true and necessary as holy scripture, the answer would come from it.
When he arose from praying, he opened the Book of Mormon and placed his finger upon a passage. It read:
“Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?
“Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
“Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.” (2 Ne. 29:6–8.)
As he read these words, he felt the thrilling warmth of the Holy Ghost. He fell again to his knees to give humble thanks to his Father in Heaven. He then made his way to my room and knocked on the door.
His countenance was bright, and his handshake was confident and strong. He told me: “I have received an answer to my prayers. I know the Book of Mormon is a true and necessary book and that you have taught me the truth.” He then said, “I want you to teach me, and I will listen and believe it all.” Far into the night we discussed gospel principles and prayed together, that we might both be enlightened, strengthened, and filled with knowledge.
The next day we left the oil rig to begin our respective journeys home. I told James that he could look up the Church in the telephone directory in order to set up a meeting with the missionaries. I didn’t know what would happen, but I trusted in the Lord that James would be able to find the elders without difficulty.
A week or so later I received a letter from a missionary in Norwich, England—a missionary who was originally from my own stake in El Paso, Texas. It read:
I am writing to thank you for giving us the opportunity of teaching and baptizing one of your friends. He is truly one of the Lord’s “valiant.” I wish you could have been there when James and I walked down into the font and I had the great honor of baptizing him into the Church of Jesus Christ. Brother MacDonald has been an answer to many people’s prayers. My companion and I had been fasting and praying forever a month to be led to someone to teach. When James called us and asked us to come and teach him, we knew that our prayers had been answered. May the Lord bless you.
Within a few days, another letter came. This one, from James, read:
How grateful I am to our Heavenly Father for answering my prayers for guidance, wisdom, and knowledge! How thankful I am for the many blessings he has bestowed on me and my family! How great is the joy I have through the knowledge of the truth, for I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s true church restored to the earth in these last days. I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Creator of all things, in whose image I am made. I know that he died as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world and that he could and did overcome death that all men could return to our Heavenly Father—to eternal life. I know that our Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ are two personages with flesh and bones and that they visited Joseph Smith and reestablished the Kingdom of God upon the earth. I have been and continue to be blessed with all manner of knowledge and wisdom in answer to my prayers. How great is my desire to serve the Lord faithfully to the glory of the Father and the Son.
With love in Christ, James P. MacDonald
These letters brought me great joy. I had obeyed the Lord’s commandments to every member: “Be a missionary,” and “Feed my sheep.” And through that obedience, I had not only gained a great friend, but I had also shared the joy of the gospel with him. As the Lord has said, “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!” (D&C 18:15.) I have tasted of that joy. It is great! And I hope to continue to bring souls unto him.