As a high school student I stood proudly before the small Methodist congregation and delivered an address entitled “Meeting Life’s Requirements.” Following the service, the church members greeted me, offering encouragement for my future religious endeavors. At home that day, I peacefully strolled in the fresh, autumn weather, thinking to myself, “Maybe I should become a minister.”
It wasn’t the first time I had spoken before a congregation, nor would it be the last. My religious interests developed early in life and became an obsession because of the panic I felt about the prospect of a judgment day. In the introduction to a school paper on the clergy I wrote, “At the end of my freshman year in high school I began to consider the clergy as a profession.” I was at that time anticipating several years in college and theological seminary.
In high school I was successful in classwork and in sports, playing for the school football team. I played in the school band, and was elected as student president. But some dramatic changes were to occur in my life. The following statements from my journal tell the story.
Senior Year, High School—While investigating several churches to learn more about Christianity, I have discovered that some churches do not require extremely long periods of schooling to qualify as a minister. I have just visited a Bible college and learned that I can be ordained a minister after four years. After two years I could be assigned as a minister to a church of my own. I decided that I will go to the Bible college next year when I graduate from high school even though it will mean giving up a scholarship to another college. The classes appear interesting, but I sense something is missing from the college. Something seems to be missing in my personal life, too. How long will it take to find peace of mind?
Approaching Graduation—Religion is becoming less important in my life. I’m no longer sure of what I want to do. Deep inside me I feel guilty about something. I get upset at myself when I do wrong. But I still take a drink or smoke a cigarette now and again. After my first drink, my friends in high school were more worried about how it would affect my football playing than how it would affect my religious goals.
Change of Plans—I just received a scholarship to play football at Dodge City College only a few kilometers from my home. I don’t want to go to a college so close to home, but the scholarship will help pay for my studies. I gave up a scholarship offer before when I was planning to become a minister. Those plans will wait.
Summer—I’m working at the Dodge City Recreation Center and playing on a local baseball team. It’s not unusual for me to work all day, travel with the baseball team for a game, return home at 2 A.M. and get up at 7 A.M. to go to work.
What’s Wrong—This summer has been unusual. I haven’t gone to church very much. I read a lot and write a great deal. But religion seems to lack something. But maybe I lack something, too.
The Bible—I still consider the idea of Bible college education because I can have a ministry of my own very quickly. I commented once in Sunday School that we need to return to preaching the Bible. But one man argued that ministers should turn to more modern concerns and use up-to-date interpretations of the Bible. His remarks add to my confusion—religious leaders I know have different opinions about the meaning of the Bible and its place in modern times.
College Begins—I still pray sometimes. A few times I have said, “Show me the way, Lord, if there is one for me.”
Semester Ends—My first semester of college has ended and I’m on the honor roll as a top student. Last night I lay in my bed thinking how little time I really devoted to my studies. I laughed to myself and thought, “I did this and all without God.”
A Mormon Girl—I met a Mormon girl, Janet, the other night. I thought to myself, “What’s a Mormon?” I’ve investigated many religions but have never heard of this one.
Book of Mormon—I spent the weekend with my family. I asked Mom if she knew anything about Mormons. She said she thought there was a pamphlet in the bookcase. She found it and an old hardback book. I’m reading it now—the Book of Mormon. Mother said it was a Mormon Bible.
After the Date—Janet is the first girl I’ve dated with any regularity in at least six months. Tonight, after our date, we were talking and the subject of religion came up. I told her about my indefinite plans for the ministry and added, “There’s something wrong with every church.”
With confidence she replied, “Not mine.”
“Oh, sure, you tell me about it,” I answered. She isn’t the first girl that has wanted me to be interested in a particular church. But she definitely has a sparkle of purity, a twinkle in her eye.
I told her that I had been studying the Book of Mormon, and she suggested that I talk to the elders. I told her I’d like to sometime.
Following Monday—The strangest thing happened this evening. I work every night at the recreation center, but today when I called in, Mr. Braddock told me they didn’t need me tonight. I didn’t feel like studying, so I telephoned Janet about a date and she told me to come over to her house. The elders were coming. The meeting was arranged before I telephoned her, but on any other Monday night I would definitely have had to work.
The Meeting—While waiting for the elders at Janet’s home, I expected two old men in gray beards and maybe black hats to knock at the door. I was surprised when the elders turned out to be two young men close to my own age. Learning from them was a spiritual experience for me.
My Interview—I was interviewed tonight for baptism. I brought a signed statement from my dad to the elders giving his approval for my baptism. He used to know some Latter-day Saints. He said you have to be a missionary if you join their church. I told the district leader that the discussions were like the lifting of a veil, like I had heard the story before. The gospel contains many teachings that I have come to believe over the years, such as a literal, tangible, Heavenly Father concerned about us. I took the missionary discussions so fast that I have to wait till my assigned baptismal date.
April 27—I was baptized tonight. My family attended the service, as did many of the branch members. This is the cleanest feeling I have known in my entire life. The warm, friendly attitude of the members here is still one of the amazing things about this church.
Few Will Listen—I thought of dozens of my friends who would surely join the Church now. They just needed to learn about it as I had. It’s not like that. I know that most of my friends respect me very much for my high standards, but with others I wonder, as did the Apostle Paul, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16).
Sacrament Meeting—My family attended the branch’s sacrament meeting today. After the meeting, I went with the elders to my parents’ home for a missionary lesson. After the first discussion Elder Johnson tried to make an appointment to come again and teach my family.
“How about right now?” Mom asked.
So the second lesson was given. Dad had to leave then to do the farm chores. Mom quickly prepared a meal, and about an hour later Dad came back in and ate, and the third lesson was given. Three in one night!
July 27—Tonight I baptized my family. It is three months to the day since I joined the Church. Our family is finally united. As I brought Mom up out of the water, she embraced me and shed tears of joy. We have received life’s greatest blessings.
A Mission Call—I’m so excited! I came home from classes today to find a letter from the First Presidency. Quickly opening it I discovered that I would be going to California. I wept joyously. Feeling so insignificant in the Lord’s sight, I asked, “Why me?” The blessings of God seem so unbelievable. Now, in a week, I will leave on a mission to serve the Lord. I will be a minister.
Temple Sealing—Today I was sealed for time and all eternity to my Mom and Dad.
Temple Marriage—Janet and I were married this morning in the Salt Lake Temple. I thank God that a young woman lived the gospel so completely that I found a noticeable, attracting difference between her and other young people, thus leading me to the gospel. I encouraged my other young brothers and sisters to do the same. The gospel works.