The “Not Here” Craig Pinsey


The young man sprang to his feet immediately after the bishop turned the time over for testimony bearing. At the same moment another young man, Bob Dickenson, stood up on the other side of the chapel. The deacon who was carrying the microphone was standing near Bob, so he handed it to him first.

Bob was getting married in a month, and he gave a beautiful testimony about temple marriage. Meanwhile, the other young man remained standing, obviously anxious to speak.

As I looked at him, I wondered who he was. I didn’t recognize him, but he did look familiar. He was college age, tall, blond, and tanned.

Bob finished speaking. The young man looked across the chapel, expecting the deacon to bring the microphone to him.

However, Bob did not see the young man standing, and he handed the microphone to his fiancée, who was sitting beside him. When she finished speaking, she handed it to her mother, who was sitting next to her.

By now the young man was looking concerned. He was still standing, and those of us who were sitting near him sympathized with his dilemma. When the mike was handed to still another member of the Dickenson family, he took a deep breath for courage and walked across the chapel to stand in the aisle close to the Dickensons. He was determined to bear his testimony.

When Brother Dickenson finished speaking, the microphone was finally handed to the young man. Just as he raised it to begin speaking, an elderly man, sitting directly behind the Dickensons, apparently assuming that the young man in the aisle was the deacon, reached out and took the microphone from his hand.

With a smile and a rueful shake of his head, the young man again stood patiently and listened as Brother Moulton spoke of the faith he had gained during a recent illness. When he concluded, he turned with a gentle smile and handed the microphone back to the young man, still thinking him to be the deacon assigned to that task. Everyone in the congregation felt a great sense of relief.

The young man stared at the floor for a moment; then he looked directly at the congregation.

“I have never borne my testimony before, because I never had one. Then this year I went away to school. Because of my great roommates, and through a lot of study and prayer, I found this wonderful burning feeling inside of me. And I know the Church is true.” He paused, searched for words, and simply added, “That’s what I’ve come home to tell you. I’ve told my dad how I feel, and he has come to church with me today. I’m so grateful for him, and I know that he will gain a testimony too.” There was another long pause. “I love the gospel. I want you to know that we have got a lot of problems, but if we stick to the Church, I think we’re going to make it.”

He sat down as abruptly as he had stood up. We were moved by the strength of his conviction. But I was still mystified! Why couldn’t I place him?

I intended to go up right after the meeting to thank him for his testimony and introduce myself, but by the time we had gathered all the family, I just wanted to go home. So much for good intentions.

At home I was putting on an apron when Julia, home for summer vacation, came into the kitchen to help.

“Mother, do you know who that fellow was who gave his testimony this morning?”

“No, I meant to ask someone.”

“Well,” she said in a voice that told me I was about to hear an incredible announcement, “He was the ‘Not-Here’ Craig Pinsey!”

“I don’t understand. What do you mean?”

“The Not-Here Craig Pinsey. All through my years in Sunday School and Primary, he was a name on the roles. Year after year the teachers would read out the names and Craig Pinsey was always ‘not-here.’ Some of the boys knew who he was, but to most of us he was just this ‘not-here’ name. Every time the roll was read out loud, we’d all get ready to shout ‘Not-here!’ when the teacher got to his name.”

She explained that it got to be sort of a class joke. “Sometimes, when we had a substitute who didn’t know all of us, one of the boys would say he was Craig Pinsey. Every time the teacher would call the wrong boy ‘Craig,’ we’d all die laughing!”

Julia shook her head with wonder. “Can you imagine? I’ve known his name all these years, and I’ve never met him. When he stood up this morning, Don leaned over and said to me, ‘That’s Craig Pinsey. I met him at school last year.’

“Mother I nearly fainted! I looked at him in amazement for a minute. Then I thought to myself, ‘Well, what do you know! Craig Pinsey … here!’”

As Julia told me this story, I realized that I knew who he was too. Of course, the Pinsey family! Why we’d given up on the Pinsey family years ago. Everyone knew that they weren’t interested in the Church. They were just too busy with their own lives, and nothing anyone could do would ever change them. So the visiting teacher’s messages were given briefly on the doorstep (because we knew we weren’t welcome), and we’d stopped calling to pick up the boys for church activities (because they always said “no thanks” anyway), and no one called Brother Pinsey for priesthood assignments anymore (because they knew he wouldn’t do them). After all, everyone had done his best.

But this morning, there sat Craig Pinsey and his father in church.

“Julia, that really proves you should never give up on anyone. No one should have a permanent ‘not-here’ attached to his name. If everyone would just …”

“Yes, mother,” she said. “It’s like Craig says, ‘If we really live the gospel, we all will make it!’”

[illustration] Illustrated by Dale Kilbourn