Our little blue Volkswagen rolled down the country road, carrying us farther and farther away from the home we had grown to love so much during the past five years. Mom was driving the car that contained my two younger sisters and me, and Dad was ahead in a borrowed truck that was loaded high with beds and tables; our old upright piano; and boxes of dishes, dresses, and collected memories. Leaving our little town of Potlatch, Idaho (population 880), for the big city of Lewiston, Idaho (population 26,000), was traumatic. I was 12 years old, and I knew that the sidewalks, drive-ins, and paper mill of this strange new place I was moving to could never replace the fresh country air and close friendships I was leaving behind. I was sure the best part of life was over, and I tried to resign myself to my fate.
After we were settled in our new little home, I spent most of the hot summer days lying on my bed listening to records, reading, and writing letters to my friends. Yet, as August drew to a close, I began to get more excited about attending this big junior high school that had almost as many people as the whole town of Potlatch.
With a new dress and a nervous smile, I entered the building that September and went to first period English. I took a seat near the front of the room and was delighted when the girl in front of me turned around and introduced herself.
As the days continued, I found that, miracle of miracles, the students here were really not so different from my other friends. They also liked the Monkees, hamburgers with mustard, and football games. They also weren’t too excited about math tests, cold weather, or the rival junior high school. I began to feel a part of things and even quit plotting to return to Potlatch for my senior year. I played the clarinet in the school band and quickly found that being in that organization offered me the security of belonging to a group. I didn’t know then that there was an even greater group that was soon to enter my life.
Although I was a member of the Church, when we lived in Potlatch I had usually attended a Protestant church located just behind my house. (There was at that time no branch in Potlatch, and our family seldom traveled the half-hour distance to the nearest ward.) When we moved to Lewiston, however, we began attending Sunday School at the LDS church. It was large, and the people seemed quite friendly—I couldn’t believe how welcome they made me feel! I became good friends with a girl named Teresa, and one day she invited me to come to Mutual. I had no idea what that was, and even after she explained it to me, I figured it must be something like 4-H. What a surprise to find that both boys and girls attended and that we had interesting classes and fun activities! I became involved in Church activities and hardly ever missed Mutual. Mutual was the place where I felt the greatest warmth and acceptance. I didn’t have a testimony of the Church at that time, and the reason I attended was because of the love and friendship extended to me by my friends and leaders. I could feel a warmth there that influenced my life in a very positive manner.
Today when I hear the names of inactive boys or girls, I try to remember that each of them is a potential active member. I am grateful to Teresa, a wonderful friend who kept inviting me to Mutual until I came, and for those open-hearted people in my ward who loved me into activity. I am grateful they did not say, “Oh, well, another inactive girl. I wonder what her problem is?” I’m glad that instead, they thought, “I wonder what her strengths are? We need her.”
Mutual gave me so much—firesides, girls’ camp, slumber parties, eternal friends. And perhaps most important, it gave me the beginnings of a testimony of the gospel and the understanding of what a tremendous influence Mutual can be in the lives of young men and women. For many years I was one of the many inactive little girls throughout the Church; how grateful I am that I wasn’t allowed to remain one forever! I wonder how many inactive members are waiting for us to invite them back into the Church? President Harold B. Lee once said, “What you have to give just may be enough.” From personal experience I know that sometimes that doesn’t have to be very much at all.