Missionary Focus:
A Missionary Story without End

by Stephen E. Sowby

as told to Laurie Williams Sowby

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    One afternoon in the fall of 1974, I received a letter, forwarded to me from my parents’ address. I recognized neither the name Lois Muntz nor the Michigan return address on the thick envelope. I began reading the first page, which alluded to the time when I had been a missionary in Libertyville, Illinois. The letter told of a family moving to several different states and being “found” by missionaries wherever they happened to settle and then told of their baptism in June 1974 and the subsequent death of the father not many months later. I was still puzzled as to the identity of the writer when I reached the end of the letter.

    Suddenly, it all became clear to me. I could picture the exact circumstances of this long-since-forgotten acquaintance. My mind went back to July 1966 when Roger Allred and I were missionary companions in Libertyville. The name Muntz had appeared on a list of recent move-ins to the area. The list had been supplied to us as ministers by some local organization.

    Soon after, we called at the address, a small brick home facing west. The young couple was refinishing their hardwood floor. They told us they were busy and asked us to come back. We’d heard the “busy-come-back” routine many times when people were trying to tell us in a nice way that they just weren’t interested. So we dutifully placed their name on our call-back list, then proceeded to forget about them.

    One night weeks later, an appointment fell through. The family we’d lined up to teach a discussion to decided they weren’t interested and sent us away. My companion and I were downhearted, of course, and the rain only added to our misery. We returned dejectedly to our upstairs apartment in the home of an elderly lady and changed into dry clothes.

    “What do we do now?” we asked each other. Elder Allred and I were both approaching the end of our missions and were especially anxious to be productive. Tracting in the rain wasn’t such a great idea, yet we couldn’t see wasting the entire evening just because one family didn’t want to hear the gospel. So we got down on our knees and asked our Father to help us do something worthwhile that night.

    When we finished, we both had a distinct impression that we should visit the Muntz home. The only question was, who are the Muntzes? Then we had some faint recollection that their name had been on a new move-in list, which we no longer had. But I remembered the brick home on the east side of the street in the south part of town somewhere. So we left once more in the rain and drove around the south part of town until we found it.

    We knocked on the door, and Lois Muntz invited us in. There were two small girls, one in diapers. The family welcomed us, and that night we taught them the first discussion and left a copy of the Book of Mormon. We also bore our testimonies. Naturally, we were very encouraged with their attitude and made an appointment for the following week.

    When we returned to teach the second discussion, we never got in the house. They informed us that they had discussed our visit with family and friends and had been given some information about Mormons. (Actually, it was anti-Mormon literature.) To continue the lessons at that time would, for them, cause discord and confusion with their families, they said. We tried to answer some of their objections, but they asked us not to come back. We couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong when we knew the Lord had sent us there.

    “Well, if you ever do join the Church, let me know,” I said as we left. I didn’t hear from the Muntz family again after that until the letter.

    In it Sister Muntz told me how she and her husband had known the Church was true that very first night when Elder Allred and I had borne our testimonies, but, both having been raised strictly in another faith, neither dared tell the other. And as they were taught by missionaries in various states during the next several years, they strengthened their testimonies of the truth but would not be baptized because of their families’ objections. At last, nearly eight years after we had knocked on their door and introduced them to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they decided they must be baptized. This was accomplished in June 1974.

    In September, Brother Muntz was killed by a drunken driver who hit his car head-on. Because they had not been members for one year yet, the family hadn’t been to the temple. But the work was done vicariously for Brother Muntz, and he, his wife, and three daughters were sealed in the Washington Temple in December 1975.

    I am grateful that Elder Allred and I had the faith to ask the Lord what to do that night ten years ago and then do what He told us to do, despite the rain and cold. And I am grateful we had the courage to bear our testimonies, for it was not the lesson or the logic of our discussion that converted the Muntzes, but the humble testimonies of two young missionaries who had listened and obeyed the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

    There are many experiences in missionary work; some are not fruitful at all. Some carry with them great rewards, though all are not immediate as this story testifies. It was nine and a half years before this family was finally sealed for time and eternity. This is the end of my telling but certainly not the end of this missionary story, for there will yet be much missionary work done by this family, both living and dead.

    Illustrated by Diane Pierce