For the past three years the name of “Bob Gunther” had appeared on seminary rolls, yet no one had ever seen him at any Church meeting.
Just who is this Bob Gunther then? The seminary students from the San Lorenzo wards in California could tell you. At the beginning of each seminary year for the past few years, the students had signed the name of Bob Gunther to the roll as a practical joke. This joke led to what is now known as “The Bob Gunther Story.”
Early one Monday morning Neal Jarecki, a 16-year-old boy, was on his way to school. To Neal this was just another normal school day, but unknown to him, it was a day that would change the rest of his life. Neal was going to school early this particular morning to meet a girl he knew—Kim Spier, a Latter-day Saint.
When Neal arrived at school, he found Kim with a group of LDS girls studying in the library. He asked them why they were always at school so early, and they proceeded to tell him about seminary. Suddenly a voice from among the girls said, “Hey, we can get Neal to be Bob Gunther!”
Neal just stood there, not knowing what was happening, and said, “What?” The girls then told Neal that they would like him to play the part of Bob Gunther, an imaginary person who had been enrolled in seminary for the last few years. After asking a few questions about what he would have to do at seminary, Neal finally agreed to be part of this practical joke. As the day went on, though, Neal began to have second thoughts and wondered what he was getting himself into.
During the afternoon Neal received a phone call from Kim and Marlene from the seminary class, asking him if they could drop off some Church books for him to read. He said yes, so at 5:30 P.M. Kim and Marlene dropped by Neal’s home to give him a half dozen pamphlets, a Book of Mormon, a Doctrine and Covenants, a Pearl of Great Price, Gospel Principles, and one volume of Church history. Neal’s mouth dropped open, and he said, “I still have to do my homework this evening.”
He finished his homework as quickly as possible that evening. Then a thought flashed through his mind. “If I’m going to seminary tomorrow, the teacher is going to be suspicious, so I’ll need some proof of identification.” Neal hurriedly went over to the public library and purchased a library card with the official name “Robert Neal Gunther” printed on it. The rest of the evening Neal studied as much Mormon literature as he possibly could. But he really didn’t absorb too much because there were too many facts going into his mind in such a short period of time.
Tuesday morning came early as Kim drove over to pick up Neal for seminary. Many students in the class knew Neal, so she told as many as possible before the teacher arrived that Neal was playing the part of Bob Gunther. Finally Neal was introduced to Brother Mike Danielson, the seminary teacher. Only Brother Danielson didn’t believe he was Bob Gunther at all. He even had a good laugh when he was shown the library card.
Now that the climax of the joke was over for Neal, it was just a matter of sitting through the class. And the lesson that day, from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, really sparked Neal’s interest. It ended with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being cast into the fiery furnace under orders from King Nebuchadnezzar. Brother Danielson told them that the next day in class they would find out what happened to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Neal decided to come again the following day to find out what happened.
Early Wednesday morning Neal showed up at seminary like he said he would, and from then on, Neal went to seminary every morning. It wasn’t long before Neal was asked if he would like the missionaries to come to his home and teach him about the Church. He agreed, and on a Friday two elders taught him the first lesson. Approximately two weeks later, Neal was baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Today Neal is an active priest and a strong member of the San Lorenzo Second Ward in California.
What started off as a simple, practical joke by a group of seminary students ended with a young man’s membership in the Savior’s true church. The nonexistent “Bob Gunther” had developed into a fine missionary.