We turned down a lane that led to a group of cottages on the shore of the St. Croix River. It was a clear, warm day in late fall, an Indian summer. The leaves on the trees had turned to bright yellows and golds. It was my first day of door contacting as a missionary.
“Your door,” Elder Higgins said, smiling.
It was a small cottage that sat near the edge of the water. Waterskiing gear leaned against the railing of the porch. I cleared my throat and knocked firmly.
“I’m Elder Roberts and this is Elder Higgins. We have a message about the Savior we’d like to share with you,” I rehearsed.
The inside door opened, and behind the screen door stood a very pretty girl, somewhere between 17 and 20, blue eyes, long gold hair, wearing a swimsuit. The words, the finely tuned lines I’d practiced a thousand times on the plane, at the mission home, in our apartment, and on the three-mile walk to this cottage, vanished.
“Awk,” was all that came out when I opened my mouth.
Elder Higgins looked at me grinning and then turned to the girl.
“We’re ministers in the area, and we have a message about Jesus Christ we’d like to share with you and your family.” He gave her a Christ in America pamphlet and made an appointment to meet her family.
Elder Higgins had been a musical theater major in college before his mission. My first day in the area had been a prep day and while we were doing our laundry, Elder Higgins sang songs from Oklahoma to the ladies in the laundromat. They loved it. He made five appointments while our clothes were drying. He sometimes sang to people at doors. I was just a little more reserved with people—shy and scared were more descriptive.
“I’ll take the next couple of doors,” Elder Higgins said dryly. He made two more appointments and sang “Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair” to a woman whose name was Jeannie.
“Want to try again?” Elder Higgins asked as we approached a group of houses next to a church.
I knocked on the door and stood back waiting. A tall man wearing a clerical collar opened the door and smiled at us like the cat about to eat the canary.
“What can I do for you boys?” he said with a very proper British accent. He obviously knew who we were.
I glanced at the mailbox as I swallowed and stepped back. “The Reverend Richard Cutts, Ph.D.,” it said.
What could I say to this man? How could I challenge what he believed? I whispered a quick prayer. I could see Elder Higgins getting ready to jump in.
It’s funny how much can go through your mind in a few seconds. I thought of my first Primary teacher, Oma Santos, telling the story of Moses and the burning bush; my Sunday School teacher, Cloe Davis, explaining the importance of Joseph Smith’s first vision; Velda Dalton teaching about the Sermon on the Mount; and my Uncle Elton talking about the restoration of the priesthood in deacons class. I grew up in a small town in southern Utah. None of my teachers had Ph.D. behind their name. None of them read Greek or Latin like Reverend Cutts most likely did. But it didn’t matter. What they knew was much more important.
“I’m Elder Roberts,” I said, feeling for the first time the strength and importance of what I’d been taught, what I was here to teach. “This is Elder Higgins, and we’d like to tell you about the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The expression on Reverend Cutts’s face changed. He looked a little surprised. “Come on in,” he said, smiling.