Diary of a Would-be Minister


I did end up serving the Lord, but not the way I thought I would.

As a high school junior I stood proudly before the small Protestant congregation and delivered an address entitled “Meeting Life’s Requirements.” Following the service, the church members greeted me in the courtyard, offering encouragement for my future religious endeavors. At home that day, I peacefully strolled in the crisp, autumn weather, contemplating the future and thinking to myself, “Maybe I should become a minister.”

It wasn’t the first time I had been before the church body, nor would it be the last. My religious interests developed early in life, and my infatuation with religion was enhanced because of the panic I felt about the prospect of a judgment day. In the introduction to a school paper on the clergy I wrote, “At the end of my freshman year in high school I began to consider the clergy as a profession.” I was at that time anticipating several years in college and theological seminary.

The stage was set, and my high school years were highly successful: student-body president, all-state football player, outstanding band member, and more. But some dramatic changes occurred in my life. The following statements are from my journal and tell the story.

Senior Year, High School—While investigating several churches to learn more about Christianity, I have discovered that some churches do not require extremely long periods of schooling to qualify as a minister. I have just spent several days at a Bible college and learned that if I attend this school I can be ordained a minister after four years. Perhaps after two years, I will be assigned a church of my own in which to officiate. The classes are interesting and Christian oriented.

A Short Time Later—I am planning on attending next year and have turned down a basketball scholarship because of these plans. The only thing that bothers me is that I sense something missing at the college as well as in my personal life. How long will it take to find peace of mind?

Locker Room Prayers—I asked Coach Landrum tonight if we could have prayer before our football games. We all just repeated the Lord’s Prayer, but we are united as a team. We don’t pray to win but to have the strength to be men on the field—using good sportsmanship, wishing no physical injury to either team, winning in the column of character and determination.

A Later Note: I played on many winning teams in elementary and high school. Never did I play on a team as united, as spirited, as our football team this year. It may be secondary that this was the first unbeaten, untied football season in our school’s history.

Approaching Graduation—Religion is becoming so distant that I’m not sure what to do. I pray but can’t interpret any answers. Still, a guilty feeling seems inborn in my soul. I’m bothered when I do wrong. Yet despite my conservative nature I take a drink or cigarette now and then.

Priorities—After I took my first drink the kids at school were more concerned about its effect on my basketball playing than they were about the effect it would have on my religious objectives.

Change of Plans—I just received a football scholarship (and a band scholarship) to Dodge City College. I don’t want to go to school this close to home, but financially it’s my only choice. I missed out on other scholarship offers previously when I was set on becoming a minister. Those plans will wait.

Summer—I’ve moved away from home now and am working at the Dodge City Recreation Center and playing American Legion baseball. It’s not unusual to work all day, go on road games, return home at 2 A.M. and get up at 7 A.M. to go to work.

Miss the Boat—This summer has been unusual. I have gone to church little. I read a lot and write a great deal. But it does seem sort of empty not gathering with people. Religion seems to miss the boat, but maybe so am I.

The Bible—I still tinker with the idea of Bible school education because I can have a pastorate of my own very early. I commented once in Sunday School that we need to return to preaching the Bible. One fellow disputed my claim saying that ministers needed to apply contemporary terms and up-to-date interpretations. But that adds to my confusion—everyone in church hierarchies has a different opinion as to those contemporary meanings.

Tsai Lee-Yueh—I now have a daughter! Tsai Lee-Yueh is her name. I’ve felt lately that while I’m experiencing this transition period I must do something for God on my own. So now I am paying several dollars to Christian Children’s Fund each month to help my foster daughter, Tsai Lee-Yueh, a little Taiwanese girl. I received a letter from her with an English translation. She and some of her friends were given individual Bibles. She wrote, “I don’t know that the Bible is such a precious thing. After the caseworker has taught us how to study the Bible, I know it is a precious book. I feel very happy.” Such a statement would put most Americans to shame.

College Begins—I still pray sometimes. A few times I have said, “Show me the way, Lord, if there is one for me.”

Semester Ends—My first semester of college has ended and I’m on the Honor Roll. Last night I lay in my bed thinking how little time I really devoted to my studies. I laughed to myself and thought, “I did this and all without God.”

A Mormon Girl—I met a Mormon girl the other night. My internal response was, “What’s a Mormon?” I’ve delved into many religions but admit an ignorance to this one.

Book of Mormon—I just spent the weekend with Mom, Dad, and Bill on the farm. I asked Mom if she knew anything about Mormons. She said she thought there was a pamphlet in the bookcase. She found it and an old black, hardback book. I’m reading it now—the Book of Mormon. Mother said it was a Mormon Bible.

After the Carnival—Janet’s the first girl I’ve dated with any regularity in at least six months. Tonight, after our date to my brother’s class carnival, we were talking and the subject of religion came up. I told her about my indefinite plans for the ministry and added, “There’s something wrong with every church.”

With confidence and spontaneity she replied, “Not mine.”

“Oh, sure, you tell me about it,” I answered unalarmed. She isn’t the first girl that has wanted me to be interested in a particular church. But she definitely has a sparkle of purity, a twinkle in her eye.

I told her that I had been studying the Book of Mormon, and she suggested that I talk to the elders. I told her I’d like to sometime.

Following Monday—The strangest thing happened this evening. I work every night at the recreation center, but today when I called in, Mr. Braddock told me they didn’t need me tonight. Studies didn’t appeal to me, so I called Jan about a date and she told me to come over to her house. The elders were coming. The meeting was already set up before I called her, but on any other Monday night I would definitely have had to work.

The Meeting—There we were in her living room. Any minute I expected old men in gray beards and maybe black hats to knock at the door. They rang the bell instead, and was I surprised when the elders turned out to be two young men close to my own age.

Tonight was a spiritual experience. I guess I answered all the questions with the answers they wanted. They said something about planning my baptism for April 27. I’ve never met two people more sincere than Elder Johnson and Elder Towsey.

Dad Knew Mormons—I brought a signed statement from my dad to the elders giving his approval for my baptism. He used to know some Latter-day Saints. He said you have to be a missionary if you join their church.

My Interview—I was interviewed tonight for baptism. It was a relief to find that the elders had only kidded me about taking a written test. I read the pamphlets a few extra times so I wouldn’t be tripped up. I told the district leader that the discussions were like the lifting of a veil, like I had heard the story before. The gospel contains many teachings that I have come to believe over the years, such as a literal, tangible, concerned Heavenly Father. I took the discussions so fast that I have to wait till my assigned baptismal date.

April 27—I was baptized tonight. My family attended the service, as did many of the branch members. This is the cleanest feeling I have known in my entire life. The warm, friendly attitude of the members here is still one of the amazing things about this church.

Few Will Listen—I thought of dozens of my friends who would surely join the Church now. They just needed to learn about it as I had. It’s not like that. I know that most of my friends respect me very much for my high standards, but others leave me asking, as did the Apostle Paul, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16).

Mother’s Day—Dad accepted my invitation and brought Mom out to the branch’s Mother’s Day program today. Bill came too. After sacrament meeting, I went with the elders to my parents’ home for a missionary lesson. After the first discussion Elder Johnson tried to make an appointment to come again and teach my family.

“How about right now?” Mom asked.

So the second lesson was given. Dad had to leave then to do the farm chores. Mom quickly prepared some sandwiches and salads for the elders and our family. About an hour later Dad came back in and ate, and the third lesson was given. Three in one night!

July 27—Tonight I baptized my family. It is three months to the day since I joined the Church. Our family is finally united. As I brought Mom up out of the water, she embraced me and shed tears of joy. We are recipients of life’s greatest blessings.

Youth Conference—My first youth conference just ended, and on the final day I bore my testimony, thanking God that a girl lived the gospel so completely that I found a noticeable, attracting difference between her and other young people, thus leading me to the gospel. I encouraged my other young brothers and sisters to do the same. The gospel works.

A Mission Call—I’m so excited! I came home from classes today to find a letter from the First Presidency. Quickly opening it I discovered that I would be going to California. I wept joyously. Feeling so insignificant in His sight, I asked, “Why me?” The blessings of God seem so unbelievable.

Most Important—My first two years of college have been highly successful, but the most important thing is that I was going off 400 miles away to a Bible college, but circumstances intervened to allow me to discover the truth 13 miles from home. Now, in a week, I will leave on a mission to serve the Lord. I will be a minister.

Temple Sealing—Mom, Dad, and I were sealed as a family today in the Logan Temple for time and all eternity. Bill was still in school back in Kansas.

Temple Marriage—Elder Tuttle married Jan and me this morning in the Salt Lake Temple. Today was even more special because Bill was finally sealed to Mom and Dad. In addition, Mom’s cousins from Missouri were also sealed for time and eternity in the Lord’s house. Mother played a large role in their conversion.

September 3—Our first child, Jill Ann, was born today. Ours for eternity.

Another Baptism—Twenty years ago, Jan’s mother joined the Church. Today, October 9, her father was baptized. A very righteous and faithful man, he has helped the Church on numerous occasions, and served as Scoutmaster. Janet has been shedding tears of joy since her mother called to relay the good news earlier today.

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19–20).

[illustrations] Illustrated by Ron Peterson