Sometimes it takes years to find the truth, and for me and my family it took generations. Three generations, to be exact. But we had found The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints again. My great-great-grandfather, Chief Washakie, of the Shoshone Indian tribe, had been baptized many years before, along with the rest of the tribe, but the generations that followed them had fallen away. Now we had returned to the gospel, and I was the first missionary to be sent from the Wind River Branch out into the mission field.
The day I received my call was exactly two weeks after I had sent in my papers. Before opening the envelope I knelt down to ask my Heavenly Father if this was where he wanted me to go. I begged with all my heart that he would answer me, and the answer came with the same peaceful feeling I had received when I asked about the gospel before my baptism. “Yes, this is the mission I have chosen for you,” came the answer, and I quickly opened the envelope. I was called to the California Ventura Mission.
Once on my mission, as I prepared for a transfer, I thought back to all the spiritual experiences I had had. I remembered a humble woman who asked my companion and me, with tears in her eyes, why we hadn’t come sooner. I remembered a little ten-year-old we baptized who worked long hours in his neighbor’s garden so he could first earn money to buy a Bible and then go on a mission. I also remembered one sacrament meeting when a woman I had baptized came up to me and said, “It’s all because of you,” when she received a call to serve in the Primary. She practically radiated gratitude as she thanked me for coming to her door the afternoon we met.
All these experiences were a fulfillment of a blessing I had received before leaving on my mission that said I would bring many people into the Church who would become great leaders. But now I was facing a transfer that I was not excited about, completely unaware of what was in store for me in my new area. The transfer was to Agoura Hills, California. I believed my mission president was an inspired man, but why Agoura Hills? The area was very affluent but very low in baptisms. You could count on one hand the baptisms in that area for the past several years. I had been one of the top baptizers in the mission for several months, but now all that would probably change. Then I remembered the words from a song that was sung at my farewell: “I will go where you want me to go, dear Lord.” So I went.
It is every convert’s dream to find the missionaries who baptized him and let them know about the change they brought to his life with the gospel. I also had that dream, especially because so many members of my family had been baptized after the elders left our area. I was now serving a successful mission. I had a sister attending Ricks College, another sister on a scholarship at BYU, and a brother and a sister both preparing to go on missions. I had lost track of the elders who had converted me. I wanted to find them and let them know how many lives they had touched.
My second Sunday in Agoura Hills, just before sacrament meeting started, a man in the ward came up to me and asked me about myself. I told him I was from Wyoming, and he said they had sent a son on a mission to Wyoming. A sensation of electricity ran through my body, but I knew it was not likely that this was one of the elders that I knew. So I asked, “What mission? The Colorado, Utah, or Montana mission?”
He said his son had served in the Billings Montana Mission, and when I asked him if he had ever been in Lander, Wyoming, where I was converted, the man answered yes again. I asked him a few dates and names and soon discovered that the man I was talking with was the father of one of the elders who had converted me. I said, “Your son is one of the elders responsible for bringing me and my family into the Church.” The man immediately introduced his wife, and tears filled her eyes as she realized that she was seeing a direct result of the sacrifices she and her family had made to send their son on a mission. Brother Miller introduced me to other members of the ward, and every time he told them who I was he choked up. I sat in sacrament meeting with tears streaming down my face as I thought of the mysterious ways the Lord had worked in my life. Who could have predicted that Elder Miller would come to my home and I would go to his almost nine years later?
I was able to see Elder Miller again, and he looked the same except for the three little daughters clinging to his leg. I finally had the chance to tell him thank you. He too was overcome with emotion as he told me what a feeling of satisfaction he had, seeing someone he had taught having as much success in the gospel as my family and I were.
I am truly grateful for that family who gave so much to bring me and my family the gospel. Because of their sacrifices, we as Lamanites are fulfilling Nephi’s prophecy in 2 Nephi 30:6, where it says, “and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a pure and a delightsome people.” [2 Ne. 30:6]