I could see the young deacons losing interest as my mission companion talked. He was explaining the importance of doing missionary work at their age—planting seeds with their friends.
One young man finally spoke up, “What can I do? I’m only 13. My friends aren’t interested in the Church, and even if they were, their parents wouldn’t let them join.” My companion persisted with the young men, but my mind drifted back to when I was about 12 years old.
I had a best friend, Chris. We did everything together. But whenever a group of us would gather to do something “crazy,” like throw snowballs at cars or toilet paper a house, Chris would always back out. He said his parents would be mad if they found out.
Then one day I talked Chris into stealing tennis balls from the people on the local courts. He followed me, even helped me gather a handful of balls, then took off with me through a hole in the fence. When we arrived at my house I noticed Chris’s face was white.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“We’ve got to take those balls back,” he blurted out.
“No way, they’re ours now,” I replied, but Chris grabbed them and started to run. I’ve always been faster than Chris, but I couldn’t catch him that day. He ran right to the tennis players and gave every ball back. He said he was sorry and then did something I’d never seen before. He asked them for forgiveness. I just knew we were going to be turned into the police, but the men let him go.
When we got home I had a few questions for my best friend.
“I’m a Mormon,” he said.
“I know. You told me.”
“But I didn’t tell you how important my church is to me.” He went on to explain the standards of honesty he had been taught and how he could not feel right about stealing.
Six weeks later I found myself in a font, full of water, ready to be baptized a Latter-day Saint.
Suddenly I came back to the deacons in front of me. I don’t know if it made much difference to those boys, but I was able to say it was an active young man their age who brought me into the Church. I told them they could and should do missionary work. They could plant seeds with their example, just as Chris had done.