My junior year in high school was the hardest for me. Chemistry, AP history, honors English, and algebra 2 were among the difficult classes that consumed my schedule. How would I ever get through this year? My answer came when I noticed one person in almost all my classes. Darren Hart was a very intelligent 16-year-old. I had known him since our freshman year but only as an acquaintance. Here was my opportunity to get to know him better and see if some of his brilliance would rub off on me. Soon we were studying together. In fact, a group of us got together every other night to do our homework. It proved to be a big help.
In English class, we had the assignment to read Billy Budd by Herman Melville. After reading the book, we were assigned to write an essay on its symbolism, including references to the Bible stories. No problem. I had gone to Primary and Sunday School, so I had a pretty good understanding of the stories in the Bible.
But Darren wasn’t a member of any church, and he was not familiar with the scripture stories. He asked for my help, and I willingly agreed. After all, he had helped me through my other classes. It was the least I could do. I suggested it would be best to write down all the symbolism we could find and organize it into a paper later.
The first reference we came to was Joseph and his coat of many colors. Darren had no idea what this story was about. I knew I had my work cut out for me. I asked him if he had a Bible. He came back with a different version than I was used to. I summarized the stories for him, commenting on how the stories in his translation of the Bible were a little different from the ones in the King James version. He asked me to explain the differences to him.
Darren then began questioning me about my church. I thought, You’re asking me? I don’t know enough. I’m only 16. Where is a missionary when you need one?
I began explaining a few differences between the LDS church and other churches. I tried my best to draw upon my seminary classes and the basic knowledge I had. My throat was dry, and my voice halting as I tried to find the right words.
As I began talking about the gospel, a funny thing happened. I began recalling knowledge I didn’t know I had. I explained gospel concepts in such a way that even I understood them better. My dry throat became moist again, and the trembling in my voice ceased. My tense muscles relaxed, and I felt a calm feeling flow through my body. Darren listened attentively to what I had to say, asking questions when he didn’t understand. What started out as a simple explanation turned into a six-hour discussion. The words came with such great ease, I knew that the Spirit was with me.
The next few days were a little scary. What do I do now? Should I ask him to church? No, he will think I just want to convert him. But I do want to convert him. Maybe I should just leave it alone. No, I must do something.
I finally mustered up the courage to ask Darren to church. “Darren, I noticed how interested you were in my church. Would you be interested in coming with me sometime?”
He immediately replied, “I’d love to!”
Did he just say yes? I can’t believe it. “I’ll pick you up at 8:45 Sunday morning.”
In the months that followed, Darren took the discussions from the missionaries. He began by reading the Book of Mormon and attending church almost weekly. We spent a lot of time studying church subjects and having the missionaries explain confusing gospel concepts to him. Darren was afraid that he would join the Church and then decide that the commitment was too much for him. So he studied and pondered the thought of baptism for a long time. One night the missionaries asked Darren when he wanted to be baptized. He gave them a date, much to my surprise. Tears filled my eyes as an overwhelming sense of joy blanketed my heart. I had been waiting for this for a long time. Now it was all coming true.
On a beautiful spring evening, Darren entered the waters of baptism. The gospel was something I had taken for granted in my life. It was such a tremendous blessing to be a member of the Church, and now I was able to help someone else have that gift.
What if I had passed up the opportunity to tell Darren about the Church? I am glad I was able to have the Spirit with me that evening and that I had the courage to teach what I knew to be true.