“I Had Shut Out the World,” Ensign, Jan. 2000, 66–67
For two months missionaries had lived in the flat next to mine in suburban Auckland, New Zealand. They were good neighbors, but we were no more than nodding acquaintances. However, one evening they knocked on my door to inquire when the landlord, who was on vacation, was due to return. I gave them the information, and as they turned to go, I asked, “What happened to the other guy who was with you?”
“Oh, he went home to California,” replied one of the missionaries. “I’m Elder Vreeken, and this is my new companion, Elder Judd. By the way, what do you know about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?”
“Not much,” I replied.
Elder Vreeken pointed to a book with a blue cover strapped on the back of his bicycle, which was parked against the wall. “Would you like to read this?”
“Yes, thanks. It’s always interesting to learn of other people’s beliefs,” I said, accepting a copy of the Book of Mormon.
“Perhaps we could call sometime and discuss it with you?”
“You can visit, but it won’t get you anyplace. I was brought up Christian, but I dropped out years ago.” The term dropped out just about described my life at that time. A longtime bachelor, I had withdrawn from society in recent years and had become a studious recluse with shoulder-length hair, and I lived on coffee and cigarettes.
A week later the missionaries stopped by again. We had a pleasant discussion, and they showed interest in my library of books on family history. They made an appointment to return once again—on the anniversary of my late father’s birthday. My father had passed away 20 years earlier, but shortly after his passing I had had an experience that confirmed to me that there was an afterlife. I wanted to hear what they had to say about such matters.
On the night of their appointment, memories of this experience came back to me as the missionaries explained about the visit of the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith, and I readily accepted all they taught me that day. Yet I balked at the thought of baptism; I could see no reason to alter my way of life.
The following day at work, I considered the things I was learning, but I did not feel happy about them. There seemed little enough time now in my life to do all I wanted. If I became involved in Church activities, I’d have even less time to pursue my interests. I decided to ask the elders not to call again.
When they came to my door a few days later, I announced to them I had decided not to join their church. The elders looked crestfallen.
“Now that we are here, do you mind if we go ahead with the lesson?” asked Elder Judd.
Surprised, I consented. As I listened, I realized I was somewhat intrigued by all they had to say. Yet nothing was further from my mind than receiving instruction in the Latter-day Saint—or any other—faith. I began giving offhand and occasionally hostile answers. The atmosphere was not cordial. Then I asked myself why I continued to fight the missionaries. Their message made sense; it had a ring of truth. And the bearers of the message were two young men of seemingly exceptional character. Their perseverance and patience amazed me. I was impressed in spite of myself.
As they left, I surprised myself by saying I would attend a meeting the next evening. At the meeting I came face to face with other members of the Church. They turned out to be the friendliest and happiest group I had ever encountered. Within minutes I had received an invitation to lunch the following Sunday. Then, as I watched a videocassette entitled The First Vision and participated in the discussion after, I found some matters clarified.
Later, the missionaries and I knelt in prayer and asked for guidance. When it was my turn to pray, I felt the power of the Holy Ghost fill me. My voice rose in excitement as I felt my whole being embraced in peace and happiness such as I had never before experienced. I knew my prayers had been answered. Overwhelmed, I turned to the missionaries and said, “I need time to think about this.”
The next day I felt as though I was becoming a different person. I was given strength to set aside my cigarettes, and I was baptized the following Sunday.
I am grateful for the changes that came into my life and the new opportunities that Church membership brought me. Because missionaries lived in my building only two months, I believe the Lord helped bring them to my door. I have often reflected on the love Father in Heaven has for His children that He would be mindful even of me—a person who had shut out the world—and guide me to the truth.