Today, my second baptising missionary, Sister Kimmy Haskins, leaves for home in California. I feel as though I am losing a long-lost sister and I pray with all my heart that we will keep in touch! It felt like my heart was breaking when my first baptising missionary, Sister Nemec left for home a few weeks ago! These girls are awesome!
|Sister Kimmy Haskins & Sister Clara Nemec at Preston Temple, England, 6th August 2014|
Let's start at the beginning, shall we?
I have been learning about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for about 10 years. The first time I met the missionaries was back in 2004, when I was on my way home from University in Liverpool. At the time, I lived in Widnes and I commuted each day between Widnes and Liverpool on the train. So did the two elders that lived around the corner from me. One day on my way home, they stopped me and opened the conversation with:
“Would you like to spend eternity with your family?”
I don’t think they were expecting my reaction.
Laughing, I replied “Are you kidding me?! If you had met my family, you would know why the idea of spending eternity with them is not a great selling point.”
Cue awkward silence.
Just to be clear – I love my family, greatly, I do, but we are potentially a little more dysfunctional than most families and back in 2004, we were all in the situation where 30 minutes in each others’ company was probably a bit too much.
I chatted with the missionaries for a little while. I was really too proud to listen to the missionaries' message of the gospel. I thought I knew it all, so my ears were tuned out, but there was one thing that really struck me:
These two young men were so convinced that had found the truth, they had both uprooted their lives to travel halfway across the world, to walk around in the rain in Widnes so that they could share the gospel of Jesus Christ with me. I thought they were crazy and yet I was also struck by the strength of their belief and their desire to help others. The elders had put their own lives on hold for two years so that they could save others'. There was a glint in their eyes that showed how happy they were. True happiness. It was these two elders that piqued my interest in the Church; it was these two elders who opened that door for me, just a little bit, so that I could examine my thoughts and beliefs more deeply. I wanted something in my life that I was so sure of. I just didn’t believe that it was God I was missing.
Over the intervening decade, I was taught by several companions. I went to Church, too.
I refused to get baptised though. I was very clear on something: there was no way I was getting baptised. I didn’t believe that the Church was true, so I didn't see why I needed to be baptised again, when I had been christened as a baby, yet I was completely and utterly taken with the story of Joseph Smith.
Joseph was a seeker. I was seeking something. I felt a strong affinity with his story. He had a deep connection with Heavenly Father and I should have been more aware that it didn't matter what I did, or how much I resisted baptism into the Church. I played Devil’s Advocate with each of the missionaries who visited me over the years, but no matter how much I pushed back, I could not deny that I was utterly fascinated with the story of Joseph Smith and I just kept coming back for more.
I was like the Mormon Sympathiser Boomerang. I just kept coming back, no matter what!
Looking back now, I can see that I wanted to feel the blessed and happy state of the first elders I met and every other LDS member I’d been subsequently blessed to meet.
Let's fast forward to June 2014...
There were no missionaries. I was no longer reading the Book of Mormon, nor was I praying to Father in Heaven for confirmation of the book’s validity.
I was just washing up. (This in itself is quite the miracle, but I digress).
I found myself, yet again, pondering Joseph Smith’s life.
There was something bugging me – lurking in the recesses of my mind… what was it?
Suddenly, everything was clear:
Joseph Smith prayed to know if the Church was true. He saw a pillar of light and had a quick chat with God and His Son, Jesus. I could accept that, no problem.
Later, in Missouri, the man is pulled out of bed by a band of non-believers who want the Mormons out of their state.
His wife and his children are dragged outside, muskets rammed into their faces.
Can you imagine how utterly terrifying that would be?
What would you do in that situation?
Would your first thought not be to protect your family?
Joseph was trussed up and hot tar was poured over him by these men.
If you were a liar, do you not think that this would be the moment that you said: "Hey there boys, maybe we can talk about this…perhaps there's been a mistake..."
Joseph Smith did not.
Joseph Smith was clear.
He could not deny the truth. Even if it meant that his life, the life of his family, the lives of each of the early Church members were put in mortal danger.
Joseph Smith was telling the truth.
It hit me like a tonne of bricks.
If the First Vision was true, and Joseph Smith was telling the truth then it followed that the rest of the story was true. The Book of Mormon must be true. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
It was a bit of a face-palm moment for me, really.
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know I felt - I think I felt somewhat defeated, to be honest. I’d invested so much energy into trying to deny the validity of Jesus’ Atonement and of Joseph Smith’s story, I was somewhat disappointed when I realised the truth of the matter; so I did the only thing that I could do:
I went to Church
and that is where I met the lovely Sister Kimmy Haskins.
I asked her and her companion (originally Sister Fitia, then Sister Hesketh, then Sister Clara Nemec, followed by Sister Pongi) to come and teach me so that I could be baptised. I could no longer deny the truth;
The gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. Joseph Smith restored the Priesthood Authority.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the one true Church.
So, to all the missionaries across the world, I'd like you to know that what you are doing is amazing. You are doing such a wonderful and divine service. Please know that even when it seems you’re getting nowhere, know that you are making a difference for the better in every person’s life. Have patience. That person might not be able to accept the truth when you speak to them that first time, but keep spreading the truth; keep planting those mustard seeds and know that they will grow.
To any non-members reading this – think about it – ponder on what you have been taught. Remember Joseph Smith and honestly ask yourself, what would you have done in that situation? Follow Moroni’s advice and “ask God the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true: and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”
|Baptism Day! From L to R: Sis. Kimmy Haskins, Me, Sis. Clara Nemec, Caroline Hepburn 29th August 2014|