As I have previously mentioned, I served an LDS mission in Alabama, Florida and Georgia shortly after the flood.
As a result of the baseball baptisms era of the 1960’s which had been done by over zealous missionaries, we had a very strict rule that new converts could not be baptized until they had received all 7 of the official missionary discussions. Each discussion took about an hour and needed to be given separately. Discussions had to be at least one week apart.
As I recall, after the lessons, the convert had to have a final baptismal interview by the local district leader and also a member of the local church. It took the better part of two months before a person could be baptized after they started the missionary discussions.
This assured that the new converts were adequately taught and had plenty of time a assimilate the gospel principles being taught
One morning I got a brief call from my mission president that went something like this.
“Elder, I just had a remarkable telephone interview with a remarkable young man that lives in a very small town about four hours from you. We don’t have a branch in that town… in fact there are not any Mormons in that town. He is fourteen years old and comes from very humble circumstances. His parents are not Christians but have given their permission for him to be baptized if he wants to … he has requested to be baptized. I want you to travel to his home, teach him all of the discussions in one sitting and then baptize him”
After my mission president hung up I sat there dazed. I wondered why my mission president was breaking such an important missionary protocol. I wondered why this young boy who was still wet behind the ears got to have his final interview sight unseen, by the Mission President, BEFORE the discussions were given. I don’t remember boys name, we’ll just call him John.
I wondered why John was given the right of passage after one long discussion when everyone else had to invest 2 months pondering seven separate lessons.
When we walked into the room and met John I felt as if I was in the presence of a holy man. As I sat down I noticed that he was wearing a customized leather wrist band that he had made at school in his shop class. I complimented him on it and asked if he would roll up his sleeve so I could see it better. When he did so, I noticed the following inscription on it:
“As man is, God once was, as God is, Man may become”
My companion and I looked at each other and smiled in unbelief.
I asked John how he heard about the church but I don’t recall what his answer was… I do recall asking him if he had ever met any Mormons and he said no.
I asked John if he felt he understood very much about the teachings of the Mormon Church and he replied, well, I have read everything I can get my hands on at the library. I asked him what he had read and he said… well, some of my favorite books are Mormon Doctrine by McConkie, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder by Richards and Jesus the Christ by Talmage… again my companion looked at each other in amazement.
As my companion and I would take turns flipping the pages of the flip chart, this young man would teach us the gospel. To make a long story short, we proceeded to have a four hour discussion with John. It did not take very long to get through the seven discussion because my companion and I were to embarrassed to ask him very many questions that we had about the gospel.
This proved to be yet another humbling experience for me. It had a much more profound effect on me at the time than my encounter with U L Allen. During that session, and for weeks following it, I wondered why John was such a sober seeker of truth at such a young age. I wondered why he was so motivated to study and gain knowledge about God and his Kingdom. Most of all, I envied the light of the Gospel that radiated as he spoke and the spiritual rebirth that he had obviously experienced… and which I had not.
It caused me to reflect on my entertainment based youth of frivolity. I had been born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I spend my youth water skiing and going motorcycling up at the family cabin… the last thing on my mind was reading Jesus the Christ..
I had been raised by goodly parents in an upper class neighborhood on the east bench of Salt Lake City. My father was the Stake President and later became a Regional Representative and also a Mission President. He had seven brothers, most of them served as Stake Presidents, Regional Reps, Mission Presidents and Temple Presidents… One became a General Authority.
I was a direct descendant of Brigham Young…. and was related to about half of the current members of the First Presidency and the quorum of the twelve. I had come to believe that I was very special because I have been “born under the covenant” in the only true Church, blah blah blah.. but this experience with John became somewhat of a defining moment in my life. I experienced somewhat of a paradigm change… if in not an epiphany.
I had a bright recollection of my guilt and began to realize how little effort I had put into learning about eternal things.
I wanted what John had. I wanted to become more sober minded… I wanted a greater knowledge of the gospel, not so I could successfully debate ministers but so that I could someday have a personal knowledge of God… I wanted to experience a spiritual rebirth like John had experienced.
I have often thought of Paul's words below in relation to my experience with John:
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” (1 Cor 15:3-8)
While Peter James, John and many other disciples of Christ were waiting for the return of the Messiah… greeted him with open arms when he came on the seen and then became witnesses of his resurrection, Paul was going around persecuting the Christians… he was to wise to be taught and pretty confident in his status in the Church… but through the grace of God, he came into the fold in a later shift… ( see the parable of the workers) he was one of the ones that was born “in due time”.
Have you been spiritually reborn? It is not too late.
Do you know people who have not been spiritually reborn? Don’t count them out. There will be many who are born of God in the due time of the Lord.
When the light of the Marvelous Work shines forth, may people who appear to be born again will fight against the Kingdom of God when it begins to roll forth while others that may not appear to be very religious right now, will yet become born in the due time of the Lord.