Dear Brother Albright,
Sometimes the missionaries knock on a door, and a miracle happens. And sometimes you have to go chasing after them yelling for a Book of Mormon. This is the story of my non-traditional Mormon life: my ongoing conversion and what drives my desire to serve a mission.
Most missionaries pray to be guided to houses where people are ready to receive their message of Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of the world. A traditional or typical conversion story often deals with fantastic missionaries following an intuitive prompting to go to a certain area, or knock on a certain door, only to discover that the person on the other side of the peephole was waiting for an answer to their prayers, just as the doorbell rang. Other times, the initial meeting between the missionaries and the investigator is a “being in the right place at the right time” kind of event. My family, however, tends to be anything but traditional.
We decided that the Christian church we’d attended for 5 years was “just missing something.” Don’t get me wrong, we loved this church. My parents had served in the children’s ministry for years, I attended the youth camps every summer, and we never missed a Sunday. This church left us feeling uplifted and inspired every week. We had family and friends surrounding us there. Yet, somehow, we still felt like this was not the church for us, that it was not fulfilling all of our spiritual needs. Something was missing.
We searched for answers to our questions, and after many weeks, we asked ourselves, “What about the Mormons?” My mom had several LDS (short for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) friends growing up, and she realized that they seemed to be the most certain of their faith, and generally the happiest people, despite the trials and hardships that life threw at them. They seemed grounded in their beliefs and hopeful in a world surrounded by ever increasing darkness. We desired this same faith and hope. We decided to learn more. We agreed to invite the missionaries inside the next time they knocked on our door, which they did every few weeks.
The day finally came. The LDS missionaries were making their rounds in our neighborhood. When they started on the opposite end of our cul-de-sac, our excitement escalated. We watched through the window as they knocked on each door in the 115 degree Las Vegas summer heat, and we watched every single door slam in their faces. The closer they came to our house, we could see they were growing more discouraged and frustrated.
Finally, they were in our front yard! We waited, spying on them through the peep hole, anticipating their invitation to learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their white shirts were soaked with sweat from the brutal heat, and the young men exchanged a look of defeat. They looked at our seemingly hopeless house, and then shook their heads and walked slowly away. Inside, my mom and I questioned, “What are they doing??” They were giving up on us before we even had a chance to slam our door closed! They didn’t even give us the chance to choose to accept their invitation or turn them away! So what did we do? What we typical assertive and strong willed Italian women do. We go after what we want ourselves!
As the young Elders (“elder” is the name used for male missionaries, despite the fact that they are relatively young in agetypically 18-26) headed to exit our neighborhood, our screen door crashed open, and my crazy Italian motherand I mean that in the most endearing and admirable way possiblechased after the missionaries running down the street shouting, “Hey, wait! Aren’t you going to give me a Book of Mormon?” Dumbfounded, the Elders stared back, speechless. This was a first for them. Finally, they realized the gravity of the situation and eagerly agreed to come in and talk with us. They gave us a Book of Mormon and discussed the concept of eternal families and a living prophet of God. The “Mormon” doctrine clicked instantly with our family.
Why wouldn’t God make the family a forever unit? Why would He send us down here to fall in love, to sacrifice our whole lives for our families, only to separate us after death? He wouldn’t! That’s absolutely contrary to the fundamental basis of love. So why are Mormons the only ones who believe in “forever families”? Why are we the only ones who believe these irreplaceable relationships are sealed into the next life? Why would God send his children down to this wonderful earth, without constant guidance of a living prophet through which he has a direct line of communication?
I am now serving a full-time mission in Chile. I want you to understand that I am NOT serving a mission to persuade people that their beliefs are wrong and that mine are right; I am NOT serving on a mission to prove a point, or to travel, or to look good to my church friends. I am serving a mission because I was fortunate enough to be taught by young, but amazing missionariesand it completely changed my life forever. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been the single greatest addition to my lifeit is my life. And if I can give someone the same opportunity to learn about this complete and incredible gospeleven just one person then an 18 month excursion would be worth my efforts ten times over. I am serving a mission because I know this Gospel transforms and gives purpose to one’s life. I am serving a mission because I know the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true.
Sister Taylor Stephensen