Last October we had the wonderful opportunity to visit Italy. The Rome temple is magnificent, the scenery is stunning, and the food is swoon-worthy. The art, history, and architecture are astonishing. But, like all vacations, it eventually ended.
We began our trip home by flying from Milan to New York to Los Angeles, and finally to Sacramento. There were delays due to absent crew members as we traveled through several time zones, and we realized we had gone 24 hours without sleep, just trying to get home. We were also exhausted from trying to see the whole of Italy in one trip.
In Florence, I’d had the chance to chat with some shopkeepers about the restoration and enjoyed seeing some “Aha” moments in their eyes as they realized how the Council of Nicaea had changed Christ’s original church, but it still didn’t make me feel my prayers to do missionary work had been answered.
Finally, we got into our Uber car to go home, our eyes like tiny x’s, our muscles aching. All I really wanted was to slump over and sleep.
But I felt nudged to ask the driver where he was from. Morocco! He is here studying IT. Yes, he was Muslim. And then I felt it. Tell him about the gospel, Joni. I cannot describe how quickly my energy returned. Just that week the Church had announced a forthcoming new booklet, “Muslims and Latter-day Saints: Beliefs, Values, and Lifestyles” showing our many similarities.
For years I’ve known of similarities between Islam and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and my Interfaith calling had added to that. I enthusiastically shared them and the driver seemed happily surprised. I felt as if we had an immediate connection. His interest and positive responses were amazing, and his questions kept coming.
Soon I was leaning up between the seats, telling him about the restoration and the entire Plan of Salvation. As we arrived home, he asked to see a picture of the Sacramento Temple and was planning to visit the grounds.
“You might be here to study IT,” I said, “but I think it’s so you can make an even greater discovery.”
It was now 3:30 a.m. and we bid our driver goodbye. But I was still so wound up I couldn’t sleep! What a joy it had been to share the gospel with someone whose heart was ready. What an honor to get a prompting! What an absolute blessing this was. And then I realized: This. This was the highlight of the entire trip.
As incredible as a trip to Italy is, there is something greater and more thrilling. It’s the gathering of Israel. And when we can play even a tiny part in that process, our entire soul fills with joy. We sense approval from the Lord, we feel we’re on His team, and we rejoice in that opportunity. It’s about connecting, feeling genuine love, and sharing what excites us.
Connections with others are key. As we travel, as we work, as we go about our day, we encounter others who may be searching for truth, wishing they could make sense of life and know their purpose. Sometimes you even have to stay up for 24 hours to find them, but it’s worth every second.
Hilton is an award-winning playwright and the author of many best-selling Latter-day Saint books. Those, her humor blog, and YouTube Mom videos can be found on her website.
Robert StarlingFebruary 7, 2022
Beautiful Joni, just beautiful! I love your enthusiasm about sharing the gospel. Indeed, there is nothing more exciting or satisfying that we can do than participate in the glorious gathering of israel.