In a new convert meeting, I noticed an older man who came into the room accompanied by two missionaries. He caught my attention because he didn’t look like someone you would normally expect to see in a Church meeting. He was a short man in his mid-60s with a leathery face and tattoos up and down both arms. He wore casual clothes, gym shoes without stockings, and his hair was tied in a long ponytail that reached halfway down his back.
When I extended the invitation to share their own personal turning points with the group, I noticed a look of momentary alarm cross his face. As others stood and talked, he watched and listened closely. Each time there was a pause, I noticed him start to fidget. I guessed that he wanted to speak but was too nervous to do so. To my surprise, he finally stood up about halfway through the meeting and began speaking in a quiet voice.
Here, as best I can remember it, is his story.
He apologized in advance for not being good with words. He explained that he had been baptized just a couple of weeks before. He told us that he had been a sailor in the merchant marines for his country for his entire working life. He said that he had been in most of the world’s great ports and had partaken of most of the temptations those ports had to offer. As he approached retirement age, however, he began to feel that his life had been a wasteland. He began to hunger for something more satisfying, something of worth. However, he wasn’t sure what he was even looking for or where to turn to find it. But the yearning to find something of lasting value grew deeper and stronger, and he began to read and study. Occasionally he visited different churches. But he found nothing to satisfy the hunger he was feeling.
One day he was out in his yard, pruning back the dead leaves on a large palm tree. This particular palm tree had long, swordlike leaves with a needle point on the end. He had neglected the tree for a long time, and there was a lot of dead foliage that needed to be trimmed, especially around the base of the tree. This required him to crawl in among the dead leaves beneath the tree to clear them out.
As he worked in that tangle, the needle points of the leaves kept scratching his bare arms, face, and head. After several minutes, he realized that he was bleeding slightly from numerous places. He especially noticed a light trickle of blood coming down his forehead from the scratches on his head. As he went to wipe it off, suddenly a thought came into his mind with great power: “So this is what it was like for Jesus when they put the crown of thorns on his head?” In that moment, he knew with absolute clarity that Jesus Christ was the answer to his quest, that in the Savior, he would find that for which he was seeking.
Excited with this discovery, he crawled out from beneath the tree and stood up, wondering what to do next. And who should come riding by on their bicycles at that very moment? That’s right. Two young men wearing white shirts and black name tags.
Doing what missionaries are supposed to do, they stopped and introduced themselves, then said, “We are out here on a mission because we have a message about Jesus Christ that we would like to share with you. Would that be all right with you?”
Then, with his eyes shining brightly, and in a choked voice, this man looked directly at me and said, “And you wonder why I decided to listen to the missionaries?” And he sat down.
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For more faith-affirming stories about how God works in our lives, check out Divine Signatures.
As Latter-day Saints, we know God exists, but sometimes we may wonder, “Heavenly Father, are you really there for me?”
When trials seem beyond our ability to bear, some people lose their spiritual bearings, while others are made even stronger. How can we strengthen our faith and deepen our testimony to the point that we can endure whatever life holds in store for us and emerge stronger than before?
In this unique book, Gerald N. Lund shows how having a correct idea of God's character, perfections, and attributes is essential to our ability to strengthen our faith and develop our testimony.
He also reminds us of how much God loves His children and that He “delights” to bless us, especially when we are striving to do His will. As and example, Elder Lund introduces the idea of a divine signature: “Sometimes blessings come in such an unusual manner and with such precise timing that they accomplish something in addition to blessing us. They so clearly confirm the reality of God's existence that they buoy us up in times of trials.”