Our conversion process began many years ago when two young men with strange names knocked on my mother's door.
“Hi, I’m Elder Jolly.”
“And I’m Elder Smiley!”
“And we have a message about the Savior for you!”
My mom, caught off guard by what she believed had to be made-up names, simply replied, “I don’t have time for this,” and sent them away, shutting the door.
But let me rewind a bit. As a single parent, my mom had been trying to find a good church for us to join for quite some time. We’d been attending the local Mountain View Baptist Church, but she felt like there was something ‘more’ for us somewhere else. In her quest, she would park in front of a random church and try to feel if it would be a good one to attend. After parking in front of and not feeling right about the local Presbyterian church or the Methodist church or the Church of Christ over the several weeks, she became frustrated, knowing there certainly must be a better church for her and for me.
The night after the missionaries came to her door, however, she was working with a Latter-day Saint sister named Delaine St. John. “These two missionaries from your church . . . Jolly, Happy, Friendly, Smiley, something . . . came—” Before she could finish the sentence, Delaine said, “Did you have time to talk with them?” My mom replied that she didn’t invite them in because she was getting ready for work. Delaine asked, “If I have them come back, would you please listen to them? I think it would be so good for you and your son.”
My mom, not having a good reason not to accept this invitation, replied that she would listen to their message. About a week later, the missionaries returned. Mom asked me to go outside, as she was worried about what their message entailed; each day they came, I would go play basketball while she received the missionary lessons. She loved the missionaries and the lessons they presented.
The one hang-up she had was the idea of modern-day prophets—latter-day Moseses, Abrahams, and Isaiahs. The thought of having a living oracle on the earth didn’t make sense to her. The missionaries explained that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are blessed to be led by living prophets—inspired men called to speak for the Lord—and that they sustained the President of the Church as prophet, seer, and revelator and the only person on the earth who receives revelation to guide the entire Church. They further shared that, like the prophets of old, prophets today testify of Jesus Christ and teach His gospel, just as the Lord declared: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). The Lord promises great blessings to those who follow Apostles and Prophets: “Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith. For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name's glory” (D&C 21:4-6).
While wrestling with these ideas, one day my mother went to work early to study her scriptures (she had heard that if you read the book of Isaiah out loud God will speak to you, so she would read from Isaiah or other books of scripture each day before work for about an hour). Her quest was to get an answer to her prayers regarding this idea of modern-day prophets. She read Amos 3:7: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” All of a sudden the thought came to her, just as the missionaries had explained, If God chose prophets anciently, maybe there could be prophets today.
As she thought about this idea, over the intercom came a Code Blue. In her words, a Code Blue is “a patient who is dying rapidly.” She had a feeling this patient would be assigned to her, so she collected her belongings and reported to the trauma center. In came the gurney. Doctors and nurses were doing chest compressions and breathing treatments and running the IVs, and everyone was scrambling as they tried to save this very young patient, who was in cardiac arrest. As everyone did everything in their power to save this patient, my mom recalled, “I was trained for that moment. This was a Level 1 trauma, and there I was, trained for moments like this, and nothing seemed to be working—none of the drugs and treatments we were administering were helping the patient.”
The clipboard for this young man, containing vital information about him and his medical condition, was on the side of the gurney. She picked it up and started looking at it and saw that the situation was more dire than she first realized. This individual had drugs and alcohol in his system that were well above the legal limits, leading my mom to think it may have been a case of attempted suicide. On the top right-hand corner of the data sheet, she looked and saw this patient’s date of birth; she quickly did the math and discovered that this was a 12-year-old boy. She was shocked; she knew he was young, but she had no idea he was only 12. At this moment, the Spirit whispered to her, Linda, this will be the case with your son if you do not join the Church.
She came home that night and said, “Eric, we need to talk. You’re going to get baptized!” I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but after hearing her relate the experience she had had at work the night before, and having the Holy Ghost testify to my heart that indeed I wasn’t on the best path for me, I quickly agreed to take the missionary lessons. She had the missionaries come back and teach me the gospel. She got baptized first and, a few months later, I was baptized as well.
Elder Jolly was the missionary who baptized me. For some reason (and maybe it was just his accent) I’d always felt a connection with him. He was 26 years old when he was sent from Perth, Australia to San Diego. His companion after Elder Smiley, Elder Hodson, confirmed me a member of the Church. Unfortunately, I’ve lost contact with Elder Jolly over the years (if you happen to know a William Jolly from Perth, Australia, who served a mission in San Diego from 1981-1983, I would love to connect with him!), but there isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think about him and the blessing he brought to my life through the gospel. I am eternally grateful for the seeds of testimony planted by these great men. Those seeds, planted years ago, have grown and produced a harvest of testimony in my life. I know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the gospel has been restored to the earth.
There probably isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank other young men for serving missions. Because of missionaries, through my career as a Seminary and Institute instructor, and through my CDs, book, and ‘brotherichards’ social media accounts, I've been able to share, teach, and testify of the gospel to tens of thousands of people over the last 20 years. And all because a few young men chose to be obedient to the Holy Ghost’s prompting to serve a mission, one woman invited her co-worker to listen to those young men, and my mother chose to open her heart (and her scriptures) to those righteous people. Our Heavenly Father truly is at the helm of our lives and knows us individually.
Lead image from Shutterstock
The book of Revelation, brimming with seemingly impenetrable imagery and symbolism, can feel daunting in its account of the climactic conclusion of the world. Eric D. Richards, popular institute instructor and EFY director, seeks to demystify John's prophetic visions in Preparing for the Second Coming. From the historical background of the verses to their modern applications and ability to prepare readers for the Second Coming, this unique exploration of Revelation centers on the words of modern-day prophets to illuminate the timely teachings found in this book of scripture. Look to the future with patience, hope, and courage as you come to more fully understand the transformative power of the book of Revelation.