Feature Stories

How strenuous clinicals in a psychiatric facility led to a nursing student’s baptism

Jonathan Monteon (left) and Adrian Strecker (right) on Jonathan’s baptism day. Strecker was baptized two months earlier.
Jonathan Monteon

Change was in the air for Jonathan Monteon. He’d been serving as a hospital corpsman for the Navy in Texas for the past three years and now was leaving for a 10-month deployment out of the country. Certainly, his daily life was about to look different. But something more was changing—Monteon felt something spiritual beginning to stir within him. As he prepared to deploy, he found himself missing the God and Jesus his grandparents had taught him to love. They’d faithfully taken him to nondenominational Christian churches when he was a kid, and Monteon had always felt a natural pull to God. His response to that pull had waned a bit over recent years, but now something inside was tugging him back.

In the midst of these feelings, Monteon was scrolling on YouTube one day when a suggested video came up of a man named Thomas S. Monson. The name was unfamiliar to him, yet he felt compelled to watch the video. As the man in the suit began to speak, he quickly captured Monteon’s full attention as he spoke of a restoration of Jesus Christ’s gospel and church.

“The way he was holding himself and the way he talked … I didn’t know exactly what he meant by coming back to the ‘fulness’ of the message, but it felt like he was speaking directly to me,” Monteon says.

After the man’s message concluded, a little more research told Monteon that Monson was the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he had been speaking at a general conference. Monteon kept on researching and found a place online where he could request two missionaries to come and tell him more about this ‘fulness’ of the gospel President Monson had referred to.

The missionaries were able to visit Monteon before his deployment started, and they left him with a Book of Mormon. During the next 10 months overseas, Monteon read the entire book. He pondered and prayed about Moroni’s promise, seeking to know the truth for himself. But the busy, tough environment he was in made it difficult for him to come to any conclusions.

Jonathan Monteon in the Navy
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Jonathan Monteon in the Navy
Monteon (middle left) and three others pause for a photo.
Jonathan Monteon
Jonathan Monteon in the Navy
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Jonathan Monteon in the Navy
Monteon poses for a portrait.
Jonathan Monteon
1  of  2
Jonathan Monteon in the Navy
Monteon (middle left) and three others pause for a photo.
Jonathan Monteon
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After his deployment finished, Monteon returned to the Bay Area of California where he’d grown up and secured a position as an emergency room technician. He enjoyed the work for a few years, but the pandemic brought heightened stress to the hospital, and by the end of 2020 Monteon was both exhausted and able to see life with new eyes after witnessing frequent deaths in the hospital.

In this state of exhaustion, he tried without success to get into a nursing program in California. His thirtieth birthday was coming up, and he was anxious to take the next step in his career. His younger sister, who was also interested in nursing, told him about a program she heard about in Utah and encouraged her brother to apply. Both siblings were accepted, and they prepared to move to Utah. When Monteon realized the connection between Utah and the religion he’d begun to learn about back in Texas, his research began again.

“I came to find out that there was a new president now, President Nelson. As I read up about this amazing man, a doctor, I immediately got goosebumps,” he says. “I’m looking at the time that we’re in, and how he’s using the safety protocols and closing the temples for safety measures, and I’m like, ‘Man, this guy gets it.’ I started reading the Book of Mormon again and kept following that path.”

Little did Monteon know that that path would soon lead him to a challenging position in a psychiatric facility for adolescent boys. Or that there he would meet a nurse who Monteon could immediately tell had something different about him. Someone who could answer his questions about how they could possibly feel hopeful after seeing how unfair and traumatic life was for their young patients. Someone who seemed to have an inner strength and sense of direction Monteon yearned for. Someone who would help him finally understand what President Monson and the missionaries had meant by the fulness of the gospel. A nurse-turned-friend who would eventually lay his hands on Monteon’s head and give him the key to his own success—the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Yes, change was in the air. Not a dramatic, lightning strike, but a gradual, beautiful change like that of the rising sun.

Conversations in the Medicine Room

In order to graduate from his nursing program, Monteon was required to spend 100 clinical hours working alongside a qualified preceptor. He was paired with a nurse named Richard Martin in a lockdown psychiatric facility for adolescent boys. The 80 or so patients in the Utah facility came from all over the US, struggling with a wide variety of mental afflictions: oppositional defiance disorder, suicidal ideation, self-harm issues, autism, and ADHD, to name a few. Many of them were previously emotionally, physically, or sexually abused. A draining work environment for anyone, yet Monteon’s new mentor Martin is one who feels called to the profession.

“I went into nursing because it gave me an opportunity to love and help those people who are distraught about life and have no hope anymore [because] of all the many psychiatric troubles that are out there,” Martin says.

In addition to nursing school, Martin has a master’s degree in hospital and nursing administration. He’s worked in nearly all areas of psychiatrics: geriatric patients, acute psych patients with serious schizophrenia, patients detoxing from drug and alcohol addictions, and patients returning from the military with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Everywhere he’s worked, Martin has relied on his faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ as a source of hope, often hanging depictions of the Savior on the wall in his office. And while he cannot speak to his patients directly about his faith, he relies on the Holy Ghost for guidance in how to help them.

“I have to prepare myself before I come to work because I’m in a very toxic environment with the boys,” he says. “So before I get there, I like to listen to scriptures and general conference talks. Or I listen to wonderful hymns, and by the time I get to work, I’m fortified. I’m feeling the Spirit.”

Martin can then rely on that spirit when tense situations arise. He says that many times he’s felt inspired to go into a patient’s room and say something that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to him, but that ended up being exactly what they needed to hear.

“I’d remember an intervention from my nursing-school experience or other experiences that helped that person heal,” Martin says. “I’ve even had experiences where the whole unit was in disarray; the kids were yelling at each other, super upset. And I had to go into my med room and sit down and pray and said, ‘Hey, Heavenly Father, could you please send me the psychiatric angels to help me out?’ Within five or ten minutes I’d walk out and the unit is calm and peaceful. That’s happened many times.”

Monteon watched in awe at Martin’s ability to diffuse tension and know how to help people, and he says he could tell “right off the bat” that his mentor was a Christian.

“My shifts with Rich were just amazing. I would see how he felt pushed against a wall in certain situations we were in, and he would immediately come to a solace and a quick prayer, and then we would come to a solution, and the environment would just be chill,” he says. “I yearned to be able to do that too.”

At home, Monteon was still reading the Book of Mormon but hadn’t reached out to missionaries again. After a week of watching how Martin relied on his spirituality at work, Monteon wondered if he possibly knew anything about the Church and decided to ask him.

Luckily, Martin did know about the Church. As a lifelong member, he knew quite a lot, in fact, and was more than happy to talk about it with Monteon. Thus began a series of conversations about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, generally held during quiet breaks in the medicine room at work. Martin shared how he prepared himself to come to work each day and explained the role of modern-day prophets and apostles. Having read the Book of Mormon twice at this point, Monteon asked his mentor if he could read the Doctrine and Covenants, and Martin eagerly encouraged him. Martin watched the young student light up as they talked about temples and sealing families for all eternity.

“The Spirit as we talked about these things, these sacred things, was so strong, palpable even. I mean, my heart felt so warm and wonderful as we talked,” Martin said.

Monteon could feel the palpable Spirit too.

“Rich would bring up discussion topics that I didn’t even mention to him I had prayed about the night before. So as these shifts were going, I am just feeling more and more that this is truly the Church. I was feeling like this was truly the full message of the Restoration that was needed for this time. I was ready now,” Monteon said.

With Martin’s help, Monteon found the Liberty Park Young Single Adult Ward in Salt Lake City and began attending. He also connected with the local missionaries and told them he was ready to be baptized as soon as possible. The missionaries were surprised and a little hesitant at first, but Monteon assured them he had been pondering this decision for years and knew it was what God wanted him to do. Even making necessary lifestyle changes like following the Word of Wisdom didn’t hold him back.

“As a Hispanic, I’m used to having coffee every day. But I viewed it as if that’s all that our Heavenly Father is asking, and He does so much for us every day, that’s the least sacrifice I can make. I’ll do anything,” Monteon says.

He was baptized at the new Social Hall Avenue chapel in downtown Salt Lake City on July 3, 2022, shortly after finishing his nursing program. Martin attended the baptism, and after a spur-of-the-moment invitation from the bishop, he was the voice for Monteon’s confirmation. For both of them, the baptism day was one of rejoicing.

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Jonathan Monteon and Richard Martin smile for a photo on Monteon's baptism day.
Richard Martin

“I felt a sense of coming home. I felt as if our Heavenly Father was saying, ‘I’m giving you this invitation, take it now,’” Monteon said of his baptism. “I’ve felt a sense of renewal. A sense that past things that I used to view as troubling or felt like I could never get over [are redeemed] by the holy Atonement given to us by our Redeemer. It is such a blessing to know that we can be renewed every day and come closer to our Heavenly Father so we can be clean in front of Him—white as snow.”

Out to the Field

Monteon will move back to the Bay Area at the end of August, where he plans to seek out employment in an emergency room or intensive care unit. He is grateful to be taking with him the gift of the Holy Ghost that he watched helped Martin in his career.

“I’m getting ready to enter a field that will be emotionally challenging, some days even physically, spiritually, and ethically challenging. I felt like I need this strong foundation on what is true,” he says. “I’m going to need help through the Holy Ghost, so I can be faced with those challenges and know that I’m going to stand strong and still be committed to giving that great care that they need.”

While Martin is sad to see his new friend move away, he will never forget their long talks in the medicine room and the joy of sharing the gospel with someone.

“I’ve learned that you have to ask to be able to do missionary work. I was asking for a way that I could share the gospel,” he says. “On top of that, Heavenly Father treats each spirit with such love and kindness. I’m not trying to toot my horn, … but for me, it felt like Heavenly Father had confidence in me that I could do this and not lose our boy Jonathan here.”

And now, Monteon feels quite the opposite of lost.

“Growing up nondenominational, I didn’t have a steady way of knowing if the church we went to was teaching the right way. Then we would go to another church and they’re teaching something else. … As a military individual, I love order. And as I attended our [Latter-day Saint] ward meetings on Sundays, I could see how everything’s orderly, and I’m like, ‘This comes from a pretty orderly individual, and that’s no one else than our Heavenly Father,’” he says. “Ever since I’ve been baptized into this church, into the Church, I’ve had a sense of clarity in my life and a sense of wanting to follow this covenant path and be a tool for Him and be there for individuals when they’re in their most gripping times of their life.”

▶ You may also like: After 29 years, one man sent a Facebook message to a high school friend. Here’s how it led to his baptism

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