Although I have no intention of leaving my Pentecostal faith to become a Latter-day Saint, I treasure the positive influence that members of the Church have had on my life from a very young age.
My name is Jon Rines, and I’m a third-generation Pentecostal who has, by luck or happenstance, been involved with the Latter-day Saint community since I was a child. From my observation, it seems people either love members of your church or hate them. But my experiences with the Latter-day Saints have been so overwhelmingly positive, that I have often felt that Latter-day Saints are the best-kept secret—your community not only provides quality, faithful friendships but can be counted on to be there for people when times get tough. I recently attended a Latter-day Saint service for the first time near my home in San Diego, California, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. To help me explain why I need to take you back to my childhood.
I grew up in rural Maine where life is fairly simple. Our small town of Baileyville had one grocery store and a couple of gas stations. The largest churches were the Catholic and Baptist with our little independent assembly just down the road. My Pentecostal heritage goes back to the very beginning of the movement; my grandmother worked with some of the earliest converts to the faith to establish a church in our town around 1917.
As small as our Full Gospel Pentecostal Church was, there was a group in town who claimed even fewer members: Baileyville boasted just a single Latter-day Saint family, the Zedwicks.
Because I was a little boy when it happened, I don’t remember the details about how we got there, but our family had Book of Mormon lessons in the Zedwick’s living room. They had the poster boards set up with Sunday School–style pictures depicting the life of Jesus and the restored gospel brought by Joseph Smith. My mother wasn’t very receptive but politely listened, and I remember my father rather enjoyed Mrs. Zedwick’s lectures.
That was just the beginning of my interactions with members of the Church. Fast forward to college at the University of Maine at Machias, where I fell into the company of a couple of Latter-day Saint twin sisters named Latricia and Patricia. For years we were the best of friends. There’s not much to do in rural coastal Maine, but we’d go driving around, hang out at the student center, or go out to eat. Both sisters always had an easygoing spirit that always made you feel welcome. You could always see kindness when you looked deeply into their eyes. I’ve always found that to be true with Church members that I’ve come across.
After college, I joined the Navy and served as a nuclear reactor operator. Three years later, I moved to Massachusetts and met my wife, Angelika, at a small United Pentecostal Church. Angelika and I lived in Massachusetts for two years before deciding to move to Arizona.
I hadn’t exactly lined up employment in Arizona. We just got in the car and drove, hoping for the best. I was looking for work, but things got dicey after I hadn’t received a call back from any prospective employers for six weeks. We were nearly out of money. Then I got a call from a woman named Melanie who worked for the city of Mesa. She asked if I was still interested in a job I had applied for, and with my hands shaking, I calmly replied, “Yes, of course.” Melanie was present during my first interview for the job, and her kind, reassuring voice helped calm my anxious feelings. I later learned Melanie was a Latter-day Saint, and the calm feelings I’d had around her made sense.
Gratefully, I got the job, and I was soon introduced to one of my coworkers, Kirk. I learned that he was a devout Latter-day Saint, and although we come from very different backgrounds, both religiously and geographically, we wound up becoming best of friends. We got along very well, and our views on many issues were in literal lockstep. He was not only willing to help me learn how to be successful in my new job but was also willing to do things like help me change the brakes on my car when I didn’t have the money to take it into the shop.
We later moved to San Diego, California, as the pandemic was getting into its initial stage. I felt more comfortable with this move because I had employment lined up already, but the lifestyle and the area were all new to me, and I found myself isolated and uneasy with my surroundings. I craved conversation with just normal people.
Up until that point in my life, the people who I could always rely on were the Latter-day Saints, so I called the missionaries. I texted Kirk to tell him what I’d done, and he said, “Wait, you, dispatched the missionaries?” My reply? “Yes, of course.”
The missionaries soon invited me to a Latter-day Saint church service, and I agreed to attend. I was nervous at first walking into the building because I didn’t know what to expect. Much to my surprise, I found a typical assembly hall. Growing up in Oneness Pentecostalism, I was accustomed to not seeing icons or symbology in our places of worship, so I felt at ease.
That initial church service was about a year ago, and my life has since greatly improved. I have friends in the Church, and we regularly go out for dinner at restaurants or host at each other’s homes. My two kids finally have fellowship with good, clean, healthy, and smart kids we met at Church. My relationships with Church members also prompted me to visit Salt Lake City myself. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Temple Square. The highlight of the visit was when a sister missionary we ran into invited me to attend a sacrament service at which the prophet would be presiding. I’ll never forget how quiet it was during that meeting.
This past April, the missionaries were at our house to watch a session of Latter-day Saint general conference, and I told them that Latter-day Saints have been not only quality friends of faith for me over the years but also the ones who can really be counted on when times get rough. My friends in the Church have added a richness to my life here in southern California that would not otherwise have existed. Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints truly are a best-kept secret for strong friends of faith—and I am grateful for all of my associations with them and plan to keep them around for the rest of my life.