Fifty-seven years ago, in a small town outside of Brisbane, Australia, my missionary companion and I knocked on yet another door one hot summer day. The door opened, and we were greeted by a man in his 30’s. He had more than his share of tribulations and problems judging from the deeply etched lines on his somber face. I don’t think we even introduced ourselves. He simply said, “Come in. I’ve been expecting you.”
That was very different than how we were normally greeted!
He led us through several rooms to his own small bedroom. It was dimly lit with literally hundreds of books lining the walls. He brought in two chairs from the kitchen and invited us to sit down as he sat on a small bed shoved up against the wall. “You have a message for me,” he said. It was a statement, not a question.
We introduced ourselves and proceeded to give him what we termed the First Discussion, which covered an introduction to the apostasy and the restoration of the gospel. His responses indicated he recognized the truth of what we were saying. As we concluded, we handed him a copy of the Book of Mormon, with a brief explanation of its origin, and bore our testimonies to the truth of what we had taught him,
He held the book in his hands. His eyes closed, and there was silence. Some seconds later, he opened his eyes and said, “Whenever I pick up a holy book, I say a prayer that I will turn to a passage which will be a message from the Lord to me.” Then he randomly selected a page and without looking, placed his finger on it. Here is what he read:
“And now my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good. And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye, for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.” (2Ne 33:10‐11)
He finished and looked up. “When can you come back and tell me more,” he asked with a smile. We could hardly contain ourselves as we set up an appointment, shared our testimonies again, and left. We just had the kind of experience that all missionaries dream of having. We floated back to our flat!
Over the next few weeks we had several meetings with him, and each meeting was a spiritual experience. The concluding discussion was the Plan of Salvation lesson discussing our pre‐mortal life, our purpose for coming to earth, and explaining the three degrees of glory. He didn’t say a word throughout the entire presentation. When it was concluded, tears welled up in his eyes, and he whispered, “Oh, to God that all mankind could hear this.” We set his baptismal date and bore fervent testimony to the truthfulness of the message we had given; that the Church of Jesus Christ was once again upon the earth.
We never met with him again. He sent a letter just a few days before he was to be baptized, which I still have. It read in part: “Dear Elders, I cannot go through with the baptism. …Please don’t call as I desire more than anything else to withdraw into the silence, avoiding any controversy or talking.”
As a young missionary, I had not realized, until this moment, that a testimony of the gospel was more than recognizing rationally and spiritually that it was true. The desire to live it and endure to the end was what comprised a testimony.
Perhaps to find out what we desire, is the fundamental purpose for our agreeing to come to a telestial world in the first place. It is the proving us herewith (See Abraham 3:25). It is our determining just what manner of man or woman we want to be (See 3 Nephi 27:27).
The most important question then, has never been: Is the gospel true? It is true! The real question, the one that each of us must answer for ourselves, has always been: Do I want to live it?