Vai's View: Airports, missionaries and chance encounters

Published: Thursday, March 31 2011 5:00 p.m. MDT

I learned her name was Allison; she graduated from Stanford in micro-biology and was in medical school at Penn State. She was headed home for a girlfriend's wedding, which was partly why she was reading the Bible. Though she grew up Catholic, a few of her girlfriends at Stanford were Baptist, including the one getting married, but also her boyfriend, who was studying for the ministry. As a medical student, she was also trying to reconcile her faith and science.

We talked about the trinity and original sin.

I explained our view of the Godhead, modern revelation, additional scripture and our understanding as Latter-day Saints of the Nicene Creed that produced the doctrine of the trinity and original sin.

At this point, Scott, sitting at the window seat, was completely engaged in our conversation.

Allison seemed especially fascinated with our view that Adam and Eve did mankind a favor by transgressing the law.

She said, "That is so foreign from anything I learned as a Catholic or in my Bible studies with my Baptist friends. I can't believe that this view is widely held, even in your Church."

I glanced at Scott, who was listening intently but had no idea he was about to be drawn in to this full-blown missionary effort.

"Allison," I began. "The principle I'm sharing with you is so fundamental to us as Latter-day Saints that 11-year-old Scott over there knows it."

Scott's eyes suddenly widened, as she drew her attention toward him.

I had already deduced he was a good Mormon boy and prayed silently that Scott would respond favorably as I coaxed him, "Scott, do you know an Article of Faith that talks about Adam's transgression?"

Scott squinted a bit and slowly replied, "Uhm... you mean, 'We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam's transgression?"

If Allison hadn't been sitting between us, I would've grabbed Scott, hugged him and kissed him!

Amazed, she looked at me, then Scott, then back to me and said, "You two don't know each other?"

Scott answered, "Nope." And before another word was said, Scott, clearly finding his groove said, "I also know number one, three, four, five, six, seven and eight."

I winked at Scott and said, "I'll let you know if I need another Article of Faith, buddy. You are awesome."

As our plane descended below the clouds into Salt Lake, I asked Allison if I could send missionaries to see her in Hershey, once she was back to school.

She pulled a business card from her purse embossed with the Penn State medical school logo that included her information and handed it to me.

Three weeks later, my wife and I met Allison and her boyfriend in Philly for dinner. Elders from the Harrisburg Mission had delivered a Book of Mormon the week before. We had a wonderful time but at the end of the meal, her boyfriend gently placed the book on the table and pushed it toward me. "Thank you for the gesture," he said, "but we're doing fine in our faith."

Perhaps in a more favorable setting, they'll reconsider. We did our duty.

What's more, I gained a lifetime friend in Scott McGrath, whom I proudly helped escort off the plane to his waiting mother, LeAnn.

For five hours, we were missionary companions in Row 12 A and C of a Delta flight.

She had no idea her 11-year-old son was a triumphant, returning missionary.

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