The photo never made SI's story the following fall but that simple exchange in Du-ell Sporting Goods store turned out to be THE reason, I believe, I was sent to South Dakota.
We taught Bob two lessons in his home before it became clear that his wife, Jackie, wasn't on board. We worried that without Jackie's support that Bob would eventually drop us, but he didn't. He explained that his wife didn't understand nor did she share his insatiable thirst for spiritual knowledge so he asked us to teach him at the store. As 6:30 a.m. was the only quiet time he had all day before he opened for business, he asked us to teach him then. I swallowed hard because I have never been a morning person and we weren't supposed to leave our apartment until 9:30. But President Greenwood instructed us that if that was the only time he could meet us, then that's when we should teach him.
Because of our early morning teaching appointment, we could never take a member with us, but by now, I had enough experience to incorporate our best members into the process knowing Bob's best chance was to have friends in the Church. Our ward mission leader was a salesman named Rick Gough and we had terrific member missionaries like popular LDS author Jack Weyland, who was teaching at a local college. They and others had Bob and Jackie to dinners in their homes and though their overtures were seemingly unsuccessful with Jackie, they did succeed in helping Bob assimilate into LDS culture.
We taught Bob for three months, twice a week before he was baptized.
As his baptism date drew closer, the pressure on Bob from his family pastor and his wife increased dramatically. But Bob also had support from an unlikely source. We learned early in the teaching process that Bob's older brother, Jim, was a convert and an active member who lived in nearby Gillette, Wyo., although they had never really discussed the Church in any detail.
Bob's interest in Mormonism and the two young missionaries with whom he met in the morning in his office created friction in his home life and marriage. Bob often shared with us how much he loved his family, his wife Jackie and how he adored his two little girls, Rachel and Erin, who were about three and a year-and-a-half, respectively. In one of our final visits before his baptism, Bob broke down and just wept. He told us that Jackie had given him the ultimatum that if he went through with the baptism, she would leave with the kids and they would be gone by the time he returned home.
My companion, Elder Daniel Pray and I cried with him. We fully expected Bob to call off the baptism. After all, who wouldn't understand his circumstances? But Bob comforted us by reading these verses from Matthew 10:
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
38 And he that taketh not his cross , and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
Bob said to us, "Elders, I know what you've taught and bore witness to me is the truth. I cannot deny it. Jackie just doesn't understand right now but I pray that someday she will. But I know God will hold me accountable if I don't act on the truths you've taught me. I love my family as much as any man could, but the Book of Mormon teaches God will not abandon me but will provide a way for me to keep His commandments. Who would want to be in my position? But if that's my lot, then I am duty-bound to choose God and exercise faith that He'll keep His promises. Why don't we fast and pray together for the strength to do God's will and let the chips fall where they may?"
Elder Pray and I couldn't believe our ears. We had only heard of stories about people choosing God over family and we spoke of it in Sunday school lessons conceptually, but never about anyone that we actually knew. We were two young missionaries without enough life experience to know anybody who would risk losing his wife and two beautiful little girls for the Gospel. The experience would have a deep and profound effect on our young lives and certainly Bob's.
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