Provided by Keith Hamilton
I joined the LDS Church less than three weeks after my first encounter with two Mormon missionaries, who I initially suspected were regular salesmen. It's a story I shared in my previous column.
And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, here is “the rest of the story.”
My quick and seemingly miraculous conversion from cynical, narcissistic, partying frat guy and DJ to faithful Mormon has roots in something my maternal grandmother taught me when I was a young boy.
On one occasion, I witnessed her invite representatives of the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith into her home and then buy a "Watchtower" magazine from them. When I asked her why she had done so (we were Southern Baptists), she told me, as only “Nana” could say, “Boy, don’t you ever go refusing anybody preaching Christ!”
Although I didn’t believe anything the missionaries presented to me during our initial meeting, Nana’s words came to mind when one of them asked if they could return for another teaching session. Rather than truthfully tell them I wasn’t interested, and assuming they did not live in the area, I told them to “stop by whenever they were in the neighborhood.”
After that, they were always around. I’d return to my apartment and they would be on my doorstep with “hands-caught-in-the-cookie-jar” smiles, claiming they “just happened to be in the neighborhood.” Even though at first I didn’t feel any affinity for their message, I’d always let them in to be true to what Nana had taught me.
I believe it was during their third visit that they taught me about the eternal nature of families and the purposes of temples. Having lost my parents — in fact, by then all of my direct ancestors who were alive at my birth had died — during my youth, the discussion engendered a strong emotional response within me. I became upset that these two young men and the church they represented would use such a touching subject in an attempt to “recruit” members for their faith.
I especially chastised the lead missionary, Elder Keven Burton from Talmage, Utah, for testifying of the truthfulness of the related doctrines “in the name of Jesus Christ.” I rebuked him and said that no one on earth knew what was to happen in heaven and, without having gone there, could not know what relationships we would have there.
My remarks reflected the frustration I had felt and maintained over the years in failing to receive an adequate answer from other religious teachers and ministers to what I felt was a simple question: After the resurrection, would my mother and father recognize me as their earthly son?
As most if not all Christians, I believed in the resurrection. I also thought that no truly loving God would allow me to spend six and 14 years, respectively, in mortality with my mother and father and then have us be strangers for the eternities while we forevermore sang his praises as part of a celestial choir. Besides, God created me and definitely didn’t want me singing to him for the remainder of our eternal existences.
I will never forget how Elder Burton responded to me. His usual easy-going manner disappeared as he looked deep into my eyes and boldly proclaimed the truthfulness of the doctrine that eternal families may be achieved through the sealing ordinances performed in God’s temples.
He withstood my rebuke by testifying that he did, in fact, know that the doctrine of eternal families was true. He would always know it, whether I, or anyone else, accepted or rejected it. He ended by telling me that God had blessed me because he had sent them to teach me the truths of the gospel — and that it was now my choice to find out if what they had taught was true.
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