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LDS convert and influential friend reunite after 55 years

By David Einfeldt

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, April 16 2014 10:55 a.m. MDT

David Einfeldt was stationed at Ft. Huachuca, Ariz., in 1954.

Provided by David Einfeldt

Having been born into a family void of religious instruction, I didn't know the love of my Father in heaven and his keen awareness of me as a young man. This knowledge came as a result of joining the Army as an 18-year-old fresh out of high school.

While in the U.S. Army stationed at Ft. Huachuca, Ariz., in 1954, I met Dee Halladay. He was serving as chaplin’s assistant and was an outstanding example of all that a young priesthood holder should be. He was the kind of young man every mother would hope her son would be while living away from home. I learned that he was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — a Mormon — and I was intrigued. I wanted to know more but was hesitant to ask. I watched him and took careful note of things that he did that set him apart from others. His example was impressive to me. I wanted to be like him. Before long, our life paths changed. Though I lost track of him, his example of Christ-like living stayed with me.

As life would go, I married a Mormon, Judy Newburg, yet I didn't join the church right away. I had some Word of Wisdom things to work out, but I knew in my mind I would someday join the LDS Church.

After a couple of years of marriage and one young son, I took the missionary lessons and was baptized soon after. The example of Dee Halladay and the faithful testimony he lived through his everyday life had not only served in my gospel conversion but also throughout my own priesthood participation as a member of the church. I strived to live as he would and I wanted my sons and daughters to be like him in their devotion to gospel principles, even while away from home while under pressure to do other than what they were taught.

As the years passed, I had not forgotten him. I prayerfully sought to locate him with no success.

Each time I traveled through Utah, I would look for his name in the Salt Lake phone directory to no avail. In 1970, I was transferred by my employer to Salt Lake City. I was certain I would be able to find him. With several different spellings and even the assistance of a family genealogist and the member locating department on Temple Square, I could not find him. I pleaded fervently and prayerfully for help. I worried that I would not have the opportunity in this life to express my gratitude and love for this young man who had influenced me so. I never abandoned my search for Dee Halladay. His example and its impact on me and my family never left my mind.

More than 50 years passed by. Judy had passed away, and I remarried. My new marriage to Etoy Largin took me away from Utah to Alabama. In February 2009, I was while serving in the Birmingham Alabama Temple presidency, my wife was invited to teach a temple class for the young women in the small branch in Greensboro, Ala. She asked me to assist her, taking some time in the lesson.

When the Young Women leader told the branch president about her plans to have us speak, he asked if we might also speak in sacrament meeting that day. I never pass up an opportunity to share my testimony and was grateful to be asked. In bearing my testimony, I told of the example of one young man who had such a powerful influence on my life. I had not intended to use his name, but I felt prompted to say, "Dee Halladay was the kind of young man every mother would hope her son would be like when he was away from home."

When the meeting was over, LaMar Merrill introduced himself to me. He said that when he heard Dee Halladay’s name, his eyes popped open, his head snapped up and he almost fell out of his chair. He said to himself, “I know him!” After comparing notes and phone numbers, Merrill helped me locate Dee Halladay. I called him immediately. It was surely him.

In our conversation, Dee never knew of his impact on me, nor did he know of my conversion, baptism and the countless number of people who have embraced the gospel message through the service of missionary sons and grandchildren.

My chance participation in that meeting would be testimony enough of my Father in heaven's love and awareness, not to mention the inspiration of a Young Women leader and the branch president that day. More than this, when I learned that Merrill had just moved into the Greensboro Branch the prior week and this was his first time at sacrament meeting, I knew that my sincerest prayers had been answered.

Upon meeting him, Dee was every bit the man I remembered; still devout, still active, just a little older. I felt as if like Alma when he came upon the sons of Mosiah and found that they were still strong in their testimonies of the gospel (see Alma 17). What a blessing to be able to share my gratitude. I can't begin to imagine how I might have felt had he not continued in faithfulness. Yet I can’t begin to express fully the joy I felt in knowing that Dee Halladay was my “brother” in the Lord.

David L. Einfeldt is a father of five, beloved grandfather and great-grandfather. He resides in Green Pond, Ala., where he is a former counselor in the Birmingham Alabama Temple presidency.

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