Editor’s note: This is the second of a series of columns on member-missionary work. Click here for the first one, "How prayers were answered and missionary opportunities granted for 'Filipino Night'."
Less than a week after our initial dinner and missionary discussion with Ron and Angie Stewart, the family returned for another meal and a second lesson. This time, however, Angie was home suffering from allergies. Ron came with their two young adult sons, 27-year-old Ronaldo and 25-year-old Ronell, who share an apartment in a neighboring town from their parents.
Angie sent two pans of “cassava,” a Filipino cake, because my son LJ, who served his Mormon mission in Hong Kong, had mentioned the previous week that it was his favorite dessert in Filipino homes on his mission.
The full-time missionaries, Sister Brittany Daniels and Sister Jidileah Baluyot, taught the Stewarts about the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ with a 23-page pamphlet on the subject of why it was necessary. When they finished, they handed each of them a Book of Mormon and explained that it was a second witness of Jesus Christ and a record of his appearance to the ancient Americans after his resurrection.
Ronaldo asked how it differs from the Bible. My son Trey, who served his mission in London, explained that the easiest way to explain it is “geography, about 5,000 miles.” The Bible was written by prophets in the Middle East, and the Book of Mormon was written by prophets on the American continent, he told them. All three Stewarts nodded as they handled and thumbed through its pages. Trey testified that because it was translated by the power of God via one man, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon contains doctrine lost or removed from the Bible’s many translations.
I interjected that the Book of Mormon changed my life when I first read it as an 18-year-old freshman at BYU. My life has never been the same. It changed the trajectory of my life forever. I promised if they prayerfully read it, pondered its teachings and committed to follow its promises, as happy as they already are, they would find even greater happiness and more fulfillment in every aspect of their lives.
If the Stewarts thought it odd that someone they just met choked up emotionally over a book, they didn’t show it. Frankly, they seemed riveted to what we were teaching.
I asked all three if they would accept a homework assignment. They agreed. The sisters had given them the Restoration pamphlet with scriptural verses, so I asked them if they would read those verses and return for our next appointment with a brief explanation on three things: 1. priesthood authority; 2. apostasy; and 3. restoration. They jotted notes for their homework assignment on the margins of the pamphlet.
I acknowledged their Catholic upbringing and asked if they routinely prayed. They all admitted that while they weren’t regular churchgoers, prayer was still a part of their lives. My children graduated from Catholic schools, and understanding that private, verbal prayers offered from the heart are not typically a part of the Catholic tradition, I knelt on our living room rug and invited them to join me in prayer. I attempted to make the experience as comfortable as I could but also instructive.
My daughter-in-law Kaylie was holding our 1 1/2-year-old grandson Josh, who is just forming words. It seemed a good idea to use Josh in an exercise his parents routinely do every day. A simple child’s prayer would serve as the ideal instruction. I smiled broadly at my grandson and, in a sweeping gesture, folded my arms and asked, “Joshy, can we pray?” He smiled back and folded his little arms.
“Heavenly Father,” I started, keeping one eye open and trained on him.
“Fodder,” Josh dutifully mimicked.
“Thank thee for our blessings.”
“We thank thee for our friends the Stewarts.”
“We ask thee to bless them in their search for truth.”
I glanced with my open eye at the Stewarts, who knelt at my side, arms folded, eyes completely closed and hanging on every word.
“Please answer their prayers as they seek guidance.”
“In the name.”
With that, Josh clapped loudly, seeking our approval. In unison, we said “amen,” clapped and cheered.
I turned to the Stewarts and invited them to do likewise in their homes, in the privacy of their bedroom, without the TV on, each and every time they read or re-read the assigned homework. I emphasized the sweet, peaceful feeling that pervaded our home at the moment and told them to remember and recall that feeling when they do pray — identifying it as the Holy Ghost, so they’d recognize him. To complete the exercise, I invited Rolando to pray, following the template of my simple prayer with Josh: to address God, express appreciation, ask for blessings and close in the Savior’s name.
Rolando did so, and his words were filled with warmth and sincerity.
We concluded with hugs and more pictures in our foyer. We scheduled another dinner and lesson for the following week, which the sister missionaries asked my two returned missionary sons to assist in teaching. For the first time, my wife and I would hear our RM sons teach as if they were companions.
In the meantime, my sons and the two Stewart boys exchanged cellphone numbers and made plans to work out.
On the next visit, Ronell Stewart came with his girlfriend, Kristen. If the Stewart boys are golden, Kristen Mayhand is platinum. You’ll see.
Meet her next week. I can’t wait to introduce you. Stay tuned.
Vai Sikahema anchors the morning news for NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is a two-time NFL All-Pro and two-time Emmy winner and is enshrined in the BYU Sports and Philadelphia Broadcast halls of fame. He received the 2012 Deseret News President's Award.