Provided by Randy Casto
Randy Casto of Lusby, Maryland, grew up wearing a red and white bathrobe and celebrating Catholic mass in his bedroom, offering passionate sermons to his twin brother. The ebullient young man dreamed of a long life of service in the priesthood.
Meredith Carter grew up wearing robes of fear and anxiety in a home hammered by divorce, and, later, abuse. She was raised Episcopalian and, despite her tumultuous childhood and teenage years, held to the promise that God lived and loved her. The hopeful young woman dreamed of a long life of health, happiness and a loving family.
During college, Randy left Catholicism over doctrinal disagreements and soon found a spiritual home in the Lutheran faith. After a decade of study, Randy became a full-time Lutheran pastor and was blessed with a congregation of his own.
Meredith’s spiritual journey also led to full-time ministry and she became an Episcopal priest in 2007. The faith would ground her during an abusive marriage and both a painful and public divorce.
Randy and his wife were struggling, too, and both his marriage and ministry ended. Though the well-known, popular pastor was still called upon for weddings, funerals and as an occasional Sunday substitute, his day-to-day life was no longer robes and recitals.
Then, on a sacred day in 2012 that neither saw coming, their paths crossed. They met — literally — at the intersection of two hallways at a Continuing Care Retirement Communities facility. They immediately hit it off, became friends and eventually started dating.
One of Meredith’s professional responsibilities was to invite representatives of different faiths to share their beliefs. The sessions featured many religious traditions, from Judaism to Hinduism and from Buddhism to Mormonism.
On the day they heard from Amy Henderson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Meredith shared with the audience an experience watching then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney speak and interact with his family at the 2012 Republican National Convention. Meredith was impressed with his sincerity and obvious love for his family and others. It was a feeling she admitted was tough to describe, but even harder to ignore.
Looking out at the curious crowd, she said, quite simply, “I want some of that!”
Henderson, in this very public setting, uttered the phrase that would become a mantra for Meredith and Randy.
Members of the LDS Church are encouraged to share their faith with others, but most, in that setting, would have said, “Not her. Not here. Not now.”
What did Amy Henderson say? "Well, you know Meredith, it’s never too late.”
Not long after, Henderson invited Meredith to watch October general conference. The talks brought her to tears, not because on their own they were moving or inspirational — though they were — but because prophets, seers and revelators had taught and testified of truths. Meredith told Randy they needed to learn more.
“It’s never too late.”
For the next six months — during which time they married — the Castos got to know Amy and her husband, Mark, very well. They met with the missionaries and examined the church from every angle.
In a recent interview, Randy described for me their approach. “We wanted to take the roof off of the faith, look at its entirety: the sacrament, pre-existence, the priesthood. We really unpacked the key differences between LDS theology and that of mainline Christianity. We were particularly interested in, and touched by, the church’s understanding of the Fall, the Godhead — as opposed to the Trinity — the pre-existence, the Great Apostasy, and so on. Our study was not trivial.”
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