Randy was careful to add that it wasn’t merely an academic experience. “We were aware of how the Spirit was guiding our study.”
Meredith was learning, too, and discussed being moved by the church’s celebration of womanhood. She spoke of being able to truly breathe while attending Relief Society.
“I was surrounded by women who understood that the singularly most important role they would play in their lives would be that of wife and mother," she said. "And they celebrated that truth in the midst of a culture that tells women they can do anything a man can do — a culture that demeans the wonderfully blessed roles of women.”
As time and the lessons wore on, the Castos realized that joining the church wouldn’t just mean leaving behind another faith; it meant the end of a significant income on which the family relied. But, the words rang on.
“It’s never too late.”
On June 14, 2013, in the company of Elders Sheldon Vaterlaus and A.J. Anderson — their original set of missionaries — Brother and Sister Casto were baptized.
Rather than the end of a long journey, however, the Castos felt it was the start of a new one. “That is what baptism is, after all,” Randy said. “Not the end, but the beginning.”
But this beginning also came with some opposition. Meredith became estranged from her family and even now, a year later, the relationships are strained. Randy says old friends, neighbors and colleagues were aghast.
“They called us crazy," he said. "They said we’d lost our minds.”
After a pause, Randy repeated a frequently fielded question. “Don’t you care what people think about you?”
“No,” Meredith interrupted, “We care about what God thinks about us.”
Remarkably, the Castos harbor no ill will toward those who’ve cast their friendships aside like old shoes that are no longer comfortable. They love their brothers and sisters of their former faiths and respect their right to worship however and wherever they choose. But they hope the same respect will be afforded to them, and they certainly won't apologize for their decision.
“There is a mandate to hasten the work,” Randy said with infectious enthusiasm. “And we’re excited to be a part of it.”
Today the Castos are raising Carter, a beautiful daughter from Meredith’s first marriage, and in February of this year, the Castos welcomed a son to their family. With the temple in their sights, they named him Elijah.
On Saturday, June 28, the Castos, now members of the Lexington Park Ward in the Suitland, Maryland Stake, visited the Washington D.C. Temple and were sealed for time and eternity. A Facebook post from Meredith says it all. “Today was singularly the most important day of my life. I thank God for my husband.”
Near the end of every interview, I always ask if there is anything else my interviewees want Deseret News readers to know about their story, their journey or their faith. In the case of the Castos, they provided it long before I ever asked.
“It is our testimony that the fullness of the gospel has indeed been restored; that the authority of the priesthoods are once again upon the Earth; that we have a living prophet who brings to us God’s loving encouragement and challenge; that our call is to bring the great news of hope and eternal life through the one who selflessly surrendered his will to that of Heavenly Father’s, even Jesus Christ.”
As a postscript, I share my own admiration for Amy Henderson, the courageous sister, and how I hope to be more like her.
I wonder: What if all of us did that? What if every member of the church had such faith to hasten the work? Are we bold enough to share our beliefs when time and circumstances suggest, “Not her, not here, not now?”
Maybe we should consider the words that started it all. I know I will.
“It’s never too late.”
Jason Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars" and "The Wednesday Letters." Learn more at jasonfwright.com, or connect on Facebook at facebook.com/jfwbooks or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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