Prodigal. Pilgrim. Penitent.
“Rescued: A Prodigal’s Journey Home,” the moving book by Deseret News columnist Jerry Earl Johnston, is thick with soul. It is the story of how the author was lost and found, broken and made whole.
Johnston’s writing is, as always, rich and engaging. The reader is effortlessly invited to join the author on his journey through the delicate corridors of the heart. Johnston’s pilgrimage begins in the year 2000, as he embarks on a newspaper assignment to La Paz, Bolivia, to cover President Gordon B. Hinckley’s dedication of the temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Cochabamba.
From there the narrative moves backward and forward in time, chronicling Johnston’s experiences serving as a Mormon missionary in Bolivia exactly 30 years earlier, his poignant interactions with several “shepherds” along his way back, including Elder Neal A. Maxwell, President Hinckley, and President Thomas S. Monson. It even includes a near-death experience he had on his return from the temple dedication. This experience becomes a critical catalyst in the author’s “coming to himself,” as detailed in the book. In the 30-year period between his first and second visits to South America, Johnston wanders in and out of the LDS Church, trying to come to terms with the quiet but persistent groanings of his heart.
Although not a memoir in the form a reader would typically expect, “Rescued” is nonetheless the most biographical and detailed story Johnston has ever put down on paper. For those that have read his columns in the Deseret News for the past 30 years, the tone and heft of the writing will fit like a favorite glove. Full of the author’s wordcraft, there is ample humor as well as pathos, spiritual fireworks and quiet, wry musings on the frailties and foibles of the prodigal’s zig-zagging path to believing and belonging.
“Rescued” is easily read in the quiet of a singular Sunday afternoon.