In November of 2008, I decided to take up an oft-cited and oft-ignored challenge regarding missionary work. One iteration of this challenge is from Ezra Taft Benson's prophetic general conference address from April 1988. He said, "The Lord needs every member of the church having the faith and the courage to set a date to have someone prepared to be taught by the missionaries. Would each member of the church prayerfully consider this sacred challenge?"
I've heard this challenge offered by many general authorities and local leaders in my lifetime. In November of last year I finally decided to take it seriously. I began to pray daily that by January 31st I would be able to share the truths of the restored gospel with someone and invite them to be taught by the missionaries.
That was in November. You can imagine how disheartened I was to be leaving on a trip to visit my family mid-January having not yet met my goal. I felt that I was waiting for a miracle and, having found out that my one non-member friend was in fact a member, it seemed increasingly unlikely. I must admit, my faith was flagging.
While visiting my mother's ward in Houston, TX, their high-counselor gave a talk that gave me new hope. He shared an experience that had me on the edge of my seat. He spoke of a very familiar challenge and said that he had, in the past year, set a date to share the Book of Mormon with someone. His date had been December 31, 2008. He said that when he set the date, he had no one in mind to share the gospel with and that the time given elapsed quickly. He said that he had been traveling on the 20th of December (just 11 days before the deadline for his goal) and found himself on an airplane flight sitting next to a young mother. He said that they struck up a conversation about history, which led to a discussion of religion. He said that he felt impressed by the Holy Ghost to share his beliefs with her and invite her to read the Book of Mormon. She responded very positively. He concluded by sharing his testimony that God had answered his prayers and helped him to reach his goal. He said that the woman had been prepared to receive his message and that when he had opened his mouth to talk to her, the Lord had filled it.
I felt tingles up and down my spine. Here I was, about to fly home to Utah on the 20th of January (just 11 days before the deadline of my goal). The Spirit whispered to me in its piercing voice, And so it will be for you.
Because I am writing this post, I am sure you can guess the ending. But it is still a wondrous miracle to me. I was on the last leg of my plane flight, about to take off and sitting in a completely empty row, when a man rushed up and sat down next to me. He joked about having nearly missed his flight over a Bloody Mary in the Admiral's Lounge. He was course and intimidating. Surely this could not be the man I was supposed to bear my testimony to. Surely he could not be the answer to my prayers, the person I would invite to hear the missionary's message. I must have misunderstood the Spirit's prompting because there was no way this man and I could have anything in common from which to start a conversation.
But he was a talker. He asked me if I was going home and did I live in Utah? I told him I was from Salt Lake City. I do not kid when I share his words. He said, "Oh, so you must be a Mormon. Tell me about your church." I think my heart jumped up in my throat. I had been too timid to initiate the conversation myself but God had surely prepared this man to restore my faith, just as He prepared me to share truth with him.
I told him about the first vision and the restoration of God's true church. We talked about the reality of the apostasy and the wonderful truth of continuing revelation through modern prophets. We backtracked a bit and spoke about the reality of God's existence and the necessity of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He believed in a loving God but struggled with the concept of a divine Redeemer. I had the opportunity to share my testimony about Jesus Christ with Him and we discussed the concept of truth that is spiritually known. He was very affected during that part of the conversation.
When the three-hour trip was over, I invited him to visit some of the sites in Salt Lake, particularly temple square and welfare square. I told him that there would be representatives from our church there who could teach him further about the truths we had discussed during our flight. I fulfilled my challenge to invite someone to listen to the missionaries.
I do not know what has happened to him now. I do not know what will happen with him in the future. I do know that the Lord helped me to fulfill my goal. I do know that God wants me to take very seriously and optimistically His commandment to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and His restored church.