I always had a desire to attend church. I loved the songs of Jesus taught to me by my Grandmother, and sensed something important in their words. My parents, however, though they were good people, did not attend church. My mother was raised Lutheran, my father a Methodist. I believe my mother had fallen away because she didn’t completely believe all the doctrine she had been taught in her Lutheran parochial school. In any case, at the young age of 5, I began begging my parents to take me. Instead, they allowed me to attend church with my neighbor friend, Debbie, and her parents. I attended several different churches with Debbie. At one church, the children gathered in a large room while their parents met in another room. We sang songs…I love music! We sang songs like “This Little Light of Mine” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. At one point, the lady leading the singing asked for favorite songs to sing. I quickly raised my hand and asked to sing Away In a Manager. The lady stammered and flushed and said, “Oh, we can’t sing that! It’s July!! Let’s sing Farmer in the Dell!” I was not too young to be confused as to why we couldn’t sing about Jesus but could sing about pigs and cows instead. In short, Debbie’s parents settled on a church I did not like, so I stopped going with them. A few months later we moved away.
Still, I begged. My parents began dropping me off at a Lutheran church that was built near our new home. I attended fairly regularly, even attending Vacation Bible School (which I loved). Always, I attended alone. I longed for fellowship, but never felt it. One Sunday, I asked a question of my Sunday School teacher which she did not answer to my satisfaction. This must have frustrated my teacher, because the next Sunday, our good Pastor joined our class to try and answer my questions. Still, I did not accept his answer, but I had been taught to respect adults and be silent, so I shrunk back into my chair and nodded sheepishly. When I returned home that morning, I informed my parents I did not want to return, but that I wanted to find a new church. I think now that my mother must have been relieved to hear that someone else had doubts about Lutheran doctrine, because she was accepting of my decision and agreed to help find a new church.
My mother mentioned this search for a church to my Grandmother (her mother), who, it turns out, had been taking the missionary lessons from two Mormon Elders. She thought a lot of them and suggested my parents try it out. I still remember my father looking up the phone number for the local Mormon church in the phone book (remember those?), dialing the number and asking for meeting information. I also remember him escorting me, dressed in my Sunday best, into the building. He, wearing his ‘Saturday clothes’ and cigar clenched firmly in his teeth (I get my stubbornness from him). We were greeted by “Brother” Durham, who kindly invited him to stay, but my dad declined, saying “I’ll pick her up at the end of the meeting.” I was escorted to a bench to sit with a nice family named the Orgills. Their son, David, was my age (7) and Sister Orgill was our Sunday School teacher.
In all the time previously attending other churches, I had never felt the way I felt at this place. I can now describe it as warmth and peace. The other churches felt cold. Indeed, the kind Lutheran Pastor, even after his several interactions with me personally, did not know my name. Here, Sister Orgill and her family not only welcomed me warmly, but they introduced me to others. That first Sunday formed the very foundation of my new understanding of Gospel Truth, for Sister Orgill taught our Sunday School class of a remarkable young man named Joseph Smith, who wanted to know which church he should join. This was not difficult for me to believe, for I was also young and had a desire to know about churches, and so I listened eagerly as Sister Orgill explained how Joseph had knelt in a grove of trees and asked God that big question and received an even bigger Divine answer. I felt lifted up. So much so that by the end of the class time, when SIster Orgill asked for us to share our testimonies and explained what they were, I could clearly bear my own that I knew the truth of her words. Tears spilled down my cheeks as I shared how happy I was to be in this new Church.
I continued to attend alone for several more weeks, my dad faithfully dropping me off in front and picking me up at the end. One Sunday my friends told me how the next week would be “Fast Meeting” and that I should stay for Sacrament meeting right after Sunday School rather than going home. I tried to warn my dad when he dropped me off, but he didn’t understand and he wasn’t very happy when he waited in the car for a whole extra hour and a half that day. I worried that I might not ever get to come back, but two young men were about to change that. They began visiting our home and sharing gospel lessons with my mother and me. Soon she began to take me to church, leaving my Dad home with my two younger sisters. A week before my eighth birthday, the missionaries asked me if I would like to be baptized. I was thrilled to have a way to make permanent the feelings I had felt over the last few months. I was even more thrilled that my mother would also be baptized with me!
It took two more years for my father to join us, and a year after that our family was sealed in the Los Angeles temple. My Grandmother? She joined the church when I was in my 40’s. (That’s the long part of the story and it begins quite some time before her conversation with my mother). My parents were true and faithful members the rest of their lives. My father was a most marvelous missionary who loved to serve others. My mother fell in love with the work we now call Family History. There are five large volumes of her research available in most family history libraries and online. Four of my sons have served missions, so that missionary work runs in their veins. I’m most thankful for young missionaries, and most of all, for the great Plan of Happiness, for that is what it truly is!