Last year, I (Carin) noticed a young family periodically attending our ward----mother, father and 2 young sons, I would later learn were 7 and 2 and 1/2. The father almost always came. The mother and the boys sometimes. I thought I recognized her, but could not place her.
Fast forward to December-ish. I recognized her as a checker at our local grocery store. I also learned that her husband worked for the 2nd counselor in our stake presidency with 2 of his returned missionary sons (in a different ward).
I began looking for her at the grocery store and going through her line. At one point, I introduced myself and said, "I think I have seen you at my church." She asked which one, because sometimes they went with her husband's coworkers to the other ward. I told her. Then she said, "Ya', I really like it. I have been doing what they (the missionaries) asked and reading the book (Book of Mormon) and it really helps. I have a better day when I read." I encouraged her to continue. Every week, I would look for her, go through her line, and we would have some small chat like that.
Her church attendance was really sporadic, but I knew she worked some Sundays and some Sundays may be at the other ward. I kept encouraging her and we talked about her requesting Sundays off so she could come to church. Around the end of March, I learned that the missionaries had dropped teaching the family. What?! That didn't make any sense to me.
The next time I saw her (in the grocery store check out line), she told me that she had been having a difficult time because her father had been ill (had a stroke), but she had been fasting and praying for him because they (the missionaries) said it would help. Now I knew the missionaries dropping them didn't fit! Why did they drop her?
I decided to figure it out. We had the Sisters over for dinner and I asked about this family. They said that she just wasn't really interested. He wanted to be baptized, but he wanted to wait for her and she just wasn't interested or really ready, so they dropped them. What?! A non-interested person who reads, prays, attends church, and fasts????!! I don't think so.
I decided I needed more information. I invited my friend and her family over for dinner. It took us a few weeks to get things coordinated but they finally made it over Thursday night before Easter. We just visited and got to know each other. One point of our discussion revolved around his motorcycle that she did not want him to have. She wouldn't ride it with him. She didn't like it. I asked my friend what it was about the missionaries' message that bothered her, or that she questioned, or didn't understand or didn't like. She said they would ask her 'What has Jesus Christ done for you?' but she didn't know who Jesus Christ was. It became obvious that she did not have a Christian background. I asked both of them about their religious upbringing. He was Catholic. OK. I didn't recognize her religion. (I thought I knew most of them because I had a Religions of the World class but I couldn't categorize hers.) I asked her to explain it to me. At the conclusion of our discussion, Drew took 5 minutes (literally five minutes, which if you know my spouse is a miracle!) to explain who God is, who His son Jesus Christ is, the Holy Ghost, and a very, very basic outline of the Plan of Salvation. We wrapped it up and they went on their way.
Sunday morning, an hour and a half before church, we got a phone call from one of the returned missionaries her husband worked with. The husband had gone out late that night to blow off some steam and ride his motorcycle. He had lost control of the bike, had an accident, and been killed. The police had been over that morning to let them know. They had dinner with us on Thursday! On Sunday morning he was gone.
Drew and I got dressed and went over, after Drew called and cancelled his meetings and let people know that he wasn't sure he would be there for Sacrament meeting. I was suppose to lead the music in Sacrament meeting. Oh well. They would figure it out.
My friend's family (brothers and sisters) were over helping with the children. My friend came down the stairs and I just held her as she sobbed.
After some time, we sat down and just talked. Then she said, "We always wanted to go to the temple and be a forever family. I guess we'll never get to do that now." My heart almost broke. Drew and I quickly corrected that perception and helped her to know that some day she could still go to the temple, have her husband's work done and if she was a member in good standing and she was worthy, and it had been at least a year since she had been baptized, she could then have her family sealed together for time and all eternity. That was Easter morning.
The next few weeks were a blur as we had the funeral, helped her put some things in order, jumped through lots of legal hoops, and calmed her nerves, fears, anger and frustration at her husband and her situation. Through it all she continued to attend church, but usually left after sacrament meeting because managing the boys was very difficult.
We started having her, the boys, and the sisters over for dinner about once a week as she again listened to the missionaries with a new heart. Her prayers were more earnest and sincere. Her desire to know was tangible and she was truly seeking. She had some ups and downs, but eventually, she said, "I want this. I know the feeling now---it is true and I want to be baptized."
She chose to be baptized on her husband's birthday----and that is why we had to be home for her baptism! We couldn't very well ask her to change the date.
So on June 24th, 2014, my dear friend became the pioneer in her family. She is the pivot point that brings all of her family who is willing to follow her into the fold of God--to experience all of the ordinances and covenants of the Priesthood available to them, if they are willing to change their hearts, as she changed hers. That is one baptism we just couldn't miss!
Life is still difficult and she is still making adjustments, but she is headed in the right direction and has the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost to help her out. (And an entire stake has rallied around her!)