This morning a passage of scripture is filling my thoughts:
"And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
"And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!" (D&C 18:15-16)
Yesterday our sweet friends, Annie and Danny, were baptized as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Truly, our joy was great as we watched them make covenants with Heavenly Father and open the gate to eternal life.
We met Annie two years ago on a soccer field. Her son, Gavin, was on Zachary's soccer team. I was busy chasing our Gavin (and trying not to throw up -- I was newly pregnant with Lexi) and we didn't have much interaction. But several months later, when Lexi was a newborn, I recognized Annie when our boys had swimming lessons together. Annie helped me with the Littles on the pool deck every day. That was such a blessing.
That Fall, Zach and Gavin landed on the same football team and in the same class at school. Annie and I enjoyed lots of conversation on the sidelines at football practice. Danny was deployed with the Army, but we met him for the first time while he was home for two weeks. Zach and Gavin began playing together occasionally and attended each other's birthday parties.
Fast forward to September. I was sitting in the General Relief Society Meeting broadcast, taking notes on the excellent talks. Just as Barbara Thompson began her address, seven words popped into my head: "Andrea Berndt is ready for the missionaries." I was stunned. Annie and I hadn't talked for about a month. We were friends for sure, but had never discussed religion, let alone her desire to know more about mine. But I knew the thoughts were not mine; they were a prompting from the Holy Ghost. The next day I gave the full-time missionaries a pink sticky note with Annie's name and address. I never could have imagined the story that would unfold.
The missionaries didn't find Annie at home for ten days. In the meantime, we asked Danny and Annie to babysit while we attended the temple. They read from The Book of Mormon and prayed with our children that night. When the missionaries knocked on their door a few days later, Danny and Annie declined a visit, but began doing research on the Mormon faith on their own. Annie called with questions. I did my best to respond. She accepted an invitation to attend church with our family the next week.
Annie and Danny attended church with us for the first time on October 17. At the end of Sacrament Meeting, they asked for copies of The Book of Mormon. On Friday, they agreed to meet with the missionaries, Elder Lichtenstein and Elder Benton. That night they committed to baptism.
The last few weeks have been completely thrilling for us as we have watched Danny and Annie and Gavin progress in their gospel knowledge and enthusiasm. We have spent time in each others' homes. We have had many deep and spiritual discussions. Annie and I visited the Denver Temple grounds and visitors center. The spirit of God has been present in every conversation. This has been one of the sweetest experiences of our lives.
Danny and Annie asked Garry to perform their baptisms. What an honor! They asked me to speak at the baptismal service. I also coordinated many of the details for their special day. Nearly 100 people attended and contributed to the service. The outpouring of love and support was so wonderful! Throughout the day, Danny and Annie radiated peace and joy. Their testimonies burned so brightly. We look forward to church today, when they will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
When I think about the New Year's Resolution I made in January, I am overwhelmed with gratitude at the growth I have experienced. I never imagined joy such as this.