I have mentioned before on this blog that I was a pretty shy kid growing up. I spent a lot of time in middle school and high school hoping people wouldn't talk to me. I was especially shy about talking about the Gospel. Mormons were very cool in my high school thanks to some good looking and socially amazing older kids in my ward. I actually think I got coolness points for being a Mormon, but that didn't mean I liked talking about it. After all, I had enough trouble carrying my end of a conversation about the weather. How was I supposed to share of defend my burgeoning beliefs about God and eternity? No way. I steered clear of any religious discussion.
So, with that in mind, here starts today's story of the first time I bore my testimony. It was against my will.
I was a sophomore and I think the math class I was in was called Integrated Math 2. I don't know exactly what we were supposed to be learning but we used our graphing calculators and things like sine and cosine stuff. If you can't tell by my awesome description I was a total failure at math in high school. Seriously, I tried but it baffled me.
Our teacher said that if we wanted we could do our classwork for the semester in a group. I never joined groups if I could help it. I wasn't planning on joining one this time, but inexplicably, from across the room, a girl and guy came over plopped themselves next to me, and told the teacher that we were a group. Emily was a cheerleader and Nick was a quarterback. I didn't know them at all. I was totally confused and incredibly anxious by this development. Seriously, it stressed me out.
In retrospect, I think they picked me because they mistakenly assumed I was smart. I seemed like one of the quiet, smart kids. I've always appreciated the assumption that if you are quiet it means you know something. Little did they know that my smartness was compartmentalized. I scraped by that class with a C. I'm pretty sure they failed or almost failed-- probably because htey were in my group. Oh well.
Anyway, one day in the middle of the semester we were sitting in our little group, fairly depressed. After getting three different answers eight different times we all made a silent agreement to give up for the day. I was looking at the clock when Emily suddenly turned to me and said, "Hey. You're Mormon aren't you?"
I stiffened, "Uh, yeah. I guess."
Emily went on, "So, like Jimmy, and Jason, and Megan go to the same church as you? You know them? And Tom Kohler? Do you know him?"
"I know them a little." I said. Tom was my brother.
"So, what do Mormons believe?"
Oh man, this was the one question I did not want to answer. "Oh you know, we're Christian."
She shook her head."No, I mean, I've heard about some guy. Smith. Some guy named Smith."
"Well, that's a long story." I protested. "And it's a boring story. Really boring."
"Please, tell me about this guy Smith."
"Maybe we should try number 3 again?"
I gave up. This was going to be a disaster. "Okay, fine. There was this boy named Joseph Smith. He was fourteen years old and he had a lot of questions about religions. He was confused about..."
Suddenly Emily interrupted. I swear her eyes were shining. "I'm fourteen years old and I have a lot of questions about religions!"
This annoyed me, "Look do you want to hear the story or not?"
She was quiet so I continued and told her the story of the first vision, that God and his son had appeared to fourteen year old boy because he had good questions and the courage to ask them. He wanted to know which church to join and they had told him that none had all the truth. They told him they were going to restore the true church to the earth, and they picked him to lead it.
When I finished, no one spoke. But it wasn't an awkward silence...it was nice. After a minute Emily said, "I don't know why, but I feel really good right now."
"Me too." I said. It was weird, I really was incredibly happy. Not laughing or giddy happy, but a weird sort of peaceful, full happy.
"Me too." Nick said. We'd forgotten about him.
Emily looked at me. "I really want to come to your church."
"Uh, well I'm going there on Sunday at ten. I guess you could come."
She arranged for me to pick her up. Nick volunteered that he couldn't but he would ask for another Mormon football player to take him to seminary.
Later that day, when I got home, my Mom asked me how my day went. I told her that I was really happy. Not just normal happy, but weird happy. I told my mom what had happened and she told me, or I guess I should say she taught me, that what I was feeling was joy. That when we share our testimony we are actually doing God's work and we get to feel the joy that comes with sharing his message of salvation.
I've been a missionary and I have a whole storage unit full of missionary stories. But this is the one I hold the dearest because I think it illustrates some important truths. Missionary work is not necessarily fun. In fact, I wouldn't use fun to describe any of my missionary work, though I am sure some people do have a lot of fun doing it. For me it is often awkward, hard, and painful. But for all that, there is this joy that fills me when I do it and lets me know that it is a really good thing. And that's why I do it.