So now it was 2006, and Mellissa and I had decided it was time to bring our relationship further, and we had moved to Glens Falls together, and got engaged to be married. And this is when other people finally got involved. The church keeps excellent records. Even though Mellissa hadn’t gone to church out in Syracuse, she was still considered a member of that ward. (A ward is an individual church unit) So when she moved out to Glens Falls, they somehow knew about it. I’m not sure how it happened, Mellissa thinks a family member gave them our new address, but either way, we were about to have a pair of visitors on our front doorstep.
The church currently has a little over 50,000 missionaries. Young men and women are encouraged to commit to serving a mission, being worthy of one, planning for it, and then serving a year and a half to two years. Many go overseas. In our ward, I work with one member who served a mission to Taiwan, and served with Jon Huntsman during his time there. Another served in Japan, where he was called to work with a young Jon Heder, shortly before he became famous as Napoleon Dynamite. And some missionaries are called to serve in the New York- Utica mission, where they might end up spending some time in Glens Falls.
Missionary work is demanding, but it is always spiritually fulfilling. These youngsters put in long hours each day, and lead a very disciplined lifestyle while spreading the gospel. There are a lot of benefits to the missionary later in life, and there are also benefits to anyone they happen to meet that they get to talk to. Most non members meet the missionaries through tracting, which is when they come knocking door to door. I had the chance to go out with the missionaries a few times when they did this. Let’s just say I have yet to actually hand out anything, but I did get a few doors shut in my face, and lots of people pretending not to be home. A few weeks ago we even got the classic “not quite clothed” person who did open the door. The point is, going door to door, you get a lot more rejection than you do people who want to talk to you.
And I mean a lot more. The success rate going door to door like that is very low. But our church is dependant on these converts. My current ward would simply not function were it not for a few relatively recent convert families, who would go on to have children raised in the church, who would bring their friends into the church, and would raise children who would become missionaries themselves. So while one conversion might seem like a small thing, over the course of several decades, one faithfull member of the church can have profound consequences.
I don’t know what sort of day Sister King and Sister Ketcher were having when they decided to go visit this new member that moved to the area. But they were probably surprised when I opened the door, and enthusiastically said something to the effect of “Wow, you guys are Mormons! Come on in, I’ve been wanting to talk to you!” I don’t think that happens very often. And sadly, they couldn’t actually come in to talk, because Mellissa wasn’t home. but I invited them to come back to dinner later that day. Mellissa was surprised to hear that we would be having dinner guests that night, but she provided us with an appropriate feast of bacon cheeseburger pizza.
I remember two things about that first meeting. First, my Bible was wrong. I had a study Bible from college, and it was a “Today’s English Version” I was very excited when they asked me if I had a Bible, and I said yes and went to get it, but then the passages were all different from what they were having us read. Fortunately they were able to set me up with a King James version.
And the second thing I remember was hearing testimony for the first time. Testimony is very important in our church. It’s when you declare your faith, and what you believe in. I had a mouth full of pizza at the time, when one of the sisters looked me straight in the eye, and declared that she knew that what she was teaching me was true, and that our church was the one true church of God on earth. Well, that changed things. I wasn’t actually sure what I was supposed to say in response to that. I knew I should probally finish chewing my food, but after that, I didn’t know what to say or do. A part of me knew there was a lot of merit to what the church taught, but at that point, I didn’t even really know what that was. Even without knowing what the church teachings were, at least some part of me knew they were right.
After dinner and a short lesson, the missionaries assigned me some homework, and we made an appointment for another dinner meeting a few weeks later.