I was born into an LDS family and we were active members until, when I was eight years old, my sister was molested by a family friend. The Bishop tried his best to help the offender. I wasn’t baptized until I was ten years old because of the contention between my family and the Bishop, and I was in and out of the church until I was about 17 years old.
I found my testimony on Moroni’s Quest. I was excited and decided to start preparing for a mission and was asked to speak about my experience. When I finished my talk the Bishop came up to me and said: “I don’t know why you try, you’ll never add up to anything anyways.” My shadow never darkened his door again.
I found after that time that we find what we search for. It seemed that anything I ever heard about the church was negative. My hatred of the church grew. In my mind, it was the advice of individuals in the church who were ripping my family apart.
What we focus on grows! I was now looking for negatives, and found a lot of them – but all were negatives regarding people of the church, including leaders.
Becoming a father of a young son who was full of questions presented challenges and began to change the direction my thinking was headed. My son wasn’t able to pass a church without asking, “what’s that?” My wife and I would respond, “it’s a church.” Only to be followed by, “what’s a church”, “well… that is where people learn about and pray to God” – then “who is God?” GULP!
A community member and business contact, Grant Nelson, approached me at work and asked me if I was a ‘member’ and quickly followed up by stating that he would get his son Jimmy to be my home teacher. Jimmy and I talked on and off about our mutual interest in team roping and eventually I began trying to persuade him to come rope with me for the winter.
When I finally convinced Jimmy to come with me, we hadn’t hit the outskirts of town when he asked me why I didn’t come to church anymore. I could feel this little angry voice rage inside me as I told Jimmy just EXACTLY why I didn’t attend church anymore in the most profane way I possibly could.
When I finished my rant, I looked over expecting to see a horrified Mormon sitting on the cursed out passenger seat. He just looked at me, grinned, chuckled what I now call his ‘Jimmy Chuckle’, “ha, ha, ha”, and asked again, “So, why don’t you come to church?” This time I had nothing. I just said, “I don’t know.” In a moment of panic, I told him, “well to tell you the truth my son has been asking me about, what’s that etc. when we pass the church.”
I heard the ‘Jimmy Chuckle’ again. He was quiet long enough that I thought I had him beat. Then in a low, firm, and convincing voice he said: “Are you telling me, Caldwell, your son has been requesting and wanting to go to church and you’re denying him of that? How do you put your head on your pillow and go to sleep at night?” I laughed my most comfortable laugh, swallowed hard, and replied, “yep.”
I went home that night feeling that I had been on the receiving end of a Mormon cussing and attempted to go to sleep. I laid my head on my pillow – and there I laid all night long, wide awake.
The next morning, I told my wife about what had transpired in that long 20-minute truck ride. She wasn’t a member, so I thought it was a sure bet safe discussion to have. She agreed with Jimmy! We should take our son to church. I was running out of places to hide.
After a couple of weeks of roping with Jimmy, he had me a little more relaxed and I think Rob Edwards, a local store owner, and a member of the Bishopric, sensed it. During a morning visit to his establishment, he said that they (‘they’ being the Bishopric) figured I would be a good fit for their scouting program. I told them that I would think about it.
I called Jimmy and told him what they wanted me to do. He said, “Caldwell, you better do it.” Not, what I wanted to hear, so I called my brother. He said that was the calling that he wanted and added, “You should take it.” Still not the answer I was looking for, so I called my dad, who had once told me, “You find comfort in those who agree with you, and wisdom in those who don’t”. He said, “Watch out son that’s how they get you!” Finally, what I wanted to hear. Then he said, “Son, you will not find a more rewarding calling than that which you were just called to serve.” UGH.
I accepted Rob’s offer with the condition that I didn’t have to give up any of my bad habits. Rob surprised me and again by saying “No, we will accept you the way you are.”
All in all, things were going well. I had a roping partner, and the scouting program was everything my dad said it would be. I thought everything was good; I had found a comfortable place to be, no more questions needed to be asked.
I was wrong. Jimmy asked me when we would like to meet the missionaries. Never having had Jimmy come over officially for home teaching, I thought I had him. I told him, “I’ll see the missionaries after you come to my house for a home teaching visit”, figuring that would buy me tons of time because I knew Jimmy thought our roping nights counted as home teaching.
When Jimmy and his wife appeared on my front doorstep for an actual home teaching lesson, I remember saying out loud, “Darn, now we have to talk with the missionaries.” Nonetheless, I was going to explain to these missionaries just exactly what I thought of this whole deal, the leaders of their church and the kind of men they appoint.
We met the missionaries at Nelson’s home. It was warm and inviting, peaceful and humble. I sat there very quiet waiting for them to ask me a question that would allow me to pounce on their dreams of any type of conversion. Finally, they asked me if I would commit to reading the Book of Mormon, and truly listen to what they had to say. Well, I don’t think the Elders, one of whom was brand new to the mission field, were ready for what I told them – I boldly said, “No.” and “here’s why – I can’t stand the
Then they asked my wife the same thing – and she said YES!! Then they asked her if she truly believed and they could show and lead her if she would commit to getting baptized. I grinned because I knew what her answer would be to that one. Then she said “Yes”! I was very confused. I stopped everything and started to reevaluate my answers to those questions.
The next day I thought long and hard about what Lana (my wife) had committed to. I downloaded the Mormon Library onto my phone and started to listen to the Book of Mormon for the first time in my life.
I was getting a lot out of it and enjoying the experience; then I got to Third Nephi – WOW! This book hit me like a ton of bricks. I was driving in Calgary for work and chapter 11 hit. I started to well up with tears to the point I needed to get to the shoulder of the road. It was kind of like that all the way home, I wept the whole way.
Since then I have listened to or read The Book of Mormon seven times. I’ve highlighted and listened and prayed, and it led me to a path of forgiveness, and from this, I was able to have a discussion about forgiveness with another young missionary new to the field.
Forgiveness being the hardest part of the journey. Forgiveness isn’t for the people who have said or done the things that hurt us in ways that they will likely never understand. It is for us. We need to forgive them for us.
We do not need to be friends with them, we do not even have to associate with them, but we do need to forgive them.
This is the moment where the gospel will truly be let into our lives. It is knowing that the people of our Church may not be perfect, but the Church is.
The blessings, the comfort that will come into our homes with each act of forgiveness will be overwhelming.
Without forgiveness the missionaries would never have stepped into my home; I would never have read the Book of Mormon.
Forgiveness softened my heart to allow the gospel back into my life. “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”. (Doctrine & Covenants 64:10)
I testify to you, I know this statement to be true and I now know why it is what the Lord has commanded us to do. I love Him more every day for the people and events that have transpired in my life.