Janice Le Tellier is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and resides in Arizona.
Mormon Missionaries Bring the Truth
Shortly after that second meeting two fine young LDS missionaries appeared at my door, and in desperation I decided to listen to their story. I knew instinctively that I must listen to them, yet I was on the defensive because I considered myself an “orthodox” Christian, a defender of the faith once delivered to the saints. (Actually, up to that point I hadn’t heard what I thought I was so knowledgeably defending!) I had not expected the truth to be delivered to me in this fashion. My schedule was crowded with our growing family, study, lectures, arranging and attending meetings, medical auxiliaries, teaching Sunday School, etc., so I was somewhat impatient with the black flannelboard lessons, as I wanted to ask my questions.
I therefore proposed that the missionaries give me a book that would set forth the doctrines of their church so that I might read it at my convenience and faster than the lessons were presented, and that then we should meet in six weeks to discuss it. They gave me a copy of A Marvelous Work and a Wonder by LeGrand Richards. This book fascinated me so much that I read it immediately and promptly felt a longing for the missionaries to return and a sadness that I had put off our future meetings for six long weeks.
The scholarly scriptural presentation in the book opened my mind and appealed to my intellectual curiosity; but more than that, it seemed to remind me of things I felt I had somehow once known. Though I had enjoyed my childhood and had had great fun in high school, I had encountered things in college that I could not go along with, and I had felt that I was different, even odd at times, when the majority so often agreed on ideas that I did not accept. The concept of preexistence helped to explain this. That concept was very exciting to me, as often I had walked down a street and had felt that I had been there before; or, during a conversation, felt that I had said exactly the same words at another time. I had rejected reincarnation as a false teaching-people did not change into animals.
My confusion as to how Moses could have seen the Lord was cleared up by the book the missionaries left. Eternal marriage was acceptable to me-it was something I had assumed though had never been taught. (I remembered asking my mother, while decorating graves in a cemetery, which wife my great-grandfather would be with in heaven.) The idea of tithing helped me to overcome guilt feelings about wealth (placed in the minds of all schoolchildren); if we would return the Lord’s share we would be blessed. The Word of Wisdom would solve many of the world’s problems. I resolved to give up my very occasional glass of wine, smoking, tea, and maybe coffee. One weekend I had a severe case of flu, and never had a desire for a cigarette after that. Another evening my husband and I attended a party at a lovely club known for its excellent service, and I was about to have a cup of coffee, as I had not been convinced that this practice was harmful. When I looked for the cream and sugar which I always used, there was no cream nor sugar on any table. Coincidence? No, I knew the Lord meant us to include coffee in his list of don’ts, and I abstained from then on.
In 1951, after graduation from medical school, my husband and I had taken an extensive trip out west during which we stopped briefly in Salt Lake City. We visited Temple Square, saw the Seagull Monument, entered the Tabernacle, asked why we could not enter the Temple, and received a Joseph Smith pamphlet. We were in a hurry, we did not really learn about the gospel, yet I can remember a reluctance to leave that peaceful spot and a curiosity about the term Latter-day Saints. The very Joseph Smith pamphlet received on that occasion surfaced as I cleaned my attic in 1962 while waiting for the missionaries to return. I read it and felt that Joseph Smith was telling the truth. Imagine that it took me eleven years to find the gospel from my first exposure in Salt Lake, even though I was searching! I must not have been humble enough to receive it earlier, or else I was terribly distracted.
Finally the missionaries were due to return, and I could scarcely wait. The elders were transferred frequently, and I am grateful for all the sets of missionaries who labored to teach me over an eight-month period. Elder Newell Knight made such a strong spiritual impression on me that, had I not been afraid to rely on my heart telling me what to do, I probably would have been baptized immediately; but earthly obligations intruded constantly.
When the missionaries challenged me to read the Book of Mormon, I remembered to my eternal shame that a copy of it was in a small drawer of a living-room table. It had been given to me by former missionaries three years earlier, but lay untouched! Those first elders had been tracting and I had wanted to let them in, but my husband was not home so I dismissed them. Ten minutes later my husband arrived an hour earlier than usual, and I told him that I would be interested in hearing what those young men had to say. He looked down the street and called to them to return.
He invited them to have brunch with us that Sunday and to attend church with us beforehand. They came to our service, dropped a pamphlet into the collection plate, and visibly disturbed our priest when we introduced them to him at the door. Another friend came over to meet the elders, and we visited for a few hours after brunch. Probably we directed the conversation, but as I recall we did not touch on doctrine. All I can remember is that they told us about the Indian origins on this continent and about a living prophet. This was another rare opportunity missed, as my husband took part in that discussion.
When finally, three years later, until late in the evening I read the very Book of Mormon those earlier missionaries had left, I was literally transported in the spirit. I felt elevated with a brightness around me and in my mind that must be experienced to be understood. I longed to be baptized and to be truly one of Jesus’ followers. “…Have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” (Alma 5:14.) (Are you stripped of pride? sufficiently humble?) These passages caused me to repent.
Captain Moroni of 70 B.C. was a great missionary in A.D. 1962. Reading about him, I felt great joy in the confirmation of my activities in relation to the defense of freedom for which I had been maligned so often. I felt that he was fighting the same battle we were. I still thrill over his words: “…Moroni was angry with the government, because of their indifference concerning the freedom of their country.” (Alma 59:13.) So was I, in the modern context! “Can you think to sit upon your thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor, while your enemies are spreading the work of death around you? Yea, while they are murdering thousands of your brethren [and suppose] because of the exceeding goodness of God, ye could do nothing and he would deliver you? Behold, if ye have supposed this, ye have supposed in vain.” (Alma 60:7, 11.)
Moroni fashioned the great “Title of Liberty” and hoisted it upon every tower in all the land and had the people enter a covenant that they would “maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.” The few who would not enter into the covenant were put to death. (Alma 46:20, 35-36.)
“And seeing the people in a state of such awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment-seats-having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God, and not in the least aright before him; doing no justice unto the children of men.” (Hel. 7:4.) We were reliving all of this in 1962. Suddenly things did not seem quite so hopeless.
Now I had a testimony of the true and living Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, and of the importance of defending freedom; a combination which I still consider necessary for a complete testimony, because of Moroni’s example as a man of perfect understanding. All of this I accepted; the fruits of Joseph Smith’s work I embraced as though I had always known them. Yet for some reason I still found it difficult to accept the fact that we have modern-day prophets. How inconsistent the human mind!
Was inconsistency the real reason, or was my problem more that I was now aware of what this momentous decision would mean in the lives of all my family? I believed that the husband is properly the head of the home, and I did not wish to be disobedient or out of harmony. My husband and I had always done everything together; now I would have to go to a strange church alone. My husband was a respected physician in the community, and I had already stepped out in a most unpopular direction; conviction was now impelling me toward another unpopular move.
These thoughts were enough to give me pause, but there was another great deterrent: I was wary lest the organization of this new church, like my former one, could be infiltrated by the enemy. One elder brought me some speeches given by Elder Ezra Taft Benson of the Council of the Twelve, a modern Captain Moroni. I decided to write to him to find out how a controversial patriot would be accepted in the Church; I really desired to worship in peace, and I needed a spiritual base to function effectively. He wrote me a kind welcoming note and sent a book, Meet the Mormons. Since that time I have read everything he has written, and I continue to be inspired by it. I think my favorite quotation from his words is:
Our personal answer to what we are doing to keep freedom alive will have eternal consequences to every soul, no matter what the outcome, for the Lord has endowed this matter of freedom with such everlasting repercussions that it sifted the spirits of men before the world, and it seems today to be the central issue that is sifting those who are left in the world.
Amen to that.
While these thoughts and events were developing, I invited the bishop of the local ward for dinner, as I wanted to meet the man who would be our spiritual leader. I was totally unprepared for the marvelous, dynamic, German saint who came to dinner. I learned later that his sweet wife delivered her fourth child that very evening after he returned. She had graciously sent him on a mission in spite of her need for him. These two wonderful people, Rosie and Walter Kindt, are still my dearest friends, and my admiration for the lives they live continues to grow.
The missionaries told me that I had not prayed enough about whether Joseph Smith and his successors were modern-day prophets, so that night I knelt at my bedside with my back to the door and prayed for confirmation. Here I had my first experience of being confronted by the power of Satan, who obviously did not want my prayer answered. As I prayed, I felt a darkness and visualized a form holding a black club with thorn-like protrusions poised to hit me. I was thoroughly frightened and rose, turned on the light, and returned to pray, this time facing the door. Once again the Lord graciously let his Spirit witness to me with great power and light that the Church presidents were and are indeed his prophets. I later listened to Elder Hugh B. Brown’s “Profile of a Prophet,” which confirmed for me in logic what I had already received through the Spirit.
I attended an LDS church service and was even drawn by the power that seemed to radiate from the building itself. I was ready to be baptized after twenty-three years of searching, but now that I had made my decision it was not to be that simple. My husband reluctantly granted me verbal permission to be baptized, but he did not want to sign the necessary papers to that effect. Those were anxious days, for I was concerned that our children be reared in a moral, doctrinally sound church; and I knew now, as Joseph Smith did, that God the Father and Jesus Christ had restored the true church to the earth. I prayed and read the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price; and one day my husband suddenly told me that he would sign the baptismal form!
Baptism Into Jesus Christ’s Church
I entered the baptismal waters at long last on August 12, 1962, with Elder Harold Stevenson, a great favorite of our children, performing the ordinance. None of my family was present, but Maxine Nickel, who has since become a dear friend, encouraged and supported me behind the scenes, and a roomful of Saints came to welcome me into their midst. I emerged feeling so shiny and clean, truly like a new person. Then Elder Lonny Adams, who had helped convince me that I must take up the Savior’s cross and follow him regardless, confirmed me with the precious gift of the Holy Ghost. I drove home determined to live up to the covenants I had just made. A sense of peace and of love for the Savior filled my soul.
With the children my husband continued at the Christian church for a while until he met a minister of another church who persuaded him to worship there. This church had no affiliation with the NCC and WCC, which my husband and I had fought together. My husband drew closer to the Lord, learned the scriptures, and then some of the LDS teachings did not seem so strange or different to him.
Mark 11:24 has been a sort of beacon for me: “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” As I have prayed and watched the progress of my family, I know that I made the right decision even though the way has often been difficult. Our first daughter, Cindy, accompanied me to church one Sunday to see where Mother was worshipping and liked it so much that she requested baptism in 1963. Next, Randy came to visit. He had dragged his feet about going to Sunday School before, as he said he didn’t learn anything; but he loved the Mormon people and soon he too wanted to be baptized. My husband attended his baptismal service in 1964, as he had Cindy’s a year earlier, but then felt that the other two children should stay with him at the Baptist church. None of us likes this kind of separation on Sundays, but one day it will change.
My father died very unexpectedly in May of 1968. (How grateful I was for the principle of baptism for the dead!) He had traveled to Switzerland and Germany and compiled a good share of his genealogy years before I became LDS. Showing great sympathy for me in my loss, my husband granted our youngest child Nora permission to join the LDS Church shortly thereafter, Nora having visited the ward with us several times and having asked to be baptized. It was Flag Day, 1968, when her brother Randy baptized her. Our eldest son Scott decided to disprove the Book of Mormon but instead was converted after he read it as a young man at the University of Tennessee in 1970. The boys served missions in Germany and their father supported them financially, with letters, with packages, and with his great love for them.
If the Lord has tried to teach me any lesson it would seem that he wants me to develop all the fruits of the Spirit to a higher degree. Patience is one of these. I know that present-day miracles have not ceased, I know that the Lord desires my good husband to be in his kingdom too. For such a great blessing I can wait with patience.
Following my baptism well-meaning friends and relatives deluged me with anti-Mormon literature. I decided to read it and find answers to their accusations. This process truly puts one’s faith through the fire, but I knew this gospel was true and therefore could face its detractors. The Lord has provided me with answers in most amazing ways. Nothing I have read has been a threat to my deep testimony. I have felt sorry for those who fight against Zion instead of seeking to learn the truth. I have remembered my long years without the gospel, when the struggle often seemed unavailing, and I continue to rejoice in the Lord’s blessings to me.
“For after much tribulation come the blessings.” (D&C 58:4.)
H. Rector & C. Rector, No More Strangers Vol. 3, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1971), 71-75.