So I thought I might throw in some missionary thoughts also. Unfortunately I really don’t have any spectacular mass conversion stories to pass along. Baptisms in my mission were modest in number. One of the experiences I remember often is teaching a family in southern Georgia. The father of this family was named Roosevelt Givens.
I went to Georgia in the mid eighties. This was just a few years after the priesthood was extended to all worthy males regardless of race. And I decided for a few reasons that I would exercise a type of ‘affirmative action’ in my proselytizing efforts. I guessed that missionaries in the past may have avoided the black neighborhoods in part to avoid explaining the whole priesthood thing. So I hoped that by spending extra time in these neighborhoods we would be more productive missionaries. I hoped that we would find that perfect family that would enthusiastically join the church, and that large numbers of friends and relatives would follow. I had great hope that the family of Roosevelt Givens would be just such a family.
Mr. Givens was smart, well read, a responsible husband and father, and quite interested in religion. He gladly let us in to teach him. His wife worked at the hospital where we did volunteer work, and we hoped our examples would be positive. They had a couple of young kids.
He read quite a bit of what we asked him to read. He asked great questions. He understood the basics of what we were teaching. I prayed and fasted for him and his family. Many missionaries think that the people they teach are destined to be the next Stake President or Relief Society president. I had such hopes for Mr. Givens. He would be the one. The ball would start rolling with him, and gain momentum, and soon we would be baptizing half the town.
I clearly remember the discussion we had when he told us that he would like for us to not come by any more. He felt that he had learned enough about our church, and that there was no need to continue. He was very respectful and appreciative. He told us all this at the beginning of the fifth discussion.
This announcement filled my soul with a most profound sadness. Into my memory flooded the images of investigators past that chose not to get baptized. I began to cry. I could not teach. My companion had to carry the entire discussion. I was near the end of my mission, and the sad nostalgia of all the people I had contacted and taught without ultimate success was to much for me to bear.
My tears had some effect on Mr. Givens, and he asked me why I was crying so much over this. Through my tears I bore a little testimony. He assured me that he wouldn’t forget what we had taught him, and that perhaps someday in the future he would look into the church again. I wondered if he really would. Many others do not.
I have thought about Mr. Givens from time to time. I have so much as looked up his phone number but decided not to call. I taught him the best I knew how. He was a good man. I suspect when all is said and done that things will be well with him. I hope so. It was, and still is, hard for me to take. When I help teach a sincere, intelligent person and they do not get baptized and join the church I take it personally. Surely there was something I could have said or done that would have made the difference. I still feel a little bit sad when I think about Mr. Givens and others like him. I wish I knew the perfect thing to say or do that would help them take the next few steps. So to everyone I taught but did not baptize, I hope you can understand that I loved you and served as well as I knew how. I hope that someone else might come along that can help you the rest of the way.
Sorry for the sad post.