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Barry A. Smith

The Story of My Conversion

It’s been a long time since I was in college—a long, long time.  But I do remember some things.  I remember studying a famous Greek philosopher named Socrates.  I only remember three things about him:  1) he was a famous Greek philosopher, 2) he gave really, really, really long speeches, and 3) his friends killed him.  So I will keep my remarks brief.  I will stay within the time that’s been allowed to do this.
I appreciate the wonderful introduction.  I can just tell you a little bit more about myself.  We have lived in Utah now for about five years.  In fact, I guess it’s just been exactly five years.  We moved here from Chico, California where I was manager of a mall in Chico, which is in Northern California between Sacramento and Rey.  We came here to work on the redevelopment of Crossroads Plaza, but two-and-a-half years after I was here and started down that path, the owners at that time decided to sell the mall and then what you know now is a three-year process that the Church has been working on trying to figure out what they’re going to do.  The announcement this morning is that they’re going to redevelop two city blocks, including Crossroads Plaza.
About a year ago it became obvious in the Church’s plan that they were going to demolish and, instead of renovate, they were going to tear everything down.  And we started moving tenants out of there probably a year, year and a half ago, and getting ready to close the place.  My management office closed last summer, and I was forced to take a job somewhere else, so I ended up in Layton, which was closer  for us, because we do live in Farmington.
I have been in this business; I met my wife in this business.  We got married; we do have four children and three grandchildren now.  One of our boys is in Colorado; another is in San Diego working on his PhD.  And we have a daughter in Bakersfield, and her husband has a good job there.  And then our fourth daughter still lives at home and attends the University of Utah. 
I want to tell a few things that will kind of inspire you.  I want to use some personal experiences, and tell you a little bit about things I’ve learned in my life, and hopefully maybe pass on some things that you can apply to your own lives.
The first thing that I want to address is the importance of being an example.  People all around you are watching you—especially members of the Church.  They know who you are.  Whenever you interact, every day, you are representing the gospel, you’re representing the Church, and you are having an influence on people around you whether you realize it or not.
The best example I can give you of that is my own story of my conversion.  I grew up in Boise, Idaho, went to Boise State University which, as you know, they drilled Utah last week.  Maybe that’s not something we want to say here.  But after I graduated from college I worked a little bit in the real estate business, and then I took a job for a real estate company in Boise to manage their Five Points Mall in Bountiful, Utah.  If you remember that, they had just converted it to an enclosed mall and it was running into hard times.  They needed somebody to come down here and work on it on site.  So I moved down here to work on that project.
I was not a member of the Church.  I had not ever had any experience with members of the Church or never had any exposure to the gospel or anything.  When I moved to Bountiful—of course, Bountiful is probably 80 or 90 percent members of the LDS Church—and I interacted with them on a business basis.  Everybody that I worked with, it seems like, was a member of the Church.  Almost everybody.  I became involved with the community—I was on the Chamber of Commerce board and became active.  There was a tenant in our mall; his name was Layne Beatty.  He had a real estate office at that time, now he’s the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce here in Salt Lake, and before that he was the president of the Utah Senate.
I became friends and business associates with people like that.  There are many others I could mention.  And I guess over the three years I was there, I grew to appreciate the familiarity and the way that we interacted together.  After three years I left and took a job back in Idaho, to manage a mall for a company called Point Lewis and Redevelopment.  So I moved back into eastern Idaho.  And right away I noticed the difference.  There was a difference in the people.  People doing the same jobs in the same spheres and the same companies that I was working with, I just noticed that there was something different about them.  They didn’t have the light; they didn’t have that interaction that I had become familiar with.  And I started asking my wife, Stephanie, “What’s going on?  What’s happening here?”
She had had some involvement with the Church in her life and knew somewhat about it, and she could answer all the questions, a lot of the questions that I had.  And I found that I knew enough about the LDS Church at that time that I knew the men wore garments, or most of them did.  I don’t know if they had the t-shirt type [they have] now, but remember the eternal smile?  You can always see the garment line if somebody is wearing a white shirt.  A guy came into my office, and I instantly had that connection again that I had when I was working with the people in Bountiful, and I just liked him.  You know how you just meet somebody and there’s a spark there?  You just like them.  I asked him where he was from, and he said he was from Salt Lake, he was a traveling salesman.  I said, “Are you a member of the LDS Church?”
And he said, “Yeah.  Are you?”
I said, “No.”
He said, “Why do you ask?”
“Well, I just wondered.”
And there was a guy that owned a pizza restaurant in the mall.  And I dealt with owners and managers of businesses all day long, but again there was just some connection with this guy, not that he was a great manager. His business was actually struggling at that time.  But there was just something about him that kind of sparked some interest there.  And I found out a little more about him, talking to him, he told me about his family and everything.  And you started putting it together.  He had a big family, and they’re doing this and that.  So I said, “Are you a member of the Church?”
“Yes, I am.”  Well, I thought it was interesting.  “Are you?”
“No, I’m not.” 
So I started asking these questions and stuff, and we were kind of discussing this at home.  One day my wife left to go to the market, it was on a Saturday I think, and I was home alone.  And I opened the door and there were two elders standing there, and the tall one says, “Hey, we were just walking down the street and this lady drove off in this car and she stopped and rolled down the window and said ‘There’s a man in that house that wants to talk to you.’”
I started to close the door and said, “No, thanks,” and he kind of leaned forward and he said, “Well, she kind of was really saying that we should talk to you.”
I said, “Well, why don’t you come back when she’s here.  She’ll be back later.”
They said, “How about six o’clock?”
And I said, “Okay.”  So Stephanie got home later that afternoon, and I said, “Let’s go.  Let’s get out of here,” you know, before six o’clock.
And she said, “Now wait a minute.  You’ve been asking all these questions, and we’ve been talking about this, and these young men—they’re the ones that have the answers.  So if you really want to know the answers to the questions you’ve been asking, why don’t you just ask them?”
So I said, “Okay.  You’ve got to be here too.”
So they came over that night and just starting answering questions and teaching the gospel.  Instantly I recognized the same thing that I noticed with the people in Bountiful and the people that I’d picked out, that I’d recognized, I instantly picked up on with them, tenfold.  And of course, you know what I’m talking about, it’s the spirit that they had.  And I had that same draw to them, that same attraction to them to them.
They challenged me, you know, you go through the different lessons and it took a period of weeks.  You have to understand, I was not very—not looking for anything in my life.  I had a new wife, I had a really nice car, I had a great house, a new family.  This was all a new experience for me.  I didn’t tell you this—Stephanie and I had just been married before we moved to Idaho.  I met her when I was working at Five Points Mall.  And so I was not really looking for anything in my life.  I didn’t really want to be a Mormon.  I grew up with “The Mormons do this” you know, and I didn’t want to do that.  It’s not what I wanted to do.
But when they started teaching me, I knew that there was something to what they were saying.  They told me the Joseph Smith story, and I knew right away there were only two explanations for this:  It’s got to be a complete fraud, or it has to be the truth.  There’s nothing in between.  You can’t explain it any other way.  If it’s true then the Book of Mormon is true and the LDS Church is founded on true principles.  Or it’s a complete fraud—the biggest fraud that’s ever been perpetuated on mankind.  And to think about that it just—it just couldn’t ever happen.
And so I came to that realization, and I thought, “Uh oh.”  And Stephanie said, “Uh oh.”  And so we agreed to be baptized.  We had a son who was eight—my stepson, Stephanie’s son.  He and I were baptized at the same time, and then our other children were baptized when they came of age.  And we stayed in the Church.  We have stayed active in the Church ever since then. 
It was not always easy.  We went through some trials; we went through some difficulties.  And I’ll talk a little more about that before I run out of time here.  But that’s the history of my conversion, and the importance of being an example.  And another time—now that the situation’s been reversed, there have been times in my life when I have been an example.  When I was working at Crossroads Plaza, my housekeeping supervisor came into my office and she said, “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
I said, “Sure.”
Well, what she didn’t know was that the weekend before that—this was on a Wednesday—the weekend before that was Conference, and on Sunday afternoon I was listening to Conference, and Henry B. Eyring was talking about kind of being a missionary and being an example, and the things that I’m talking to you [about].  And he said that he had a friend that always carried a Book of Mormon in his briefcase.  And he told this story, one day the friend was going on a trip and didn’t want to take the Book of Mormon, but the Spirit told him to take it, and he gave it to someone on his trip.  Well, I used to carry a Book of Mormon in my briefcase when I was in California.  I gave a couple of them away here and there, but it was not a big deal.  And when I moved to Utah, I cleaned out my briefcase, started a new job, and I just never put the little blue book back in. 
Well, when Henry B. Eyring was telling that story, I had this thought go through my head, “I really need to go get a Book of Mormon and put it back in my briefcase, because I used to do that.”  Well, you forget about Conference the hour that it’s over, right?  And I forgot about that feeling, and the next Wednesday morning I was saying a prayer before I start my day, which I should do more than I do, but I do it once in a while.  And I had this inspiration.  “Go get that Book of Mormon, and put it back in your briefcase.”  It just came out of the blue.  I wasn’t thinking about it or anything.  It just came out of the blue.  So I said, “All right.  I’m going to do it now before I forget.”
So I went up to the bookcase and I got the little blue Book of Mormon and stuck it in my briefcase.  And then Patty comes in the office about ten o’clock that morning.  She says, “Can I talk to you?”
I said, “Yes, sure.”
She was not a member of the Church.  She was from Texas, and had a little girl.  And she said their neighbor had just invited them to go to sacrament meeting with them, and she wanted to know what to wear.  She wanted to fit in, and wanted to know what to expect and what to—you know, she’s Catholic, and they have a bunch of rigmarole they go through—and she wanted to know what she was going to do here.  So I just started to talk to her about what to expect and what, typically, she should wear, and about how the sacrament is passed, and “What day are you going?  Are you going on the first Sunday?” (???)  And it wasn’t the first Sunday, so we talked a little about that.
And then I had this—something hit me.  You’ve seen the television commercial with the Vonage thing?  You know, you get hit by one of those blocks in the head, or one of those ball bats.  And so, “Well, wait a second, Patty.  Would you like a Book of Mormon?”
And she said, “Yes, I would.”
So I got it out of my briefcase and gave it to her.  She was baptized into the Church.  She came to our home and did the lessons, and was baptized into the Church.  I had the opportunity to baptize her and her daughter later when she became eight.
Again, it goes back to the example that you’re sending out to everybody that you come in contact with.  I never talked to her about the Church; I never went to her and said, “Hey, would you like to come to Church?”  It was just a series of circumstances and coincidences.  While somebody else was inviting her to Church, the Spirit was telling me I needed to have a Book of Mormon ready to give to her. 
Those kinds of examples can go on and on.  Everybody will have those.  But the thing I’m trying to stress is the importance that you have of being an example in your life to those people around you.  And you don’t know it.  You’ll never know it.  But someday, you’ll have an opportunity to see how that affected somebody else.
The other thing I wanted to talk to you about is kind of having faith and hope and not giving up faith and hope.  A lot of people your age, I know from experience, get discouraged when things don’t go the way you want them to go.  There’s a lot of problems, there’s a lot of frustration.  You’re starting your life; you’re at a very difficult time to try to balance between school, some of you have a job, work, family—some of you are married.  And it’s easy to give up hope when all of that stuff comes. 
And I wanted to share with you a story.  I understand that a couple of weeks ago the speaker here talked about the Constitution and the Founding Fathers.  And so I wanted to share a story about George Washington, and an example that he went through.  And this is pointed toward maintaining hope in adversity, and keeping your faith alive.
Go back to December of 1776.  The fight for independence had broken out, but it was not going well.  George Washington’s army had suffered a bunch of defeats.  He had fewer than 3,000 men remaining from an original 20,000-man force that he had commanded just three months earlier.  The British had come and taken New York, and they were headed for the capitol, which was Philadelphia.  The Congress had already fled Philadelphia in the face of the oncoming British, and Washington was camped across the river in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and was attempting to recruit some men to try to fight to defend the capitol city. 
In mid-December the temperature plunged.  The country froze.  The British halted their march and quartered their troops in New York and New Jersey.  They decided to wait until spring to attack Philadelphia.  Washington’s army was in bad shape.  They hadn’t been paid for months.  The militias had deserted several times.  His army had no shoes, no equipment and very little weapons or gunpowder.  They had no training and very little provisions.  And they were fighting the best-trained, most powerful army in the world.
The commission of the 3,000 people he had left was set to expire on December 31 st, and at that point most of them were farmers.  You have to think what was in their mind:  “I’m not a fighter; I’m a farmer.  I’m going to go home.  It’s cold, it’s wet, I don’t have good shoes, we’re losing every battle.  This is a hopeless situation.  I would rather live as a subject to the king than die as a cold, wet rebel.” 
Well, that’s the scene that confronted Washington.  He wrote his wife and said, “Martha, the game is pretty near up.”  If they had lost, Washington would have been executed and hanged, and that would have been the end of it.  So if anyone had a reason to call it quits, he had several reasons.  But he did not give up.  He did several things.
First, he went and asked Robert Morris in Philadelphia to borrow $50,000 to pay his troops.  Now, can you imagine how that conversation might have gone?  No collateral, no secure foundation for the loan, just “$50,000, I need to pay my troops who are probably going to desert in three weeks anyway.  And I’ll probably be hanged, and when they find out you gave me the money, you’re probably going to be hanged, too.”
Well, he got the money, and then he had Thomas Payne write this famous letter to his troops.  The famous letter was called “The American Crisis.”  In part it reads:  “These are the times that try men’s souls.  The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country.  But he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.  Tyranny is not easily conquered, yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
The soldiers took these words to heart, and they stayed on and agreed to fight one last battle with the Hessians.  On December 25 th, Christmas Day, they huddled under their capes until nightfall, and went down to the river in a swirling snowstorm.  People wrote that here and there, the snow on the edge of the riverbank was tinged with blood, as they had to wade out into the water and push these boats out into the Delaware River.  This is that painting you see where Washington is standing up, crossing the Delaware.  Snow and sleet slashed into their eyes.  They finally got across.  After 14 terrible hours, they got across at 4:00 a.m.  He gathered his people together and they marched ten miles to Trenton, New Jersey.  Two people sat down by the side of the road to rest and froze to death on the way. 
When they got there, [Washington] split his troops into two divisions.  One of them came back and said, “The gunpowder’s wet.  It’s worthless.  We have no gunpowder.”
Washington said, “Use the bayonet.  We are going to charge Trenton, and we’re going to take it.”
At precisely 8:00 a.m., Washington ordered his troops to storm the city.  There was a bad snowstorm, and they charge in in the midst of the wind and the snow, and they rallied the Hessians.  There was a brief battle, and the Hessians surrendered.  George Washington and his troops had won a substantial and decisive turning point in the Revolutionary War.  And now they had the faith and hope that they needed to go on.  This was a turning point that they could go and change the course of the war.
Nothing had changed.  They still were without food, no shoes, no weapons, in this case not even any gunpowder, but in their darkest hour with no faith and no hope, they managed to overcome and succeed.
I use that as a way of illustration, but it’s a very interesting story.  Elder Henry B. Eyring said, “It is absolute certainty that each of us will go through the trials of our faith.”  We probably won’t go through the trials of pushing boats out in the water in our bare feet, and having to do those kinds of things, but we will go through trials of physical handicaps, financial problems, personal disasters of some kind.  For many of us, real trauma may not be any disaster at all.  It may be something that would divert us from what God would have us do.  There are trials and adversities confronting each of us in these days.  There are many things to worry about, such as natural disasters, wars, now the West Nile virus, the e coli outbreak.  Every time you turn around there’s something going on.  The list is endless.  And some people have given up hope.  They’re just hanging on and marching through the days.
Sometimes we don’t see immediate answers to a lot of the problems that we’re given in life—the problems that confront our families, the problems that confront us individually.  But regardless of how gloomy and how dark our days come, we must never give up hope.  And I hope you take some of that with you from the George Washington story, on the importance of not giving up hope.  Hope is the anchor—what gives the anchor to the souls of men, I think is what the scripture says (See Hebrews 6:19).  It gives us the foundation that we need to keep going forward.
What do we hope for?  In your case, you probably hope to make it out of school, hope to get married and have a family, hope to get on—maybe go on to a different school to get that four-year degree.  And there are a lot of things you hope for.  But the end hope of course is for eternal life.  We all hope for eternal life.  Don’t give up that hope.  Keep that faith alive in the times that you have where you are most disheartened and downtrodden.  You need to remember many before you have been there, and keep that alive.
There is a reason why we are here where we are.  If you think about the history of the Church, and you think about the trials that the people had to go through in the early history of the Church, and the trials that are facing us today, who has the bigger trial?  The people that had to go through the physical hardships or the people that have to go through the mental hardships and keeping the faith in the light of all the immorality and the other things that are going on in the world. 
Brigham Young said, “Give us prosperity and see if we would bear it, and be willing to serve God.  See if we would be as willing to sacrifice our millions as we were to sacrifice what we had when we were in comparative poverty.”  And I think that’s the challenge that we have today. 
One of the adventures that I’ve had in my life was climbing the Grand Teton in Wyoming.  And I remember that we went up and did a two-day climbing class at the Exxon (??) Guide Service at Jackson, Wyoming, and got ready to climb the Grand Teton, which is a big mountain.  We hired a guide to take us up there.  When the guide gave us the two-day climbing lessons, he had an opportunity to observe us.  There were five in our group, and he had an opportunity to work with us and show us the different things that we would need.  I can still tie a bowline around my waist in my sleep.  You never forget that.  But, when it came time to put us on the rope to go up the actual bridge up to the top of the mountain, he had to decide who was going to be placed on the rope and in what order. 
The first guy was Dave.  Dave was a very physical guy, very strong, quick and agile.  He was an athlete.  He had been a high school athlete and so on.  The last guy on the rope was Mark.  Mark was mentally tough.  He was always positive, always upbeat, he was fearless.  Mark would have just charged up the mountain with no protection, no rope or anything, if we had let him.  But he had the ability to keep our spirits up.  Mark had been an Olympic cyclist, so he knew what it meant to be mentally tough and to stick to your goals.
The other three of us were in the middle.  One of us was really scared—not me.  He was really scared, and didn’t know if he was going to make it.  The guide put him right behind Dave—the tough guy, the rock, the physical guy.  When you think about how we were roped up to go up this mountain, I think about how the Lord must have picked people to come to the earth to restore the gospel to the earth.  Where are we on the rope?  You think about the very physical people, the tough guys, that had to endure Missouri, build the temple in Nauvoo and Kirtland, give up everything they had, cross the plains, go through all the hardships, build a community out of a wilderness.  You had a lot of physical, tough people. 
Then you look at where we are, farther down the row, and I think that we probably have to be more like Mark—mentally tough, willing to stick to our objectives and be fearless, stick to the hope and the courage and be the one that lifts everybody else up.  Be the one that keeps everybody else going.  We have lost sight.  We didn’t know Joseph Smith, the guy, in the beginning.  We’re not at the top of the rope where we [would have] had first-hand knowledge of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and those people who had a personal witness.  We’re farther down.  Our witness comes from the Spirit; it comes from our own internal drive, and it’s important for us to remember it’s no coincidence where you are on the rope.  You are here for a reason, and you are here facing different obstacles, and in my mind, even worse obstacles than those people who had to face those physical things.
So keep moving forward, keep moving upward.  And maintain your hope.  I got lots of stories here I could share.  I’ll pick one out and we can talk about it.
I want to go back to my conversion a little bit and tell you, you know, when I first joined the Church it was not easy.  I didn’t just walk in at 30-plus years old and say, “Here I am.”  I came in with everybody else in the Elder’s Quorum; many of them had served missions, gone to BYU, sat through many devotionals like this.  I’ve never been in one.  This is my first devotional to be in.  I did teach seminary in California for two years, early morning seminary, and that was an interesting experience, to try to get those kids motivated at 6:30 in the morning before they go to school. 
In fact, I remember, talking about singing.  When I first started to do the seminary thing, they told me we should always have a song before seminary class.  So I said, “Okay, we’ll do that.”  So my very first day of teaching seminary, all the kids come in and we introduced everybody, and “Okay, we’re going to have a song.  Everybody get out the hymn book.”  And they all just looked at me.  So I said, “All right.  Let’s get out this hymn book,” and I picked a hymn.  I can’t sing at all, and I could barely speak.  So we get out the hymn, and I say “All right, here we go,” and I started singing.  I’m the only one.  Everybody in the audience, I mean my class, is just sitting there looking at me, just like you’re looking at me right now.  So I suffered through it; I kept singing the best I could.  I said, “Come on, come on.”  And finally a couple of girls in the front row, you know those two girls, they kind of started mouthing the words and singing a little bit.  And the guys in the back, do you think they started singing?  No.  They sat there just looking.  That was the last song we did in seminary for two years.  I went out that day down to the bookstore—we had an LDS bookstore in town, not Deseret Book, but like that—and I said, “I need some CDs of gospel music.”  And I got the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and I got some Primary songs, all these CDs.  Every day that I taught seminary after that we played a hymn on a CD and everybody sat there.  We still got the music, but I wasn’t going to be the only one standing up there singing.
After I joined the Church, I moved with my job.  We moved six times in five years, or five times in six years, or something like that, because I got on with a company that wanted me to transfer to different projects.  And each time it’s a little bit more money; each time it’s a little bit more of a promotion.  Had I just stayed in Utah when I was in Bountiful, I’d probably be where I am today, only I would have a home that was paid for or whatever, my kids would have gone to school in one place.  Everybody has to move maybe once or twice, but I got on this thing where you do this with the company that wants you to move every year-and-a-half or so.
If I had it to over again, I would not do that.  But I did.  The problem with that is that not only the kids get uprooted from school, we get uprooted from our ward.  Just as the bishop starts to know me and they give you a calling to be on a committee or something, and just as they start to get to know you and you get a little bit more involved in the ward, you’re gone.  And then you start over again with a new ward, new school, new teachers, and it’s just very hard.  Our testimony did not really grow.  We stayed with it, we stayed with the Church.  There were times that I thought, “You know, I’d really rather not go to Church,” but then that was the day that one of the kids wanted to go.  On the day they didn’t want to go was the day I wanted to go.  So as a family we managed to stay with it.  And we did.
When I think back on my experience, I think about the first time I ran a marathon.  I was—I’m going to go down and run the St. George Marathon this weekend—but I always remember the first marathon I ran.  I went through a whole summer with training; in fact, it was the same summer that I climbed the Grand Teton.  When I came back, one of the guys that we were with challenged me.  He said, “Let’s go run the marathon.”
I said, “I’ve never run more than a few miles.”  So I started running, and I started training for this.  It got to be late September, and I was really running a lot and getting ready for it.  I went out to run, and I couldn’t go.  My knee just totally was gone.  Every time I tried to take a step, it was like somebody stabbed me with a knife.  So I frantically got an appointment with the doctor, and I got in there that day or the next day.  I said, “Look, I’ve put all this training into this.  I want to show up for the St. George Marathon.  It’s only two weeks away.  What am I going to do?”
He said, “I don’t know.”  He said, “You’ve got tendonitis, which is just overusing it.  You’ve over trained, overworked the knee.”  He said, “Take these anti-inflammatories, and I don’t know what’s going to happen.  Show up at the starting line, you may go two miles, you may go all 26.  I don’t know.  I have no idea.”  Then he said, “Whatever you do, stay off of it.”
So I had no way to gauge.  I showed up there at the starting line, and I got way at the back of the pack.  I figured, if I’m dropping out at two miles, I don’t want anybody watching me.  So I started clear at the back of the pack.  It would take me five minutes to get across the start line.  I started jogging really, really slow.  And pretty soon the milestones—one, two.  When I got up to six and my knee wasn’t hurting, I thought, this is going to be okay.  So I picked up the speed.  And I got up there twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and I was still wondering what was going to happen.  It didn’t hurt.  I carried some of those anti-inflammatories and I took a couple of them on the way just for insurance, but I made it.  And I made it through, and I actually made it in better time than what my goal was. 
So I sometimes think back on that experience and I think that’s how my conversion in the gospel went. I started at the back of the pack.  I didn’t want to join the Church.  I knew the Church was true; I connected with the Spirit.  I knew the Joseph Smith story was true.  I knew the Book of Mormon was true.  But I didn’t want to be a Mormon.  So I started at the back of the pack, kind of reticent.  And one by one, I started passing those milestones.  We went to the temple. 
I could go on all day about what happened after we went to the temple.  I had a sudden urge to do my family history.  I wanted to do my history for my grandfather who I was very close to.  I couldn’t find his information.  I went through everything I could to find out about him—his birth date, marriage date, all the stuff that he knew.  I couldn’t find it anywhere, with all of the help family history people [could give].  My dad showed up one day with a suitcase and said, “Here.  You’ve been asking all these questions about your grandpa.  Here’s some of his old stuff that I have saved since he died.” 
It was this old, battered suitcase.  So I opened it up, and I started going through it.  I found an address book in there that was dated 1953, and it was “To Grandpa from Barry.”  So I gave it to him when I was, like, one year old.  My mom had written that in there.  And in the middle of the address book, there was a single white sheet of paper, notebook paper, that was folded up.  And in my grandmother’s handwriting, she had written on there their full names, when they were born, where they were born, the date they were married, where they got married, and the date and everything of their first son.  Everything that I needed to go and do their temple work was written on that piece of paper.  She died in 1951, before I was even born.  Why she wrote that down on a piece of paper, and why my grandfather put it in that address book, folded up and [it] stayed there, I’m sure it was just a coincidence.  Right?
I’m simple-minded enough to think that it’s not a coincidence, that that is the working of the Spirit.  I did do their temple work.  I have some other experiences about doing some other family history work.  I never wanted to do family history.  I told my kids that family history was something I was going to do when I get old, like playing golf. 
Three years ago, I was doing some family history work and I was playing golf and my son came to visit.  He said, “You’re playing golf and doing family history work?”  He said, “You know what that means.”
I said, “Yeah.  It means I changed my mind.”
Anyway, my conversion story is a lot like the marathon story.  It has those milestones.  We went to the temple.  We did some family history work.  I could go on and on.  The coincidences that are not coincidences.  The reasons that we ended up here in Utah, I could tell you that whole story.  But each of these milestones that I pass strengthens my resolve and my faith that I need to do what the Lord wants me to do.  I am where I am on that rope because of the qualities and the personality and the toughness that I bring to this life.  The people who are ahead of me were ahead of me for a reason.  I’m here for a reason, and I need to step up and understand what that is, to keep the hope, keep the faith and the courage that allows me to go forward and do what I can do to be that example, to be the kind of person that can have an influence on my family, an influence over my friends, and to maintain that faith.  I hope that you will do that as you start to come of age and go out into the world, as you start families.  Remember who you are.  Keep that faith, keep that courage, and maintain that hope.  I leave that message with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


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