My Conversion to the church

Posted by Culley Davis on

My Journey to gain my own personal testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is very profound and touching for me—something I will never forget, nor do I believe anyone could after having such an experience.

My parents joined the church after they had moved to California from Kentucky. My mother’s parents had found the church through a cousin when they had moved out there and when my parents arrived they also were introduced to the missionaries.

I had good, hard working parents, but many of the things that LDS people usually do, such as family prayer, FHE, reading the scriptures, we did not do as a family. We never missed church though and my dad NEVER missed having 100% percent home teaching each month. I was his home teaching companion from 12 years of age to 19. They also never turned down work assignments or callings, but their main focus was impressing upon my sister and me to get a college education. Neither of my parents finished High School. As a matter of fact, I was the first person on my dad’s side of the family to even graduate from high school, let alone attend college.

I loved sports, especially football, and had been a running back for 4 years in high school at Saddleback High and then attended Santa Ana Jr. College in hopes of picking up some kind of football scholarship. I had about $4,000 saved up, but because of a very humble upbringing, I knew the only way I would even have a chance of going to a good college was some kind of athletic scholarship. I had received a couple of letters from two or three colleges expressing some interest in me, Washington State being the most interested, so I thought I would go to a Jr. college for two years, get my AA degree and then transfer to a Division 1 school, if possible. This was my game plan in order to achieve that goal through a football scholarship.

I was never encouraged to go and serve a mission. Going to college was the BIG THING, the IMPORTANT THING to do at all costs. My first year at Santa Ana College was a good one. As a matter of fact, my very first football game of the season, after the kick off we had the ball on our 20 yard line the very first play and they were giving me, the fullback, the football. The play was a 36 Slant Veer right. So the very first time I touched a football in a college football game I ran for an 80 yard touchdown! The stadium went wild and it was the most euphoric feeling of my entire life up to this point, to be standing in the end zone with the crowd roaring and my teammates giving me kudos. Could it get any better than this?

At the end of my first year of college, right after football season, I had a full-time night job from 6 pm till 1 am and my job was operating a machine that polished the aluminum skin sections that go on the outside of commercial aircraft. Each day about 3 pm I would always go and weight lift and run a few miles, as well as lots of sprints. I always prided myself in working out longer and harder than most football players. I was VERY focused and serious about playing football and getting the best scholarship possible.

Then it happened . . . after I showered and was now heading to my car, a little convertible Datsun Roadster that I paid $800 cash for back then and wished like crazy I had it today. What a collector’s car! But as I was cutting across campus taking a shortcut, I came to the top of this small grassy hill and it happened: I heard a voice from inside my head, out of nowhere, that was so loud and distinct that it caused me to come to a complete stop as I was quickly walking to get to work on time.

The voice said to me simply, “Are you ever going to do anything for me?” I was so blown away with that question. It caught me so off guard that the only thing I could respond with was, “What do you mean am I ever going to do anything for you?” Immediately, as I muttered that question, the voice said to me, “Everything about your life is about YOU, Your playing football, Your sports car, Your savings account, Your schooling, Your Job, Your dating. What about ME?!!!” It hit me so hard I was speechless. I thought to myself at first, “I’m working SO HARD and all of these goals are good, aren’t they?” I slowly started walking again but was too stunned and trying to take all of this in as I was in deep thought about this experience . . . something that was so out of nowhere, I was seriously taken aback.

As I drove to work, the entire time at work, all I could think about was that question, “Are you ever going to do anything for me?” I then started to get a little defensive and started to reflect on the hundreds of hours I had worked over the years at church welfare projects, picking oranges dozens of times, moving water lines, paper drive projects to raise money for the building fund and many other projects. I did a lot. I was active in church and always helped when asked to. I felt I was a pretty good guy. But for some reason, as I had these thoughts flow through my mind, I was not at peace. There was something else to all of this.

After a couple of weeks of this experience consuming, at times, most of my free thinking time, it finally hit me how I could end this ONCE AND FOR ALL. I said to myself, “This is about getting me to go on a mission, I bet.” So I said to myself, which of course I knew the Lord was hearing and aware of all of this too. I said to myself, “I will read the entire Book of Mormon, from cover to cover. Then I will do that prayer challenge thing that’s somewhere in the back of the book in Moroni and then I will be free because I KNOW I’m not going to have some kind of dream, vision, or witness that I should change my course of action, let alone go on a mission.” By the way, I’m 19 and a half years old now and football season will be starting in just a few months.

Well, with this particular job I had, I was able to have breaks as I had to wait for the machine to do it’s part before I could go to the next process. So with lunch break and two outbreaks, I was able to get about two hours of reading in each night. I’m embarrassed to say that this was also the first book that I had read cover to cover to this point in my life. Sad, very sad, but true.

Right off the bat, I was so taken by Nephi and his two boneheaded brothers. I wanted to kick both of their butts for beating up and pushing their little brother, Nephi, around. Soon I was telling myself, “This is a pretty cool book !” I loved the action. I had no idea this book was like this. Nephi taking Laban out in order to get the Brass Plates. The whole thing was very enjoyable and being a football player, the physical contact and conflict was something I related to. I loved it.

Then I hit the Isiah parts and it was all Greek to me. Not one thing registered and it was so long and boring I almost gave up, but I said, “No Dude. You’re going to keep your promise and finish this and put this all behind you.”

Then came Alma, King Noah, Abinadi and it got very cool again. Ammon blew me away. WHAT A STUD! I loved this guy. He was my boy! All of the wars and conflicts — I was totally into this book and it’s stories and as I was reading I said to myself, “Nothing is really spiritually talking to me yet but it’s a great story or history of a people who lived a long time ago.” Then it came, like bold letters on a billboard: 3 Nephi hit me like a wrecking ball. My first spiritual scripture was 3 Nephi 13:21, “FOR WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS, THERE WILL YOUR HEART BE ALSO.” I read that at least a dozen times then closed it up. I could not read one more word.

I then asked myself where was my treasure and there I would find my heart. And sure enough, as I took inventory, it was just as the voice had said to me as I was walking across campus to my car. My love and heart was football, school, saving money, being cool in my sports car, dating, (which I might add at the time was the college Homecoming Queen). It was all about ME and the LORD was not even in the picture, or more correctly, He was in the picture but in the distant background of a painting that you would have to get up close to even see Him.

Well, I continued the next day to read the Book of Mormon. Third Nephi was an amazing chapter…. the Savior’s appearance, teachings and blessings, especially to his 12 apostles and the Three Nephites that came from those 12 apostles because of their desire to continue forever to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I then read how after a couple of hundred years of peace upon the earth between both the Nephites and the Lamanites, pride and worldly desires returned and wars started again. Then Mormon comes into the story and the amazing things he did to protect the Nephites. I then discovered where the first Navy Seal Team was started. It was by Teancum, ha ha.
What an amazing group of men he trained and what a loyal patriot he surely was.

The the book of Ether, Wow!!! What else can be said? I was so touched and taken by the brother of Jared and his great faith and his prayers to the Lord were so remarkable. I was spellbound by every word written. Then came the great words and challenge of Moroni, who finished the record after his father had passed away. I wanted to be like these men. I wanted to have their faith, courage, love and devotion to the Lord. I had so far to go and was so lacking in so many areas. I was in such deep thought about so many things and what I should do next. My life was so organized and planned out and now I just got clipped.

When I got off work that night at 1:00 am and headed home, I was thinking to myself, “So now you need to pray about this book you just read”. I pulled into our driveway. I slept in a 14 ft trailer that was parked beside our house. Our home was just a two bedroom home with one bath so my parents had one room and my sister had the other room, so I got the little trailer. As I opened the door to my humble abode, I just fell to my knees. I was so overcome with the spirit I could not even open my mouth or utter a single word for several minutes. I was so choked up all I could do was cry, something that I had not done much in my life. After several minutes I gained enough composure to utter the words, “I know what I have just read is the word of God.” I acknowledged to the Lord, “This is Your book.” I could not, nor did I even have to ask if it was true. To do so would have been an offense to God. I also knew that no man, not even Joseph Smith, could write such a book. This was the hand and voice of God being revealed through the Book of Mormon.

So strong and so consuming was the spirit in that little trailer that my entire mind, body and soul was consumed and filled with the Spirit of the Lord. Never had I experienced anything even remotely like this in my entire life. Never had I felt something so euphoric. I was enveloped with such joy and peace, I didn’t want this to ever go away. After several minutes I started to get some composure over my emotions. I knew what I had to do and I could not do it quickly enough.

First thing in the morning when my dad got off work, (he worked the graveyard shift for 30 years at American Medical Hospital Supply Company as the maintenance supervisor), I told him I had been thinking about going on a mission and putting off college for a couple of years to do so. To my surprise he said he would support my decision if that is what I wanted to do. I then told my mom. She was much more favorable to it than my dad, I could tell. But I did not tell either of them about this experience until after my mission.

Then the next part, which I knew I had to do right away or I would never go…. I had to tell my coaches I would not be playing again that year. That was one of the hardest things I had ever done in my entire life up to that point in my life. I had worked 5 long, hard years for this one big year to get my full-ride scholarship. When I walked into the coaches office all of them were present………

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The Blessing

Posted by Culley Davis on

“Alice and I want to know if we drove to Cleveland, would you give us a priesthood blessing and ask the Lord if He would let us have at least one more child? We want our little Shelly to have a brother or sister to grow up with, and it would mean everything to us Elder Davis, if we could. We believe the Lord will listen to you, Elder Davis, that He lead you to us to get us into His church, and that through your priesthood, we can be blessed to have another child. How would you feel about doing that for us? Is that something you could ask the Lord to help us with?”

I have never in all my life been so awe struck and humbled. I was totally speechless and completely caught off guard. No one said a word for what seemed like minutes but it was a very long pause. Then Harry spoke up and said, “Elder Davis, are you still there? Are you ok?” I said, “Yes, Harry and Alice, I’m still here. I just need a minute or two to gather my thoughts. To be honest, you guys have really caught me off guard.” I then said, “You know something like this is very sacred and we have to prepare for this. We just can’t run out and do a blessing the same way as if someone is sick or needing help with a problem or issue. This requires a lot of prayer and fasting so I can know what the Lord wants to do and how He wants this to happen, so we need to set aside a special day for this.”

I then mentioned, “because of the work week you have Harry and our schedule as missionaries, we should probably plan this for a Saturday, a weekend, so you don’t miss any work and can get back in time for church. Thats a four hour plus drive for you guys. Do you think you’ll spend the night or just drive back the same day?” Alice mentioned that they would be getting a baby sitter for Shelly and would need to get back home before dinner.

I said, “How soon do you two want to do this and when?” Harry said, “Can we do it this weekend?” They had called me on a Sunday night I believe. I was again shocked a little. I asked, “This next weekend?” They answered, “Yes. Would that work?” I was thinking and hoping for a couple of weeks at least, to prepare for this but I blurted out, “Sure, let’s plan this for next Saturday then. What time? They said, “If we get up at 5:00 am and leave by 6:00 am there will be little to know traffic then, especially on a Saturday, so we should be at your place by 10:00 am. Then after the blessing maybe take you and your companion to lunch and then head home.” I said, “That sounds like a good plan to me, so let’s all start our fast Friday at 10:am. Will that work for everyone?” “Yes, that will be just fine Elder Davis.” Alice was on the other line. Her sweet little voice said, “Thank you so much for doing this for us Elder Davis. We love you so much. You have changed our lives in so many ways.” I had tears running down my face, just as I am now as I write this experience down on paper. My heart is pumping and I’m reliving this as though it just happened yesterday.

I said, “I need you both to know and understand that I have little to nothing to do with this blessing. This is all in the Lord’s hands and His doing. I of myself, I’m nothing, and without the Lord we can do nothing in this life. I will plead and go to the Lord as I never have for you to receive this blessing that you seek at His hand. I love you both dearly.” We said our goodbyes and we all hung up.

At that very moment I fell to my knees and cried and cried and cried, as I never had in my life to that point. I was only a 20 year old and I knew so little. Yes, I had had some remarkable missionary experiences and had used my priesthood a few times to give blessings to help and to heal people. One blessing was very critical for a man who was to lose both of his legs. But this was a totally different experience. They wanted a child. The Dennises had so much faith in me and my relationship with the Lord that I was awe struck. I questioned not the Lord, but myself; do I have that kind of faith? Can I know and find out the will of the Lord in this matter? How will I know what to do and say? I want them to have a child, but is that what the Lord wants? The blessing will only work if it’s the will of the Lord, but I also must have great faith to make sure the full powers of heaven can be called upon for this blessing.

This, and so many other thoughts flooded my mind, my heart, and soul. I remember praying for the longest time when I had gotten off the phone with the Dennises. When I finally rose to my feet, Elder Foster asked if I was ok, and if I needed any help or anything; what was going on? I told him about the Dennises phone call and why they had called and then mentioned to him that they were coming this Saturday to our apartment. He was also speechless. He said “I’m sure glad it’s you and not me that’s giving them that blessing.” Tracy then asked, “So what are you going to do?” I told him I was going to be praying like I never have in my life, like Enos in the Book of Mormon, so I can know the mind and will of the Lord in this matter. I would deeply and sincerely appreciate his prayers and fasting as well and, “as you will be with me and you will be the one to anoint them with the oil, if you don’t mind?” He said, “Sure, that’s the easy part. Just as long as I don’t have to say anything else.” Ha ha

Each day and night in our personal and companion prayers we poured out our hearts to the Lord for this blessing. It was a somber and humbling week for me, with little to no kidding or joking around. I was overcome with the seriousness of this request from the Dennises for this blessing. My mind seemed riveted on this 24/7. I was thinking about so many things and I didn’t want to pre think about anything I would say. I wanted this to be totally from the Lord because I knew without that, it would be just words or things that I wanted them to have or hear and that was not acceptable.

I got the impression one evening when we returned home from proselyting that I needed to read my Patriarchal Blessing. As I did, I was deeply touched and humbled. In one of the parts of my blessing the Lord said “I bless you with great faith, Brother Davis, for faith is the first principle of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.” These words seemed to jump off the page at me in bold print. It brought such peace and comfort to my soul. I said to myself, “Yes, with the Lord, all things are possible and if this is His will, this will happen and He will tell me so.”

Well, the week seemed to fly by all too quickly and the next thing I knew it was Friday and the Dennises would be here the next day. I started my fast that morning and that evening the Dennises called to confirm and make sure everything was still good to go. I confirmed it was and that I was excited to see them both in the morning. I was up late, reading and praying as I usually was, but this night was very different and special as my feelings where tender and so very close to the Lord as I poured out my heart again to Him, expressing all that I felt. I felt a great peace come over me and was very confident that this would all go well and that I would be able to do this as the Lord would want me to.

The Dennises arrived just a few minutes early, as I knew they would. I had been up by 5:30, gotten dressed and finished my scripture reading with prayer. As I saw the Dennises pull up from my large upstairs bedroom window, I went down stairs to greet them. We all embraced with big, warm, heart felt hugs. My emotions ran high and I just could not hold back my tears. The love I had for them and what we were all gathered for was so humbling to me. I was feeling the love that the Lord had for them as new converts to the church and all, and they had just driven four hours to receive a blessing. What touched me even more was they both came dressed just like they were coming to church. Harry had on a full three-piece suit and Alice was wearing a Sunday best dress. They were ready and wanting to present themselves to the Lord for the blessing they desired with two of the Lord’s missionaries.

We all headed upstairs to our apartment and I introduced them to my missionary companion, Elder Foster. We all sat and visited as I got a lot more detail about all of their struggles to have another child. It was very heart touching to see and feel their emotions and how badly they wanted another child. I then mentioned to them what we were going to do next, that Elder Foster would anoint them with consecrated olive oil and I told them the significance of that and why we use this in giving certain blessings. Then I would seal that anointing upon their head and then give them a blessing as directed by the Spirit. I mentioned that we would start with Alice first. We were fortunate we had this big, over stuffed chair in our apartment that was a great reading chair and it worked out perfectly for this occasion.

I don’t remember all of the words I spoke to Alice, but even after 43 years having passed away I do remember a few special lines that stayed with me. I told her of the love the Lord had for her and that He was very pleased for the wonderful mother she was to her daughter, Shelly. Alice was an elementary school teacher at one time, so she spent a lot of quality time with Shelly, teaching her to read and write and many many other things. I also remember sharing with her what a loving and supporting wife she was to her husband, Harry, and that she would be blessed for being such a loving mother and wife. I then mentioned how pleased the Lord was with her for accepting her calling in the Relief Society, for serving so unselfishly in helping the other sisters in her ward and that the Lord would bless her with the righteous desires of her heart. I remember the sweet spirit we all felt in the room as we all exchanged warm hugs and wiped the tears from our eyes. I felt what I had said was what the Lord had given me to say. The words flowed easily and my mind was clear.

Now it was Harry Dennis’ turn. He sat down and gave us his full name and Elder Foster anointed him. As I placed my hands upon his head, I immediately felt the spirit of the Lord upon me and I remember telling him of the Lord’s great love for him, and for his faith and courage in joining His church, and that the Lord had blessed him with many talents and many gifts and as he shared these gifts and talents with others in his various callings, he would be blessed. Then, as clear as a blue sky, I told Harry that he needed to take his wife and their daughter and be sealed in The House of The Lord. That if he paid a full tithing, obeyed the Word of Wisdom and did those things that were needed to allow them to go to the Lord’s House, that the Lord would bless them with another child and that they would have a son.

It came out without a word of hesitancy, clear and unmistaken, not just that they would have a child but to specifically tell Harry, a son. I blessed him with heath and strength and the courage to live the gospel of Jesus Chris, and that by doing so, he and his family would be greatly blessed. The spirit was unlike anything I had ever experienced thus far in my life. I had to pause to gain my composure. It seemed at times like I was outside my body listening to what I was saying. I never had to pause for words, only to gain composure so I could speak the words given to me.

When I was done, the spirit and emotions in the room, I will never forget. We all paused for a moment, then grabbed lots of tissue, then we again gave long warm hugs to each other. Then Harry said to me, “Elder Davis, so you’re telling us that we are not only going to have another child, but I will even have a son?” I said, “That is correct.” He then asked, “How do you know that?” I said, “Because the Lord told me and the Holy Ghost confirmed that to me. I was not only told to bless you with a child but to announce that it would be a son given unto you. However, the impression was made very clear to me that this was based upon your obedience and faithfulness to go to the temple with your family and be sealed. If you do not obey that admonition, then you have no promise, as I understand this. I then asked Harry, “Have you ever felt anything like this in your life? Is not the spirit of the Lord here? Do you not feel the presence of the Holy Ghost bearing witness to your heart and soul that the words spoken are of God and not of man?” Harry said, “I have never felt anything like this in my life, as did Alice, and we believe you.”

I was able to bear them my testimony of the truthfulness of what was said and given to them and I did not doubt for ONE SECOND that what I had said was from the Lord. However, I must confess, I was blown away at what had happened and how it happened and that I had experienced nothing like this before in my entire life. This was such a deep and profound learning experience for me. It was so real and powerful that for many weeks thereafter I reflected on what I felt and how this was given to me.

I reflected on it often, and I did not know this at that time, nor could I have known, but just a couple of weeks after my mission, my bishop would come up to me at church, hand me a piece of paper and ask me if I would go to the hospital ‘right now’. There was a situation where a father and son have been hit at an intersection by another car doing 120 miles an hour, running from the police. They were t-boned, the father being killed instantly and his 17 year old son thrown over 100 feet from their van. That is another story for another time but the Lord is so kind and merciful in all His doings and I was somewhat prepared to handle this unbelievable experience because the Lord had prepared me.

The following week, after the Dennises’ blessing, I got a phone call. This time it was my Mission President and he told me that our mission was being divided/split and it was now going to be the Ohio Columbus Mission and the Ohio Cleveland Mission and that he and his family were called to set up the new mission. He wanted to know if I would accept the call to come and work with him again as his assistant to help set up this new mission. I was of course, overjoyed at this amazing opportunity and responded very enthusiastically, “President Brewer, it would be an honor to work with you in any capacity, on any project you needed, Sir. When do you need me there?” He said, “We are having a Zone Leader’s Meeting tomorrow to go over the new mission split and make the announcement official to Zone Leaders. I will be at your apartment in about an hour or two to pick you up. Can you be ready?” I said, “I’m packing the moment we hang up, Sir. I will see you in the morning.” I was also told not to tell anyone about the mission split. Just to tell the Zone Leaders they were coming to the mission office to see him about a transfer and he would announce the transfers and other pertinent information. To make a long story short, the new mission got organized the last four months of my mission, a few more people were baptized just a week before I went home and my mission, as most missionaries usually say, was without question, the best two years of my life.

A couple of months after getting home from my mission the Dennises called me,and told me about their experience in getting sealed as a family in the temple. Then, about three months later, I got a call from Harry and Alice and they said, “Elder Davis, we have some news for you. We wanted you to be the very first person to know.” Harry said, “Alice is pregnant.” I just burst out with a very enthusiastic, “YES, YES, YES! That is so wonderful to hear!” Then Alice said, “And we are having a son!” My joy and excitement went from pure joy to immediate tears, uncontrollable tears. I could not contain my emotions. Even though I never doubted, still, to have those words confirmed that the Lord had given me was a joy that I don’t have words for. It took me literally several minutes before I could say anything. When I finally could, I told them, “Thank you for letting me know and for letting me share this most sacred experience with you and your family.”

Moving forward, on February 2, 1994 I was asked to speak at Alice’s funeral. She had been tragically hit by a car that lost control on the road, due to poor road conditions, and she was killed. This would be the first time I would see Russell, who they called Rusty, their son, who was now 15 years old, and Shelly, his sister, who would have been about 20 years old. The funeral service was held at the Stake Center and it was the largest attended funeral service I have even seen. Then entire chapel and all the way back to the Cultural Hall was totally full. Over 500 people came. More than half were not members of our faith who attended. There were friends and customers from CopCo Paper where Harry Dennis worked and of course, extended family and all of Alice’s friends from the community and at church. It was a remarkable gathering.

As I stood to speak, I looked at Michelle ( Shelly ) and Russell ( Rusty ) who were sitting on the front row with their father and immediate family. I looked down at them and said, Rusty did your parents tell you the story of how you came into this world? He shook his head back and forth giving a ‘NO’ signal. I said, “Well, your’s is very unique and special, so I will tell you and your sister, how you came to be a member of this church and how you were born. If the rest of you would like to listen in, you’re very welcome to, but my words today on behalf of your dear mother will be to you, and the legacy she left you, and she would like you to know this, I think.”

I related to them the story I have just shared with you today. I had a few people in the audience that I had baptized who brought their friends and family and many missionaries came as well. The talk I gave that day was one of the most heart felt talks of my entire life and the Lord laid His spirit upon all those who had gathered to pay their respects to Alice. I was so joyful to hear a few weeks later, that a few people who had attended the funeral took the missionary discussions and were baptized.

From this and many more things that I have had the privilege of experiencing during my little journey here in mortality, I felt I needed to say something, to let my words join with the many others that have gone on before me, that I know of Jesus Christ personally. I know He lives and that He is the Way the Truth and the Light of the world. I know personally in a way that extends past the five human senses that God, our Father in Heaven lives, that He sent His son to save us and help us to return home to live with Him again, if we so choose to accept Jesus Christ as our savior and redeemer, that the Holy Ghost bears truth of this and the truth of all things. He makes known the will of The Father and The Son, which are one and the same in thought and deed. By this power are all things revealed and done. My book is to bear witness of that truth, to those who will but listen with their hearts, and feel of its truth and majesty and that it is Within Our Grasp to return home and live forever with Him again. Of this I bear witness of, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Getting ready to serve a mission

Posted by Culley Davis on

I had never been in the coaches’ offices before, never had a need to. I didn’t get into any fights, had no complaints. Well I did, but I kept them to myself. I just worked hard and did my job. But as I walked into their offices, on the back wall were two large chalk boards. On the top center of each one were the words OFFENSE, DEFENSE. Then across the entire chalk board from left to right was every position. Under each position were the names of all the different football players who were to be playing this year in those positions and what their status was: 1st string, 2nd string etc. and new players coming to play.

As I looked at the Offensive Board, I saw my position just under the Quarter Backs position, center of the board, Running Backs, with my name, Culley Davis, in the top position, 1st string. I was excited and proud to see my name there. I had worked five hard years to get to this point but this was all to change very soon. The head coach came out and, greeted me with a firm handshake and a warm smile and said, “What brings you here Culley? It’s always a pleasure to see you.”

I got right to the point. I was very nervous. My heart was pounding so loud it seemed like you could hear it beating 10 feet away and my emotions were near the surface. Now WAS NOT the time to be emotional, I was one who never cried. I needed and wanted to do this like a man, with strength and conviction. I said to the coaches, “I don’t know if you’re aware of this but I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, more commonly known as the LDS or Mormon church.” One of the coaches said “Yes, I think this came up a couple of times when some of the players mentioned that you never drank or partied with the guys on the team when invited and the reason was given, ‘he’s religious, a Mormon’”. I smiled and gave a chuckle and said, “Yes, that would be me sir.” I continued, “In my church we are encouraged to serve two years as a missionary for our church. It is not mandatory. As a matter of fact, we even have to pay our own way if we want to go for the two year period.” They said, “You’re kidding me? They don’t even pay your way or even pay you to serve like the Red Cross?” I said, “No sir. They want to know this is something that you really want to do and that you’re serious about it.”

“Well, that’s one way to separate the boys from the girls, I guess!” I said, “Yes sir. That is for sure, but even women can go also.” He asked, “Do they get paid?” I said, “No sir. We all serve the same way except the girls serve for a 18 month period.” “Do you get to work with them?” “No,” I answered, “the sisters work together as companions and the men work together as companions. We are as one team but we work separately together. As a matter of fact we are not allowed to date or come home for two years, until we finish our mission. We totally dedicate two years of our lives to serving the Lord and His church.” They were all pretty amazed at this point and could not believe there was no social life for two years and we had to pay our own way. It blew them away. A few other kind jokes were made but it was all done with respect and in pretty good taste.

I told them I didn’t think I would ever serve on a mission but that, “I had an experience that has given me a change of heart and I have to go and do this. This is something I really want to do!” Coach Corey said, “Culley, I respect your religious dedication but can’t you put this off for six months? Why don’t you see what kind of year you’re going to have. You have got a great chance of getting a Division 1 scholarship. That could change your life. Why don’t you wait, see what happens and then look at all of your options?” He then paid me some great compliments on my work ethic and that, “You’re a great example to the team we need you.”

I told the coaches, “You have no idea how hard this is for me to just up and quit. I have wanted this chance for over 5 years and it’s right here in front of me now. It’s almost impossible for me to put into words why I have to do this and do this now, but I have to go and leave for my mission as soon as possible, before school and football season starts in a few weeks. I came here to tell you this in person and to thank you for all your time and effort in my behalf and for giving me this chance.”

I was so nervous and holding back my emotions like you can’t believe. The coaches were not pleased with my response and decision. As I shook each one of their hands, they wished me good luck halfheartedly and they said if I had a change of heart to let them know. I thanked them again and then left as quickly as possible. I was walking very fast. I needed to get to my car ASAP. I was emotionally losing it, so much so, that I started to jog to my car. Just as I did, I felt a hand grab me by the shoulder and call my name. I was startled for a second and as I turned around quickly, to my surprise, it was Coach McDonald.

Coach McDonald was not even one of my coaches. He coached the Defensive Ends and Line Backers. Just to let you know who this man was; he was without question the most respected coach on the entire football team. He was 35 years old, about 6’2”, weighed about 210 and had the physique of one of those Greek God statues. He ran 5 miles a day, a sub 7 minute pace per mile and he was an animal in the weight room. EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE, on the college campus knew who he was and NO ONE even thought twice about talking back to him, on or off the football field. As a matter of fact, he was so good at his job, he handled the conditioning program for the San Diego Chargers in their pre-season training camp.

Coach McDonald was ALL BUSINESS during football practice and of course, he did all of our team’s conditioning and training. What this man could do to you in just 5 minutes of running was amazing!!!! We did a series of sprints that lasted only 4 minutes and afterwards there was not one person standing. He had some grueling runs for us to do at the end of each practice and if you didn’t make his time goals that he gave you, you had to do another set. At the end of each practice we ALL dreaded what Coach McDonald was going to make us do. I always made it a point to come in first on almost all of his drills. Being a Running Back especially, I felt I was supposed to be the best runner and the best conditioned football player on the field. And if you wanted to get noticed and be given a chance, this was the best way to accomplish it.

That was how Coach McDonald got to know me and he was a man of few words who rarely passed out compliments. At the end of the drills he would sometimes say, “Great job Davis” or “Good effort” or “Way to push it.” Because of who he was and what he represented on the football field, hearing those few simple words meant the world to me. They made me feel like I had just won an Olympic Gold Medal or something.

So when I turned around and saw Coach McDonald with his hand on my shoulder, I was caught off guard and surprised. He said to me, “Hey, I just want you to know that what you said in there to all of us coaches took a lot of guts to do. I know from your work ethic on the football field that you were very serious about your goal and dream of playing football for a Division 1 football team and you would have done it. I want you to know that I have a great amount of respect for a man who has a conviction about something and then does something about it. You’re a good man and when you get back from that mission, look me up. I’d love to coach someone like you. I love coaching men with heart and dedication.”

He gave me a handshake and a slap on the back and said, “Good luck,” then we parted ways. I didn’t make it ten steps when I had to run over to a tree and started bawling my eyes out, almost uncontrollably. I was so touched by Coach McDonald’s kind words and the reality of what I had just said and done, that it hit me like a ton of bricks. The reality of what I had just done sunk in deep, but I knew I was doing the right thing. I never questioned that what I was doing at this time was right, but I did wonder what was going to happen next. All of my plans had just been turned upside down and I felt pretty alone. The experiences that were to soon follow would confirm all of this and much more, as you will soon see.

I met with my bishop and stake president and turned my missionary papers in. They came back quicker than normal, much quicker, which I feel was the Lord way of helping me so I would not have a change of heart. You see, when the word got out that I was not returning to play football again for the 1975-76 football season, I got some calls and visits from my football buddies and they were trying to talk me into staying home, just for ONE MORE SEASON!!!

I was also dating the college home coming queen, she was a recent convert to the church, she did not fully understand the importance of a mission either, and she even asked me if I really needed to go at this time as well.

When the call came in the mail as I said, much sooner than usual, I was called to the Ohio, Columbus Mission. I was asked to report to the Mission Training Center on August 13th 1975. This was just across the street from Temple Square. This was also my first time flying a commercial airline anywhere, a short hour and a half flight from Santa Ana California to Salt Lake City, Utah. I got there a day earlier than I was supposed to so I slept that first night alone in the entire mission complex, what looked like military barracks back then, with hundreds of bunk beds, row after row, room after room. I stared out the window that night just before bed time, looking at Temple Square asking myself what was going to happen next and what had I volunteered for now?

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The First 6 Months of My Mission

Posted by Culley Davis on

The next morning I was up, shaved, showered and ready to go by 6:30am. All of the missionaries were checking in from all over the world, getting as- signed to their groups and rooms according to where they were called to serve. It wasn’t until around noon time when things started to get organized and I got to meet all the other missionaries who were going to serve in the Columbus, Ohio Mission.

There were 9 missionaries total in our group and I remember all of us going and getting our Missionary Packet, Picture Flip Chart and Discussion Book. This had all 7 of our missionary discussions in them, which we were informed, we had to memorize . . . all of them, the entire book, all 10,000 words in two months! It was like a small book. I said to myself, “NO ONE can do this, period, let alone in two months, unless you had perfect memory recall.” I knew right then and there I was in big trouble and that this was going to be TOUGH!!!.
Next, we got our missionary name tag, that black little badge with the white letters that we were told we had to wear 24/7, 365 days a year for the next two years. Then we got this little plastic white rule book. This, we were informed, was our new 10 Commandments and all of the new rules we had to obey and follow. This was our code of conduct in public, around ladies, people in general. This also we were to keep on our person 24/7 and read it at least once a week; basically memorize this little booklet as well and with that little white book came our legal Ministerial Certificate, giving us authority to be missionaries in the United States. They fit perfectly into our little white plastic Rules Booklet which fit perfectly into our white shirt pocket or suit coat pocket. With all of this I was now feeling like an official missionary with my name tag on and all.

I then remember getting inspected to make sure our hair was short enough to meet missionary standards. I had just gotten a haircut a couple of days before I left for my mission so I knew I was good to go there, or so I thought. They thought different and said mine still needed some trimming, that it was still not short enough. I was blown away. I already felt like I was joining the military but as I look at my pictures today in comparison to what I looked like back then, it still needed to be trimmed up a little. It cost about three dollars and there was a line of us at this barber area in the MTC and I have never seen so many barbers in one place in my life. It looked like a barber school of 20 or more barbers. We were like sheep standing in this long line waiting to getting sheared. It was the same cut no matter what you looked like or what kind of hair you had. You could get it cut any way you wanted, as long as it was SHORT!!!.

To get over the new military hair cut we then got directed to the cafeteria and that was the BEST place I had seen so far! I ate up. It was good food and there was lots of it. You know you’re hungry when everything tastes good, right? We then headed to classes. For the rest of our two weeks there, that’s all we did was learn how to memorize our discussions and present the discussions with our flip charts. We also got to go to the Salt Lake City Temple one day and we did two endowment sessions back to back, which was really good since I had only been to the temple once before I came to SLC. (I went to the Los Angeles Temple to receive my endowments about three weeks before I left for my mission.) This was good to have some more time to digest all that is taught in the temple session. I was also interested to see and know that the entire temple session was acted out, live, not a film like I had seen in Los Angeles. That made it very interesting as well. There was a lot to take in.

The highlight for me during this two week period was having some of the apostles and general authorities of the church come and speak to all of us. This was very uplifting, motivating and encouraging. I loved it and it reconfirmed that I was at the right place doing the right thing.
The time soon came for us to pack our bags and take a shuttle to the Salt Lake City Airport to catch our plane to Columbus, Ohio. This would be only the second time in my life to fly on a commercial plane and this ride would be for about 4 hours. I still remember sitting, looking out the window, saying to myself, “You’re miles high and soon to be miles from home. This is finally it and you’re all in now, pal.”

When we landed, we were picked up by the mission president, President Paul Buehne, and his assistant. Back in those good old days, you were able to meet people at the gate as they got off the airplane. (That all changed after 9/11.) We all got our bags, loaded them in a van and a station wagon and we left for the mission home. We would have dinner that
evening in the mission home with President and Sister Buehner after which we all retired to the living room and we each took turns as missionaries sharing a little bit about ourselves; where we came from and what we were doing before our missions started and why we had made the decision to come on a mission.

This allowed the mission president to get to know us all a little better and help him decide who would be best to pair us up with in our first area as our first training companion. After these introductions, we all went to bed at the mission home and in the morning we had scripture study and break- fast. Then, they orientated us to the mission, showed us the mission boundaries, gave us some history about Ohio and reviewed the rules and guidelines for the mission. Sister Buehner gave us a special reading/studying challenge that she gave to all of the missionaries who came to serve in the Ohio mission for the next 18 months or 24 months. The reading goal challenge included reading the Book of Mormon four times, The Old Testament once, The New testament twice, The D&C four times and A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. It required reading several pages a day over the two year mission if you wanted to accomplish this goal. I felt prompted and inspired to accept this challenge. I had read the Book of Mormon once before my mission and the Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball, which we were told to do before our mission. I did that, so by now I had read two books in my life from cover to cover and I was four months away from my 20th birthday; pretty sad that that’s all I could account for.

This book challenge would turn out to be the thing that got me not only interested in studying the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but would get me hooked on reading in general. From that day forward, for the last 43 years I have read some form of scriptures or religious text every day, only missing when I was sick or on a few trips, I have read up to a book a month many times or more and now I am proud to say I have read several hundred books and it has been a real joy to me, most of which, I’d say have been religiously oriented.

After all our orientation to Ohio and our new mission, I was given my first call as a missionary to serve in my first area, Westerville, Ohio, about a 30 minute drive from the mission home. A pair of missionaries came and picked me up while the other missionaries headed to the bus station for their first areas of assignment. Westerville was a little town of 10,000 people in 1975. Today it has about 40,000 residents. Another thing I had never seen before is that many of the residential streets in Westerville were made of bricks and it’s still that way to this day. This was a biking and walking area I was to serve in and let me tell you, it is very interesting riding a bike on brick roads. The vibration is something else! You better make sure you don’t have to go to the bathroom and you better not have any loose teeth and you do most of your riding while standing on your bike peddles as you pump.

My first companion was Elder Hawkins, from Idaho. He had been out about 20 months on his mission so he only had about four months to go. He was a great guy. He wore metal rim glasses, his mother was a school teacher and he looked like a geeky teacher himself. He was a great person and 180 degrees different in personality from me. He played no sports and was fairly quiet. After being out knocking on doors for a couple of weeks with no success, he told me one day, “Elder Davis, I’m going to take you to a DA you will never forget. It will be the BEST MEAL you will ever receive on your entire two year mission! I promise you that.” I asked, “What’s a DA?” “Oh, that’s a dinner appointment. When members or people invite us over for dinner we call that a DA. I’ve been on my mission for almost two years and have NEVER seen a dinner like this!” I said, “Count me in!” After eating pot pies and boiling bags of rice for lunch and dinner for two weeks, I was ready for some REAL food.

Elder Hawkins said, “By the way, this family is a PI”. I asked, “What’s that?” He answered, “A Professional Investigator.” (I was learning the mission jargon for various things.) “He has had the missionary discussions several times over the years. His wife is a school teacher and they are the best people you will ever meet and they LOVE the missionaries, but are not interest in joining. So don’t pitch them on the church.” I said, “OK. I’ll follow your lead.”

Elder Hawkins was not exaggerating when he said it would be a dinner never to forget. I had no idea that steaks could be cut that BIG. It was 32oz. Plus, I kid you not, it hung over my large dinner plate. The baked potatoes where so big that they were put in a special side bowl, with so much butter and sour cream it looked like a small birthday cake. Salad was served in yet another bowl and the biggest glass of lemonade I had ever seen. I thought this was for giants and Harry was all of 5’6” with shoes on. Harry Dennis was this awesome short guy; loud, talkative, out-
going, and an Ohio Buckeye fan to the bone, with the legendary Woody Hayes as the Head Coach at that time.
Harry, I soon learned was an executive sales rep for one of, if not the largest paper company in America, Cop-Co Papers. His father was VP of the company and they were a very blue-blood family that belonged to the most prestigious country club and the Methodist Church in Columbus, Ohio. This very successful man in his mid thirties, his wife, Alice, and their four year old daughter, Michelle, were all living the good life.

Well, after this enormous dinner, and YES, I ate every bite of it, then, I KID YOU NOT, he took a half a gallon of vanilla ice cream and put half of it in one bowl for me and half in another bowl for Elder Hawkins with some cookies stuck in it and gave it to Elder Hawkins and me. Elder Hawkins, you have to understand, was about 6 feet tall and about 140 pounds soaking wet with his clothes on, so he was already taking a doggie bag home with him. He barely touched his ice cream but me; I LOVE ice cream so I got mine all down somehow even though I was stuffed like I had never been before. Harry was VERY IMPRESSED and blown away that I downed everything he threw at me.

To back up a little, when he got us our ice cream he took us from the kitchen into the dining room. I grabbed a chair and turned it around, cowboy style, and sat facing the table with the back of the chair against the table. I look back on this now and I can’t believe how lacking I was in manners. Harry started laughing and said, “Well Elder Davis, I’m glad you’re feeling comfortable in my home. Ha ha!” I said, “Yes sir. Best dinner in my life and the biggest. Elder Hawkins said that I was in for a real treat and boy was he not kidding!” Harry laughed and said, “I’m glad you boys liked it.”
When I finished my ice cream, I felt like Harry and I had a connection, especially when I told him I played some football in California. So I thought I had nothing to lose; I’m going to ask him to take the discussions. So I did. Harry smiled and said, “How long have you been out on your mission Elder Davis?” I said, “About two weeks, sir.” He laughed and said, “I bet I can give the missionary discussions better than you.” I said, “You probably could,” and I didn’t know what else to say in response. Harry said, “Elder Davis, I have had the missionaries over for about 10 years now. I love you boys and you’re always welcome to a meal in my home but the church is not for us right now.” I thanked him very much for his incredible kindness and generosity and my companion and I departed. But this story is just getting started, for Harry and I would soon meet again. The next call would come from him though, when he invited me to an Ohio State football game against UCLA, which one of my friends was playing for from Santa Ana College, when he got a full ride scholarship. This I did not know at the time until I saw the game roster.

You won’t believe what happened next….

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Ohio State vs UCLA & The Dennises Take Missionary Discussions

Posted by Culley Davis on

Ohio State vs UCLA & The Dennises Take Missionary Discussions

I was reviewing the game roster, looking at the names of all the players on the UCLA football team and I noticed one of the players was
Molina. He and I played ball together at Santa Ana College and he picked up a full-ride scholarship and finished his last two years playing for UCLA. Well, I was sitting on the 50 yard line in the stadium and I noticed the UCLA team was on the same side we were sitting on so I walked down to the front row, looked around and sure enough, there was Molina. I yelled at him and he came over real quick, shook my hand and he said, “What are you doing all the way out here in Ohio at this game and why are you wearing a white shirt and tie at a football game?” I told him I was serving as a missionary for my church here in Ohio. He was totally blown away and said, “You’re kidding me, right? So you’re not playing ball this year?” I said, “No. Maybe later when I get off my mission but I’m doing this now.” I could tell by his facial expression that he thought I wussed out and quit. He then said, “Good luck man. See you later.” And that was it. I went back up to my seat and I was bothered because I wanted him to know WHY I was doing this, but he wouldn’t understand even if I did tell him. Sadly that is the way most of us jocks think; if you’re not playing the game, you’re not in the game, and you’re not one of ‘us’.

Harry Dennis was impressed a little, I think, that I actually did know one of the players on the UCLA team and that I really did play ball before my mission. It was a hard fought game and it ended in a tie, 17 to 17. Back then they allowed games to end in a tie. When the clock ran out, GAME OVER. I hated that rule. NO GAME should ever end in a tie. All of that hard work, someone needs to walk away a winner. Thank goodness that rule was changed.

After the game, Harry Dennis took my companion and me home and we all had a very good time together. I couldn’t thank Mr. Dennis enough. As a matter of fact, I told him this was my very first Pac 10 football game. I could tell that made Harry feel pretty good.

To my surprise, a few weeks later I got transferred to Parkersburg, West Virginia, just on the other side of the Ohio river. We got to see the
Dennises for one last AMAZING DINNER and then I was taken to the bus station and off I went. Being in Parkersburg, West VA was a very different place and setting than being in Westerville, Ohio. The upstairs apartment we had was in a home that was over 100 years old and the lady we rented from was a palm reader, of all things. Rose was the nicest lady ever and she had been boarding missionaries for years I was told. I tried to talk with her about the church and she would always get a kick out of all of my different approaches to her but she never let us teach her. But she took a real interest in me and she loved to tell the missionaries when they were getting transferred before it happened and she was usually right. It was a little spooky. One day she told me, “Elder Davis, you’re going to work in your mission office a lot and you’re going to work with and spend a lot of time helping the other missionaries.” I got a big chuckle out of that. I’d only been out about 7 months and had so much to learn and do. Then, a couple of weeks later she said, “Elder Davis, you’re getting transferred next week.” I told Rose, “Ive only been here about 3 months so I think you’re way off on this prediction.” But sure enough, the following week I got a letter informing me that I was to transfer to Cleveland, Ohio, as a trainer/district leader. Rose got a big kick out of being right on that one.

So I was off to Cleveland to train a new missionary who was from Springville, Utah. Val was a great missionary; upbeat, happy, and had a good, positive attitude and it was a real pleasure working and teaching with him. He really worked hard to study and learn his discussions. Then one night I got a phone call out of the blue. It was our Mission President, President Brewer, and he asked me if I would come and serve as one of his assistants to help him and Sister Brewer work with the missionaries and help run the mission office with the other missionary staff. I was so blown away and taken aback, I didn’t know what to say. You see, most missionaries in the past had not served in this capacity until they had been out for 18 to 20 months and had a lot of experience and had usually served as a trainer, District Leader, Zone Leader and had a good feel for the overall mission work. I had only been out 10 months and only been a trainer and District leader for 6 weeks which meant that over 70% of the missionaries currently serving had been out longer than me. We had two Elder Davises serving in the same mission so I asked President Brewer, “Sir, are you sure you have the right Elder Davis?” He said, “Well, lets see. You do have red hair, right?” I said, “Yes sir.” Then he said, “Then I think I have the right Elder Davis on the phone. So, do you accept? If so, I need you to be on a bus tomorrow headed for Columbus.” I said, “Yes sir. Yes sir. I will be there and I’m honored to help and work with you and the other missionaries and I will do my very best to do a good job, sir.”

All of a sudden President Brewer said to me, “Elder that won’t work for me.” I thought to myself, “I just told him I was gong to do my very best. How can anyone do more or better than their very best?” He said “Elder, I need you to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Trying to do your best is not good enough. You need to DO the job and make it work. Then it will be your best.” I said “Yes Sir. I will do the job and you will be pleased.” I then said, “I will see you tomorrow, sir” and hung up the phone. My companion heard most of the phone conversation and we were both blown away. I just sat on the edge of my bed and I said to myself, “This President Brewer is unreal. What’s he going to be like to work with? He’s not messing around. What have I gotten myself into now?” I had only met him once for a brief interview that lasted about 5 minutes but it was an interesting encounter in that short time, but that’s another story.

I had to call the Zone Leaders and tell them I needed a ride to the bus station in the morning. They said, “What for?” I said, “I just got a call from the Mission President and he has called me to be one of his assistants.” They started laughing and said, “Good joke Elder Davis. You have only been here 6 weeks. You have only been out on your mission for 10 months. I don’t think so. You didn’t get transferred because if you did, we would have gotten the call first. All transfers go though the Zone Leaders first, then we notify the missionaries. See, you don’t even know all the rules and procedures yet. NICE TRY ELDER, but you’re not fooling us for one minute, pal.” I said, “Well, that may be the way things are normally done, but this is a new Mission President and he may have a different way of doing things. You don’t have to believe me, but to cover your tails you may want to call the mission office or a staff member to verify my story. It’s no skin off my teeth, but if I don’t show up tomorrow at the mission office, I’ll be sure to let the Mission President know why.” Again they said, “Nice try Elder Davis, but you’re not going to trick us. “Get a good night’s sleep. Pleasant dreams. We will talk with you tomorrow. I said, “Ok, but I’m going to start packing now so I can say I was ready to go.” After about 30 minutes went by the Zone Leaders called me back and said, “You really are getting transferred. Are you freaking out Elder Davis? We are! I said, “I’m scared to death!” They said, “We will see you at 7:00 am and take you to the bus station.” I said, “That would be great!” especially since I was in a biking/walking area. Ha.

So in the morning I was off to the bus station and headed for Columbus. This is where I had started my mission and my first area was only about 30 minutes from Westerville. As I was sitting on the bus I started reflecting on some of the people I had met and the one person/family who I had baptized. Then, the next person who popped into my mind was Harry and I couldn’t remember his last name but I did remember the weird street he lived on; it was Mohican Drive. I had to see him again for sure this time.

Now back in the day, we all used what was called the Yellow Pages phone book. If you wanted to find someone, or some business, you had to thumb through these massive 4 to 5 inch books and look up whoever you wanted to find. They included names, addresses and phone numbers and most people were listed in these phone books back then. They were all alphabetized and so I said to myself, “I will go through a few pages each night. I will start with the A’s and go down each page looking for Mohican Drive. When I find that street and anyone who lives on that street, I will then see if their first names are Harry and Alice. If I do, BINGO, that will be them.

Columbus Ohio is or was the tenth most populist city in the US at that time and close to that still today, I think. So this phone book was MASSIVE and the names and numbers are not sorted according to the city people live in. That would have really helped out in a big way if they were. Let me just say that I’m so grateful that their last name was not Warlinskie or Zimmerman. When I got though all the A’s, B’s, C’s and into the D’s as I was using a little wooden ruler scrolling down the page, I suddenly saw the street Mohican Drive. I quickly looked to my left and sure enough I saw the names Harry and Alice DENNIS. That’s why I couldn’t remember their last name, because it was like a first name, DENNIS.

I let out the biggest yell. My companions knew what I was doing late each night in our apartment so they got a big kick out of me for even trying this. Bets were on I would either not find them or I would give up. When I found the Dennises listing they were amazed. Well, it was too late to call that night so the next day at about 7pm I called. Harry picked up the phone and answered “Dennises.” I said, “Is this Harry Dennis, the paper King of Ohio?” He said, ‘Who the heck is this?” Well, those weren’t his exact words but you get the drift. Ha. I said, “This is Elder Davis, the red headed missionary from California you took to the Ohio State-UCLA Football game. Do you remember me Harry?” He stared laughing and said. “Elder Davis, no one can forget you after seeing you just once. Ha! What are you doing, you red headed wood pecker AND where are you now serving?” I said, “I just got transferred a couple of days ago from Cleveland to Columbus, to work in the mission office.” He said, “Well thats great! So when are you coming over for dinner?” I said, “I thought you would never ask. You’re reading my mind.” He said, “Don’t get any big ideas, pal,” as he lightly chuckled. I said, “I would love to come over and see you, Alice and Shelly, but you pick a day and time that works best for you and your family Harry.”

He invited me to come over Saturday night. I then went to one of the missionaries in our mission office who had been out about 20 months. His name was Elder Johnson. He and I hit it off pretty good right from the start. I said to him, “Want to go and have the best DA, (dinner appointment), you have ever had in your entire life and mission or ever will have?” He said, “Sure, but I’ve had a few good one’s over my time out here.” I said, “If this isn’t the best DA you’ve ever had, I’ll polish your shoes for church Sunday or you’re going to polish mine if it is.” He laughed and said, ‘You’ve got a deal.” I then told him all about this family and what amazing members they would make.

So we were off to see the Dennises and it had been almost 7 months since I had seen them. Well, as soon as we walked into their home we got big bear hugs and slaps on the back. They took to Elder Johnson like a duck to water as I knew they would. That’s one of the reasons why I took him with me. The other reason was that he was a great missionary and had a great spirit about him, but the most important reason was, he was the one the Lord wanted me to bring with me. The dinner was the same thing; massive, hanging-off-the-plate-steak, massive baked potato, corn on the cob, salad and the half gallon of ice cream split between Elder Johnson and me. He leaned over half way through the dinner and said, “YOU WON!!! and I’ll do your shoes every week if you let me come with you to this house each time you come. Ha ha.”

After dinner as we were sitting around enjoying our ice cream and getting all caught up on what had happened on my mission over the past 7 months or so I said to Harry, “So when are you going to let me give you the missionary discussions?” He laughed and said, “Elder, I told you, I know them better than you.” Then he paused and said, “Well, I can’t say that anymore. I’m sure by now you know them very well. But like I said, I’m sure the message is still the same Elder Davis, right?” I then said “Yes, it’s the same message pretty much my friend, but would you give me a chance to share with you and your family how and why I know the gospel is true?” I’d like to have the privilege of sharing with you what the gospel of Jesus Christ means to me.” He paused for a minute, looked over at his wife, Alice, and she said, “It’s your call. If you want to, I will do it also.” Harry then pulled out his appointment book and said, “Ok, you Red Headed Tornado, this is what I’m willing to do: I will take two weeks and you can come over here three days each week. I’ll give you your turn and you have two weeks, that’s it. Is that fair?” I said, “I really appreciate that Harry but I have two requests.” He said, “NOW WHAT!!! You’re pushing your luck here a little, pal. If I didn’t like you so much it would be a flat ‘NO!’ so now whats the problem?”

I said, “There is no sense doing this unless we do it right. I’m not going to just go through the motions and come over here and tell you good night stories about our church and then tuck you in bed.” He busted out laughing. “So what do you want, you cocky little Red Head?” I said “One: You have to read all of the scriptures and pamphlets we give you for each discussion. I want you to take this seriously. Two: You have to go to church with us twice, once each weekend. If you do that, I will never bother you again about taking the missionary discussions.” I said, “I know you’re a man of your word. Do we have a deal Harry?” He got the biggest kick out of that, and said, “If you’re going to get all mushy and serious on me, I’ll just quit now.” He then said, “Ok ,you win. I will do your little request.” I gave him a big hug, along with Alice and their sweet little 5 year old daughter, Shelly. I then said, “We will see you Monday then, alright?”

As we left, I was so excited, as was Elder Johnson when we drove off. I then said to Elder Johnson, “I have to ask President Brewer for permission to leave the mission office and to teach after 7pm, which shouldn’t be a problem, so we can go and teach the Dennises.” Usually we were all done about that time with our work depending on the work load.

When we showed up and shared the Joseph Smith story that went very well and they knew most of the details on that. But when we got ready to leave I had us all kneel down as a family and we prayed. Harry asked Elder Johnson to say the prayer but Harry had us all hold hands as we knelt in a circle. I was really touched by that and the spirit was very felt as Elder Johnson and I bore our testimonies of the Father and the Son, and the Book of Mormon coming forth in these latter days through the prophet Joseph Smith.

The next two discussions went very well also and Harry would read the scriptures we gave him and his wife during each discussion and they were reading the material we gave them too. We also committed Harry to live the Word of Wisdom. Harry had a little smoking problem, maybe half a pack a day, and I asked him not to smoke at all until the two weeks were up. Little Shelly said, “You can do it daddy!” Now this first Sunday was going to be Fast and Testimony at church and this would be the first time the Dennises had ever come to an LDS meeting. We had already told all the ward members about this awesome family we were teaching and to give them a big, warm welcome. Elder Johnson and I drove over to their home that Sunday morning and then we rode with them to church in their nice, roomy car. Harry was wearing a three piece suit, Alice had on a very nice dress suit outfit, and little Shelly had on an amazing puffy Cinderellalike dress. I mean these guys were dressed to the nine’s. They could have been on the front cover of our Ensign Magazine. They looked like life long members.

As we walked into church, the members were so warm and gracious and we sat on the back row of the padded benches. Elder Johnson was on the inside with Sister Dennis next to him, then Shelly sat next to her mom, then me and then Harry sat at the end of the row. After the song and prayer and the sacrament, then testimonies started. About 30 minutes into the meeting, a few kids came up and shared their testimony. At this time Shelly was sitting on her dad’s knee, at the end of the row with him and all of a sudden, she just sprang up and went to the front of the chapel. Harry lunged out to grab her to keep her from going up to the front of the chapel. She was too quick, and now it was too late. Harry grabbed my leg and said, “This is all your fault. This better work out well.” I had a massive smile on my face but I could feel just what Harry and Alice must have been feeling to be in a church you have never been to before, you don’t know one single person there and you now have your daughter standing at the pulpit of a church, scared to death, wondering, “What is she going to say?” Alice gave Harry a look like, “WHAT HAPPENED!!!?”

As the bishop put the little stool up for her to stand on and then pulled the little mic down so she could talk, it seemed so quite that you could hear a pin drop in the chapel and what only took a few seconds seemed an eternity and this is what she said…… next Blog next month the 15th.

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