As little Shelly leaned forward to the mic, her words were clear and easily heard by everyone. She said, “I love baby Jesus and I love my mommy and daddy. I love when Elder Johnson and Elder Davis come to our home to talk about Jesus. They make our home feel so good when they are there. I’m glad my dad doesn’t want to smoking anymore, ( everyone laughed little ) so he can live with me and mommy for a long, long, long time. I love it when we all kneel and say our family prayers together. Amen.”
The power and spirit which this sweet little girl had as she shared her testimony was so powerful, it melted everyone’s’ hearts. Alice and Harry had tears in their eyes big time as little Shelly jumped down and came back to sit on her daddy’s lap.
To say that the first day at church for the Dennises was amazing and eventful would be an understatement. Alice was just swarmed in Relief Society with hugs and warm hand shakes. Harry in Priesthood was fantastic as he introduced himself, told where he worked and about his family. The brethren where just wonderful to him before, during and after class. It took us 30 minutes after church before they could leave the chapel to go home and Shelly loved primary and showed her parents what she had drawn in class and she said, “I learned a new song today!” Then she started singing, “A sun beam, a sun beam, Jesus wants me for a sunbeam.” To say that I was excited to teach the Dennises the final discussions that next week would be an understatement.
Next week came and during the fifth discussion, which I think was Wednesday night, I asked Harry and Alice how they felt about becoming members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. There was such a sweet and special spirit in their living room. I bore witness of the truthfulness of what we had been teaching them and that, “the Lord moved and directed me to find you in the phone book as I was coming back to Columbus on the bus.” I told them that even before that, the first time we had ever meet, there was a connection there and I felt I had always known the Dennises and that we were the best of friends in the premortal existence and that this is why the Lord sent me on my mission and why, “I wanted to teach you these things myself with Elder Johnson.” Elder Johnson followed up with how he felt the first time he had met them and that Elder Davis had told him, “This is a special family that would make great members of the church!” He also bore witness to the things we had taught and invited them also to accept the Lord’s invitation to be baptized in His true church. The tears flowed down everyone’s’ cheeks and the Dennises accepted baptism.
Church the following Sunday was even more amazing. I swear you would think an apostle was coming to visit because the members were just all over them. I just sat back and fought back the tears. I was so overjoyed to see all the love that was being exchanged between everyone. It was like one big family reunion. That day in both the Relief Society and Priesthood we announced that the Dennises wanted to be baptized and the place went wild with excitement. I never to this day have seen such fellowshipping and welcoming.
When the big day came for them to be baptized, which was just a couple of weeks later, our mission president came, the entire mission staff, and I kid you not, at least 200 plus members or more came. They almost filled the chapel and it was so packed in the baptismal area, it was standing room only and out into the hallway.
As Elder Johnson and I each wore our white jumpsuits with Harry and Alice my joy was so full. As we took pictures, I was bursting with the love of the Lord and my Savior and this wonderful family that the Lord had directed me and Elder Johnson to baptize. Alice was baptized by Elder Johnson and I baptized Harry. As I placed my right arm to the square to say the baptismal ordnance, I could not speak for a few seconds and as I started to quote those most sacred words to that prayer, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ’, it hit me so hard that I was doing something for and in the name of Jesus Christ that if He, Jesus Christ, were here, these are the words He would say. My joy overflowed as tears ran down my face and it took all I had to finish the words to this ordnance. As I lifted Harry up out of the water, we embraced with the biggest hug ever, and I could not speak for several minutes.
After we all got dressed we went into the chapel to confirm them members of the Church and to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost upon them, which to me is my favorite part. They both go hand in hand and you can’t do one without the other, but bestowing membership on someone and giving them the gift of the Holy Ghost is so very special and sacred. To feel the spirit of the Lord as the words are being given to you by the Spirit as to what to say is beyond description. For just a few minutes it seems time comes to a stop and eternity comes forward, as the vail gets so very close and thin and you can feel so much love and peace from the other side; heaven is so very close as you give promised blessing for those who have been baptized for their future journey in the Lord’s Church.
I don’t know how to break away from this part of my story and my experience in baptizing the Dennises, but the weeks to follow were wonderful as we saw each other often at their home and at church. After a few months however, I got transferred again, back to Cleveland. I only had about 4 to 5 months to go and I would be going back home to Santa Ana, California.
I was sent to be a companion to a missionary who had been out about a year. He was from Idaho and what was more remarkable, the day I had arrived, that night I was asked to baptize the older brother of a lady I had baptized when I was there with Elder Val. I was so touched and honored to be a part of his baptism as he had been taught by the Sister Missionaries when I had left. His sister, Karen, had been working on him for several months and finally, he agreed to take the missionary discussions and on the very day I was to arrive in Cleveland, which was a Saturday I believe, he was to be baptized and Karen asked me if I would come and baptize her brother. He wanted me to baptize him because I had baptized his sister.
Later, when I was getting to know my new companion, (he had been out a whole year and still hadn’t had a single baptism), on my first day in the new area we not only get to go to a baptism, but I get to be a part of it! Of course I explained how and why this all came about to Elder Foster, but I felt sorry he had not had that wonderful experience yet. When you walk hundreds of miles knocking doors, that 95% of the time get slammed in you face, and you ride a bike for endless miles checking referrals from Temple Square, you get spit on, called names, have food thrown at you as people drive by, and you have not had anyone who will let you teach them, let alone be converted and baptized, it’s pretty hard to keep your spirits up. You start to wonder, “why am I here and does the Lord have a reason for me to be here?”
So Elder Foster and I had long talks and got to know each other pretty well and I asked him if he would like to baptize someone in 30 days? He said, “What do you mean? We don’t have one single person we are even currently teaching. This is one of the hardest areas in all of Ohio.” We were just outside of downtown Cleveland, where just about every night someone got shot and you were always hearing gunshots at night. He said, “I would love too, of course, that’s why I came out here was to teach people about Jesus Christ and His church restored to the earth; but in 30 days?Wow! I don’t think so, not that soon.”
I told him, ‘I have the faith and I believe that if we really work hard, go the extra mile, read and pray and study and fast just a little more than we are asked to and totally commit ourselves, I feel with all my heart, Elder Foster, that you and I both will be standing in a baptismal font at our church with at least two new people who will believe our message. We have nothing to lose and all to gain and if you will work with me and believe with me I promise you right now, in the name of Jesus Christ, that we will find, teach and baptize someone who the Lord has prepared for us to find. Do you believe we can?” Elder Foster said, “I believe that you really believe that. And because you believe that, I believe that, but I’m a little doubtful, to be totally honest with you. But like you said, I have nothing to lose, so I’m with you!”
So were went to work, and the both of us prayed and studied like we both never had. We worked longer before dinner time and after. We stayed out later and we made use of all of our time, wisely and with a happy heart. By the end of the first week, as we were tracking, knocking on doors, we finally came to a home and a nice lady answered the door. She had a son and two daughters. We told her we were missionaries sharing a message about the gospel of Jesus Christ and she invited us in. We looked at each other with that smile of joy, but tried not to look too happy we got invited in. We opened with a prayer and thanked the Lord for directing us to this wonderful family and we had a great first discussion. They asked some good questions and seemed very interested in our message. We left them with a couple of pamphlets and a Book of Mormon with some scriptures to read from it. We then asked them if we could return and share more of our message with them. We mentioned that we had 7 lessons in all and would love to share all of them with you. They all seemed very excited and interested. The son was only 6 or 7 years old and the daughters were 15 and 17, I would guess.
We came back two days later and before we got started, we discovered that they had all read everything we had given them and they had all started reading the Book of Mormon, but they had to take turns because they had to share the same book. They had questions and I was so impressed and excited that the mom was so interested as were her daughters in our message. Before we left this time we gave them each their own Book of Mormon’s and they thought that was cool. About every two days or so they had us come back and the spirit whispered to me that they were going to be baptized. Elder Foster asked me what I thought and I said, “The Lord has heard our prayers. This is where we are supposed to be.”
As we approached the time for the BIG QUESTION, “Will you be baptized?” we were discussing the Savior and His church and the need to be baptized and Elder Foster bore one of the finest, most heartfelt testimonies I have ever heard. He was in tears as were the rest of us from his words, and that is when we asked them, as the Lords representatives, would they accept baptism into His church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and they said ‘yes’. We looked at each other and just smiled. When we got outside and on our bikes, we could not contain ourselves and let out a big yell, “Yes, Yes, and thank you Lord!”
Two days before our 30 day period and commitment to the Lord was up, Elder Foster and I were wearing our white baptismal clothes, as was the family the Lord had helped us find, and Elder Foster had his first baptism and confirmation. It was such a great experience! My joy again was so full, twice this time. First, for this wonderful family and second, for my dear friend, missionary companion, and brother, Elder Foster, who, to this day, he and I still talk and see each other quite often.
A few days later the phone rang. This time it was not the mission president but it was Harry Dennis. I was pleasantly surprised to hear his voice and after we chatted for a few minutes, the real reason for his call came forth. He said, “Elder Davis, for a few years now, Alice and I have tried to have another child and I have gone to the best doctors here in Ohio, the best fertility experts around and we have tired everything under the sun and then some, but Alice cannot get pregnant. I have spent several thousand dollars and to no avail. Nothing has worked. Alice and I have been talking about this again for the past week or so, and we wanted to ask you a question and a big favor. We believe that the Lord did direct you to find us. And we believe that the Lord moved you, inspired you, spoke to you, if you will, in such a way, that we knew what you were saying and teaching us with Elder Johnson was true. So we have a question for you, if you would be so kind to consider for us.