“Oh, Mary, that’s …”

The first testimony today was offered by Mary, our beautiful black sister from Cameroon, about whom I blogged once before. She said that she attended the weekend meetings of AIPAC, the American Israel lobby, which were held in Chicago. She’s not a member of AIPAC, but she had a lot of Jewish friends when she was in college, and she has a good friend (also from Cameroon), who is Jewish, who had invited her to come as his guest.

Over dinner someone in their group mentioned that Mitt Romney wasn’t selected by McCain as his running mate because he was Mormon. (At this point she leaned back and assured the bishop that she knew we weren’t supposed to talk about politics over the pulpit, which was very cute.) So she mentioned to the group that she was Mormon.

At this, jaws dropped, and there was a moment of silence. This was broken by her friend from West Africa, who said “Oh, Mary, that’s …”

At this point my brain was playing madlibs; what would the next word be? Insane? Bizarre? Crazy? Ridiculous?

But no. The next word he uttered was wonderful.

This man then proceeded to tell his table mates all about the wonderful things the Church is doing in Africa, where he is from.

Later, when they were away from the others, he told her he would be back in town in six weeks, and he wanted her to take him to church with her. “But you’re Jewish,” she protested. “That doesn’t matter,” he replied.

Mary said she was so happy, and so proud to be a member of the Church.

And I was so happy for her. How often is a black woman in a setting like that, announces she is Mormon, and actually receives not only a positive resonse, but an effusive one? She deserved this experience. And props to the Church for all of the wonderful things it has done around the world to make this kind of a reaction possible.

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Have I mentioned that my ward’s testimony meetings rock?

  2. Thanks for sharing, Kevin. I was unable to attend my meetings today, and this provided a much-needed spiritual boost.

    She deserved this experience. And props to the Church for all of the wonderful things it has done around the world to make this kind of a reaction possible.

    Amen and Amen.

  3. Oh, wow. Reading this is the best part of my Sunday. Thanks, Kevin, and Mary, and Mary’s friend, and everyone whose background service is responsible for this.

  4. As an American living in Africa, I’m so pleased with the Church’s great work here — with measles campaigns and clean water initiatives and so many great projects. We had a great testimony meeting, as usual, today, with all the testimonies, besides my own and that of one other American, being borne by Africans. I was pleased that it was a great meeting because I brought with me a Nigerian woman who was curious about the church but had never been to our services before. She had met some Mormons 20 years ago on a plane flying to Kenya from the States and they talked about the church and later sent her a Book of Mormon. She said she read the entire book at that time. She had many conversations about the church with our joint American friend, who is now the wife of a mission president here in Nigeria. And she finally decided that she wanted to see what our services were like. I think she felt quite welcomed by the members here. Though I was amused by her comment that she thought it was great that they weren’t asking for money all the time. She said she’s been to many churches here where that’s all they do. It seems like a majority of our Sacrament meeting talks are on the subject of tithing, which is a sticking point for many members here who live in such poverty, so I guess it’s a good thing she came to Testimony meeting. The members in Nigeria have a great spirit.

  5. merrybits says:

    Thank you so much for bringing a beautiful testimony to my current location – under my bed – where I am hiding so I won’t have to go to my ward’s testimony meeting (which will most likely consist of pro-prop 8 stuff).

  6. Hey Kev, I have been offline much of the weekend. I enjoyed the Barneypalooza, and then you top it off with this. Thank you!

  7. What a nice post for a fast Sunday. Thanks!

  8. What a great story. Thanks for sharing. We didn’t have testimony meeting today because it was Stake Conference and we got a new Stake President. While there were great testimonies borne there, this one is also wonderful to read.

    With the others I appreciate the things the Church does around the world to help others.

  9. Thanks, Kevin. This truly is great to hear – and so different than the standard stuff we often hear from people who have no idea how much the Church is doing on that continent.

  10. My experience has been that African converts have incredible testimonies, and deep, impressive faith. I got to know several in my ward in Miami. I am simply amazed that somebody said “that’s wonderful” when she said she is Mormon. I certainly would have expected some of the adjectives you mentioned. Wow, what a great story!

  11. In my ward’s fast and testimony meeting today, a recent move in from Texas lamented in her testimony that she couldn’t convince everyone to vote for her candidate, and that she couldn’t make the other candidate “disappear”. I was so pissed off, I wanted to get up there and say I was grateful that she couldn’t make the other candidate disappear and that she couldn’t steal my yard sign (I put it in my window). After eight years of relative quiet, it was an ominous sign of what to expect at church after Obama’s elected.

  12. The man who offered the closing prayer in the Sacrament Meeting I attended today prayed that all members would remember how important it is to vote and that all members could respect each other’s right to vote their conscience no matter how they voted. It was the only reference to the election other than a sister’s intro that she had joined the Church 41 years ago on Nov. 4th – and that she was grateful for the reminder of her conversion so long ago.

    It was a great meeting.

  13. Didn’t mean to continue a threadjack. Sorry; realized what the topic was after I hit “Add my comment”. Too many political posts lately.

  14. merrybits, in my ward the bishopric member who started out the testimony meeting cautioned everyone that it wasn’t a forum for political agendas and should focus on Christ and our testimonies. Did no one else’s ward do this?

  15. I was in a Spanish-language branch yesterday. So far as I could understand, there wasn’t a word spoken about politics.

    Praise the Lord!

    And Praise the Lord for that terrific story, Kevin! I didn’t see it until today, but it’s made my day.

  16. I teared up when I read this. I don’t know why I’m having such an emotional response – maybe because of the cameroonese converts I knew in France, maybe because I’m proud too to be a member of the church.

  17. Speaking of testimonies, have you heard the one about BKP?
    President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
    Speaking at the Forest Bend Ward, Salt Lake City UT Sunday, October 12, 2008

    “Even though I regularly have the opportunity to attend Fast and Testimony meeting, I don’t
    usually stand to speak. But today, I feel moved upon by the Spirit to share a message…
    Last weekend’s General Conference was different than any before. We felt that down at Church
    Headquarters and have been talking about it all week. We live in troubled times. There is great
    financial crisis and we’ve seen something that hasn’t happened in the last 60 years: the world’s
    financial markets are collapsing. I was six years old when the Great Depression began: the 10thof 11 children. My father was a mechanic and times were difficult for all of us. Many familieswere suddenly out of work all at once. There were large public projects to try and provideemployment – like the great ditch or canal I remember being dug here in our city. It was at least
    six feet deep and dug by hand, with pick and ax. Nowadays, we’d use a piece of machinery to
    do it. But in those days, people worked with what we had. They were desperate times for
    many.

    There were things as a child that I didn’t understand and was afraid of. I didn’t like to go
    into the basement of our home. I thought the Boogeyman lived there. But as I grew older and
    we got some lights down there, I realized that the great dark space underneath the stairs was a
    large pile of old shoes. As a pair of shoes we were wearing would wear out or break down, we
    didn’t throw them out. We would use a shoe from that old pile as spare parts to repair our shoes
    or make new ones. It was just the way you did things in those times.

    There’s a scripture that says “Yet learn we obedience by the same things we suffer.” It seems
    sometimes that we don’t learn until we need to turn and rely upon the Lord. In the Book of
    Mormon, well, if you looked in my copy, in the Book of Helaman about chapter 12 or 13, you’d
    see that I’ve written-in a swirling chain of circles across the top of the page. It might look like old cursive, but that’s not what it’s meant to be. It’s meant to remind me of the cycles of the
    people. In times when they were blessed with great prosperity and wealth, they forgot the Lord.
    Then when they fell to bad habits which led some to wickedness and placed many in peril, the
    righteous would turn/return to the Lord in their humbler circumstances. It’s a cycle of prosperity & wickedness we see repeated over and over again in the scriptures and now again in our day.

    I remember once I went deer hunting with Brother Tuttle and some others. We were up in the
    mountains, riding on horseback. He went up one side of the canyon, and I went up the other.
    As I was riding, I bent over and just nearly kissed the saddle horn as we passed a low cedar tree that was right by the path. Well as we passed the cedar tree, there was no more path on the other
    side of it and the way before us was just a dropping hillside covered with loose shaley rock. I
    kicked my feet clear of the stirrups, just in case the horse reacted badly, and it was a good thing I
    did. She reared up and I was thrown back. I hit my head on some rocks and got a cut right
    above my eyebrow that was bleeding heavily. I’d been holding my rifle in my hand and as my
    hand flew back and hit heavily against a rock, it broke as well. So I was laying there hurt and
    shaken. My companions on the other side of the canyon had seen what happened and I heard
    Brother Tuttle call out “Are you hurt?” I replied “Yes, I’m bleeding!” He called out again “Are you hurt?” I called again “Yes, I’m bleeding!”, but the wind was blowing the wrong way and they couldn’t hear me. The fourth time this happened, I yelled in response “No!” And they
    called back “Okay!” and continued to ride on up the mountain. That’s lesson one!

    I finally got myself up, caught my horse down the mountain where she had gotten caught in
    some branches, and managed to get into town where I was bandaged up and my hand was tended
    to.

    Shortly after that, I was traveling on business and was at the airport. A fellow traveler, an older
    man not of our faith, saw my bandaged hand and asked if I was all right. I replied rather offhandedly. And he responded that it was something I would remember all the rest of my days.
    He then told me that he had once worked at digging a canal – now that caught my attention
    because I remembered the canal I have mentioned. He said that he was out of work at the time
    [the Great Depression] and couldn’t find employment. He saw the canal being dug and knew
    that if he asked the foreman for a job, he would be turned away. He saw a spare pick laying
    there, so he picked it up and started working. A short while later, the foreman walked by and,
    not recognizing him, asked him what he was doing. He explained to me that he told the foreman
    he was out of work and stated “I need to work. You don’t have to pay me, but I need to work.”
    Well, as you might expect, they worked things out and he was paid for his labors. We then
    proceeded to talk, this older fellow and I, and I have remembered his counsel. Now I am the old
    man giving counsel to you.

    In the Great Depression, people were frightened and growing more so. They began to be very
    resourceful. They had to be. Looking forward, we’re all going to learn that lesson, one way or
    another. The Church is in excellent condition. You don’t need to worry about that. But as individuals we will face difficulty. Some will come to the Bishop seeking financial aid and counsel. And as
    judges in Israel, the Bishop will respond. The time for financial largess in our ward activities is over.” [President Packer then turned directly to our Bishop and counseled him that last year’s
    youth trip to Nauvoo, which was, President Packer said, a great opportunity for testimonybuilding
    and missionary work, will not happen again. Times of/for that sort of expense in the Church are past.]

    President Packer then shared experiences of providing aid and service after the great Tsunami
    devastated Indonesia. He recalled… “I was speaking on the phone with a government minister
    who said “I’m standing in Banda Aceh and you cannot imagine what I am seeing. A city of a
    million people has been swept away and there is nothing.” A week later, I was standing in area
    of Banda Aceh and the need was immense.
    “What do you need?” I asked. “Body bags” was the reply. So we found 20,000 body bags in
    China and had them on a plane the next day.
    A call came, “we need 30 [thousand] more.” We found them and they were sent.

    The next call “do you have any motorcycles? We need to get back into the mountain villages
    with aid and medical supplies, but the roads are gone. Trucks can’t get through and elephants
    are too slow. If we had motorcycles, we could get through.”

    “Are they to be found in Asia” I asked. “Yes,” he said. So we found the motorcycles and had
    them on their way the next day.

    The Church is sound and is able to provide these types of aid as a back-up where there is need.
    We [as members and in our individual wards] are the back-up position of the Church. Learn to
    apply the old Pioneer adage – “Eat [use] it up. Wear it out. Make do, or do without.” We’re
    going to have to learn to do without. Again, “Eat it up. Wear it out. Make do, or do without.”
    Even if we have the resources, we need to do more to be thrifty. Others will rely on us. The
    Church will rely on us. It is our responsibility and duty to be caring for ourselves, our family,
    and those around us. Be watching for need. Set something by that we can be of help to others when the time comes. Trust in the counsel of our wise elders/older people.

    There are nearly 60,000 missionaries serving throughout the world today. The cost to support a
    missionary is right about $400 a month today. That’s $4,800 a year. Consider if we have the
    resources that there may be others who don’t and who have a need. When Brother Tuttle was a
    young man, he had a strong desire to serve a mission. But he didn’t have the money to pay for it,and his family didn’t have the money for it. So Brother Tuttle thought of who was the richest
    man in his town and, after saying a prayer, he approached him. A loan was made, a mission
    served, and the loan repaid. Those who need our help may not always ask us.

    It’s about time the Lord taught us a lesson. A great catastrophe is coming. Now I probably
    shouldn’t say that because then it will happen. But it is going to happen. That’s what it will take
    to turn our hearts to the Lord. And we will learn from it.

    Our prayers will be different, less selfish. The scripture says “If ye are prepared, ye need not
    fear.” Renew your prayers. You can [also] think a prayer. Carry a prayer in your heart
    throughout the day. Learn to pray for that which is of worth. Another scripture says “…do not
    spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy.” (2
    Nephi 9:51) That can be applied both spiritually [to prayer] and physically. Use what we have.
    If something is broken, fix it. Our young people are going to see different times than what they
    are used to. To you teenagers, your life will be different. Things are changing. You will have to
    do without some of the things you are used to expecting. Don’t be afraid. Change your life to do
    without the extravagances and luxuries that you’ve expected.

    Learn to pray. There’s a difference between ‘saying prayers’ and praying. A wonderful time is coming – it’s not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be short. But don’t be afraid.
    Brother Tuttle was one of the Seventy when there were just seven of them. Now there are eight
    quorums of the Seventy called to go throughout all the world. It’s an apostolic calling to teach
    the gospel to every nation, people and tongue. They’ll know what to do and will lead and
    counsel where they are called.

    Take care of what we’ve got. Begin to save. The rainy day is coming – in fact, the snowy day is
    already here [in reference to today’s first winter snow]. Reset our expectations. Give up
    selfishness. Wickedness is all around us. In today’s world, it’s not safe for children to be
    outside alone. We need to be ever watchful. We need to protect ourselves from the wickedness,
    avarice, and greed in the world.
    Read the scriptures and the revelations. The guidance and counsel are there. Read with new
    eyes, and the scriptures, the Book of Mormon, will take on new meaning.

    As President Bush and world leaders gather in the coming week and the weeks ahead, there will
    be no easy answers or solutions. Hard times are ahead and it’s difficult for them to see what to
    do. It’s important to listen to the Sprit. We are led by prophets and apostles. We can see ahead.
    We can be and are prepared.

    I pronounce upon you an Apostolic blessing. Comfort our children. Little children can be afraid
    of things we might not think of. Comfort them and strengthen our families. Turn off the
    television and focus on family. Pay your tithing. The promise is there – pay your tithing and
    you’ll be watched over. You’ll be alright. None of us is exempt from trials. If hard times come
    upon you and your income dwindles, remember that tithing is equitable for everyone: 10%. If
    you have nothing, then it’s 10% of practically nothing. Pay your tithing, do what you’re
    supposed to do. You’ll be comforted.
    Sure trials will come. Because of them, faith will increase. Happiness will increase. Security
    will increase. You’ll be glad to be alive at this time. It’s a good time to be living. To be raising
    children. I leave this testimony, counsel, and blessing with you in the holy name of Jesus Christ.
    Amen.”

  18. Researcher says:

    Beautiful story, Kevin.

    A number of ward members attended a McCain appearance held the other day inside our ward boundaries, but there was no discussion of it at church.

    Beautiful meeting in our ward, too. Testimonies were mostly on the topic of temple worship and the lovely experiences some of the ward members have had recently.

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