Below is a message I wrote for our Ward newsletter last month. It shares a story about my conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my subsequent mission and now the missionary labors of Elder Andrew Blakely. Below the message are some pictures from Andrew's time with us here in Utah prior to his entering the MTC in Provo.
I joined the LDS Church when I was 19 years old. A wonderful family, the Klanns, had shared the gospel with me through their words and example. The Spirit was strong in their home and I loved how I felt when I was with them. I knew they had something different, something I didn’t even know at the time I was looking for. Thanks to the courage of their daughter Aimee who gave me my very first Book of Mormon, I investigated the Church for myself and came to find out through an unforgettable answer to prayer that the gospel was true and that I needed to take action. I was subsequently baptized and a year later served a full-time mission.
A saying that Al Klann, who was the Stake Mission President at the time, always used to share when speaking about missionary work was “You can count the number of seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the number of apples in a seed.” In other words, sharing the gospel with someone has the potential of touching much more than just that one person’s life. You cannot know how many additional people they will share the gospel with once they’re converted.
Early in my mission I met the Blakely family consisting of Keith (not a member), Mary (who joined the church in college but had not stayed active) and their little baby boy, Andrew, who was less than a year old. After many visits, discussions and prayers, Keith was baptized and Mary returned to activity. Here are some pictures from a trip my companion, Elder Siddoway, and I took with them to the Washington DC Temple in late 1992.
Now, 19 years and 9 additional children later, they are saying goodbye to Andrew who was called to serve in the Farmington, New Mexico Mission. Some of you may have seen him with me last week at Church. Through a great tender mercy in my life, I had the privilege of hosting him for several nights before he went into the MTC earlier this week. Words can’t explain the joy I felt seeing this great young man with a testimony of his own now prepared to serve the Lord in the mission field. I couldn’t help but think back to those first few meetings with the Blakely’s. I had no idea of the great service they would render for the Lord in raising such a righteous posterity and training their children up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). I had no idea that little Andrew would one day be a missionary, helping now to teach others of the truth that he had learned from his parents.
From the Klann family (Al himself being a convert), to my family (my sister joined the Church while I was on my mission), to the Blakely family now sending out a missionary of their own, Al was absolutely right. You can’t count the number of apples in a seed. In fact, there may be more apples in one seed than we can even imagine.
The act of planting those seeds in others does not require us to be particularly eloquent or scholarly. In fact, here is what Brigham Young said of his own conversion after listening to the testimony of missionary Eleazer Miller. “When I saw a man without eloquence, or talents for public speaking, who could only say, 'I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the Lord,' the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding, and light, glory, and immortality were before me. I was encircled by them, filled with them, and I knew for myself that the testimony of the man was true. . . . My own judgment, natural endowments, and education bowed to this simple, but mighty testimony."
Let us remember this analogy of the apple seed and do all within our power to share our testimonies with others; the wonderful news of God’s plan for our lives, the central role of Jesus Christ in that plan, and the restoration of the gospel in the latter days. That we may plant those seeds in others and one day see the fruit of those labors is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.