This is a very personal story. My friend wanted me to share this if it would bring even one more person closer to our Savior.
Don’s (name changed) father stood in front of the priesthood body. The emotion in his face and voice caused an immediate and unusual silence. He said, “Some of you may get e-mail from Don on Mondays. You may have noticed that no e-mail came last Monday. We didn’t want this to be a matter of rumor or speculation, so we’ve decided to mention this here. Don has returned from his mission and entered the Davis County Jail. Don’s mission was successful. They recently had a baptism where Don acted as a witness, but the mission was successful in bringing at least two people to Christ, this investigator and Don. When Don was teaching, he realized he needed to live what he was teaching and so as part of the repentance process, he confessed to a crime which bears a civil penalty.” He went on to say that they would not minimize what had occurred and recognized it as being quite serious, but asked that we consider him in our thoughts and prayers.
My heart broke. Don was a polite and positive youth and a great senior patrol leader when I was an assistant scoutmaster. I had grown concerned for him as he approached his mission. Something wasn’t right, but I was glad for his decision to serve.
My wife and I visited their home that night and I got an address where I could write him a letter. It was the first of many I would send. In part I wrote, “It was a pleasure to work with you in young men’s. Knowing your humble, teachable manner, it did not surprise me that our Savior was able to bring you to him with only gentle persuasion. I know He loves you and will watch over you. Remember that He is mighty to save.”
I did not know why he was incarcerated, and I didn’t really care to know. I just knew a young man would need some extra help and I didn’t want him to suffer alone. It was nearly three months later that I learned the circumstances, but that was from him directly in a letter. At that point he wanted me to know because he was sad that so many of his friends had abandoned him and he was looking for hope.
Over the 6-months we corresponded, we developed a deep friendship. He kept himself immersed in the scriptures and in being a wholesome example. When he mentioned his intention to plead guilty and be open about what had happened, one inmate told him, “You can’t do that! You’ve got to fight this!” But Don’s goal was full repentance and so he followed through and risked a heavier sentence. He related that standing before the judge, entering his plea was incredibly difficult. As each charge was read, he simply responded, “guilty…”
Some day, I believe we will stand in a final judgment, and it will be Christ himself who will look at us and at my friend Don and if we have truly repented, he will say, “Not guilty”. The charges won’t be mentioned. We will stand clean and pure as the day we were born and we will shine forth in the Kingdom of God.
At one point in his stay another inmate said, “Don, you may not know why you are here, but I know why. It was for me.” In the end the sentence was reduced but to 6-months, and when he left, he realized that he had more success at turning hearts to God from inside the jail than out on his mission.
He helped turn one more heart to God – my own. My own story of redemption would not be complete without his. Through his example, I focused on my own life and I also made a resolve to turn my whole heart to my Savior. And so my own repentance and determination to serve has profound roots in my friend’s repentance. I will always be grateful to him for helping me.
Finally, as food for thought, I share a dream given to me in two parts. I first saw a man who was the only one to get testing wrong out of 100 people. But as the test got harder he was the only one of 100 that passed the final.
I then saw a man, who in admitting his sin was scorned as the least of 99 other men but he had humbled himself and turned to the Lord. When the Lord came, he was the only one able to stand before him. Where were the ninety and nine?