I am going to write this like I was talking to my brothers and sisters of the gospel. I have a good work ethic, a heart full of faith in the gospel of Christ, an intellect that sticks with me, and common sense to save me.
I have been reaching out since I can remember. As a kid, I knew my reach was too high but I kept reaching anyway. The stars weren’t always aligned for me but what was making the difference was this simple belief that God never made any Junk. I had times when the only way I can explain it is that I could hardly reach up and touch bottom. When you find yourself an “almost ran” so many times, you lay low and wait for the rain to stop. I found out it does when you keep punching above your weight.
One day I was standing outside at a ball park staring off into the blue. I played the game with other kids but there are ball players and ball players. I was benched and the sun wasn’t shining but as the fellow says: “I can’t guarantee my success. All I can do are the right things to deserve it.” It makes me feel good to this day. I thought to myself: “Now you’re talking in my good ear.”
There is much to think about when you’re a kid. You imagine your way by thinking of all the possibilities that could happen. There wasn’t a nickel to rub together so you behaved as if you had a million dollars. What that means is you got together with your friends and did all the things kids do. You rode the best horse and were the hit of the parade as it wound its way down Main Street. The crowd cheered when you and your horse came into sight. You were wearing the clothes of a warrior and your horse pranced and snorted in a fashion that thrilled all who watched. Your friends were right there with you as they took the lead in their own fantasies. When the trumpets stopped and the fanfare faded, we fell exhausted from our efforts to be best of show and the King of the Hill.
I was feeling sorry for myself one day when a voice interrupted my thoughts. I looked up and there was a Salvation Army lady calling my name. “Hello, Digby,” she said. I asked her how she knew my name. She replied in a very proper voice, “I inquired about you and the Lord led me to you.” We were not a religious family so her mention of the Lord gave me a peculiar feeling. I watched her for a moment. She was wearing a Salvation Army Bonnet and had tied a scarf over it and then under her chin. The reason was obvious for she had driven up in an open air jeep and the wind was whipped up by the speed. She began to talk to me like I was an old friend and before I knew it we were laughing and carrying on like we had known each other for years. I asked her why she was interested in me. She said, “Because the Lord is interested in you.” She explained that Heavenly Father loved all of his children and reached them through people like her. She was a Major in the Salvation Army and wanted us to be friends. She followed that up by asking if she could talk to my parents about a youth program she thought I would enjoy. I looked at her and said: “I don’t know; my mother doesn’t care much for church stuff.” She replied, “That’s ok; let’s go and talk to her.”
When the Major told my mother about the youth program I could see the fire in my mother’s eyes. She began to tell the Major all about people who were religious and said many things that were not complimentary and fired off a couple of examples that were zingers and ended with a mention about hypocrites in the churches.
I swallowed hard and looked toward the Major. The Major began to speak in a very friendly way and did not let the things my mother said bother her. What followed was an understanding heart and an appreciation for my mother. Before it was all done, my mother agreed to look into this youth program. I couldn’t believe it for my mother never had a good thing to say about church folks.
What followed was a series of times that the Major picked me up in her jeep and transported me to the Salvation Army Building to be part of their program. My mother said it was OK for me but to leave the rest of her kids alone. Turns out the Salvation played a role in one of my sister’s lives too. Anyway, the Major would often come looking for me and would call out: “Digby, my boy, where are you?” I would answer: “I’m over here Major. “ She would yell back: “I’m coming, my boy.”
So often I will think back and I can hear her calling my name and I think to myself, “ I’m here, Major, and I miss you so.” The Major drifted in and out of my life right into my late twenties.
I remember before I met the Major I would go to the church on the corner. Meaning, I would find a church near where I lived. I would get up on Sunday mornings before the family was awake and go down to the church, especially in the summer, and sit outside by the an open window to listen to the singing and the preaching. I was drawn to it like a pin to a magnet. Perhaps that’s why my mother was more lenient with me; I don’t know. She gave me more latitude and when I joined the Mormon Church I went to tell her about it. She stared at me for a long time, or it seemed so. She finally said to me, “OK, but don’t get sanctimonious on me.” I said, “OK, Mom, but I don’t know what that means.” That is the first time I ever saw my mother just break out into a hilarious laugh and I could hear her laughing even after she left me to wonder what was so funny.
Well, I never preached to her but once she told me that I better not. There were people reaching out to me through my youth. I can’t say I was religious but I can say I was fond of the Major and perhaps that is why I allowed the Missionaries to speak with me and to teach me. It was not a fit for the Major but she let it be and we remained friends.
The church lifted me up and gave me a reason to hope. It filled up my empty spaces and allowed me to see farther down the road than I ever had. I began to not worry about anything I was missing and settled into being part of this great gospel plan. Time and time again I was driven to my knees and petitioned the good Lord on behalf of my family, my friends and my brother and sister. I have had the wonderful feeling ever since I joined the church of quiet assurance the gospel is true. It was reinforced so many times when, in the still of the night, I came to grips with the struggles of life. I found myself more aware of divine intervention and I never have regretted following in the footsteps of the Savior. When my head was bowed and my forgiveness complete, I started again and sought out the answers and the direction I needed. To brothers and sisters of the church who so often were such examples to me, I find no way but to say thank you for your lives and your faith.
Down through the years the steps have at times been unsteady but never faltering and I know that is because I found strength in all the gospel had to offer. There were times that the sweet promise of the Savior carried me off to obedience and the distance I had to go was filled up with the recognition of greater good and complete witness to the truths of the gospel.