“Robert Scott Kelly,” Ensign, Nov. 1973, 62
Elder Robert Scott Kelly relates this powerful conversion story that took place in Naples, Italy, in the heat of August two summers ago.
At first glance Steven Cleary was not impressive. His long hair hung down his back and his hippie-style clothes made me look for needle marks on his arms—but there weren’t any. John Nicholls’ appearance was equally unimpressive. But one thing did stand out about them—they smiled!
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“To Israel,” Steve replied.
“We’re on a pilgrimage. We’re looking for the truth,” John said simply.
A voice whispered to me. I quickly asked the two boys if they would like to hear about the Mormon Church, and they agreed to hear the first discussion the next evening.
I’ve taught many first discussions, but our first lesson with Steve and John was the most fantastic experience of my life. The spirit of the Lord was there. All four of us, my companion and I and the two boys from Birmingham, felt it, and we can testify of its presence. The look of joy on Steve and John’s faces when we challenged them to be baptized into the true church was indescribable.
Steve agreed to pray and the sincerity of his voice in thanking the Most High for showing them the truth brought tears to my eyes. When he finished, I slowly looked up to find their eyes still closed. Then John began praying. They prayed not as people unaccustomed to prayer, but as people who, at every chance possible, eagerly engaged their Heavenly Father in conversation. At the end I was crying.
Steve and John’s search for truth actually had begun at home in England. They had become disenchanted with the Christian doctrine taught to them, and they tried a number of things, such as drugs, music, and Hebrew mysticism. They finally returned to Christianity and began to actively study the scriptures, and joined a study group of young Christians.
However, both Steve and John agreed the group had only part of the answer. Disenchanted, the two young travelers took up their journey again.
They were not particularly seeking for the answer to their spiritual quest in Naples. They had thought instead of finding work, perhaps on a ship. But they couldn’t speak Italian and were, in their words, “inert.” It was on one of these inert days that they met the elders. Nine days later they were both baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Steve and John were literally starving for the truth. They read the Book of Mormon with the zeal of college students cramming for an exam and both finished it in four days. Their impressions of the Book of Mormon were best summed up by Steve as he told us it was “the heaviest book I’ve ever read!”
Both boys have returned to England and are planning to serve missions as soon as possible.