“Return of the Prodigal,” Ensign, Mar. 1974, 43
Until I was 17 years of age, I stayed close to the Church, attending all my meetings and carrying out my priesthood responsibilities. It did not occur to me to do otherwise. I loved the Church and its programs.
At 17, however, I began to “flex my teenage muscles,” rebelling against family direction and demanding my “free agency.” One of my best friends was of another faith, and I fell into the trap of trying some of the things he offered—alcohol, tobacco. I dated non-LDS girls and soon fell in love with a wonderful young lady. Her parents invited me to their summer cabin on many weekends, and this, of course, kept me from church activity.
Then World War II came along, and when my bishop asked me if I wanted to go on a mission, I said I would rather join the military and serve my country. I still believe serving one’s country is important, but I know now that I would have been wiser to serve a mission for my Heavenly Father first.
Also, about this time, I began finding out that some Church members whom I admired greatly were not observing all the standards of the Church. I let myself become their judge, and to me they were hypocrites. I covenanted with myself that if I ever failed to live our standards, rather than be a hypocrite by teaching one thing and doing another, I would stay away from the Church. This was another serious error, for this is just what I did and just what the adversary wanted.
Four years as a Navy pilot and 15 years of traveling in the sales profession made it easy for me to remain inactive, yet all during these years I believed the truths that were deeply implanted in my soul. When I was 38, my youngest brother, Tom, moved in with us for six weeks. Each Sunday morning he went alone to his priesthood and other meetings, and my conscience began to prick me. I wasn’t happy, I knew something was wrong, and this feeling kept coming back with greater frequency. In the past I had been able to give up smoking whenever I wanted, but now I found I could not. I would visit Tom in his office and find myself striking out at the Church in criticism, and afterwards, although I would never tell him so, I felt guilty.
I was building up to my hour of crisis, and it came one night after a cocktail party and dance at the country club. I retired to my bed late but could not sleep, almost unheard of for me. Finally I arose so as not to disturb my lovely wife, and for the first time in my life I paced the floor, finally realizing I had to change.
I had never been able to show emotion through tears and humility, but the next thing I remember I was on my knees pleading with my Heavenly Father for help for the first time in 19 years. As I prayed, an overwhelming feeling of love and compassion and happiness filled my being, and the Holy Ghost encompassed me with such power that I sobbed convulsively for a considerable time. When I arose, I felt good. Gratitude and thankfulness filled my heart. Never in my life had I known such a feeling of warmth, and an inner burning filled my entire being with such intensity that I thought I was going to be consumed.
I went to our bedroom and awakened my wife. I was still crying, and she asked me what was wrong. I told her of my desire to change my life and encompass the gospel of Jesus Christ, and she told me instantly that she would support me. From that moment I have never had a desire for a cigarette, a drink of any type, or a cup of coffee.
The Lord began blessing me, and he has never stopped to this day. Within a year it was my privilege to baptize my children and, soon afterward, my wife. A year later we went to the Logan Temple to be married for eternity and to have our children sealed to us.
I testify that the Lord is pleased when his lost sheep come home. He shows his love and kindness to all of us when we repent of our sins and keep his commandments.