Why on Earth Did You Ask Them?

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“Why on Earth Did You Ask Them?” Ensign, Feb. 1976, 29–30

“Why on Earth Did You Ask Them?”

Elder Mark Haffner and his companion, Elder Dean Rasmussen, stood on the corner of a Suva, Fiji, street, discussing where they should go next. They were not aware that Sister Ami Petero lived across the street. But she saw them standing there and invited them over to her home. As they stood on her lawn and talked with her, she said, “Won’t you come in and teach my husband the missionary lessons? He is ready to hear them now.”

The elders did not know then that ever since Tony Petero had married Ami, she had prayed that he would someday listen to the missionaries and join the Church. Nor did they know that he had not asked to hear their message. He had made one passing comment to Ami that was complimentary to the Church, and this gave her the courage to invite the elders to her home.

The elders felt the discussion that evening in November 1973 was a successful one. Tony participated and even asked some questions. He was friendly to the elders and appeared to be interested in their message. When the lesson ended, he agreed to meet with them again.

But after the elders left that night, he spoke harshly to his wife. “Ami,” he said, “why on earth did you ask the missionaries to come? You know I’m not interested in your Church.” An appointment had been made for another meeting, however, and even though Tony was against continuing the missionary lessons, he decided that he would be courteous and allow the elders to come again.

But as he listened a second time to the teachings of the Church, he gained a testimony that the gospel was true, and only four weeks passed before he was baptized. His acceptance of the gospel and his rapid progress surprised both his wife and the elders.

Only after he completed the missionary discussions did he tell his wife and the elders of an experience he had prior to the first lesson. He had had a dream several weeks earlier in which he met with two young men who talked to him about a book. When he awakened, the dream had no clear meaning for him; and it did not have much effect upon him except, perhaps, to prompt him to make the complimentary comment to his wife that had encouraged her to invite the elders. When the elders taught him the first discussion and explained the Book of Mormon to him, Tony recognized them as the young men with whom he had spoken in his dream. Even though Tony had appeared to be against the missionaries and had reprimanded his wife for inviting them in, he had known before the lesson ended that he was supposed to hear the message of the restored gospel.

Tony did not enter the waters of baptism without going through some testing of his character. He enjoyed drinking tea and also liked alcoholic beverages. Because the Christmas season with its office parties and drinking was upon them, Tony wondered whether it wouldn’t be all right if he went on one or two more drinking parties before he put such things aside and committed himself to the Word of Wisdom. But the Suva district president visited with Tony and explained that it was best to quit at once and quit completely. Tony could see the point in this reasoning and did exactly that.

Before joining the Church he was a happy-go-lucky fellow, with little direction in his life. Neither was he known as a serious or careful worker at the bank where he was employed. But after he learned about the true purpose of life, Tony decided that he had important work to accomplish. He also concluded that his employers deserved better service from him. Because he worked much harder and more responsibly after he joined the Church, Tony was promoted to a new position as a bank officer only two months after his baptism.

The elders explained the importance of the family to Tony during the missionary discussions, and Tony and Ami decided, even before he was baptized, that they would go to the temple to be sealed as a family as soon as possible. They soon learned that the Fiji Mission was planning to hold its first excursion to the New Zealand Temple early in January 1975.

It was necessary for them to make some sacrifices in order to raise enough money for the trip. Early in 1974 they moved from their home into one that was smaller and less expensive. They also saved in other ways and one year and two weeks after Brother Petero was baptized, he and his wife and their two children were sealed as a family for time and eternity.

Tony is now a member of the Suva District Council. In his capacity as director of the Aaronic Priesthood he organized the first Fiji Mission youth conference. He is now employed by the Church School System as financial comptroller for the Suva LDS Elementary School and new LDS technical school that is under construction.