“A Friend in Christ,” Ensign, Oct. 1992, 25–26
As a teenager, I was only marginally active in the Church—usually only during basketball season or when our ward had a dance. I found my 1950 Chevrolet much more interesting, and it occupied most of my Sunday afternoons. Instead of attending Church meetings, I was often at the drag strip north of Grand Junction, Colorado, racing my car.
One Sunday I raced for the championship and won. I found myself in the winner’s circle, trophy in hand, surrounded by people patting me on the back. But the glory was momentary. There were soon two more cars at the starting line and another race to watch. I could already feel an emptiness in my achievement.
A few days after the race, Don Darnell, one of the bishop’s assistants in the priests quorum, dropped by. I showed him my trophy, and he sincerely congratulated me. Then he turned the conversation to a more important issue.
“The priests sure miss seeing you at priesthood meeting,” he said. “Why not come next week?”
I surprised myself by saying that I would. After Don left, I reflected on why I had agreed. Perhaps it was his obvious concern for me, or maybe just his persistence. I had rebuffed him many times before.
Sunday arrived, and Don picked me up for church. The bishop and the other members of the quorum made me feel welcome, and I decided to return next week. I kept coming and was soon ordained a priest. But though I felt good about my increased activity, I was troubled when people bore their testimonies. I didn’t have one. I found it easier not to think any more deeply about the Church than I had to; I was comfortable with my friends at church, and I figured that’s all I needed.
One day Don called to say that Lark Washburn, our stake president, was willing to hire us for the summer to work as miners in his uranium mine near Uravan, Colorado. I readily accepted. We bought our mining gear, packed our bags, and headed for Uravan.
The work was demanding, but we enjoyed it, and on Saturday we loaded up the car and drove back to Grand Junction to attend church. On the way Don asked, “Bob, do you have a testimony?”
I shook my head. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Have you ever read the Book of Mormon?”
“Neither have I,” he said. “Why don’t we read it together and see if we can gain a testimony?”
That sounded good to me, and so when we returned to Uravan late Sunday night, we both had a paperback copy of the Book of Mormon. Each day after work we spent an hour or two reading, discussing, and praying about what we had read.
One evening, as we were nearing the end of the Book of Mormon, Don and I prayed together as usual, then each of us knelt and prayed silently. That night I prayed more earnestly than I had ever prayed before to know if the Book of Mormon was true.
Suddenly an indescribable feeling came over me, a cleansing sensation, as if my spirit were being washed, purged, and purified. The sensation was so powerful that I opened my eyes and looked up, almost expecting to see heavenly personages. But my eyes blurred, and tears flowed down my cheeks.
Embarrassed, I turned to see if Don was still praying. I was startled to see that tears were also running down his cheeks.
“What’s the matter with you?” I asked.
“The same thing that’s the matter with you.”
That night, in a boarding house in Uravan, I discovered that the Church is true, that Joseph Smith is a prophet, and that the Lord answers prayers. That experience changed me. It softened me, causing me to seek and be receptive to manifestations of the Spirit. I felt any disposition to do evil wash away. In a very real sense, I was born again.
It has been thirty years since I had that experience. I am not yet perfect, as my friends and family can attest. But the choices I have made since receiving that first witness of the Spirit are choices I would not have made had I not had that experience. I have served a full-time mission. I have married in the temple. I have graduated from a Church college and am now, with the help of my wife, Jan, raising four children in the gospel.
And I have personally committed myself to a life of service. I hope that I can repay in some small measure the blessings Don Darnell brought into my life by becoming my friend and by challenging me to read the Book of Mormon. Through it I have come to know the Savior, and that has made all the difference in my life.