“The Forgotten Referral Book,” Ensign, Apr. 1998, 49–51
My second day in Sha Tin, Hong Kong, was nearly over. My companion, Elder Andrew Mohlman, and I had returned home from tracting, and I was somewhat discouraged because our efforts had borne so little fruit. Only two months remained in my mission, and I wanted to see some real success before I left.
After a late dinner, Elder Mohlman and I discussed our goals for the coming weeks. We searched through the records in our apartment and found a book of referrals, some years old, that had been left by missionaries who had lived in the apartment before us. In some cases the only information available was a telephone number.
Together Elder Mohlman and I knelt in prayer. We asked for Heavenly Father’s help in reaching our goals, and we dedicated ourselves to doing our part. Then we started telephoning the contacts. Slowly the pile diminished as people expressed their disinterest or cited some excuse for not wanting to learn about the gospel.
So when we first spoke with Ben on the telephone, I was surprised by his willingness to try to meet with us. However, he couldn’t seem to find an available time. As a last attempt, we invited him to church the next Sunday, which happened to be Easter. He agreed to come, though I admit I wasn’t convinced. The Kowloon Tong Chapel was 30 minutes away by train, and often distance was reason enough for people not to come to appointments.
Easter morning found Elder Mohlman and me waiting in the church foyer as sacrament meeting began. It seemed we had another no-show. Somewhat dejectedly we finally slipped into the chapel and took our seats.
Minutes later, the first counselor peeked through the chapel door, motioned for Elder Mohlman and me to join him, and informed us that a visitor was waiting in the foyer. There we were surprised to see a young man dressed in a grubby T-shirt, nervously shifting his feet. His hair was quite long, and he smelled strongly of cigarette smoke. We greeted him hastily but warmly, and he followed us back into the chapel.
After we took our seats, I quietly asked him what he knew about Christianity. He replied that he had heard of the Bible but had never read it and did not have any real system of beliefs. Elder Mohlman and I quickly explained the ordinance of the sacrament and the purpose of the meeting. Ben took it all in stride, even joining in singing the hymns.
That sacrament service was one I shall never forget. The main speaker gave a beautiful description of the plan of salvation and Jesus Christ’s role in that plan, and the doctrine he explained was sweet, simple, and pure. Ben sat thoroughly engrossed during the talk and throughout the rest of the meeting.
Afterward, Elder Mohlman and I asked him how he felt. “I don’t know why,” he replied, “but I feel happy.”
He accepted our invitation to hear the discussions, and we met with him the following Wednesday. He seemed eager to learn. Never had I seen faith and humility such as Ben showed. We invited him to offer a prayer, and in all sincerity he asked about the truth of the message he had just heard. As he finished, a feeling of pure joy filled all of us. I asked Ben how he felt.
“I can’t describe it,” he said. “I’ve never felt like this before. I know that your message is true.”
The next Sunday Ben met us at stake conference. His T-shirt had been replaced by a white shirt and tie, and his hair was cut to perfect missionary specifications. A brilliant glow shone in his dark eyes.
Ben’s work schedule made it difficult for us to meet with him, but he always managed to make time. He began attending all of the ward’s young adult activities, and he was often the first to greet a new investigator with a big smile and warm handshake. However, the upcoming discussion on the Word of Wisdom worried me because I knew he smoked.
The day came, and Elder Mohlman and I had a special prayer before the discussion. Ben’s enthusiasm did not allay my fears as we approached the topic. But as we finally told him that we were going to explain the Lord’s law of health, Ben just smiled.
“Yes,” he said, “you don’t smoke; drink alcohol, tea, or coffee; or use drugs.”
I sat with my mouth open in amazement.
“The teacher mentioned it in investigator class last Sunday,” he continued. “I had tried to give up smoking for years. After hearing that lesson I prayed that Heavenly Father would help me, and I haven’t touched a cigarette all week. I don’t use those other things anymore either.”
Ben was later baptized and confirmed a member of the Church. After his confirmation he testified of his love for the gospel with powerful sincerity. Money earlier earmarked for cigarettes, he said, now helped pay tithing.
Weeks later, after I returned home from my mission, I received a letter from Ben telling me of his sister’s baptism and of how much he enjoyed singing in the ward choir. As I read, in my mind I was once again thousands of miles away listening to a man teach about the life of the Savior on Easter Sunday in Hong Kong, and I thought about rebirth, for I had seen it happen.