Leading Me to Friendship

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“Leading Me to Friendship,” Ensign, June 1999, 66

Leading Me to Friendship

I was a second-year student at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks when I met the missionaries and received an undeniable witness from the Holy Ghost that what they were teaching was true. I felt like I had a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel when I was finally baptized in Cleveland, Ohio, more than a year later.

My baptism resulted in immediate isolation from many of my family and friends. The members would have to be my family and friends now. The trouble was, I didn’t know anyone except the missionaries. I suddenly realized I had been inside the meetinghouse in Ohio only one time in my life and that was on the occasion of my baptism.

The first Sunday after my baptism was difficult. I woke up early and drove 20 minutes to church by myself. I walked into the chapel by myself. I had resolved to attend church but now felt uncomfortable entering a place where I was a stranger. I sat on the back bench in the chapel and hoped no one would notice me.

After sacrament meeting, I was hurrying out the door when I was stopped by a kind older woman. I recognized her as the person who had led the music. She said she was looking for someone to lead the music in sacrament meeting the following Sunday and asked if I would do it. My first thought was, You’ll have to keep right on looking for someone because I would rather do anything than lead the music next Sunday. I knew nothing about leading music. How could leading music qualify as service in the Lord’s kingdom? I wondered. This woman, who introduced herself as Sister Saunders, explained she would meet me in the chapel on Wednesday evening to teach me how to conduct. She was so persuasive I agreed to her request—not because I wanted to, but because I didn’t know how to say no to her.

The church was buzzing with activity on Wednesday evening, but instead of participating in the activity, I found myself in the chapel with Sister Saunders. The opening hymn was to be hymn number 5, “High on the Mountain Top.” It was in 2/2 time, so all I had to do was move my arm up and down, beginning each verse on an upbeat. Sister Saunders demonstrated, moving her arm in a J shape while she sang. Next, she took my arm and guided it up and down in the same manner. How ridiculous I’ll look in front of a group of strangers, I thought. How did I get talked into doing this?

The next Sunday I woke up early and drove to church. Sitting in the front of the chapel, I was nervous but glad Sister Saunders had taken the time to teach me the techniques of leading music. I felt confident I would be able to do it well because of her tutoring. The congregation sang “High on the Mountain Top” without missing a beat. Everything went as expected. Just before the closing prayer, Bishop Smith stood up and said, “We appreciate Robert Albrecht leading the music for us today. He is one of the newest members of our ward.” At that moment, I felt like I belonged. I smiled as I led the closing song.

After the meeting, I was not in a hurry to leave. Many members came up and introduced themselves. They told me I had done a good job leading the music and invited me to join in the next Wednesday-night activity. Then, to my surprise, Sister Saunders appeared. I had not seen her in the congregation. She commended me on my musical talent and thanked me for leading the music.

“I thought you weren’t going to be here this Sunday!” I exclaimed.

“I never said that,” she replied with a twinkle in her eye.

I discovered that Sister Saunders had joined the Church only a few years before I had. She knew that the best way to keep me coming to church was to give me something to do. So when she saw me sitting alone on the back bench that first Sunday, she acted without hesitation. Because of her quick thinking and actions, I became involved and also found the family I needed.