Two Pairs of Shiny Black Shoes
April 2015

“Two Pairs of Shiny Black Shoes,” Ensign, April 2015, 42–43

Two Pairs of Shiny Black Shoes

The author lives in Utah, USA.

All I could see was their shoes, but that was enough.

black shoes

Photo illustration by Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Thinkstock

When I enlisted in the army, my main reason for doing so was to escape religion in general and Mormons in particular. I had been raised in the Church, but after my parents’ divorce I grew bitter and resentful. I had no interest in anything to do with God, and my belief that there was a God at all was teetering.

After basic training I was assigned to the presidential honor guard in Washington, D.C. I thought that here I would find peace from the many familial and religious matters that weighed on my mind.

All enlistees are required to enter religious information for official military records, and I didn’t know what else to put, so I listed my religion as “Latter-day Saint.” This became known in my barracks, and I became the object of humorous gibes from time to time. But every time I would respond by telling the men, “I am not a Mormon!”

A Knock on Our Door

Two years had passed, and I was living off the military post with two other soldiers as roommates. One afternoon, someone knocked on our door.

I was upstairs, so one of my roommates answered. He called up to me that people were here to see me. I was excited with the thought of friends coming by, so I ran to the top of the stairs and looked down. All I could see were two pairs of shiny black shoes, but I didn’t need to see any more. I knew those shoes belonged to Mormon missionaries.

What’s more, I knew my roommate was only entertaining them to play a joke on me. I asked myself, “Why won’t they just go away?” But my roommate called again.

I came downstairs and tried to be at least a little cordial. I shook their hands and said hello. With a smirk on his face, my roommate invited them to come in, and they did. All I was thinking was how I could get this over with as quickly as possible. By now my other roommate had joined us, and both roommates asked the missionaries questions and enjoyed making small talk. All I remember is that one missionary was from Germany and the other from the northwest United States.

After a few minutes, the elders stood up to leave and asked, “Can we come back?” I was going to say no, but before I could, my roommates told them to stop in again when they were in the area. And they did.

Something Happened within Me

During their next visit, something happened within me. I felt an urge to pray and to read from the Book of Mormon. That night I did read, and I got down on my knees to pray. I didn’t even know what I was praying for exactly, but I knew I had to call upon God and ask what I should do.

Although I heard no audible words, I was spoken to in a way that I understood perfectly and plainly. I knew there was indeed a God in the heavens and that He loved me and knew me. From then on, I started gaining a true testimony of the restored gospel and the Prophet Joseph Smith. All of my criticism toward God, and especially toward Mormons, withdrew as if a curtain had been opened in my mind. A sweet feeling of peace entered my soul. Alma’s words in the Book of Mormon about being born of God describe what I was feeling and thinking (see Mosiah 27:28–31).

A year later I submitted an application for a full-time mission, and at the age of 24 I was called to serve among the wonderful people in Perth, Australia. I came home and married in the temple, and my wife and I are happily married with four children.

The complete change of direction in my life and all of the blessings I now enjoy came because two missionaries that I didn’t even know followed a prompting to visit our apartment. I will forever be grateful for those two pairs of shiny black shoes and for the change that came into my life.