About 10 years ago, I was assigned to minister to a man living in our ward by the name of Carl (name has been changed). Carl’s name had been on our ward list for many years, but nobody seemed to know anything about him. I vividly remember the first time I knocked on his front door. Carl answered my knock but was not at all happy to see me. I told him I was a member of his ward and had stopped by to see him. His response was a very stern and angry, “Get out of here!”
I could tell by the way Carl slurred his speech that he had been drinking alcohol. As I departed from his doorstep with my knees somewhat shaking, a thought came to me: “I wonder if Carl was so drunk that he won’t even remember this visit if I knock on his door again next month.” Several weeks later, I did knock on his door and received a similar response, again with the smell of alcohol on his breath. He was not happy to see me and once again shouted at me to leave. Nevertheless, I was determined to befriend him and was committed to trying again.
My third attempt was dramatically different from my first two attempts. When I knocked, Carl quickly answered the door. This time, he had not been drinking. I was prepared for the worst, but before I could say anything, Carl offered me a warm greeting. He invited me to come into his home and have a seat. He was very friendly and so happy to see me.
Our regular visits continued for the next six years until he moved to another state. We had a standing appointment to meet on the first Sunday of each month. He never forgot when I was coming and was always eager to meet with me.
Carl, his wife, and their children had joined the Church about 35 years earlier. He was in his young 30s at the time. After being a member of the Church for only one and a half years, he was called to the stake high council, where he happily served for a couple of years. Carl loved to tell me stories about his life and how grateful he was to have joined the Church. One of his sons had served a mission. Several grandchildren had attended Brigham Young University. Unfortunately, his relationship with his wife soured, and they eventually went their separate ways. Carl was so embarrassed about his marriage that he did not feel worthy to continue attending church. He still maintained contact with the full-time missionaries who taught his family the gospel, but he hadn’t had a visit from another Church member in his home in over 30 years.
The more I got to know Carl, the more I enjoyed getting to know him. He had so many stories about life and the gospel that he wanted to share. He shared his testimony with me time and again. I could tell that Carl had a strong testimony of the restored gospel. He began to regularly invite the full-time missionaries to dinner in his home. In spite of our growing friendship, he was still unwilling to attend church, though he did watch sacrament meeting every Sunday on BYUtv. During our visits, he would relate what he had learned from the broadcast that day.
Carl had a deep respect for his Church leaders. The thought came to me that I should invite our stake president to attend a ministering visit with me so that I could introduce him to Carl. When I told Carl that our stake president would be joining our next visit, he was overjoyed! I will never forget the visit. Carl and our stake president chatted nonstop for 30 minutes. It turns out that our stake president’s mission president was Carl’s first bishop. The ward Carl belonged to when he first joined the Church was the ward that our stake president grew up in. I counted over 20 people who were members of the Church that they both knew, loved, and respected. It was truly a marvelous visit. Prior to our departure, we invited Carl to attend church. Carl accepted our invitation and was beaming from ear to ear when he attended church the following Sunday.
Sadly, Carl moved to another state two weeks later. When I called him at his new home, he told me that the first person he called when he arrived was his new bishop. He requested a home teacher (now ministering brother) and asked if he could feed the missionaries. Carl recently passed away, but I am so grateful that I was able to become his friend. My life is richer and fuller because of him.