The History Lesson
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“The History Lesson,” New Era, Sept. 1979, 14

Participatory Journalism:
The History Lesson

My best friend went from being an atheist to bearing his testimony

My family and I moved to Saudi Arabia when I was 16 and my younger brother, Scott, was 14. Because there are no English schools there for high school students, Scott and I went to a boarding school in the neighboring country of Bahrain, where we were the only dorm students who were Mormons. Although we also were the only dorm students who regularly attended church, and we didn’t smoke, drink, or put pinups in our closets, most people didn’t suspect that we were Mormons. And that was fine with me. If they asked about my beliefs, I would tell them; if not, fine. Who wants to be laughed at? I didn’t hide my candle under a bushel exactly, but I didn’t put it up on a hillside either.

Then came the second year—and an entirely different situation. It began when Scott was assigned to give a report on Brigham Young in his U.S. History class. I helped him gather his information on the persecution of the Saints, the move west, the building up of the Salt Lake Valley, and President Young’s accomplishments and how they affect the world today. Although I wanted Scott to give a good report, I was concerned that people would laugh at our “weird beliefs.”

I didn’t see my brother after that class or any time during the school day to ask him how it had gone. But after school a group approached me at the snack bar—the same group that went out drinking on weekends and sneaked out of the dorm at night.

“Hello, Wes. Is it really true that you are a Mormon?”

“Oh no, here it comes,” I thought. I just knew that they were going to ask me to sing some Tabernacle Choir songs for them. I answered, “Yes, it’s true.”

They responded with, “Far out!” Then they told me that they wished they had something to believe in, and they wondered how I could be so straight and yet still get along with everyone. As I listened to their comments, my surprise grew; I had never expected such a reaction!

From then on, my brother and I talked and talked about the Church. Friends came to us. Teachers at the school began reading the Book of Mormon and A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. A few of my friends began attending Church with me. My best friend went from being an atheist to bearing his testimony in church. Although none were baptized at that time, I know that some were converted.

I have since graduated, and of all the classes I took and the things I saw while living in Bahrain, that was the most outstanding lesson I learned. I came to know how true it is that the people of the world are looking for the joy that the gospel brings. It is not enough to not hide your candle under a bushel, but as every member is a missionary, it is our duty to put it up on the hill for all to see.

Editor’s Note: When Wes graduated from Bahrain High School, he was serving as one of four student presidents, he had been voted “Most Understanding” by the senior class, and he was chosen by classmates and faculty as youth speaker at the commencement exercises. He is currently serving as a missionary in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission.

Illustrated by Mike McCarter