My Surprising Senior Year

“My Surprising Senior Year,” New Era, June 1992, 9

My Surprising Senior Year

It’s amazing how much you can learn outside of school—especially when you start hanging around with a bunch of Mormon kids.

I was a typical high school football player with a typical football vocabulary. I was one of the captains of the football team at El Segundo High School and didn’t have the best reputation. Glenda’s locker was a couple of lockers from mine, and whenever she walked by I suddenly improved my language. I worried that if I offended her she would avoid me.

As the semester progressed so did our mutual respect and friendship. She was unique, but I did not understand why. One thing I knew for sure, though, was that she never attended the parties I went to.

So, when she invited me to a Christmas party at her home, I didn’t know what to expect. Although I enjoyed my friends, I had seriously considered changing my bad habits. I was searching for something different. I was interested to see what kind of a party she would throw. I put on my best clothes, poured on the cologne, and off I went.

Was I surprised! I was shocked to see everyone having fun, dancing, playing games, and drinking—soft drinks! After a while, I couldn’t believe that I was having fun too. I was surprised to meet Glenda’s parents at the party, since all the parties I ever attended occurred while the parents were away. Most everyone was a bit surprised to see me. Still, they were all smiles and treated me with kindness.

As the evening ended I offered to provide rides home to anyone who needed one. Fortunately, one particular girl I had my eye on during most of the party needed a ride. I drove all around town dropping people off until we were alone. I drove her home very slowly.

I asked her what she was doing for Christmas, and she told me her family was leaving for Argentina the next day. What a small world, I thought. I briefly explained to her that my family had immigrated from Argentina 11 years ago. She said her father had served a mission there, and they were going to visit some of her father’s old friends. Soon we were at her home, and I didn’t get a chance to ask her what a mission was, but the seeds of curiosity were sown and so was my interest in her.

I knew that she and her friends from the party seemed to hang out early in the morning at the school library. I began to go to school early. Gigi and some of her friends walked home the same way I did, so I began to walk home with them.

Eventually Gigi invited me to meet her parents. As the weeks went by I began to develop a relationship with Gigi and her family. I enjoyed listening to her father’s mission stories from Argentina.

Religion was often the topic of our discussions since I didn’t understand why Gigi had so many restrictions. Finally, Gigi’s family invited me to attend their church. I thought nothing of it because I had attended the Catholic, Lutheran, Greek Orthodox, and Baptist churches, and I didn’t think that the Mormon church would be much different. Was I wrong!

I was surprised to learn that the leader of the “ward” was not paid for preaching but had a normal job. Everyone in the congregation sang, not just the choir. Then young guys I had seen at school blessed and passed the “sacrament.” After the sacrament, some members of the congregation spoke, and they were actually interesting. They testified of Christ and a living prophet. Wow! I felt good.

Following the meeting, another friend from school, Brenda, took me to meet the “elders.” I didn’t know what she meant because when I met these guys they didn’t seem much older than me. We set up an appointment, but little did I know what I was in for.

I met with the elders at Brenda’s house. As they told me the story of Joseph Smith, I began to get excited—a sort of warm, indescribable feeling grew inside me. They asked me what I thought about living prophets. I told them that I always wondered why God had no more prophets. I felt good inside and couldn’t understand why tears were welling up in my eyes.

They told me about the Book of Mormon and I responded that I always wondered about those ancient civilizations. I told them that I could believe that God would communicate to his children in the Americas just as he did to his children in the Old World.

For the next appointment I was to meet the elders at their home. I was late and had not read the pamphlet nor the few pages in the Book of Mormon they had asked me to before our meeting. When I got to their home, no one was there. I sat on the porch and waited a few minutes. Then it began to pour down rain. I thought that instead of going home and getting soaked I could wait and see if the elders made it back.

While waiting I decided to read in the Book of Mormon about Christ visiting America. I read of cities being destroyed and of the calamities and suffering. I was captivated with the story and I had to keep reading. Soon I got to the part about God introducing his son. I could not believe what I was reading. The words were so powerful, yet they brought peace to my soul. I believed them. I knew that book contained the word of God. I knew it was true!

But I was to go through a lot during my investigation of the Church. I fasted, I prayed, I read the scriptures. I wanted to get baptized. I was only 17, and my parents thought I was going through a teenage phase. They said I should wait. The elders challenged me to build my testimony anyway.

A few months later when I was 18, I was finally baptized. Little did I know that in 14 months I would go on a mission too.

I realize that it was not a single person but many people who were involved in my conversion. Each of these friends and their families played a part in the process of sowing seeds within me. I never felt judged or criticized for my past or my reputation. They opened their arms and their hearts. Little did the LDS students at my high school realize that one of the most unlikely persons would be interested in the truth they had.

Illustration by Keith Larson