“Mountains in Montreal,” New Era, Feb. 1997, 21
When 17-year-old Patrick Robertson got a suspension letter from his school, it was big news. But not for the reason you might think. It wasn’t because Patrick had done something horrible. It was news because Patrick is so good nobody could believe he’d be suspended.
We’re talking about a young man who is such an example that his non-LDS friends jokingly refer to him as “Reverend.” We’re talking about a priests quorum assistant so skilled in applying the gospel to life that one of the other Aaronic Priesthood holders calls him “wise”—and means it.
So what was Patrick doing opening that letter with the telltale yellow mark? Teenagers at Mount Royal High School in Montreal, Canada, see that yellow mark and know it’s a suspension letter.
To get the answer, you’ll have to skip back about three years, back to a time when Patrick was rebellious. “I wasn’t too right and correct,” he recalls, speaking with formal phrasing that identifies his Jamaican roots. “As they call it in scriptural terms, I was a wayward person.”
That may be a rather harsh assessment. But Patrick knew he needed to change. And when he decided he could change, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints played a big part.
“At that time our family seemed to be falling apart. Then one night my mother was watching TV, and she saw a ‘Mormon’ commercial about putting the family first. She decided to order the video so it could maybe reinforce our family ties.”
And she and other family members continued to work on Patrick. “They weren’t happy with the way I was behaving, and, to be honest about it, neither was I. So I started trying to do the things I knew were right. Then, precisely at the time when I was changing, the sister missionaries arrived at our door with a Book of Mormon and a video. They came into our home and started to teach us. I was really glad for the message and for the change they brought into our lives, even though I’m the only one (so far) who has joined the Church.”
Once Patrick started learning about the restored gospel, the change was remarkable.
“It took a year before I got baptized. My mother wanted me to be sure about my decision. So during that time I studied, I went to church, and I was active with the other LDS youth. I tried my best to participate in meetings and social events. I even enrolled in seminary before I was baptized. I was learning and growing in the scriptures and in prayer. By the time my baptism came, I felt ready.”
And Patrick kept right on growing. First, he was called to be the teachers quorum president. Now he’s first assistant in the priests quorum of the English-speaking Montreal Ward. He continues to study the gospel and to share his knowledge with others.
“There are four members in our priests quorum, and we try our best to reinforce each other in the gospel, to prepare ourselves to serve the Lord with all our capacities. Receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood is my goal as a young man. I want to be able to serve a mission.”
Patrick is also on the student council, gets top grades, is a fantastic basketball player, has a paper route (the money will help pay for his mission), helps host events for the Special Olympics, and … well, you get the idea. So what was the deal with the letter?
“It was for skipping a class, which I didn’t do,” Patrick explains. “The teacher didn’t see me there, so she thought it was an unexcused absence. Actually, at the time I was on stage with the vice principal, giving a speech. I cleared it up with the office.”
It didn’t take much clearing up. After all, Patrick is the kind who doesn’t cut class, or cheat on tests, or go to wild parties. Patrick is more likely to be calming down someone who’s angry, helping someone in need, volunteering for community service, or telling someone about the gospel. He travels an hour and 15 minutes each way on Sundays just to come to church. He … well, again, you get the idea.
In many ways, Patrick Robertson is typical of a lot of the LDS youth in Montreal. He speaks both English and French (and several other languages), which is fairly common in this bilingual, multicultural city. He often has the opportunity to talk about the Church, which he is happy to do. And he’s no stranger to using spiritual principles as he climbs through life.
Montreal means “Royal Mountain.” Patrick and other LDS youth who live here can identify with that name. In fact, they could almost claim it as a motto. Children of a heavenly king, they are reaching for a summit. As they progress through life, they climb toward the heights, knowing that when the slope seems steep or the cliffs treacherous, there is ready help along the way.
Marie-Frédérique Carter, 15, is a member of the French-speaking Lemoyne Ward. She lives in a nice, suburban part of town, where she attends a large écolesecondaire (high school) named in honor of a Catholic monsignor. Her friends know her as an aspiring violinist. They also know her as a Latter-day Saint who keeps her standards.
“I got into quite a discussion with one of my friends concerning the law of chastity,” Marie-Frédérique explains. “She thought I was really old-fashioned. She didn’t agree with my standards at all. But she finally saw I was going to stick to my principles no matter what. I want to be a good member of the Church, and I know that obedience now will bring blessings later on.”
Just the same, it isn’t always easy. “It’s hard when you get to a certain age, and you see your friends who aren’t LDS start dating and having boyfriends, and your desire is to remain faithful to the Church and to the standards that have been given to us by a living prophet. At first, I found that difficult. But not anymore. I find that I am happy doing what’s right and knowing that I’m blessed by my Heavenly Father.”
Shawn and Melissa Poirier, 16, are twins, born three minutes apart. Like most twins, they tease each other good-naturedly about who’s the most intelligent, who’s the strongest, and who’s the best looking. But there’s one thing they don’t tease about. That’s their testimony of the gospel.
“About two years ago, our parents were wondering what religion they should be,” Melissa says. “But they didn’t really know which Church would be right,” Shawn adds. Their father in particular talked with priests and missionaries from lots of denominations.
“Then the missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knocked on our door,” Shawn continues. “He felt inspired to let them in.” The parents began taking the discussions in earnest. “One night, after I had seen the missionaries come over and over and over, I decided to sit in. Then my sister eventually came in.” As the twins studied, they began to see a spiritual summit worth attaining. Baptism became an important step along the way.
“Our parents have not been baptized yet,” Melissa explains. “But they’re still working on it.” And they encourage Shawn and Melissa to keep climbing as members of the English-speaking Montreal Ward.
“I’m surprised at how easy it’s been,” Shawn says. “I thought it would be really tough to keep the commandments and laws of God and the standards of the Church. But I take it day by day, and I pray and then do what I feel in my heart is right. People seem to respect what I’m doing, and I love being a Latter-day Saint.”
Melissa tells of an experience at school. “In my home economics class we were learning how to make tea. I had to explain to the teacher that it’s part of our religion to keep our bodies healthy, and that I couldn’t drink that kind of tea because there are bad things in it. Everyone was surprised when she gave me special permission to make herbal tea separately from the rest of the class, and I got to tell a lot of people about the Word of Wisdom.”
That’s not the scaling of a towering peak, but it is a part of a steady, upward striving, the same sort of striving that takes place daily among the French- and English-speaking LDS youth of Montreal.
Mount Royal is a hill on an island at the heart of Montreal. By most standards, it isn’t much of a mountain. It’s more of a gradual rise. But if you look at belief as a summit, conversion and obedience as lofty peaks, and testimony as a towering achievement, then there are certainly mountains here. Patrick, Marie-Frédérique, Shawn, Melissa, and dozens of other Latter-day Saint teenagers in Montreal are not only climbing to the top, but also standing as monuments of faith to help and inspire other people.
Latter-day Saints from Montreal know one secret to climbing high is daily seminary activity. Some of them have home-study seminary. Others meet in early-morning or evening classes. But they all agree that seminary helps them rise to spiritual heights.
“It’s preparing me for a mission,” says James Stewart, 17, who attends early-morning classes at the Kirkland Ward.
“It makes a difference to have a daily contact with the scriptures,” says classmate Cynthia Tsien, 14. “It reminds you of what you should be.”
And of course there are Super Saturdays every few months, when all the seminary students in the stake get together for scripture study, talks from Church leaders, and activities.
“That’s the best,” says 14-year-old Cassie Hoather, also from Kirkland. “Everybody there wants you to have a testimony. They help you to find what’s really true.”