An Anniversary Gift

Tuesday, February 5, 2002 was the one-year anniversary of the day that I blew out my knee. I felt, this meant that I needed a present so I bought myself a book called “Latter Days: An Insider’s Guide to Mormonism” by Coke Newell. I planned to begin my reading that Thursday on a flight that would take me to Rochester, NY for a graduate school interview. I thought this book would provide some good company. I found that I couldn’t wait that long; I started reading the day I bought it.
I felt very in tune spiritually and was able to meditate about my feelings as I flew out to Rochester. I felt that I didn’t need to worry about anything because I was in God’s hands and doing what I was supposed to do. I had hoped that I would be able to find a Book of Mormon sometime soon. Interestingly enough, the University of Rochester had me staying at one of the local Marriott hotels so I got a Book of Mormon sooner that I had ever expected. (It wasn’t until later that I learned that they are only found in Marriotts.) I dove in and started reading it from the beginning. However, since I was there for an interview, I wasn’t able to read much. When it came time to pack up and get ready to head back to Chicago, I debated for quite a while about whether to take the book with me. After all, it had been placed there with the intent of it touching someone’s heart and them reading it. In the end, I decided I should be able to get my hands on one some other way so I left it there.

Mail vs Male

I got back to Chicagoand started doing some more intensive web-searching. On the website I found a link for “Get a Free Book of Mormon”. I filled it out and didn’t even think about how it would show up. I guess I just thought it would be mailed or something. A few weeks later, I got home from my night class and was very excited to see that there was a note on my door. I didn’t care who it was from – I was just glad for the acknowledgement of my existence…like seeing a note on your locker in high school. The note was in perfect ‘boy-handwriting’ and stated that they had stopped by to drop off a Book of Mormon and left a phone number. It was signed Elder Nordberg and Elder Steoger. I called them up that night and talked with Elder Steoger. I wouldn’t be able to meet with them until the next week but decided to check out church that upcoming Sunday.  They gave me directions on how to get there which consisted of a few bus and train rides, taking about an hour in total to get up to Logan Square. 

Hablas Espanol? Ummm..No

Anyone who knows me knows that I am compulsively early – (well, at least I was before I had kids) – especially when I am dependent upon others and am not driving myself. I ended up getting to the church about 45 minutes early. I was quite confused when I got there because everyone was speaking Spanish. I took three years of the language between high school and college and even studied for a few weeks in Mexico but I retained absolutely nothing. (Maybe it was a bit of foreshadowing for my Spanish-speaking mission a few years later.) A pair of sister missionaries must have seen my scared face and they rescued me from my puzzlement. They explained that there was an English speaking ward meeting a bit later and that the Spanish one had just finished. We couldn’t find Elder Steoger but I was introduced to Elder Morrill and Elder Weston who gave me my first Book of Mormon. I chatted with them until it was time for Sacrament Meeting. Elder Steoger was still in a meeting so Elders Morrill and Weston invited me to sit with them. Elder Steoger came in just as the service was starting and was able to get a handshake in before finding his own seat. Throughout the service, Elder Weston was very attentive about whether I had any questions and if anything made me feel uncomfortable, etc. I was just trying to be a sponge and absorb everything I could. Oddly enough, everything felt right.
I was able to go to the other church meetings and was befriended by Sister Carmen, a member of the ward. She was very loving and very interested in learning about me. I was also introduced to the missionary couple that would be coming to my apartment with Elder Steoger and Elder Nordberg – the Jespersons. I absolutely loved the Sunday school class. I thought it was such a great thing – to discuss, analyze and study the scriptures and beliefs.

Questions, Questions (& Doubts)

I left church that day, excited for my upcoming meeting with the missionaries. I had three pages of questions for them that I had generated through my reading of the Latter Days book and through my discussions with Lars. I remember the day I was to meet with them. I was very nervous. I didn’t know if I should be dressed up and I had no idea how we would fit all of us into my little studio that was about 8’ x 13’. Well, we made it work. The first discussion was pretty easy to understand so we had time to address some of my numerous questions. We set the next meeting up for Sunday after church. The Jesperson’s weren’t able to come so another member, Ravi, came with to the little room at the church. When they asked if I wanted to be baptized, I was a bit hesitant. I believed everything I had been taught to be true but was concerned about whether I would be denying everything I had been brought up with. Also, I was distraught about what my family and friends would say.
See Part 3 for the next chapter.