Dear President Albright,
There is no secret to selling insurance successfully or to being a great missionary. The secret is to accept the numerous “no’s” you receive, and then move forward with faith knowing that a “yes” is waiting there somewhere, perhaps just around the next corner. The best way to teach that to a greenhorn insurance agent is to show them how to find new customers. So one afternoon, Lee and I (not members of the LDS Church) were canvassing Brandon Avenue in Roanoke, Virginia, to sell insurance.
We eventually came across a sign indicating this was the mission home for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Having no fear, and knowing nothing about the Church, we wandered up the driveway and knocked on the door. The door was soon answered by a young man. I asked if we could talk to his manager, the boss, or someone in charge and he politely indicated he would check. A minute later, I was invited into the office of President Hilton who painstakingly listened to our pitch about home, auto and life insurance.
Being a good listener is important; asking questions more so. After our insurance presentation ended, the Mission President kindly took me aside and asked that since he had just given me fifteen minutes of his life, would I be willing to return the favor and let two of his representatives come and visit with me at my home. “Sure!” I replied. Yet I knew that since I was living 30 miles away, interest would rapidly evaporate, and I’d remain at peace with the world. The last thing I was interested in was being preached to about religion, especially one of which I’d never heard.
Not too long afterwards, an Elder Kofoed, who to this day has no idea what he helped create, began calling me to set up an appointment. One would think that after I rejected his numerous invites to visit with multiple excuses, his interest would quickly wane, but he nevertheless maintained his vigil. Was this persistent person dense, obstinate or inspired? I finally turned to my wife and said, “Let’s have these people over, listen to their pitch, and be done with it.” She agreed, and we finally relented to have the missionaries over for a Saturday morning visit.
Now my wife and I had not been to church in a goodly while, and we had no desire to strike that old familiar call anytime soon. The sun rose that day like any other when the doorbell from the lower level rang, annoying me, as I could easily be. The elders then came to the back door thus I scurried downstairs and with determination started to open and greet these people with an insult (giving insults was second nature to me). I cracked the door open only a smidgeon when something strange occurred and my body was suddenly racked with chills from head to toe. Continuing to swing the door fully open, there stood two young men who could not have been out of high school but a few months, and the question that came to mind was “What can these two possibly teach me about religion?”
Well, thirty four years have since passed, and I have learned “that by simple things great things can be accomplished” is indeed a truism. Their simple questions to me such as: where did I come from, what is my purpose in life, and where do we go and what do we do there after this life, all struck a chord in my heart. They explained things so simply that I could not misunderstand. They always followed their explanations with the same questions: what do you think, or can you believe this is true. And then they would respond with “good” when I answered “it’s possible.” Then they would often say, “Great, but we don’t want you to believe us. We want you to pray and ask God if these things are true.”
Amazingly, we invited them back over and over, and some ten weeks later after being invited to enter the waters of baptism several times, I asked my wife what she thought. The answer was clear. She told me that she had been ready for baptism for several weeks, but she knew that my decision had to be my own and not based on her thoughts or feelings.
On June 1st, 1983, in a small branch in the rural hills of Western Virginia, the Lord accepted two new believers into the fold of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our lives changed dramatically, more for me than for my wife Myra, as I laid my chewing tobacco down, disposed of my alcohol, and began cleansing my body and soul to new sustainable levels.
Though challenged by many to stop this tomfoolery and visit a real church, the greater the adversity level the more determined we became to remain active in the church, knowing that only Satan would work so diligently to stop this work from progressing.
I know that what we received is goodness and truth. I know that Jesus Christ founded His church on heavenly principles and for the welfare of our mortal and immortal being. I know that God speaks through the mouth of living prophets, that the priesthood given to the Twelve Apostles anciently has again been restored to the earth and that it has flourished from a simple beginning of a few folks in upstate New York to a church in 186 of 235 countries, and a membership of approximately fifteen million people.
I constantly invite others to be humble for a moment and ask why these millions of members preach and teach and share the word of God without script or purse and why billions of tithes are spent to build chapels, and temples and schools of higher learning without debt if it wasn’t for the welfare of their eternal souls. I know that He lives, and I will do what I can to enhance the values we have been taught, because with those values peace can and will come once again on the earth. This is my testimony, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Tom Horonzy now of South Carolina,
formerly of Rocky Mount, Virginia