I know it's long, but please, please read the whole thing. at least the story.
Bill Carpenter was a young man who had studied 3 and a half years in a Catholic seminary to become a Priest. Just before he was to take his final vows, he came in contact with THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS. Through the efforts of several people, including his family, and through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, he joined the Church on December 4, 1982.
He served his mission in the Iowa-Des Moines mission from February 1984 to February 1986. This is the conversion story which he relates of an African/American sister named Louetta Frye.
"I was serving in East Des Moines when my companion and I knocked on the door of a house. No one answered so we knocked again and still no one answered. As we started to walk away down the sidewalk, we heard, very faintly behind us, the voice of a woman. "No boys, don't go!"We turned around. Standing in the door frame, an elderly Black African/American woman, probably in her late 70's, beckoned us to come back. She invited us in and introduced herself as Louetta Frye.
Louetta was very lonely and she desperately wanted someone to talk to - just to listen to her words. I had learned early in my mission that to teach people the Gospel, many times you have to answer their physical, or, spiritual needs, before you can prepare them to receive the Gospel. So, for about an hour we just listened to her as she talked, sharing memories of her life and of her dead husband. When she finished, she sighed heavily and said, "Okay, so you have something to share with me?"
We taught her the 1st discussion, placed a BOOK OF MORMON with her, and gave her a reading assignment. We didn't make a return appointment.
About 2 weeks passed and I felt really impressed one day that we should go back and see her. We did and encountered the same scenario. For the first hour she just talked and we didn't say anything. When she finished, she sighed and said, "Okay, I am ready to listen"
I asked, "Louetta, did you get a chance to read in the BOOK OF MORMON like we asked you to?"
She replied, "Yes, I read some"
"What did you think?" I asked.
She said, "Well, I understand, boys, the Sermon On The Mount better in 3 NEFFI (Nephi) than I did in the Bible"
"That's great, Louetta" I exclaimed. "That is what the BOOK OF MORMON does, it helps to confirm the Bible. Anything else?"
She said, "Well, I did read about a people I'm not sure I understand. They were called the Jaredites. Now were they the people that were scattered at the time of the Tower of Babel?"
My companion and I smiled at each other. We knew that the Jaredites were not in 3 Nephi and that's where the reading assignment was, so we explained to her that they indeed are.
I asked again, "Anything else, Louetta?" (After all, the third time is the charm.)
"Well, no, I don't think, then again, I read about two boys. Now their dad is a prophet, their brother is a righteous man. God even sends an angel to them." Then she threw her arms up and she said, "Oh, you can't teach some kids anything!"
We laughed. (Those boys were Laman and Lemuel, and they weren't in 3 Nephi, either.) So, I said, "Louetta, how much did you read?"
The sweetest memory of my mission is of that elderly woman picking up the BOOK OF MORMON from off the coffee table, holding it to her bosom saying, "I read it. I read all of it and I loved it"
It was a beautiful experience for us. We challenged her to be baptized and she accepted.
We taught Louetta the remaining missionary discussions. Teaching Louetta was so much fun. She was like a child in a candy store. She wanted everything, all of the knowledge that she could absorb, and she wanted it now.
She had a friend who worked at a bank, and she had her write this little contract that we were her adopted grandchildren. As the adopted grandchildren, we had certain contractual obligations to Louetta. One was that we'd come to listen to her stories, drink her hot chocolate, and eat her cookies that she made for us. It was a very binding contract, one not hard to fill!
Louetta's house was like every grandmother's house in Iowa. It's just cluttered to the ceiling with a whole lifetime of memories. She had this overstuffed couch and chair. She would sit in that big wingbacked chair and just about disappear. She had one ratty dog who would chew on her shoes under the couch while we taught her.
January, 1986, her baptism was a lovely experience. At 83 years old and 100 pounds, Louetta was frail. My companion and I both got into the waters of baptism with her. I raised her up out of the water. Crying, she embraced us and said, "It's done. 83 years and it's done"
The next day we explained to her about Visiting Teaching and Home Teachers. We told her she'd want to set a goal to go to the Temple, and we explained some other things to her. My companion said, "Louetta, you'll want to get a Patriarchal Blessing"
"What's that?" she asked.
He explained that a Patriarchal Blessing is a blueprint for your spiritual life.
She exclaimed, "Oh, I want one of those blueprints"
Louetta was an insistent, dogmatic kind of lady and she wouldn't let us leave that day until we'd contacted the Bishop and the Stake Patriarch and made an appointment for her so she could get a blueprint. We made the appointment.
Two weeks later, Louetta received her printed Patriarchal Blessing in the mail. That same morning she phoned us at 9:00am in the morning. "Are you coming over today, boy?" she asked.
And I said, "Yes, we are. You know we are." We'd been visiting her everyday for about 20 minutes. "We'll come over about 2:00pm, like we always do"
She said, "Oh no! That won't do. That won't do because it came"
"The blueprint came"
"The blueprint?" I asked, totally confused.
"The blessing. I want you to come over this morning!"
I told her we'd be there about 9:30am.
When we arrived, Louetta handed me the blessing and said, "I'd like you to read that for me"
I said, "No, Louetta, that's personal. I think you should be the first to read it."
She asked me again to read it and again I declined, saying, "I think it's between you and the Lord and you ought to read it first."
Her eyes got big and for the first time ever since we began teaching her, she called us "Elders"
"Now, Elders, you don't understand, do you?"
I said, "I don't understand what, Louetta?"
My eyes haven't seen words on a written page in over 15 years. But, when you gave me that book, I knew it was true because I saw the words and the Lord granted me that power until I finished its last page. Well, I don't have that power anymore. My eyes are dim once again. Would you please read my blessing to me?"
For a long time we just sat there. Finally, I started to read Louetta her blessing. It talked about the elect woman that she was and all that God had planned for her. I got about 3/4 of the way through it, and I read a line that changed my mission and changed my life.
It said that Louetta would have joined the Church 25 years earlier if the Elder that had accepted his call would have gone. But he did not. But now, two other missionaries had been prepared to teach her. And they have proven themselves worthy of that blessing because of some sacrifice and trials on their part.
THIS was the last month of my six-month extension.
I can't imagine what my life would have been if I'd never met Louetta.
Louetta passed away that night, having completed all that the Lord wanted her to do.
One thing we need to know is that our decision to serve, or, not to serve, affect other people. That when the Lord chooses a missionary, he just doesn't say, "Well, North Carolina Charlotte Mission needs missionaries, or, The Iowa Des Moines mission needs missionaries" He matches your personality, your talents and your gifts with certain people that reside in that mission, so that their lives may be touched."
Bill Carpenter is now an LDS Seminary teacher and lives in Spanish Fork, Utah, with his wife, Julie Ashman Carpenter, and their son, Levis.
I cannot even begin to express how much this story touched me. As I'm typing this, I am still in tears. It gets me every time. I know without a doubt in my mind that the gospel is true. How can it not be? Louetta is living proof of how real this gospel is. How it reaches out and touches peoples lives in ways we can't even imagine. How it can bring a miracle into lives if we just have faith. I am a strong believer and have a very strong testimony of missionary work. I, myself, am a convert and if weren't for missionary work I don't think I would be where I am today. I am so grateful for the persistent missionaries and dedicated home teachers who never gave up on my family and brought us to the gospel. Brought us to the happiness we have today. I would give everything I have to serve a mission. That is one of my ultimate goals. To be able to bring and share the gospel into peoples homes and touch there lives in so small way, seems like the best thing in the world. My Savior has given me so much and sacrificing 18 months of my life to serve and dedicate to him is only a very small way I can repay him. I can't wait until the day I can turn in my papers, open my call, and leave on the Lord's errand and be strengthened in ways I cannot even fathom. I can't wait for the day where my whole life, 24/7, is dedicated to the Lord and sharing His gospel with my fellow brothers and sisters. To bring the light into their lives and to be humbled by those I serve and to love them. I know without a doubt in my heart that this gospel is true and I am so grateful for the peace, hope, and happiness it brings into my life. I know that I, and my family, will be blessed so much by me serving a mission. I know it's not all a field of roses but I know that the Lord will be there for me to help me through the tough times and that I will learn and grow from them so much. I know that the good and happy times of my mission will overrule my hardships. As Nephi says, "I will go, I will do, the things the Lord commands."
There's no question why I want to serve a mission.