By Camille Kerr
Writing Specialist on the Woodbridge, Virginia Stake Public Affairs Council for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Different circumstances brought David and Christine to the United States. Christine came to visit her uncle in Alabama in 1989 and ended up staying longer to offer her support while he cared for his wife who was suffering with cancer. Christine decided to stay and work on an MBA in Information Systems at Auburn University in Montgomery which she completed in 1991.
David came to the US in 1981. He attended North Seattle Community College for a year, and then went to Washington State University where in December 1984, he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. After various part-time jobs in Seattle and Alaska, David applied for and moved to Tuskeegee, Alabama in 1986 to pursue a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering.
In January of 1988 his mother and three siblings flew to the US to join him. After the long car ride from the airport in New York back to Alabama and having taken measure of the challenges before her in the USA, David’s mother knew she needed to find the gospel for her family. David said that she began “praying to the Lord to send her messengers who would teach her the gospel and her whole family the gospel so that we could have peace in that house and so that David could reform his life.” As an answer to her prayer representatives from several churches began knocking on their door. David said, “After some time of sitting down with all these different people she chose these two young white boys to teach her the gospel. She came to me and said, ‘These are the messengers the Lord sent to teach me the gospel, to teach us the gospel.’” They were missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
When his mother decided to get baptized, David decided it was time to find out what she was learning. “So I had to start spying on them to figure out what they were brainwashing my mom about. So I’d sit in the room next door and listen to all these things.” He heard all about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and the plan of salvation and he said, “I listened to all these things and they all seemed to make sense. And the one thing that really drew me out was when they talked about the temple, and the focus of the temple, and how all her ancestors who were never baptized, but who were dead could now be baptized. If their names were taken there, they can receive the ordinance of baptism. I’d never heard anything like that before. So I finally came out and started asking questions.”
David’s mother and siblings were baptized in March and David started getting himself ready to be baptized. There was a lot he needed to change in his life and he said that he didn’t see why he needed to make those changes. But the missionaries told him, “The Lord’s church has standards and if you want to enter into the Lord’s church you need to be living those standards so that you can truly be set apart. If you can’t commit to live these standards now, then you can’t commit to anything.”
David said, “I thought about it. I was angry with them. They said, ‘You pray about it so that you can know what to do.’ So when I did pray about it, I knew. The Spirit witnessed to me that obviously what they were saying was true, that I had no reason to be angry with them and that I needed to repent. So then I had to brace myself and be courageous.”
One Sunday shortly thereafter David met the Mission president. He asked if David wanted to be baptized. David said yes. “And he looked at me and said, ‘Then you know what you need to do.’ I remember, President Cannon was his name. I remember his eyes and I accepted and I said, ‘Yes, I know what I need to do.’ We ended up sitting on a curb and I was just weeping; I was so touched by the spirit. I knew exactly what I needed to do and I yielded basically at that point. I put off the natural man and said ‘Hey, I’m going to do it.’ That was a turning point actually, very clearly. Sometimes some leaders don’t know what impact they might have on individuals. That particular mission president was a great turning point for me.”
“If I can come from being the natural wild man that I was to being where I am now, I know that anyone can come into the church and make something of themselves and continue to progress. When I look at others I see them as… as just wonderful. I mean there are so many good people out there and I just wonder sometimes how they can’t see the goodness in themselves. In leadership it’s really helped me, I think, in being able to strive more to know how the Savior sees people, partly because I know that most people are much better than I was when I joined the church. We all have divine potential. That’s something that I feel very strongly about: people have to be given the chance to stretch and to grow.”
David was given just that with his baptism into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was baptized in July of 1988 and by October he was ordained an Elder and called to be a counselor in the branch presidency. He also served concurrently as the branch clerk and the Elders Quorum president. David said, “So I had all of the above responsibilities. The branch president lived in another city. I was the only person who lived in that town. There was a missionary couple so the elder was first counselor in the branch presidency. So it was just us. My learning in the church was accelerated because I had to do everything.” They met for church in someone’s trailer until they had enough members to rent a building.