Amongst many of the individuals that have had an impact in my life, I have specifically been thinking about one in particular. When I was a missionary, I had the privilege of meeting one of the most special individuals I have ever met. I had recently been transferred to a new area which was in Pearland Texas and I had about 7 months left on my mission.
One of my first days in this area, I met a young man named Eli. Eli was 16 years old and was very witty and smart. This bright-eyed blonde haired boy had many questions about religion, but mostly wanted to prove us, (the missionaries) that the doctrine that we were teaching was incorrect. You see, Eli was raised in a religious household and grew up attending the Episcopalian church throughout his life. He was taught to love God from his wonderful mother. He attended church actively on Sundays. He had a religious background and ended up learning about our church through a young woman in the ward. The information that Eli was getting was from the internet or from things that he had heard from acquaintances at school. What Eli didn't know at the time, was that he was being lead to learn about the fullness of the doctrine of Jesus Christ.
One day my companion and I took Eli on a tour around the church. We showed him the significance of each room. We taught about the importance of needing a Savior and what a Savior can do for his life and we ended our tour in the chapel. Throughout this church tour, I personally was able to see Eli's demeanor change. The boy who tried to prove us wrong wasn't focusing so much on the things that he was hearing from his friends, but his heart was being touched by the spirit of the Lord. After this initial church tour, Eli started to wonder if the things that we were teaching him were true.
Eli started to avidly read the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is another scriptural text that witnesses of Jesus Christ. It contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and outlines more of how we can prepare for Christ's return someday. Eli really wanted to know if this book could help him. He was curious, and he wanted something more. He wanted a relationship with God. He wanted to know if the Book of Mormon was true, because if it was, he could live a life lead by God and know the will that he had for him. Eli stayed up all night reading the book. He continued to read throughout the night, taking breaks to pray, and kept reading for hours.
Even though the truth came to Eli quickly, he was not exempt from challenges. Doubts began to creep back into his mind, and obstacles prevented him from getting baptized when he wanted to. When Eli had doubts, he would think of the witness that he had received when he stayed up all night reading the Book of Mormon. Eli bore his beautiful testimony often to me and my companion, at church, and even to his mother. Eli's testimony was not shaken, because he had built it on a solid foundation which was Jesus Christ. It was amazing to see his relationship with Jesus Christ blossom. For 7 months, I was able to witness Eli change and become a motivated disciple of Christ and an example to many, including me.
I was released as a missionary and I was sad to leave this kid! He was so bright and I just knew that there were big things in store for him. We had taught him everything we could as missionaries. He was just waiting to turn 18 so he could get baptized. I was sure that I was leaving him in the great hands of the ward and in the hands of the Savior. A couple of months later, I got a call from him saying that he was finally getting baptized. Tears filled my eyes and I just felt so much joy for this boy. I was so excited for him.
Eli was baptized in June and I wish I could have been there, but I came and visited the next week in Houston with Caleb. I am so glad that Caleb got to meet Eli and talk to him about basketball haha. It was amazing to see Eli and the spirit radiating from him.
The reason why I tell you this story, is because I am so grateful for Eli's faith. When I think of faith, I think of Eli. He is a beacon of hope to me and has been so to others. I would not be the person that I am today without meeting Eli. The morning of Caleb's funeral, I spontaneously called Eli. I told Eli that I couldn't go. It was going to be too painful and raw. I was ranting about how I couldn't do this and Eli was like, "of course you can do this." I don't remember a whole lot of what he told me, but he said that I could do it and to have faith that I can do it. I am so grateful for Eli. I don't think he will ever know how much he helped my testimony grow of Jesus Christ, but he did and I am so grateful for him! #givethanks