Jennifer (1 of 3)

It began, I think, in the hallway of an upscale, downtown Philadelphia apartment tower. Jennifer is a lawyer and Jake a student at a prestigious University. They have lived across the hall from one another for some time, but had never met until about six months ago. That night, in November, they ran into each other in the hallway. Each was taken with the other, and both hoped the other would make contact. Unable to overcome the inertia produced by busy lives, nothing hapenned again for about a month, until Jake finally asked Jennifer out–and with that began a beautiful and painful story, one that would leave most of our ward smiling, then crying, then baffled.

Jake and Jennifer began dating almost immediately after getting to know one another. Jake, sensing the direction in which the relationship was heading, asked Jennifer to have a DTR (define the religion). He is Mormon, she committed and non-denominational Christian. They talked and he explained that he was going to marry a Mormon. He told he that, obviously, her religious convictions were personal and private; he simply pointed out that there was little point in their pursuing a relationship if it was going to end in them parting ways over religion. Obstinate? Perhaps. Unfair? Maybe, but honest, nonetheless.

Jennifer agreed to take the discussions and she began to attend church. I still remember her first Sunday because she was hard to miss. She is short, with soft Asian facial features. She dresses smartly and is soft-spoken but with a distinct, punctuating laugh that bounces off walls and pierces through other sounds. Her demeanor is disarmingly calm and she carries herself softly.

The discussions, apparently, went very well for she was soon baptized. The day of her baptism, a longtime friend of hers, from across the country, flew out to “visit.” She ostensibly came to support Jennifer, but the word whispered in the corners of the chapel was that this was a friend From Jennifer’s former religion, here to convince her not to follow through with this decision.

I always wonder what such friends tell converts-to-be. That we are not Christian? That we are a cult? That sinister, shadowy forces lurk in the church’s upper-eschelons? That we do evil things in the Temple? That we will take her to hell? I don’t know what this friend said, perhaps she said nothing, but in any case it did not matter. Jennifer was baptized, much to our delight.

It ought not matter, I suppose. But there is something especially comforting to me about someone so learned and talented joining the Church. Jennifer immediately brought her eloquence, analytic mind, and quiet presence to be of service in the kingdom. She was called, somewhat strangely it seemed to us, to be FHE mom in our YSA ward. The Church, though, has never seen an FHE mom quite like Jennifer.

Jennifer treated her calling as if she had been called to be Relief Society President. She immediately prepared about a four month schedule of FHE lesson topics, all centered around the theme “Persepective on Christ from the Book of John.” Then, each Monday was assigned a topic along the lines of “Jesus is the Word,” “Jesus is the Light,” and “Jesus is the Life.” Jennifer would also spearhead an accompanying actitivy and, finally, she would cookbook and jaw-dropping home made dinner each and every Monday. Not pasta-roni, mind you, but pork loin, potatoes, and cake or stir fry with all the fixings–her service and dedication were truly remarkable.

The peak of her conversion, however, came a few months after she was baptized. I had brought a catholic friend to church that Sunday and so I had on my super-critical Sacrament Meeting talk ears. Jennifer, not to my surprise, gave one of the better “this is my conversion story” talks I have ever heard. She spoke with calm and raidance about how she came to know the Book of Mormon is true. She used a delicate, sophisticated, and beautiful Chritian lexicon grounded in the New Testament–it was like hearing Paul testify of the restoration. A wonderful and moving experience to be sure.

I wonder now, how we did not see. Were we so blind? Was she so blinded? Was she making it up? Were we hearing only what we wanted? For, in the end, it really did seem that was the peak of her conversion. As she spoke with such reassurance, a storm was brooding in her heart. All appeared well, but it was not. The next months would bring ominous tidings.

Published in: on August 1, 2006 at 5:56 am  Leave a Comment  

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