On Thursday when they returned for their appointment Concha answered the door and warmly welcomed them in. Chris was sitting in his old easy chair with his dog by his side. Everything had been cleaned up and readied for their visit. Chris’ copy of the Book of Mormon was sitting on the coffee table in front of him.
After Elder Edwards showed Concha a picture of his family, they talked awhile about their backgrounds. The elders learned that Chris had been born and raised in Texas. His parents were emigrants from Guatemala and he had dual citizenship. Concha was a Guatemalan national in the US on a visa. Following Chris’ accident, Concha had taken care of him, and after a brief courtship, they had been married. They both had college degrees and were well educated.
The elders had planned to jump right in and take control of the conversation before things could be diverted from their lesson, so Elder Thomas explained that they had prepared a message and asked if they could begin the discussion with prayer. Chris nodded, so Elder Edwards offered a short prayer requesting the Lord to bless them with His Spirit as they discussed the gospel truths found in the Book of Mormon.
They presented the first discussion as they had done many times before. They were pros at this and each would take a basic concept and present it, involving Chris and Concha at appropriate points. When it was time to transition from one to the other, the presenter would simply glance at the other elder who would then smoothly take over and present the next concept.
Chris and Concha accepted the truths about their relationship to God, the role of prophets, and Christ’s ministry on the earth. Concha had a little trouble accepting the apostasy and felt that her childhood religion was the true faith. But after reading and discussing some scriptures from the Bible, she admitted that there could have been a falling away from the true church. They believed Elder Edward’s account of the Joseph Smith story and his witness that Joseph was indeed a prophet chosen by God. Chris was a little familiar with the story from his earlier studies and having attended some earlier church meetings. Concha had heard the story during the first visit, but seemed especially touched this time and had tears in her eyes when Elder Edwards finished with his testimony.
When Elder Thomas presented the discussion about the revelation of the Book of Mormon, Chris was especially attentive. He already knew a great deal about the history of the book, but he hadn’t looked on it as scripture revealed from God through a prophet. When Elder Thomas gave his testimony as to the truthfulness of the book, Chris added his witness that he knew it was true.
“I have been to many of the cities and places described in this book. I have seen the Waters of Mormon and walked across the narrow neck of land. And with my own eyes I have seen the cave where the Book of Mormon records are buried. If those things are real, then the book has to be true. I believe it!”
The elders became noticeably uncomfortable at this point and Chris asked them what was wrong.
“Well, President Johnson has asked us not to talk to you about those things anymore,” responded Elder Thomas.
“Who’s President Johnson, and what does he have to do with it?”
“He’s our church leader, the president of our mission. We work under his direction.”
“Did you tell him the story? Doesn’t he believe it?”
“Not really. He says your location is all wrong. He says that the Hill Cumorah has to be in Mexico north of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. According to him it couldn’t possibly be in Guatemala. He thinks you’re making it all up.”
“Now listen” interrupted Chris. “You’ve just told me about Joseph Smith and his vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ. How do I know he didn’t make that up? I imagine a lot of people have accused him of fabricating the story. How do you know it’s true?”
“Well, we can know the truth by the power of the Holy Ghost. Just like the scripture we read from the book of Moroni. If we pray about it, the Lord will show us it is true by means of the Holy Ghost. We will feel that it is right.”
“OK, how do you fellows feel about what I have told you? Do you feel that it is true, or do you think I’m lying?”
“I don’t know. It seems right to me–it feels right. How about you elder?”
“I think Chris is telling the truth. I don’t know why the president is so against his story. I guess it just goes against all he’s studied and believes.”
“Maybe if I could talk to him it would make a difference,” suggested Chris. “Do you think he would let me come and meet with him?”
“Let us try and make an appointment. We’ll try and persuade him. But if he says no, we’ll have to follow his counsel.”
Chris thought for a moment, and then said, “Let me show you something. Concha would you please bring me my journal, the loose-leaf in the bookcase in the bedroom.” When she had brought them to him, he showed it to the elders.
“Look here. I kept a journal of all our investigations and explorations from the beginning to the end. You don’t think I would just make all this stuff up. It’s got all our findings and proofs–everything.”
Elder Edwards was thumbing through the pages. When he came to the last page, he looked to see how it turned out. But it only recorded up to the time that they identified the Hill Cumorah. The rest was missing.
“What happened to the end? It doesn’t say anything about finding the cave.”
“That’s the sad part. The last while we were camping on the mountain, as far as I can remember. I didn’t have access to my laptop, so I was just keeping handwritten notes. After the ‘accident’ no one ever found our camp, or at least they never told me if they did, so the notes for the last few days were lost. But it’s probably for the best anyway. I don’t think the Lord wants those things to be known.”
“If that’s the case, why did the Lord let you get as close as you did and even go so far as to find the cave,” wondered Elder Thomas?
“I’ve often wondered the same thing, but I have no answer.”
Elder Edwards had an idea. “Maybe if we could show the president your journal he would be convinced that your story is true. Would you be willing to let him read it?”
“Well, I don’t know. I’ve never told anyone but you and Concha, about these things but perhaps it’s time I told my story. I was never told to keep it a secret, just not to go back or show anyone else the way. That’s not really a problem now because I can’t remember the way. But I think I could show the journal to your president. I’ve kept this whole thing a secret for so long, but maybe now is the time to let the cat out of the bag. On the other hand, I value this journal highly and don’t want to let it out of my hands. Perhaps we could make a copy for the president to read. You talk to him and see what you can work out.”
“All right, we’ll do that.”
As the elders finished up, they didn’t think it necessary to commit Chris and Concha to read the Book of Mormon as they had already been studying it. They did commit them to pray about the prophet Joseph Smith and the restoration of the gospel. After teaching them the simple steps of prayer, they asked Chris to offer the closing one. He said it like he already knew how. However, when they challenged them to attend church with them the next Sunday, Chris balked at the idea—he didn’t want to go. When they questioned him, it came out that he didn’t feel worthy.
“God has cursed me because I trespassed on sacred ground. Look at me. I’m blind. God blinded me because I went where I shouldn’t have gone. I don’t think He will ever forgive me. I don’t think He wants me going to church. I would be polluting it.”The elders tried to convince him that the Lord would forgive him, if He hadn’t already done so, but they could see that he wasn’t persuaded. They finally told him to think and pray about it and left it at that. They knew they could emphasize repentance in the next lesson.