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Former Catholic Church Member

 

 Never Judge Anyone On Where They Are Now

By Alan Tong

My own conversion was a little different from most. I was far from being a typical Latter-day Saint. By most people's standards, I would have fallen into the "not the type" young man. To say that I was a wild youth would have been an understatement.

My birth and youth was spent in a very poor neighborhood, and we were classed as poor, even within that poor neighborhood. Within my group of friends were others who shared my love of rugby, which is a game a little like American Football, but with no pads or helmets. Two of my friends were lads by the name of Steve Broom and Philip Read.

When I was seventeen years old we played rugby league together on a team. Phil and Steve joined the LDS Church, but I was having none of it. One day they invited me to the old MIA (now Young Men's) program, and I went out of curiosity. I quite enjoyed it, but nearly caused a fight due to my wild and pugnacious nature.

A few weeks later I was invited to a Sunday Meeting, which turned out to be a Fast and Testimony Meeting. I remember, vividly, feeling out of place, me in jeans and scruffy tee-shirt and everyone else smartly dressed. Even more though, I remember feeling "something deep inside." After the meeting, Phil introduced me to Elders Richard J McCormack (sadly now deceased) and John M Denny.

These were patient and wonderful missionaries. They taught me, and I was baptized 22 August 1968 in my home town of Hull, Yorkshire, England. Most conversion stories would end there, but mine did not. Even though I was a Latter-day Saint, I was still wild, and "played at Church membership" for some three years or so. I was the kid that stood out in the crowd for all of the wrong reasons.

Everyone expected me to drift into inactivity and just disappear from Church. Some were even willing to tell me that to my face. Here entered again John and Val Sims. They, along with Val Barber and Neil Roy believed in me, and always encouraged me.

Their encouragement worked, slowly, on me, and I received my true conversion over a lengthy period. In 1973 I was called on a mission by President Harold B. Lee, to serve in the England Bristol Mission. What a privilege that was. My Mission Parents were Arnold and Frances Knapp.

They were exactly what I needed, and my progression was rapid in those two years. I learned leadership and found in that great couple, people that believed totally in me and my ability to be a future leader. I will ever be grateful to them. Towards the end of my mission I had another wonderful experience when I met an Elder and Sister Merrill.

By coincidence (?) Sister Merrill was the mother of one of my missionaries, Elder Richard J McCormack. (They say that coincidence is the Lord's way of remaining anonymous.) Recently I was called to serve as a Bishop for the second time, in different units. (The first time in the Cardiff First Ward, and this time in the Cannock Ward.)

I have a loving wife of 29 years, and six wonderful children. One of my sons served in units on his mission where I had served in my mission, and found people there still active that I had taught. The Gospel truly is wonderful. The story about this great Gospel of ours is one of personal growth opportunities. Never judge anyone on where they are, but on the potential that is in them. The parable of the sower is as relevant today as the day it was taught by the Master.

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