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
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
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.