Former Catholic Church Member
The Still Small Voice Steered Me To Arizona
By Richard J. Johnson
My story started as a youngster in Green Bay,
Wisconsin, where as one of seven children of a staunch Roman
Catholic mother, who saw to it that all of her children had eight
years of Parochial Catholic grade school, under nuns.
Nuns who had dedicated their lives to the Savior
and strived to be sure that all of their charges loved the Savior as
well. They taught reverence, and behavior and that we should love
the Lord our God, and fear the devil, and if we weren't good, we'd
surely go to Hell!
And those nuns all had eighteen inch rulers with
metal edges, and they used them often, on the palms of our hands, or
on the knuckles, if you were foolish enough to put your hand out
So I had a firm foundation in Christianity, albeit
a Catholic doctrinal testimony. Eight years of what was then known
as Bible History, ingrained into a youngster, is not easily nor
As I grew up there were no family prayers in the
house.....no morning prayer, no prayer at meal time, nor at bedtime.
Nothing to resemble Monday night home evening! We were a sort of a
"You've got to go to church on Sunday" Catholic family.
There was no resemblance to what I have found here
in this totally dedicated reverence in the LDS Church.
That left the door open for one to easily go
astray, mix with the wrong crowd, develope the wrong habits,
complacency sets in.
I learned to pray back there under the nuns, but
prayer came later in life only in time of need or an
emergency...selfish prayer. when in need of safety, protection, yes
even sometimes survival.
When I reached age 17, World War II was well
underway, and I had passed the exams and was about to go into Army
Air Corps Flight School, but we had lost my oldest brother already,
early in the war, He had been a pilot, and in no way was my mother
going to let me go into flying.
So I spent that summer of '43 on a Great Lakes
ship, a self-unloader, carrying iron ore from Lake Superior to Ohio,
and then coal back again.
Living amongst the drunks, and other nasty
habituates, and the vilest of language, was an education on how not
to live, and I learned all over again how to pray. a testimony
Once all is well again, complacency sets in again.
But then came military service. I went in via the draft, and was
soon in an airborne infantry division, learning all kinds of
interesting things...glider flights, glider landings, parachute
jumping and training.
And here I was, up in the air anyway, not only
dangerous, but very rigorous training. I was constantly at prayer.
As we contemplated overseas shipment, and the combat that surely
And it came quickly. In late December of '44 we
found ourselves on the front lines in the Battle of the Bulge. the
largest battle, with by far the most casualties on both sides, of
the entire war. And cold! And we had little winter gear or clothing.
It all happened too fast. And we learned to be
good combat infantrymen in a hurry. That was just sixty one years
ago. I was twenty years old!
Following almost two months in the Bulge. we were
relieved, and went into immediate training for the last and greatest
airborne operation of that war.
On March 24, 1945, we went across the Rhine River
to landings in gliders, behind the enemy lines near Wesel, Germany.
and believe me, prayer came easy, and everyone prayed too.
I began to realize that one was not too wise to
forget The Lord Jesus Christ, calling for His help, beseeching the
Holy Ghost to help too, only in emergencies, only when survival was
the issue, or being maimed for life, whatever!
That "still small voice" continued to talk to me
though. Following military service I enrolled in and graduated from,
a four year Catholic College, and was maybe back on the right track
I married, we raised two children, my work took me
to the East coast, I spent 36 years in a consumer marketing
organization, traveled a lot, had a good career, a happy family, a
good life, a testimony that just continued up again and down again,
but not one I could be very proud of.
Then came retirement. I had lost my wife of 36
years, the mother of my two sons. They were grown and wed and gone,
and so I retired to Arizona, believing I really was moving there to
play golf year 'round.
I know now, that wasn’t true! The still small
voice steered me to Arizona, the golf bit was just a ruse, a means
to get me there for more important reasons.
You see, just two weeks after arriving in the
Phoenix area, not even moved into my new home yet, I met Needra, on
the golf course! The ruse begins to show itself!
Needra was a widow, had raised six children as a
single mom, thru their teens, all of them were now wed and gone, she
hated the cold weather of the Salt Lake area, so here she was, in
semi-retirement working in Arizona,
We exchanged Names, where we came from, that we
were alone, and in subsequent little meetings, and eventually a
dinner date, she asked my religion.
I told her. She told me she was Mormon, had six
children, And twenty one grand children, and unless she had a ring
on her finger, and a piece of paper in her hand, she didn’t fool
I got the message. The still small voice was still
talking to me. And I didn’t even know what Mormon meant, much less
We dated a lot. We talked a lot about being alone,
about the advantages of companionship, she told me that if she ever
married again, it'd have to be to a Mormon, or at least he'd have to
attend church with her regularly.
We were married June 23, 1990, by her bishop in
Chandler, Az., and Boy, did I find out what attending church
What ensued was several years of lots of golf,
camping, hiking, meeting many other friends, all of them in the
church, and attending Sacrament Meetings at first, then eventually
also gospel doctrine each Sunday, and down the road a few years,
also the Priesthood meetings.
Of course I never missed a chili cook off, or any
Christmas parties! I met and made a lot of new friends. And was
Most of you may not have had an experience like
this. While attending Sacrament meetings with Needra for several
years, at first, each time there would be a sustaining, I would
raise my hand to approve. She would reach over and pull it down,
telling me I'm not a member, and I should not sustain.
Following my baptism, I would refrain from raising
my hand, out of habit, of course. So Needra would quickly reach over
and try to raise my hand to sustain, but by the time I would
understand, and get the hand up, I would hear a voice saying, any
One of my best golf buddies in Arizona, for two
winters, was a gracious member who was also the Stake Patriarch, and
a great guy, great friend, a great missionary, a retired OBYGYN and
Fertility Specialist. He baptized me on Jan 26. 2002.
I recall the day, a week earlier, following
eighteen holes of golf, I said to him, "Jim, would you do me favor
next Saturday?" He said, "Anything!" I then said, "will you Baptize
me next Saturday?" He stood up and hugged me, and began to cry
openly. Matter of fact, we both cried!
Needra has never had any ups or downs in her
testimony.. She has stood by me with patience, and understanding,
and encouragement, as I studied this church, but she continually saw
to it that there were plenty of persuaders in front of me.
Needra was baptized when she was nine years old in
Torrey, Utah, in that ten foot wide by five foot deep irrigation
ditch that runs the entire length of Hwy 24, Torrey’s main street,
and if you’ve been to Torrey, you know that that ditch is cold, and
Torrey red rock red year around.
Yet both Needra and I know that we both came up
out of those waters equally cleansed, and equally receiving the Gift
of the Holy Ghost,
I have read the Book of Mormon some nine times,
the history of the church by B. H. Roberts twice, the History of
Joseph Smith by his Mother, Jesus The Christ by Talmage, A Marvelous
Work and a Wonder, All nine volumes of The Work and the Glory.
I've also read all I can find on Mesoamerica, the
legends among the American Indians, and now read all I can get from
Church sources, FARMS, being a source I really love. When you’re
retired, you find a lot of time to read.
I have a testimony which I have covered in detail
today, of Christianity, of God the Father, His only begotten Son
Jesus Christ, of the Holy Spirit, and of the truthfulness of The
Book Of Mormon, as garnered from my several years of studying it.
From Needra, her friends, her children, from the
lessons from stake and assigned young missionaries, from baptism and
the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and from a myriad of reading I have done
these past ten years.
They have expanded that testimony immensely,
including all of these recent references to learning's about early
literary forms in these old books of antiquity, which are a further
proof to me of the authenticity of our Book Of Mormon.