You almost never know if you are being observed or judged by others — if someone is, so to speak, watching you. The following event did happen and proves we all must be on guard about what we do and who we are.
While I was growing up in the state of New York, the number of young Latter-day Saints was never too great. I happened to be the only member in my whole high school class. Yet the few of us living there did have a fine seminary program. We would gather from all over the city and suburbs for lessons held daily in our little chapel beginning at 7:00 a.m. When I returned from my mission, I attended a junior college near the chapel for a year prior to leaving for Brigham Young University. During that year, I was called to teach that small seminary class. Every school day at 6:00 a.m., I would borrow my father’s car and drive about 25 miles in and around the city and suburbs picking and dropping off class members. On many winter days it was so cold and snowy I barely had time to pick up my class members and get them back home before school started. Sometimes my lessons in between were only five or ten minutes long. But we had fun. Over that year, I developed a special friendship and love for these devoted young people. They were wonderful young saints who later grew to be wonderful missionaries and devoted fathers and mothers.
That seminary meeting program continued for years after I left for school in Utah. Many memorable spiritual events came about from that little seminary class over the years. One of these events that has always touched me deeply involved a sweet young sister, who incidentally was my niece, Ally.
She was a junior at a local high school and was very active in sports, student affairs, and her studies. Even with her heavy schedule, she never failed to attend that early morning seminary class. Quite often she would get behind in her scripture study and could find little time to catch up. Often she would rush through her lunch at school then walk out into the common area and either sit on a bench or find a quiet place in a corner and read a few chapters of scripture before her next class was to begin.
One day while reading from her Book of Mormon, out of the corner of her eye Ally thought she saw someone watching her from across the commons. A young man dressed in a black hoodie with a very tattered old backpack was staring at her. She knew it must be a fellow student but she had no idea of who he was or why he was watching her from so far away. She felt extremely uncomfortable that day but continued reading her scriptures.
This same young man was there again the next day and the day after that, always watching her. Her efforts to avoid him never worked. She became so obsessed by his presence that she could take it no more. On the fourth day, she jumped up from her bench and walked over to him. In a very belligerent tone, she confronted him and asked, “Who are you? What are you doing staring at me like this every day? I don’t know you and I don’t like it. So stop it and go away or I’ll report you.”
The young man was somewhat stunned by this challenge and was almost too shy to respond. After a moment, he quietly asked, “What are you reading?” Ally was taken aback by this question and simply said, “A book. Why do you want to know? What’s it to you?” The young man replied quietly, “What book is it?” Not knowing why he asked this question or what she should say, she simply replied, “It’s called the Book of Mormon. Why do you want to know?”
He sheepishly he opened his backpack and quietly withdrew a book. It was like hers. The same color. The same size. She looked closely at the title. To her surprise, it read “The Book of Mormon.” Ally was puzzled. Why did he have a copy of the Book of Mormon in his backpack? Shyly he looked up and confided to Ally that for days he was trying to get up the nerve to ask her about this book — that’s why he was watching her. He said a friend had given it to him a few weeks earlier and said something about how someday it could change his life. He confessed that he had seen her reading her copy of the Book of Mormon during lunch hour and quietly hoped he could get the confidence and find the opportunity to ask Ally about this book. His question was simple: “Can you please tell me what is so special about this book? It must be special if I see you reading it here every day after you eat lunch when you could be doing something else.”
He was sincere and humble in his questions. He was searching for something. He did not mean to offend Ally or frighten her by watching her. But something had told him to seek her out. He was shy by nature but had a deep desire to know more about this strange book his friend had given him.
The two spoke for a while and it became apparent to Ally that he had had a rough time recently and was looking for help. He wanted answers. Deep inside had hoped that perhaps this book might give him some comfort, guidance, and inspiration.
Ally did not let this opportunity go to waste. Her attitude softened. She felt the Spirit telling her to help him. Slowly they became good friends. She explained the basics she knew about the Book of Mormon. Once she had his confidence, she did what was the next best thing to do under these circumstances: she asked if he would meet with her friends, the missionaries. They could tell him all he needed to know about this powerful book and they could meet at her home for these lessons if he liked. He agreed to do so.
After a few months filled with good teaching by two fine missionaries and Ally’s support, this boy’s life began to change. He accepted the missionary lessons without difficulty and prayed about their message. He was ready and searching for the gospel. A short time later, he was baptized, with Ally and her seminary friends and family present. With good fellowshipping from that little seminary class, he stayed active in the Church. He grew to be loved by his new ward friends. A good bishop worked with him to receive the priesthood. A few years later, this once shy, lost young man dress in a black hoodie who could only stare at Ally, watching her from far away, left to serve a worthy mission for the Church.
I too was a convert to the Church while a senior in high school in that that very same city. I know how he must have felt as he sought to find answers to life’s questions.
Thank goodness that there are saints like Ally who live the gospel with boldness and listen to the Spirit. And like Ally, they are saints who remember that they are called to be missionaries first. They are ready to gather in Israel at any time and under any circumstance, even while being observed from across a school lunch yard. Her kind actions changed the destiny of a young man who was searching for truth too. Further, who knew then how many other lives were changed for the better as he served a mission, married in the temple, and raised his family in the Church?
All this because a young seminary student answered a searching question from a total stranger.
Someone once told me, “We must live the gospel as if people were always looking at us, because our lives may be the only book some people will ever read.”
Ally not only read her Book of Mormon, but her life was also being read by someone seeking the truth of the gospel.
George Domm was born and raised in upstate New York around historical LDS sites such as the Hill Cumorah and Palmyra. He was very familiar with the Church long before he was baptized in 1959. Soon after joining, he found himself serving a full-time mission for the Church in Berlin, Germany. That was his first of four missions! George currently lives in American Fork, UT with his wife, Margaret, and busies himself trying to keep up with their 11 children and 42 grandchildren. He loves to do family history and play golf with "all the old men in our neighborhood." His goal is to one day shoot his age, 74.