M.Hal Young returned from his Western Canadian Mission, where he served from 1955-57, without baptizing a single soul.
He and his companions were diligent, tracting day after day beneath umbrellas in Vancouver's rainy weather."I loved my mission," said Brother Young, now of the Delta (Utah) 6th Ward. "I wanted to baptize - every missionary wants to baptize," he continued. Although some of his investigators were later baptized by other missionaries, he sometimes wondered just how successful his mission efforts were.
It was from one of these investigators that he received a letter a few months ago. The writer was Gert Christensen, a Danish immigrant to Canada who began to unfold a spiritual drama unknown to the former missionary, one in which Gert and his wife, Ina, or people the Christensens had taught the gospel to, had helped bring in some 400 converts.
Now serving in the Canada Toronto East Mission the Christensens also related their story to the Church News.
When they first met Elder Young, the Christensens were a newly married couple in Vancouver, British Columbia, struggling to make ends meet. They had purchased a small home and were installing a hardwood floor. Gert and two brothers were pounding nails when the missionaries came to their door.
"We didn't have time to talk to them," recalled Elder Christensen. He tried to put them off by telling them to come back another time. Then when the missionaries returned again, the same thing happened. In fact, it happened five times.
On the sixth time the missionaries came by, dripping wet in the cold November rain, the Christensens relented.
"Elder Young had a big smile," said Elder Christensen. "Even when we sent him away it didn't seem to have any effect." The missionaries were invited in from the rain. Everyone sat on the floor because the Christensens didn't have any furniture at the time. Elder Young and his companion taught them a first discussion, but the investigator and his wife weren't impressed; they basically just waited for the missionaries to leave. It still didn't sink in who they were, remembered Elder Christensen. But when the missionaries left, they also left a pamphlet, "Joseph Smith's Story."
A few days later, Elder Young returned to be sure they read the pamphlet. It hadn't been touched.
"He looked me straight in the eyes and bore his testimony and said he would like us to read the pamphlet," said Elder Christensen. "I had a strong feeling he really meant business.
"I started reading the pamphlet
the next dayT on the way to work. When I arrived at work, I sat down on a tool box and finished the pamphlet. When I finished reading this small leaflet, I was totally changed. I knew God had appeared to Joseph Smith - the feeling filled my whole being. I could hardly work that day; my whole life was changed.
"The thought came to me: `How could this be? I had never heard of this prophet. I thought that it should have been all over the newspapers so I would have heard about it."
The missionaries returned and taught the Christensens the series of discussions. The Christensens were eventually baptized on Aug. 3, 1957, - as were his two brothers - but Elder Young was transferred before that happened. The missionary never knew the role he had played in their conversion.
Elder Christensen said that over the years, "I accepted any call given me. Whatever it was, I tried to do that job." He served as stake missionary and as a member-missionary who frequently shared his deep feelings for the gospel with his friends. He and his wife taught one woman who later helped bring in another 35 converts.
In 1995, Elder and Sister Christensen accepted a call to serve as full-time missionaries. At the time, they stopped and counted the number of converts who had been introduced to the Church by them, their five children, or those they had brought into the Church. The number of those they knew about was 400 converts. There is no way to calculate the number of converts influenced by those 400 individuals.
As the couple prepared for their mission, they made another attempt to locate Elder Young. Eventually, a letter found its way to the Young family.
The letter stated: "We have been trying to find you. It has been 36 years. . . . We all are so thankful to you for bringing us the gospel. It has been wonderful being a member of the Church. Please write." The letter was signed, Gert and Ina Christensen.
Hal Young's return letter arrived at the Christensen home the day they left for the Missionary Training Center. They found it on their last trip to the mailbox before leaving.
A reunion was arranged. Brother Young described the meeting:
"We went to the senior Missionary Training Center in Provo. Elder Christensen recognized me and came running. He threw his arms around me and we both cried."
Brother Young and his wife, Marie, spent some time with Elder and Sister Christensen, and then invited them to two family home evenings to meet their children, one in American Fork and another in Delta. Later the Christensens spoke at a fireside in the Delta Utah Stake.
"They have been good for my family," said Brother Young. "Their testimonies really touched them." Since that time, he said, two in his family decided to go to the temple and be sealed.
Brother Young reflected:
"I always wondered how much good I had done on my mission, never having baptized anyone. It certainly was more successful than I thought."