This is not your typical friend-introduces-friend-to-the-gospel story. True, it is about two friends, one who is LDS, one who was not. And yes, the latter was recently baptized and later sealed to his wife in the temple - his friend being present both times.
But in this case, time has etched itself into their faces. Their hands show years of hard work. Both men are in their 90s.And their friendship - and the conversion process - began in 1930.
Lewis Younger, 91, of the Wynona Ward, Rochester Minnesota Stake, was baptized Dec. 18, 1994, in his home ward. Attending the baptism, conducted by full-time missionaries, was his dear friend Paul K. Edmunds, 93, of the Mapleton 6th Ward, Mapleton Utah Stake. Accompanying his father to Minnesota was John M. Edmunds.
Later, in a tender culminating moment, Brother Younger was sealed in the Provo Utah Temple April 4, 1996, to his wife, Edith Constance, who died in 1991. Again, sitting nearby, was Brother Edmunds.
"I'm very happy," Brother Younger said. "I've made a very good decision and one I should have made years ago."
During a Church News interview, both men discussed their friendship and Brother Younger's baptism and visit to the temple.
Chuckling, Brother Younger noted, concerning his conversion to the restored gospel, "It wasn't an overnight decision by any means."
In fact, it was a 66-year decision. Both men were in the class of 1929 in medical school at Northwestern University in the Chicago, Ill., area, and both had been selected for an internship the following year at nearby Cook County Hospital. Being somewhat acquainted with Brother Edmunds, Brother Younger approached the young doctor and said, `I'd like to put in a bid to room with you."
Brother Edmunds asked, "You don't smoke do you?"
The other replied, "No, and neither do you. That's why I want to room with you."
So began their friendship. During the internship, the two spent time with each other's families. Brother Edmunds had a brother living nearby, and Brother Younger's parents lived on the south side of Chicago.
Speaking of his LDS roommate, Brother Younger recalled: "I thought he was extremely bright, and he was a very friendly man. He took the gospel and his work seriously. He was also devoted to the Church. He did his fasting, attended his services and was a friend to man."
Brother Edmunds, who served a mission to Germany from 1922-1925, remembers his friend as a "clean and upright young man, no bad habits whatever. I was happy to have him as my friend and still am."
Several times, Brother Younger attended LDS services with his roommate. "At the time we roomed together, Paul didn't actively solicit my membership, but he made me feel very contemplative about it. I was asked to fast with him and his family a couple of times."
Upon finishing their internships, the two roommates continued their medical careers in general and family practice. Brother Edmunds started a practice in the San Joaquin Valley in California, then moved to Cedar City, Utah, where he worked for 14 years. In 1957, he joined the BYU Health Center, from which he retired in 1977.
Brother Younger established a practice in Wynona and retired in 1970.
Both men also married and had families, with Brother Edmunds and his wife, Ella, having eight children, and Brother Younger and his wife, two children.
And, despite the passing years and complexities of life, the two men continued their friendship through letters and an occasional visit. Brother Edmunds never gave up hope that one day his close friend would join the Church. Finally, in 1994, he wrote a tender letter to his college roommate, reminding him of his interest in the Church and expressing his love. The letter, dated Sept. 5, reads: "You have over the many years known about the LDS Church and have been familiar with its teachings. In fact, it was its Word of Wisdom, which you were already practicing, that led you to ask to room with me at County
HospitalT. It's still - after 60 years - not too late. But don't wait too long."
Brother Edmunds urged his friend to study the Book of Mormon and take upon him Moroni's promise in Moro. 10:3-5. Brother Younger did, and after receiving the missionary discussions and pondering, studying and praying, agreed to a baptismal date. At the time of the Church News interview, Brother Younger was in Utah for his temple blessings and sealing to his wife.
Additional letters between Brothers Younger and Edmunds reveal tender feelings and joy. A Jan. 9, 1995, letter from Brother Younger to his friend probably says it best: "This has been a wonderful time in my life thanks to you. I feel that I am establishing a new and wonderful relationship with my Lord and fellowmen. The vision ahead is opening up through the Church . . . ."