Monday night I told my wife I would take her and the kids out to dinner for her birthday. Nothing special, mind you. Probably just Fuddruckers or somewhere with a play place for the kids.
At 8:30 p.m., my wife announced that she was tired and going to bed early. I was left to fend for myself.
27 minutes later, the phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and wondered who would be calling so late.
The Ward Mission Leader.
I answered the phone with some trepidation.
“Brian, this is Glenn.”
“Hi, what can I do for you,” I replied dutifully. (I was the Ward Mission Leader before Glenn and know how difficult it can be to find volunteers to help with missionary work in the ward.)
“I wondered if you would like to feed the missionaries tomorrow night at 5:00 p.m.,” he asked.
“Uh, well, it’s my wife’s birthday tomorrow…” I replied, hoping he would just say don’t worry about, it’s your wife’s birthday.
He didn’t say anything.
“I guess we could just stay home tomorrow night and have the Elders over. I might need to ask my wife…but she is asleep.”
“Can you be home by 5:00 p.m.?” he asked.
I said I could.
The phone call ended and I was now responsible for feeding the Elders, and explaining to my wife why we couldn’t go out for dinner on her birthday.
Before leaving for work in the morning, I left a note for my explaining that we would be feeding the Elders dinner and that I would pick-up dinner on the way home.
My morning phone call with my wife didn’t go as well as I expected.
“I told Glenn we would feed the Elders tonight,” I explained, hoping she would understand.
“What happened to you taking me out to dinner for my birthday?” she asked with a tone of impatience in her voice.
“We’ll be blessed for feeding the missionaries,” I said. “Anyhow, I know you would understand.”
“Well, you don’t know me very well then,” was her reply.
Ouch! So much for the understanding wife.
I reminded her that we had dinner plans for Friday night–sans kids–and that I would make it up to her.
Before leaving work, I called my wife and asked her what she wanted for dinner. She said she didn’t care, code for- “You ruined my dinner out; nothing you can bring home will make up for that.”
I stopped at El Pollo Loco, picked-up a chicken dinner and some sides, and headed home.
When I arrived home, my Catholic father-in-law was still at the house and my wife announced that he would be staying for dinner. He said he wanted to give the missionaries a chance to convert him. (My father-in-law is a devout Catholic and enjoys a good religious conversation.)
Previously, our Stake has been covered by zone leaders and I expected a team of polished missionaries for dinner. Much to my surprise, instead of seasoned and well-groomed Elders arriving in an air-conditioned car, I looked outside and saw Elders on bicycles, looking weary and sweaty from a long day of proselyting.
I invited the Elders in and explained that my wife’s father would be joining us for dinner. I told them conversations on the apostasy were off-limits. My father-in-law can discuss almost any topic without arguing, but generally gets hot under the collar when discussing the apostasy. Not a problem. I was assured that this would be one subject that would not be broached in conversation.
The dinner went well and the conversation centered mostly on discussing the hometown of each Elder. The junior companion was from Logan, Utah and the senior companion from Grantsville, Utah.
After finishing dinner, the senior companion started searching through his scriptures for a spiritual thought to share. He first reached for his Bible and I told him that it would be o.k. to share something from the Book of Mormon.
He closed his Bible and opened his Book of Mormon to 2 Nephi 25:26 and started reading:
26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.
The Elder gave a brief explanation of the scripture and bore testimony of the Book of Mormon as a second witness of Jesus Christ.
After discussing the scripture in 2nd Nephi, my father-in-law asked how Latter-Day Saints define prophecy and he then shared how Catholics view prophecy and prophets. We found some common ground, but also agreed to disagree on other aspects of prophets and prophecy.
During the conversation, I realized more powerfully than ever that conversion comes only through a witness of the Spirit, and not by convincing through sharing scriptures and in-depth discussion of doctrine. I looked over at the two young Elders and hoped they realized this, too. I’m sure they did.
Before the missionaries left, I invited the junior companion to offer a word of prayer. His prayer was simple and short. As he prayed, I could feel the Spirit even stronger than I felt it all night. I knew my father-in-law felt it, too.
While my dinner plans with my wife didn’t turn out quite like I had originally planned, I was glad that we were able to feed the missionaries and have my father-in-law join us. I think now she understands the blessings that come when members feed the missionaries.
A good birthday dinner after all!