Tonight, I attended a phenomenal devotional entitled “Why I Believe” at the D.C. Temple Visitor’s Center. Thurl Bailey, a former Utah Jazz player and convert to the LDS Church, was the featured speaker alone with his wife Sindi. Two recent converts to the Church also spoke about their conversion.
Thurl’s story was particularly memorable for a couple of reasons. Thurl first spoke about his childhood and his decision to pursue a career in basketball. Even though he was over 6 foot tall at the time (now he is 6’11), he didn’t make the team the first two times. That coach told him that he had no future in basketball. Luckily Thurl persisted and tried for a third time with a different coach. That coach put him on the team and offered to mentor Thurl one on one because he saw that he had great potential. Thurl spoke about how Heavenly Father sees us with the same kind of great potential. He also spoke about those who had given him their full trust such as his wife.
Second, Sindi spoke extensively about their marriage and courtship. Her parents refused to meet Thurl and staged an intervention where they forced her to choose between them and Thurl (Thurl is African American while Sindi is white and from Southern Utah). They then cut off contact with her for five years. It was sad to hear about that degree of bigotry and intolerance. But fortunately, the Lord eventually softened their heart. And when Thurl was baptized his father in law performed the ordinance.
Third, Thurl spent a manner of years attending Church but not being baptized. His wife was loving and supportive throughout that time. Then, Thurl felt prompted to take an opportunity in Italy even though he didn’t know why. While there, alone for a time, Thurl felt prompted to call the missionaries to come visit him because he was lonely and wanted to speak to fellow English speakers. The Mission President came as well, and really connected with Thurl and was able to answer his concerns in a way that no one had before. The timing was right and the Lord had led him to where he could be converted.
Finally, Thurl spoke of a particularly meaningful experience that occurred right around that time. He would frequently cross the Border into Switzerland, and on each trip the border patrol asked him three questions: 1) Where are you coming from?; 2) What is your purpose here?; and 3) What is your destination? On one occasion, those questions pierced deep into Thurl’s soul and he stopped at the side of the road and pondered them. He realized that the Gospel gave him answers to those question he could not get anywhere else. I really appreciated his story and his powerful testimony of the restored Gospel.