A Pearl of Great Price
“And it shall be given thee in the very moment what thou shalt speak” D&C 24:6
Mr. Stephan was a large man. The vise-like grip from his huge hand was always accompanied by a broad smile. Many years before the Berlin wall was demolished, Mr. Stephan escaped the oppression of East Germany by clinging to the undercarriage of a freight train. In South Africa he joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He appreciated the distinctness and definition of their doctrine and was impressed by the average member’s knowledge of the Bible. But he became discouraged when end time predictions failed and became disillusioned with teachings of the local Overseers.
As he was unfamiliar with the Mormon Church, he welcomed the opportunity to converse with missionaries. He refused the standard discussions, and insisted on asking questions from a list he prepared during the week.
I don’t know if Mr. Stephan ever joined the Church. When I left the mission, he was attending Church and meeting with missionaries regularly. I know he was touched by the presence of the Holy Spirit on several occasions, but he had trouble praying, and thought that one could know the truth by intellect alone.
Although he had not yet received a testimony of the Book of Mormon, he admitted its value and understood its importance and relevance as another witness of Christ. He also felt that the book of Doctrine and Covenants had merit, as it recorded the revelations of modern prophets. The Pearl of Great Price, on the other hand, bothered him. He felt that God would have put all He wanted us to know about Old Testament times and teachings into the Old Testament, and things about Mathew 24 in the New Testament. To him, additional books covering the same periods were superfluous.
My own knowledge of the book was sketchy at best. I had only read it cover to cover once, although I had memorized some verses while in Seminary, and knew the Joseph Smith history as well as most missionaries.
On one visit, I felt impressed to tell Mr. Stephan that I would answer all his questions for the evening from the Pearl of Great Price – a statement I immediately regretted making, as I had no idea what questions he had prepared. I silently reminded Heavenly Father that I didn’t know much about the book, and that my green companion had not yet even mastered the first discussion.
During the next three hours, I learned from the Spirit as I taught Mr. Stephan. He had his usual list of questions and concerns, but each one had an answer in the Pearl of Great Price. Why are there two creations mentioned in Genesis? I turned to Moses Chapter 3. I had no idea where to find the answers to many of his questions, but I found verses, and answers came. After his last question was put to rest, a huge smile formed across his face and he exclaimed with childlike exuberance “Now I know why we need the Pearl of Great Price!” If anyone knows what happened to Mr. Stephan, a prospective member in 1975 from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, I would enjoy hearing.