The sun was about to set on another hectic Sunday in 1948 during my first mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nottingham, England. I had just concluded a successful street meeting with other missionaries in the area, during which we shared our message with passersby on Nottingham Square.
"What makes you Americans think you can come here and teach us anything about Christianity?" one gentleman had asked.
It was a common question, and a legitimate one in my view. Unless we could offer people spiritual insights and understanding they couldn't receive anywhere else, there really wasn't much reason for them to listen to us. Thankfully, we had just such a message—one unique and laden with eternal significance—and I was pleased to be able to so testify to the gentleman who asked the question. We had a lively, interesting discussion, and I felt the spirit of the Lord with me as I taught the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I was still feeling that same spirit at dusk as I walked home along the shores of the Trent River. It had been a long day, not discouraging but exhausting, filled with meetings and ministering which were associated with my assignment as a leader among the missionaries and members of the Church in Nottingham. I heard the soothing sounds of the river flowing downstream as I walked, my lungs filled with the dank, heavy air of England. I was thinking about the missionaries for whom I was responsible, as well as the Latter-day Saints in Nottingham who looked to me—a twenty-year-old American—as their leader. And I was thinking about that gentleman and the question he posed and the heartfelt testimony I presented in response.
As I strolled along the Trent, weary and yet happy and satisfied in the work, an overwhelming feeling of peace and understanding came over me. It was at that precise moment in time that I came to know that Jesus Christ knew me, that He loved me, and that He directed our missionary efforts. Of course I'd always believed those things. They were part of the testimony I had shared just a couple of hours earlier. But somehow in that instant of what I realized was pure revelation, my belief turned into knowledge. I didn't see any visions and I didn't hear any voices, but I could not have known of Christ's reality and divinity any more intensely had He stood before me and called out my name.
My life has been shaped by that experience. From that day to the present, every significant decision I have made has been influenced by my knowledge of the Savior. I couldn't, for example, entertain certain professional opportunities because they didn't represent the way Jesus would have done business. We have tried to base important family decisions on the Lord's will for us—whatever that may have been. Even personal relationships have been built on a foundation of love, our love for Christ and His love for us.
That's the way it is when Jesus Christ becomes a reality in your life. It isn't that He somehow makes you do things that you wouldn't do otherwise. Rather, you find yourself wanting to do what He would do and respond as He would respond in an effort to bring your life into harmony with His. And an interesting thing happens whenever you attempt to place your feet in Christ's footsteps. If you really concentrate on trying to walk the way He walked—loving, caring, serving, and obeying each step of the way—one day you'll look up and discover that His path has led you directly to the throne of God. For that is and ever has been His great purpose and mission: to lead us to our Heavenly Father so we can dwell with Him in His heavenly home.