Monday, July 20, 2015

Full-Circle Week

By Rodger Dean Duncan

We might call these past few days our "Full Circle Week."

Story #1

In April of 2014, Rean and I came to Texas to visit Rodney and Kimberlee Ames. Rodney, as mentioned before, is president of the Texas Fort Worth Mission. He and Kimberlee are from our hometown of Liberty, Missouri, and have been our dear friends for many years. (Rodney is also our family attorney.)

When we came to Texas 15 months ago (for the Easter weekend), Rodney told us they would be in Waco to attend the first stake conference in the new Waco Stake Center. Naturally, this was of special interest to me because I graduated from Baylor University (in Waco) and the original Waco Ward was my first LDS congregation after my baptism in the summer of 1962. So we headed for Waco.

After stake conference on that Easter Sunday, Rodney and Rean and I drove over to see the original LDS chapel here (described in our February 15 blog post). Then in the evening Rodney and I went on an exchange with some of the young elders, and Rean went with a couple of sister missionaries.

Easter Sunday, 2014: Rean is preparing to accompany two
young missionaries to teach the first discussion to newlywed
Billie Whaley.
Rean's experience that evening is the beginning of this story. She and the sister missionaries visited Billie Whaley. Billie was only recently married. Her new husband Larry has been a member of the church for many years. Billie had been a lifelong Baptist and (as she continues to be) a faithful student of the Bible. On that Easter Sunday Rean assisted in teaching Billie the first missionary lesson. Rean answered some of Billie's probing questions and (according to Billie) bore her testimony in a way that touched both her mind and her heart.

Fast forward a few weeks. Rodney called us in Liberty to report that Billie was being baptized. When I reported this to Rean she instantly said "We're going!" I reminded her that we'd been in Waco only recently, but she repeated "We're going!" So we returned to Waco for Billie's baptism service and I was honored to participate in her confirmation.

Then we decided that, despite the fact that I have not yet retired, we should make ourselves available for full-time missionary service. We "applied for duty," had the requisite interviews, and agreed to serve anywhere in the world.

Elder and Sister Duncan with Larry and Billie Whaley at the
Dallas Temple, 17 July 2015. Wonderful day!
You know the rest. We were assigned to serve in the Texas Fort Worth Mission, specifically in Waco.

Since our arrival here in December, we have come to treasure Larry and Billie's friendship. In recent weeks we've taught Billie the temple preparation course. And then last Friday (drum roll, please) Billie received her endowment in the Dallas Temple and she and Larry were sealed for all eternity. We were honored to be their escorts on that special day. For missionaries, every day is a "pay day." But accompanying a beloved convert to the Temple is especially gratifying.

Story #2

Return to the scene: The Gazette gave us 
good memories, but the best ones are of 
friendships with the wonderful Latter-day 
Saints in Texarkana.
In 1969 Rean and I moved to Texarkana, Texas. I'd covered the 1968 presidential campaign for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Dallas Times Herald. Then I was hired as managing editor of both the newspapers in Texarkana, the morning Gazette and the afternoon Daily News. I was only 24.

The members of the Texarkana Branch of the church welcomed us with open arms. In all of the decades since, we have never felt more loved and appreciated than we did in Texarkana.

While running the news operation at the Gazette, I had a crackerjack sports editor named Johnny Green. He was a fine reporter, an excellent writer, and I enjoyed his dry sense of humor. Johnny was married to Karen Hill, a cousin to one of the members of the Texarkana Branch.

In the summer of 1969 I talked with Johnny about how the gospel blesses lives and puts all of mortality's challenges into manageable perspective. I challenged him to be baptized. He politely declined.

Standing at the waters of baptism is a great way to renew 
an old friendship.
Fast forward 46 years to July 2015.

Through a series of not-so-coincidental events, we learned that Johnny has recently been taught by the missionaries in New Boston (his home in East Texas) and was being baptized on July 18.

I telephoned Johnny and congratulated him. I reminded him of my challenge in 1969 and told him that some cakes simply take longer to bake. Then on Saturday, Rean and I drove to New Boston to attend the baptism. It was a joyous occasion to see an old friend make his gateway covenant with the Lord. On Sunday I was honored to stand in the priesthood circle as Johnny was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Johnny Green retired after nearly a half century of service at the Texarkana Gazette. In athletic and journalism circles, he's something of a legend in East Texas. And later this year he'll be enshrined in the Fox Sports Hall of Fame. But he knows none of that matters a whit compared to his decision to be baptized.

Now we look forward to joining Johnny and his dear wife Karen when they enter the Temple next year.

You can count the number of seeds in an apple. But you can't count the number of apples in a seed.


  1. Great stories with such beautiful outcomes. Your days are marked with memorable experiences! Leslie