A Mighty Change of Heart

Since I have joined the Church, I have experienced again and again the power of prayer.  Recently, I have seen a man come from the darkness and into the light, a miracle we were losing hope of ever witnessing.  This is the true story of my father in law, as written by my husband, Jason.  He has proven that there is a Father in heaven who loves us, hears our prayers, and answers them in His own due time. ~Emilia Julian

Baptism of Joseph Julian
From left to right: Jason Julian, Elder Mowser, Joseph Julian, Sharon Julian, Elder Staheli, Darren Julian

Written by Jason Julian – March 31, 2018

My twin brother and I were about 12 years old when my father married Sharon.  She was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but we never discussed it in the home as she respected that we were from a different faith and didn’t want to push her faith on us unless we inquired.  I can recall as a teenager asking my stepmother, “Where did we come from”, “Why are we here”,  and my greatest concern was, “Where are we going after this life?”.  Her answers led me to feel wonderfully relieved.  It was like a light bulb finally went off in my head, and what I had learned all seemed right, just and fair.  I didn’t understand this feeling at the time, but the Holy Ghost had testified to me that day, and as a result, I had begun taking the missionary discussions.  My brother, Darren, joined me. We were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shortly thereafter, on May 21, 1988, and about a year later we each served a mission.  I served in the England London Mission, and Darren served in the England Coventry Mission.

My father, who was a non-practicing Catholic, had been married to my stepmother for about 7 years at that point.  Although not a member himself, he supported my brother and me in our new chosen path and faith.  While we were serving our missions, my father financially assisted the funding and defended our decision to join the Church and serve a mission to our non-member family.  He was dedicated to writing us letters of encouragement with many faith-building quotes or poems; something I would anxiously await each month.

While I was serving in my second area in Harlow, Essex, I remember implementing a program I had created that focused on being specific with the Lord by using the full names of those loved ones we would pray for, asking in faith for the Lord to soften their hearts and open doors for them to prepare to accept the gospel in their lives.  I called this card the “Celestial Card”.  I had placed my father’s name on it, Joseph Julian.  After the program was launched, one of the Harlow members spoke on a cassette recorder to my father.  I had no idea what message he would convey to my father, but I will never forget the profound words he used — “…and you will be baptized”.

Fast forward about 27 years.  I had married my high school sweetheart, Emilia, in the Toronto, Ontario Temple, and together we have enjoyed the blessings of raising our two sons.  We have served in many callings, both on a ward and on a stake level.  We matured spiritually through our experiences, good and bad, and our personal relationship with the Saviour was a priority in our lives. I always prayed that my father would someday be able to experience these same blessings of being a faithful member of the Church.

I have always thought of my father as a good man…he always was.  He had always been very gentle and kind.  His legacy was his work, where he was one of the very best company accountants/controllers in the city.  He taught us the value of hard work and we took that lesson seriously and followed his example.  When he retired from his work, his health began to decline, having battled bladder cancer a few times, as well as various other ailments.  He was losing weight, and although he was alive, his soul was dying.  He said he had always felt that the Church was true, but his roadblocks to following Christ were well understood.  He drank like most people who wanted to forget their pain, and when he was confronted about his consumption he said that it gave him the courage to carry on.  He also said that he would only join the Church if he saw an angel confirm to him the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This went on for many years, and our prayers for him never ceased, but at times we felt like we were losing hope.

Earlier this year he was scheduled for surgery after months of pain.  He elected to have local anesthesia despite some of the risks given his health concerns, and with that, they wheeled him into the operating room.  Several hours later, when they announced that he was finally in the recovery room, I paced the hospital floor with my stepmother, Sharon, and my wife, Emilia, waiting for the moment that we could go in to see him.  What should have been about a 40-minute wait turned into two hours, and we came to learn that he was having some serious problems in the recovery room.  The nurses don’t usually allow anyone in the recovery room to see the patients; however, under the circumstances, we were asked to go visit him in hopes that we could help lower his rising blood pressure enough to get him to his room.

I will never forget the look of fear on my father’s face when we walked in to see him.  I have never seen him this way and it was frightening.  He was not in a good place and being very concerned, Mom and Emilia immediately suggested I give him a blessing.  Dad agreed, and for the very first time since I became a member of the Church, I laid my hands on my father’s head and proceeded to exercise the priesthood.  A few minutes later, I kissed my father and left the room with Emilia and my stepmother.  We were later told that he was finally moved to a room to rest 15 minutes after that, which was a miracle considering the state we had found him in.  I don’t remember the words I uttered in the blessing, but both Mom and Emilia, at different times, commented that the blessing sounded like a goodbye.

After a few days in the hospital, Dad was finally sent home to continue his recovery in the care of my stepmother.  I would call often to get an update on Dad, and Mom would say that Dad was “acting very weird”.  She would tell me that he didn’t seem to have any recollection of the blessing he received in the hospital, and believed that his surgery was a month ago rather than just a few days ago.  When we visited with him he seemed to be in very high spirits, which was very unusual for him, especially after the state he was in just a few days prior, and also experiencing the kind of pain that came with that particular surgery.  It had been years since we’ve seen cheer on his face and the sound of his laughter brought joy to Emilia and me, as well as my stepmother.  And then IT happened.

A phone call I shall never forget came to my home.  Both Emilia and I coincidentally answered the phone at the same time, and it was Mom and Dad on the other line.  It was very odd that all four of us were on the phone at the same time and at first, we all had a chuckle about it.  It was meant to be, and just as Dad opened his mouth to speak, Emilia’s eyes widened and she had quietly mouthed something to me a second before I heard the words, “I decided to be baptized”, from my father!  The Holy Ghost had whispered to my wife just seconds before he had uttered those most beautiful words, and she had tried to convey the message to me just as my father did.  I was stunned and silent on my end while Emilia screamed with intense rejoicing.  Then tears of joy streamed down my face while Dad said, “It was time”.  When I asked him what had brought him to this point, he stated that he had looked in the bathroom mirror and “saw a ghost of himself” and did not like what he saw.  He had also mentioned that there were about four days after his surgery where he was lost.  He had absolutely no recollection of the blessing I had given him in the hospital or conversations he had had, or things he had done.  All he knew was what he was feeling now, and it was strong.

Taking the Missionary discussions with Elder Staheli (left) and Elder Mowser (right).

My father humbly invited the missionaries to his home to begin the missionary discussions.  A missionary doesn’t often receive a phone call telling them that someone would like to take the discussions and be baptized as soon as possible.  He was definitely considered their “golden investigator” and they felt grateful to have had that opportunity, knowing my father’s history and the miracle that was just about to happen.  My wife and I, including my brother, both joined him, along with my stepmother.  Dad kept expressing that he “feels alive”.  This brought me joy because I knew that to feel alive in Christ is part of his conversion, and I had explained this to him.  He was like a sponge!  He asked so many wonderful and relevant questions and kept expressing his love for the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  He felt ready for baptism, he looked ready for baptism, and he was looking forward to his baptism with eagerness, hungering for the blessings of the gospel.

August 19, 2017.  That was the day that my brother walked with our father into the baptismal font.  I stood as a witness and I felt the Spirit so powerfully.  My soul was bursting with inexpressible joy.  It brought me back to my own baptism 29 years earlier and those excited feelings that seemed to stay with me for so long.  I was blessed to confirm him a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to say “Receive the Holy Ghost” was beyond expression.

Family Support
Strong support system with the family.

As the scriptures tell us, “We will receive a mighty change … in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”  Those words, “A mighty change”, I believe at one point in our lives become reality if we heed the prompting.  For my father, he exercised that mighty change the day he entered the waters of baptism.  He is certainly a changed man.  He has learned to pray, pass the sacrament, ensuring his tithing is absolutely 10%, reading and studying many hours a day, commenting that he has never read this much in his life.  And he loves it!  He was a new member of his ward only approximately 3 months before receiving his first calling — First Counselor in the Sunday School Presidency.  He is continuously growing and his relationship with his Father in heaven has strengthened in such a way that it reminds me of the miracle witnessed with Alma the younger.  Although my father never turned hearts away from the Church like young Alma did, he did need his own personal extraordinary witness in order to bring his change of heart.

I do not know exactly what took place while my father was under anesthesia or the days that followed his surgery, but I do know that the Lord’s hand was in it and that the prayers of many for years were heard.

Just a few short months ago I was losing hope as my father seemed to live life with no optimism and no promise of vitality in his future.  His retirement was not treating him well and we were so sadly concerned for him daily.  To suddenly have been able to witness my father being baptized by proper priesthood authority was truly a miracle, and a dream come true for my family.   He had recently shared his testimony that he has always known the Church was true.  He knows we have a loving Father in heaven.  He is anxious to continue on this new journey and is enjoying the blessings life now has to offer him as he serves the Lord.

My father, Joseph Julian, is a truly changed man — unrecognizable, both in form and in spirit, than the man he was before his surgery.  I have always loved my father but never realized that such a love could grow to a deeper level.  I mentioned that he was always a good man — But now he is a GREAT man as he embraces the gospel.

I also mentioned earlier that both Mom and Emilia felt that the blessing I gave Dad in the hospital shortly after his surgery sounded like a goodbye.  It really was!  It was a goodbye to his old life and a renewal of his new life as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

It is my prayer that this story may inspire new energy and hope for so many in similar circumstances. Heavenly Father knows His children and will provide a way if we exercise our faith and align with His will and timetable.

 

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