A Night Better and Brighter than Prom…

“I enjoy planting seed and pruning trees. To see a creature fulfill the full measure of its creation is a delight to my eyes, mind and heart. Whether by nature’s power or the skilled hand of man, it takes cutting, digging and fertilizing for a plant to struggle in growth and fruitful productivity, and to arrive at its potential. It is simply a wondrous blessing to behold. As I study during seasons of growing, the Allegory of the Olive Tree (Jacob 5, 6) takes hold of my mind. There have been many seasons when we as creatures, to grow and progress, struggle and require cultivation and pruning. At times it has been particularly painful, but the purpose inevitably comes clear, the benefit ultimately undeniable. I feel right now to be in a time of pruning, cultivation and perhaps most especially dunging. You may by experience understand. It sometimes really stinks, but I know the Lord knows what we need and what we are capable of becoming under His care. Let us put our faith in Him, and we will get through this as His.”

Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 13 April 2024
Olive Trees of Gethsemane

Standing as a witness for Jesus Christ is a serious and joyful responsibility. As a child, student, husband, father, minister, publisher, writer, philosopher, friend, classmate, advocate, teacher, and recipient of the bounty of blessings that come with being a child of God, I love the opportunity and pleasure of sharing His light as widely as heaven and nature allow. It is not always easy, often painful, but ever rewarding, as we pass through the process of faith acquisition and liberal sharing of the same.

“Christ’s Image,” by Heinrich Hofmann

When I was an 18-year-old high school senior I was anxiously looking forward to our senior prom. Since sophomore year, I had attended all of the formal dances and proms. This was to be the grand finale event of the scholastic days leading to graduation. I wanted to select just the right young lady, somebody with whom I knew I could have a really nice and memorable experience. I needed to choose a real friend, someone to whom I looked up with admiration and respect. The memories of that eve would be unforgettable, un-regrettable in every way.

The young woman (I will call Sharon) I determined to invite was someone with whom I shared similar Christian values. Sharon, with her family, was a devout Christian Mennonite, and I a Latter-day Saint. Our friendship, I perceived, would last into the ages. From freshman year we came to know one-another in choir. Her lovely singing voice could be heard throughout the choir room, and her home was a place of good feeling where we often gathered after school and in the evenings. I always admired her faithful observances and dedication to her friends. Posting a prayer-roll on her bedroom door was a practice of which her friends were all aware, praying for the well-being and benefit of her friends always. My desire to share this evening with Sharon was not for purpose of romance, but to seal our high school years with friendship.

Danny Malcolm — Class of 1982

In those days we did not have showboatish methods of asking someone to prom, we just waited for the right moment and did it. One day when we were alone together I mustered up the courage and asked her to accompany me to senior prom.

Her response was one that I would never forget, that would have lasting effects on how I bear the name of Christ and represent Him. This, my long time friend of many years, who I greatly admired for her Christlike ways, and do so still, responded to my invitation in all seriousness, “No, I cannot go to prom with you, because you are a Mormon, and you are going to Hell.”

Wow! I was beside myself. Dumbfounded, I did not know what to say. It was a heart stopping moment for me. I absolutely did not know how to respond, and I did not. I was a longtime student of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and always considered myself to be one of His followers, albeit imperfect, but a disciple still. I never before had been told nor conceived of the idea that I might not be considered a Christian, and perhaps was on a pathway to Hell. I was not prepared for this answer to my invitation. This was way out of the scope of anything I ever expected, especially from a dear friend, one of my dearest.

Never been I accused of being a man of few words, as I am sure you well know, but this shut me up both figuratively and literally. I traveled that twenty minute drive to our country home that afternoon disabled. Not only did I lose my opportunity for a date to the social crowning event of my high school experience, but I squandered a moment in which I could have defended my faith, to defend my Savior, to show that I was a flawed but willing bearer of His name. I felt defeated and lost, and I did not even see it coming. To put it in an 80s vernacular, “I totally blew it.” I went to bed that night distraught and feeling total failure. How could I let this happen? How could I stand dumb, and miss a profound opportunity to bear witness of Christ and the upbringing of my faith?

That evening I tossed and turned and could find no sleep nor solace. Eventually, around midnight, I could take it no more, arose, dressed myself nicely, snuck out of the house, pushed my car partially down our long country driveway so as not to awake my parents, and made the 20 minute drive back into town to visit Sharon.

Now, please do not hold this action against me, as a person who speaks one truth, but hypocritically follows instead a variant path. I stand still by the statement of Elder Larry R. Lawrence, “Nothing good happens after midnight,” but this time something did. This time it was God’s work, and He was working on me. (http://mypersonalwitness.com/lights-very-source/)

Elder Larry R. Lawrence

So I arrived sometime after midnight and walked up to her front door. Sleep did not come easily to her that night either. I saw her through the window beside the front door sitting and reading in her pajamas and bathrobe. I knocked on the door. To the surprise I think of both of us she answered and permitted me entry. As far as I know she was alone in the house, her parents having gone away, but I think her younger siblings may have been there asleep. Perhaps she was unknowingly waiting for me.

We sat near in separate chairs, but not so close as to make this any more inappropriate than it already appeared. Other than being in her home after hours and her allowing me to be there, we were proper and appropriate in every manner. I was upright because I was there bearing the name of Christ. I did not come to get a prom date, but to correct the record on behalf of my Savior.

I do not remember all that was said that night. We were really good friends. In an unromantic way I would say that we loved each other, but some things needed to be learned for both of us. We spoke of Christ. We testified of Christ. I think that it is fair and appropriate to quote and paraphrase, “And we talked of Christ, we rejoiced in Christ, I preached of Christ, I prophesied of Christ,… that my children and that her children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26).

We spoke the whole night through, only of our Savior. I felt His Spirit upon me the entire night, and when the sun arose through the window from the east with its warm glow, a more powerful light, His very countenance, shone forth from my face, and in Sharon’s. I could almost see it light the room from within. I could especially see it in the reflection of her tear filled eyes, when I asked, “You have heard my testimony of Christ and my deep love for Jesus and for all that He has done for us. Having heard me say all of these things and having felt by the Spirit that what I say is true, do you still believe that Jesus would send me to Hell for being a Mormon?”

Sharon tearfully replied, “No, I do not. You are not going to Hell.

As the sun fully lightened the morning sky, we cried together and embraced as a son and daughter of God in the warmth of His light. Neither one of us would have a date to that prom, but we shared something so much greater, something so much more important. A miracle came of a moment in time that helped me in my fundamental change as a follower and representative of the Lord. I have not seen Sharon in nearly 40 years, yet I know that she too witnessed the Savior. I am certain that she is a wonderful mother and has raised her children in faith to believe in Christ. She and I were witnesses together.

When I went home that morning I had a lot of explaining to do, but the light in my eyes preserved the trust that I had risked with my parents, and all was well. I even got to go to the prom, three years later, after having returned from missionary service, with a sweet young high school senior named Monica. That too was a wonderful night.

My experience with Sharon was with a devout Christian of no ill intent nor evil motivation. That is not often the case. Many fight against the testimony of Christ intent to harm the great work of salvation gifted us by our Lord.

An ancient American prophet Jacob was astounded when Sherem publicly rejected the truths of Christ in an effort to lead away a portion of the children of Heavenly Father. But Jacob “could not be shaken” (Jacob 7:5). He stood firm in the faith because he was prepared. He had studied God’s word. He had fasted and prayed for light and understanding, and he received it. Yes, he was not shaken as was I, but I am grateful that the Lord reinforced me in my hour of need, and unshook me.

I testify that He too will reinforce you. Feast on God’s word. Read the scriptures. Listen to God’s prophets. Follow God’s commandments. Love and forgive your friends and your enemies. Share with them His word, your faith. Most of all, accept and embrace your Redeemer and all that He has done for us. His countenance will shine in yours as you take His name upon you and declare it forthwith.

Yes, “… we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” It is of Christ which I testify to you, that He lives, that He redeems, and that He speaks through His living prophets and earthly emissaries, even and especially in troubled and disheartening times, when pruning and dunging are required, times that stink the most. Those times can and will be overcome by our witness of and with Him. I invoke His blessings upon you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Daniel Malcolm is an entrepreneur, journalist, photographer, husband to Monica and father of twelve. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is a witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.