The following testimony is in Elder Hartman's own words. The testimony
is taken from No More Strangers, by Hartman and Connie Rector.
From the period of my first recollection I
had an almost insatiable desire to know the "truth."
As a small boy I tried to read the Bible, but I found
it to be very difficult. I'm sure I never progressed beyond Genesis in
the Old Testament, but I did read more of the New Testament. I can't remember
anyone else in our home reading the scriptures, but my maternal grandmother
had a big old picture Bible at her house. Once my appetite was whetted,
I kept after her to read it to me. About three times each year I visited
in her small home in Renick, Missouri. Many of my evenings there were spent
on her lap. With her arms around me she would hold the Bible, and after
reading the scriptures, she would give me her simplified interpretation.
The pictures in that old Bible were really wild.
I remember being very frightened by the artist's conception of Abraham
standing with a dagger over Isaac—a winged, feminine angel constraining
Abraham by a gentle hand upon his arm. That picture also served to confirm
my grandmother's firm belief that there were only female angels (no MAN
deserved that exalted station)! As for me, I wondered where angels went
when they "went up."
My grandmother warned me, "This old world is getting
so bad that it is going to end!"
I'd say, "When's the end coming, Mama Garvin?"
"One of these days!" was always her answer, and I
wanted to be among those who were pictured around Jesus instead of
with the group who had fire and brimstone raining down upon them.
My family attended church only in the summertime. Each summer we attended
four or five times (we didn't wear out the place). Stormy weather and the
accompanying bad roads often kept us away; so did visiting cousins, or
measles, or a baseball game—almost anything took precedence over church.
Our biggest deterrent to attendance was my father's lack of conviction
that there was any need for organized religion; as yet he has not joined
a church. He purchased our first radio, a Zenith, with a wind-charger we
mounted in the top of a tree. A sermon heard over this radio was usually
quite enough religion each Sunday.
A revival week was held every summer in the small town where my grandmother
lived, and I loved to attend these meetings with her. Those preachers could
really build a fire under the local populace. They'd start preaching on
Monday night, and along about Thursday they'd open the invitation to "accept
Christ." The preacher made it sound so urgent, that I wanted to run forward
and show my willingness to let Christ "take control" in my life so that
I might "live for Jesus." I wasn't sure what that meant, but I wanted to
do it anyway. However, Grandmother wouldn't let me go up and "confess."
"Your daddy might not want you to do that," she would
Once she agreed to speak to my mother when she came
to take me home. My mother responded with, "Now you needn't worry about
Junior; he is a good boy and will join the church when he is old enough
to know what he is doing." Many of the other children with whom I played
were allowed to join. I felt sure it would make a change in my life, but
it was confusing to play later with some of the kids whom I had seen go
up to "confess Christ." Some of the things we did didn't seem very Christlike,
such as throwing mud clods at cars, and sticking potatoes on exhaust pipes,
stealing bulbs out of taillights, etc.
During my childhood my father was an excellent example
to me. He was as honest and honorable as any man I've ever known—completely
just in his dealings with his fellowmen. I am convinced he would have walked
ten miles to repay a debt of ten cents. If he gave his word, no written
contract was necessary. He felt this was the only decent way to live. However,
I must have wanted an outward sign, as a child. I was confused. If he was
religious, why didn't we go to church? If he needed God, why didn't I see
him pray? It seemed to me, also, that there was an occasional inconsistency
in his actions; for instance, at one time he caught me smoking and gave
me quite a thrashing, but he had to lay his own pipe down to do it.
I really didn't attend church regularly until I was
serving in the Navy. We marched to divine services each Sunday evening
in pre-flight training, and from that time on I attended regularly. Also,
I read several books on religion and pondered a great deal on the subject.
The same contradiction or inconsistency I had felt
at home seemed to run throughout this experience also—the difference between
what is said and what is actually practiced. I noticed this in the churches
whose doctrine I studied, for many times their tenets did not square with
scripture. For me, there were too many questions left unanswered.
"If you can't explain it, then just believe it anyway,"
a minister once told me. "Faith requires you to do nothing; faith lets
God do it all. Just have faith."
One time while going through the St. Louis railroad
station, I met a minister at the servicemen's canteen. He invited me into
a small conference room so that we could talk. He asked me if I belonged
to a church; I replied that I did not. He said that in my career in the
armed service I would, no doubt, find myself in company that would not
be the best for me, that there would be girls who would desire my association
and that my friends might try to convince me that it would be stupid not
to take shrewd advantage of these situations. But he said that remaining
clean and chaste was not stupid—it was very wise; and that although there
were many who thought the life of Jesus Christ was a weak and senseless
way to live, their opinion did not make it so. He said that a clean life
was to be highly prized and that when I married—as I surely would some
day—I should be as morally clean and virtuous as I would expect my bride
to be. Living a pure life might be difficult but it would be well worth
my efforts; for one thing, I would be better able to draw strength and
courage to meet the challenge of demanding situations in the military.
He also said it would be best for me to make my decision about this right
then, while I could still view it with a detached perspective.
That encounter was very impressive to me. I knew
that what he told me was true but I did not realize at that time that I
had made a decision to follow his counsel. Afterwards I faced many dangerous
moral situations, but somehow I came through unscathed, as though someone
were protecting me.
The desire to know the truth was intensified as I
studied and prayed and as I attended first one church and then another,
but there was something missing in all of them for me. I formulated my
own hodge-podge of a philosophy about life and death as I read numerous
books and articles and listened to assorted sermons. But as I pondered
the New Testament I found much that I could not understand. I decided that
all religions were "man-made" and that therefore mine could be as valid
as any other. My philosophy was that God does, in fact, exist, though what
kind of a being he is I could not fathom. I believed that death was not
the dreaded experience which everyone seemed to fear but that each individual
did, in fact, go on living somewhere else, and also that rewards would
be commensurate with works.
During Operational Training as a Navy aviator I attended
a large Protestant church twice each Sunday and once during the week for
the eight months of my stay in Jacksonville, Florida. I went there because
I was sure the minister was going to give me the answers to my deepest
questions. He was a tremendous preacher, and had one of the largest congregations
in the city. I talked personally with him several times and he invited
me to his home. I felt he came very close to answering my questions, but
I was still dissatisfied.1 The questions which most bothered me were:
1. Why did Jesus Christ have to be crucified?
2. How can his sacrifice really do something for me?
3. What can we expect after death?
4. Was there another life before mortality?
5. What is the real purpose of earth life?
6. How can one gain strength to live the "good life," or spiritual
life, while living in a materialistic world?
There were other questions and irritations, and an
undefined quest for just plain "truth" which I was reasonably sure I would
recognize once I found it.
I was released from active duty in the Navy in 1947
and returned to my home in Missouri. There I married the beautiful little
dark-haired girl I had met and briefly courted four years previously. I
well remember the first time I saw her. She was walking down the street.
I was eighteen and she was fourteen—and I knew immediately she was for
me. I spoke to her that day and we got acquainted, and I later told her
she had four years in which to "grow up" because I was going into the Navy
but would come back and marry her. I didn't know then how or why I knew
her but I know now. I'm sure we were very well acquainted before we came
to this earth. Marrying her was one of the most fortunate things I have
ever done, for, among other reasons, it was she who was home when the missionaries
came by and brought the truth into our lives.
While we were still in our teens I told her that
I wanted to seek truth and we pledged together that we would continue to
row in understanding and wisdom. I made the statement to her many times
in letters that "we must never cease to grow." I was determined to keep
growing, for I did not agree with Shakespeare's "from hour to hour, we
ripe and ripe, and then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot; and thereby
hangs a tale." I could not conceive of such a waste.
So, four years later I kept my promise and came back
home to court my sweetheart, and we were married about a year ater. After
we were married we read and discussed the Bible together. After the births
of our first two children I was recalled with our Naval aviators
to participate in the Korean conflict. I was assigned to a squadron based
in San Diego, California, and when ordered to Hawaii for thirteen
weeks of special training. I left my little family in San Diego.
No sooner had I departed and my wife had moved our
possessions into our rented home than the Mormon missionaries came
by and knocked on her door. They were using the poll technique of tracting,
and many of the questions on which they "polled" her were the very questions
we had pondered together, so she was very interested.
In one of her letters to me she mentioned that two
young men had called on her and asked a lot of questions about religion,
of which they also then seemed to have all the answers. Well, that made
me a bit angry. What were young men doing calling on my wife, even in the
name of a church, while I was away? I didn't like it, especially since
they were answering questions that I had been trying to solve all my life.
When I returned home from Hawaii, on the first evening
Connie, my wife, told me the Joseph Smith story. When she said that
he had had visions and revelations it seemed so ridiculous that I laughed
in her face, and this made her cry. I then saw how much the message really
meant to her and I relented and said, "Well, the least I can do is read
some of the material they left for you to study."
No sooner did I start to read the Book of Mormon
than I knew that at last I had found that for which I had been searching.
While reading First Nephi, I remember saying to myself, "Dear God,
let this be true, please let this be the truth—for if it is, it answers
all the questions I have been trying to answer all my life." I hadn't finished
Second Nephi when I knew it was true.
I had prayed one simple prayer to the Lord for many
years: "Dear God, please show me the truth. Please lead me to the truth."
I had sought truth in many places. Now here were two young men, Elders
Teddy Raban and Ronald Flygare, boys really—their grammar was poor, their
diction less than perfect, they had no great store of worldly knowledge—but
they brought the truth right into my living room. And although they were
very young, they had two great powers with them, truth and God. I could
not argue against what they offered, neither did I wish to.
Not only did they bring me the truth, but they also
insisted that I attend church. I could see no real necessity to go to church.
I am sure my early training had left its mark and, too, I had not found
church attendance particularly fruitful. Instead of providing answers in
my quest, church attendance had placed me in contact with a group of people
wanting to involve me in a lot of social activity. I often felt this was
a waste of time since it provided no answers to questions of import.
However, because I trusted these young men, I agreed
to go to church. My first church experience was in an investigators' class
taught by a wonderful little man whose name was Joseph Smith Wilson. Brother
Wilson is a great authority on the Book of Mormon. He knows the book by
page number. I would ask him questions and he would answer, "Brother Rector,
the answer to that question is on page 104 of the Book of Mormon." Then
he would read the answer. I would ask another question and he would respond,
"That's on page 223." Then he would turn to page 223 and read the answer
from the Book of Mormon.
I attended his class for only a few Sundays before
it became time for me to leave for Korea. I thanked him for the time he
had spent in answering my questions and told him I would probably not see
him again for the next eight to ten months. He said, "Brother Rector, you
will join the Church while you are away." I told him I didn't think I would
because my wife and I wanted to join the Church together when we joined.
He insisted that I would join the Church while I was away.
I went aboard ship on the last day of 1951 and took
with me a triple combination (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and
Pearl of Great Price) and The Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage. I
read The Articles of Faith during the first month at sea. I enjoyed it
so much that I wanted to read Jesus the Christ, another book by the same
author. One evening in February I heard an announcement over the public
address system aboard ship, that Latter-day Saint services would be held
in the crew library at 7:30 p.m. At the appointed hour I went to the library
where I found four young men who looked very much like the two young missionaries
who had knocked upon my door in San Diego. I told them I was not a member
of the Church but was interested in studying about it. They welcomed me
with much enthusiasm and also with many answers to my questions. However,
when I asked them for page numbers for their answers they were unable to
We then embarked on a very concentrated study of
the gospel of Jesus Christ. While I was aboard ship I read fourteen of
the best books that have ever been written. Included in this number were
the standard works of the Church (Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants,
and Pearl of Great Price), also the writings of each of the presidents
of the Church in this dispensation, plus the works of James E. Talmage
and Orson Pratt and others. Such study was like food and drink to a starving
man. I had searched for these answers for years, looked everywhere; and
now at long last I was getting all my questions answered in full. I was
ecstatic with joy and gratitude to my Father in heaven because of his great
mercy to me.
When we arrived in Japan in the latter part of February
1952, the group decided that I was ready for baptism. So they accompanied
me to the Japan Mission home where I announced to the mission president's
counselor that I was ready for baptism. He eyed me very suspiciously and
asked how long I had been investigating the Church. I told him, "Oh, four
or five months I guess." He answered that I would need to investigate for
at least one year before I could join. I insisted that I knew the gospel
was true and was ready to join the Church. He then consented to interview
After an interview which took an hour and a half,
I finally received a recommend for baptism. On February 25, 1952, in the
garden behind the Japan Mission home in 30-degree weather, seven thousand
miles from my home in Missouri, I was baptized .
Later I was confirmed a member of The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My search had come to an end.
My wife was baptized four days later in San Diego,
California. We had agreed to write each other as we learned principles
that were new to us. She would write to me and I would write to her, and
many times our letters passed in the middle of the Pacific, each containing
the same new principle. I was asking her if she could accept this doctrine
and she was asking me if I could accept the same principle.
I am a witness before God that he lives and he hears
and answers prayers, for he has heard and answered mine. I bear testimony
that Jesus is the Christ, and that he lives; that he has re-established
his true Church upon the earth in modern times through the Prophet Joseph
Smith—great, great prophet that he was; and that the true Church of Jesus
Christ is upon the earth today, presided over by a living prophet who has
been chosen by the Lord for this particular purpose. These things I do
not merely believe; I know with that sure witness which can come
only from the Holy Ghost, through which all gospel truths can be known.
"Great is his [the Lord's] wisdom, marvelous are
his ways, and the extent of his doings none can find out. His purposes
fail not, neither are there any who can stay his hand. From eternity to
eternity he is the same…."(Doctrine and Covenants 76:2-4).
How gracious he is to those who diligently seek his
face, for they shall find him and know that he is. To this I bear humble
witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, my Redeemer, Amen.