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In The Book Episode 3: "A Pandemic Miracle: Luke Hart"

Episode Transcript

“A Pandemic Miracle” with Luke Hart

[00:00:00] Rebecca: There is something irresistible and exciting and sometimes nerve wracking or scary about the unknowns of newness. New places, new people, new things, new experiences, new phases of life. For Luke, the young twentysomething Brit living abroad in Norway, living in a new country, learning a new language and making new friends was like living the dream.

[00:00:30] Luke: And I just remember I was on the highest part of my life. I was loving it,

[00:00:35] Rebecca: and then news of a strange, unknown virus started to spread. No one seemed to know what it was or what was going on. And next came a lockdown where most people were indoors, either working remotely from home or out of work.

[00:00:49] Luke: There was a lot of fear as well, because no one knew what this pandemic was going to do.

[00:00:55] Rebecca: On this episode today, you'll find out how it brought Luke not only a new[00:01:00] unexpected circumstance, but also a new book that would change his life.

I'm Rebecca Devonas, and you're listening to In The Book.

This is a podcast where we flood the earth with testimonies of the Book of Mormon.

Luke Hart is a 23 year old from the outskirts of Birmingham, England. So how did he make it to Norway? Well, he liked so many of us, was hungry for an international experience. While lodging at a friend's house, he started working and learning Norwegian

[00:01:42] Luke: I was working at an American diner as a waiter/bartender. That was completely new to me as well

[00:01:49] Rebecca: and then the virus rolled in.

[00:01:51] Luke: Everything shut down and there was a strict rule about going out. You couldn't really socialize.

[00:01:57] Rebecca: Never have I ever seen a freeway so [00:02:00] un-congested during broad daylight or grocery stores so empty, and when stores and restaurants closed in Norway, of course workers like Luke found themselves in a tight spot.

Luke: Obviously with my job shutting down, they said that I could get help from the government; some kind of income support. The government basically turned around and said, “We are not going to help you,” because when I first moved to Norway, I had to state that I had enough money to survive if anything did happen. So I was thinking like, “Okay, I'm all by myself even though I've got my friend's family, who were great support, but, in reality, it was just a bit like, what is actually gonna happen to me? Am I gonna be okay?”

Rebecca: And it wasn't just his unemployment situation that was hard.

[00:02:40] Luke: When you're living in a foreign country when a pandemic happens, you don't have that sort of safety blanket. So in a way I was really social going out every day to the point where I was seeing nobody and it got me really down. I wouldn't say depressed, but it just got me to a very low point at my life at this point.

[00:02:58] Rebecca: All of a sudden, Luke's life [00:03:00] was filled with uncertainty and he was a thousand miles from home.

Let's go back to the UK and see what it is that he left behind.

Luke: So I grew up in a normal working household with my loving family that consists of my father, my mother and my brother, on the outskirts of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. My family isn't that big, but we are a very close family.

The area that I grew up in wasn't the best in the past. It was once considered a post-war overspill estate. However, in the recent decades it has developed a lot and it's turned into a closed knitted community. It’s a type of area where tend to stay for the rest of their lives, or they don't tend to venture too far away from it.

Rebecca: While not many had ventured far from this town in the West Midlands County, it was made up of people from all over the world.

[00:03:51] Luke: I grew up with a lot of people from different, cultures, a lot of different religions. So in a way, I want to say it shaped me to be a bit more open to [00:04:00] new cultures and new ideas and new religions.

[00:04:02] Rebecca: And what about his own family when it came to religion?

[00:04:06] Luke: My father, he isn't religious. My stepmother is basically a member of the Church of England. And then my mom who passed away when I was small, she was Irish and she was a devout Catholic, from my knowledge.

In terms of like the household, we never really went to church. The only time we ever went to a church was either for a wedding or a funeral, and then other than that, we did the festivities such as Christmas and Easter. Christmas brought the family together and it always does. I would say it's more of a cultural thing in my family.

[00:04:38] Rebecca: Luke's relationship with religion was one of the things destined to change in 2020.

Looking back at that year, I remember that there were so many ways people found to roll with the uncertainty, like investing money, starting new projects. Before the pandemic, Luke had decided to help Syrian refugees in the country learn English in his free time. With [00:05:00] everything in lockdown, he tried to find a way to keep helping.

[00:05:03] Luke: I found this app completely by mistake. I was typing in on the iPhone, on the app store. I just typed in, “learning languages” and then you have like your Duolingo. You have all the other ones that pop up. And I remember seeing this one and it was called Tandem.

I met tons of people on this app who I became an English teacher for; I was teaching them over Zoom.

In a way, I feel like that's what kind of kept me going, because it became like a little job, even though I wasn't earning anything from it and I met so many amazing people.

[00:05:32] Rebecca: Luke remembers one student in particular who took on the challenge. His name was George.

[00:05:39] Luke: He basically comes from a place outside of Homs in Syria. He was extremely religious; a very devout orthodox individual, and he would just basically talk to me all the time about religion. He would ask me how is it being English and Irish, like being Protestant as well as [00:06:00] Catholic. And he would, he would actually challenge me a little bit. He would say, “So what religion are you?” And that's what kind of got me thinking. I was like, “Well, what actually am I?” And then from there he would start saying, “Go out; go and see different churches. Experience yourself with this.”

[00:06:15] Rebecca: and then he did, and in one of the more unexpected ways. He was scrolling through Facebook.

[00:06:21] Luke: I just remember the day it happened was I was feeling at my lowest. And I want to say, at the time that I look back, I felt like I did a prayer, but it was inside my head.

And I just remember opening up my laptop and going onto Facebook and all of a sudden my Facebook sort of crashed and it came up saying, “Not responding.” And then it refreshed itself and the first thing that popped up was a video and it was of two lads, and in the caption it said in Norwegian, “føler du deg ensom?” which basically means, are you feeling lonely?

So I click on the video and it’s just of this guy, and he's just basically saying, “Do you ever feel when the world smacks you in the face? Message us to learn about how you can sort of [00:07:00] overcome it.” I could see it was a church. And I was like, “Perfect. I'm talking to George about churches. I'm sending a message out to this church, maybe get the ball rolling and see what happens.”

[00:07:10] Rebecca: So Luke sent them a message. An hour later, he got a response. After some conversation back and forth. The missionary on the other end invited him to grab some ice cream in the city center.

[00:07:21] Luke: I just remember being quite nervous cause I was like, “Who could these guys be? They could be anybody,” and I just remember it was in the summer; it was really hot, so everybody was in short tank tops, and I just remember seeing these two dudes walking the city center and they were in suits looking really smart and immaculate. And I was thinking, “That's gotta be them. Like, it has to be.”

And now that I look back on it, I'm a bit like, “Luke, you just met up with two random guys in the city center for ice cream.” I don’t know if I've just got that trustworthiness straight away. But I was just a bit like, “You know what, I'm in a city center. If something goes wrong, there are people there.” So I thought, “Why not?”

[00:07:59] Rebecca: Two [00:08:00] suited up guys in the middle of summer seem sort of fishy, right? Well, it turns out they weren't there to sell something or to recruit him to join some shady scheme. Luke was meeting missionaries for the first time. Two guys his age, and two guys that could be his peers.

[00:08:15] Luke: and they spoke very briefly, “Hey, we're with a church. We’re missionaries,? all this, all that. And I thought, “Interesting. Okay, perfect. Never met missionaries in my life before.”

They were like, “You're more than welcome to come to our chapel tomorrow. If you want to come, we can show you around. We can have a little lesson.”

[00:08:30] Rebecca: Luke agreed to go and the next day met the missionaries at the chapel.

[00:08:34] Luke: Went in there, they showed me around. It was quite quiet cause obviously the lockdown. They took me in, showed me around the chapel, showed me all these beautiful paintings of Jesus Christ, and the vision with Joseph Smith. Sat me down for a lesson and they taught like the basics of the Church, and they pulled out a book - this little blue book at hardcover. And I was thinking, “Okay, what is this?” thinking it was a Bible. And they were like, [00:09:00] “So we have the Book of Mormon,” and explained the history about the Book of Mormon and what it is, and it was in Norwegian, and I was thinking, “Well, I can't understand like biblical English, let alone biblical Norwegian.”

[00:09:11] Rebecca: Luke had the Book of Mormon in his hands for the first time. It wasn't even in his native language, and he was walking away from his second encounter with the missionaries. 

[00:09:21] Luke: I just remember when I left the chapel and I had the Book of Mormon in my backpack, the best way I could explain it was I felt like this burning inside my chest.

[00:09:30] Rebecca: Every time Luke held the Book of Mormon, even if he wasn't necessarily reading it, he felt happy.

[00:09:36] Luke: I was like, I'm happy. Like why am I'm always happy? And that's one thing I just couldn't get my head around it. I was just like, “Am I happy because it was free?” But I just always remember being really happy and still am.

[00:09:50] Rebecca: When he opened it and started reading, something peculiar started happening.

[00:09:56] Luke: And I remember the missionaries being like, “What you’ve gotta do is pray. [00:10:00] Pray about it if a particular question that you have, and start reading the scriptures.” And I was like, “Okay, I've never really done that before.” Cause like I said, I never used to pray when I was younger.

So I remember taking it proper seriously. I sat in my room and I was like, “Okay, I'm gonna pray about five questions.”

[00:10:19] Rebecca: So he wrote down all five questions and prayed about them.

[00:10:22] Luke: I was reading and I was getting all these answers straight from the bat; it answered my first question, second; done, third; done. And I was like, “This is weird.” I was instantly thinking, “Okay, is this actually happening? Like, have I just literally just received these answers for my questions?”

[00:10:39] Rebecca: Many people who read the Book of Mormon will at some point in their quest for more knowledge come across antagonistic arguments against the variability of the book and Luke was not exempt.

[00:10:50] Luke: When I went home from the missionaries, I was so eager to learn more, so I went, pulled up my laptop, typed in the Church into Google and there was a lot [00:11:00] of anti content out there. And I thought, “Why is all this here?” So I thought, “I’m gonna click on it.” I read it, and I was like, “I'm gonna get all the questions and I'm gonna be truthful and ask the missionaries.”

So I remember I wrote 20 questions down and I remember I went to the missionaries and I actually remember saying to them, “I went online and I've got some answers,” and they were like, “Oh, no,” so they knew what was gonna come.

I remember, reading a verse that actually really helped me with this and I'm just gonna quickly pull it up on my phone. And it just basically says, "I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. And because that I have spoken one word you not need, suppose that I cannot speak another for my work is not yet finished. Therefore, because that ye have a Bible, you need not suppose that it contains all my words…”

[00:11:48] Rebecca: The scripture goes on to say, “…neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written down before I commend all men, both in the east, in the west, and in the north and in the south, [00:12:00] in the islands of the sea, and they shall write the words, which I speak unto them.”

[00:12:05] Luke: So for me, that sort of answered that. If Heavenly Father is saying that there are more words that he needs to tell us, they're gonna be written elsewhere and that can be outside the Bible.

So I just remember all these insecurities that I was reading online were getting answered by the Book of Mormon very quickly. And I also remember going back to the missionaries and they would also give me other scriptures, which they could open the Book of Mormon to read it off and it would help me with that insecurity.

[00:12:33] Rebecca: Luke continued to have other questions and to turn to the Book of Mormon for answers.

Almost three years have gone by since he first walked out of the chapel with that copy of the book and felt the branding in his chest.

Luke had gone from his lowest point to a place where he felt real legitimate happiness and had new knowledge from the Book of Mormon.

What would Luke Hart say to someone who doesn't have a testimony of the [00:13:00] Book of Mormon, or perhaps has it in their hands for the first time like he did only a few years ago?

[00:13:06] Luke: When you're looking for the truth, you're going to have the people to guide you, like the missionaries and the members, but you're also going to have the people who are going to try and disbelieve it. And that's a lot of people, unfortunately, in real day situations. But it's always between you and Heavenly Father.

[00:13:25] Rebecca: One final theme I pulled from this interview is how technology and maybe even the pandemic were key players in bringing this story to life.

It was through an app that Luke met George, who introduced him to the idea that he could start searching for a church and it was because he wanted to fill his time that he found the app.

It was through Facebook that he met missionaries who gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon for the first time. And it was because of the pandemic that missionaries really started posting on social media by flood.

And I was referred to Luke for this interview on Instagram after I posted one day asking for [00:14:00] testimonies of the Book of Mormon. Like I posted on Instagram that day, my question for you is the same. Has the Book of Mormon changed your life? Send your story to inthebook@scripturecentral.org.

This is a Scripture Central podcast directed by James Dalrymple and I produced this episode with script contributions by Ryan Kunz. I'm Rebecca Devonas and this is In The Book.