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Growing up an agnostic in China, Dairong Li never absurd that one day he’d be continuing on the artery bend of an American burghal proclaiming the accuracy of Mormonism.
Elder Li, as he is now called, afresh begin himself answer the bigger credibility of Joseph Smith’s adventures to a woman and her two accouchement sitting in advanced of the Westmoreland County Courthouse in burghal Greensburg.
“So aback Joseph Smith had a question, he apprehend from the Bible breadth it says, ‘He who lacks wisdom, let him ask of God,’ ” Li said. “He was guided beneath the administration of Jesus Christ and brought aback the aboriginal church.”
Li, 23, and his adolescent missionary, Elder Dane Williams, 19, of Spanish Fork, Utah, did not accretion a catechumen that day, but they fabricated arrange to chase up with the woman on Facebook.
It was a agnate arrangement three years ago in Los Angeles that started Li on his adventure to the Abbey of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Two changeable missionaries had approached Li’s mother in a bookstore and anon were in their home, answer Mormon doctrine.
Li admired the actuality that the missionaries were abutting to his age and was taken with their teaching that families could be calm forever. A year later, he was baptized into the church.
“I absolutely acquainted the adulation (of God) aback I abstruse from the missionaries. I additionally can feel that aback they appear to my house, they brought the ablaze into my house,” he said.
In the amount of four years, Li went from boyish atheist, to seeker, to convert, to missionary himself.
‘I can accept their feelings’
Li has spent the aftermost 21 months active and alive in Greensburg and is advancing the end of his two-year missionary term. His time in Westmoreland County has been an apprenticeship not alone in American pluralism but additionally in English as a additional language, in missionary methods and in Western Pennsylvania ways.
“It was a abundant acquaintance for me. I accept abstruse so much,” he said. “From a nonreligion background, to go on mission and be able to advice added bodies to apperceive about God, they additionally strengthen myself a lot. I got cool abutting to bodies in Pennsylvania.”
Mormon mission arrangement is accessible to abbey associates amid the ages of 18 to 25. Although voluntary, the account is acerb encouraged and can aftereffect in an arrangement in one of 421 missions worldwide.
“It’s affectionate of like our obligation to go and allotment this bulletin with added people. I absolutely had a admiration to go afterwards I got baptized,” he said.
Despite barriers of accent and culture, Li begin that his accomplishments helped him chronicle to bodies and fabricated him a bigger missionary.
“My acquaintance helps me to accept what they angle for, their belief. It additionally helps me aback I allure them to do article — to pray, to apprehend the Scriptures. I can accept their feelings,” he said.
Li grew up as an alone adolescent in Qingdao, China, a anchorage burghal of 9 actor bodies in the eastern Shandong province. He articular as an agnostic in a country breadth 61 percent declared themselves as a “convinced atheist” in 2015.
“We abstruse some in school, about there’s no college actuality in life. We abstruse a little, but they didn’t force me to accept that,” he said. “We aloof accept activity is life. You alive and again you go.”
Li started to apprehension that some bodies in his home burghal went to a Catholic church. “I would wonder, ‘What are they doing?’ ” he said.
China recognizes bristles religious groups — Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Muslims and Taoists — but not the Latter-day Saints . Although some Chinese nationals analyze as Mormon, the Abbey does not accelerate missionaries to China or conduct proselytizing activities there.
Li confused to the Los Angeles breadth with his mother in 2014, his ancestor above-mentioned them and accepting blooming cards for them.
His allure to Mormonism was to its article and to the attitude of the missionaries. They seemed “super happy,” he said.
“At the beginning, for me it was a bit altered because I didn’t accept a adoration before. The missionaries started teaching me about the actuality of Jesus Christ and that he could accompany accord and beatitude in our life. For me, in my heart, I wasn’t absolutely abiding if the Scriptures are true, or if there is a God, or who is Jesus Christ,” he said.
The family’s accepting of Mormonism brought a faculty of accord that he hadn’t acquainted before. “That fabricated me absorbed in acquirements more,” he said.
Afterwards chief to become a missionary, Li spent three weeks at the LDS missionary training centermost in Provo, Utah. LDS authorities accustomed his appliance and beatific him to the Pittsburgh mission, which covers aggregate from Jamestown, N.Y., to Harrisburg to Wheeling, W.Va.
While active in Greensburg, Li and Williams accept served the Greensburg ward, which includes New Alexandria, Jeannette, Irwin, South Greensburg, Youngwood, New Stanton, Mt. Pleasant, Ligonier and Latrobe.
Although missionaries pay their own way, their banking diplomacy are handled through the Church, Williams said. They get a account allowance to awning accepted costs such as advantage and haircuts.
A archetypal day begins with claimed abstraction at 6:30 a.m. and is taken up with proselytizing activities until 10:30 p.m.
Monday afore 6 p.m. is set abreast for claimed activities and email accord with family. Phone calls to ancestors associates are acceptable alone on Christmas and Mother’s Day, Williams said.
Some proselytizing is done by appointment, while some is done by activity door-to-door and affair bodies on the street. Li has abstruse that not anybody is accessible to audition about Mormon canon and history.
“For some people, they ability aloof attempt with some article problem. They don’t appetite to believe. They aloof adios us,” he said.
‘People charge God more’
On a contempo Wednesday afternoon, however, Li and Williams begin a acceptant admirers with Sheila Cole of Mt. Pleasant and her accouchement Destiny, 18, and James, 12.
The ancestors was sitting on a bank alfresco the Westmoreland County Courthouse, and Williams seemed to affix with James aback he bidding absorption in the ministry.
“Why do you appetite to be a preacher?” Williams said.
“I feel like bodies charge God more,” James said.
Williams continued, “In the 1800s, there was a adolescent boy. He was 2 years earlier than you. He lived in New York. His name was Joseph Smith. He had a catechism because there were so abounding altered religions. He capital to apperceive which one was right.”
Williams batten with the aplomb of addition who was aloft in the abbey and was baptized at age 8.
The pair, cutting the brand white shirts, aphotic ties and name tags, concluded the five-minute barter by allurement to chase up with Cole on Facebook. She gave them her information, and they confused on.
Afterward, Cole said she has been visited by Mormon missionaries afore but that she has never arrive them in.
“I allocution to them. Stuff like that don’t bother me,” she said.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review agents writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter @shuba_trib.