Lawrence and Kelly Salvoni grew up with some Christian influence. For Lawrence as a very young boy it was his mother, and for Kelly it was her grandmother. Both remember these women with kindness.
Kelly was constant in her religious observation. “I’ve attended an Anglican Church regularly throughout my life. I never once questioned my faith throughout my years; even in challenging times when my faith could have been tested, all I’ve ever found has been peace and reassurance in His word.”
Lawrence shared his father’s priorities. “I was a workaholic; it took first place in every aspect of life. It was the reason why I initially joined the army, then never took holidays and ultimately didn’t marry until I was 40. While all this work brought its rewards, at the same time I suffered bouts of depression brought on by stress. I became a commitment-phobe; not to work, but to pretty much everything else,” said Lawrence.
Lawrence’s perspectives changed when he married Kelly. From the beginning of his life his mother had been a motivator for his faith, but now he felt responsible for his family. and the need to truly understand his faith.
He says, “As I grew older, each time something bad happened to me, my faith would evade me. … I allowed the spirit to guide me through the door of many churches: Catholic, Church of England, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and born-again Christian. I would kneel and pray but I never felt I was in the right place and none gave me the sense of fellowship, purpose or belonging that I sought.”
For Lawrence and Kelly, 2019 was one of those years where things became a little hard; losing sight of the things that really made them happy.
Said Lawrence. “We sat down to talk … to fix it. … We arranged date nights, specifically taking time out for each other, switching off our phones and enjoying our own company. On one of those date nights, we found ourselves at a performance of the somewhat irreverent The Book of Mormon musical. … We watched the show, laughed at some of the jokes and cringed at most,” added Lawrence.
“At the end … we ran to the car park … and, quite literally ran into Sister Fernandez, standing steadfast and smiling on the side of the pavement, handing out Books of Mormon and little cards, with a big poster that said, ‘You’ve seen the play, now read the book’. Politely we said, ‘Thank you’, took a card and continued our journey,”
Kelly said, “We raced out of the car park into the mass of traffic. … We found ourselves stationary on the opposite side of the road to Sister Fernandez … wandering if we should have stopped to talk to her. … there was no way we could pull into the side of the road as we were wedged in crawling traffic ... so Lawrence said he’d call when we got home, and he did!”
A couple of phone calls and a few text messages later, the Elders and Brother Dave Johnson arrived on the Salvoni’s doorstep with a Book of Mormon.
“I felt an instant connection with Elder Litster, Elder Grell and Brother Johnson. In that first meeting, I proudly announced, ‘I didn’t doubt my faith ... but I was interested to hear some more’. So, caringly, they indulged us. We talked. They answered questions; pointed us to scriptures that we read together,” Kelly remarked.
Said Lawrence, “’Take this book,’ they said at the end of the evening, read a little, we’ll come back next week and see what you think. Then Elder Grell left me with a parting quote from President Uchtdorf, ‘… first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith’.”
Lawrence added, “It had been many years since I had picked up my Bible to read with a willingness to understand and a sincere heart. What struck me before I read the testimonies or even the list of contents was the opening introduction in the Book of Mormon, ‘… to the convincing of the Jew and the Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations – and now if there are faults they are the mistakes of men …’, and then the key phrase for me, ‘… wherefore condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgement seat of Christ.’.’
“I could feel the spirit in the room with me as I realised that I had wasted so much time. … I didn’t think I’d led a sinful life, but … I reflected on the times I had let people down, made decisions in haste and anger, spoken words without compassion or consideration, and allowed my obsession with work to come before my family. … I needed to get back on to that narrow path to prove myself worthy. I would not allow my Saviour’s sacrifice to be in vain. I wanted to renew, redeem, repay and repent of my former life.
“So, when the missionaries next came to visit and asked, what I thought about the book and if I believed that Joseph Smith was a Prophet, I replied, ‘Yes, these words are another testament of Jesus Christ.’ Every time I picked up this book, I would come across a verse that inspired me.”
Kelly added, “Over the weeks we had more lessons and met many other members of the Church. … We talked, we read Scriptures, we laughed, we cried, we sang … and silently studied by ourselves. Then came the baptism bomb; Elder Grell said; ‘How do you feel about baptism on the 12th of October?’ … I don’t commit to anything until I can do so wholeheartedly, and at that stage I didn’t know whether I could. Lawrence on the other hand … I think if he could’ve taken a running jump into the baptismal waters right then! He was so ready.
“If the truth be known, I was scared – that I was turning my back on what I already knew, of the faith I’d had since childhood, which had served me well. I certainly didn’t want to renounce anything that I’d already felt. I shared my concerns … all were super supportive and encouraged me to read the scriptures and pray and ask Heavenly Father; I would know if it’s the right thing for me. I continued to read my Book of Mormon. … it filled in the gaps [when] reading the Bible, [now] through a different lens. It made complete sense.”
Lawrence was asked if he wanted to be baptised on the 21st of September 2019, which he readily accepted. “The relief I felt as I was lifted from the water by Elder Grell was breath-taking and overpowering. Kelly said to me afterwards that as I emerged from the water I was already smiling. As I held Elder Grell in my arms and thanked him. I was reborn,” Lawrence recalled.
“I read how Nephi went to a new and better land … My [own] journey has just begun and the words I read sustain me. Moses 1, ‘… behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and glory of man’, brings tears to my eyes … of joy; what simpler words can there be to express the truth and purpose of God’s work.
“My family and I have drawn closer as we have come closer to Heavenly Father. I am eternally grateful for the blessings that brought me to the restored Church of Jesus Christ. My faith has been restored. I have been baptised, I have received the Gift of the Holy Ghost and now I’m finding myself saying, ‘… Adam fell that men might be’ over dinner with friends and family – those I thought would struggle to accept my choice, but instead have been supportive.”
Kelly added, “I felt the spirit at Lawrence’s baptism so strongly … I knew that’s what I wanted too; there was no need to be afraid; this third Testament was adding to what I already knew. So, a few days later I prayed asking Heavenly Father if I was doing the right thing – was the Book of Mormon really true? I was filled from head to toe with coolness followed by warmth. I got into bed and I opened the Book of Mormon randomly. … Staring in front of me, ‘… if ye shall ask with a sincere heart with real intent, having faith in Christ he will manifest the truth of it on to you, by the power of the Holy Ghost: and by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.’ I can honestly say … it’s absolutely true because at 22:35 on the 26th of September 2019, He told me it was so.”
So, on the 12th of October 2019 Kelly was baptised by Elder Litster. Later that day Tabitha (aged 18) was baptised by Lawrence.
“What makes this gift even more special, is that my daughter, Tabi and my husband, Lawrence are on this journey with me. Our wedding anniversary is very close and God willing, we will be sealed together for eternity in accordance with the scriptures,” concluded Kelly.