As a teenager growing up in Romania in the mid-90s, Florin Aurel Ghipu lived as other boys following the fall of communism.
He didn't feel religious, but when missionaries knocked on the door of his home, he listened.
"I remember that I was very eager to read everything the elders gave me," Florin said. "My mother participated in only one discussion. But I'm grateful that she opened the door for them. I read the Book of Mormon in less than a week, and had many questions for the missionaries each discussion.
"When I learned about the Word of Wisdom, I quit smoking. It wasn't easy, but I wanted all the blessings I could have. Satan made it very hard, but the commandments were very logical to me. I remember going to Church and feeling the Holy Ghost many times, especially during the hymns."
Florin was baptized in October 2004, about a month after meeting the missionaries. "The feelings of the Spirit continued to increase when I said opening prayers in meetings and served in the Aaronic Priesthood," he said.
After being ordained an elder in June 2006, Florin felt he needed to solve some personal challenges before returning to Church and entered a period of inactivity. "I don't remember how it started," he said. "I hadn't lost my testimony and no one had offended me."
Quietly, without notice, he slipped away from Church activity.
About three years later, "I realized I hadn't solved very much, but I had lost three precious years of enjoying the gospel. I was about to turn 25 years old and needed to serve a mission. I decided to return to Church the same way I left — alone."
He walked through the meetinghouse doors for the first time in three years in late summer of this year. It was fast and testimony meeting. He felt to bear his testimony.
Sister Sondra Turner, a senior missionary assigned to create a dramatic presentation of the gospel for a district fireside, was touched by his devotion. She knew that moment she had found the character to portray the prophet Nephi.
But two days before the fireside in October 2009, Florin's only brother died at age 23.
On the day of the funeral, Florin attended a final rehearsal prior to that night's performance only several hours after the burial. "I felt it even more important to fill my role," he said.
"That evening," Sister Turner said, "Florin bore a testimony more bold than he ever had in rehearsals that left a strong impression."
Because of his testimony and others, a number of investigators have asked to learn more.
— Shaun Stahle