Sharing gospel a priority for ‘elite’ gymnast

Whether Cassandra Johnson is competing in a tough gymnastic meet, sharing the gospel with classmates, or pursuing her education, she shows the same devotion and commitment.

The 16-year-old member of the Laie 3rd Ward, Laie Hawaii Stake, took gymnastics instruction for nearly two years in Houston, Texas, at one of the leading gyms in the world. In the 1989 Texas state meet, she placed fourth in the all-around division. After a year, she placed third in the 1990 all-around and second place on the floor exercise and vault.But gymnastic achievement isn't the only priority in Cassandra's life. Taking the advice of Church leaders that every member should be a missionary, she actively shared the gospel with her classmates and teammates in Texas, handing out 16 copies of the Book of Mormon.

And she did all this while achieving a 4.0 grade point average.

"The best thing about doing missionary work is it helped to strengthen my testimony. Missionary work helped me experience the way people's lives are without the gospel. When I gave out the copies of the Book of Mormon at first, I was scared. But there are so many people who are so willing to receive what I offer them.

"I'm a happier person," she exclaimed.

Cassandra started in school gymnastic classes when she was 7, and then signed up for serious instruction for the next four years. "It was three hours a day for five days a week," said Cassandra, who is now the Laurel class president.

Her parents, Jack V. and Cassandra Johnson, have always been supportive of their daughter's participation in gymnastics.

Cassandra spoke of the commitment and the tough schedule she kept in Texas while going to school and competing. She attended seminary from 6 to 7 a.m., then practiced in the gym from 7 to 8:30 a.m. School classes were from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and then it was back to the gym from 5 to 9 p.m.

"I had a funny eating schedule," Cassandra recalled, laughing. "Breakfast was at 5:30 a.m. Lunch was at 4 p.m. and dinner usually was after 9 p.m."

During this time, she was a member of the gymnastic "elite team," which was a team of about 50 participants who achieved a high level of gymnastic achievement. And, she related, "I was the only Mormon in the gym."

Cassandra was active in seminary at Westfield High School in Houston and participated in the seminary scripture bowl contest during her sophomore year. Her seminary team placed first in the stake, and fifth in the region. Cassandra placed first in the region's individual competition.

Cassandra will be a senior this fall at Kahuku High School in Laie.

She was recently selected by the Department of Education in Hawaii to join other high school students to tour China in July 1991.