Across cyberspace, youth shares gospel

Grady Greer was looking for someone with whom he could exchange music CDs over the Internet; what he found was a young Frenchman whose heart was prepared to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness.

Grady is a 14-year-old member of the Gilbert 6th Ward, Gilbert Arizona Highland Stake. In many ways he is a typical Latter-day Saint youth, with an interest in computers and popular music.

It was those interests that led him to a rather unlikely association with Julien Nodier, a 22-year-old concert pianist living in Davron, France, about 45 minutes outside of Paris.

That began in September of 1998. Grady asked an Internet acquaintance if she knew anyone who was interested in exchanging music recordings. He was put in touch with Julien. They found they had a mutual interest in the American musical group Hanson. By January of this year, they had become fast friends through their cyberspace messages, even talking occasionally on the telephone. Through Grady, Julien became acquainted with his family, Ben and Linda Greer, and their other children, Emily, Riley, Evan, Alyssa and Miranda.

"I asked him what his religion was," Grady recalled. "Then I told him I was Mormon. He was like, 'What's that?' "

Grady's explanation piqued Julien's curiosity.

"He started picking up on all the [LDS-related] Internet sites and going to the library and reading books about Mormons," Grady recounted.

Meanwhile, Sister Greer said, the family sent Julien "care packages" of material obtained from a local LDS bookstore. These contained, among other items, an LDS hymnbook and a compact disc of LDS music. "Since he's a concert pianist, we thought he would be interested in those things. And the music really touched his heart."

"And we sent him the video, 'Our Heavenly Father's Plan,' " Grady noted.

"I loved it," Julien told Elder Kenneth Johnson of the Seventy during a recent visit with the Greer family to the General Authority's office in Salt Lake City. (Elder Johnson has since been assigned to Australia to serve as first counselor in the Australia/New Zealand Area presidency.) "And so I kept on reading and talking about it with Grady."

Unable to find much specifically on the Church at the library, Julien turned to the Internet. He read material on websites both favorable to and in opposition to the Church, "so I could get both sides," he said. To him, the adversarial material seemed weak by comparison.

"When you put truth and error together, truth glows," Elder Johnson observed.

"Then, after a while," Julien continued, "I called the missionaries."

In an attempt to expedite matters, Grady had obtained a list of mission addresses throughout the world and had sent Julien the address of the France Paris Mission. But Julien was ahead of him. He had already obtained the telephone number of the nearest missionaries.

"I'm lucky, because the missionaries didn't live too far away," he said.

"From the time he called them, the missionaries were there within two hours," Grady noted.

The preparation work had already been done, and Julien absorbed what Elders Nathan Tanner from Canada and Timothy Hanson from Utah taught him. (Julien thought it ironic that one of the missionaries had the name "Hanson," because it was the group Hanson that contributed to his and Grady's initial association.)

"In one week he had taken all the lessons," Grady said.

"He E-mailed us on Mother's Day [May 9] and told us, 'You won't believe it but I'm being baptized Sunday,' " Sister Greer said. "We were shocked, because we knew he had just started taking the discussions. Grady got the E-mail and yelled to us from the upstairs room where the computer is, 'He's getting baptized!' "

"They almost broke the stairs stampeding up to see the E-mail," Grady said.

Julien lives with his mother. Elder Johnson asked him how she felt about his joining the Church.

"She was a little bit anxious about it because we'd never heard of Mormons before, so it's normal that she be a little bit anxious," Julien replied.

"Right, my mother felt the same way," said Elder Johnson, who himself was converted to the Church by missionaries in his native land of England.

Julien, who attends Church at a ward in Versailles, said he has been well received, not only because he is accomplished at the piano but because he is the only one in his age group attending the ward, which has largely older people and young children.

In response to Elder Johnson's inquiry, Julien said he is studying German history and literature at a university to prepare for a career. "And I still study music," he said, "because that's what I like to do."

He had planned to visit the Greers even before his baptism. His conversion made the visit all the more meaningful.