Believing My Heart and Not My Head
I met Dennis when he spoke at a meeting of writers. He shared how different writing genres receiving different compensation with Christian writers receiving low compensation. “For example”, Dennis said, “if you were looking for a book about the Mormon faith that author would be compensated less than a murder mystery novelist.”As a Latter-day Saint myself, I found his reference a bit odd and was prepared to defend any negative comments but they never came. Dennis was so upbeat and interesting that I spoke with him several times before and after his talk and even purchased two of his personal research books about leveraging social media for promotion. He exuded positive energy that felt familiar and comfortable. It seemed pretty clear to me that he was gay and I’m happily married to a wonderful man so my interest was strictly business.
After his talk, I asked Dennis what his first book was about and what he was currently writing. He was pretty vague about everything and moved onto another topic. That seemed odd at the time since all the writers I know love to speak about their books. Before parting, I linked to him on Facebook and he shared a few social media tips with me. Dennis extended a vague offer of help and I yearned for success shortcuts in an ocean of information.
At home, I researched Dennis and found the topic of his first book from over a decade ago to be terribly unsavory. This shook me to my core as the information in front of me directly contradicted my initial, positive impression. How could I be so wrong? My positive feelings about him were swallowed up in darkness and I planned to stay far away.
Less than a week later I saw a Facebook post with Dennis and missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And then there were a few more including one where a good friend of his was going on a mission. I thought his family might be LDS. Then I recognized one of the missionaries and made an online comment about how Elder So-and-So served in Westerly, RI. And I commented on other posts until it felt as though I was seeing the real Dennis. Then I received a private message from Dennis saying, “I finally figured out you’re LDS!” “You too!, I typed. It was a day or two later that Dennis and I shared a long phone call and our testimonies of mature-age conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Every convert has a past,” Dennis shared. I remember all too well how grateful I was to my Savior after baptism decades ago and how my heart changed forever. At the core of Christianity is the belief that people can change for the better. Dennis and I are both living proof of God’s love in this abiding principle. He and I became friends with a shared desire to help others find and accept the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. I began to support him in online forums and, because I’m both a writer and LDS, am now part of the “Is He Nuts” Dennis Schleicher community.
What would both of us have missed had I listened to my head and the hard, cold facts instead of the Holy Ghost whispering “he is a good man and a kindred spirit.”? I’m so grateful to have recognized and acted upon the whisperings of the Spirit as dark proof blocked my path. The darkness was the old Dennis but I met and trust the new Dennis who has been transformed by the love of our Savior. By trusting in the goodness I feel, I have a new friend. That hinge decision could have slammed a door shut but, instead, opened a door to new opportunities. I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers each of us with open arms and an open heart. He loves and forgives and implores each of us to do the same. Each of us has a past but it doesn’t have to control our future.