It was Franklin D. Richards who once said, “Life is God’s greatest gift to man, and what we do with our life is our gift to God.” (CR, April 1971, p. 38). Stephen L. Richards taught, “Life is a mission and not a career.” (Quoted by Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, May 1988, p. 54). And it was President Boyd K. Packer who taught,
No matter what citizenship or race, whether male or female, no matter what occupation, no matter your education, regardless of the generation in which one lives, life is a homeward journey for all of us, back to the presence of God in his celestial kingdom (Ensign, May 1987, p. 24).
On Friday evening, 17 October 1958, at about 10:17 PM, a boy was born to John Wallace Brown and Frances Mae Harmon. He would become the second child born to the proud young parents, as John was only 23 years of age, and Frances had barely turned 21 years of age on 24 September 1958.
Having already begun raising a now one year old son, these young, but still rather new parents, welcomed their newborn into the world with both joy and realizing the the challenges in being the best parents that they could be to him and his older sibling. Throughout his early childhood, and well into his early adult years, these loving parents would nurture and instruct their son in the way that he should go. They had their own hopes and aspirations of what he would one day become, but at the same time, like his brother before him, they had dedicated his life into the hands of the Lord, and they were confident that as long as he never let go of God’s unchanging hand and was obedient to God’s will for his life, everything would be alright.
Hugh Nibley once said, “No matter where we begin if we pursue knowledge diligently and honestly, our quest will inevitably lead us from the things of earth to the things of heaven.” And it was President David O. McKay who taught,
Knowledge comes through personal effort. Its acquisition involves labor. Exact and definitive knowledge comes to us in exact ratio with the amount of diligence, moral courage, and perseverance we put into the active search for it.
At a very early age this son became a seeker of knowledge and truth. He developed a love for books and learning, and even during his elementary school years, he was fascinated by the treasures of knowledge that were found within the pages of not only his school textbooks, but other volumes that were available to him as well. Whereas most young boys tend to have a want to get actively involved in some type of sports activity, he was more of an academic and preferred spending time in a library or looking through the encyclopedias and books at home to glean any morsel of knowledge from them that he could. However, even with his new-found discoveries, he never seemed fully satisfied. There was still a hunger and a thirst to know even more.
In school, he devoted many hours to his studies, always wanting to do his best to obtain academic excellence. As he moved from elementary school into Junior High and High School, he became an even greater seeker of knowledge. Oftentimes he would be found studying different subjects on his own, outside of the subjects that he learned in the classroom. He soon learned that he had a special passion for learning anything to do with mathematics and foreign languages. By the time that he graduated High School he had successfully passed one year of Latin and five years of Spanish. In fact, he had participated in a national Spanish exam in his senior year of High School and tied for fifth place. He was not a straight ‘A’ student, but he always managed to keep most of his grades in the ‘A’ and ‘B’ range and his name was very often found among the list of names of students who were on the honor roll. It was also in High School when he discovered a love for the English language and thoroughly enjoyed writing essays, short stories, and research papers. Oddly enough, some of his least favorite subjects were history and the sciences, although he enjoyed chemistry class mainly because of the mathematics involved in solving and balancing formulas and equations.
His quest for knowledge did not end with his graduation from Wicomico Senior High School in Salisbury Maryland in June 1976. At the young age of 18 years, having a love for learning new things in mathematics, he became interested in computers and how they functioned, and so he enrolled in a local community college and began his studies in Data Processing Technology. While working full-time as a dishwasher in a local family restaurant, he pursued his studies at Delaware Technical and Community College in Georgetown Delaware, completing all of his requirements for graduation two weeks ahead of schedule, and graduating with an A.A.S. degree in Data Processing Technology in June 1979.
Hugh B. Brown once said,
Every landing field is also a runway for a new take-off. We must resist the temptation to abide upon arriving at an intermediate goal. There can be no loitering on life’s airfield. One must get on the plane or be left behind (Address, Brigham Young University, May 24, 1962, p. 3).
After graduating from Delaware Technical and Community College he decided to put further traditional classroom training and learning on temporary hold and continued working full-time in the local restaurant. This; however, did not put an end to his quest for knowledge. He continuously pondered what he would eventually do with his life and began setting goals for some of the things that he hoped to do. Perhaps he would become a teacher or even a preacher of the Gospel, as he also loved reading and studying the scriptures, and at the young age of 21 years had already read the Bible several times in its entirety.
Even with his vast knowledge and study of the Bible, he felt that there was still much more that he needed to know. There were many questions in his young mind that seemed left unanswered. And so, one day while watching television he saw a commercial for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and at the end of the commercial they offered a free Book of Mormon. Having no knowledge of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and curiosity about the Book of Mormon, he sent and asked for a copy.
About a week later two young men dressed in suits and riding bicycles arrived at the door of his parents’ home where he was living at the time. They introduced themselves as missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and said that they had the Book of Mormon that he had requested. Wanting to learn more about the Church and the Book of Mormon, he invited them in. This was in October 1980, and shortly after he had joined the Navy under the Delayed Entry Program. Leaving home and traveling the world while serving his country was one of the goals that he had set for himself. As President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “Goals are good. Laboring with a distant aim sets the mind in a higher key and puts us at our best.” (Regional Representatives’ Seminar, April 3, 1974.) And as Elder Richard G. Scott taught, “To reach a goal you have never attained, you must do things you have never before done.” (Ensign, May 1990, p. 76.)
He met with the missionaries often over the next 6 months, and even began reading the Book of Mormon. Finally, in March 1981, he thanked the missionaries for the things that they had taught him and promised that he would continue investigating the Church and reading the Book of Mormon later. For now his mission in life was join the Navy serving his country. He did not realize that his mission would actually become his career.
During his military service he was blessed with the opportunity to travel to many foreign lands that he had only read about in books. He also continued his quest for knowledge by continuing to take courses in different subjects. He even enrolled in Bible College in the Tabernacle Baptist Church Theological Seminary while stationed in Norfolk Virginia with hopes of someday becoming a Baptist minister. He only had the opportunity to study in the Seminary for a little over a year, and during that time, he again realized that there was so much more that he wanted answers to. It would not be until 1997, some 17 years after his first investigation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while stationed in Keflavic, Iceland, that he would finally find the answers that he had been seeking when he again began reading the Book of Mormon and meeting with the missionaries. On Tuesday evening, 10 March 1998, in the little LDS Chapel in Reykjavík, Iceland he was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the rest as they say is history.
My name is Keith Lionel Brown. I am the one of whom this narrative refers. The first 54 years of this journey called life have been truly amazing. There have been many mountain top experiences, as well as many valley experiences. Nevertheless, all the experiences have helped to mold me into the person that I am today. Truly I stand all amazed at the love that the Savior offers me.
In a short 54 years I have been blessed to travel all over the world, meet influential and interesting people from all walks of life – entertainers, authors, movie directors, actors, and producers, a former President of the United States, and General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have also been blessed with many wonderful opportunities – things that as a young boy I could have only imagined.
My two goodly parents were indeed right in their humble estimation that as long as I hold on to God’s unchanging hand and do what His will is for my life, everything is going to be alright.
I do not know what tomorrow may bring, but I do know the One who holds all of my tomorrows in the palms of His hands. He never sleeps and He never slumbers. He is always right there beside me and has promised never to leave me alone. I don’t have to worry or be afraid. I know that I can make it. In Him I know I can stand. For no matter what may come my way, my life is in His hands. Of this, I do so testify. In the sacred name of our Lord and savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.