A seemingly chance meeting in 2012 on the Mesa Arizona Temple grounds led to Michael Morton and John Wudel soon becoming fast friends, then confidantes, and, now, partners in spreading the gospel through the book they co-authored, Gathering Israel.
The “gathering of Israel … includes the Jews returning to their promised land to form the State of Israel as well as the tens of thousands of missionaries searching for those that desire the truth,” the authors explain. “The book is a small part of this global movement.”
Michael says, “We named the book Gathering Israel because we are part of the latter-day gathering foretold in the Old Testament, New Testament and the Book of Mormon.”
Indeed, the authors came from two very different spiritual backgrounds, Michael growing up as a Jew, and John as a Protestant. Their search for salvation followed very different paths, with John having joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nearly 50 years prior to their meeting, and Michael only beginning his conversion process at that time.
They hope their stories will help others “gain an appreciation for the miracle that is the gathering of God’s covenant people.”
John Wudel, of the Fairway Groves Ward in the Alta Mesa Stake, says, “From the first time I met Michael I sensed that this was a unique individual and someone I needed to get to know better. As our friendship grew and we decided to co-write this book, something remarkable transpired.”
They spent many hours over several months working on the book, and often felt the Lord’s presence.
“It was the Spirit that would direct our progress, bring beautiful insights to our experiences and always leave us with the most uplifting and wonderful feelings. This happened every time we met to write and was so real that we always looked forward to our next meeting,” John says.
As they wrote, they realized their stories had a broad application.
Michael says, “It was apparent that two important questions were being answered: ‘What does it take for a Jew to accept Jesus Christ, and what does it take for a Christian to accept the LDS Church?’”
He describes the change of heart required, saying, “As my heart started to change with the knowledge of the truth about eternal life and the Church, my paradigm shifted. I was no longer impressed by material things and money. I was drawn to people that held a deeper reverence for the real purpose of life.”
Still, John says, throughout the process, “Michael always expressed the deepest respect for his Jewish heritage. He has never diminished the teaching or traditions of his forbearers, but instead has honored it all and joyfully added to it.”
Michael, formerly of Thunder Mountain Ward, Salt River Stake, has recently moved to Colorado and resides in the Parker Colorado Stake.
The authors hope others will join them as they continue to “celebrate the miracle that is the spiritual and literal gathering of the Twelve Tribes of Israel in these final days.”
Their book is available at www.GatheringIsrael.com, or to contact them, email email@example.com.