BETA

He was too old for Navy, but just ripe to hear the gospel

Georgia Canty slowly tiptoed down the stairs, straining to hear what the LDS missionaries were telling her husband and daughter.

"Gotcha," said Timothy "Bob" Canty to himself as he heard the familiar creaking of the stairs behind him. "I knew that once she heard what the elders were saying, she would be hooked." "Those few words I heard were the missionaries talking about the pre-existence and the plan of salvation," said Sister Canty, who had refused to listen to the elders up until that time. "I thought, I want to hear this, so I walked down the stairs and sat down. You never saw two happier missionaries."

On Sept. 17, 1981, Canty was baptized. Two weeks later his wife and daughter, Andrea, joined the Church. His son, Timothy Canty III, serving in the Air Force, was baptized in December 1981.

Last March, Canty was set apart as bishop of the Vineland (N.J.) Ward, Cherry Hills New Jersey Stake. Sister Canty is Young Women president, and Andrea is serving in the Spain Seville Mission. Tim is still in the Air Force.

"It has been dizzying," said Bishop Canty of his new calling. "It also has been a very humbling, growing experience for me."

Seven years ago, when the missionaries first knocked on his door, his only connection to the Church was through the Tabernacle Choir. He was listening to the Choir when two missionaries tracted through his neighborhood in Vineland. Out of work and short on money, Canty had laid down to listen to the Choir, because he felt disheartened and desperate.

"For many years, any time I had feelings of despair, I would listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir," he said. "I had listened to the Choir since I was a child."

He hadn't listened long before Andrea, then 16, came into the room and said a "couple of guys" were coming over to the house.

"What kind of guys?" Canty asked.

"They look like they're Navy recruiters," she replied.

Canty went to the front door, looked out and saw two young men in white shirts, dark ties, dark pants and shined shoes. The pair walked toward the house, then stopped and went back across the street. They do look like Navy recruiters, he thought. He laid back down, thinking he was too old to be a Navy prospect.

A few moments later, Andrea returned and said, "They're here."

"I went to the door, opened it and saw on their name tags, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Canty recalled. "They asked: `Are you the man of the house? We'd like to talk to you about the true Church.'"

That sparked a conversation. He asked them how the Mormons happened to be in Vineland since he didn't think any Latter-day Saints lived in the area. He was surprised to find that a lot of members did. "How did you know we are Mormons?" asked the missionaries, because most people they met didn't associate Mormons with the official name of the Church.

"Well, because I happen to be listening to your Tabernacle Choir right now," he said.

He invited the elders in and listened with interest to everything they said. As they talked about the pre-existence and God's plan for His children, Canty said he got goose bumps all over him.

"I thought I knew that story," he said. "I thought I had read it in an old Bible at my grandparents' house in South Carolina. I was sure I had read about the story of the pre-existence."

After his baptism, he visited the home of his grandparents and checked that old Bible, but the story was nowhere to be found.

From the beginning he knew what the missionaries were saying was true. The Cantys had been searching for a Church and had attended several. They had listened to various missionaries and ministers, but, until they heard the message of the Restoration, they never had been satisfied.

"I invited them back a second time and told them I wanted my wife to hear what they had to say," Canty recalled. "But when they came, she flew up the stairs."

When the elders left, he talked to his wife and persuaded her to listen to the missionaries. But when the young men arrived for the third discussion, again she went upstairs.

"I was furious and embarrassed," Canty said. "I was really disappointed. I apologized to the missionaries. I said, `Once my wife hears a portion of this message, I'm sure she'll listen.'"

That's when the stairs squeaked, and his wife came down and joined the discussion. Her desire to have an open mind had won out. After meeting with the missionaries once, she began looking forward to their visits as much as her husband and daughter did.

Canty was still out of work when he committed to live the law of tithing. Never had he felt good about paying tithing in other churches, but he knew it was the right thing to do when the missionaries told him about it.

"As soon as I started paying tithing, a man called and asked if I was still interested in a job I had applied for five months earlier," Canty said. "It was the job I really wanted because it was the one I was most qualified for."

He accepted the job and is now corporate quality control manager for a mining interest in Morrisville, Pa.

Opportunities for work in the Church also came fast, and the three Cantys soon were serving in a variety of callings. Everything was new and exciting to them.

"It was confusing at first because there were all these presidents," Canty said with a smile. "The members kept mentioning bishopric, and I thought the Bishop's name was Rick."

Sister Canty was asked to play the piano even though she hadn't played regularly for some time. She practiced hard and asked for the Lord's help, and developed her skills.

"There are so many things to learn in the gospel," she said. "It [the gospel] opens your mind, and you learn faster, read faster and comprehend more."

Son Timothy had sat in on a few discussions while on leave from the Air Force. Three months after his parents and sister were baptized, he called and asked his family if they would like to be present at his baptism. Since his son had previously joined another religion, his father wasn't sure which church Timothy meant. Canty asked, "What church did you join?"

"The true Church of course," his son replied.

Bishop Canty said the family's seven years in the Church have passed quickly. He was first counselor in the bishopric before being called as bishop.

"We always wanted to be active in a church," he said. "We thought we had a good life before we joined the Church, but it was nothing compared to what we have now."