All The President’s (Young) Men

Rusty - July 1, 2005

Many people say that their mission was the best (or the only) possible one for them. I am one of those people for two reasons: Guatemala and President Williams.

Everyone is going to say that the people in their mission were amazing, so I will spare you the irony (we often made fun of them and their backwards way of doing things, yet loving them and making life-long friends). I imagine no matter where I went I would have loved the people.

The reason I think Guat was perfect for me was because it struck the perfect balance of working hard and seeing success. If we worked hard we found people, taught them, sometimes baptized them, and sometimes saw them grow in their testimonies (primero Dios). A friend of mine in Chile baptized pretty much everyone they ran into, while friends in the States and Europe didn’t baptize anyone. I can see myself in Chile being a prideful prig and in France being so frustrated with lack of success that I wouldn’t have been motivated to go out every day. Guat was a perfect balance.

President Williams was only the second president of three year old Guatemala City Central mission. It was formed comprising parts of the Xela (Quetzaltenango) mission with parts of the Guatemala City North and Guatemala City South missions. In the 80′s the Xela mission had a lot of success. And when I say success I mean they were successful in baptizing huge groups of kids in swimming pools, successful in filling out baptismal forms with names from gravesites, and successful in getting girls pregnant.

The first president of our mission, President Morrill, did a fine job of beginning the cleaning up of the mess half our mission was in. It was President Williams’ job to continue and improve.

In our mission there wasn’t a tradition of over-zealous mission presidents who punished us if we got home late or slept during Spanish study (at a multi-zone conference where the area authority was telling us we shouldn’t take naps in the afternoon our president acted surprised because in his mission he always took naps in the afternoon…). This was good for me. I’m a pretty laid back kind of guy and I couldn’t have lived the MTC twice. President Williams lived more by the idea of teaching us correct doctrine (or outlines basic rules) and we governed ourselves. This, of course, backfired a few times with some bad missionaries, but was incredibly beneficial for those of us who prosper in that kind of environment (though from what I understand he became more and more strict after I had left due to too many chamb√≥n missionaries).

He had no hard-and-fast rules on music or movies. If we were good, hard-working missionaries he gave us more freedom. He praised us when we did well and made us want to change when we slacked. He was funny only when we were laughing at him, not with him, and he knew it. The man was a scientist, yet a concern for numbers was not apparent. He humbly followed his leaders. He loved missionary work. But I think that the most important thing he did was trust us. He was the perfect leader for me at that time in my life.

9 Comments »

  1. Russ, what is your point in this post? You seem to just trail off into nostalgia. Is it that you are amazed that the Lord sends missionaries to the missions just right for them or what?

    Comment by Bret — July 4, 2005 @ 2:33 pm

  2. While I think that there are some people out there that were called to exactly the right mission for one reason or another, most aren’t.

    For the great majority you’ll find reason why your mission was great for you no matter where you go. This is the nature of a mission. You spend two of your most formative years doing hard work, a long ways from home, with people you don’t know. You’re going to grow and learn things no matter where you go. And to you they’ll be exactly the things you needed because it is you that is experiencing them.

    In any case, the idea that each person has a specific reason to go to the specific place they are called was pretty much obliterated for me when I was in the MTC. At the time there were tons of missionaries who had calls to Russia. They all got changed en masse to Spain and Chile. No individuality to it. I’m sure they all had great missions too.

    Comment by a random John — July 4, 2005 @ 9:18 pm

  3. Bret,
    No point other than to say I’m grateful for my mission and my president. That’s all.

    ARJ,
    I think you’re right, I probably could have gone anywhere and said the same thing, though it is seriously hard to imagine enjoying the experience as much in North Dakota. But who knows…

    But, ARJ, do you not believe that mission calls are inspired? I mean, do you believe that we are called to certain places for certain reasons or do you think it doesn’t matter?

    Comment by Rusty — July 4, 2005 @ 10:37 pm

  4. A friend of mine served in the Netherlands. After once describing to me her living quarters (3-story cushy condos) she added, “Hey, you got baptisms; we got microwaves.”

    Yes, I would much rather take cold bucket showers, sleep with roaches, and eat rice and fried plats for 18 months than serve where she did. While I know Honduras was “right” for me for several specific reasons, I agree that any mission could probably have provided the stimulus for similar growth and relationships.

    I remember a religion professor once clarifying we are “called” as missionaries and merely “assigned” to a specific mission, and that assignment may change. But even so, you want to believe your assignment is inspired enough to not have to be changed…

    Comment by Amy — July 5, 2005 @ 3:32 am

  5. Rusty,

    As I said above, I think that some calls are inspired. I know someone that wasn’t a particularly good missionary, but he saved someone’s life on his mission. This due mainly to the fact that his fist is the size of my head.

    I’ve also seen plenty of odd “coincidences” that might be inspiration or might be people tweaking the system. For instance, most of the people in Brazil that got called to the US happened to be children of stake presidents or former mission presidents. Some guy from the favela wasn’t going to the US, even if he spoke perfect english.

    The point is that I think that life is set up such that for the most part we get what we need out of it without constant divine intervention to set us on a particular path.

    Comment by a random John — July 5, 2005 @ 10:20 am

  6. I wondered about my assignment being inspired until I only had about three weeks left. I was interviewing a wonderful woman for baptism. She had a lot to talk about, and the interview went on for a couple of hours, teaching as much as interviewing. Somewhere in the second hour, the Spirit bore witness to me that I was in Korea to have that interview with that woman.

    Suddenly, all the things I didn’t like about the mission melted away.

    Comment by alamojag — July 5, 2005 @ 10:35 am

  7. Amy,
    I like that distinction between “called” to a mission and “assigned” to a particular area of the world.

    ARJ,
    I’m very aware of those “coincidences”, I think they happen all the time. You say, “life is set up such that for the most part we get what we need out of it without constant divine intervention to set us on a particular path.” This is interesting. Are you suggesting we could use more or less revelation (divine intervention) in our lives?

    Alamojag,
    That’s a wonderful story. It’s amazing how the Spirit can affect us so profoundly.

    Comment by Rusty — July 5, 2005 @ 11:08 am

  8. Rusty,

    I am all for revelation, depending on how you define it. But I think that the most important revelation that occurs in the course of a mission is NOT the call. It is when and investigator feels the Holy Ghost testifying of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You go on a mission for others, not for yourself. Benefits to yourself are a side effect and not the purpose.

    If the large scale aspects of the missionary program were being guided by revelation on a case by case basis then your MTC companion wouldn’t have been decided by alphabetical order. Yet many come out of the MTC insisting that the choice of their companion was inspired, either because it was so great and they got along so well or because it was so terrible and they learned so much from that trying experience.

    When you have an attitude that no matter what happens it is inspired perhaps you’ve arrived at my position by the back door. My position being that the set-up of this life is so inspired that God does not need to intervene in each little thing in our lives to accomplish His purposes.

    In a way it is similar to the debate over evolution vs. creationism.

    Comment by a random John — July 5, 2005 @ 12:59 pm

  9. When my dad served his mission in the early 70s, the kids who went foreign were the ones whose families could afford it. 5 out of his 6 siblings went to Germany. Inspired? Probably economics.

    What about the deaf kid accidentally called to foreign-speaking mission? What does it do to his “inspired” call when he is switched in the MTC to a British Sign Language mission?

    I think we all learn from and value the experiences we have.

    Comment by none — July 6, 2005 @ 10:41 am

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