My Baptism – Jimmy Smith – October 1984

Jimmy Smith third grade photo 1984-1985 school yearMy wife recently asked me to write down my memories my baptism for a book she is compiling for our kids. In the process, I realized I had never posted on this website about my childhood baptism nor the great spiritual experience I had at that time. Here goes:

My family moved from Maryland to Georgia the summer of 1984 when I was seven years old. We lived out in the country, many miles from any city, about half way between the towns of Dahlonega and Dawsonville, in the mountain of northern Georgia. There were not a lot of members of the Church in this area, in fact there was no LDS Church ward, though there was a small branch. Close to half of the members of the branch were relatives of mine on my mother’s side. For meeting facilities, the church rented a warehouse in the area, and because it wasn’t an LDS Church building, it had no baptismal font. A couple of months after we moved there, I turned 8, and in early October, on a Sunday afternoon we headed to the LDS Church building in Gainesville, GA, which did have a font, for the baptismal service. There were two other children from our branch that were baptized with me that day.

I remember being told by the Branch President that when I was baptized that I would be making a covenant or promise to Heavenly Father to obey His commandments. I was surprised when, during the actual ordinance, I wasn’t asked to verbally make that promise. I have since learned that the meeting with the branch president was that verbal commitment and the outward ordinance was then consummated when my dad, an authorized priesthood holder, said the baptismal prayer and put me under the water and raised me out again. Still, that desire to verbally hear the covenant being made at the time of baptism is perhaps why I like the baptismal prayer Alma used in the Book of Mormon:

“I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world. And after Alma had said these words, both Alma and Helam were buried in the water; and they arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit.” (Mosiah 18:13-14).

alma baptizes at the waters of mormonAfter the baptism, my dad laid his hands on my head and bestowed the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The great blessings of that gift were not immediately apparent to me, but slowly, over the years, I have gained more and more appreciation for the gift of the constant companionship of the third member of the Godhead. Still, at the time my dad confirmed me a member of the Church, I felt great joy, in fact, I could not stop smiling for many minutes after the ordinance of the laying on of hands.

My dad used this moment as a teaching opportunity, and taught me that the joy I felt was from the Spirit of God and was a testament that I had made the right choice to be baptized and to commit my life to serving Christ. I have always remembered how happy I felt at that moment, and the lessons taught me by my father and confirmed by the Holy Spirit when I received those saving ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

 

Mission Prep Checklist for Youth

mission prep and life skills checklistWhen my oldest son recently turned twelve, I began thinking about specific things he should be doing or already have done in preparing for his mission and what he needs to be doing in the coming years. In discussing this with my wife, she pointed me to a list of life skills written by Merrilee Boyack of things children should be able to do by age, starting at 3 and going up each year until age 18. Merrilee calls it “The Fabulously Brilliant, Flexible, and Comprehensive Plan for Raising Independent Children Who Will Be Able to Take Care of Themselves as Adults and Have a Family Plan of Their Own.” The list is found in Merrilee’s book, The Parenting Breakthrough, and I also found it on her website and there she stated she is okay with people adding to it or editing it.*

I thought I would make a Mormon Mission Prep version of the list which would focus on spiritual and physical preparation items that youth should achieve in preparing themselves to live independently and serve as full-time missionaries for the Lord. I didn’t want to replicate Raising Independent Children checklist, but rather have something unique to mission prep. I wanted it to be brief, one-page, list, focusing on the most important physical and spiritual skills young missionaries will need. I ended up 77 items in eight categories: Church Programs, Finances, Food Prep Skills, Household Chores and Maintenance, Personal Development, Spiritual Progress, Tech Savvy, and Transportation.

Putting this list together was a great exercise because it made me realize we are behind, a little, with my son. But it has given us many ideas of things we need to work on with him now and in the coming years to make sure he is physically and spiritually prepared to serve his mission. I know this will help us, and hopefully it will help many other parents and youth as well.

You may want to add, delete, or edit items on this list to meet you particular family needs, and that would be fine with me. Let me tell you a little about why I put the things I did in each category.

Church Programs: In this category, you’ll find check points for progress in the LDS Church’s official programs such as Faith in God Award, Duty to God, Young Women’s (Personal Progress), Aaronic Priesthood, and Boy Scouts. These programs are inspired by God and have been instituted by our Church leaders to help the  youth develop spiritual skills and Christ-like qualities.

Finances: This section lists items necessary to help youth gain an understanding of money and how to use it responsibly such as earning an allowance for chores and learning to budget. It also includes more advanced topics like understand about debit and credit cards, and having youth begin to pay for some of their own things like clothes and cell phone when they get old enough. It also lists benchmark points for saving money for the mission. On that topic, I spaced it out so that youth double their mission savings each year. If they start at $150 at age 12 and double their mission savings each year, they will have the required $9,600 by the time they are 18.

Food Prep Skills: A missionary who doesn’t know how to cook could find himself/herself very hungry very often. Therefore I created this category to help youth learn to cook for themselves and do so in a healthy way. An anxious mother of a prospective missionary once asked President Thomas S. Monson what he would recommend her son learn before the arrival of his missionary call. His answer: “Teach your son how to cook” (Who Honors God, God Honors).

Household Chores and Maintenance: Missionaries often live in their own apartment and will need to understand basic home maintenance. They also often do acts of service at other people’s homes that require knowledge and ability to do home maintenance. And of course, they will need to keep their room and apartment clean and tidy. Having these skills will help youth be more clean and orderly and be able to be more self-sufficient with chores around their apartment.

Personal Development: This is the largest category because I have included many life skills and skills for hygiene, manners, and living independently. Also included in this category are some benchmarks for emotional strength that will be necessary for young missionaries to live away from home for an extended period without mom and dad around. Also included here are some skills for being able to take care of themselves and others by knowing first aid and CPR and about medical drug use, and making appointments with doctors.

Spiritual Progress: While everything on the list is important, I believe this is the most important category. It is the things youth need to do to spiritually prepare themselves to be missionaries. These items will help young people develop their own testimonies of Jesus Christ, the scriptures, living prophets, and the restored gospel. Doing these things will help bring the Spirit of God in greater measure to the lives of the youth and will help them know how to teach by the power of the Spirit. Many of these items are not one time things, but habits that should be established like daily prayer and scripture study. I have also listed things like teaching lessons, giving talks, and talking to neighbors about the gospel to give youth practice being missionaries.

Tech Savvy: Having technical skills is important for life and is growing in importance in doing missionary work. Here I have listed just a few important skills such as using a computer and digital camera and email, all of which they’ll need to know how to do to write home to the family each week.

Transportation: Missionaries do a lot of traveling via bikes, cars, buses, trains, and airplanes. Knowing how to get yourself around is an important skill for missionaries so I’ve included some of those things in the list. These are also important life skills, so it’s good for youth to have practice while they’re still at home.

*My wonderful wife Heather made her own edition of the Raising Independent Children list. Download it below. There you will see all the original items from Merrilee Boyack’s list, plus a few things Heather added for our family. I think it is a great addition to the mission prep checklist with more detailed things for children to learn to do to help make them strong and well adjusted and ready to take on the world.

Mission Prep Quotes from April 2017 General Conference

Return and Receive by Elder M. Russell Ballard

It is good to have goals and plans for our careers, for our education, even for our golf game. It is also important to have goals for our marriages, our families, and our Church councils and callings; this is especially true for missionaries. But our greatest and most overriding goals should fit into Heavenly Father’s eternal plan. Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”(3 Nephi 13:33)

goals for missionaries ballard

Called to the Work by Elder David A. Bednar

The [mission call] letter is signed by the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the first two sentences read as follows: “You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the ______ Mission.”

Please note that the first sentence is a call to serve as a full-time missionary in the Lord’s restored Church. The second sentence indicates an assignment to labor in a specific place and mission. The important distinction expressed in these two sentences is essential for all of us to understand.

In the culture of the Church, we often talk of being called to serve in a country such as Argentina, Poland, Korea, or the United States. But a missionary is not called to a place; rather, he or she is called to serve. As the Lord declared through the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1829, “If ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work.”(D&C 4:3)

…As missionaries strive to be ever more worthy and capable instruments in His hands and do their best to fulfill faithfully their duties, then with His help they “cannot go amiss” (D&C 80:3)—wherever they serve. Perhaps one of the lessons the Savior is teaching us in this revelation is that an assignment to labor in a specific place is essential and important but secondary to a call to the work.

assignment to labor secondary to call to work

…Three interrelated words define a pattern of preparation and progression for sons of God: priesthood, temple, mission. Sometimes as parents, friends, and Church members, we focus so extensively upon missionary preparation for young men that we may neglect to a degree the other vital steps along the covenant pathway that must be fulfilled before beginning full-time missionary service. Working as a missionary certainly is one but not the only important building block in the process of creating a strong foundation for a lifetime of spiritual growth and service. Priesthood and temple blessings, both of which precede arriving in an assigned field of labor, also are necessary to fortify and strengthen us spiritually throughout our entire lives.

…Young men, each of you is a missionary now. All around you, every day, are friends and neighbors “who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.” As you are directed by the Spirit, you can share a thought, an invitation, a text or tweet that will introduce your friends to the truths of the restored gospel. You need not and should not wait for your official call to become anxiously engaged in missionary work.

young men each of you is a missionary now

…In our homes and at church, we should give balanced emphasis to all three elements of the Lord’s pattern of preparation and progression for faithful sons of God: priesthood, temple, mission. All three require us to love being and remaining worthy. Be worthy. Stay worthy.

Prepare the Way by Bishop Gérald Caussé

Allow me to share the true story of Alex, a quiet, thoughtful, and bright young priest. One Sunday, Alex’s bishop found him alone in a classroom in a state of great distress. The young man explained how painfully difficult it was for him to attend church without his father, who was not a member. Then he tearfully said it would probably be better for him to leave the Church.

With genuine concern for this young man, the bishop immediately mobilized the ward council to help Alex. His plan was simple: to keep Alex active and help him develop a heartfelt testimony of the gospel, they needed to “surround him with good people and give him important things to do.”

Quickly the priesthood brethren and all the ward members rallied around Alex and expressed their affection and support. The high priests group leader, a man of great faith and love, was chosen to be his home teaching companion. Members of the bishopric took him under their wings and made him their closest associate.

The bishop said: “We kept Alex busy. He ushered at weddings, ushered at funerals, assisted me at graveside dedications, baptized several new members, ordained young men to Aaronic Priesthood offices, taught youth lessons, taught with the missionaries, unlocked the building for conferences, and locked up the building late at night after conferences. He did service projects, accompanied me on visits to elderly members in hospices, gave talks in sacrament meeting, administered the sacrament to the sick in hospitals or in their homes, and became one of only a very small handful of people that I could totally rely on as bishop.”

Little by little, Alex changed. His faith in the Lord increased. He gained confidence in himself and in the power of the priesthood that he held. The bishop concluded: “Alex has been and will always be one of my greatest blessings in my time as bishop. What a privilege it has been to associate with him. I genuinely believe that no young man has ever gone into the mission field more prepared by his priesthood service.”

Let the Holy Spirit Guide by Elder Ronald A. Rasband

While serving as a mission president in New York City, I was with some of our missionaries in a restaurant in the Bronx. A young family came in and sat near us. They appeared golden for the gospel. I watched our missionaries as they continued to visit with me, then noticed as the family concluded their meal and slipped out the door. Then I said, “Elders, there’s a lesson here today. You saw a lovely family come into this restaurant. What should we have done?”

One of the elders spoke up quickly: “I thought about getting up and going over to talk to them. I felt the nudge, but I didn’t respond.”

“Elders,” I said, “we must always act on our first prompting. That nudge you felt was the Holy Ghost!”

To the Friends and Investigators of the Church by Elder Joaquin E. Costa

Today, I would like to share some lessons I learned on my path to baptism—lessons that I hope may help those of you listening who are not members of the Church yet.

…From my first lesson, I say to you friends and investigators of the Church: once you meet the missionaries, please take them seriously; they are giving up important years of their lives just for you.

…Let me put this lesson in one sentence: if you are confused, don’t worry—remember the feelings you have experienced; they come from God.

…the third lesson, in one sentence: when you receive these things—the Book of Mormon—and you are exhorted to read and ask God if they are true, please just do it!

…the last lesson, in one statement: experience repentance; nothing draws you closer to the Lord Jesus Christ than a desire to change.

…So please consider my experiences, and (1) take the missionaries very seriously, (2) go to church and remember spiritual feelings, (3) read the Book of Mormon and ask the Lord if it is true, and (4) experience repentance and be baptized.

lessons I learned on my path to baptism

How Does the Holy Ghost Help You? by Elder Gary E. Stevenson

During this time, I worked closely with President Reid Tateoka of the Japan Sendai Mission. As part of his usual mission routine, President Tateoka planned a meeting for missionary leaders in the southern portion of his mission. A few days prior to the meeting, President Tateoka had an impression, a feeling in his heart, to invite all missionaries of that zone to the leadership meeting, instead of the prescribed small number of elder and sister leaders.

When he announced his intention, he was reminded that this meeting was not designed for all missionaries but only for mission leaders. However, setting convention aside in order to follow the prompting he had received, he invited all missionaries serving in several coastal cities, including the city of Fukushima, to the meeting. On the appointed day, March 11, 2011, the missionaries gathered together for the expanded mission meeting in the inland city of Koriyama.

During this meeting a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck the region of Japan where the Japan Sendai Mission is located. Tragically, many coastal cities—including those from which the missionaries had been gathered—were devastated and suffered great loss of life. And the city of Fukushima suffered a subsequent nuclear event.

Although the meetinghouse where the missionaries were meeting that day was damaged by the earthquake, through following the promptings of the Holy Ghost, President and Sister Tateoka and all missionaries were safely assembled. They were out of harm’s way and miles from the devastation of the tsunami and the nuclear fallout.

…In order to describe the valuable role of the Holy Ghost as witness, I will continue the story of Fernando and Bayley. If you remember, I shared that Fernando and his brother had been baptized, but his parents and three younger brothers had not. And, despite receiving numerous invitations to meet with the missionaries over the years, each time the family declined.

Upon the painful passing of Bayley and her baby daughter, Fernando’s family was inconsolable. Unlike Fernando and unlike Bayley’s family, they found no comfort or peace. They could not understand how their own son, along with Bayley’s family, could bear their heavy burden.

Eventually, they concluded that what their son possessed and they did not was the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and this must be his source of peace and comfort. Following this realization, they invited the missionaries to teach their family the gospel. As a result, they received their own witness and testimony of the great plan of happiness, which brought them the sweet peace and calming comfort they were desperately seeking.

Foundations of Faith by Elder Quentin L. Cook

An experience I had when I was 15 years old was foundational for me. My faithful mother had valiantly tried to help me establish the foundations of faith in my life. I attended sacrament meeting, Primary, then Young Men and seminary. I had read the Book of Mormon and had always prayed individually. At that time a dramatic event occurred in our family when my beloved older brother was considering a potential mission call. My wonderful father, a less-active Church member, wanted him to continue his education and not serve a mission. This became a point of contention.

In a remarkable discussion with my brother, who was five years older and led the discussion, we concluded that his decision on whether to serve a mission depended on three issues: (1) Was Jesus Christ divine? (2) Was the Book of Mormon true? (3) Was Joseph Smith the prophet of the Restoration?

As I prayed sincerely that night, the Spirit confirmed to me the truth of all three questions. I also came to understand that almost every decision I would make for the rest of my life would be based on the answers to those three questions. I particularly realized that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ was essential. In looking back, I recognize that, primarily because of my mother, the foundations were in place for me to receive the spiritual confirmation that evening. My brother, who already had a testimony, made the decision to serve a mission and ultimately won our father’s support.

Our First Two Weeks as Senior Missionaries at the Denton LDS Institute

denton texas institute buildingTerry and I have now been in Texas for two weeks. We are finding much satisfaction in our particular assignment–working with the young single adults in Denton, Texas. The main part of our assignment is to host the LDS Institute Building in Denton. The building is right next to the campus of North Texas University (which has over 45,000 students) and is very close to the campus of Texas Woman’s University (with another 13,000 students).

At the Institute, we teach three classes each week, and we have duties helping with many other matters that are a part of the Institute. This is the second biggest Institute in the State of Texas. We also work closely with the Denton YSA Ward, which has about 350 members. Each week we spend about 45-50 hours a week at the Institute building, and we spend about 8-10 hours a week at church with the YSA ward. We have a nice apartment that’s about 12 minutes from the Institute.

denton court house squareDenton, Texas is about 40 miles north of Ft. Worth, Texas. It has a population of about 114,000. It is a college town, now. The town was founded in the 1840s. Here is a photo of the County Court House that was built in 1896. (It is now used as a museum.) It is right in the center of Denton, and it is the center of activity in the community on evenings—especially Friday evenings. There are a number of eating places, bars and entertainment places around the “Square” in Denton. As we walked around the Square last night, there were hundreds of college students there—eating, socializing and listening to music. As you can see, the architecture of the old Court House is really unique. It is built of a local limestone.

Saturday is our Preparation Day–with certain exceptions. For example, today we will be at the Institute for seven hours in connection with General Conference. Between sessions we had a nice meal prepared and served by Kevin and Natalie Clayton. Kevin Clayton is the Institute Director, under whom we serve. He and his wife Natalie have a cute little family.

Two weeks ago we went to a Mission Conference on Saturday morning–where we met with Elder Ronald Rasband (of the Twelve), Elder Donald Hallstrom (of the Presidency of the Seventy), and Gerald Causse (Presiding Bishop). That was a very nice meeting–it is very rare to ever have a meeting away from Salt Lake City where more than one General Authority is in attendance. What I remember most from the meeting with Elder Rasband is the powerful peace that I felt in his presence.

Kevin Clayton Denton Institute Director and FamilyTeaching has been a wonderful opportunity and experience for us. It has been uplifting and inspiring to get to know and to help the students in our classes. We love testifying of the different truths that are presented in these classes. We have 37 students in one class; 16 in another; and 8 in our third class. The biggest class is held Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. What a blessing it is for us to join with these students–some of whom are over 40 years old–in discussing and exploring different aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and in feeling the presence of the Spirit, confirming the truthfulness of key truths.

Perhaps the best class we taught was the one last Thursday on the resurrection. We took considerable time in reviewing the Biblical accounts of nine different events recorded in the Bible where the resurrected Jesus appeared to people in the 40 days following his resurrection. As we took the time to review each specific appearance–where there were at least 500 different people who saw the resurrected Jesus, this showed that there is substantial credible evidence that Jesus really did resurrect. This in turn can build one’s faith in God. For if Jesus resurrected himself from the dead, then there is good reason to believe his words when he said that we will all resurrect; there is good reason to believe in God and to believe that there is a divine purpose in life; there is good reason to believe in heaven and hell, and to believe that sin is real and that it is important for us to repent of sins and to obey God. There just is not a more fundamental aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ than that of His resurrection. There was a wonderful spirit present as we discussed and testified of the resurrection.

Elders Hill and Harris are the two full-time missionaries that are assigned to the Denton YSA Ward. We think they have one of the best assignments in the entire mission; there are several non-member students currently being taught the gospel; there have been a half-dozen baptisms in the ward in the last few months. There is a lot of positiveness and enthusiasm among the students who regularly come to the Institute building. One of our jobs is to keep popcorn in the popcorn maker. A lot of the students hang out at Institute, where there is a place to sit and study, eat snacks, and associate with others. We also provide three free meals a week to the students–lunch on Tacos Tuesday (provided by the Denton YSA Ward); Mix N Mingle dinner on Wednesday (provided by the Denton YSA Ward bishopric); and lunch on Forum Friday (provided by the Institute). Mom and I are responsible for preparing and serving the last meal. So far, Terry’s meals have been very well received.

LDS Institute students Kendra and MyrandaOne example of the type of thing that happens with some frequency at the Institute is the conversation I had with the missionaries and a recent convert, Myranda, and with Elder Hill, one of the Zone Leaders in Denton. Myranda said that her sister disagreed with her interpretation of I Corinthians 15:40-42: “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.”

Her sister said that verse 40 merely makes the point that there are different levels of glory in the resurrection, and not that “Celestial” and “Terrestrial” are the specific names given to two of the kingdoms in heaven. I told Myranda that I don’t know if the Apostle Paul was or was not specifically naming the two highest kingdoms “Celestial” and “Terrestrial.” Whatever you call them, the point Paul was making in verse 40 was that there are different degrees of glory in heaven, and that the level of glory that we attain will depend upon how we fare in the judgment, for all will be judged according to our works. I told her that the fact that there is a judgment implies that there will be different levels of reward in heaven, and that Paul made other references to being “caught up to the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2). This implies that there are two other heavens, or levels of heaven.

I told Myranda that the Bible does not give a lot of information about heaven, and that Joseph Smith’s revelation on the three degrees of glory has added a lot of information and insight about heaven. Joseph received this revelation, as he was asking God about this matter, as he and Sidney Rigdon were contemplating the meaning of John 5:29.

I also mentioned to Myranda that the most significant information we have about heaven is introduced in some of the following verses:

  • that we will be like Him (1 John 3:2-3)
  • that we will be joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17)
  • (I didn’t mention, but could have) that we can attain the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13)

I hope that this was helpful to Myranda. I think it was. What an opportunity and blessing it is to be able to be with and help people who are addressing these issues.

Yesterday, at Friday Forum, Terry and I had just completed our final preparations for the lunch meal at noon, as the Forum was starting. Suddenly, Brother Clayton, the Institute Coordinator, took me aside and said that the scheduled speaker, Patriarch Al White, would not be coming–that he had forgotten. Brother Clayton asked me if Terry and I could make our presentation that day, rather than a week from now, as we had been planning to do. We said we would do it. My presentation was on Finding and Fulfilling Your Divine Mission in Life. I had already prepared an outline for next week, and I had it ready. Mom told one of her stories, and I spoke about each of us having a divine, personal mission in life. Our presentations seemed to be well received.

Terry and I are happy in the service of the Lord.

Our Experience at the MTC as Senior Missionaries

paul and terry smith at the mtc march 2017On Wednesday, March 15, 2017, Terry and I completed our ten-day training at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, and headed off in our car to Denton, Texas, to begin serving as missionaries in the Texas Ft. Worth Mission. Here are a few observations of our experience at the MTC as senior missionaries.

There were many things taking place simultaneously during the MTC training. Overall, the training was excellent, and we loved it. Perhaps the most cherished part of the training was the friendships we made with many of the other senior missionaries. During the ten days there, we would gradually meet more and more of the couples—most of this took place at meal time, when we would sit next to different people. We learned where they were from, where they were going and what their background was. We came to see and appreciate the faith and testimony and love that all of them had. While this was not a part of the written curriculum, it was nevertheless a precious experience for us.

For senior missionaries, the first week of training was primarily centered in Preach My Gospel, the missionary training book prepared by the Brethren several years ago. The training is directed by young, recently returned missionaries, who train the younger missionaries and the senior missionaries. For the younger missionaries, the training is spread out over 7+ weeks; but for the senior missionaries, the training is condensed into one week. This is good. I have taught from Preach My Gospel as a part of a previous calling, teaching the stake Missionary Preparation Class for four years. But, in addition to this, most of the senior missionaries already have a deep understanding of many of the principles taught in Preach My Gospel. For example, in my district of four couples, three of the brethren had previously been bishops. So the condensed training was quite appropriate. But the review of fundamentals was good, and I did pick up a few new tips and concepts and understandings that will help me.

paul and terry smith mtc district march 2017When we entered the MTC there was a host of missionaries and other people who welcomed us, directed us where to go, and helped us get settled. At that time we met Brother and Sister Braithwaite, our short-term ecclesiastical leaders. Their mission and assignment is to lead, direct and help us with the multitude of logistical matters involved in our stay at the MTC. They were cheerful and happy. They set a wonderful tone for the week of training. Some of those in our group had not previously served full-time missions and were a little apprehensive about the expectations of them. The training offered us helped alleviate some concerns and helped build the faith of all of us.

The central theme of our MTC training was that we were called to invite people to come to Christ through faith in Him, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and by enduring to the end. Some of the training was given to our entire group of 114 seniors. But most of it was given in smaller groups of eight people (4 couples)—“districts”—into which they divided us on the first day.

Our district was taught by one sister missionary in the morning, Sister Donakey (who served a mission in Italy), who was married about a year ago, and who is expecting her first baby. Our afternoon class was taught by Sister Boucher (who served a mission in Norfolk, Virginia). Both sisters were wonderful teachers.

Orrin OlsenThe district training involved questions, answers and discussions. The discussions in our district were always positive, enlightening and helpful. The district training also included our preparing and presenting a couple of lessons to another couple. Terry and I team-taught two lessons to Orrin and Sandy Olsen. Those were wonderful sessions. We became good friends with the Olsens; we enjoyed their lesson for us; and we enjoyed sharing our lessons with them. Orrin Olsen is one of the three Olsen brothers who played football in the NFL. Orrin sent me a photo of him when he played at BYU—he was blocking for Gifford Nielsen, as Nielsen was handing the ball off to Todd Christensen. (Football fans will all recognize that all three of these BYU players had successful careers in the NFL.) Orrin and his wife Sandy, are both tremendous individuals. They will be serving in the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion program in Washington State.

Terry and I picked up a number of tips, pointers and insights from the Preach My Gospel training that will help to make us even better teachers. One of the helpful things we learned was an effective way to invite people to come to Christ. This technique includes three elements in every invitation:

  1. Teach the blessings that will come from following the principle;
  2. Testify that the principle is true and of God; and
  3. directly invite them to follow the principle.

For example, in inviting someone to attend church, I would tell the person that great spiritual blessings will come from attending church, that God commands us to meet together often, and that the person will personally be blessed from attending church regularly. Then I would ask: Will you attend church with me at 9:00 a.m. this Sunday? Can I pick you up at 8:45 a.m.? If you think about it, you recognize that the combination of these three elements can be powerful and effective.

The MTC training also included a devotional forum on Tuesday, where we listened to a new General Authority, Joaquin Costas and his wife. We attended a Sunday Fireside and heard an inspiring message from one of the MTC District Presidents. We also watched a video of a message delivered to the MTC missionaries by Elder David Bednar on Christmas Day 2015. Elder Bednar very effectively made the point that as we turn out toward others to help them, then we become effective disciples of Christ. We also had the blessing to hear from President and Sister David Martino, the MTC President. Both of them were inspiring, happy and encouraging. We attended another devotional on our second Tuesday at the MTC, where we listened to the Church’s General Relief Society President, Linda Burton, and her husband, who had previously served as a mission president. Their comments were also helpful and inspiring.

Three of our evenings were free the first week. On Thursday we were able to attend a temple session at the Provo Temple. This was very nice. It had been about 40 years since we had attended a session there.

We had considerable free time on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday we attended church in the BYU Young Marrieds ward, where our son Michael and his wife Shelby attend. I got to hear Michael’s priesthood lesson. That was a great experience for me. Previous to that, on Friday evening, we went to the home of my brother, Dennis, and his wife, Catherine who live in Orem, Utah. We brought some ice cream, and we had dessert with them. Before returning back to our room at the MTC I called one of my cousins who lives in the area, and then visited her for a few minutes.

I want to briefly tell about some of the people we got to know at the MTC. Brother and Sister Snowder were being sent to the Philippine Cavite Mission, where they were to work in the mission office. Brother Snowder, who had just been released as a member of the Reno Temple Presidency, was expecting a call to work in a temple somewhere else in the world. They were a little surprised with the call to work in a mission office. Brother and Sister Rowley were a breath of fresh air to me; they have been called to serve in Vienna, Austria as Stake Young Single Adult Representatives. He speaks German well, and Sister Rowley speaks it a little bit. Brother Rowley was one of those people who would always give a frank answer to questions—he was not inhibited; he would answer with what he felt or thought, whether or not it was the answer that the questioner was looking for. I loved this. We became friends. It turns out that Sister Rowley had been politically active in California, just as I had been in Maryland. We were both putting aside our political lives for the duration of our missions, but we had both been active and vocal politically before our missions.

I made one friendship on our next-to-last day at the MTC. I just happened to get into a conversation with an Elder Patterson, as I was putting a bottle of juice in the lounge refrigerator. Brother Patterson has been called to a military relations mission in the Norfolk, Virginia area. Brother Patterson has been a helicopter pilot for about 40 years. He and I are the same age. The first 20+ years he flew for the Army. The last 18 years he has flown a rescue helicopter for an Intermountain medical rescue service. Brother Patterson shared with me several of his experiences. Several of them were exceedingly dangerous. He saved a number of lives, including rescuing climbers in rugged and dangerous cliff areas. I told him that I loved his stories, and that I hoped he would share them with others. A number of times, the Lord worked miracles through him in saving people. He said that he was reluctant to share them because he didn’t want people to look at him like a hero. I said that I understand that concern, and that I had also had to deal with that issue sometimes in connection with my legal, political and family work. I expressed that I believe we have to have the courage to speak up about things even though some may seek to find fault with us, thinking that we are bragging when we tell of faith-promoting experiences we have had. I said we can’t let the fear that someone will misconstrue our motives and intents prevent us from sharing insights and experiences that can uplift and strengthen others. I encouraged him to share those experiences. We exchanged email information, so that we can continue to share things in the future. He told me that I was the only one at the MTC with whom he had shared these experiences. Wow! I was so grateful that I had showed enough interest in him to have the discussion that we had for 40 minutes that evening. I felt that it was helpful to him, and I was also greatly benefited by it.

The last three days of training for Terry and me was a special training given to those whose callings were with Seminaries & Institute and with the young single adults (YSAs). I won’t describe it in any detail at this time, but I enjoyed that even more than the first week of training.

In summary, the MTC training experience was great. The relationships formed were especially wonderful.

New Website Design 2017

New Website Design – 2017

I am please to announce that last week we released a new website design for MormonMissionPrep.com. I’ve stuck with the same logo we introduced in 2013, but the rest of the site design and layout is new. The site is dramatically cleaner–less cluttered, fewer side bar items, fewer ads, more white space, etc., but the biggest change is that the site is on a new server and loads much much faster than before. Hopefully you will find it easier to navigate and find and read the content you are looking for. We had a few technical hiccups when we launched the new site design last week, but I think we have all the bugs worked out now. If you notice any problems, though, or if you have any suggestions, let me know via the contact page. Thanks and God bless you in your mission preparation!

Parque Urquiza: Dec 1996 to Feb 1997

I served in the Parque Urquiza neighborhood of the city of Rosario, Argentina from December 18, 1996 to February 18, 1997. It was the ward in the very geographic heart of the city. Like all the areas in which I served, it was very enjoyable in many ways, and had it’s unique challenges in other ways. Prior to me arriving in this area, as I recall, this ward had not had a baptism in a long time. With the help of the Lord, though, we were able to see many good people brought into the Church through the waters of baptism while I was there.

People I Taught and Baptized

This is Juan Carlos Lopez and his mother with me at their apartment. From the way we met Juan Carlos to his ultimate conversion and baptism, his story was filled with the miracles of God. Click here to read more about the conversion story of Juan Carlos.

Here is a photo of the baptism of Juan Carlos Lopez on January 19, 1997. From left to right: Juan Carlos’s mother, Juan Carlos, Elder Wasden, a local member, and myself, Elder Jimmy Smith.

This is the Laurino family. I really enjoyed meeting them and teaching them the discussions and seeing their whole family come into the waters of baptism. A few years ago, I connected with Brother Laurino on Facebook and found out that his youngest son, the baby in the picture, was preparing to serve a full-time mission. That gave me much joy and satisfaction. I felt like Alma who, when he was reunited with the sons of Mosiah, “did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord” (Alma 17:2).

Here’s another picture of the Laurino family–this one with the stake president, Krasnoselski, who performed the baptism.

Members in Parque Urquiza

This is the wife and children of the Parque Urquiza Ward bishop, Cabrera. This family fed us lunch frequently, for which we were very grateful. I also enjoyed spending time with them, as they reminded me of my own family back home. This is Steve Regis, a member of the stake high council, and his wife and sister in law. Steve grew up in California, and I heard he may have later moved back to the US, but we have not connected since the mission. I remember a powerful lesson he gave one Sunday about the Prophet Joseph Smith.

This is the bishopric of the Parque Urquiza Ward. From left to right: A brother who’s name I don’t recall, Bishop Cabrera, and Brother Burgeño. As I recall, Brother Burgeño got married and sealed to his wife in the Buenos Airies Temple while I was serving there.

This is Brother Cutri and his daughter Joanna. Brother Cutri is Argentine, but he raised his family in California and they spoke perfect English. I remember Brother Cutri coming with us one day to teach a discussion to Juan Carlos Lopez and we appreciated his support.

This is the Fuentes family, a hard working and faithful family in the ward in Parque Urquiza. From left to right: An aunt, Grandma Fuentes, Daiana, Maria Belen, Luis, Cookie, and myself.

Missionaries I Served With

On my first day in the Parque Urquiza ward, this man, a professional photographer and former church investigator that the missionaries had worked with, took this picture of Elder Wasden and I.

The missionary district Parque Urquiza. I don’t remember these missionaries very well. We really only saw them once a week at district meeting.

This is my companion, Elder Wasden, and I will the zone leaders/district leaders. From left to right: Elders Staffanson, Rindlisbacher, Smith, and Wasden. The lady in front is the land lord for Elders Staffanson and Rindlisbacher. She was upset that day because one of them was being transferred.

The Rosario Zone. A Christmas day 1996 get together at the mission home.

Here’s our mission president, Presidente Ontiveros grilling up some hamburgers at the Christmas day 1996 get together at the mission home. Who doesn’t do a back yard bar-b-que for Christmas? 🙂 But you do need to remember that Christmas occurs in the middle of summer in Argentina.

This looks we’re deep in the jungle, but it’s actually right in the city. This is a day when Elder Wasden and I did some service cutting some grass for a poor family we met.

Here’s the family. We met the father when he was pulling his cart, a old car axle and tires, around the city…a real modern day pioneer hand cart.

Neighborhoods

Me in on the 20th floor of an apartment building looking out over our area. You can see the Rio Paraná (Paraná River) in the background.

The meeting house for the Parque Urquiza ward. This chapel and grounds were very nice with a basketball court / concrete soccer field in the back. The building was a major contrast to all the high rise buildings around it.

A city street in our area with the Monument to the Bandera (Flag) in the background.

A view of our area from the Monument to the Bandera (Flag), one of the few historical/cultural sites I visited during my mission.

This is a Catholic Cathedral located in the Parque Urquiza area. I thought it was a beautiful building, so I snapped a picture of it.

Apartment

I have a picture of the apartment I lived in for most of my mission areas but I can’t find one for this area. But these two pictures were taken inside my apartment.

This was our land lady, Adelia. We shared the apartment with her. She cooked us lunch and dinner from time to time, which was very nice of her. This picture was after she got caught in a rain storm.

Elder Wasden and I got caught in the same rain shower.

Missionary DNA

missionary DNADNA is the genetic code inside living organisms that determines all their bodily characteristics. DNA determines visible traits like hair color and height, and it is also responsible for unseen things like cholesterol risk factors and mental health issues. The DNA molecules in your cells carry seemingly infinite combinations of atoms, proteins, and gene sequences that are unique to you. Nobody else in the world has the same DNA as you (unless, perhaps, if  you have an identical twin, in which case I’ll have to ask a geneticist :). Many scientists say that DNA is what makes you, you.

I’m a marketing analyst by profession and some time ago I was introduced to the concept of “marketing DNA” developed by a guy named Perry Marshall. Like your physical DNA, your marketing DNA is the combination of preferred communication styles and methods that are unique to you, like speaking to others in person compared to using written communication, or using stories and illustrations compared to using charts and numbers. Marketing DNA is a way of measuring and expressing each individual’s “natural persuasion and communication style.”(1) The Marketing DNA concept helps people understand their innate strengths and talents so that they can harness communications methods and styles that are more effective for them personally. By sticking to the marketing DNA that comes to you naturally, your marketing, sales, and communications activities “become easier, less tedious, less frustrating and more rewarding.”(2)

What is Missionary DNA?

While I intend no endorsement of Mr. Perry, as I learned about his idea, I couldn’t help but see many ways in which it relates to missionary work. I think each of us has a Missionary DNA–a natural way that we prefer to communicate and share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with our friends and neighbors. It’s the combination of ideas, activities, words, deeds, and styles that is unique to you as an individual when you do missionary work. No one else has the same missionary DNA as you and by sharing the gospel in ways consistent with your natural talents, you can be more sincere and more effective than if you try to force yourself to do missionary tasks that you’re not naturally inclined to do.

Natural and Normal Missionary Work

With regard to member missionary work, the prophets have often encouraged us to share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that are natural to us and that flow out of our normal everyday lives. In April 2012, Elder David F. Evans gave a General Conference talk in which he said that when you do member missionary work, “do it in a natural and normal way” (Was It Worth It?). In 1977, then Elder Thomas S. Monson encouraged members “to naturally and normally share the gospel” (Ensign, Oct. 1977).

Referring again to Mr. Perry’s marketing DNA concept, he says there are “lots of tasks you can perform, and do perform, which are slow or laborious because they’re not in your natural groove” while “other people love to do things you hate.”(3) In your career in marketing and communications as well as in your member missionary work, I think it’s okay to focus on the things you naturally excel at, and when it comes to the activities that do not come naturally, leave them to other people who do enjoy them.

With member missionary work, there are thousands of ways in which we can share the gospel message with others. Some of those activities will be suited to your individuals skills and communication preferences, your missionary DNA, and some activities will be less suited for you and more suited to others. With so many types of missionary activities to choose from, it is not only okay to focus on what works for you, it very well may be the best choice. God’s children all have different talents, and if we each do our part, everyone can play a role, though each of us will play a slightly different role, in building the kingdom of God. “For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God” (D&C 46:11)

Skills that are part of the Missionary DNA

The eight core skills that are part of marketing, or in our case missionary work, as identified by Mr. Perry are:

  • Dreaming: Dreamers are creative and prize originality. “Inventing, innovating, creating, generating, [and] re-combining” come naturally to these people.
  • Doing: Doers are highly productive. They get things done. This kind of person “adheres to plans, follows routines, makes things predictable.” This is “the person who arranges, systematizes, codifies, plans, scripts and stages everything.”
  • Words: “Words denotes a person whose strength is either writing or talking.”
  • Images: “Images refers to the person who prefers to communicate visually, whether through photographs, drawings, videos, charts, graphs or live demonstrations.”
  • Live: These “people are fantastic on the spot. They absolutely shine when the pressure’s on.” If this is you, you like to “get in front of the client and you basically wing it.”
  • Recorded: These “people prefer to meticulously script everything they do. Write it, plan it, edit it, produce it to the hilt.”
  • Empathy: “People with high empathy have an almost psychic sense of what people want, aspire to, feel, experience, loathe and fear.”
  • Analysis: “You’re a data driven person.” You thrive “where everything is measurable.”

These eight skills are often treated as four pairs, or opposite ends of a single dimension: 1) Dreamer/Doer, 2) Words/Images, 3) Live/Recorded, 4) Empathy/Analysis. They are paired this way because most people generally prefer one of the paired traits. For example, most people would lean toward either being a Dreamer or being a Doer but not both. Though it is possible to be a equally strong Dreamer and Doer. But whether it’s marketing communications or missionary work, every team needs bother Dreamers and Doers, Word people and Image people, those who are good Live and those who prefer to be Recorded, people with Empathy and those with Analytical skills.

Your One in a Million Missionary DNA

Now it’s your turn to figure out your own missionary DNA. Think about the way you prefer to communicate, work, or otherwise utilize the eight skill areas mentioned above. It is likely that some of these areas are strengths of yours and some are weaker areas. Do you tend to come up with big ideas (a dreamer)? Or do you prefer get your hands on a project and get things done (a doer)? Or both? Get a piece of paper or a virtual note pad, and list the eight traits and then beside each trait, list it as a High, Medium, or Low strength of yours, according to your own personal style preference. As Mr. Perry says, there is no right or wrong answer here, no good or bad, “there is only your preferred way to communicate and persuade.”(3)

Here is how I scored myself. Your results will vary:

  • Dreaming = High | Doing = High
  • Words = High | Images = High
  • Live = Low | Recorded = High
  • Empathy = Low | Analysis = High

With eight skills being scored three ways (High/Medium/Low), there are 6,561 different combinations. If those eight skills were scored on a scale of 1 to 10, there would be 100 million different possibilities. So you see how your missionary DNA could be considered unique and personal to you? Your combination of missionary skills is truly one in a million.

Member Missionary Activities for Every DNA

Now that you know your missionary DNA, the next step is to figure out what member missionary activities fit well into your style. There are thousands of ways to share the gospel, so which of those ways requires the same or similar skills as you possess? This step can also be used to identify activities that are not suited for your skill set. I have thought of 36 member missionary activities and scored each of them on the eight communication skills with a three-point scale (High/Medium/Low). The chart below (click it to enlarge it) shows to what degree this variety of member missionary activities use one, many, or all of the skills discussed.

member missionaries activities rated by DNA skills

Now, as an example, I’ll apply this chart to myself. In order to be most effective in my member missionary efforts, I am trying to find and focus on those activities that are high on Dreaming, Doing, Words, Images, Recorded, and Analysis, and those that are low on Live and Empathy. Or, if I can’t find a perfect match, I should at least try to find the activities which demand skills relatively close to what I am good at. We see that “Posting your testimony online”, “Building a website about missionary work”, and other missionary work on social media are activities that are well suited for my missionary DNA. It’s no wonder I’ve been running a mission prep website for nearly ten years 🙂 Of course, the activities that are conducive to your missionary activity will be different, so check out the chart and find them, or use your imagination and these principles to think of your own ways to share the gospel in an effective, natural, normal way for you.

I have also created an interactive version of the chart above on Google Sheets. The interactive version makes it easier to select a member missionary activity that is right for you. Simply use the filter controls along the top to select skills and levels that are right for you, and the chart will then only display the activities with those same skill levels. Click the filter icon in the top left (it looks like a funnel), then select “create new temporary filter” and that will enable the column filter controls. And if you’ve thought of member missionary activities ideas that aren’t on my list/chart/spreadsheet, tell me what they are by commenting below or contact me and I’ll add them to the list. Also please note that I have scored the activities based on my own opinion, so if you think I scored something wrongly (e.g. I gave it a High and you think it is a Medium), let me know and I’ll reconsider the scoring.

Interactive Member Missionary DNA Chart – Example Activities Rated by Skill

Conclusion

As you probably noticed, I focused on member missionary activities in this article and not full-time missionary activities. While many of these concepts apply to full-time Mormon missionaries, the fact of the matter is that they have relatively less flexibility in the activities they do, especially compared to members who have much flexibility in choosing the gospel-sharing activities they participate in.

Another thing to note is that unlike physical DNA, I do think your missionary DNA can change. The Book of Mormon prophet Moroni that through humility, and no doubt plenty of concerted effort, and with the help of the Lord, “weak things” can “become strong unto” you (see Ether 12:27). President Ezra Taft Benson confirmed that the Lord can bless and strengthen us beyond our natural abilities:

“God bless us that we may serve so that we will never have any serious regrets, that we will know we have been magnified even beyond our own natural talents.” “We cannot fail in this work. He will magnify us even beyond our natural talents. Of this I bear humble testimony, based on personal experience as well as on observation and familiarity with the promises of the Lord.” (Keys to Successful Member-Missionary Work, September 1990)

There are times when I have felt inspired by the Spirit of God to do missionary activities that are not my natural strength. And when the Lord commands, we should always obey. I have found that through time and patience and hard work, many of the missionary tasks that were once difficult for me, now come much more easily. So in discussing the concept of your missionary DNA, I’m not suggesting that we can always avoid doing missionary tasks we don’t like. I am suggesting, however, that when we have options, let’s focus on doing member missionary activities that are consistent with our strengths. By so doing, we will be more authentic, more filled with the Spirit of God, and more effective instruments in the hands of God in building His kingdom.

 


References:

1) Perry Marshall Reveals the Secret to Building the Perfect Sales and Marketing Team by Adam Kreitman, https://blog.crazyegg.com/2013/03/27/perry-marshall-secret/

2) http://www.marketingdnatest.com/

3) https://www.perrymarshall.com/marketing/dna/

Preparing to Leave on a Senior Mission

[colored_box color=”blue”]Summary: Paul and Terry are well underway in their preparations to leave on a senior mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. See updates below.

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*** Update Feb 1, 2017 ***

We will leave for the MTC in less than four weeks. There are many little things that we have been doing and which still need to be done. Yesterday, our home was inspected for lead paint. In order to rent our home in Maryland, the home must first be certified to be free of lead paint contamination. Homes built before 1978 must be inspected. Our home was built in 1963, so we had to comply. We will get the results next week. They were primarily looking for painting that is chipped and flaking because the primary source of lead paint poisoning comes from chips of lead paint. We worked for several days in wiping, cleaning and in some cases painting any areas (in and out) that were chipped or pealing. It is primarily the window areas.

Also yesterday we rented a storage unit into which we will put our furniture, books, files, etc. We did not want to pay for a storage unit. We hoped one of our children might be able to live here while we’re gone. We figured maybe one of our eleven children would want to do this. But, alas, it was not the case. So, at this point, we have to start moving things out of the house and into the storage unit. Some things will not be moved out until just before we leave, but other things can go now–by starting the arduous task it won’t be as overwhelming as it would be to try to do it in a day or two.

The storage task is more complicated for us because of three factors: I have been storing my closed law files in our basement (approximately 2,000 files); I have a lot of books (including approximately 800 books on the Constitution; and I have lot of files about family histories, religious matters, current events and Constitutional issues. I love to write and teach about these things, and so I have collected resources that I use for this. In any event, we plan to take some of these materials on our mission, but most of the books and files will be put into storage. So we are beginning the process now of picking out the select few materials to bring with us, and then putting the rest in storage.

About two weeks ago I wrapped up a project that I needed to complete before entering the mission field–writing and publishing an issue (perhaps the last issue) of my newsletter, “Constitutional Law Updates.” This newsletter discusses law cases and current developments in how the Constitution is interpreted. The newsletter supplements the book I wrote and published in 2002, The State of the Constitution. The election of Donald Trump as President will have many significant implications on the Constitution–especially in comparison to what would happen if Hillary Clinton had been elected. In any event, that edition of the newsletter is now completed and out of the way.

We also got our flu shots this week. Yesterday we received our first letter from our Mission President, Darrell Whitney. In his letter he included a page with about a hundred scriptures that he wants all his missionaries to understand and master. Also, during the past week I applied on line for Social Security benefits to begin next month. I turn 66 in three weeks, so we will begin to receive a monthly Social Security payment in March. When we return from the mission in 18 months, those payments will continue when I resume my law practice.

We still have not received the detailed instructions we have been looking for on the amount of money we will be contributing monthly for missionary purposes. I believe we will be contributing about $1,250/month, and when we get in the mission field the Church will provide housing, and then we will pay for all of our other expenses. We’ll have to call and get some clarification on this.

We are looking forward with excitement and some trepidation to entering the mission field. Terry and I both have some excitement; Terry has most of the trepidation. We watched and enjoyed the on-line missionary training videos of “The District 2.” We found all three episodes to be very good. We are both reading The Book of Mormon again, as we were requested. Although we have already read it several dozen times, it is an inspiring experience to read it again.

*** Update Feb 5, 2017 ***

We are well underway in the process of moving our stuff from our home to the storage unit. With three weeks to go before we leave, I believe we have made enough progress so that we will not be scrambling and worrying too much when we get down to the last couple of days. So far we’ve moved a couple of book shelves, a bed, about 20 boxes of books and files and a few other things.

We use our ’05 Dodge Dakota pick-up truck to move these things. But the pick-up truck is having some problems, as the engine frequently misfires in one or more of the cylinders. We brought it in for repairs last week, and we thought it was fixed, but the problem returned a day later. The mechanic said the problem was in cylinder # 5, and that it was due to a faulty injector. I have an appointment to have it repaired again on Tuesday. We had been planning to leave the pick-up truck for our daughter Julie and our son Timothy to use. But if the problem cannot be fixed, we may just sell the truck.

Last week I received a court order approving an administrative account in the Connacher Estate, an estate from which I will receive several thousand dollars for past services. We need this money in order to go on our mission, so we are greatly relieved to have this money come in. I have one other pending case from which I am expecting a significant payment in the next couple of months. We will fine financially when that payment comes.

Because of my service in the community as an elected official for eight years, I have developed many connections in the community with elected officials and other influential people. I have always regarded these relationships as missionary-type opportunities. From the very first meeting as a newly-elected Alderman for the City of Frederick, I have had opportunities to say and do things that I believe will help the kingdom move forward. At the first Aldermen meeting, the Mayor asked me to offer a prayer. I told him that I would be happy to do so, but that I was going to pray in the name of Jesus Christ. He said that would be fine. I did, and then there was a good bit of public consternation about this. My prayer became a front page story because I had prayed “in the name of Jesus.” Some people complained that I had violated the City law about prayers, and an atheist complained on the op-ed page that the prayer was “too long.” The paper even printed the text of my 45 second prayer. I responded at our next Aldermen meetings that if I did violate the City prayer policy then that policy was unconstitutional.

In any event, most Christians were quite happy with my having the backbone to pray in the name of Jesus Christ. During the campaign prior to the election, some of my opponents tried to smear me by publicized that I was a Mormon and by labeling me a “homophobe.” Neither of these tactics succeeded. To the latter accusation, the newspaper publicized my response in which I told of some gay people that I had effectively represented, including a current case in which I helped a gay man to get a large reduction in alimony from his ex-wife (where the alimony award had been much higher than was proper). The point is that for all of my eight years as an elected official, the community has been well aware that I am a Mormon. And I believe my service as an elected official has reflected positively on the Church.

Meanwhile, back to the present–after talking with my friend Tim May, who hosts a daily, 3-hour community talk show, he invited me on the show for an hour on Friday, where we discussed national political matters. Terry said it was very good–in fact, the best commentary they ever have. After the talk show, I spoke with one of our State Senators, Michael Hough (also a good friend) about a local ethics law that he had been discussing on the radio just prior to my hour visit. Senator Hough thanked me for sending him a copy of my latest issue of Constitutional Law Updates. He said that my writing is excellent, and that he has shared the newsletter with others.

I mention these things here to point out that even though I am currently making a significant public relations contribution to the Church, Terry and I still feel that we need to go away and serve a full-time mission somewhere else, while we have the health and strength to do so. The community will know that we are going on a mission, and they will learn that our commitment to the Lord is so strong that we are putting Him first in our effort to serve God and our fellow man. As I discuss the mission call with my many friends in the community, some of them ask why we are doing this. “Didn’t you serve a mission when you were younger?” one of them asked. Yes, but this is all about the purpose of life. We want to serve the Lord and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others–to help them.

Earlier this week, I mentioned to one of my clients on the phone that I would soon be leaving on a mission, and that my associate, Jeff Holtzinger, would be handling the case in the future. The man probed into why I would be going on a mission, and for what church. When I told him, he became interested, and he seemed positively impressed. I told him that I would send him a copy of The Book of Mormon, a powerful, fantastic book that he would find very inspiring and helpful. He said he looked forward to getting it and reading it. The man said that he had been against all organized religions for the last two years because of the neglect he felt from his church after he had been seriously injured in an accident at his church. He was electrocuted and fell from a ladder while working on a light at his church. The fall caused him to have a broken neck and back, and bad cuts to his head (requiring 120 stitches). He said that in his long recovery period of many months, he only had three visitors from his church. This really soured him on religion. I told him that I was sorry to hear that. I said that it is a miracle that he is even alive. I think he believes likewise. So, I’ll send him a copy of The Book of Mormon in tomorrow’s mail.

*** Update March 5, 2017 ***

Tomorrow Terry and I will enter the Mission Training Center in Provo for ten days of instruction, inspiration and preparation for our mission. We are looking forward to that. The last month has been totally filled with attending to our personal and business affairs so that we will not have to worry about them on the mission. This has been a mammoth undertaking—partly because I plan to return to my law practice after the mission, and partly because we have not moved in 25 years and because we have had to put into storage most of the stuff that is in our home. (We will return to the home after the mission.)

Putting our furniture, papers, books, clothing, etc. into the large storage unit took a full month. We rented a large unit (10’ wide x 35’ deep and 10’ high). When our home is rented, that should be just enough to cover the cost of our mortgage and the rental. We must have taken 25 trips to the storage unit. Except for help with a few of the larger items, we moved most of the stuff ourselves. In addition to the larger items—chairs, tables, dressers, beds, etc.—we bought about 50 boxes from Home Depot and Lowes, into which we put our smaller things. In addition to this, we used about 30 plastic storage crates that we had accumulated through the years. These boxes and crates were about the same size; they were easy to handle, and they stacked very nicely to a height of about 7 feet.

We had planned to leave Maryland on Saturday morning, Feb. 25th at 7:00 a.m. But we were not able to leave until 10:30 p.m. We put the last load of stuff into our storage unit at about 8:30 p.m.—the unit is totally packed, except for a narrow passage through the middle of the unit from front to back. Once this last load was delivered, we had to go to my law office to attend to several matters. We spent two hours there. Terry waited patiently—I have to commend her. I sent out several letters that needed to be sent, and I gathered with me the files for about six remaining cases—matters that I would have to attend to in the next week. Now, a week later, I have gotten all of this work done, except for two letters that need to go out by Monday morning. Then we will be ready to have a good experience at the MTC.

While 10:30 p.m. is an odd time to leave for our trip across the country, we had no place to sleep in our home even if we had waited until the next day. So, we left and traveled 95 miles west, and got a motel in La Vale, Maryland.

As we drove west in our jam-packed 1998 Lexus, we stopped for a short visit in Peoria, Illinois with our son Philip and his wife Mary and their six children. We then traveled west, having a short visit in Nauvoo. Then we took our journey through Atchison, Kansas, stopping to see the historic marker there, at Mormon Grove. About 20,000 Mormons went through Mormon Grove in the 1850s, including some of our ancestors. One of my ancestors, Julia Ann Grant Bagley, and two or three of her children, died of cholera one day west of Mormon Grove. Julia and her husband, Edward Bagley, joined the Church in 1845 in Frederickton, New Brunswick, Canada.

We traveled through Denver, and took the time for a quick visit at Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park. That was really neat. Now we can say that we met the Hoodoos from Hanksville.

We arrived in Sandy, Utah, and spent a few days with our son John and his wife, Jessica, and their two-week old, beautiful baby, Jasmine. We thoroughly enjoyed this visit. We were also able to visit our son Michael and his wife Shelby (who is expecting), and our son Paul Jr., and his wife Jill (who is also expecting) and their son Wiley, and our oldest granddaughter, Danielle, who is a freshman at BYU. We had two wonderful visits with them.

We will be ready for the MTC tomorrow.

Poem: The Greatest Love

Charles GirouxThe following is an inspirational poem written by Charles Giroux, who served in the New York Rochester Mission of the LDS Church from 2014 to 2016. While serving in a particularly difficult area he felt inspired to write this poem in order to comfort some missionaries who were struggling under various circumstances. Though his mission was difficult at times, he thoroughly loved it and to anyone considering serving one he emphatically states that choosing to serve a mission is something you will not regret. The poem is published here by permission of the author.

Two Missionaries knock door by door.
People answer come back no more.
We’re all set so don’t come here.
We don’t want you to be near.
So the boys leave their yard
and keep on going, though it’s hard.

A man among the Zoramites
comes to give them back the light.
We know the truth they say to him.
We’re already saved upon God’s whim.
Still he pleads with his pure heart
that their new lives they might start.
Turned away he still moves on
because he knows it’s not a con.
Though hard the task his soul has taken
his love for them can’t be mistaken.

It’s an important message the missionaries tell.
It will save your soul from the depths of hell.
We mean by this that you’ll have joy.
But in their response, they still are coy.
They don’t see why it’s such a big deal
why this message could be real.

Right before the final battle
Nephites scream and walls do rattle.
It’s just a book they tell the kid.
How could evil those plates rid?
Yet the prophet knows himself
that the record does give help.
More precious than it’s weight in gold
are the stories that are told.
His friends around him do not know
that these tales help others grow.
Hunted by the winning team.
Saving others seems like a dream.
Yet he strives to hide away
what helps others fight today.
He gives his life for what they mock
while he’s hunted like a hawk.
His love surpasses their lack of care
so that truth he might share.

Gone from home he loved so much
and can’t return to live with such.
He misses family. He misses friends.
He feels his heart never mends.
He left behind an awesome job.
Sometimes he has to softly sob.
What he gave up to come out here
everything he held so dear.
He longs for home yet pushes through.
Acting in diligence he tries to do.
Away from home for two years.
The idea brings the boy to tears.

He left his land to go to preach.
His enemies he tries to teach.
The kingdom’s crown he left behind
to teach to people who aren’t too kind.
Though depressed yet he turns back
to give to them the message they lack.
Away from home for fourteen years.
The idea brings the man to tears.
But he can’t bear the solemn thought
that any soul would not be bought.
Bought from hell through heav’n above
so he goes to them to show his love.

An hour has gone and now the day
and all their efforts don’t seem to pay.
There was no spirit from on high
that spoke to the man walking by.
No tears did come to those they taught.
No miracle today was wrought.
The day’s a waste, so it seems.
Being a missionary is unlike their dreams.
One day wasted, just like the last.
So much time is in the past.
Two years gone and nothing to show.
The results of their work seem really low.

He preaches day and preaches night
yet no one sings choose the right.
The prophet hides within a cave
because of the word which he gave.
Filled with hate that does breed war.
The land is covered in blood and gore.
He has to watch his people die.
Their destruction is coming nigh.
His life now gone and nothing to show.
The results of his work seem really low.
But this man has more excellent hope
and that’s the way that he can cope.
The hope that all can one day love
and return with him to mansions above.

It’s ridiculous they tell the men
that man can know his God again.
We’ll shout at you from high and low
telling you you’ve got to go.
A sandwich thrown into your face
will surely show hate’s embrace.
Unwelcome guests missionaries leave.
Within their hearts they do grieve.

Dragged outside into the cold.
Your a liar he is told.
Tar and feathers were applied.
In the cold his baby died.
Kicked around from state to state.
Surrounded by a world of hate.
Yet he strives his very best
to declare love to the rest.
And though hated yet he’ll love
for his call was from above.

Two young men talk to a crowd.
They try their best to not be loud.
I know myself he saw them both
and through his words we might have growth.
The crowd yells back Tis all a lie.
Tis all a cult that should just die.
The scream the louder worse and worse
pointing at a Bible verse.
It is the work of sinful men
to say that God can speak again.
They say his work is done away.
God can’t add to his word today.
The young men take it to their heart.
They have done all their part.
Though with eyes yet they’re blind
for they haven’t yet an open mind.
It’s blasphemy, they say,
to think God works today.
The young men’s love drives them on
to bring others the lighted dawn.

One noble man stands midst a crowd.
At Him they jeer. No knee is bowed.
They strike Him hard and mock their God.
Emmanuel. Their iron rod.
A king, they say, He claims to be.
There is no crown on Him I see.
Let’s fashion one of plenty thorn
and cast on Him all our scorn.
Humbly He bears it all.
The sheep do not hear His call.
We have the law that Moses gave.
Has he come out of his grave?
Free us from the Roman nation.
Then we will believe Your station.
Until then You’re just a fraud
and not to us the Son of God.
It’s blasphemy, they say,
to think God lives today.
Yet He rescues that lost one
while ninety-nine only shun.

Every night and every day
the missionaries get down to pray.
They pray for help from above
for those people they’ve come to love.
Their hearts are open desires pure.
They want for others heaven’s cure.

In the garden during night
that one man prays with might.
He pleads with heaven for that grace
to save us all the human race.
Though rejected and despised
He gives them love they still deny.
He suffers all to make us free
that we one day might ransomed be.
He fears not how many go above.
For there’s not numbers only love.
So don’t despair it’s all been done.
It’s all been suffered by the Son.
What’s hard for us was hard for Him.
But even so, He did not sin.
We may struggle. So did the best.
Let’s mirror Him more than the rest.
Each hard step, though might seem grim,
will bring you closer unto Him.
Will make you brighter of a light
to dispel darkness of the night.
So men may find the way to Christ
Who payed for us the greatest price.
Paid in pain from above
to show to us the greatest love.