My name is Paul Smith. I am a 65-year old attorney, with a solo law practice in Frederick, Maryland (suburbs of Washington, D. C.). My wife Terry is 63. We are waiting to receive a call from the Prophet to serve a mission for 15-19 months.
As a young man I served a proselyting mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France from 1970-1972. Terry and I married in 1973. I graduated from law school in 1978. I have practiced law in Maryland for 38 years. While I have had numerous informal lawyer associates, my practice has been mostly a solo business, focusing primarily on serving individuals and families, including many people of lesser means. Financially, my law practiced survived for the first 20+ years. During the last 10 years it has done very well financially. But in the meantime, Terry and I had 12 children (9 boys and 3 girls). Our daughter Patricia died at age 6 (26 years ago). All the others are now married, and we have 30 grandchildren, with 3 on the way, and with two other couples planning to get pregnant. We have been very active in church. I have been a bishop, and I have worked with the young men most of my adult life (serving as scoutmaster 5 different times). Terry has been a Relief Society president and an early morning seminary teacher (4 years), but she mostly has taught the children in Primary. She is an excellent teacher, and she loves this.
Desire to Serve a Senior Mission
For years Terry and I have wanted to serve a senior mission. But we have wondered when and how we could do it. We have very little savings and no retirement. As I approach my 66th birthday, we will be able to draw Social Security without any reduction in that amount when I bring in other income from my law practice. Financially, it would have been better for me to wait to draw Social Security until I reached the age of 70, and I do plan to continue working in my law practice until beyond age 70. But about a year ago, we noticed that Terry was beginning to show some short term memory deficits. Once we realized this, we immediately began to prepare to apply for a senior mission, to begin early in the year 2017. We wanted Terry to have a good mission experience, as well as me. I felt very strongly that we needed to get things in order immediately to serve. We prayed for the Lord to bless us in this effort, and He has indeed blessed us.
Preparing My Business
In my case, the biggest preparation item was to find an attorney who could manage/handle my law practice while I would be away, until I would return. I started working on this in early 2016, and I succeeded in this in the spring of 2016. There were a lot of small details that we had to work out, including coordinating our lawyer liability insurance policies, rental arrangements, the type of formal arrangement we would establish, and helping him become familiar with the several cases that would be continuing after my departure.
Preparing by Visiting Family
As the 2016 unfolded, it has become a very good financial year, even while I stopped taking on most new litigation cases in late summer. We were able to take a couple of trips this year, visiting our children and grandchildren, and many of our siblings, around the country. We traveled all around the country–to Texas, to Nevada, to California, to Utah, to Idaho; then back through Winter Quarters, Nebraska and Nauvoo, Illinois; and to Kirtland, Ohio; to Palmyra, New York, and to Harmony, Pennsylvania. After Christmas we will take a trip to visit our son’s family in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We wanted to visit all our children before going away for 18 months.
Terry is probably less anxious to serve a mission than I am, but she wants to support me and to be with me. Terry wants to be able to visit our children when they have new babies. We understand that this may be possible, although we don’t know where we will be serving, and we don’t know how we will make this happen.
Preparing Our Home
One of the biggest issues for us is the rental and care of our home while we are away. We still have mortgage payments on our home, so we will need to rent it. For several months we have been exploring whether any of our children could live in our home for a year, but this has not materialized. We are now reaching out to find a renter. Beginning in January, we will have to engage a rental/management company to help with this. This is a major financial issue to be resolved, but our home is a nice home in a very nice neighborhood in Frederick. We are confident that we will be blessed with a good resolution to this matter.
If we did not plan to return to my law practice after the mission, perhaps we might have considered selling our home. But we will need to work after the mission. I keep my old case files in the basement of our home (about 2,000 files). This takes up some space. Also, we have a very large collection of books. We would like to keep a lot of these books and files in the home while we are away. Otherwise, we will have to put some of them in storage. Exactly how much will be put in storage, and how much we will be able to leave in the home is yet to be determined. I have spent a lot of time this year going through old files–throwing out papers that are no longer needed. We have also done a lot of little home improvement projects and painting, so that the home will be in good shape.
As we now wait for our mission call to arrive, we feel that the house is mostly ready, my business affairs are in order, and we have made the important family visits. We are anxious to see where we will be called to serve.
Determining the Type of Mission to Serve
As you may know, senior missionaries are encouraged to make suggestions of types of missionary service that they would like to do, as well as places where they might like to serve. Terry and I went to the Church website and looked through the various types of senior missionary opportunities that were available. In our case, the one that we had the greatest interest in pursuing was in the field of Institute and Seminary. There are perhaps a dozen such opportunities/needs in the United States. We mentioned this in our application. We also mentioned my love of the French people, and my interest in serving there. But we have felt that an Institute/Seminary calling in the States would be our preference. I obtained the name and phone number of an Elder Ayers, who works at the Church Seminary and Institute headquarters, and who makes recommendations to the Brethren regarding the senior missionary callings in this area. He was very happy to hear from me, and we have spoken several times. Terry and I think we will receive a call to serve in this area. Nevertheless, we want to go where the Lord wants us to go–whatever that is and wherever.
Senior Missionary Application Process
To begin the mission application process, we had to contact our bishop. The mission application is made on-line, but our bishop had to take some steps to allow us to access the on-line system. Once this was done, we completed the application on-line. We were able to revise our application a couple of times. Terry and I each had to complete a separate application and separate medical/dental evaluation forms. Once we completed the medical forms, we made appointments with our doctors and dentists to sign the forms. Once we got all the required signatures, electronically submitted our applications–this sent the applications to the bishop. We arranged a meeting with our bishop, and turned in the signed medical and dental forms to him. He then added his comments, and electronically forwarded the applications to the stake president. We arranged a meeting with our stake president, who then made his comments, and submitted the application to the Church. Now we just wait for our mission call letter to come. We understand that the brethren usually meet on Thursdays or Fridays to extend callings.