Missionary Life

CHAPTER NINE – Missionary Life

I served a Spanish-speaking mission to what was then called the Spanish American Mission, whose headquarters were in San Antonio, Texas. I left in the fall of 1964 and returned in 1967.

In those days (ancient days, right?), I spent a week listening to general authorities at the mission center in Salt Lake City. Sterling W. Sill set me apart as a missionary that week. I then went to Provo, Utah (back to BYU), to the language training center, where I spent three months learning my mission language, Spanish. The three months were added to the usual two years of the mission call. I also spent two months during the mission at home recovering from hepatitis.

Finally, I was off to the mission home in San Antonio. I also spent time in Pharr, TX; McAllen, TX; Penasco, NM; San Antonio, TX; El Paso, TX; Midland, TX; Albuquerque, NM; and Deming, NM. (Not in that order.)

When I Knew The Gospel Was True: I was in Provo at the Language Training Mission, learning Spanish with about eight other elders in my group. Each week, many groups of missionaries would gather to have a testimony meeting, like in a Sacrament Meeting. One particular Sunday, the testimony meeting was going on. Several of the elders in my group got up to testify. One elder stated that he gained his testimony one night after praying for some time when he heard a voice telling him the Gospel was true. Another said a light had filled his room during his prayer, and he knew it was from the Lord. Another said his experience was almost like a vision without seeing anyone.

Hearing these testimonies made me feel a little jealous and sad. I prayed for a testimony. I figured I was as worthy and good as my group companions. I wondered why I had never heard a voice, seen a light, or had a vision experience as to the truth of the Gospel and Jesus. This thought/feeling bothered me for days after the meeting. I wondered and thought that something must be wrong with me.

One afternoon in class, about four days after the meeting, we discussed some grammar issues with Spanish. Suddenly, I was flooded with feelings so intense I could not pay attention to class. To my mind came the thought, “You do not need voices or lights or visions. You have always known. You always knew the Gospel is true and Jesus Christ is the Savior.” I cannot say a date or time when I knew, but I realized it had been in my heart for some time before I became a missionary. Lesson: Stop second-guessing. Just move on. Good will come.

The Train Incident: Sometime in 1965, it was evening, around 9:00 pm. My companion and I had been out all day doing what good missionaries do. We were looking for those who wanted to know about the teachings of the church, about the teachings of Jesus Christ.

We were heading home to our apartment, riding pell-mell on our bicycles. We were joyfully racing. I was leading and smiling about it. Maybe I was (I hate to admit) even gloating that I was wiping out my companion, who had bragged that he would beat me home. Our path lay on a street between warehouses, dark with no activity as it was nighttime, where train cars could come to offload during the day. The area was a shortcut between our apartment and where we were teaching.

Suddenly, a strong impulse came over me to stop immediately. I did so just short of the edge of a warehouse before me. Immediately, my companion jolted and quizzed: “Why did you stop?” As I responded, a train car rolled silently, very silently, past the other side of the warehouse. If I had not stopped, I would have been crushed by the train car. My companion and I stood quietly on our bicycles, not ten feet from the train car, as it and two other cars passed, along with a small engine that made no noise, likely electric.

I knew the Lord had preserved my life yet again. Lesson: When you have a strong impression or thought, pay attention.