By Cory Bickmore
Mormons serve missions. You may have seen us cycling through your neighborhood like ducklings in suits and bike helmets, or trudging down congested city arteries like a pair of lost funeral directors, dodging profanity and beer bottles. We offer, gladly and without pay, eighteen or twenty-four months of our lives for the privilege of spreading the good word of Jesus Christ, along with all the door-knocking and running from dogs one could ever wish for.
While a mission exists expressly for the gospel learner, full-time missionary service also leaves, if served well, a mark upon the young man or woman who lived it, stamping the soul for, well, forever.
I was no different. Perusing the yellowing leaves of my once-brown mission journal, I find a wealth of life lessons recorded by an earlier me for my eternal benefit, and the eternal benefit of my children, and my children’s children, if any of us could ever decipher my handwriting.
In the following excerpts, very much real, and composed in youthful earnestness, I offer you a glimpse into the service that molded one young man all those years ago as a skinny 19- and 20-year-old American in New Zealand. I can only hope future generations will learn as much as I did.
On being self-reliant
Friday, January 27, 1994: “Since the Oka’s washing machine has broken down, we had to go to the laundromat to do our laundry. I threw my red shorts in with my load of underwear by mistake. Now I have pink underwear.”
On facing adversity
Monday, March 28, 1994: “I couldn’t finish tea (dinner) at the Evernden’s tonight because I was just so full. Notwithstanding, we did commit the Niapulau’s three boys to baptism, although I was in the next room sleeping because I hurt too much.”
On learning from companions
Monday, November 15, 1993: “Elder Bennett and I went to our little chapel on Shoalhaven Street to get some baptismal clothes. It was open because people were using the Family History Centre inside. Bennett got a butter knife, and commenced popping the locks on the closet doors trying to find the clothing. We looked through every closet except the one they were in. Sister Moleni came out and unlocked it, although we could have done it ourselves with the knife. The important lesson I learned is we ought to have used proper channels to get the clothing, but the real lesson I learned was how to use a butter knife to open closet doors.”
On being in the world, but not of it
Sunday, September 24, 1995: “Elder Moir, the Assistant to the President, and his companion came down from Auckland today to do a trade-off with us. Being Sunday, it wasn’t much of a trade-off. The most exciting event was when Elder Moir and I went to the beach to see how wicked and sinful it was.”
On edifying one another in the work
Friday, February 11, 1994: “The district meeting was fairly good. I gave the Missionary Guide lesson on planning, and Elder Gibb managed to involve Star Wars in his lesson on faith.”
Friday, December 31, 1993: “It’s frustrating going to Karen’s place because of the difficulty teaching her. The only way she will accept this church as the only true church, forsake astrology, forget reincarnation, live the law of chastity, obey the Word of Wisdom, pay her tithing, remember anything we say, discover the Book of Mormon is true, not be “bored” with Ether or the Doctrine and Covenants, believe in the resurrection, accept the fact that God and Jesus Christ have glorious and perfect bodies, not go church-shopping, search for truth rather than a church, and basically gain a testimony is if she will truly pray and recognize the answer. It’s a good thing that quite a few of her concerns have been resolved already.”
Tuesday, March 22, 1994: “I hung out in the mission office in Takapuna all day as my companion attended Zone Leader training. I did a few assorted little jobs, but mostly nothing. I did peek at the shift (transfer) board for a few seconds. Naughty!”
On loving the people
Thursday, August 31, 1995: “We tracted out a real weirdo today. That’s what missionaries find knocking on doors—the elect, and the fruitcakes.”
On enduring all things
Saturday, August 19, 1995: “I had a good, positive feeling all day, even when verbally abused by hooligans in Papamoa, and also when a Church member forced me to eat too much at our tea (dinner) appointment. The Spirit is with me.”
On the power of song
Saturday, June 25, 1994: “We attended the family baptism in Tokoroa this morning. There was this wild, old guy who sang very loud and off-key. No one could keep a straight face during his musical numbers, or the hymns.”
On looking for the good in everything
Friday, February 11, 1994: “Our meeting is in Huntly tomorrow. Huntly is such a hole.”
Saturday, March 26, 1994: “We visited our investigator, Darrell, at Sunset Dairy (a convenience store). She gave me a triple scoop ice cream cone even though I only paid for a double! She’s rad!”
On what it’s all about
Friday, September 29, 1995: “We talked for some time with one very pretty lady about the Church. I suppose that this is the ‘joy of the work’.”
Well. There you have it. It seems Mormon missionaries are people, too. Who knew? So the next time you see those ducklings puffing by your house, invite them in. They probably need a kind word and a glass of water. And they might, just might, have something precious for you in return. Just please make sure you chain up that dog.
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