The combination of emotions I have today is something else.
On the one hand, I’m remarkably proud of my daughter for her choices. She has talked about serving a mission since she was four, when she and my lovely wife hosted sister missionaries for lunch in our home one day each week when we lived in Venezuela. And she has spent the last 17 years since then preparing to serve.
Her choice to serve was not without some trepidation. More than once in the last few years at BYU she has wavered. She’s wondered if she would be better to stay and finish her degree, if she should pursue certain romantic endeavors, if there was some other way she would better serve. But more than once along the way she has received what she knows to be divine guidance that she was on the right path, and that yes, she should serve.
I should point out her decision has been hers and hers alone. In fact, at times I’ve told her she does not need to serve; she has no obligation to do so, except if she really feels moved by the spirit to do so. She has three older brothers who did not serve. Her mother and I were sad about those choices, but we have not pressed her to serve as some form of compensation or validation for us.
Her older sister has also not served. When our oldest daughter’s friends were leaving on missions, she called me and asked if she ought to serve. I told her what I told daughter #2: only if she felt strongly called to do so. As much as my own mission meant to me, and as much as I loved serving (most days, at least) I firmly believe the Lord does not need an army of unwilling missionaries. And sisters have always been in a place where they have considerable more choice whether to serve, without such social pressure to do so. Perhaps that’s one reason why the sister missionaries I have known almost without exception have been truly remarkable missionaries.
So, yeah, I’m very proud of her and her decision to serve, and her preparation to serve. (And yes, I am really proud. I have recently re-read President Benson’s words on the subject: there is no enmity in my properly placed parental pride.)
I’m also awestruck by the work that she will do. Yesterday in sacrament meeting we happened to sing Hymn #263, “Go Forth With Faith” as a closing hymn. As we sang, it occurred to me what my young daughter is about to do. She will
Go forth with faith to tell the worldAs I write to other missionaries in our family and serving from our ward, I regularly remind them of the awesome work they are doing. Now that I am three decades removed from my own missionary service, I’m amazed what we trust these young people to do. And at the same time I realize that there are few others who could do it. Somehow as I have aged, I’ve lost the childlike faith that propelled me to proclaim a gospel I barely knew with enough conviction that someone would listen long enough for the spirit to bear witness of the truth.
Of Jesus Christ, the Lord.
Bear witness he is God’s own Son;
Proclaim his wondrous word.
Go forth with hope and courage strong
To spread the word abroad
That people of all nations
Are children of our God.
So I’m also pretty amazed that my little girl will participate in this great work.
And it’s very cool to me to see how – and where -- the work is progressing. Even the application process is digitized. We talked in the beginning of my daughter’s mission “papers” because we remembered when it was all paper. Now I talk of her Mission Pixels. Soon someone will sit in front of a screen an meet her as Elder Rasband described a few conferences ago.
Of course we’ll all be excited to learn where she will serve and when she will leave. But mostly I’m excited when I hear her honestly say that she doesn’t care where she goes, but just that she can. Already she is preparing to go where He sends her.