Friday, April 18, 2008

Mission Presidents Serving On Missions After Their Assignments As Mission President

Jeffrey R. Holland says that is not uncommon for mission presidents to serve a couples mission after they are released. "Many more of us can prepare for senior missionary service when that time in our life comes. As the senior couples at the MTC in Provo have said on a poster, “Let’s lengthen our shuffle!” I just returned from a long trip which took me to half a dozen missions. Everywhere I went during those weeks, I found senior couples giving the most remarkable and rewarding leadership imaginable, providing stability, maturity, and experience that no 19-year-old or 21-year-old could possibly be expected to provide. I found all kinds of couples, including a few former mission and temple presidents and their wives, who had come to parts of the world totally unknown to them to quietly, selflessly serve a second or a third or a fourth mission. I was deeply moved by every one of those people." Since several mission presidents are older it is not uncommon for them to go on more than one mission since a large percentage of them are near retirement age and had good professional careers with good retirement packages.

When a mission presidents are younger they may have children to support and need to get a job and return to work. Sometimes as a transition the LDS Church hires a few of them in various departments in the Church Offices or at one of their universities using their professional talents. Since many of them were highly successful in their professional careers before having been called it is not unusual for them to return to a job. With their experience as mission presidents many of them are quite valuable in serving in missionary related callings.

A few mission presidents become members of the Quorum of Seventy. My own mission president M. Russell Ballard was called while on a mission to serve in that group. Over the past forty years a good percentage of the current Seventy served as mission presidents in their forties or fifties. It is actually rare for a General Authority to have not served as a mission president. There are a few that have not but the number is very small who have not since it makes sense to call men who have had experience to oversee the growing areas of the Church.

Not all three hundred plus mission presidents can be Seventies since this is a small select group so most will go home and rejoin their high priest groups. I remember when I worked for Reed Benson in Provo, Utah tell me one day that there were six former mission presidents, a dozen former stake presidents, and about ten former bishops in his high priest group. In Utah and other places throughout the world you find dozens of returned mission presidents who serve in a variety of callings from priesthood advisors for the young men to primary teachers to high council members to even ward mission leaders or Gospel Essential teachers. J. Reuben Clark said it is not where you serve but how you serve. For many former mission presidents life goes on like it does with the rest of us. Like any thing you do in life you have to adjust.

It is very rare for mission presidents to be called to the same position a second time based mostly on the fact that there are thousands of men capable of serving. Back at the turn of the century men like German Ellsworth, Melvin J. Ballard, Rey L. Pratt, and Samuel O. Bennion served for ten to thirty years. German Ellsworth and Samuel O. Bennion were never general authorities even though they spoke in general conference. Today it is rare for a man to serve as mission president more than once let alone to be called as a general authority. Many men like W. Brent Hardy, who I wrote about this week, go home and live out their lives in quiet service.

Once the missionary zeal gets in to your blood there is a desire to continue serving that is why so many former mission presidents return as a couple missionary. I wonder where former mission presidents end up after their missions. This would be a good topic for a doctoral dissertation. I think the LDS Missionary Department should do a longitudinal study and track former mission presidents like colleges track their graduates. It would make for an interesting study.


S.Faux said...

I like your commitment to collecting data. It is important to track where Mission Presidents serve. Further, it is an important part of the history of the Church.

Dr. B said...

It actually wouldn't be to hard to read all the descriptions of the mission presidents where they worked and see if they go back to old jobs just using the Internet. That is how I tracked down the mission presidents who had websites that were called in 2007 I googled their names and found blogs that were hidden away. I just am too lazy to do that much work.

S.Faux said...

Yep, it just might work. I looked up my son's mission president who was released in 2007. He is back to selling insurance, and his website has his picture with a 2008 copyright. He still looks more like a missionary than an agent, I must say.

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