Monday, February 23, 2009

Dallin H. Oaks Explains Why He Did Not Serve a Mission

Some young men and women genuinely desire to serve a mission but sometimes other events keep them from serving such as military service to their countries. It is not as common in the United States as other countries which have mandatory conscription but from time to time other factors might come in to play. Many of those who do not serve sometimes desire to serve when older but that doesn't always materialize as other factors sometimes change the direction our lives may take.

I think you should follow your conscience and trust the Lord's hand is in your life. Such a situation occurred to Dallin H. Oaks of the Council of the Twelve Apostles. Earlier I did brief biographies in a post entitled Interesting Facts about the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve that showed only five of them served a mission.

In 2001 Dallin H. Oaks explained in a BYU devotional address entitled Timing that sometimes timing can be affected by things outside of our control and the Lord has other plans for us:

Because of things over which we have no control, we cannot plan and bring to pass everything we desire in our lives. Many important things will occur in our lives that we have not planned, and not all of them will be welcome. Even our most righteous desires may elude us or come in different ways or at different times than we have sought to plan....

Life has some strange turns. I will share some personal experiences that illustrate this.

When I was a young man I thought I would serve a mission. I graduated from high school in June 1950. Thousands of miles away, one week after that high school graduation, a North Korean army crossed the 38th parallel, and our country was at war. I was 17 years old, but as a member of the Utah National Guard, I was soon under orders to prepare for mobilization and active service. Suddenly, for me and for many other young men of my generation, the full-time mission we had planned or hoped for was not to be.

Another example: After I served as president of Brigham Young University for nine years, I was released. A few months later the governor of the state of Utah appointed me to a 10-year term on the supreme court of the state. I was then 48 years old. My wife June and I tried to plan the rest of our lives. We wanted to serve the full-time mission neither of us had been privileged to serve. We planned that I would serve 20 years on the state supreme court. Then, at the end of two 10-year terms, when I would be nearly 69 years old, I would retire from the supreme court and we would submit our missionary papers and serve a mission as a couple.

I had my 69th birthday two years ago and was vividly reminded of that important plan. If things had gone as we planned, I would have submitted papers to serve a mission with my wife June.

Four years after we made that plan I was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—something we never dreamed would happen. Realizing then that the Lord had different plans and different timing than we had assumed, I resigned as a justice of the supreme court. But this was not the end of the important differences. When I was 66, my wife June died of cancer. Two years later I married Kristen McMain, the eternal companion who now stands at my side.

How fundamentally different my life is than I had sought to plan! My professional life has changed. My personal life has changed. But the commitment I made to the Lord—to put Him first in my life and to be ready for whatever He would have me do—has carried me through these changes of eternal importance.

As members of the Church we should be slow to judge why a young man or young woman does not serve a mission. Only the Lord knows what is in the hearts and minds of those who did not serve. I find that the Church is actually pretty tolerant of those who don't serve a mission because they realize there are many factors involved in the decision. Personally I find just as many men in leadership that did not serve as those who did. Even though I served a mission and I have an expectation that leaders should have also served there are too many factors involved to get too terribly upset if a man is called who did not serve.

Most of us should take care of ourselves and be square with the Lord. I personally have every intention of serving as a couple in the next decade. My decision to serve a second mission is really a personal choice. If I have the money and health I fully intend to serve. The Lord calls who he will and allows us all the agency to decide for ourselves. I agree with Dallin H. Oaks that timing plays an important factor in our choices. Things may or may not work out for me on my next mission. But as my Islamic friends say Inshallah (If God wills).

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