Monday, January 28, 2008

In memorium

I never met President Hinckley. I never spoke to him or shook his hand. But, he made a big impact on my life just the same.

When I was 19 I went on to Nicaragua as a missionary, but what most people don't know is that I almost didn't go. After I got my mission call that explained which mission I was going to and when, I had a terrible internal debate and had decided not to go on my mission.

After recieving a mission call, the Church asks the prospective missionary to send in a letter accepting the responsibility. I had the letter in my bag and in it I explained that I didn't feel up to the challenge, that I didn't have the conviction to do it, that it meant leaving behind a life I still wanted, but I hadn't mailed it yet.

I was in the BYU philharmonic at the time and we had a fundraising gig that night as part of BYU's capital campaign. I didn't realize that President Hinckley was going to be there or that he would speak. I was sitting near front and the orchestra was directly behind the podium. During the concert, President Hinckley got up to speak. I was a few feet away, but looking at his back as he spoke to the crowd. Next to me was my notebook with my letter, like the tell-tale heart.

I don't remember what we played, or what President Hinckley said. It was something about the importance of BYU and need for our support I imagine. But what I remember is being in that room, with the letter turning down my mission call, and hearing him speak. I knew that I had done the wrong thing. He was just what he said that he was, the prophet, and since I knew that, I had to go. My doubts about everything else and myself were could not stand up to that.

I went home, rewrote my letter, and went.

Things have fallen in place since. I am a plant breeder because of a bus trip through Juigalpa as I watched the harvest and the processing of coffee beans. I was riding there with Elder Sparkman and we were discussing the imports and exports of rice and wheat. The impression was so clear of what I wanted to do. I was amazed to find out that it was an actual job with a major and everything when I returned to school. I met my wife in my first genetics class. I got my first lab job from the recommendation of my genetics prof. From that naturally grew my masters thesis. While presenting my research at meetings I was introduced to the VP of research of cotton inc and offered a fellowship for a PhD. Now I am here, working at a popcorn company as a plant breeder.

But at each turning point, there has been that moment of clarity where I knew what direction I should go. And the doors were opened. That moment in the performance hall listening to President Hinckley was not the first time, but so much of my life has hinged on that decision made in that moment because he really was the prophet.

May he rest in peace.

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