Doctor or Elder?

Mukandila Danny Kalala, Liberia

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    photo and stethoscope

    Illustrations by Bradley H. Clark

    When I finished high school, I knew I had to wait at least two years before serving a mission. I decided to start my college education, calculating that I could be done with medical school in about six years if I invested myself fully. I planned to serve a full-time mission afterward.

    After completing medical school at age 24, I started a clinical apprenticeship, which furthered my career opportunities. During this time a dilemma unfolded: should I really serve a mission, or should I keep working? My parents, my older brother (who had recently returned from his mission), my bishop, and a counselor in the local mission presidency all exhorted me to serve.

    I believed they were right, but it was difficult to delay my promising medical career. I prayed and fasted for inspiration. I also consulted my patriarchal blessing, which recommended that I serve a full-time mission and promised blessings as a result.

    One day, as I was taking public transport home from my apprenticeship, I ran into the stake patriarch. We got off at the same stop and, curiously, started walking in the same direction. He recognized me as a member of the Church.

    As we walked together, he asked me what I was planning to do with my life. I explained that I was a doctor and was troubled about deciding between my career and a mission. He told me in a firm voice to serve the Lord by going on a mission, adding that I would be blessed as a result. To me, his response seemed to come from the Lord.

    Immediately the following scripture entered my mind: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (3 Nephi 13:33).

    I was certain the Lord had answered me. Without further hesitation, I decided to delay my professional career and serve a full-time mission. My fellow doctors thought I would forget medical practices after being away for two years. They harassed me, but I held firm to my decision.

    Leaving behind my “Dr.” title, I served two years in the Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa Mission.

    Five years later, I made a list of the major blessings that followed my service. Foremost, I found a wife—a faithful Church member and my crowning joy. We have two children so far. Our family is sealed for eternity. In the temple we have acted as proxies in performing ordinances for our deceased ancestors. I have secure employment, allowing my family to be self-reliant. These are only a few of the blessings we have received from the Lord.

    I know that Heavenly Father never lies and that eventually He fulfills all His promises to us as we put our trust in Him and keep His commandments.