In the estimation of any Filipino LDS, a truly remarkable person is one who is six-foot-five and played as center with a reputable varsity basketball team (averaging 12.5 points per game), who is a true-blue Mormon, who served full-time for three years in the Far East as Missionary Elder, who speaks English and Cantonese with voice inflections reminding one of the versatile American actor James Stewart, who wrote a book in Cantonese while missionizing, who is a Mathematician and MBA degree holder, who is chairman of the board of multi-million dollar enterprises, who flys his own Beechcraft six-seater plane for business and pleasure, who is married to a wonderful eternal mate who speaks English and Spanish, who has six lively children, who is youngish and very engaging in his ways, and who will son complete a three-year work as Mission President.
You guessed correctly. Raymond Lynn Goodson, President of the Philippines Manila Mission, has all these qualifications, … and more!
Early in the year 1961, the first four American missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints landed on Philippine soil with a suitcase each, scriptures, a strong determination to preach the Gospel, testimony on the restoration of the true Church, and a brightly-glimmering hope strengthened by prayer and faith that they will form the nucleus for Mormon legions in the years ahead.
These four young missionaries (all in their early twenties) were President Goodson, Kent Lowe (now a dentist), Harry Murray (a computer technician) and Nestor Ledesma (who is occupied as foot doctor).
The challenges these four intrepid missionaries faced were far more intense than are now being experienced by hundreds of missionaries spreading the message of the restoration throughout the Philippines considering that the people of the country of their assignment had little or no knowledge at all about the prophet Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price.
President Goodson recalls with a chuckle that they were an odd sight along Taft Avenue in Pasay City, wading in waist-deep water in what looked like Taft River (they arrived during the monsoon season), tracting among people who looked at them as a peculiar breed of Gospel preachers who abhored smoking and drinking, and who labored from early morning to late evening, knocking on doors and bearing testimonies of faith.
In the same year, like the sons of Mosiah (Ammon, Aaron, Omner and Himni), the four missionaries returned to the land of Zion with glowing reports on their spiritual adventures as the first Mormon missionaries in the Philippines who had set the stakes for the many others who were soon to retrace their footsteps. Like the four sons of Mosiah, they too teamed with happiness in serving the Lord. More than 26,000 Philippine Mormons (growing in number year by year) give validity and value to the unbounded joy of these four missionaries who, as in the old days in the Western frontiers of America, pioneered in the work of the Lord in a strange land.
On July 4, 1974, thirteen years later and after having served as Bishop of Camarillo Ward, in California, President Goodson returned to the land of his pioneering days, this time as President of the Philippines Manila Missions—this time, too, with his wife, the former Debra Talley of Newbury Park, California whom he wooed and won while both were studying at Brigham Young University; she majoring in Spanish, he in Mathematics. On July 27, 1963, they were married and sealed at the Los Angeles Temple. Six lovely children add to their happiness: Talley 13, Teryl 11, Gwyn 9, Matthew 7, Jason 5, and Boyd 6 months, who was born in the Philippines.
Of his second coming to Pilipinas, President Goodson emphasizes that the New Society gave birth to a new morality and a commendable way of life to the Filipinos, making 40-million citizens more receptive than ever to the words of God. And, he buckled down to work, not only where he left off, but also where others after him had plowed and planted in the Lord’s vineyard in this part of the world.
His accomplishments as Mission President are his rewards in three years of hard and dedicated labor. During this short period, he arranged for the first Area Conference in the Philippines (August 11 & 12, 1975) attended by President Spencer W. Kimball and other General Authorities; more visits from General authorities than all which his predecessors had arranged for collectively, the first radio and television direct broadcast from Salt Lake City via satellite to which more than 20,000 Philippine LDS responded, the direct broadcast of a Priesthood Session at the Salt Lake Tabernacle, and the first Church magazine in the Philippines. He also initiated more hours of work by all full-time missionaries, resulting in the increase of number of baptisms. The Health Fair, as well as the Visitors’ Center, which he organized, drew throngs of visitors and won new friends and converts for the Church. To top it all, during the homestretch of his mission presidency, two new Stakes were created. Years before, when he lived for almost three years with the Chinese people in a bi-cultural environment, he wrote a 500-page book on learning Cantonese entitled “Gospel Teaching in Chinese,” which was extensively used by the Church in training missionaries assigned to China.
President Goodson was born in Denver, Colorado 39 years ago, grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, and spent many years of his life in the service of God and his fellowmen thousands of miles away from home.
When he leaves for home on July 3, 1977, home this time will be in Salt Lake City, where a seat in the World Resources Corpration, a petrochemical enterprise, awaits him as Chairman of the Board.
President Goodson, Sister Debbie and the little Goodsons will leave with fond memories of their three-year stay in the Philippines, but fonder memories will be with thousands of Filipino Latter-day Saints, from worker to Stake President, of a truly remarkable person and a missionary to remember.