I Didn’t Want to Serve

Neville Smeda, California, USA

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    When I was 11, at a regional conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95) shook my hand and said, “You’re going to go on a mission and be a fine missionary someday.”

    Most young men would have cherished those words forever. Not me. For the next 10 years I had no desire to serve a mission. I was more concerned with success in sports and my social life. I thought that giving up two years would throw all that away. During interviews with my branch and stake presidents, I would come up with excuses as to why I didn’t want to serve.

    At 21, still with no desire to serve a mission, I visited my family in the United States, in Iowa. They had moved there the year before. While in Iowa I had the chance to go to the Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple with the local singles branch. I wasn’t endowed, so I figured I’d perform baptisms for the dead.

    Upon arriving at the temple, I discovered there was no baptismal session scheduled for the afternoon. I thought, “Great, what am I going to do for the next two and a half hours?”

    I decided to go to the Mormon Trail Visitors’ Center across the street. After watching a 15-minute movie about the pioneers, I was greeted by two sister missionaries who were going to take me on my own personal tour. After learning a little bit about me, Sister Cusick asked why I hadn’t served a mission. The usual excuses came flying out. Sister Cusick then testified to me not only of the pioneers but also of missionary work.

    After the tour I sat in the temple waiting room, thinking. Suddenly, my excuses for not serving a mission became a stupor of thought. The Spirit testified strongly that I should serve a mission. From the time I started talking to the sister missionaries, everything had changed inside me. The Spirit testified to my heart what I needed to do.

    Months later I found out that the still, small voice had told Sister Cusick that I needed to have my own tour. She didn’t know why, but the Lord had plans for me.

    I served in the California Ventura Mission—the greatest mission in the world—and built some wonderful friendships that I hope will last through the eternities. I didn’t believe President Hunter for 10 years, but he knew exactly what he was talking about.

    My life changed completely, all because a sister missionary acted on the promptings of the Holy Ghost.