High school, military, college, marriage, I had it all mapped out. I didn’t need anything to get in the way.
As a young man just returning from military service, I anxiously looked forward to attending BYU, completing my degree, beginning my life’s work, and getting married. I had been away nearly two years and saw many of my friends getting married and doing the things I wanted to do. While in the service I had saved my money, worked an extra job on the army base several evenings and weekends, and begun my college training by taking several classes at the local college. I was really enthused about the prospects for the future and, now that I had completed my military commitment, I could move forward without further interruptions.
On returning, I purchased the car I had worked and saved for and entered BYU. Life was good. I was living at home among friends of many years, and the prospects for the future were excellent. At BYU I became involved as a cheerleader, joined several service agencies, worked part-time, and became totally immersed in the Church. My life was full to overflowing.
Then, one day several months later, my bishop tapped me on the shoulder and asked me in for an interview. What did he want, I wondered. I had just recently come home, and I was already teaching Sunday School and serving as president of the M-Man class. And then I learned: he wanted me to accept a call to serve a mission. Oh yes, the thought had crossed my mind several times, but very few young men went on missions in those days following the end of World War II because of years away from home and also because of age and a desire to settle down and complete their education.
My first thoughts were, I don’t have time now; there is so much to do, so many years of education ahead. Then I remembered several things. First, my patriarchal blessing said that I would be a missionary; and second, I had been taught by parents that the Lord would bless me as I accepted any calling that came to me. I must admit today that those were anxious moments for me, being pulled in one direction by the life I enjoyed so much and contemplating leaving all that to serve a mission. I enjoyed every day and awakened with enthusiasm for the many things that lay ahead that day and week. And yet, there I was with a patriarchal blessing—“your own personal plan of salvation,” as President Harold B. Lee used to say—and a request from a bishop to go and serve the Lord.
I thought that two and a half years would cause me to forfeit many of the goals that were important to me, all of which I thought were creditable and acceptable to the Lord. I would be behind so many of my friends, some of whom were already married. But the Spirit of the Lord continued to work upon me, and after much supplication unto the Lord I knew, by the Spirit, what I must do and began to develop an anxiousness to serve the Lord in the mission field.
I would be the first, the very first Paramore ever to serve a full-time mission and would be setting the example for others of our family to follow. It would be little repayment indeed for the blessings that had come to our families—the Paramores from England, the Nielsens from Denmark, the Maxwells and Lamonts from Scotland—because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the eternal sealings that had been done for our families and the principles of truth which had come to be ours. I would go and take these blessings to others, first, because I was asked to go, and then, because I wanted to share these blessings with others.
The weeks passed and finally an interview (in those days this was always done by a General Authority) with Elder Marion G. Romney, who was then a member of the Council of the Twelve. And finally that special day arrived when my call came to serve the Lord in the French mission. That day will always live in my mind, and, as I have reflected hundreds of times since in my life, it was one of the most important days and one of the most important calls to ever come to me to serve here upon the earth. I have thought many times, suppose I hadn’t served? There would have been some testimony I would not have received, people I would never have known and helped to love the gospel and receive its blessings.
That time in the mission field was one of the most dramatically important experiences of my life. It gave me hundreds of witnesses that the gospel is true, that it was established by the Lord Jesus Christ upon the earth, and that it brings joy, health, peace, progress, and eternal blessings to every person who fully embraces it. I would have the witness in my life forever, and it would propel me to serve the Lord all the days of my life. What a foundation for the future, for my family, to know from missionary service what the gospel can do for all who are involved.
How did I know then how the Lord would use me in the future? What were his plans for me here upon the earth? The mission was the first crossroad that I had to walk through, and since then it has been easier when faced with important decisions to ask, “What would the Lord have me do?”
I have since had the privilege of returning to the French, Belgians, and French-speaking Canadians many times. Each time I thank the Lord for my first call to these great peoples. I have friends and know members in literally a hundred of those cities, and I have seen the gospel change thousands of lives in the past 30 or more years. In the past few years while working with missionaries throughout Western Europe, I have had the blessing several times of having missionaries stand in a testimony meeting and say, “Because of Elder Paramore I am here today, for he took the gospel to my parents,” in Paris, France or Liege, Belgium.
One of the most important, wonderful Christmas presents I have ever received was a letter that came in December of 1980. Sister Young, who had joined the Church in Paris, wrote me and gave an account of what had happened since her family’s conversion 30 years earlier. She described what had happened to each member, how dozens had served missions, and that more than 170 persons had been baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Someone, I think Elder LeGrand Richards, had said it, but I thought about it tearfully that day, “The blessings of a mission continue into the eternities.”
My dear young friends, the most glorious of all service in the Church begins in the mission field. It exacts from each missionary a commitment to know the Lord and his gospel and then to share it with profound appreciation. It is the Lord’s way to bestow his blessings upon all his children and in rich abundance forever upon his missionaries. I bear you my testimony that those blessings are there and invite you young people, in spite of the challenges (for there will always be some), to serve him and the great family of mankind in the mission field. You will be the greatest beneficiaries of all.