“The call to serve a mission seldom comes at a convenient time. … Behind each missionary is a private story of years of personal commitment, preparation, personal sacrifice, and examples of love for the Savior.”
—Bishop Richard C. Edgley, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric (Ensign, Nov. 1996, 62)
If it’s stories of personal commitment, preparation, personal sacrifice, and examples of love for the Savior that you want, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are five Latter-day Saints who were found worthy and received calls from a prophet. They are currently serving full-time missions, each with a story to tell. Difficulty walking. A promising musical career put on hold. Football equipment being stored for two years. Leaving the family religion to join the Church.
Going on a mission isn’t always easy. But the rewards are great.
The Physically Challenged
The two missionaries serving in the Philippines San Fernando Mission are walking side by side, making their way up the stairs. This is no easy trick, and going up and down stairs is not an afterthought. Elder Dominador Sabit III takes his companion, Elder Michelangelo Benigno, by the arm and they begin their ascent. Elder Benigno struggles, and Elder Sabit patiently helps his companion along. It’s slow going, but there’s no other way. Elder Benigno suffers from Guillain Barre syndrome, a muscle disorder that he contracted when he was three. For as long as he can remember, his legs have never worked right. The braces he wears on both legs help him maneuver, but they’re made of iron and are plenty heavy.
A similar scenario is played out in Cebu, in the southern part of the Philippines. Sister Hilda Bactin could not make it through the makeshift walkways that lead to people’s homes without the help of her companion, Sister Amy Andersen. Sister Bactin has polio, yet she carries on.
“My feeling is that I want to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love people, and my mission is everything I thought it would be,” says Sister Bactin.
She doesn’t want to talk about her disability. To her, it’s not really an issue. Sister Bactin was going to serve a mission. That much was certain. “When I was baptized I told myself I would become a missionary,” she recalls. Less than two years later, the goal was being fulfilled.
“Seeing [Sister Bactin] struggle to get to different places we go, and seeing her desire humbles me a lot,” says her companion.
Elder Benigno shows similar enthusiasm. He remembers the day his mission call came. “I was so happy I was almost jumping. I wish I could jump,” he says smiling.
Preparing to serve a mission had always been a part of Elder Benigno’s life. He had read the standard works by the time he was 11. “I could just watch my playmates chasing around while I was sitting down observing them,” he says. “That is why I read. I just focused on the books I read, and it helped me a lot.” Before leaving on his mission, Elder Benigno taught the youth in his ward about missionary service as Young Men president.
“I told myself, if I didn’t have this disability, I wouldn’t serve as an inspiration to others. I want to serve as an example to the young men in my home ward and to the people that I am teaching on my mission,” he adds.
Rosalie Lund began playing the violin when she was five. “I always liked playing. I always wanted to be a great violinist.”
So why would she take 18 months off to serve a mission, especially with such a promising musical future?
It’s a question Sister Lund became familiar with before she left in December of last year to serve in the Canada Vancouver Mission. She was performing for the Ballet West orchestra in Salt Lake City, and many nonmember musicians wondered what she was doing.
“Several of them thought I was crazy to go on a mission, especially in the prime time of my life,” Sister Lund recalls. “They were saying, ‘You’re going to do what?’”
“Knock on a lot of doors and tell people about the beliefs of my religion,” was her typical response. When the musicians talked about her potential and all the great things she could do musically if she stayed, she was quick to point out all the great things she planned to do as a missionary.
Sister Lund had played with numerous orchestras and symphonies, including the BYU Philharmonic and the Utah Symphony, while growing up in Bountiful, Utah. Sure it was the “prime time” of her life. And that’s why she decided to serve a mission.
“I had to do what I felt was right. I have had a very strong feeling that I needed to go on a mission. So here I am,” she says. “But I’m learning and teaching about Jesus Christ. He is the source of everything good. If there is any truth or beauty in music, it comes from Jesus Christ. So in a way I guess I am still continuing my music study.”
Sister Lund remembers her last performance with Ballet West before she entered the Missionary Training Center. Everyone was talking about practice schedules and what was next, something she wasn’t going to be a part of. “I wasn’t very sad, actually. I knew I’d be missing out. But in a way I felt like they were missing out,” she says.
There were also the inevitable questions about the potential loss of skill while she is gone, especially since mission rules prevented her from taking her violin to Canada.
“I’m sure I’ll get rusty. I’ve had many friends—also violinists—who went on missions and they came back and they were rusty. And I guess if the Lord wants me to play the violin, I’ll be able to get back into it.”
For most of his early life, the only sports Stanley Moleni played were rugby and basketball. But before his junior year of high school, after his family had moved from New Zealand to Hawaii, Stanley discovered football. “I fell in love with it,” he says. It didn’t hurt that he was naturally good at it too.
Coaches were impressed with his size. Stanley is six-feet-two inches tall, and at the time he was a lean 200 pounds.
“I was still learning, but by my senior year I started catching on and the coaches stuck me at outside linebacker. I was still only 205 pounds, and I was missing a lot of plays. I really didn’t know how to play the game that well,” he says.
That didn’t stop college coaches from showing interest in him—especially after he bulked up to 250 pounds. The sport he’d taken up for fun was suddenly his ticket to college. After a lot of thought, he signed a letter of intent to play football for BYU. But instead of enrolling in school immediately after high school graduation in 1994, Stanley moved to Utah and worked to save money for a mission.
“My whole life I was planning on a mission,” says Stanley, now known as Elder Moleni as he serves in the California Ventura Mission. “There was nothing that was going to stop me from coming on a mission.”
And that included the glamour of playing big-time college football.
Says Elder Moleni, “One of our investigators said that he really admired us because he knew we really believed in what we were teaching. When he said he admired me for coming on a mission and leaving my scholarship behind, it felt really good.”
And now just three months short of the completion of his mission, Elder Moleni is concentrating on the work at hand. Soon enough, he’ll be a college student and an outside linebacker.
“I’ll be behind physically. I know that,” he says about football. “But I see a parallel between my not knowing how to play football and missionary work. Through hard work and sacrifice I became better at football. And through hard work and faith in the Lord, I’ve had a successful mission.”
When Ashley Rabon told his parents that he was going out “with a Mormon girl,” he assured them he wasn’t going “to join.” But after the wheels were set in motion and Ashley, who was at college at Appalachian State in Boone, North Carolina, at the time, began taking the missionary discussions, that plan changed.
“After the missionaries committed me to baptism during the second discussion, I called home and told [my parents] I was going to get baptized,” says Ashley. “They weren’t too thrilled with the idea.”
A year later, when Ashley started to feel he should serve a mission, things with his family really got tough. “They were not happy about it at all. I told my dad, and my dad was probably angrier than I had ever seen him in my life,” says Ashley, who is currently serving in the Utah Salt Lake City Mission. “My mom begged and begged me every day not to do this.”
But Elder Rabon was ready to serve. “Every time I had a dispute with my parents, especially with my father, the first thing I would do was go to my room and pray that the Lord would soften their hearts,” he says.
For a while, the contention remained. “I have the most wonderful family you’ll ever meet. But every time I told my parents I was going on a mission, there was an instant waterfall (tears) from my mom and my dad went straight to fury. I just knew that everybody has their things they have to go through to go on a mission.”
Although his mission call had already come, and although Elder Rabon was committed to serving, it didn’t make it any easier with his nonmember parents. “It was really difficult. I was just thinking about how my family was going to be while I was gone,” he adds.
Then, when it seemed that he’d end up leaving without his parents’ support, they suddenly reversed their stand. Elder Rabon describes the day before he went into the MTC: “My dad comes home from work, and he’s walking down the hall toward me with tears just running down his face. He puts his arm around me and says, ‘What can I do to help you?’”
Elder Rabon’s father went on to detail how much he was going to miss him and how he was having a hard time dealing with his son’s imminent departure. Hearts had been softened. “Since I’ve been [a missionary], I’ve received very spiritual letters from my family that I didn’t expect,” he says.
As Elder Rabon makes his way around his area on the east side of Salt Lake City with his companion, he says he’s still amazed that he’s actually a missionary. Three years ago he knew next to nothing about the Church. And today he’s teaching the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. “I know if you have faith in the Lord and you do what he asks you to do, he’s always going to see you through. This is where the Lord has really blessed me.”