Chris Obzansky played ice hockey for three years before he decided it just wasn’t for him. When he was nine, he traded his hockey skates for figure skates and pushed off on a path that has led him to a successful career as an ice dancer. But it hasn’t all been smooth gliding.
“I got really determined to learn on those figure skates,” he says. “But I just kept stumbling on those toe picks!” Despite the difficulties, he found that ice dancing was what he really wanted to do. And besides, “I thought it was pretty cool to be skating with a girl instead of with a team of smelly hockey players,” Chris says, laughing.
He had big dreams. He and his partner had placed second at the junior level United States nationals, third at U.S. nationals, and first in an international competition in China. His plan was to compete in the 2006 Winter Olympics and then go on a mission after he turned 21. But when he was 18, just when everything was going smoothly, he ran into a snag.
“I wasn’t really enjoying it, and I was having a hard time with the sport,” he remembers. “I was just trying to push through it, and I could not do it anymore. I said, ‘Lord, what do I do?’”
Chris got the first part of his answer when he went to talk to his bishop, who encouraged him to pray about his plan to delay his mission. “His advice kind of went in one ear and out the other,” Chris admits. “But my life got to the point where I really did have to ask, and I really did have to listen.”
The second part of Chris’s answer came during a sacrament meeting. As he listened to his Young Men president talk about his own mission call, the Spirit told him, “‘Chris, you need to serve a mission when you’re 19, or you’re going to have a tough life.’ The message was so clear I actually turned around to see if someone was there,” he says. “The feeling came back 10 times stronger, and I knew I had to go on a mission.”
That’s Not the End of the Story
That night Chris called his partner and coaches to give them the news. When he had first started training with them, he told them that a mission was a possibility. But none of them had expected him to go—at least not yet. Although they were disappointed, Chris says, “They’ve been very supportive of me and my mission, and I give them credit for that.”
Chris feels peace about his decision and where his life is going. “I’m grateful Heavenly Father gave me that prompting,” he says. “But it’s been really hard since then. Satan tried to bring me down in any way possible.”
To combat the fears and temptations, Chris read the scriptures and prayed the way he used to dedicate himself to practicing at the ice rinks in Delaware, where he lived while he trained. He studied the scriptures at least twice a day, and he set aside time to pray earnestly at least three times a day. “That really protected me,” he says. He also credits much of his help to surrounding himself with good friends and family when he came back home to the Thirteenth Ward of the Salt Lake Central Stake.
A New Set of Rules
There are lots of rules in ice dancing—lots of required and restricted moves. To succeed takes a lot of creativity and dancing talent. Chris thinks his experiences with ice dancing will help him on his mission—experiences like learning to get along with a partner, following strict rules, and being dedicated to something every day for a long time.
His call to the Baltic States Mission, Russian speaking, was exciting for Chris, especially since he knows speaking Russian will help him if he still wants to return to ice dancing after his mission. (Many of the competitors and coaches speak Russian.) He also wants to be a coach eventually. But for now, he says, “I just want to try to bring people to a knowledge of the gospel.”
Being prompted to go on a mission wasn’t the first time Chris asked for and received the Lord’s guidance in his life. He was 16, had just split from a skating partner, and was having a hard time. “My dad gave me a blessing, and he told me the Spirit would be with me and would comfort me,” he says.
After the blessing, Chris was prompted to read D&C 58. Verses two through seven [D&C 58:2–7] have made a big difference in his life. “I thought they were written exactly for me,” he says. “Everything in those verses has come to pass in my life and is still coming to pass. Those verses have given me so much comfort.”
Trying to obey the counsel he received in D&C 58, Chris is serving a mission when the Lord asked him to, and he is ready to bear testimony of the Savior and the gospel in the Baltic states. He knows he will have more difficulties than toe picks and changing partners there, but he also knows that when he asks for guidance, the Lord will answer.