A mission is a couple of years in the future, but it’s something 17-year-old Jeremy thinks a lot about now. Where will he be called? Will he have the opportunity to learn a language? What will a mission be like? What more can he do to get ready?
Jeremy Pownall lives in Sydney, Australia, a place known for its famous opera house, great climate, relaxed lifestyle, and surfing. Actually, body-boarding is his passion right now, although he pretty much only gets to go for a few hours early Saturday mornings. He is just getting his mind around the fact that when he goes on his mission he’ll be leaving the beach and the waves behind. After all, a lot of his surf mates have done it. In fact, those mates are the very ones who are the most effective in convincing him that he really can serve a mission and be more than happy about it.
“There’s nothing like an early-morning yarn going to the surf,” he says. “I go with the returned missionaries in the ward and my Young Men leaders. They are great advice givers. All of them say that there will be great experiences in your life, but a mission is the best experience for your life.”
What do a bunch of LDS surfers talk about at the beach? Jeremy smiles slightly and says, “We talk about the waves we’ve caught and the places we’re going to travel to, where we would like to go on a mission or where they’ve been on their missions. The older guys tell us to definitely marry in the temple. And they remind us that we are going to marry the girls we date.” Being surrounded by surf and sand seems to be the right spot for all this good advice to sink in.
Jeremy admits that he really is a listener. And he soaks in the good advice that comes from his mentors, the ones who are a few years ahead of him on the road of life. “They tell me that if I ever do something that I regret, to never feel uncomfortable about going to my bishop or talking to my parents.”
In another instance, at Young Men camp, he listened when someone got up and spoke about his patriarchal blessing. “I hadn’t thought too much about that,” he recalls. “A week later I went for my interview, and a month later I got my patriarchal blessing.”
In talking about his testimony, Jeremy mentions one of his mentors in particular. “He’s one of my dad’s friends from New Zealand. Whenever he comes here, he goes out of his way to take me surfing. It’s a perfect opportunity for us to talk. The talks I’ve had with him are a major part of my conversion story.”
Sometimes it is in the relaxing moments out in the water or on the drive to the beach when what is said is the easiest to listen to. For Jeremy, that’s where his own testimony came into focus.
The next step in his conversion was bearing that testimony. “I think my testimony grew exponentially when I started bearing it more often and more freely. I feel more confident.”
After all, he points out, he does live in the mission field every day. “A lot of people respect me for my morals, especially here in Australia. Here people at 14 will start going to parties, getting drunk, and trying smoking and drugs. They respect me for still being an interesting and outgoing sort of person, yet not doing any of that stuff.”
Jeremy has big plans for the future. His success in school and his interest in learning languages might lead to becoming an ambassador or diplomat. “Everyone complains about how world leaders are doing things at the moment. I think I could do a better job. Maybe they need the Spirit to guide them.”
Jeremy is sensitive to the impressions of the Spirit. He listens to those who have made good choices. He pays attention to his seminary teacher and his youth leaders. And he likes what he hears.
The bottom line is that he is happy. He had a friend tell him once that she envied people from his church because they all seemed to be happy. Jeremy agrees. He says he has always treasured that about the gospel. “I’m blessed to live in Australia. I’m blessed to have a good family and be brought up in the gospel. I don’t want to waste it.”