Friday, April 29, 2011

Missionary service: The story of Sid Going

Elliot went on his mission to Oklahoma after completing his freshman year at BYU.  When he returns home in August 2012, we expect that he will resume his studies at BYU, where his brother and sister will be students.  But what about those two "lost" years?  Does taking two years out of the middle of his education set him back?  Will he fall behind his peers?  I remember my high school guidance counselor raising these questions.  He spoke favorably about young Mormon men who chose to serve missions, but at the same time, he questioned the wisdom of interrupting an education or other pursuits for a full two years at such a critical time in a young man's life.  I was ill-equipped to respond to his question at that time.  If I had a chance to speak with him today, I might suggest that he watch the video posted below.  It is an address by Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve at the April 2011 General Conference.  Beginning at about 2:15 of the video, Elder Andersen tells the story of Sid Going, who interrupted an extremely promising career as a professional rugby player to serve a mission to Canada.  The story illustrates one example of a young man whose mission certainly did not set him back or limit his options when he returned.  Enjoy the video (the text is posted after the jump). 

Missionary service requires sacrifice. There will always be something you leave behind when you respond to the prophet’s call to serve.

Those who follow the game of rugby know that the New Zealand All Blacks, a name given because of the color of their uniform, is the most celebrated rugby team ever. To be selected for the All Blacks in New Zealand would be comparable to playing for a football Super Bowl team or a World Cup soccer team.

In 1961, at age 18 and holding the Aaronic Priesthood, Sidney Going was becoming a star in New Zealand rugby. Because of his remarkable abilities, many thought he would be chosen the very next year for the national All Blacks rugby team.

At age 19, in this critical moment of his ascending rugby career, Sid declared that he would forgo rugby to serve a mission. Some called him crazy. Others called him foolish. They protested that his opportunity in rugby might never come again.

For Sid it was not what he was leaving behind—it was the opportunity and responsibility ahead. He had a priesthood duty to offer two years of his life to declare the reality of the Lord Jesus Christ and His restored gospel. Nothing—not even a chance to play on the national team, with all the acclaim it would bring—would deter him from that duty.

He was called by a prophet of God to serve in the Western Canadian Mission. Forty-eight years ago this month, 19-year-old Elder Sidney Going left New Zealand to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Sid told me of an experience he had on his mission. It was evening, and he and his companion were just about to return to their apartment. They decided to visit one more family. The father let them in. Elder Going and his companion testified of the Savior. The family accepted a Book of Mormon. The father read all night. In the next week and a half he read the entire Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. A few weeks later the family was baptized.

A mission instead of a place on the New Zealand All Blacks team? Sid responded, “The blessing of [bringing others] into the gospel far outweighs anything [you] will ever sacrifice.”

You’re probably wondering what happened to Sid Going following his mission. Most important: an eternal marriage to his sweetheart, Colleen; five noble children; and a generation of grandchildren. He has lived his life trusting in his Father in Heaven, keeping the commandments, and serving others.

And rugby? After his mission Sid Going became one of the greatest halfbacks in All Blacks history, playing for 11 seasons and serving for many years as captain of the team.

How good was Sid Going? He was so good that training and game schedules were changed because he would not play on Sunday. Sid was so good the Queen of England acknowledged his contribution to rugby. He was so good a book was written about him titled Super Sid.

What if those honors had not come to Sid after his mission? One of the great miracles of missionary service in this Church is that Sid Going and thousands just like him have not asked, “What will I get from my mission?” but rather, “What can I give?”

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