Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Best Three Years

It has been three years since we returned from Barcelona: our successors, Mark and AnneMarie Pace, will speak in their home ward this coming Sunday, and the Daytons, who just arrived in Barcelona last week, can not remember a time when they were doing anything else.

Our three years in the Spain Barcelona Mission were life-changing in many, many ways. We will never be the same.

And the three years since our return from Spain have also been life-changing in ways we never imagined. We have continued to feel the guidance of the Lord in our lives in much the same way as we did in the mission, and in ways equally as dramatic and remarkable.

A series of events in the first weeks and months of our return set us on a course very different from what we had imagined. That change in direction resulted in one of the great experiences of my life - researching and writing about the life of Christopher Columbus. I felt like I had a "columbian" experience, that the Holy Ghost, "with a hand that could be felt," was urging me onward "with great haste." It was a life-changing experience and extremely gratifying.

Kathleen and I felt impressed to put together another small book, a transition guide for recently returned missionaries. It gave us a chance to spend many hours talking with returned missionaries, many of whom served with us, and think about the decisions and attitudes that determine our lives. We hope it will be useful to some.

And then there were the series of miracles surrounding our move - the unexpected purchase of a condominium followed almost instantly by the sale of our home of twenty years. Rarely have we felt so strongly guided in any decision. We did not know at the time that this change in our housing was to enable to accept another and unanticipated assignment: to open the Tijuana Temple as the first president and matron.

How often I told departing missionaries in Spain that the best was yet to come! Our mission experience in Spain was truly remarkable and unforgettable; we will never do anything quite like it, but it is also true that, for us, the best was yet to come!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Taking Off the Tag: Update

Several of you gave valuable input on the cover design. Here is the final version:

The presses started rolling today! The goal is to have this available by mid-summer. Thanks again for your valuable input, not just on the cover but on the contents. Our hope is that this will be useful to returning missionaries and help them stay focused and move fast!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Taking Off the Tag

Yesterday we received from Deseret Book the first draft of our upcoming book, Taking Off the Tag: A Transition Guide for Returned Missionaries. Many of you helped us with this book - with your comments, your ideas, your feedback, and your example.

We had originally titled this book, The Best is Yet to Come, but that title was not available (it was used a few years ago for a book about retirement...). But that is the key message - the best miracles, the best opportunities, the best experiences of your life lie ahead as you continue to build on the foundation you created on your mission.

Thanks for your help in making this book possible! We anticipate it will be available late summer 2015.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"Set Goals and Make Plans"

Like many recently returned missionaries, the first few weeks at home were, well, challenging. But looking back over the past two-plus years, it has been a wonderful and exciting period of time. Soon after I returned home, I knew I needed to find something productive to keep me occupied and excited. That something turned out to be Christopher Columbus, and I set a goal to write a book about Columbus that would place him squarely in the position that Nephi described: "a man among the Gentiles" who was "wrought upon the Holy Ghost."

Early in that project, I set a goal to not only write a book about Columbus, but to focus for the next few years on writing a book every year. The Columbus book is now published and available for sale. Last week, just a little over two years from returning home, Kathleen and I submitted the manuscript for a new book to Deseret Book.

Our new book is a short guide for recently returned missionaries. The idea for this new book came to us in the months after Kathleen and I returned home from serving in the Spain Barcelona Mission.  We had served together for three years, me as mission president and Kathleen as my companion. It was a glorious experience – unquestionably the most remarkable and rewarding three years of our life to date.

When our mission was over and we were released, we were glad to again be with family, delighted to personally meet grandchildren that had been born in our absence (four of them), and excited about the next stage of our life. But we were also reminded of something that my brother, a former mission president, had said to us before we left: “The fourth year is the hardest.”

Between the time that we received our call and the time we entered the Seminar for New Mission Presidents at the MTC, we received forty pounds of instructional material. Three years later we received a single-page letter extending a release and expressing thanks for our service.  This pattern is true for all missionaries: there is a vast amount of literature and instructional material to help elders and sisters prepare for missionary service, but very little available to guide recently returned missionaries through the transition to post-mission life.

As we met with and renewed our relationship with many of our former missionaries who had returned home before us or who returned home in that “fourth year” of our mission, we began to realize that coming home from a full-time mission can be difficult and challenging for many missionaries. We had many conversations with recently returned missionaries, and began to see some trends.

This new book grew out of those conversations. Kathleen and I began a series of interviews with returned missionaries, conducted a survey of several missionaries, and corresponded with others. The book was made possible by their input. You may recognize something you said that found its way into the book! We are extremely grateful for your input, your candor, and your wisdom. We expect the book to be available late next summer.

It is immensely satisfying to set goals, make plans, and then carryout those plans. It's been a good two years!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Reunion in Madrid

Just a somewhat belated post regarding the Fall 2014 Reunion in Madrid. Kathleen and I were able to go through a session in the Madrid Temple with several former El Faro missionaries. After the session, we met for a small reunion in the adjoining stake center. Words cannot express how much fun we had with these wonderful missionaries (and their novas)!

Kleuska Mancera traveled in from Malaga; Daniel Da Silva came in from Badajoz. Jose Miquel Morales and Jorge Bajana had their novias join us; we had to settle for a photograph of Gabriel Manotas's nova!

Every one of these returned missionaries have either worked or are working at the CCM. They are doing great things with their lives. We are very proud of each of them!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

"Two Frames of Mind" - Some Thoughts About Thinking

Three conversations during the past couple of weeks caused me to think about something I read as a college student that had lasting impact on my life.

The first conversation was a brief discussion with my sister about a study she had recently read on the attitudes and behaviors of "millennials" - roughly defined as persons born after 1980 who are now in their twenties and thirties. The study noted that this generation tends to have greater confidence in the Government to solve social problems, but less confidence in organized religion. Significantly, millennials tend to look to peers rather than religious leaders for answers to social and moral questions, and they are very tolerant of and often endorse social behaviors that are not aligned with traditional religious views but are widely popular. In short, Facebook and Twitter are more influential than prophets, and tolerance of what was once considered unacceptable behavior has a higher value than moral absolutes.

The second conversation was with some friends about the recent public announcement by two disaffected members of the Church that they had been notified of potential disciplinary action by their respective bishops or stake presidents. Our friends commented that their son-in-law seemed much more sympathetic to the complaints and accusations of the two disaffected members than to the positions of their priesthood leaders. They then commented, almost by way of explanation, that their son-in-law had always been very "intellectual." The implication was that intelligent people were less likely to support priesthood authority.

The third conversation was really a series of discussions while preparing a Sunday School lesson. Kathleen and I teach the 16-18 year olds. The topic this month is "Priesthood and Priesthood Keys," and we were reviewing a sample teaching outline on the topic, "Why is it important to follow the counsel of priesthood leaders?" The lesson outline included a reference to Ephesians 4:11-14, a scripture that neatly summarized why God provides His children with priesthood leaders:
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 
Priesthood leaders exist to help us become perfected, to become Christ-like. And they help us avoid being tossed about by the cunning and often superficially appealing doctrines of men, which in the end only deceive us.

All this reminded me of something I read as a young college student which shaped my life then and has influenced me for decades. I entered college in the fall of 1965 - an era of great turbulence and turmoil, an era of student protest, free speech, occupation of college offices, burning of university buildings, and marches on Washington. Even on the BYU campus there was energetic discussion and argument. There were divisions between "conservative" and "liberal" Mormons, between "iron rod-ers" and "Liahonas." It was in that environment that I came across a short essay written by Dr. Chauncey Riddle, a professor of philosophy at the university. Professor Riddle was one of the great BYU professors of the day. His classes were notoriously challenging, and he pushed students to think so deeply and intensely that they often complained that their heads hurt by the end of class!

But this short essay - less than two pages in length - seemed to strike at the heart of many of the debates on campuses across the country. Reading it changed my life. And my recent conversations reminded me that it is still very relevant. Maybe it will change your life, too.

For more by Chauncey Riddle, see 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Tender Mercy

Last Thursday while Kathleen and I were working in the baptistry of the Salt Lake Temple, a family from Idaho came in. They were bringing with them an exchange student from Barcelona who had been living with them for the past several months and who, as a result, was recently baptized. Needless to say, we had a wonderful time visiting with this brand-new convert from Barcelona by the name of Celia! She told us she was heading back home in a few days, and was a little nervous about how to connect with her local ward and members at home. We had a wonderful visit, and were so excited to meet a recent convert from Catalunya!

Then yesterday our daughter (who lives in Greenwich, CT), forwarded to us a message she had just received from one of her East Coast friends:
Just wanted to pass along a little miracle from the plane yesterday. I sat by a sweet girl from Barcelona who joined the Church as an exchange student in Rigby, Idaho. I told her about your parents and it turns out she had just met them last week in the Salt Lake Temple doing baptisms. She said she was so worried about going home and knowing no members, but meeting your parents and then me was a tender mercy and she knew God was aware of her. She's going to write her story of going from atheist to believer for The Small Seed [our friend's blog].
Please tell your sweet parents the impact they made on her. Her name is Celia.
 It was a small thing, but a wonderful example of God's love for His children!