Missionary Miracles

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Boyd K. Packer

What kind of miraculous persuasion is it that would have a young man, vigorous, active, interested in life itself—at the one time when he, by normal appraisal, ought to be more interested in material things—be willing to respond to a call to serve on a mission, pay his own way, give a tithing of his life, two years, preaching the gospel? Miracle? Oh, yes; but we have tens of thousands of them.

What is it that would cause a man to set aside his personal pursuits, to interrupt his business or professional activities, to yield in political preference, often to give up seniority, often retirement benefits, to go anywhere on earth, without question and without any unusual compensation or persuasion—no material compensation—simply to preside over a mission?

I recall an experience when I was supervising the missions in western Europe. We needed a mission president with a certain language proficiency. Several names were brought forward, but none of them seemed to be right. Then one of the Brethren remembered that he had met a man—I think it was in Korea—several years before, a member of the Church who was in the customs service. Somehow there was just the mention of that name and the Spirit confirmed it. Because of the time pressures he was called by telephone to preside over the mission.

I visited him a few weeks later. He was living in Washington, D.C. In his employment he was within reach of the number one office in his category. His lifetime had been spent progressing through the ranks, with the thought that perhaps one day he would stand at the head of that division. His senior officer had indicated that because of a health problem he himself would retire early, and that this man was being recommended for the position he was vacating. It was just at that time that the telephone call came.

I wanted to get acquainted with him, and he invited me to stay overnight. He brought me a message from his superior. The message was this: "Tell that Brother Packer of yours that you're no missionary; I've worked with you for thirty years, and you haven't converted me. Tell them they're making a mistake. And you're making a mistake. You're a fool." (I'm leaving out one word.) "If you will give up your retirement and all that you've reached for—why? Why would you do it?"

Simple answer: he had been called. We live to know, in this church, that the response to a call does not depend on the testimony and witness of the one who delivers the call. It depends, rather, on the testimony and witness of the one who receives it.

It was very interesting. We were looking for a man who spoke French. It was not until after he was in the mission field, and we had some opportunities and responsibilities relating to problems of some members we had in Spain, that we discovered he also wrote and spoke Spanish fluently. I suppose if we'd searched through the Church for a man who spoke French, spoke Spanish, and had had some diplomatic experience, particularly as it related to customs work, we would have gone afar in the world and not found him. Yet he was found through the "chance" memory of one of the Brethren who had met a man a few years before in Korea who spoke French.

Experience shared by Boyd K. Packer at a BYU Devotional 17 March 1973