Sterling W. Sill's Mission

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Vaughn J. Featherstone

Sterling W. Sill is an emeritus General Authority. One morning I asked him about his mission and how he was able to go since he came from a large family. He told me the following great story about that time in his life.

The year before he was old enough to go on a mission, he went to the bank and borrowed enough money for seed for sugar beets. He rented a field, plowed the ground, prepared the soil, and planted sugar beets (I believe it was about five acres). He watered, weeded, and thinned the beets as they grew. He knew that if the price stayed at $30 a ton, he would have enough money for his two-and-a-half-year mission. When harvest time came, he worked long hard hours harvesting the beets and getting them to the sugar factory. That year the price of sugar beets plummeted to $5 a ton! Young Sterling was devastated. He barely earned enough money back to pay off the loan. That fall, as the missionaries who had been called on missions went down to the railroad depot to depart, Elder Sill went with them. He had no money to pay for his mission. Most of the young men's fathers and families paid for their missions; a few had saved their own money.

As family and friends stood at the depot while the missionaries said their good-byes and boarded the train, everyone spontaneously broke into singing "God Be with You Till We Meet Again." Elder Sill said; "As the train pulled away from the station while the Saints sang and the missionaries waved good-bye, I thought my heart would break." He went out behind the station, sat down against the wall, and, in his own words, "cried like a baby." He said, "I would have walked all the way to Georgia if I could have gone on a mission."

The next spring he borrowed money again. He prepared the field, planted sugar beets, and worked through spring, summer, and fall. When harvest time came he loaded the sugar beets on wagon after wagon and hauled them to the factory. That year the market had changed, and he got between $25 and $30 a ton for his beets. It was enough to go on a mission. He submitted his papers and a short time later was called to serve in the Southern States. I remember glancing at Elder Sill as he recounted this experience. He had tears in his eyes, and he choked back the emotion several times. I too was moved to tears hearing of this great experience. No one could suppose that he was not a hard-working, great missionary. Also, you can imagine that Elder Sill felt it a wonderful privilege to serve a mission.

As a young man I remember reading and hearing about Elder Matthew Cowley's experiences with the Maori people in New Zealand. Immediately I had a desire to serve a mission in New Zealand, or a least the islands of the sea. I heard Elder Cowley tell about testimony meetings with the missionaries that lasted six and eight hours. I thought, "I would give anything to have those kinds of experiences." I went to the bishop and asked if I could go on a mission. It was during the Korean War, and they were taking only one missionary per ward per year. The bishop told me I would have to wait my turn in terms of seniority. We had a large ward, and about a dozen priests were older than I was and would turn 20 before I did. I remember thinking as Joe Brooks left for his mission from our ward, I would have given all I had to go. I believe I felt as Sterling Sill felt.

This experience was shared by Vaughn J. Featherstone in his book: The Millennial Generation—leading today's youth into the future, 1999, p. 114 - Chapter 17: It's a Privilege to Serve a Mission