I grew up in Sandy, UT, which, during my time in high school, had the most teenagers per capita than any other US city. As you could imagine, the Sandy City police force was quite overwhelmed with this demographic makeup, and me and my friends had a perfectly fine time running amok just under the radar. (Again, Cecily Madsen, I am truly sorry.) By some miracle, I, along with most of my friends, managed to qualify as Mormon missionaries (this was before they raised the bar), and I served for two years in the Land of Enchantment. Not a day goes by that I do not think of my experiences as a missionary and the postitive impact they had on the course of my life.
I started my mission off on a slow start in Crownpoint, New Mexico, a rural town on the Navajo reservation with a population of approximately 2,600. I suspect that for every hour we spent teaching investigators or trying to meet people in our assigned area, we spent 4-5 hours playing basketball at the Gallup rec center. I didn’t mind our casual approach to missionary work at first, but over time it began to take its toll, and I ended up having a very difficult time getting along with my companion. If it weren’t for Elder and Sister Munson, a very kind senior missionary couple who lived in the trailer next door, I probably would have cut my mission 23 months short. I was soon transferred to Albuquerque, then to Cortez, Colorado, and then back to Albuquerque, developing special relationships all along the way. Inevitably, I also accumulated a lot of regrets about the way I treated other missionaries, members, and non-believers, and I often wish I could go back and talk some sense into that young Elder. Near the end of my misson, I heard another missionary, on the night before his departure, propose that you can measure the success of a missionary, not by the number of baptisms they accumulated or leadership positions they held, but by the person they become 10, 20, or 30 years down the road. Comforting words.
My two years in New Mexico and Colorado were followed by four years at BYU, where I majored in English. Non-Mormons, you must understand that while BYU is not among the most prestigious schools in the nation, it is nevertheless quite competitive, because every Mormon mother outside of SLC (and approximately 45% of Mormon mothers in SLC) wants their children to go there. Somehow (I suspect mostly due to a highly persuasive, but likely dishonest letter from my mission president), I managed to get in with a paltry 3.1 gpa from high school. It was always a delight to see the surprise of my high school classmates when I ran into them on campus.
At BYU I, along with two of my high school friends, joined the “Sandy Boys”, a group of Jordan High grads, mostly from the class ahead of me. This was viewed as an act of treason by our other friends, who could not stomach the idea of moving to Provo. We started the now-famous BYU chapter of the PMGA (the Professional Minituare Golf Association), and held monthly tournaments at the Trafalga Family Fun Center. In addition to the prospect of coming home with the green jacket and the golden lady (a re-purposed womens golf trophy), a good number of us managed to secure our marriage prospects during these tournaments. Such was the case for me. I still have the golf ball that I used when I proposed to Liz on the 9th hole.
Fast forward 9 years later, Liz and I live in Austin where we manage to keep our four children alive and drug free (the oldest is seven). I graduated from law school at the University of Texas, and practice in the exciting world of capital markets finance with a wonderful mid-sized firm.
We are still active Mormons, and highly involved in our growing church community. From time to time, I still like to pick up my Norton Anthology of British Literature, or my Robert Frost Reader. (Ed Cutler will burst with pride if he ever happens upon this.) I also like to torture myself by watching a Utah Jazz basketball game here and there. John Stockton may not know it, but he is the godfather of my firstborn.