I stutter; can I still serve as a missionary?

“I stutter; can I still serve as a missionary?” Ensign, Apr. 1981, 25

I have always wanted to be a missionary, but I stutter. I am torn between desire and fear. What should I do?

Lindsay R. Curtis, M.D., former mission president Without in any way minimizing the problem, let me quote from Ether 12:27: “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

I know several individuals who have faced challenges similar to yours. President Douglas Snarr of the Alaska Anchorage Mission is one outstanding example of a man who triumphed over the same handicap.

I am likewise reminded of I. A. “Bert” Smoot, who, as a young man of missionary age, stuttered hopelessly. He was so fearful of going on a mission because of this handicap that he carried a cigar in his pocket (although he did not smoke) in case he should meet the bishop and be asked to serve. The inevitable happened, and young Bert produced the cigar, protesting, “But Bishop, I smoke.” Unabashed, the bishop replied, “You can quit, can’t you?” When he was set apart for his mission to England, he was promised that he would have no problem with stuttering if he were faithful to his calling.

That wonderful promise was fulfilled. Elder Smoot was indeed an effective missionary, bringing many souls into the Church, including a future General Authority. He completed his life on earth just at the conclusion of three years as a mission president who was highly regarded as a most eloquent speaker.

As a mission president myself in California, I was reminded time and again of the Lord’s desire to bless his faithful servants. One young elder in our mission stuttered badly when he arrived in the field, but he was strengthened to become one of our most effective missionaries.

There are, of course, some conditions incompatible with the call of a missionary. But let the Lord and his appointed servants decide if you should go. I am reminded of the commendation given to Nephi because of his faith and obedience: “Therefore go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured” (1 Ne. 3:6).

Indeed, the Lord has need of willing hands and hearts, even though they might not be physically perfect. But remember that if we demonstrate the necessary faith and trust and obedience, he will provide the miracles.