“About My Duty,” Ensign, Jan. 1994, 66
Few people have influenced my life for good as much as my mission president. In particular, I will always remember the Christmas season of 1977 which came at a time when missionary transfers were being effected in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission.
As administrative assistant to President E. Dale LeBaron, I was responsible for scheduling these transfers and making arrangements for travel. I also had a plan of my own. A few elders and I talked President LeBaron into allowing us to organize some recreation for those who would be passing through, to boost the missionaries’ morale.
The president kept reminding me that I had a great deal of work to do regarding the transfers, and he cautioned me not to forget any details. During the next several weeks, I worked hard coordinating plane, train, and car schedules so that nothing would be amiss. When I thought all was prepared, I turned my attention to organizing teams for the afternoon’s recreational activities.
Finally, the big day arrived. The first wave of transfers moved according to plan. I had left no room for error and could at last turn my full attention to recreation—or so I thought.
I left the mission offices, eager to participate in our planned activities. After awhile, President LeBaron arrived and summoned me to his side. He asked me how things were going, and I answered confidently that all was fine. His reply indicated he was not reassured as he asked, “Are they, elder?”
The first problem I learned of was the elder who was stranded for two hours at the train depot. Whose responsibility was it to pick him up? One glance at my schedule informed me that it had been mine. Next was the elder transferring to Rhodesia who did not have his international packet. Again, my assignment.
The president’s list continued, and when he had covered all the necessary areas, he added these words, which still carry a powerful message today: “Elder, I suggest you had better be about your duties, as you ought to have been.” I meekly declined his offer for assistance, assured him that all would be taken care of, and ran off to the mission office.
Fortunately, by the end of that long day I was able to resolve the tide of disorder I had created. Tired and ashamed, I sat at my desk and wondered how everything had gone wrong. It wasn’t hard to see that I had put aside major responsibilities for minor, unimportant things. Each passing moment intensified my belief that I was a failure. So certain was I that I would be dishonorably released from my mission that I actually phoned the airlines to check on flight schedules.
As I hung up the phone, President LeBaron called. He asked how I was doing, and I unconvincingly answered, “Okay.” Then he asked if I would stop by the mission home. My heart froze with fear as my mind raced to remember what else I had done wrong. I knew it had to be something serious for him to disturb his welcome of new incoming missionaries.
The president met me at the mission home door, and I readied myself for the news of another mistake I had made. President LeBaron asked if I would take a walk with him.
As we walked through the garden, I told him how sorry I was and that I would do whatever he thought best. He then reached out and put his arm around me. To my surprise, he told me that due to the busy day, he had forgotten to tell me that he loved me and that he appreciated all the work I was doing. As he embraced me, my defenses broke down and I wept like a child. Without knowing it, he had made my mission.
I still gratefully smile when I remember the day I needed help and a man of God gave it. The significant impact of his kindness was not limited to me only but has extended to my family, friends, and associates.