The Case of the Chevrolet
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“The Case of the Chevrolet,” New Era, Apr. 1983, 4

The Message:

The Case of the Chevrolet

You plan your life. A car won’t last. The benefits of a mission go on forever.

“What will tomorrow bring?” “What does the future hold?” These, more than any other questions, are asked by the youth of today.

The Lord, who knows all things (see Abr. 2:8), looks into the future and has his prophets prepare us for events yet to come. Our prophet today, Spencer W. Kimball, is, by his counsel, preparing us for our personal future. One of his great messages to the youth of this day is that every young man should prepare to go into the mission field and every young woman also should pray to determine if this is what the Lord wants her to do.

It is not alone that lifting up our voice is a part of our baptismal covenant and the receiving of the holy priesthood. It is not alone that there are people throughout the nations of the world who will receive the gospel if messengers of the Lord will go and teach them by the power of the Spirit. I believe the Lord has more reasons in mind than missionary service when he asks young men to prepare to serve him in the mission field. I believe it has to do with your personal future. The opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for the rising generation will be more unique than in any previous time, and the Lord can see all of this. He knows the end before the beginning. It will truly be “the best of times and the worst of times.” I believe the Lord is trying to tell us through the prophets that the most secure preparation for the future—preparation for a marriage, preparation for a home and family, preparation for the world with all of its opportunities and challenges—is a mission. While a young person should go on a mission to serve the Lord, nevertheless, the blessings of such service will arm him and prepare him for what lies ahead—for his personal future. For a young person, a mission is an investment in all of his tomorrows.

A man came in to see me some time ago. He was in his 40s, I suppose, and he said, “Brother Dunn, I want to tell you a story.” As a child, he grew up in a poor family. He said he was eight before he knew what the taste of fresh milk was because his family was so poor they bought canned milk and mixed it with water to make it go further. He told of how he went down to the welfare agency with his sister one fall, and they issued two girls’ coats to them. All they had left were girls’ coats. As he got into his teenage years, he began to work very hard, and for a boy who didn’t have anything, the greatest desire of his life was a new car. He wanted a 1947 Chevrolet. It was a great obsession with him—he wanted that car. So he worked and sacrificed until he had enough for a down payment, and he got his car.

After sacrament meeting one Sunday, the bishop came up to him and his friend and said, “I’d like to see both of you for a few minutes in my office.” First, his friend went in, and the bishop said, “We’d like you to prepare to go into the mission field.” They talked about it for awhile, and finally the boy said, “Yes, Bishop, I’ll prepare myself to go.” And then this boy went in next, and the bishop asked him also to prepare for a mission. His answer was, “Bishop, I can’t go on a mission; I’m buying a car.” The car was the greatest thing in his life.

He then said, “You know, Brother Dunn, that’s not the end of the story. One thing or another came up, and I never did go. As the years went on, I used to go to elders’ quorum meetings, and I’d sit next to those returned missionaries. I don’t know if they knew any more than I did, but I thought they did. And I felt a little bit uncomfortable sitting with them in those meetings because I didn’t feel that I knew as much about the gospel as they did.” Whether he did or not, at least that’s how he felt. He said, “As time went on, I began to realize the bad decision I had made and how it stays with you. It got so that every time I’d see a 1947 Chevrolet it would give me a black feeling inside because it represented to me a decision I made that took me away from the Lord and, in the long run, hurt me. And to this day, I can’t see such a car without remembering that experience, and I ache inside because of it. The car didn’t last. The benefits of a mission go on forever.”

In everyone’s life there is a 1947 Chevrolet. When a prophet of God stands up and says, as Spencer W. Kimball has, “We invite every young man who is unmarried and physically able to prepare to go into the mission field,” then, at that point, each young member will have to make a decision concerning his 1947 Chevrolet. Maybe it’s not a car; maybe it’s a motorcycle, an education, or just getting the desire, but the Lord truly gives us the opportunity to either follow God or mammon, and we have to make that decision. Such a decision only comes once in a young life. A decision to go will touch everything you do for the rest of your life. It’s the Lord’s way of preparing you for your own future. So with all my heart, I would invite every young man to prepare now, to follow the prophet, to listen to his voice, because now is the time to decide. For the sake of the future, I pray that we’ll choose the Lord and his prophet and not the 1947 Chevrolet.

“Wherefore, gird up your loins and be prepared. Behold, the kingdom is yours, and the enemy shall not overcome” (D&C 38:9).

Illustrated by Michael Rogan