Not If, but When

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“Not If, but When,” New Era, Oct. 1998, 46

Not If, but When

The same Spirit that told me I should serve a mission was also telling me to pray about the timing. But why?

Here I was, 18 years old, approaching graduation from Troy High School, just another boy from a southern California city who loved to have fun without damaging my physical body or dusting up my mind and soul. Little did I know I was about to make one of the hardest decisions I would ever face.

I was a high school senior. The time was approaching when I would be the right age to serve a full-time mission, and the prophet had said all worthy young men should serve. I knew that. But for some reason I wondered about when I should go.

It wasn’t much later that I was sitting in an interview.

“What are your feelings about accepting a mission call?” the bishop said.

I looked down at the patterned floor and replied, “I think I’d like to go.”

His mouth formed a smile as he opened his calendar. “Well, let’s see. You turn 19 in September, so if we filled out your papers three months before, then it …”

Before he could finish, I jumped in.

“Bishop, I don’t know when I want to leave. Yes, I turn 19 in September. But I guess I need some time to think it over.” I felt myself get tense as I sank deeper into my chair. I didn’t know what to say. Maybe I just needed time to ponder and pray.

“Let me know if there’s anything I can do to support you,” he concluded, as he walked me to the door. “I’m behind you 100 percent of the way,” he added.

Wandering back to the car, I began to realize how important my serving a mission was to my Heavenly Father. I also thought how important my example could be for my family. I was the second oldest of six children, and I felt I had to set an example for the four younger ones. But most of all, I thought about how accepting the call was the right thing to do, that I should listen and obey.

As I drove home, however, I felt a strong impression that when I should go was very important.

The next few weeks were incredibly spiritual for me as I pondered and prayed about my decision of when I’d leave. Praying for guidance from my Heavenly Father was not easy. I had never been one to rely so greatly on prayer. But I knew that through prayer, if I had faith, he would answer me.

After weeks of patience and prayer, I could feel the influence of my Heavenly Father’s spirit wrap around me. I began to feel that in January of 1996 I would be available to be called into the mission field.

I had never felt such a feeling of comfort and joy as I did that day. There was no doubt in my mind that when January rolled around I would be ready and willing to go. And I knew that within the next seven months I would have to work hard and prepare myself to serve an uplifting, spiritual mission.

Four months before I was to leave, my older brother, David, was in an accident that left him in a coma. A few days later he died.

The spirit that filled our house that day was something I had never felt before. It was as if our home was floating on heaven. Although I missed my brother terribly, I knew that was why I had wondered about when I should serve. His death brought my family closer together, and I will cherish for all eternity those few months I had with my family before I left for the mission field.

Now I’m teaching people about the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and I know that serving a mission is one of the most important things I could ever experience.

And to know that my Heavenly Father actually cared enough to answer my prayer about when I should leave made me feel like someone special. It gave me something to hold on to and helped my faith in him increase. My Heavenly Father knew exactly what was going on. I could see his footsteps beside me every step of the way.

Editor’s Note: Elder Goodman served a mission in the Colorado Denver North Mission. He was released in January of this year.

Illustrated by Paul Mann