It's one of those events you plan for all of your life, or in this case, all of my son's life. As Richard's Dad, I always expected the day would come when he would serve the Lord. For years I did my best to convince Richard's older sisters to serve missions just as Leslie, thier mother, and I had each done. But in the end they each chose husbands instead of simply being assigned companions. We love Brandon and Justin, our sons-in-law, and we know the girls made great choices. While the girls may have had opportunities to serve as missionaries, Richard knew he was responsible to serve - to fulfill the direction that every young man serve a mission.
As a young teenager, Richard displayed all of the predictable traits one might imagine. Sometimes forgetfull, often defensive, always up for a good time, and never lacking in attitude, but he also rarely forgot who he was and what his duties were. I'd like to think I was, or am, the same way, but without a doubt, 'duty' is a primary focus for Richard. He would rarely have admitted to this, but now I see that he understands the trait and even strives to lead others in fulfilling thier duty to God and man.
Richard was set apart as a full-time missionary, an ordained minister of the gospel last night in our home. Stake President, Curtis Dahl set him apart, joined by Bishop John Swallow, Shane Pace, Justin Ashby and Richard Haskell, Sr.. President Dahl pronounced meaningful blessings for Richard and there was a great spirit with us. Bishop Swallow, Brother Pace, Leslie and I each bore our testimonies to Richard and offered him some last bits of counsel. Becca and Justin Ashby and our daughter Lauren were with us as well. Afterwards, our family spent the remainder of the evening talking about missions, theology, how important it is to live the tenants of the faith that you espouse and remembering just why apple pie and vanilla ice cream are among life's simple pleasures. Actually, we did more than remember - the six of us consumed an entire pie! We love Leslie's pies!
Richard enters the MTC this afternoon. In the grand scheme of things it is just one little event, and the two years during which Richard will be in Australia will ultimately be remembered as a short time of focused service. But for right now, and for us, those two years and this event have amazing import - our world is changing, in a way we've always known it would, but the knowing only tempers the reality. Our little boy, our 6'2", 200+ pound, 19 year old son, my buddy and helper is heading out and there's nothing we could or would do to change it. Richard is exactly where we've hoped he would be at this point in his life. This, by the way, falls under the heading of 'be careful what you wish for'.
So this afternoon we'll go to the MTC, become emotional as the Elders and Sisters stand and sing 'Called To Serve' and then morph into weeping ninnies as we go out one door and our son goes through another. But we'll keep in mind that we're going out the door, going back home and he'll be going into a doorway that will bring him some of the defining experiences of his life. We can only presume what some of those will be, they're different for every missionary - but what is common to all missionaries is the inescapable reality that the years of diligent service, began as a boy, lead to rich lives lived by honorable men, dutiful priesthood holders, faithful husbands and loving fathers. What a glorious progression, what an amazing experience, what an impressive young man - our son.