The Lead-up to a Mission
I had always assumed I would serve a mission for The Church. Faithful Latter-day Saint boys normally did and do, breaking off their college and their love-life close to their nineteenth birthday. Not that we had a particularly strong tradition of missionary service in my immediate family: neither Pappy nor Grandpa Anderson had gone. For Pappy, the problem was the Depression; for Grandpa, I surmise, it may have been World War I. If he left a record, I don’t have it.

Grandpa A. M. Seely served in Alabama in 1899, but he was the only ancestor in my lifetime to be a returned missionary, and I knew him only briefly. I had functioned as a Stake Missionary for a while as a high-school senior in San Bernardino, engaging in rather low-key and low-productivity proselytism as junior companion to the excellent George Jones. Apart from sporadic and tentative Gospel discussions with some of my cronies* in East Campus, that was about all the explicit missionary training and experience I’d ever enjoyed.

And then there was the priority issue that my academic career superimposed. Pappy was the first college student in his family. Ever, as far as I know. Mammy’s side of the tree had more academic leaves, but my situation at MIT really did break family ground and precedent.

*Richie Garber went to Church with me for a while and, in visits to his family in New York, taught me some precious lessons about the fellowship and hospitality that are traditional in Jewish families. I’ve learned only recently that Bruce Butterfield has been a Latter-day Saint since 1967. Not taking credit (he’s married to his real missionary), but I did invite him to Longfellow Park a few times.
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