1978—Church: Mission Presidency
…previous Church assignment: Stake High Council (1976)
Before his call to New England, President Jae Romney Ballif, my new file leader, had been dean of physical sciences and mathematics at Brigham Young University. But he always identified himself as “just a physics teacher,” in which congenial rôle he had been widely appreciated. Administration never became his cup of Postum, but as a faithful Latter-day Saint and a team player, he had accepted such duties in the academic environment and served willingly and inspirationally as a mission president.

Customarily, a mission president serves for three years. But the BYU apparently found it couldn’t do without Jae for that long. Accordingly, and to his distress and (irrelevantly) mine, at the end of only two years in Cambridge, he was called back to Provo to participate in the administration of the university.

Strangers at first, Jae and I “clicked” quickly and worked together very pleasantly and effectively, over the scant year we were given as a team. We soon learned that we have a great deal in common. Entre autres, as it turns out, he’s a cousin of my stepmother, Norma. The last time we shared a brotherly hug was at her funeral in 2003.

My physics background helped, too: before this time I hadn’t really been conscious of the extent to which physics can be a mode of communication, almost a language.

As we returned from a drive (to somewhere in Connecticut, I think), Jae broke a brief silence to say, “Andy, we’ve been doing the Lord’s work all day. I don’t think He’ll be displeased now, if we talk a little physics.” So, we did, to our mutual delight.

I haven’t always moved gracefully from one assignment to another. The transition from a beloved (or at least habitually comfortable) calling to another
jae2b
Jae Romney Ballif

has several times occasioned more emotion in me than it should ideally have done. New callings sometimes look implausible: one may get credit for faith, when one accepts a new role that doesn’t seem to fit one’s experience, qualifications, and self-image. The standard doctrine says that “Whom the Lord calls, He qualifies,” and I do believe it: I can cite numerous cases in which people (including yours truly) have grown into new and surprising assignments in defiance of reasonable expectation.

For me, though, this change was distinctly easy to take. Having worked in the Church’s missionary program at several levels, I’d enjoyed altogether affirmative experience with mission presidents. I loved New England and rejoiced in an official excuse
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1977
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1979
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