In the early 1950s the United States was at war on the Korean peninsula. Because of the draft policy of the government at that time, young men were not allowed to serve missions but instead required to join the military. Knowing this, I enrolled in the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps when I went to college. My goal was to become an officer like my oldest brother. However, during a visit home for the Christmas holiday, my home-ward bishop, Vern Freeman, invited me into his office. He advised me that a young Church leader by the name of Brother Gordon B. Hinckley had negotiated an agreement with the U.S. government permitting each ward in the Church in the United States to call one young man to serve a mission. This young man would receive an automatic deferment from the military during his mission.
Bishop Freeman said he had been praying about it and felt he should recommend me to serve as a full-time missionary representing our ward. I explained to him that I had already made other plans—I had enrolled in the Army ROTC and expected to become an officer! My bishop gently reminded me that he had been prompted to recommend me to serve a mission at that particular time. He said, “Go home and talk to your parents and come back this evening with your answer.”
I went home and told my father and mother what had happened. They said the bishop was inspired, and I should happily accept the Lord’s invitation to serve. My mother could see how disappointed I was at the prospect of not becoming an army officer right away. She quoted:
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
That night I went back to the bishop’s office and accepted his invitation. He told me to go to the Selective Service Office and advise them of my decision.
When I did so, to my surprise the lady who was chairman of the Selective Service Office told me: “If you accept a mission call, you will receive your draft notice before you can reenter Army ROTC. You will serve as an enlisted man, not as an officer.” Continue reading