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One third of Millennial Mormons who go on a mission are returning early


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10 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

I think all this did, though, was to delay the inevitable. I've kept in contact with a number of former missionaries from my mission, and those who just gritted their teeth and endured the experience are all out of the Church now anyway.

I don't know if one way is better than the other. I probably lean towards thinking toughing it out is better, but that has more to do with thinking if you start something you need to finish it. You seem to be addressing another facet of the topic and that is being faithful. I wish I could say that I kept in touch with many of my mission companions, but I haven't. I know of one that left the Church - he was by far my favorite companion. We had a great time together and found a lot of success. Intellectually, he was a genius - just an amazing individual. He went on to get his Ph.D. and teaches advanced mathematics at an Ivy League school. The rest of the people I served with seem to all be active in the Church, but that is only about a dozen that I keep in touch with and our mission had 133 missionaries in it.

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13 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

I'm not interested in blaming people, just in better understanding the situation. I would expect you to understand the difference, but this is not the first time I've been disappointed by someone.

God lets people make all kinds of poor choices. He's been doing it since the beginning. It's called 'agency'. It's messy, but it's the only way forwards.

But back on topic, I really wonder if people think these young people are prepared to serve missions and are stupendously wrong or if they deep-down know there are serious preparation issues but just hope it'll all come good if they go ahead and send them out anyway.

When I was studying in America, I knew a number of postgraduate students who had completed their first degrees at BYU. Some of them told me that, in their opinions, many clueless LDS parents who hadn't really done very well at instilling basic gospel knowledge or values in their children sent them off to BYU as a sort of 'reform school'. I suspect a number of American parents have treated missions the same way. I don't know if that's part of what we're dealing with here or not. I really am just trying to understand.

As a former Young Men president and bishopric counsellor in my ward (and one who has stayed in close contact with all the young men I worked with in those capacities), I can say with confidence that we knew most of the strengths and weaknesses of our youth. We certainly understood what they needed in order to succeed as full-time missionaries, and we created individual plans to help each one of them get there. We never sent one off until we were confident that he was as prepared as we could reasonably get him.

I wonder if it helps that most of our ward's missionaries have not come out of families that were really grounded themselves, so we didn't just assume that active family = prepared to serve. I can see that happening.

Our second missionary to serve did come from an active family, but I knew that behind closed doors, they were a mess. I'd also worked with this young man since he was 12, so I knew him very well too. Even after he'd passed both his bishop's interview and stake president's interview, I met with him to check on his commitment. I told him in no uncertain terms that if I was unsatisfied with his ability to complete his mission, I would be seeking to put his application on hold. We had a long talk. We discussed some of his long-term issues with faith. In the end, he gave me a commitment that he would give 100% no matter what. I told him that I'd be there for him during the whole process.

We emailed most weeks. He did really struggle in the beginning, but it was in ways that I'd warned him about, and so he was not taken by surprise. I think that my email responses to his questions and concerns helped. He served the full two years, diligently and faithfully. He ended up being such a good companion to an American Elder who was suffering from depression that he served with him twice. He came home grounded and has been active ever since. He's now serving in our ward Young Men presidency.

I've disappointed you? I feel terrible. ;)

Sorry I misunderstood you when you said...

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I sincerely don't understand how parents, family members, youth advisers and mentors, bishops, stake presidents, etc. could all think these young people were ready to serve when clearly they weren't. What do you think people are missing?

To me it sounded like blame, otherwise, how could all of these people miss that these youth "clearly" weren't "ready" to serve. In any case, you asked about what is missing and I responded with the question about whether we should expect more of a process that claims revelation as its foundation. What do you think of that? Is revelation foundational to the mission calling process? If so, why does it so often seem to bear bad fruit?

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This is quite predictable when we consider the lives of this age group and what they were doing before their mission call. I don't think that they can handle the discipline needed to be a missionary and I don't think that they can take the work involved as a missionary. This age group are the future leaders of the USA and future workers. Not good. 

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On 9/29/2018 at 12:10 AM, HappyJackWagon said:

What do you think of that? Is revelation foundational to the mission calling process?

If I remember correctly, your point was that after parents, advisers, bishops and stake presidents have all unanimously made a recommendation, endorsed by the individual him- or herself, the apostles who make the call should just send the application back because they know, though revelation, that the individual is just going to fail. Does that actually match your understanding of Latter-day Saint theology in any way? This would be akin to Heavenly Father refusing to send us into mortality because He knew in advance that we would just stuff things up. That doesn't happen, for what I thought were obvious reasons.

It's also similar to the experience that I have recounted a number of times earlier on this board. As a bishopric counsellor, I interviewed a married couple for temple recommend renewals. During the interview with the wife, I received the clear and distinct impression that something was amiss. So I was very careful as I asked all the questions. I asked a few follow-up questions, specifically regarding the Law of Chastity. I asked if there was anything this sister wanted or needed to discuss with me or with our bishop. Her answers were all fine.

But I 'knew' the situation wasn't fine. So after signing her recommend, I immediately spoke to our bishop, told him what had happened, and asked him to give a heads-up to the stake presidency counsellor who would be doing the second interview. I understand that he also had misgivings, but because the answers were all 'correct', signed the recommend too. Six weeks later, this sister moved in with the man she'd been hooking up with behind her husband's back.

In a church that honours agency and respects the purposes of mortality, there's only so much one can do.

The apostles have done much, from what I can see, to try to get parents and local leaders to be on top of this. They keep tightening requirements, providing detailed checklists, improving mission prep materials, etc. In other words, they teach correct principles and then let those to whom they have given the keys of stewardship govern themselves.

I do note that absolutely no one wants to answer my original question, by the way. Why is that? Why are we sending young people on missions who genuinely aren't prepared, and if the answer is, 'We don't know they aren't prepared', then why don't we know?

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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By the way, I travelled to the temple this past Friday evening with our current elders quorum president. His wife is a counsellor in our Relief Society presidency. Their eldest son is 19, lives at home and works as a fast food cook. He spends the rest of his time on social media or binge-watching streaming television. As a result, he's emotionally fragile, distracted from most personal devotions, frequently depressed, etc. -- all despite being active and 'worthy'. He also tells people he is preparing to serve a mission, even though he isn't really. (He tried doing the stake mission prep class but found it too hard to wake up for it after regularly staying online till 4am Sunday mornings.)

I shared with my travelling companion what has been said on this thread and asked him if he thought his eldest was ready in any way to serve a mission. Resounding answer: no! And he made it clear that they (the parents) won't support any attempt by their son to serve until they know he is ready. They're both returned missionaries themselves (and both converts); they know what it takes to serve. They also know their son and his personal strengths and weaknesses.

They'd love to see him serve someday, but more importantly, they'd love to see him in a position to serve. They know he's not even close yet.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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On 9/28/2018 at 12:25 AM, HappyJackWagon said:

I don't want my kids to know my missionary experience. I have very few good memories from my mission, so if I were honest with my kids about that, and told them the truth of the experience, they wouldn't want anything to do with it, and I wouldn't blame them.

You hated your mission, but you still want your own children to serve, even if it means deceiving them? :blink:

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I wonder how many parents don't share because they had experiences like I did.

My first year at university, I had an LDS roommate who had served in the UK. I was excited by this and looked forward to all he could teach me. Instead, he never really talked about Church stuff at all, including mission experiences -- even when I asked him. It never made sense to me, and it made even less sense after I started serving my own mission. I can still spend hours sharing life-altering personal experiences from my mission.

What I experienced as a fulltime missionary is at the bottom of nearly everything positive that I currently know and do. Learning to forget myself and serve with all my heart, mind and faith is what took my intellectual belief in Christ and the Restoration and turned it into an experiential knowledge that has never stopped expanding. I guess some people just grit their teeth and endure the two years instead?

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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1 hour ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

You hated your mission, but you still want your own children to serve, even if it means deceiving them? :blink:

My first year at university, I had an LDS roommate who had served in the UK. I was excited by this and looked forward to all he could teach me. Instead, he never really talked about Church stuff at all, including mission experiences -- even when I asked him. It never made sense to me, and it made even less sense after I started serving my own mission. I can still spend hours sharing life-altering personal experiences from my mission.

What I experienced as a fulltime missionary is at the bottom of nearly everything positive thing I currently know and do. Learning to forget myself and serve with all my heart, mind and faith is what took my intellectual belief in Christ and the Restoration and turned it into an experiential knowledge that has never stopped expanding. I guess some people just grit their teeth and endure the two years instead?

That's the disconnect. Some people really don't like their missions, and have little to nothing good to say or think about them.

I'm with you. Not a day goes by that I don't think about people, places, and events from my mission ---- in a great way. I loved my mission --- really loved it, it's not just something I say on message boards. If I genuinely hated mine, then obviously I would feel differently about it. 

I'm sad that some people have a negative experience. I can't wait for my kids to go, and have their own experiences. In a lot of ways, my son's freshman year of college is like a first of three years of a mission. We love hearing from him, and can't wait to hear about his week. 

I wonder if people who don't like their missions really love college? Or work? Life in general? Not church --- that goes part and parcel with the mission, I think. 

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50 minutes ago, rongo said:

I wonder if people who don't like their missions really love college? Or work? Life in general?

I suspect it's different in many cases. University, work, etc. seldom require a complete surrender of will to Christ.

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Not church --- that goes part and parcel with the mission, I think. 

Yes, I think they are one and the same. If it hadn't been for the converting power of my mission, I'd be out of the Church. Going through the motions is exhausting and unsustainable.

When Elder Bednar visited us for training three years ago, he asked a number of us to stand and tell him why we were there on a Saturday morning (instead of golfing, mowing the lawn or whatever). I didn't choose to stand, but the words in my head were clear: 'I learnt as a fulltime missionary that I love the things of God more than anything else.' When our area president stood to answer the question, those were his exact words too.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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5 hours ago, rongo said:

That's the disconnect. Some people really don't like their missions, and have little to nothing good to say or think about them.

I'm with you. Not a day goes by that I don't think about people, places, and events from my mission ---- in a great way. I loved my mission --- really loved it, it's not just something I say on message boards. If I genuinely hated mine, then obviously I would feel differently about it. 

I'm sad that some people have a negative experience. I can't wait for my kids to go, and have their own experiences. In a lot of ways, my son's freshman year of college is like a first of three years of a mission. We love hearing from him, and can't wait to hear about his week. 

I wonder if people who don't like their missions really love college? Or work? Life in general? Not church --- that goes part and parcel with the mission, I think. 

I am with you.  I loved my mission and still reflect fondly on the experiences I had serving.  I am probably one of those guys that went on my mission for the wrong reason.  In my mind, I thought that somehow, serving a mission might make up for being gay.  So I could go before God and say, well at least I served you for 2 full years.  I was going as some kind of bargaining chip.  What I soon learned is that I was only further in God's debt.  That a mission was for me more than it was for God. God doesn't need us to serve Him, we need to serve God.

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20 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

You hated your mission, but you still want your own children to serve, even if it means deceiving them? :blink:

My first year at university, I had an LDS roommate who had served in the UK. I was excited by this and looked forward to all he could teach me. Instead, he never really talked about Church stuff at all, including mission experiences -- even when I asked him. It never made sense to me, and it made even less sense after I started serving my own mission. I can still spend hours sharing life-altering personal experiences from my mission.

What I experienced as a fulltime missionary is at the bottom of nearly everything positive that I currently know and do. Learning to forget myself and serve with all my heart, mind and faith is what took my intellectual belief in Christ and the Restoration and turned it into an experiential knowledge that has never stopped expanding. I guess some people just grit their teeth and endure the two years instead?

I guess that I fall more into the grit teeth and endure camp.  In many ways, my mission experience was not a positive experience.  I admit to some degree of bias in my judgment, but I don't think that was due to being unprepared, unconverted, or unwilling to lose myself in the work.  I feel confident in stating that the difficulties came from a combination of the geography of my mission, the lack of missionary success mission-wide, events at home outside of my control, and my personal physiology.   

Looking back, there were definitely positive experiences and seeing how my life has turned out, I have no doubt that my specific experience was exactly what I needed.  In fact, in its difficulty, it has set the foundation for everything important in my life including my marriage and my career.  But no, I don't talk about my mission much because it was not an especially good experience.  Not only does it bring up a lot of very painful memories for me, it also tends to make other people fairly uncomfortable.  

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2 minutes ago, kllindley said:

I guess that I fall more into the grit teeth and endure camp.  In many ways, my mission experience was not a positive experience.  I admit to some degree of bias in my judgment, but I don't think that was due to being unprepared, unconverted, or unwilling to lose myself in the work.  I feel confident in stating that the difficulties came from a combination of the geography of my mission, the lack of missionary success mission-wide, events at home outside of my control, and my personal physiology.   

Looking back, there were definitely positive experiences and seeing how my life has turned out, I have no doubt that my specific experience was exactly what I needed.  In fact, in its difficulty, it has set the foundation for everything important in my life including my marriage and my career.  But no, I don't talk about my mission much because it was not an especially good experience.  Not only does it bring up a lot of very painful memories for me, it also tends to make other people fairly uncomfortable.  

Where did you serve? Just curious. 

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After 35 years in my old ward in Washington State We had exactly 3 early returners. One left his mission and joined the Army. There other 2 got sick. That includes all missionaries up to last year. And we never had fewer than 5 out at a time.

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19 hours ago, kllindley said:

Finland.

Wow! I'm curious (outside of painful personal details) what you didn't like about Finland. I would think it would be quite similar to Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, etc. 

Other than the language is much harder than the Germanic ones . . . ;) 

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My children are in their mid/late thirties with many RM friends they live and work with.  Most of them came home and quit church immediately.  As far as I know only one came home early.  But this is just 5 people in Cache Valley that had and or learned different things from their missions.

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On 10/3/2018 at 10:08 AM, kllindley said:

I guess that I fall more into the grit teeth and endure camp.  In many ways, my mission experience was not a positive experience.

I'm glad we didn't lose you! There's a difference, I think, between gritting one's teeth and merely going through the motions.

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But no, I don't talk about my mission much because it was not an especially good experience.  Not only does it bring up a lot of very painful memories for me, it also tends to make other people fairly uncomfortable.

To each his own, but I've shared heaps of bad experiences from my mission with people, and especially with young men. I don't want them to be surprised.

The first third of my mission nearly killed me. The subsequent two-thirds saved my life. I’m happy to discuss both. 

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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2 hours ago, rongo said:

Wow! I'm curious (outside of painful personal details) what you didn't like about Finland. I would think it would be quite similar to Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, etc. 

Other than the language is much harder than the Germanic ones . . . ;) 

Oh, don't get me wrong.  I loved Finland.  I would totally live there.  In the summer.  

From October to April, the darkness is pretty bad.  Some people don't seem to be bothered by that, but for others, it's rough.  There were 20 hours of sunlight in the month of December in Helsinki (at the southern end.)

I actually was very blessed not to really struggle with the language that much.  I never got the point that I could pass as a native speaker, but I certainly got by.  

Finnish culture is substantially different from other Scandinavian countries.  Talking to strangers is really quite taboo, so any form of tracting or street contacting was generally counter productive, as was trying to talk to people on buses, metros, etc.  As a culture, like many other European nations, there is a strong secular, anti-religion sentiment.  Elder Hafen described it perfectly when he said that as a result of the socio-political history, the people were very suspicious of any "isms" claiming to be able to make life better.  I think I could have handled that just fine, there are other ways of doing missionary work and I loved working with the members! What amazing saints!  

The real test of my faith was when the General Authorities who visited our mission "pulled rank" to tell us that the problem was that we as missionaries obviously didn't have enough faith and that if we were actually being "obedient with exactness" we would be baptizing every month.  Those kinds of Priesthood Leader promises and being made to feel as though "I" was the obstacle keeping Finnish people from coming to Christ really took a toll on me emotionally, but also spiritually.  It made me doubt my ability to feel the spirit and discern any truth, because I knew that the Lord was telling me that I was okay and doing well.  But why couldn't General Authorities get the same message?  I even saw the impact their "pep talks" had on our Mission Presidents.  They would become discouraged and often take it out on us as missionaries. 

It has taken years for my testimony to really recover from those experiences.  I still have to mostly "put them on the shelf" and try not to think about the despair and self-loathing they caused.  

   

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1 hour ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

I'm glad we didn't lose you! There's a difference, I think, between gritting one's teeth and merely going through the motions.

Thanks.  I definitely wasn't "going through the motions."  Although we were accused of that.  I am also glad that I wasn't lost, spiritually or otherwise.  Finland has a terribly high suicide rate for a reason.  

 

1 hour ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

To each his own, but I've shared heaps of bad experiences from my mission with people, and especially with young men. I don't want them to be surprised.

I think you're right.  I need to do better about this.  I'll work on finding ways to share some experiences more often in ways that are still faith promoting.  

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2 minutes ago, kllindley said:

Those kinds of Priesthood Leader promises and being made to feel as though "I" was the obstacle keeping Finnish people from coming to Christ really took a toll on me emotionally, but also spiritually.   

Uggh! I'm so sorry!

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It made me doubt my ability to feel the spirit and discern any truth, because I knew that the Lord was telling me that I was okay and doing well.

A painful way to learn an essential lesson ...

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It has taken years for my testimony to really recover from those experiences.

I understand a tiny part of this. My MTC experience did so much damage to me that it took me months to recover. I can extrapolate from there ...

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33 minutes ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

Uggh! I'm so sorry!

A painful way to learn an essential lesson ...

I understand a tiny part of this. My MTC experience did so much damage to me that it took me months to recover. I can extrapolate from there ...

That's right!  I remember you sharing that experience and relating so much to it!

Thanks for the encouragement and the prompt to remember the wonderful things from my mission. 

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57 minutes ago, kllindley said:

Thanks.  I definitely wasn't "going through the motions."  Although we were accused of that.  I am also glad that I wasn't lost, spiritually or otherwise.  Finland has a terribly high suicide rate for a reason.  

 

I think you're right.  I need to do better about this.  I'll work on finding ways to share some experiences more often in ways that are still faith promoting.  

There is a guy in our ward who served in Finland in the 1960's, hated the mission, loved the people and food though. He was there for the 2.5 year or 3 year mission

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11 hours ago, kllindley said:

The real test of my faith was when the General Authorities who visited our mission "pulled rank" to tell us that the problem was that we as missionaries obviously didn't have enough faith and that if we were actually being "obedient with exactness" we would be baptizing every month.  Those kinds of Priesthood Leader promises and being made to feel as though "I" was the obstacle keeping Finnish people from coming to Christ really took a toll on me emotionally, but also spiritually.  It made me doubt my ability to feel the spirit and discern any truth, because I knew that the Lord was telling me that I was okay and doing well.  But why couldn't General Authorities get the same message?  I even saw the impact their "pep talks" had on our Mission Presidents.  They would become discouraged and often take it out on us as missionaries. 

Towards the end of my mission (Hamburg, Germany, 1996), Elder Neil L. Anderson visited, and he ripped us up one side and down the other. Things were going pretty well, and many missionaries were pretty taken aback by this because there wasn't a real "need" for it. If there had been, most of us would have understood and supported it. I commented at the time that it looks like GAs are told when visiting missions, regardless of what is actually going on, to "be sure to kick some tables and chairs over and yell at them." Even if things are actually going great; don't let them get complacent. Not really a big deal in the scheme of things.

Fast forward to 2007. I had been a bishop for three months, and they formed the stake in our area. Our visiting authority was . . . Neil L. Anderson. In my stake president selection interview, he first asked me where I had served my mission, and I said, "Hamburg Germany, mid 90s. You actually visited our mission during that time." And he said, "Would you please forgive a young Seventy for that? It has haunted me to this day. I was raw, and I cringe at how I handled those early assignments." I was astounded a) that he remembered. How many stakes and missions had he visited since then? and b) that he seemed to have had a similar impression of how it went. It wasn't a big deal in the scheme of things, just really "kicking some tables and chairs over" and giving us tough love. But, I was impressed that he remembered it. 

I think some General Authorities do feel a personal need to be the "bad cop" when visiting, and others are completely different. 

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38 minutes ago, rongo said:

Towards the end of my mission (Hamburg, Germany, 1996), Elder Neil L. Anderson visited, and he ripped us up one side and down the other. Things were going pretty well, and many missionaries were pretty taken aback by this because there wasn't a real "need" for it. If there had been, most of us would have understood and supported it. I commented at the time that it looks like GAs are told when visiting missions, regardless of what is actually going on, to "be sure to kick some tables and chairs over and yell at them." Even if things are actually going great; don't let them get complacent. Not really a big deal in the scheme of things.

Fast forward to 2007. I had been a bishop for three months, and they formed the stake in our area. Our visiting authority was . . . Neil L. Anderson. In my stake president selection interview, he first asked me where I had served my mission, and I said, "Hamburg Germany, mid 90s. You actually visited our mission during that time." And he said, "Would you please forgive a young Seventy for that? It has haunted me to this day. I was raw, and I cringe at how I handled those early assignments." I was astounded a) that he remembered. How many stakes and missions had he visited since then? and b) that he seemed to have had a similar impression of how it went. It wasn't a big deal in the scheme of things, just really "kicking some tables and chairs over" and giving us tough love. But, I was impressed that he remembered it. 

I think some General Authorities do feel a personal need to be the "bad cop" when visiting, and others are completely different. 

I recall two instances of visiting authorities who came to our mission and told us how awful we were.  One was an Elder Kendrick and another was Elder Ballard.  I don't know what would have constituted a need for it, but I don't see how what they gave us was helpful at all.  I think in both instances we all wanted to put the experiences in our rear view mirrors quickly.  It was all dreadful and discouraging, as I recall.  And we're talking similar time frames (mission served 95-97.  and to note I was on the same mission as Happyjack, but we didn't overlap.  He went home the month before I came out, I think we determined).

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I only spoke with one GA during my mission, that was A Theodore Tuttle. He was one of the few non-business types in the leadership. He was a seminary teacher. I asked him about a gospel/doctrine question. His reply surprised me, but also taught a lesson that has been valuable over the years. He said he had not got a testimony of that concept yet. I filed that response under ," even apostles still gain knowledge ' line upon line ' ".

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