The following account appeared on page 9 of the February 1993 edition of The New Era, the monthly magazine for youth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It seems fitting to post it here because it is in keeping with the theme of recent posts, such as this one, about my friend, Lisa, who, like me, also has Cerebral Palsy, whom I met on my mission, and who provided me with an invaluable, indelible, ongoing reminder of the centrality of the resurrection:
And this one, in which I talk about being an example to others through my own challenges (https://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2019/04/27/achievement-of-the-year/).
For another reflection on my missionary service which was published here on the blog, see here (to avoid confusion, I should point out that that link also contains a link to the essay which appears below as it appeared in The New Era). While this appeal may be nothing more than a shameless effort to drive traffic to my blog, I would prefer that you come back here to read it, instead! https://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/gods-army-and-my-own-mission/
Author’s Note: The standards relating to eligibility for full-time missionary service in the Church of Jesus Christ have changed since I wrote this. While I did go on a full-time, proselyting mission for the Church of Jesus Christ, and while I was pleased to serve, it was (after law school), the second-hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I was a liability to my companions in more ways than one, and, because of that, I would not be called to full-time proselyting missionary service under the standards now in effect. As much as a part of me might be pained to say this, I think that’s a good thing. It would be interesting to see, if I were called to serve under today’s “Raised Bar” standards, how an opportunity could be crafted which would take full advantage of my unique skill set, on the one hand, while minimizing the impact of any of my limitations, on the other hand.
To anyone contemplating missionary service in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who may have limitations which would impact one’s ability to serve in the traditional way and for whom a specially-crafted opportunity may be necessary in order to maximize one’s chances for success while minimizing the impact of any limitations, I say: (1) It’s not where you serve, but how; and (2) Your service and your sacrifice are fully acceptable to the Lord, whether you serve Him as a full-time proselyting missionary or in some other way. I invite you to pray for confirmation from the Holy Spirit about where and how the Lord would have you serve, as well as for confirmation that your sacrifice, whatever it is, is no less acceptable to Him.
We Did It
by Ken Gourdin
A mission wouldn’t be easy, but I had help from a strong companion.
When I was preparing to go on a mission, I had an experience which touched my life forever. It had been a particularly bad day as I came home from school that May afternoon, the kind of day that made me want to lock myself in a room, away from the rest of the world. And that’s exactly what I did. I had always planned to go on a mission, always prepared for it. But now that the chips were down, I didn’t know if I actually had the courage to follow through with it.
Prospective missionaries are given a routine exam to try to detect potential problems which could later hinder them in the service of the Lord. It’s really no big deal. But I have cerebral palsy, and I’ve had quite a few major operations to correct problems in my muscles and joints which have been caused by my condition. I had been to one too many “routine” physicals in my life only to be told that major surgery was necessary to correct a problem which had been discovered by the physical.
I desperately didn’t want that to happen again, but I was really worried that something might be discovered which would not only affect my ability to serve a mission but the very quality of my life as well. I was also worried that I just might not be physically able to do the work—that I wouldn’t be able to “pound pavement” and knock on doors for several hours a day for two years, even if nothing else was wrong.
All of these thoughts were swirling through my mind as I lay alone in my room. I was depressed enough that, before long, I fell asleep. When I woke up, I was startled to find that the room was completely dark. I looked at the clock. It was 10:30 P.M. I’d been asleep for six hours. I lay awake wondering what to do when I received the prompting, “Read the Book of Mormon.” I dismissed this prompting three times, and three times it returned.
Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to get the prompting out of my mind unless I obeyed, I went up the stairs, turned the corner into the kitchen, and turned on the light. There on the table was a copy of the Book of Mormon. I sat down, flipped the book open rather casually and began to read. I read three or four chapters. I then began to read Alma, chapter 26.
In verses 8 and 9, Ammon expresses his joy at the success he and his brethren have had as missionaries among the Lamanites. In verse 10, Ammon’s brother Aaron rebukes him for boasting.
Ammon’s reply, in verses 11 and 12, chilled me to the bone, and I knew that I had received revelation from the Spirit: “I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom. But behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.
“Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength, I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things.”
I knew that serving a successful mission wouldn’t be easy, and it wasn’t. I had many physical challenges. But I also knew that I could rely on the Lord’s strength when my own strength was running low. Together, we accomplished a lot.