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Jabari Parker, Danny Ainge and LDS missions

By Travis Hansen

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, June 19 2012 10:26 a.m. MDT

Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge talks with reporters during a news conference at the Celtics basketball training facility in Waltham, Mass., Friday, May 13, 2011.

Michael Dwyer, ASSOCIATED PRESS

All-time list of returned LDS missionaries in professional sports

Jabari Parker is one of the best prep high school basketball players in the world right now. He is also a Mormon. He has a big decision to make soon — what university he will play for and whether or not he will serve an LDS mission.

A friend of mine recently said that Jabari would do more missionary work by not going on a mission and by being a great basketball player and good role model.

Maybe.

But what could a mission do for Jabari personally and for any other young man out there deciding whether to go or not?

A mission is an incredible opportunity to serve, to grow and to witness many life experiences that might otherwise be difficult to experience. It should be everyone's goal to both serve a mission and to become a missionary, for the two are different in every aspect.

In a general conference address, Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, said, "It is possible for a young man to go on a mission and not become a missionary, and this is not what the Lord requires or what the church needs."

Danny Ainge recently corrected a quote published in Sports Illustrated where the author wrote that Ainge said, “I don't believe every young man should serve a mission.”

Last week I spoke with Ainge about this and he told me that “I meant to say that every young man can and should prepare to serve a mission but not every young man will be able to. Due to the standards and raising of the bar, many young men and women will not be able to take part in that opportunity. But that does not make them outcasts or bad people, they missed out on an incredible privilege and opportunity.”

A mission is special, unique and for many a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is not a make-it-or-break-it, meaning if you do not go then you are doomed the rest of your life.

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tend to look down on those who don’t serve a mission — and that needs to change. Those that do not have the opportunity are not outcasts nor should be.

I had the privilege to serve an LDS mission to Santiago, Chile and absolutely loved it!

If you give up two years of your life to serve God and pay back what has been given to you, you will be rewarded with an education you cannot acquire in any other way. Very few people, at any other time in their lives, can live, study and teach the great truths of Jesus Christ 24/7 like missionaries can for two years.

There are a ton of helpful things a mission gives you. When you’re done, you have a master's degree in experiences. You certainly have earned a unique badge people will respect.

Here are a few examples of skills you develop in two years on a mission:

Communication: You learn to talk to people, mostly to total strangers. You grow in confidence in being able to express yourself. You also learn to take criticism from somebody besides your parents.

Fear: You learn how to overcome fear, which can be a stumbling block throughout your life in dealing with issues, challenges and setbacks. Overcoming fear allows you to move forward and avoid the paralyzing effect of being idle.

Diplomacy: You gain an understanding of what it takes to live with a total stranger, your companion. You play the give-and-take game, laughing and crying with others, and learn to handle adversity as a team. What greater training can you gain for a job, career or marriage?

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