Missionary finds strength in conference as the world back home seems to crumble

Published: Friday, Sept. 30 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Mike Whitmer, 37 years following his missionary service. (Mike Whitmer) Mike Whitmer, 37 years following his missionary service. (Mike Whitmer)

Editor's note: While thousands gather in the Conference Center for general conference, many more tune in around the globe via several types of technology. This week, Mormon Times shares experiences and memories of those who have participated in general conference outside of the United States.

While Alberta, Canada, may not seem very distant or international to those in the United States, for a young missionary from Arizona, it was far enough to feel like another universe. Serving in Edmonton, and preparing for a winter with minus-20 F temperatures, made it seem closer to the moon than anything else.

Add to that the news that President Richard Nixon had recently resigned his presidency and the world in general seemed to be circling down the drain.

Then came the oasis I needed to get life back in order. October general conference was just the medicine for the ills that tried to distract this struggling missionary from his work. While we weren't able to listen to all the sessions, the talks we received were pointed and useful in focusing on our work and the great challenges I faced.

Imagine the excitement when President Marion G. Romney began with a message about fundamental principles of the gospel. Having recently encountered people who were adamant that they had been saved by "confessing" Jesus Christ, it was exciting to hear President Romney speak on just that subject. And even better, he was using the same scriptures we had memorized as we prepared to teach those we met. Though I don't remember discussing this, I suspect several of us in attendance must have felt a comfort from the Spirit, knowing our personal needs were being addressed by a prophet of God.

As Elder Rex D. Pinegar counseled us, there was a feeling of trust that came because he had just returned from his own service as a mission president. His counsel to "continue as you have commenced" became a standard for the rest of my time in missionary service and the 37 years that have since passed.

While it was tough to be far from home and the world seemed to be falling apart, the general conferences during my missionary service were the anchors that kept me from drifting on the sea of worry and concern. If the brethren were still confident in the state of the nation and the church, then a simple missionary could also have confidence to fulfill his duty in the kingdom of God.

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