This blog is a collection of emails and letters written by Elder Spencer Christian Shull, a young man who volunteered two of the most productive years of his young life to serve the Lord. Elder Shull is a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serving in the Massachusetts Boston Mission.
It is difficult for my husband and I to describe to our friends exactly what our son is doing — and especially why we can’t go and visit him or even call him up on the telephone. I have tried to compose a blog post explaining it a million times in my mind, but have never been satisfied with the result. It sounds cruel on the surface that one would volunteer to cut themselves off from family and friends for two years, but when one considers its parallels to the disciples of Christ, some who left their family and everything they knew to follow the Savior, the meaning of a mission becomes so much greater.
A mission is such a unique experience — especially in these times of constant noise, information, activity, progress, competition, success, excess… To be sequestered away from the behavior of the world, and yet, submerged in the world in the same time is not possible in any other way. How many young people in our day have the opportunity to spend a day in prayer, scripture study, service, and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ — let alone 2 years of days just like that.
I found this interesting article from LDS Living Magazine that gives an interesting non-LDS view of missionary service. I think this explains much of what our son is accomplishing.
“Indiana Jones,” “Lord of the Rings” Star Shares Surprising Insights on What He Thinks About Mormons
After performing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for their 2013 Christmasconcert and starring in a new BYUtv movie set to premier this Thanksgiving, John Rhys-Davies has had more exposure to Mormons and LDS culture than most in the movie industry.
Rhys-Davies, best known for his roles as Gimli in Lord of the Rings and Sallah in Indiana Jones, recently finished filming Winter Thaw, a one-hour BYUtv production based on Leo Tolstoy’s classic short story “Where Love Is, There God Is Also.” The film portrays the story of an embittered cobbler who has given up on God and his faith—until his dead wife appears to him one night, saying God will soon visit him.
After working with Mormons over the past three years on a variety of faith-promoting projects, Rhys-Davies shared what he thinks about Latter-day Saints and some of their unique traditions.
“You’re a strange community to us on the outside, but I find you very warm and very welcoming and very friendly—a considerate people,” Rhys-Davies says.
“I like you. And you make it very clear you are willing to put up with me despite the fact that I am far less godly than you guys are . . .
“I’m not just blowing smoke at you—it’s true. You are an odd lot. But you make me welcome and I like you . . . Some of the answers you have found are so interesting.”
Thoughts on Missionaries
One particularly interesting Mormon practice that Rhys-Davies has come to admire is that of LDS missions.
While sharing his experience of living in Africa and watching boys from the Maasai tribe prepare to kill a lion in order to become a man, Rhys-Davies notes, “Most boys want to know what manhood is. Am I brave? Do I have any braveness in me?”
That’s the reason the Maasai practice their manhood rituals. “And that’s the reason [boys] go out and join gangs and pick fights and things like that,” Rhys-Davies shares. “But Mormon youth has this structure of a mission, and it makes men, and good ones too. . . .
“[You] send people away from home with no contact with home except on birthdays or Christmas or something like that—to go to an alien country and to have to go out and meet people and make contacts. I meet these young men and they must go home night after night with a sense of abject failure. And [then they] have to get up the next morning and try and do better. When they finally manage to go home they will have matured and nothing again in their lives will ever be as hard and difficult as that.
“The ones that survive—and I imagine most of them do—turn out very splendid and very successful and quietly confident men. Nothing can be as bad. If I can do that, I can do anything, and that’s a very significant ritual you have evolved. Very impressive.”