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Growing up LDS, your mother, your Bishop, your Young Men’s Leaders would all be pushing you to serve a mission.  There was no higher calling or greater achievement in a young person’s life than turning 19 and being “Called to Serve.”  We would see the plaques in the hallway every sunday of young men and women who were off preaching the gospel in far-away lands.  Russia, Belarus, Japan, Brazil, England, Texas to name a few.

Elder Hartill serving in the Chile Santiago North Mission ’76-’78

My story is similar.  My whole life, I was expected to serve a mission.  It wasn’t even an option to not go and it never really crossed my mind.  My father had served in Chile back in the 70’s in the face of extreme hardship caused by his parents virtually disowning him and causing a huge rift in the family.  My father however had a conviction.  He had a sense of purpose and knew where the Lord wanted him to be.

As I graduated college I had it all figured out.  I would go to college for a full year before turning in my paperwork to serve as a missionary.  A few part time jobs found me and it was expected that the money you save in your teenage years gets saved into your “Missionary Fund.”  I couldn’t buy clothes, or buy the worldly things that teenagers were buying.  My money had to go to the bank until I had saved enough to go on my mission.

I honestly never quite understood the reason why I as a teenager had to give up 100% of my earned money to serve a mission.  I was giving 100% of my life and time to preach the gospel and the least the church can do is to pay for it.  That is what Tithing is for. If I remember right, it was around $400 a month coming to $9,600 that was expected to be paid back to the ward mission fund.  But I can talk about that another time.

Growing up BYU

Another thing growing up LDS is that being a BYU fan was kind of forced on you.  Them: You’re Mormon, you must be a BYU fan?  Me: How did you know!  My mother attended BYU in the 70’s and constantly wished that her son would also attend there.  I said “Eh, why not.  It can’t be that bad.”  Boy was I mistaken.  Living in Utah I would occasionally visit the BYU campus. You don’t get a sense of the community by simply walking through campus.  Sure, the library is cool, the common areas look cool, but then you attend one of their football games.

My mother had gotten tickets to the BYU Football game against if I remember right, was the San Diego State Aztecs.  As the game kicked off, I looked around and noticed the atmosphere.  Noone was paying attention to the game.  Noone was shouting or rooting for their team.  In fact, they threw tortillas when someone was trying to make a field goal.  I couldn’t believe this was the atmosphere that was being cultivated at BYU.  Everyone was clean shaven and looked cookie cutter in their appearance.  These people were comparing the team to the “Strippling Warriors” on the field.  I got a very uneasy feeling watching the game and said I do not want to be one of those types of people.  In fact, it was so ingrained in me to not be like them, i go out of my way to grow a beard.  I know, I’m a rebel.

Now where else can a 17 year old dream of going to college while living at home trying to save money for his mission living in the Salt Lake Valley?  Ah, yes…the school of the Prophets.  The University of Utah.