Thursday, March 1, 2018
Passing of One of My Mission Presidents
One of my Mission Presidents passed away about a week ago - President Lavon Gifford. He was obviously a great man -- very "by the rules" in my opinion. It scared me to be a missionary under him as times because I was scared to screw up. My mission was a very formative time in my life especially the middle to the end. Even though he was strict, I appreciate President and Sister Gifford's service to me. Below is a Facebook post I shared about him (probably more about me).
I was scared of President Gifford. Maybe not scared but very intimidated by some of the crazy things he had asked me to do. Having never seen missionary leave or come back from the military wards I was in growing up didn’t help. President Gifford being an ex-Marine was intimidating to me because I saw and dealt with Marines daily. When serving with Hans Petersen and Kilpack in Anchorage President Gifford asked me to learn Spanish to help my companions. Having taken 4 years of Spanish, still not knowing a word and having a fluent Spanish speaking father, I personally feel like not learning Spanish was and is one of my biggest failures. I told him I couldn't do it and he told me to try.
He had me serve with a very difficult missionary and when I asked to serve with someone who actually wanted to work, he told me to stick it out. I told him I was going to punch him in the face and he told me I probably shouldn’t do that. That threat reveals more about me as a man and as a missionary at the time than I care to admit.
Zone Conference with the stress on memorizing was crazy looking back now knowing I had an undiagnosed learning disorder. I hated being called on. I hated not knowing what to say.
This was way too personal and probably reveals more about me at the time than President Gifford. Seeing all these memories sort of makes me feel sorry for him and Sister Gifford because they had to deal with me.
I was grateful to have known him. I am grateful to have served under him. Like Shane mentioned, the knee-slapping was one of the first things that reminded me he had a sense of humor and might not be the scary man I thought he was.