Buy the book today! A candid look into Mormon missionary service.

Authored by Ross H. Palfreyman, accounting his own first-hand experiences.

  • Mothers like to know what their children are really doing in "God's Mormon Army."
  • Prospective missionaries get an absolutely straight-forward look at what they can expect to experience.
  • Returned missionaries consistently enjoy reliving their own experiences in "God's Mormon Army."

  • Straight-up look at a Mormon Mission - the most significant and formative event in a Mormon's life.
  • Polygamy, the Trinity, prohibitions against smoking and drinking, and other doctrinal issues unique to Mormon life, are all addressed without excuse or prejudice.
  • Great stories and experiences of spiritual confirmation and youthful exuberance.

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Chapter Samples

  • I. Introduction

    All experience creates distinctive learning opportunities, and each one of us travels our own unique path through life based on those experiences and how we respond to them. When tough times come, consciously or unconsciously, we fall back on the lessons we have learned from our past to give us guidance in responding to difficulties and challenges. Experience, then, helps to shape who we are.

    For two years I served as a Mormon missionary in the Thailand Bangkok Mission. It was filled with a wealth of experiences that have stayed with me ever since. A couple of years ago I was reflecting upon just who I was and in what direction I wanted to steer my life. As a part of that examination, I began to read my missionary journal. It immediately became clear to me that being a Mormon missionary has significantly impacted how I have responded to various bumps in the road as I have traveled through life.

    Originally, I began this project envisioning only my family as the reading audience. After all, they knew me and so of course would be interested. In the alternative, if they were not interested, I could exercise some unrighteous dominion as their father and just order them to read it—and like it. That all changed when a good (nosey) Catholic friend was visiting our home and spied the first draft of this book on our dining room table. She insisted on reading it and then ingratiated herself to me forever by saying that she loved it. She went on to say that it needed to be published so that other people could know more about Mormonism without actually admitting any interest. She found the transcript entertaining, and at the same time she learned a great deal about Mormon belief systems. (It is noteworthy that she is still a very happy Catholic.)

    While the specific events of my mission are unique to me, the overall course of events cannot conceivably be much different from that of the thousands and thousands of other missionaries who have served throughout the world. I do not pretend to speak for all missionaries, nor do I speak for the Mormon Church. Rather, my account is meant to convey the flavor of a Mormon mission and my reactions to the many events and circumstances I came across. While other missionaries can well tell their own stories, this book is meant to give some insight into what all Mormon missionaries really do.

    This account then is written for the thousands of people who have questions about Mormon missions: people who have neighbors whose children go on missions, relatives who have joined the Mormon Church and then sent their children on missions, or those whose bosses or co- workers have served missions themselves or have sent their children on missions.

    As I have shared preliminary copies of this book with friends, I have found, somewhat to my surprise, that two other groups find this work especially appealing: those who are now being called to serve and those who have returned from their own missions. For those on their way, this is a glimpse of what is in store. Those who once served often find that their own unique missionary experiences come flooding back to them. Ultimately, my goal in writing this book—in addition to attempting to better understand myself—is to share the missionary experience with all those who have wondered just what goes on in “God’s Mormon Army.”
  • IV. Revolution

    It was on October 13, 1973 that Elder Peckham and I learned that Spiro Agnew was no longer Richard M. Nixon’s vice president and that a new vice president of the United States had been named. While it did not seem to directly affect our lives in any particular way, Elder Peckham and I felt compelled to walk down to the newsstand at the docks in Thonburi to read about our new vice president. As we approached the newsstand at the docks, I observed approximately the same number of people who always frequented the area hustling and bustling back and forth, trading fresh fruits and fish, and soliciting riders for their taxis and buyers for their sundries. I could not help but also note that there seemed to be an edge to the people on this particular day. They were not quite as relaxed and friendly as they normally were. Elder Peckham and I jointly put down our three baht (fifteen cents) and began to read in the Bangkok Post (an English-language newspaper) about Vice President Gerald Ford. I had never heard of him. While we were engrossed in our reading, I became aware of a particularly striking popping sound coming from across the Chao Phrayaa River and asked Elder Peckham if he heard the same thing.

    “I do,” he responded. “It sounds like fireworks. They must be celebrating some holiday.”

    I listened a while longer as the popping sounds began to grow and observed, “The sounds of the firecrackers and barrel bombs that I remember firing off would never have carried all the way across the Chao Phrayaa River from the Bangkok side at Thamasat (TUM-ah- saht) University to the Thonburi side. It sounds more like gunfire.”

    We then continued reading about Gerald Ford and his background as a football player and congressman. I wondered how being a football player had prepared him to be a congressman and now vice president. The importance of Gerald Ford’s appointment to the vice presidency held our interest for only the few minutes it took to read the article about him. Elder Peckham and I finished reading, looked at each other, and shrugged as if the changing of the guard from Spiro Agnew to Gerald Ford was really far less interesting than we had initially supposed.

    As I tucked the Bangkok Post under my arm, I looked around and observed a great deal of commotion. The Thais on the docks had become highly agitated. I looked beyond the docks and out onto the river. A veritable armada of boats was headed right at us from across the river at Thamasat University. This event seemed far more intriguing than the news of America’s new vice president. Elder Peckham and I walked down onto the docks to await the approaching boats. The ferries and needle boats and even some junks were approaching as fast as I had ever seen any of them travel in the past. Elder Peckham and I had no clue what was going on. As the boats got closer, I observed that they were crowded with people, and that as they finally came alongside the docks, the people on the boats were frightened. They were shouting, “It has begun! The revolution has begun!”

    The dock quickly filled with people and Elder Peckham exclaimed, “We’d better get out of here; this does not sound good!”

    I stood there fascinated. I had not heard of any revolution or any potential for one. The popping sounds we heard coming from across the river were actually the sounds of automatic weapons fire. That sound continued, but seemed far more alive now that I understood what it was. I had stumbled upon a real live revolution. The sounds steadily grew toward a fever pitch. The people around us were panicked. Several began to tell us we should go home since the soldiers would be coming shortly.

    While the whole event was very exciting—I mean it is not everyday that you get to observe the beginnings of a revolution—I began to get the sense that Elder Peckham, and those several Thais around us who were advising us to go home, were right and that we should leave. Elder Peckham and I finally turned away from the river to head home, but the path had already become blocked. Thousands of people had streamed onto the streets, yelling and screaming at the tops of their lungs. The air was absolutely charged. People continued to go out of their way to warn, “This is not your fight; get home before you are hurt!”

    Elder Peckham and I inched our way up the docks and toward the street so that we could get home. Progress through the crowd was virtually impossible. I remember one mother in particular crying for her son who was at Thamasat University across the river. She was sure he had already been killed. Several students were trying to get down to the boats to cross back over the river to join their comrades, but there were no boat captains willing to return to the Bangkok side of the river.

    After fifteen or twenty minutes of trying to push our way through the crowd, we finally arrived at the front of Sirirat Hospital, which was only a block or so from the docks. I watched as an olive-drab Volkswagen bus tried to force its way through the crowd and into the hospital. As that vehicle passed in front of me I witnessed bodies stacked on top of each other inside the van and could only hope that the driver could negotiate his way onto the hospital grounds in time to save some of those people. I could see the back of the van and I realized that there was not much hope for those stacked inside. Blood was literally running down the back side of the van and onto the street. It was a sight I will always carry with me in my memory.

    The utter chaos of this situation brought out my more selfish side. The sight of that Volkswagen van triggered my adrenal glands into action. I became a rather strong individual, capable of moving several people at a time out of my way so that I could get out of the crowd and back to my house. Elder Peckham was no more than a step or two behind me.

    Once at home, we immediately wondered to each other what was really going on. The other two missionaries in our home had never left that day, and we filled them in on what was happening.

    Shortly thereafter, we received a telephone call from President Morris who advised us that the students at Thamasat University, in conjunction with other political elements in Bangkok, had begun a revolution against the military regime and that we were essentially smack dab in the middle of the fighting. He then told us to stay in the house until the fighting died down.

    In the next hour or two, the four of us sat in our living room, entranced by the sound of continuing automatic weapons fire. Not much was said except maybe a few quiet and private prayers. As evening approached and the sun took its daily position between two tall palm trees in the front of our property, a knock came at our front door. It was rare in those days that anyone would come to see the missionaries, and therefore the knock was a bit unnerving. Upon opening the front door, I was greeted in a rather abrupt manner by a Brother Chayrod (Chai- ROAD). We had first met Brother Chayrod at one of our street meetings, and he was a current investigator with whom we were meeting on a weekly basis. He invited himself in, sat down on the couch for a moment, and then stood back up and paced nervously back and forth across the living room floor. His eyes were wide open and he looked as if he had seen a ghost.

    He began, “I am glad you are all here. The revolution has begun and you will not be safe outside for some time to come!”

    Brother Chayrod was a student of political science at Thamasat University at the time and apparently was an active participant in the revolution. He explained that he and several of his classmates were protesting the existence of the current military government when they were attacked by the military and the police. He described watching several of his friends being shot and killed. He then forcefully told us that the students had retaliated by burning down the police headquarters.

    Over the next few days, Brother Chayrod would come to our home every evening and report to us the events of the day. His tales of bravery and heroism (or lunacy and ignorance, depending upon which side you took) were heartrending and at the same time riveting. When the police headquarters was attacked, the students had to cross a small bridge. Brother Chayrod left several of his friends dead on that bridge, along with many others, before the revolutionaries were successful in finally crossing the bridge and overtaking police headquarters. He related instances where female students stood between the revolutionaries and military and their police allies, trying to stop the violence. Their reward was death.

    We feared for Brother Chayrod, his friends, and all the members we knew and contacts we had made in Thonburi.

    In those ensuing days while tanks passed near our house, we could not help but wonder how many of our brothers and sisters in the church had perished in the fighting.

    Three or four days passed, and it was over. I never heard much in the way of tank fire or heavy artillery fire. It was as if the military and the police both were not willing to annihilate their own people in this revolution. Instead, the military regime simply announced that they were ready and willing, after this clear showing of a specific desire for democracy, to allow the great experiment of democracy to proceed. The fighting was at once over and a great sense of relief could be felt everywhere.

    Brother Chayrod survived, as did everyone we had become acquainted with in Thonburi. But as we ventured out of the house and into the streets, we realized that not everyone was as fortunate as we were. In front of the Sirirat Hospital stood a large billboard shrouded in black. As best as we could make out, the billboard contained the names of those who had died at the hospital. I did not stop to count how many names there were on that large yellow billboard with black handwriting, but it easily exceeded one hundred. I wondered how many more dead and missing there really were. The news reports in town pegged the total at about a thousand.

    Interestingly, a week or so later, my weekly review of an international news magazine turned up a brief, one-column report of the revolution saying that only sixty-seven or so people had died. My trust in news reporting was never the same after that.

    I cannot remember the excuse we gave each other for needing to go into Bangkok right after the revolution, but our curiosity was insatiable. We told the taxi driver to simply drive us around and show us what had happened. Burned-out cars and buildings were everywhere. We had him take us to police headquarters, where we drove over the bridge that had been described to us by Brother Chayrod as the path used by the students to lay siege on the police headquarters. Charred vehicles, blood stains, and chip marks in the concrete where bullets had glanced off the walls were all that remained to provide evidence of the fighting that had gone on just days before, except of course for the burned-out remains of the police headquarters.

    Life got back to normal in Thonburi within a few days for us, but the people did not seem to recover so quickly. Brother Chayrod was probably the best example. His keen interest in things religious had abruptly disappeared. He seemed completely immersed in the massiveness of his experience in the revolution. He was no more than a boy, eighteen or nineteen years old, who had at once been required to experience life as even mature adults should never have to. There was a distance in his eyes and a hollowness in his voice. I am not sure that Brother Chayrod ever really recovered from those few eventful days, even though he had fought on the prevailing side and was physically unscathed. While the cause may have gone forward, I could not decide whether Brother Chayrod had really won or lost.

    In the days following the revolution, normalcy was problematic. There was no more fighting to be sure, but the police had all disappeared and for a while there was no real government. Instead, young Boy Scouts could be seen out directing traffic. This clearly was an exercise in utter futility; even when the police were around, traffic was an absolute nightmare.

    I noticed that the thousands of fireflies hovering around the trees at our house were going about their usual activities as if nothing had ever happened. Not long after that, I did get the sense that life was returning to its pre-revolutionary state.
  • X. Surgery

    Recreationally, Elder Kirby and I had found the local basketball team and had begun playing with them on a regular basis. We were very definitely a curious sight to the Thai players, many of whom had never met an American before. It always seemed gratifying to me that my being in Thailand and meeting so many people was in itself a service. Walls of suspicion, mistrust, and ignorance were routinely lowered as they out-hustled me for a loose ball or suffered the consequences of my pointy elbows crashing down on top of their heads after grabbing a rebound. I do not know that I could ever articulate how comfortable and at home I felt when I played ball.

    One of the new assistants to President Morris, Elder Simmons, had previously spent some time with me when I was in Thonburi. He was about as wide as he was tall and had been an all-state high school wrestler in Idaho, I seem to recall, before coming to Thailand as a missionary. His chest was so large and bulky that he was often asked by Thais why he had breasts and was a man. Elder Simmons was about as good-natured as you could imagine, and never took offense. He would just laugh uproariously at the observation and then would respond in English with comments such as, “How can your mother love such a dirty child? You really need a bath.” With his amicable smile, they always took his comments as being great compliments. He was always a favorite with the Thai people.

    Be that as it may, Elder Simmons was assigned to test my language skills by listening to my presentation of one of the discussions. I never enjoyed being put on the spot. My hands became cold and clammy and I began to sweat, even though it was the middle of the cold season. We were seated on the deck upstairs at the house, and I remember getting no more than two or three sentences into the discussion when Elder Simmons eased my mind as much or more rapidly than had ever been done before. He climbed up onto his chair, crouched down low, and began to swing his arms back and forth and chant like an ape. The small children in front of our house began to gather around and watch. He became more and more animated, scratching the top of his head and under his arms. Elder Simmons danced from chair to chair, and I soon forgot how nervous I believed I should have been. That was the first and last language test I experienced in Thailand. I am not sure whether or not God intervened on my behalf in this instance, but I like to give Him credit for the help anyway.

    Early on in my stay in Lumpoon, my longstanding groin pain began to get worse. After a month or so I had been reduced to walking around town with both hands in my pockets, keeping my fingers over the holes in my abdominal wall so as to keep my guts from slipping out. I hated when that would happen. The assistants to the president came to visit us in Lumpoon and ordered me to see a doctor in Chiang Mai (Chee-ANG Mai), a beautiful province just north of Lumpoon. One of the assistants, Elder Hallows, accompanied me as my temporary companion. (We were never to be without a companion.)

    The doctor looked me over for no more than a minute, groping around my unmentionables, asking me to turn my head and cough. (This was a Wednesday.) He looked at me and assured me, “This is no emergency. You don’t need hernia surgery immediately. You can come back on Friday if you would like.”

    Elder Hallows then asked the doctor if I could travel to Bangkok for the surgery. Happily for me, the doctor agreed.

    Arrangements were quickly made for me to travel back to Lumpoon and pack a bag so that I could go with the assistants to Bangkok for the surgery. I remember feeling that I had no time to prepare for this. My hernia problems had accompanied me from the States, and I had pre- ferred to take them back with me. The idea of surgery in Thailand was not something I liked thinking about. Unfortunately for me, the doctor, the APES (a nickname for the assistants to the president), and President Morris all agreed: the surgery should go forward. I just wished it could have been one of their groins instead of mine.

    The decision to submit me to bilateral inguinal hernia surgery had been made. The trick now was to get me to Bangkok as quickly as possible. The last train out of Lumpoon to Bangkok would be leaving in two hours, which gave me fifteen minutes to pack, since we happened to be in Chiang Mai.

    I had never been operated on before, and, in fact, I had never even had any kind of a major injury or illness that placed me totally into the hands of someone else. I was not a happy camper. As soon as I got to the Lumpoon house at 12 Sanbayang (Sun-buy-YANG) Road, I ran upstairs and packed what I needed for the trip. Just before running back down the stairs, I took a brief moment to kneel at my bedside and ask for God’s help. Time limitations as they were, I could only say, “Dear God, I am scared to death. Be with me and see me through this. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

    I simply didn’t have time to explain the whole situation to God. I hoped that He would understand. I jumped up from the bed and ran down the stairs with my bag. I was immediately on my way to Bangkok.

    The train ride to Bangkok from Chiang Mai took all night, and the chickens and other livestock that accompanied us did not make for a peaceful night’s rest. Regardless, we arrived in Bangkok at about 8:30 a.m. and reported to the mission office. After I advised President Morris that I felt okay, he allowed me to travel over to Thonburi and work with the missionaries for a couple of days. My pre-operative appointment with the surgeon was scheduled for Monday.

    In Thonburi, I was reunited with my first companion Elder Peckham and the other two members of my first district Elders Judkins and Patterson. It was great to go tracting in the old neighborhoods again and to go back to the familiar traffic circle, where I had participated in so many prior street meetings. In just a month, my language had improved to the point where I actually could speak with the passersby without interpretive help from Elder Peckham. I was pleased that he was impressed. It was gratifying that my senior training companion took pride in the progress of his trainee.

    The next day I was advised that the Bangkok missionaries were having one of their proselyting-type basketball games scheduled at a local trade school. I, of course, wanted to play, and every missionary present had to swear that the mission president’s wife Betty could not be told of my participation. She was responsible for the missionaries’ well- being and would have had a heart attack if she knew that I was playing on the eve of surgery, but the heart attack would not have come before she had wrung every one of our necks. I must admit that I always felt that even if she weren’t responsible for our well-being, she would have looked after our interests anyway. With four boys of her own, it seemed that taking care of us had become a part of who she was.

    The way the game was set up, seven elders could play in the game, while five more elders would circulate through the ranks of the spectators, introducing themselves and the message of our Christian faith. My yellow jersey bore the number “10,” the same number I wore in both high school and college. My name was spelled out in Thai letters over the top of the number.

    The sky was blue and the weather warm (unlike Lumpoon) and I was playing basketball. Life couldn’t get much better. I would like to say that we lost that game as a goodwill gesture, but we didn’t. Still, it was great fun. The next morning we arose early and, it being Saturday, proceeded to Sanaam Luang where we all participated in the by-then traditional street meeting. I had missed the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and the camaraderie of so many missionaries.

    I attended church on Sunday, and then spent that afternoon studying Thai vocabulary words which I had never dreamed I would have needed to know before then. Words for bilateral inguinal hernia, recovery time, anesthesia, and the like, were all placed on a fairly long list that I pocketed in preparation for my meeting with the doctor the next morning.

    I arrived at my doctor’s appointment early and was shepherded into an examination room almost immediately. Before I could even pull out my vocabulary list, the doctor ambled into the room with an out- stretched hand and as friendly as could be, said, “Hi, how ’ya doin’?”

    This Thai doctor spoke better English than I did. It turned out that he had studied medicine at Ohio State University after having graduated from college at another American university. I didn’t have to look at any of my Thai medical terms. That was a wonderful relief. The evaluation lasted less than ten minutes, and I was then given the rest of the day to work around the mission office.

    I reported to the French hospital in Bangkok early Tuesday morning and was shown to my room. I changed into one of those idiotic backless hospital gowns that apparently is universal garb throughout the world in the hospital business. As I lay in bed waiting for the next step in the process, I thought about what a break it was to not have to eat fried rice for a couple of days. I was actually looking forward to hospital food for a change.

    As that pleasant thought floated through my mind, an absolutely stunning nurse came through the door pushing a cart ahead of her. This nurse should have been on magazine covers rather than teasing patients in a hospital. On top of the cart I noticed shaving cream, a razor, and a hypodermic needle. I immediately panicked. There was no way I could allow a woman who looked that good shave my private parts in preparation for surgery. I simply did not have that kind of self-control. As I tried to figure out how I was supposed to keep blood in my toes and in my brain and out of other body parts, she came up alongside of me and smiled. She then began to fumble around with the cart and the items thereon.

    I sheepishly tried to make conversation by saying, “Hello, ma’am, how are you?”

    She was pleasantly surprised that I had addressed her in Thai and immediately began to talk to me as if we were old friends. Now I felt even more uncomfortable about what I believed she was about to do to me. Christians believe that God will not tempt them beyond their ability to resist. I believed that if this particular nurse had progressed any further in her efforts to take care of my surgical preparation, I would have had to write to Salt Lake City and tell them that I no longer believed in that particular tenet of faith.

    Finally, the nurse grabbed hold of the hypodermic needle rather than the razor. She lifted it and squirted a drop or two out of the end of the needle before inserting it deeply and directly into my right buttock. After removing the needle, she set the hypodermic down on the cart, smiled at me, and then wished me good luck. With that, she turned and exited my room. It turned out that God was smarter than I thought. He wasn’t going to tempt me beyond my will to resist and had saved me from a very embarrassing situation.

    After a male orderly took care of the shaving duties, I was placed on a gurney and rolled off toward surgery. I remember, as if it were yesterday, the feeling I got as I was rolled down the hallway toward an elevator at the end of the hall. One orderly was at the foot of my gurney and another was at the head. They, along with myself, were the only ones in the hallway. Nevertheless, I felt the distinct presence of some- one else, though I saw no one. At once, I realized that my brief suppli- cation to God in Lumpoon had been answered. A guardian angel, as it were, had been with me from the moment of that prayer all the way up to my being rolled into surgery. He had comforted me and protected me. As afraid as I was at the time of my prayer, I had not given it another nervous thought since leaving Lumpoon. I had gone tracting, participated in a street meeting, gone to church, and even played basketball, and I had had no problems. God had not only heard my prayer, He had answered it.

    The surgery went smoothly—at least that is what I was told—and my recovery was uneventful and complete. However, as a part of the recovery, I had to spend two weeks in the mission home. Now it is not that President and Sister Morris were not great hosts, nor was it that their four sons were any more trouble than any other four sons might be to a house guest. Rather, what bothered me was that I was spending two weeks away from what had become a way of life for me. I read every Archie comic in the house, along with some other less-noteworthy titles. I also caught up on all the letters I owed to people, and after a couple of days began playing ping-pong with the boys. Almost immediately, one son, Todd, observed that once my body became planted in a particular spot behind the table it was there to stay, and I could only play balls hit within arm’s reach. While I do have long arms, they aren’t long enough to extend to the outer edges of the table. Todd took full advantage. Because Todd was as mean as I was in extracting victories from helpless victims under any circumstances, I took great pleasure in routinely knocking him off later on in my recovery, when my mobility began to return. Once I began playing football in the yard with Todd, Layne, Collin, Rhen, and the gardener, it became clear that I was ready to return to Lumpoon and the job of being a missionary.
  • XVIII. The Father and The Son

    Because I taught predominantly Buddhists, I rarely had to contend with much of Christianity’s confusing view of the Trinity as set forth in the Nicean Creed. I have never been able to understand how God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, could be seen as being one and the same person, particularly in view of dramatic instances where the Father and the Son interact, specifically at the beginning and the end of Jesus Christ’s ministry on the earth. God the Father joyfully proclaimed at the baptism of Jesus Christ, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:7). Certainly, this does not sound like one person talking to himself or about himself. Further, Jesus Christ’s plea in Gethsemane was even more clear in its evidence that while one in purpose, the Father and the Son were separate beings: “If thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

    Jesus Christ began His ministry performing simple miracles (comparatively speaking), such as turning water to wine. Then, through prayer to His Father, and fasting, He grew and developed in spiritual power and strength, and the nature and breadth of His miracles correspondingly became more fantastic and unexplainable, until ultimately He actually raised the decomposing body of Lazarus from the dead. His training was complete. The Father was satisfied that Jesus, His Son, was ready for the crucifixion. Jesus, too, knew of His divine destiny and waxed strong in His capacities so as to be able to perform His ultimate task. Even so, at Gethsemane, in prayer to His Father, Jesus Christ asked if there was some other way to perform the task that He had prepared a lifetime for.

    The sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s sinless life for the redemption of all mankind was required, and Jesus Christ was raised up on the cross. This gruesome experience is one that, for some reason, Jesus Christ had to live through on His own without the support of His Father. In order to complete the task, the Father withdrew His spirit from His Son, and allowed Jesus Christ to experience the crucifixion on His own. This is clearly evidenced by Jesus Christ’s exclamation, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

    What could it have been like for the Father to step away from His Only Begotten Son in the flesh so that Jesus Christ could endure the pain of all the sins of the world by Himself?

    The relationship between God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, is analogous to the relationship that I have with my own daughter Claire and a particular lesson that she learned one summer when she was six years old. We began the summer with a joint goal that she would be able to swim on her own by the end of the summer. We began with the simple tasks first, learning how to kick from the side of the pool and then with the use of a kick board. Claire then learned to use her arms to stroke and then learned to turn her head to the side to breathe during her stroke. All the time I was at her side giving her instruction and comfort and the emotional support she needed to proceed with her task. I imagine that much the same relationship existed between Jesus Christ and His Father.

    Near the end of the summer we were staying in Laguna Beach, California, and Claire and I took a walk down the beach to the Blue Lagoon condominium complex. There, we entered one of the pool areas. Initially, we only wanted to see how warm the water was. But as we both descended into the pool we realized that the time had come for Claire to swim on her own. We had spent the entire summer preparing for this moment, and we both knew that she was ready. I stood at her side and held her on top of the water. I will always remember the look that she gave me as I was about to let go so that she could swim on her own. She was ready. But for a brief moment, she did not want me to step away; she did not want to have to act alone, for up to that time she had always had my assistance. Maybe that is what the Savior was thinking when He asked why His Father had forsaken Him. As we looked at each other, I could see that she realized she was ready and this was the moment. After that brief hesitation, she put her head down in the water and swam all the way across the pool, all by herself.

    There are some moments in one’s life that seem quite simple but that teach you great lessons that never leave you. This was one of those moments. I got a slight view of what God the Father must have felt when He stepped away from His Son, Jesus Christ, with the thought in mind that His Son was well prepared. It was time for Jesus to perform His task and fulfill His own destiny. I also could see with much more clarity the apprehension that the Lord Jesus Christ must have momentarily felt as His Father withdrew His spirit from Him so that He could perform, on His own, the salvation of man. Truly, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are one and the same only in purpose. One is not merely a manifestation of the other, but instead God the Son truly is the offspring of His Father.