We are so excited to have Benjamin Taylor home again! The Tyler News paper did an excellent report on our fresh RM!!! Here are some pics and article from his mission!
For seven generations members of Benjamin Taylor’s family have served as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
So as the Tyler resident approached high school graduation, it hit him that his turn was coming.
In July 2013, Taylor, now 22, left Tyler for Brazil, where he served two years.
I feel like the mission, the whole experience, I got so much out of it, I don’t think if I could go to school for 20 years, I couldn’t learn what I learned in these two years,” he said.
Taylor, who returned this month, was among the 85,000 missionaries serving in 2014 for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to information provided by Laura A. Mikulecky, director of public affairs for the Tyler Stake of the church. A stake is a certain geographic area of the church.
Like his peers, Taylor didn’t know where he would be assigned. Missionary applicants do not request a location. However, they do say if they believe they could learn a foreign language easily. Taylor responded in the affirmative on his application.
About two weeks after sending in his application in January 2013, Taylor received his assignment: Rio de Janeiro, a city of more than 6 million people.
Preparing for a mission
The preparation for a mission begins, in some sense, with the start of high school. At that time, members of the church are encouraged, but not required, to attend seminary class five days a week for four years.
During this class, which Taylor attended from 6 to 6:50 a.m. each weekday, members study the sacred texts of the faith, which include: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.
This ensures that by the end of the four years, the student will have a solid knowledge base of the scriptures.
Upon being assigned a mission, Taylor’s first stop was São Paulo, where he spent six weeks at one of the church’s Missionary Training Centers to learn Portuguese. After that it was straight to Rio, which would be his home for the rest of his service.
A disciplined life
The life of a Latter-day Saint missionary is very structured. Taylor got up every day at 6:30 a.m. He exercised at his residence — which was either an apartment or a house depending upon the six weeks, as missionaries typically transfer locations within the city every six weeks.
From 7 to 8 a.m. missionaries showered and ate breakfast, and from 8 to 9 a.m. they studied the scriptures individually. At 9 a.m. they studied the scriptures in pairs and from 10 to 11 a.m. they studied the language. After that they ate lunch with a local church family.
From 2 to 9:30 p.m. they hit the streets to knock on doors, meet with previous contacts or teach English to the community members. At night, the schedule called for lights out at 10:30 p.m.
This was the routine every day except for Monday, which was considered a preparation day. On that day the routine was the same from 6:30 to 10 a.m., but, after that, missionaries had time to clean house, wash clothes, shop for groceries and do whatever else they needed to in order to prepare for the week.
They also had one hour on Mondays to email family. On Christmas and Mother’s Day, they could Skype their family.
Missionaries have no social life to speak of, Taylor’s parents said. There’s no dating allowed, no movies, no non-religious music, no dancing. The focus is sharing the Gospel. And that’s what Taylor did.
Learning to speak
An outgoing young man before the mission, Taylor enjoyed talking with people. As a student at All Saints Episcopal School, he had been active playing basketball, football and golf. He also earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.
But on the mission field, he said, he learned how to ask the right questions and better listen to the spirit of God in order to learn about people’s needs and respond appropriately. He said he also learned about families and what kind of father he wants to be someday.
There were hard days though. At first the biggest challenge was the language. Taylor, a natural communicator, didn’t have the vocabulary in Portuguese to express himself the way he wanted to.
“My phrases were like a 4-year-old,” he said. “Like, ‘I am thirsty. I am tired.’ I couldn’t react. I couldn’t connect with the people. So that was my greatest challenge. But once I mastered that, I feel like the greatest challenge was finding new and creative ways to continue.”
One of the methods he came up with was to create an English class. He also tried talking to people in different ways.
Rejection is a given on the mission field. Taylor said at first it irritated him when people didn’t want to talk, but he learned to take it in stride and to keep trying.
“If someone says no, it doesn’t matter. You keep going. You find that one,” he said.
During the mission, Taylor did see people accept his message, be baptized and enter the church.
“Each person has a different timing, so sometimes I would meet people they would be ready in two weeks, three weeks, but sometimes it would take time,” he said.
The most important thing was sharing the Gospel and giving people the opportunity to hear it and accept, he said.
This journey changed Taylor. His parents see it. They say he left a boy and returned home a man, just as his two brothers did after their missions.
His mother, Hilde Taylor, 56, a convert to the church, said all of her sons returned a little bit more aware of others and their needs.
Taylor said the experience gave him a bigger vision of life and a greater desire to help others.
Taylor said in addition to the people he saw accept the message on the mission field, he experienced a transformation in his own life.
“I came back with a bigger vision of life and more willing desire to help others,” he said.
This fall, Taylor will move to Utah where he will attend Brigham Young University, a church-sponsored school. He plans to study biology so he can attend dental school.
Though he doesn’t plan to work in a country or environment that would require his Portuguese skills, he does plan to keep up the language and he doesn’t want to give up the spiritual disciplines he formed on mission as well.
“Obviously, I want to continue … those habits I’ve made, for example, my personal studies in the morning, my personal my visits to other people, to help them and to help them spiritually (because) we know that if you’re helping and serving others, you’re really actually serving God (because) you’re helping, you know, his children become better.”