On Tuesday, June 11, 2013, I sat down with Travis to ask him some basic questions about missionary work and why he is going on a mission. Below is the transcript of our conversation, which I filmed. My comments and questions are in italics.
First thing’s first big guy… why have you decided to serve a mission?
Let’s see here… there are many reasons. First it’s always just, I’ve never thought about NOT serving a mission. It has always seemed like something I should do. As I grew older I got a testimony of this church and it made sense to serve a mission.
But why does it make sense?
Because I think this gospel is truth and others deserve to have the joy it has brought me.
So you always thought you’d go?
Even after they had the age change, I decided to stick with my freshman year of college and then go on my mission. This has always been my plan, since I was a young kid.
What experiences or lessons from your childhood taught you about a mission? What made this desire to serve apart of your psyche?
You know, Dad would tell stories about his mission in Japan—like the story about him accidentally ordering octopus pizza at Shaky’s so there were the funny stories, but like it’s almost weird to not serve a mission… the men I grew up around all served missions, so it made sense.
Talk to me about the application process—when did you begin preparing, and what has your preparation included?
First thing I did was talk to my bishop, and I told him I wanted to become a missionary. I made an interview with him in late November and we talked about the steps I needed to take, which mainly included filling out the missionary recommendation process online. After filling out all kinds of paperwork about allergies I have, my accomplishments, and so forth, after that you tell your bishop that that stuff is ready and then your bishop fills out a recommendation letter for you. You also interview with the stake president. After you meet with him, he submits your information to the Church Headquarters, and I got my call two and a half weeks later.
So speaking of the call, what were you feeling when you opened the mail and saw that it was there?
Oh I was ecstatic. My roommate had gotten his one and a half weeks after he submitted his application so I felt like a bum not having mine as quick as he did, though his was a rare experience. I was super excited. I really forced my parents to get ready within a few hours so I could open it, because I knew I couldn’t put off opening it for long.
First thoughts when you read your assignment was to serve in Minnesota?
You know, I was a bit surprised. I wasn’t expecting to go state side. That was a bigger surprise than it would have been to be called to serve in South America, just because it’s so common to go down there. Outside of surprised, I’m not sure I registered any other initial emotion.
After we were all done being there with you on Skype, did you go talk to God about it or anything or like, what happened next?
Mady, Brian and I hung out for a while and talked about it. Then after they left, the first thing I went to do was get a drink but there wasn’t anything to drink, so I went to the grocery store with my roommate Tom, then I called some people, and after about three hours I prayed and read my scriptures. That’s when it hit me. It hit me even more when I went through my packet explaining my mission and what I would need to do to prepare specifically for Minnesota.
Why do you think it’s important to serve a mission?
I think it’s a sign of your faith in God, and a sign of your devotion to him, and your belief in the Church.
So why are YOU going on a mission?
Again, it’s because I believe in the message of this church, I know it is true, and I want other people to be happy like I am.
Why does the gospel make you happy?
Without getting too spiritual and personal in this response, it’s because I feel like I have a greater purpose in my life than to just go out and do day to day stuff, which at times gets boring and tedious. The gospel lets me know that there is something more to my existence.
That’s excellent. Do you have any goals you’d specifically like to accomplish while you are a missionary?
I feel like there’s one goal I really have control over. It’s to go out and know that I did the best I could to serve the people. I want to go out there and have no regrets about anything, like oh—I should have talked to that guy, you know, whatever it may be.
I really appreciate that. So you want to work hard?
Because you really only get one shot at this. Now you’re 15 days out… what are the prevailing emotions and thoughts in your life right now?
A lot of people have asked me over the past few weeks how I feel knowing I’ll be out soon. To me, it still hasn’t completely registered. I’m living the here and the now and I don’t think it will hit me until mom and dad drop me off at the curb at the MTC.
What are you most excited for?
I’m excited to experience something different from what has become my daily life. I don’t have anything against BYU—it’s a great campus and everything—but after being there for three semesters, my life has become really predictable. I’m not saying everyday on my mission will be different, but I think I’ll be able to better learn something new everyday.
What are you most nervous about?
I’m nervous about how I will handle the first six months. I think that will be the time where I either really just go for it, or I could sink my whole mission with my attitude. So it’s about going out there and getting straight to the execution, and doing what I need to do.
Are there any missionaries in our family or who have served in our ward that you specifically look up to? You know like, guys you’d want to emulate as a missionary?
Of course I’d like to emulate dad. He’s always so great and spiritual. He gets upset about how emotional he is about his testimony, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s hard not to look up to Chase as well. It’s hard to think of someone who made a bigger sacrifice since he gave up being a pro athlete to go serve. There’s a lot of great people. I look up to Brett as well. My friend– he’s gone out to Des Moines, Iowa—he’s left behind a lot as well. I really look up to those three.
Who is your favorite missionary from the Book of Mormon, and why?
Hmm. That’s a tough one. I love Moroni. I mean, I don’t think he had the opporutnity to be a major missionary during his lifetime because as we see at the end of the Book of Mormon, the people of his time destroy each other, but to be entrusted with writing a record that will hopefully bring salvation to your enemy—that’s what he was doing at the end. He writes and says that he hopes the record will bring salvation to the future generations of Lamanites, and that’s you and I. He’s an awesome example of enduring to the end.
That’s awesome buddy. I talked to your fan club and they have a few questions to ask. Brandon would like to know how much you weigh and how tall you are?
Let’s start with the good number. I’m six feet one. And the weight– 195.
Dad would like to know what qualities of Christ do you have now, and which ones do you most look forward to acquiring?
I’m not sure what I have right now, but if there’s one I most want to develop… it’s charity. If I develop that, I’ll know I served the people the best I could because I truly did love them.
He’d also like to know if you have any advice for Brandon as he enters Young Men’s and begins the process of preparing for a mission?
It would be to read the Book of Mormon by himself and understand that he may not gain his testimony the first time through. For me, I gained my testimony after I had read that book for a third time.
So there’s something to be said for persistence?
Yeah. You know, when it finally hit me, it was like, you know this already. What are you doing? You know this. I think I had to learn how I recognize and feel the spirit. Everyone’s gotta know on their own.
It’s no secret that you’re a confident kid, and this is my question… what do you do when someone slams the door in your face? Have you any experience with rejection?
Yeah. I mean, everyone is rejected at some point in their life for one thing or another. Told that they’re wrong or whatever. I’m no stranger to that. I think it’s like what you said earlier—about having the persistence to stick with it. I’m going into this expecting to have a thousand doors slammed in my face, whether it’s a hard slam or not, but it’s not about that. It’s about finding that one person who wants to hear about the gospel and is ready to receive it.
What did you learn in your missionary prep class at BYU? Any insights you’d like to share?
I learned about how important it is for me to rely on the spirit. Our teacher served in Taiwain and was a mission president there as well. He explained how little details in the pronunciation of the language there can change everything. What do they speak? Taiwainese?
They speak Mandarin.
Oh that’s right. But his message to us was that it’s really about the spirit. It’s about creating an environment where people can feel the spirit. Because you might make mistakes, you might not say the perfect thing, but if you help bring them the spirit that they are seeking… that’s what matters.
Why do you believe in Jesus Christ?
Because I have felt the redeeming power of the atonement. I have felt the complete understanding that he has of each of us as individuals.
Why is he important to you?
Because without him, I lose my purpose. Earlier I stated that I feel joy because I know there is a deeper purpose to my existence, and you know, without Christ I wouldn’t be happy because I wouldn’t have that deeper purpose.
Why are you willing to give up two years of your life to tell people about him? TWO years?
Because I believe it’s true. I want people to be happy. People deserve to be happy. There are so many people out there who are just sad. It’s more common for people to get depressed these days. I think it’s everyone’s job—we’re here to help each other—but it’s especially the duty of a missionary to support others in any way possible. It’s easier said than done, but if everyone did this, if everyone sought to have the charity, our world would be a completely different and better place.