The Real Elder Price
The "Real" Elder Price, Part 1: The Missionary Training Center
Elder Brandon Price would enter the MTC four months after Elder Wigginton.
Brandon had submitted his mission papers a few weeks before his "call" came in a large white envelope. (No, mission calls do not happen in "the Center" as The Book of Mormon Musical depicts.) Brandon sat on the couch with a knife and the envelope.
"Okay, any last minute guesses?" he said, already sawing the envelope open.
"Some place European! Tennessee! Canada! Guatemala!" his family shouted.
The envelope was opened, and he lifted the papers out. He stared at the top one.
"Read it out loud!" his mother coached.
"Wow," was his response. He had already seen it. "Dear Elder Price," he read, "you are hereby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," his mother breathed.
"You are called to labor in the D.R. Congo-Kinshasa mission."
A gasp and a chorus of "What?" interrupted him.
"You're going to Af-reek-ah!" his father yelled.
"I'm going to the Congo!" He continued reading: "You will preach the gospel in the French language."
"Are you joking?" his mother asked.
"No!" He stared at the call. "I never heard of anyone going there." He read further: "It is expected that you will labor for a period of twenty-four months." As his sister tried to find the Congo on a world globe, Brandon Price repeated, "Wow. Wow."
"Wow," his mother echoed.
(Other Africa-bound missionaries had different responses from their families. One had a grandmother who started crying, "You're going to die!")
|Elder Price with map|
On Wednesday evening, September 24, 2008, my husband and I met Elder Price. He was wearing a new suit, new shoes, and a new missionary badge with a little red dot, identifying him as just-arrived. During orientation, the "just-arrived" removed those dots, and the branch president introduced them to their texts: the scriptures and Preach My Gospel, which gives instructions on how to teach, but more importantly on how to develop Christ-like attributes.
Elder Price was paired with Elder Seth Lee, from Seattle, who was also headed for the DR-Kinshasa mission.
|Elders Price and Lee by Provo Temple|
We asked each missionary to tell us a little about their lives thus far.
Brandon Price had been a student at Dixie State College, studying theater. He believed in the gospel and wanted to share it. Of course, most of the missionaries are fulfilling family expectations, but such expectations are cumbersome when the real work begins. As the president of the MTC once said, "It doesn't matter what got you here. You might be here because your girlfriend said she wouldn't marry you if you didn't go on a mission. You might be here because your father promised you a car. All that matters is that you're here. And now, if you do your part, you will become a disciple of the Lord."
Margaret Blair Young is the president of the Association for Mormon Letters and has published eight books—six novels and two short story collections. Three of the novels were co-authored with Darius Gray and give the history (documented) of Black Latter-day Saints. She and Gray made the documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons, which is currently under contract with the Documentary Channel and showing nationally. She has written six encyclopedia articles and other scholarly papers on Blacks in the western United States, and particularly Black Mormons. She teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University.