What Lead Me to Become a Church Employee
My mission to Guatemala guided me in my career. I spent most of my mission among the Cakchiquel Indians in central Guatemala. A linguist from BYU came down to Guatemala and taught a dozen missionaries a few weeks of Cakchiquel, then left us on our own to learn the language. A few of us really got into it, and by the end of my mission, the Church asked three of us to translate the official missionary discussions. I returned to BYU after my mission (in the fall of 1976) and worked part-time for the Church translation division and changed my major from business to Spanish and linguistics. I spent the next few summers in Guatemala either working for the Church translating the Book of Mormon, compiling a Cakchiquel-Spanish-English dictionary for BYU, and doing linguistic studies just for the fun of it.
After I got my B.A., I continued at BYU and in the Ph.D. program and later switched to the master’s degree program in instructional science, thinking to get involved in the business world with language learning systems.
Employees at the Church knew about me because of my part-time work with the translation division. I also visited with some of them a few times about work I was doing in the Ph.D. program. I had developed a translator training program and a proofreading program that they were interested in. While visiting with employees in the translation division in Salt Lake in June 1980, they expressed interest in hiring me. When I mentioned that I still had two or more years before I finished my PhD., they asked if I would be interested in getting a master’s degree sooner and coming to work for them.
On July 28, 1980, I went to Salt Lake to meet with Lee Chambers in Production Coordination. He called me the previous week about a full-time position as a production project manager. He was looking for three people—two for English and one for all the other languages to handle the scheduling and tracking of all Church materials, from writing through printing and distribution, and all the production steps in between. I carefully considered the offer. It would mean dropping out of the Ph.D. program (and just taking night classes) and giving up some of the things I’m involved with, such as the linguistic projects, MTC language learning projects, Deseret Language and Linguistic Society work, and Emerging Languages work. I had enjoyed being engaged in production work ever since my mission—managing the production work for Cakchiquel translations, then other Indian languages, the Cakchiquel dictionary, and the language recordings. I had learned a lot in those processes and felt the work was important. I also felt that this job would be a way to get into full-time work at the Church Office Building, and that could lead to many other things. I got advice from Dad, John Robertson, and my doctorate chairman Paul Merrill. It was hard for me to decide because I was interested in so many things. Up until then, I had explored options in translation, publications production, linguistics, Spanish, cultural anthropology, lexicology (dictionaries), and a variety of instructional and learning programs. I knew that if I took the job, I would need to begin focusing on one area. I talked with Eb Davis, and he said he thought I would do a good job in production coordination, and in a year or two could likely move to other departments. I told him that the hardest part about the decision was in deciding what I wanted to be when I grow up. He said that he hadn’t decided what he was going to be. He said, “If you can’t decide what you’re going to be, at least decide what you’re going to do.”
I knew I wanted to work full-time for the Church—not just summers in Guatemala and part-time work with the translation department. I wanted this cause to be my full-time day job so my full days could be spent in building up the kingdom of God.
I was in Salt Lake again on July 30, 1980 to see my brother Rick off at the airport as he flew to his mission in California. I visited Lee Chambers again that said I wanted to be considered for the job. I was offered the job on August 11, 1980 and started work August 18, 1980. The offer was $1,600 a month ($19,200 a year) with full benefits.