I've been thinking about stuff lately. You stuff. Tanner stuff. So I thought I'd tell you about it.
First of all, I hope you know--I'm pretty sure you do--how proud I am of you. For being who you are with all your goodness and kindness ('cept for that nasty heartless streak you sport sometimes. But mostly that just makes me laugh, because I know you're really, in real life, super compassionate) and your smartness, and your funniness and your athleticism, and your spirituality, and your good-lookin'ness and stuff like that. So, just to reiterate, I am so super proud of you.
I don't know if you know this part. You probably do, but I'll tell you anyway. Somehow you were born awesome. You know I used to take credit for it, but later realized I had ever so little to do with who you are. You just came that way. It seems to me you must be one of the "old spirits" since you showed up already way ahead of the game. I have marveled at your powerful self since you were a toddler. You always asked so many questions, which was hard on me because I could only answer like 1 percent of them. Your questions were advanced, even when you were only four years old. You would stump me all the time and I always wondered how you even came up with a question like that in the first place. I remember that one time when you ponderfully asked a way deep gospel question that left no doubt in my mind that you appeared on this earth cram-packed with knowledge well beyond your years--and mine, too, I'm pretty sure. I mean, I barely stayed ahead of you until you deftly outsmarted me by at least junior high. Like, you know how I used to beat you in ping pong? You prob don't because it was so long ago and for so brief a period, but it happened. And you know how now it's like you're playing against Helen Keller or something? Well, that's how I feel about how much I have had to offer you since you were like 12 or something, and that's just intellectually speaking. Spiritually, you had me skunked by like age 8. Now I just watch, and marvel at your inner grace and humility and understanding.
You've always done your best and tried to learn to be better. You've been a great big brother--every sibling should be so lucky! You've been a wonderful son--sometimes maybe a smidge preachy (even though you're usually right)--but a wonderful son nonetheless. Obedient, respectful, loving. You've been a great friend--to everyone, young and old, a great student, and a loyal and obedient disciple and servant of Jesus Christ.
Anyway, what I was going to tell you is that I've so easily pictured you as a missionary for most of your life. From the time that you were assigned your first primary talk and you started rattling off the things you wanted to talk about and how you decided it would have more impact if you sang the first article of faith, rather than simply reciting it. You would dictate as quickly as I could write and then together we'd tweak and organize and then I'd help you memorize it. Talk after talk you'd give, primary and sacrament meeting, until a high councilman asked if he could take you to another ward to speak with him. You were about 6 at the time. I don't know if people believed me when I told them you'd written your own talks, but you did. You were always confident in what you wanted to tell the people, always with just the right twist to make it both funny and poignant. While rehearsing a talk you'd often say, "and then they'll laugh for a minute," before you'd go on to the next part. And of course they would laugh at all the right spots and you'd pause with your dimply smile for just a moment before continuing on.
I didn't mean to get off track there, because what I was trying to say is that you have always been a missionary in my eyes and now you're standing on the brink of your full-time, straight up, honest-to-goodness mission. And I can hardly stand how excited I am for you and for the people who will have the privilege of having their lives touched by you. And as extremely painful as it will be for me to give you up for two whole years, I'm simply elated when I think of what a great missionary you'll be.
And you know how I've always told you that your letters had better be grammatically acceptable and spellingly correct? Well, that's always nice, not that you'd have any problem with that, since now I ask you how to spell and word things, but that's not the important thing. I look forward to hearing your experiences and thoughts and feelings and stories and worries and stresses, even if you were to spell it like story's and wurries. Haha! As if!
Okay, I'll let you go now, but just know that I think the world of you. I love you so much I can barely contain it. I practically burst with pride and anticipation when I think of you on your mission. The call should be coming soon, maybe this week! It will be so exciting to hear where you're going. But it won't matter. Those people, no matter where they live, to have you in their village...island...city...territory...shanty town...province...whatever--they'll be the luckiest people in all the world.
Editor's note: Tanner did get his call that week. He will be serving in the Fiji, Suva mission, teaching in the Fijian language. Yes, there is such a language.