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The Reluctant Scholar – Chapter 5.8

The weeks leading up to the Buddha’s departure were a blur. Sometimes Brig would accompany the Buddha on his goodbye tour, and other times he stayed in the apartment studying Chinese characters by himself. Brig was well on pace to pass the 2000 character test in record time. During that period of his mission, he developed an affinity for Chinese comic books, which taught him words and phrases that were only used by the most native of natives. President Woodley was impressed by Elder Young’s Cantonese and took some personal credit for having paired Elder Young with the non-English speaking Elder Wong.

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Missionaries that desired to take the character test were required to schedule an appointment with one of the two Assistants to the President. Since there would be a mission-wide gathering at the mission headquarters in Kowloon Tong in two weeks, the Assistant to the President (AP) suggested that Elder Young and Elder Wong travel to the mission home early on that day so that Brig could take the test before the conference. Brig was confident and wanted to take the test sooner, but President Woodley didn’t want his missionaries traveling unnecessarily and argued that Brig would still be “crushing” the old record by over two weeks, anyway.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints meet together as a religion twice each year for “General Conference.” At General Conference, the organization’s highest-ranking leaders, including the current Prophet and Quorum of the Twelve (i.e., modern-day Twelve Apostles) address the global congregation on a variety of spiritual topics, including any new edicts from God. It is the largest church gathering of the year and televised worldwide in over ninety languages. The live event takes place at the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, with the main session, called the General Assembly, on Sunday mornings. Ideally, missionaries watch it live with the rest of the world, but since Hong Kong is fifteen hours ahead of the Mountain Time zone, it would require the Hong Kong missionaries to assemble late Monday night and into early Tuesday morning. Hence the Tuesday afternoon meeting for Hong Kong missionaries, where they could take a break from their regular duties and watch a recording of the event at a more prudent time of the day.

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President Woodley scheduled the meeting to start promptly at 2 p.m., and would likely go until 5 p.m., at which time the missionaries would enjoy a home-cooked meal, prepared by the Mission President’s wife, of lasagna and fresh garlic bread. Brig was to meet the AP at the mission home on Kowloon Tong’s Cornwall Street at noon and advised not to be even a minute late. Otherwise, they would need to reschedule his test for a later date. Since a missionary had to wait at least thirty days to retake the test, Brig would give up the opportunity to beat the previous record.

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