When Young Men General President Steven J. Lund heard stories at Church headquarters about a BYU basketball player who just wouldn’t be kept from the mission field, Brother Lund couldn’t help but want to meet him and find out more.
So Brother Lund recently chatted with that missionary, Trey Stewart, on the BYU basketball court at the Marriott Center. Lund posted a video of their discussion on Facebook last week.
“I heard [your] story; I was so moved,” Brother Lund tells Stewart in the video.
And what a story it is. When Stewart committed to BYU in May 2019, head coach Mark Pope tweeted “All I have to say about Trey Stewart is ‘Dunk you very much!’ This young man has a beautiful way of introducing himself to the competition,” according to KSLsports.com.
Before playing at BYU, Stwart received a call to the England Leeds mission, but nine months in, as the COVID pandemic spread, Stewart's asthma put him at high risk, so while others in his mission remained, he had to return home.
“Being on the plane ride [home], it was pretty rough, because you just got sent home from the happiest moment you ever had in your life. … The most joy I ever felt was that time in England, … so getting sent home was just like getting my heart ripped out,” Stewart told Brother Lund.
Family and friends told Stewart that he should simply accept that his mission was cut short and move on. But that didn’t sit well with him, so he talked to his stake president. According to Brother Lund in the Facebook video, “Trey pushed back—didn’t push back, but said, ‘Could you check? Because if there’s any way I could go back out and finish my mission, I’m all in.’” The stake president double-checked with Church headquarters. “Luckily my stake president really went to bat for me,” Stewart says.
Soon after, a new mission call arrived in Stewart’s email inbox. He was called to complete his two-year service in the Washington Kennewick Mission. “I was really sad to come home because England was amazing, but my great-grandparents lived here [in Washington],” Stewart told LDS Living. “[My great-grandfather] was in the stake for 21 years and helped set up the Church here. Now I’m serving in the area where he lived and served.”
While in Washington, Stewart combined his love for basketball with his proselytizing efforts. Missionaries are allowed to use social media under direction from their mission presidents, so Stewart took to Instagram and Facebook to combine scripture verses and his sweet basketball moves in short videos posted to an account called “Scripture Splash,” which is run by his mission.
In one video, Stewart dons a BYU T-shirt and missionary name tag, standing in front of a typical church cultural hall hoop. He quotes Alma 26:12—“As to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God”—and then powers a basketball into a soaring between-the-legs slam dunk.
In the Facebook video, Brother Lund says that Trey’s choice wouldn’t necessarily be right for all missionaries who return home early. And he acknowledges the complexity of Stewart’s choice: “[With] all of the future you’ve got, … as a BYU basketball player, already signed and ready to go—there are a lot of ways you could have spent the next nine months or two years,” Lund says.
“Was it the right decision?” Lund then asks Stewart. “Oh, yeah,” Stewart replies without hesitation. After his experience, he says, “I’m just more intentional, I have a stronger testimony of my Savior, and I know who I am. … I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Watch the entire Facebook video below: