This blog is kept and updated by the parents of Elder Gardner to share his mission experiences as he teaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Spanish to the people in South Carolina. The blog covers the period of time before Elder Gardner's mission as he prepares to serve and follows him throughout his mission until his return home to Arizona.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


When a football player gets hurt or injured, they don't really show it. The coaches can tell, and the doctors can definitely tell. He wants to stay in the game. He wants to help his team. But it gets to a point where he is just too hurt. The coaches and doctors have to pull him out of the game. He has to sit out and watch his team for a few games and maybe the season. It just kills that football player because he put so much work and tears and heart into the game, and to have it taken away from him just kills him. But the football player doesn't know best, the doctor does.

So here I sit, writing this letter... At my house. I had a doctors appointment on Monday, about my depression...  They had me take a "depression test" and my scores didn't end up too good. Actually, they were the highest they had ever seen. Usually, a normal missionary/college student would score around 45-55, the lower the number, the less depressed/stressed, and the higher number, the more depressed/stressed. They said that they start to get really worried if your score is over 80, and they get severely worried if it's over 100. My score was 140... After they had received that score, they told me that I had a flight to go home and that I needed to go home to heal. It's like a sickness, and I can't control it. 

Going into the MTC, I was very excited. I wanted to get started on my new adventure and I was ready to learn. But after that first night, I started to become homesick. I had never really been away from home before then, and my family had become very close because of my diagnosis, and it was very hard for me to not be able to talk to them or see them. I knew that homesickness was normal, and I knew that I would get over it, and I did. But I think that the homesickness may have triggered my depression. After about a week and a half, I was able to think of my family and not get down or sad. But I was still feeling sad. I was still feeling gloomy and depressed. It was really hard for me to feel that way, because no one else around me was sad. Everyone was upbeat and excited. I didn't want to be the odd one out, so I just put on a fake smile and went about my way. But that can only last for so long.

I talked to everyone, literally everyone, about how to overcome these kind of challenges. I asked the workers in the gym, I asked the people in the cafeteria, I asked all of my teachers, and more. The answers were all the same... "You need to get lost in the work. You have to forget yourself". I worked harder than ever. I didn't waste a single moment, and I spent hours on my knees. I gave myself to the Lord. I read my scriptures. I went to bed at 10:30, and woke up at 6:30. I planned. I did companionship study, and I wasted no time. I tried to lose myself in the work. I tried to forget myself. But nothing was working, and I had no one to talk to. Everyone in the MTC and my zone that I would talk to had no idea what to tell me. I was just sad. I tried to be happy around people, but once I turned my back, I would just start to cry. I couldn't talk to anyone in my district, and I couldn't talk to my family. I tried to talk to Heavenly Father, but I felt like I was talking to a brick wall. No one, it seemed, could help me. 

The last week in the MTC, I was getting nervous and scared. I was scared for the field, because I knew that I would not be able to fulfill my purpose out there. Not because I wasn't prepared spiritually or physically, but because I couldn't control myself mentally. I didn't even think that I was depressed, I just thought that I was different from the others. I thought that I was just weak. This only made it worse. I felt like I was drowning, and no one was stretching out a hand. No one even knew that I was under the water. No one could hear me. (I'm trying my best to describe kind of what I was feeling, but words can't really describe it). I had fasted and prayed for just a little bit of comfort, just a little bit of hope to know that things would be okay. I never received an answer.

Being home has been hard. It's hard for me, because I know that my little brother and his friends all look up to me, and I tried my best to be such a good example to them. I don't want them to think that I'm a failure, or that I quit. This is just something that I couldn't handle. I tried my very best, I want you to know that. I left it all out there. I went for as long as I could. It kills me to even have to write you this letter.

The good news is that it's not a moral thing. I'm not home because I'm unworthy or because I don't want to serve a mission. I'm just home because I'm injured right now, I have to be taken out of the game. They told me at least 3-6 months. I don't know what the plan is right now, I'm just kinda lost. Really sad. I tried my best to hide my emotions in the MTC and to not show that I was just struggling. It really was the hardest emotional time in my life. I've gone through the whole cancer thing, and that didn't even come close to how depressed I was in the MTC. I don't know why I was so sad. I know it wasn't just homesickness, because if it was, I would feel just fine right now. I'm at home and I just feel the same... So I know it's a real issue. They have me on medication now, and I'm going to stay home for a few weeks until it kicks in. The plan right now, is for me to move down to the valley after I stabilize, and get a job while I do my counseling down there. But that's good, it's a good first step. I will be away from home, I need to learn how to do that. I will also be healing and working. 

I sure hope that you guys won't get disappointed when you read this. That's my biggest fear coming home. I don't want people to get the wrong idea, and be discouraged. You know how much I wanted to serve a mission and how excited I was. I'm just distraught right now. I have been released, but I still act like a missionary. I hope you guys aren't disappointed in me, I really did try my best. I went for as long as I could. They asked me how I was even sane with scores like that. They didn't know how I could even function. It was hard to focus, I'll tell you that much. It was hard to be the only one sad and depressed like that. But I tried my best. I did my best and I went for as long as I could. I just couldn't go out into the field like that. I would not have been able to fulfill my purpose. Just know that this is something that I could not control, or that I did not have a say in. It's just an illness and I have to get better. I hope you understand. 


  1. It's just a little time out. The Lord works in mysterious ways, and all will make sense and be made right in the end. There is no shame in this, there is no need to apoligize or feel bad. It is a legit condition which affects millions of people, and everything will make sense someday. Just know that we are all in your corner pulling for you 100% and love you. You are an inspiration to many, and we're proud of you for the way you've handled all you've been through. We love you and your family and we'll pray for the sun to come out. Don't put pressure on yourself, forget everyone else's expectations, look inside and find what it takes to get whole, healthy, and happy.
    Sincerely, Jared and Steph

  2. OH Sam, Sam, Sam! My heart aches for you and your family. You are a hero! You know Bro. Snow and I have had our share of health challenges. Well, we are going through it still/again as I type. I want you to know that you don't owe anyone an apology. We never know when life is going to throw a curve ball. Just when you think you have overcome the biggest challenge of your life, BAM. I remember a quote that Beau shared at his homecoming talk, "When the Lord knows he can trust you, tighten your seatbelt". The Lord knows your heart. You are so valiant. He trusts you to be able to overcome, on His timetable. Be patient. Be strong. Stay close to Him. Hold your head high and proud. You WILL rise above this! "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."💗

  3. Sam, This is Shayla McLaughlin, Elder Brayden McLaughlin's mom. I know you two connected on social media and were so excited to meet each other in the weeks to come in South Carolina. He has felt an instant connection with you from the moment he learned of you and has dreams of being in South Carolina and the duo companionship that you two would be. I think he told you that my oldest brother (his uncle) was called to serve in this mission 25 years ago, and didn't go... my father asked for a re-assignment (a story in and of itself) and so here we are... 25 years later, our son, and the first missionary in this next generation, being called right back to that same mission. We have no doubt that there is a great work to do there and people to touch that are meant specifically for our family. I know you have a similar story with your mom (she didn't go for very different reasons). So, he already considers you his bro.. he knows you two are supposed to meet and be epic together. He entered the Mexico City MTC not even a week ago. I sit here tearfully reading your blog, not because you're home, but because you're so eloquent in your words, and because through your words I can see the heartache you're experiencing and the pressure you have put on yourself. My husband (Brayden's Dad) is a clinical and counseling psychologist... a therapist. No amount of 'praying this condition away' could change where you're at. It certainly helps, but illness is multi-faceted. This is all part of the journey you are on, and you will get healthier, you will get back on your feet, and because of this, you will be exponentially stronger, and able to help others around you in ways you never would have imagined. There is purpose in this trial you are experiencing, and it sounds like the tools being given to you right now ( ie meds, moving to the valley, getting a job) are the tools that will help mold you, like the potter's clay spoken of at conference this weekend. Stay stalwart, keep your head up. Let Him mold you into an even more capable, more compassionate, more amazing human being through this trial, and offer no apologies because of it. This is your path, and it's okay. I'm grateful you were honest with yourself and sought the help to get through this. You are where you need to be at this point in time. Curt (my husband) worked with LDS family services helping missionaries in this position here in San Diego. Anytime you need an extra set of ears, some extra professional help along the way, he would be more than happy to listen (no charge, of course). Because of the sensitive nature of all you're dealing with, it would remain private and no one else would know if you chose to call and chat with him. Hugs to you and your family. HEAD UP!! 760-710-7537 is his cell number, just in case.

    1. This is Sharla Gardner - Sam Gardner's mom. I don't know you, but I feel so much gratitude and love towards you. Thank you for your kinds words to Sam on his blog. They meant so much to him and to our family. I feel like there are so many connections with our families and our situations, that it can't be a coincidence. Sam seems to be doing a bit better and the love and support that he has received from friends and family has been amazing. We scheduled an appointment with an LDS family services counselor that our Stake President recommended, however the soonest we could get him in was November 16. We would love to have Sam talk to your husband - that would be wonderful. We are anxious to help him however we can. Let me know when would be best for him to call. Thank you so very much. I look forward to hearing from you.

  4. I wrote a whole long post...but decided that all i really wanted to say was that we love you Sam! You are an amazing young man and you have always been and will always be a shining example to us.