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The Student Becomes the Teacher

36 years ago a young missionary in Australia taught and baptized a man who is now his mission president in Kiribati

John Larkin, president of the Marshall Islands/Kiribati Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was taught the restored gospel of Jesus Christ 36 years ago in Australia by 19-year-old missionary Elder Laddie Stewart. 

That missionary service long ago completed, Elder Stewart and his wife Lori are today serving as senior missionaries in, yes, you guessed it, the Marshall Islands/Kiribati mission. 

They could have been assigned to any one of the 400 plus Latter-day Saint missions worldwide, so they were delighted to be asked to come to Kiribati, under the leadership of President John Larkin.


The story begins in late 1982, in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, when Elder Laddie Stewart and Elder Michael Bouy knocked on the door of John Larkin following a referral by two of his friends. 

The missionaries taught Larkin the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and he was baptised in early 1983. 

Before Elder Stewart left his mission, Larkin was well and truly involved in his new faith and congregation, helping the local full-time missionaries in his spare time. 

He went on to serve in other ways, including as bishop (lay leader) of his congregation and as a stake president (leading several congregations).

Laddie and his wife Lorie kept in touch with Larkin and his family over the years. When John and his wife Robyn visited the USA, they visited the Stewarts at their home in Arizona, and visited the Grand Canyon together.

When it came time for Stewart and his wife to retire from many years of teaching in the school districts of Mesa, Arizona, they decided to serve a Latter-day Saint mission together. 

Across the world, at about the same time, John and Robyn Larkin were called to serve as mission president and companion, leading the Marshall Islands/Kiribati Mission in the South Pacific.

When President Larkin learned of the Stewarts' desire to serve a mission together, he hoped they would be called to serve alongside him and Sister Larkin.

When the Stewart's mission call arrived, it said "Marshall Islands/Kiribati Mission."

Both couples were overjoyed.

The Stewarts arrived in the Marshall Islands this month, where Laddie Stewart (once again bearing the title of “Elder Stewart”) was reunited with his old friend, John Larkin, now “President Larkin."

The Stewarts will be serving as part of the International Teachers Education Program in the island nation of Kiribati, providing support and training to local teachers.

President Larkin is very excited, to say the least, to see his old missionary.

“Elder Laddie Stewart taught me when he was a 19-year-old missionary. Now his former investigator will be his mission president as he serves again, this time with his wife – over 35 years later!" he said.

"This blessing from the Lord has touched me deeply. I am very excited to have the opportunity to reunite with ‘my missionary’ especially now that we will be working together for the sacred cause that brought us together in the first place."  

While attending the New Zealand Missionary Training Centre  in early January, Elder and Sister Stewart described several miracles which have occurred already to allow them to serve at this time in their lives.

As for the prospect of serving with his former investigator, Elder Stewart said, “I am so excited to see him and call him “President Larkin.”

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