In March of 2012, Stilman White got the understudy’s dream opportunity—the starting point guard was injured and the freshman who had played just twenty minutes in five games got to start. He made the most of the opportunity and made thirteen assists and had no turnovers in two games—a win against Ohio and the final game, which was a loss to Kansas.
Despite having finally become a major sports story, Stilman White has put his career and education on hold for two years while he serves a two-year mission for his faith. Stilman is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He began his service as a missionary in Ogden, Utah on November 26, 2012, just after the Thanksgiving holiday.
He admits it will be a tremendous change for him. He says he has never been in a situation where his every waking moment is to be devoted to helping other people rather than focusing on his own desires. He anticipates that the experience will mature him.
Mormons in sports generally face a challenging decision when it comes to missions. For many, their college sports career is just getting started. It takes courage to put all that newfound success aside for two years in which there will be minimal opportunities to play basketball. However, those who have done so find it to be worth the sacrifice. White spoke to others who had to make the same decision. He told reporters that Marc Oslund, a pitcher at Brigham Young University, assured him that what he would learn on a mission would benefit his sports career in the future. While missionaries can only play basketball on their one day off each week, they exercise daily. More importantly, they learn discipline and teamwork, both of which are important sports skills. As they begin to make a greater commitment to the moral standards of their faith, they are better able to avoid the moral mistakes some athletes make when faced with fame, wealth, and power.
Missionaries are assigned a companion of the same gender who is with them at all times. They change companions frequently, so they learn to get along with a variety of different people. This helps them become good spouses when they marry as they learn to adapt to living with others, but it also improves their ability to work as a team in sports.
Missionaries have strict rules and busy schedules. They do not date, listen to secular music, watch movies, or read non-approved books. Their entire focus is on their service to God and to others. They call home only twice a year, but email weekly. Although Stilman White is a popular and prolific presence on Twitter, he will put his account on hold for two years. He will be given a rare opportunity to be give two years of his life to God, a sort of tithe on the years he has lived so far. He will have few opportunities in the future to focus so completely on the spiritual and on service to others, and this is outstanding preparation for a moral, Christ-like life of service and faith.