SALT LAKE CITY — When Mason Lewis Bailey of Richfield heard in 2012 that the LDS Church would allow eligible young men to serve missions at age 18, he was elated.
"I'm putting in. I'm going on my mission," he told family members.
His uncle, Rex Persons, said their home was full of people the day Bailey opened his call to serve in the Sweden Stockholm Mission.
"He wanted to go. You could feel it in his spirit, and you could see it in his person," said his bishop, Corey Winkel of the Richfield 16th Ward. The teen was the first young man in the Richfield 16th Ward to leave after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' age change announcement, the bishop said.
"He was so anxious to go and serve the Lord and do anything and everything he could to help others feel the same way about the Gospel of Jesus Christ as he did," Winkel said.
Bailey, 19, had been serving for almost eight months when he was struck by a vehicle while walking with his companion Sunday in Stockholm. He died from his injuries the same day. His companion was not injured.
Bailey had written home to his family and told them how excited he was and that he had just baptized a woman into the LDS Church. It was the last thing he did before being killed.
Bailey was the type of person who made everyone feel like they were his best friend, Winkel said. Persons said Bailey had an ability to pull people to him.
"Everyone he came in contact with just fell in love with him at first sight. He had that kind of personality that could just draw everyone in and make them feel loved and wanted," Persons said.
Youth in Richfield
Bailey was born in Richfield but spent most of his childhood in Utah County. As a country boy at heart, Bailey moved back to Richfield in time for his junior year in high school. He lived with his aunt and uncle, Rex and Nicole Persons.
He spent his time serving others, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and riding horses.
"Mason had the kind of personality, we call 'em a mover and a shaker. There was always something fun going on around Mason," Winkel said.
Persons described his nephew as someone who was a good citizen and excelled in school. He earned straight A's and was a runner-up for the Sterling Scholar competition in science.
Bailey had his future planned out: serve a mission, attend the University of Utah and become a doctor, Persons said.
Even with all his talent, Bailey was a humble yet confident person, Winkel said.
"Just a darn good, fine young man, and I don't say that just because of the accident. If you would have called me two days ago and said, 'Hey, what do you know about this Mason Bailey? I'd have said, 'There, that was one of the greatest kids to come out of Sevier County,'" he said.
Memories from Sweden
The Blomberg family, who lived in the area where Bailey first served, in Karlskrona, shared their memories of his positive attitude and willingness to serve.
"There must be a great need for the really great ones on the other side of the veil. He truly is one of the greats," Robert Blomberg said in an email to the Bailey family.
"We called him 'son' as a little joke in the beginning, but after a while it got a more serious tone within us at least. If that were our son, we would have been very proud of him," Blomberg said.
His bishop in Richfield had similar feelings.
"You know, we have a lot of really fine young men in our community. Just really top-notch, good young fellows … Mason in lots of ways was just a notch above even those kind of young men. He was the kind of young man that you would want your daughter to bring home to introduce the family to," Winkel said.
Elder Jon Downing is serving in the Sweden Stockholm Mission. He was never companions with Bailey but said he was influenced by him.
"My companion and I were talking about it this morning and how Elder Bailey had such a huge impact on so many. Not only the whole mission, but those who he served with individually," Downing said in an email to the family Monday.
"He was an inspiring missionary and was placed in this mission to show unto many of us how a missionary should be and how they all should act. Him passing away only makes that stronger," Downing said.
Bailey loved the people he served on his mission and told his family in letters about how surprised he was by his ability to fall in love with them in such a short amount of time, Persons said.
More than anything, Bailey loved his family, Winkel said.
"They were his everything, and I think, if he were here, that he would want them to know that."
Funeral plans have not yet been announced for Bailey.