- You can be strong, self-regulate, and do your job. Missions are tough, probably the toughest thing you’ve ever done. Don’t be naïve about that and don’t whine when it happens. Just deal with it without complaint. Being happy and successful requires that you do the things that need to be done, even when you don’t want to. If you don’t, you will be a stumbling block to people around you and will struggle with self-respect. Don’t be a stumbling block. Put off the natural man and yield to the spirit. Be a force for good. You will be expected to maintain a rigorous daily schedule, get yourself up at 6:30am, study the gospel for 1-2 hours a day, and work a ten-hour day, every day, six days a week. Healthy and responsible adults can do this. You won’t get a pass on your mission, so don’t expect one. You don’t have to be perfect or even close, just do your best and get up each time you fall. It will help you be successful as a missionary and will prepare you to build a good and abundant life.
- You can go for the right reason. The reason you go on a mission is to invite and help others come unto Christ by receiving (learning and living) the restored gospel of Christ. There really aren’t any other good reasons to go. If you go to please or avoid disappointing others, to convey to everyone that you are a good person, or to find yourself, you’ll need to come up with something better eventually or you probably won’t be good at it and may not last very long. And, you can’t teach what you can’t or won’t do yourself, not well anyway. If you are not experiencing the life-changing power of the love of God and faith, repentance, covenants, the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end, then you have some things to learn and some work to do.
- You can choose to lose yourself and love your principles more than your preferences. For the first time in your life, your life won’t be all about you. Missionaries are servants. So, forget about yourself and just serve. Because you’ve probably never experienced this, it will feel foreign to you and may even hurt at first. You need to do it or you’ll be miserable, lousy at your job, and a burden to others. Start practicing long-before you go. We all have things we prefer and don’t prefer. Generally, on missions, those won’t matter. No one will really care about what you prefer, including your mission president. Your principles, commitments, and obligations should take precedence over your preferences. Learn to love them more than what you want. Embracing this will change your life, bring you peace, and earn the respect of others.
- You can handle the challenges and be responsible. You’ll be uncomfortable almost all the time. Get used to it. If you want a meaningful life, a life of contribution and growth, you must make sacrifices, work, learn, overcome your fears, act, change, and improve… all of which hurt a bit. If you want comfort, don’t go on a mission – you’ll be constantly disappointed. And, you are probably in the wrong church. Also, most people make excuses, rather than take responsibility, when they fail at something. You will “fail” a lot as a missionary. Being 100% responsible for what you do or don’t do is liberating and brings learning, growth, and eventually, progress. When
you make excuses, you hurt others and especially hurt yourself. Failure is one of life’s great stepping stones. Don’t be afraid of or embarrassed by it. Channel that “energy” from it to build resolve to rise to the challenge.
- A note on mental health. If you have mental health issues, assume they will get worse on a mission. If you assume that you’re ~50% worse than now and won’t be able to handle that, find a different way to serve. There are many wonderful ways to do God’s work. You do not have to serve a proselyting mission to please God or to be a good member of the Church. And, know that service missions ARE missions and a great way to serve.
- You can be virtuous. Missionaries need to strive to be Christlike. One critical Christlike attribute is virtue, which is integrity and consistency of one’s mind, heart, words, and actions – being the same, whether you are being watched or not and on inside and out. Great missionaries are not perfect, but they are virtuous. Too many missionaries, unfortunately, are not. Don’t lie, especially to yourself. Have the courage to be virtuous, especially when it is difficult or is going to cost you something. That is true virtue. Doing this takes real courage and commitment. It is always worth it.
- You can be a yourself, your best Christlike self. You may feel pressure to conform to a stereotype of what a missionary is supposed to be – at times an unhealthy stereotype that goes beyond what God expects of you. He made you who you are. He needs you. There is an art in learning how to be true to who you really are while also learning to be Christlike. It will require you to be honest with yourself and comfortable with not always fitting in.
- You can see serving as a privilege. No one has a right to serve a mission. It is a privilege and there are qualifications and standards you must meet to go and to stay. You certify your spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental readiness and your willingness when you complete your papers and interviews and reply “I accept” when you receive your call. You will be an official representative of the Church and commit to maintain the highest standards of conduct and appearance, keep the commandments, live the mission rules, and follow the counsel of your mission president. Make sure you are honest when you complete your papers and interviews and that you mean it when you say, “I accept”. Accepting your call means that YOU WILL DO ALL THESE THINGS. The title “RM” must be earned. It shouldn’t be cheapened by giving it to those who don’t honestly and earnestly strive to do the job. If you don’t, if you have a good mission president, he will send you home. There is no victory or honor in pretending to be something you are not. The true victory is in having an honest and sincere desire to serve, doing your best every day, and picking yourself up each time you fall.
- You can turn outward and lose yourself. Jesus Christ Himself said that if we are to follow Him we must take up His cross. The cross is heavy. The cross has splinters. Being a true disciple of Christ is not about what you get, but what you give. There are sacred and beautiful experiences and blessings that come to those who serve faithfully, but those are not the reasons we serve. We serve because God’s children need us to, to love, serve, teach, and embrace them. It is not about the warm and fuzzy feelings WE get when we do good. It is not about being in the Celestial room of the temple dressed in white and holding hands and hugging OUR loved ones. It is not about keeping OURSELVES sequestered and unspotted from the travails of the world. It is about losing ourselves in the service of others. It is about leaving the 99 and finding the 1. This requires us to be vulnerable, take risks, go to places and be with people who might make us uncomfortable. Firemen go into burning buildings. They do not sit outside and watch the fire burn the house to the ground so they can be safe, comfortable, and unspotted. Disciples of Christ are firemen and go in. Go in.
- The single most important characteristic all great missionaries have is a desire, real desire go serve God. “IF YE have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work.” (D&C 4:2). What David O. McKay said is true, the greatest battles we fight are within the chambers of our own souls. Your first and greatest battle will not be with Satan, anti-Mormon literature, or anything else outside of you. It will be with YOU… your own soul, your own heart, your true own desires. The gospel of Jesus Christ is true. The Spirit and atonement that lift and change us are real. You cannot pretend. You cannot fake it. If serving God through a mission is truly what YOU desire, you will give yourself to it, make a place for it in your heart and mind, and will plant it and nurture it like a precious seed while you serve. If and when you do that, you allow God to turn you into something great. He will multiply you, but even HE cannot multiply a zero. You have to give Him something to work with. You must want it. It must be your desire and your decision and no one else’s. If it is, you will come to know that it is Him that you are serving and there will be no challenge you cannot overcome, no person you cannot help in some way, and it will change you and your life forever.
A Faith Matters Gathering Sep 5-7 Salt Lake City