My oldest son has finished all of the preparation that is required to submit his mission papers, and our Stake President has formally submitted his application. Therefore, we should know where he will be serving around the end of the month – and he probably will leave around the beginning of this summer.
This is a very concise, sincere post – focused on a simple question:
What advice would you give my son before he enters the MTC?
NOTE: I have only one request. I am looking for any constructive advice, even that which is focused on potential negative aspects of serving a mission. I would love to have him read the comments from this post and gain a better understanding of both serving a mission and preparing to do so. What I am not soliciting is condemnations of the Church – or suggestions to “discover the truth before you make a horrible mistake”. Pelase respect those minimal restrictions and give him any advice you feel will help him as he serves.
Take care of yourself. Don’t focus only on taking care of yourself, but make sure that you are well. If you spend time out of commission, it can be used constructively. But if you drive yourself into the ground it may mean going home (honorably, though). I hear many of my brother’s friends (all out in the thick of it right now) talk about doing things that I think are overboard to stick with some goal they set before their mission. Eat healthy, exercise, get your vitamins, and if you still need a sick day every now and then, take one. Rest, heal, and move on to the important work you’re doing.
Also, realize it will probably be tougher than you expect. You won’t really know until you’re there to move through it, but if it’s hard at some time, remember that it gets better, at least periodically. I’ll tell you what I told my sister-in-law who just left for the air force (adapted for a missionary): it is the job of those who train you to build a better you, one who is a capable and willing servant of the Lord. It is then your job to be that servant as best you can and help others become the same.
The last thing I would say is to love everyone around you. Not in the warm-fuzzy sense. Genuine love is incredibly useful. My MTC companion, one of my favorite of them all, was incredibly hyperactive. I worked to love him, and when I reached that point, we were a solid pair. While others continued to struggle, we had forged a strong relationship in which we were able to teach each other profound lessons.
I’m happy for both of you, Ray. I find myself jealous of the opportunities he will have for service. I hope you all soak them up, as they often come and leave quickly.
Oh, and Ray, I trust that you will post the news to let us know where he is assigned, once his call comes.
Ray, thinking of your situation I thought of some things I wrote in a letter to my home ward priests in the first quarter of my mission. From what I can see, many guys get home from their missions and develop an idealized view of it, negating obvious hardships of being a missionary and ignoring many details in order to paint themselves as a more worthy member. While my feelings on gospel truth and the role of the spirit in my life have changed quite a bit in the past few years, I think some of my words as a greeny could be helpful:
There is a moment when you step outside the box that is the grind of missionary work and watch your companion share a message with investigators and you can almost see the spirit flowing from the heart of your companion to those of the potential converts. You see a look in their eyes and a new glow that wasn’t there when you first knocked on their door. You see, everyone at some point in their life will stop and ask themselves “Is this as good as it gets?” or flat out say “There has to be something better than this hell I’m living in.” That’s where we come in, our message is that change; our testimony the peace of mind that is missing from their lives.
There are plenty of missionaries that worry about giving up their more worldly things like their collection of Air Jordans, rap music, staying out late, etc. Just remember that whoever you are and however you live your life now; there are thousands of other missionaries who enjoyed those same things before they left for a mission. They like Snoop Dogg and Outkast, too but somehow they adapt quickly and now deal fine with EFY CDs. Don’t worry, you will get over it, we all do.
It’s important to get ready before the mission because it won’t change who you are, it will only enhance your current attributes. If you read the scriptures daily, then you will only love it more and become more dedicated. If you have a problem with profanity, then your chances of letting a cuss word slip in front of an investigator or a leader is ten times more likely.
Before you put your papers in, figure out why you are going on a mission. You will develop a generalized reason to tell your family, ward, companions, and mission president, but you need to form an internal, personal reason so that on the spiritually rainy days you will have a reason to keep going. There will be days when you will want to take a half hour and go into a corner and cry your eyes out, but if you have love for the people around you and you want to make a change, those moments will be rare. So have your purpose clear in your head so that adversity will be lessened.
Finally, a passage my mom constantly kept marked while I was out there: D&C 84:87-88. Best of luck.
I wish I would have had more realistic expectations – I’d been told that missions were hard, especially in the region of the world I was called to – and yet I thought that I’d be an exception – that I’d be like Wilford Woodruff at the River Ribble.
Though I don’t regret my enthusiasm and idealism at all, I wish I’d been more realistic about the near-constant rejection I received.
Eventually, I learned to find joy in the small things – the seed planting – placing a Book of Mormon, sharing a scripture with someone, encouraging someone to pray, serving someone in need, or simply leaving someone with a positive memory of Mormons. That saved me from despair and made my mission a net-positive experience.
So my advice would be to have hopeful, but realistic expectations, and to find joy and fulfillment in even the smallest of accomplishments.
1. Be focused on learning, but don’t take yourself or the whole process so deadly serious that it sucks out your joy of life.
2. Learn the purpose of the rules well enough to know when and how it’s appropriate to bend (or break) the rules. (A good rule of thumb to keep your whole mission.)
3. Just focus on being a warm, loving, kind, non-judgmental, genuine Christian to everybody, and the rest will all fall into place (or blow away like the chaff it has turned out to be).
4. Avoid judgmentalism, harsh self-criticism and negativity, and Phariseeism like the plague.
5. Never aspire to leadership callings. Just do a good job at all times and know the Lord sees and values your service, regardless of whether that is outwardly recognized in the form of a leadership calling.
6. Be happy and have fun!!!
I’d love to say that the first suggestion is to try to grow up in a hurry 😉
Joking aside, a friend’s son went to the MTC some 3-4 years ago, and he was devastated. The structured life and around-the-clock studying made him miserable for a while. He did love to be a missionary; he is a very social person. So considering if you’re ready to the structured life is one suggestion I’d make. Kind of like joining the military. There is little time for just hanging out.
My daughter, in contrast, absolutely loved the MTC. She has the same trouble I do, of creating order and structure in her life, and not having enough time to study. She loves to study the Gospel, and she wants to be better able to communicate with people and help them see the things that to her are obvious (she is slowly coming to terms with the fact, that not everyone wants to see). At the end of the day she was exhausted but happy, and despite of some past history of disturbed sleep patterns, her first nine months have gone great – because of the structure.
Wherever you go, remember that each person you encounter is as unique as their individual challenges and trials. For those of us who have spent our entire lives on the “inside,” it’s very hard for us to truly imagine what it’s like to grow up all your life on the outside. Do your best to see things from their perspective and not yours.
Make people your priority — not converts or statistics. The missionaries that have made the most lasting impression on me have been those who show a genuine desire to get to know people and to be their friends and serve them, without baptism as a condition. Remember that the Gospel seeds you plant may never reach maturity for you to witness. In fact, some may not even flourish until the next life.
Know that there is a very fine line between challenging an investigator and pushing them. Some will respond to a challege, while others will lose their trust in the Church (perhaps forever) if they feel pushed. I know from personal experience that it’s very, very difficult to repair such damage.
You may be sent to a rich western country, or you may be sent to a poor third world country. Wherever you go, go with an open mind, eager to learn and expand your horizons, open to the possibility that someone knows more than you even if they come from the humblest of circumstances. Be very mindful of never demeaning or ridiculing their culture or language. Not only is it offensive to them, but to your fellow missionaries. My brother is currently serving in Argentina and was shocked to hear certain American missionaries mocking the people’s culture and language, which was very hurtful to a native Argentine Elder in the group.
Echoing what Andrew A. said, HAVE FUN!!! You’re about to embark on one of life’s greatest adventures and will not come home the same person.
The MTC is not the mission field, don’t treat it as such. It will be an experience different than probably any other that he has had up to this point, approach it with an open mind and take advantage of it. It is not just for the language, it is not a “delay” to getting his feet on the ground, it is a period of spiritual preparation. He shouldn’t allow himself to be distracted by all the other stuff going on.
My experience is that that biggest challenge for most missionaries will be their companions. Some will be great, some not so great, nothing he can do about that. But he needs to be alert to that relationship impacting his and their ability to keep any companionship tension from clouding their minds and affecting their work, and it will not be easy.
I would definitely second what TheFaithfulDissident said in #7 about respecting the culture where he will serve. For one, it will make it a more valuable experience for him and he will be more effective to the degree that he loves the people he is serving.
Be aware that this is a unique opportunity to develop what can be a lifetime habit of living in a spiritual sphere, serving selflessly and obedience, if he can’t keep from being distracted.
The mission is not about you, it’s about the people you are there to serve. Focus your study, teaching, planning and daily activities with a focus on what actual people that you know need right now.
Often, the person who most needs your service (and care and attention) is your companion. He may see things differently and have different talents and weaknesses. He may be the kind of guy you would have avoided in high school. He may not get every concept you get (and vice-versa), but he needs to see from his own observation that you’re looking out for him and that you care about him at least as much as the people the two of you are working with. If you can’t love the guy you’re spending 24 hours a day with, you won’t have enough love and spirit to help the people you’re there to help.
The amount of happiness you exude will determine the amount of success you have, not the other way around.
You’ll be happiest when you pay the price to find out what the Lord wants your companionship to do, and you go out and do it. Consciously let God be in charge (and meant it) and you’ll experience the promptings you need when you need them.
You’re there to bring people to Jesus Christ and help them obtain a testimony of the restoration of the gospel.
Every minute of planning under inspiration is worth an hour of walking around and hoping something good will happen.
Start with a plan but be prepared to abandon it at any point that either the spirit or opportunity presents an important diversion.
keep a detailed area book and read prior companionships’ notes often. That way, each succeeding companionship can build on what others have done rather than reinvent the wheel every six months.
Don’t rationalize the way you spend your time. There are importan parts of missionary work that don’t feel like work at all, and feel free to enjoy them. But hanging out with members or non-members who don’t need your time and/or aren’t progressing generally isn’t “planting seeds” or “building relationships of trust.” They may be happy to have your company, but they know you’re not there to work but to pass time. If you’re going to do that, at least admit it to yourself. But you’ll be happier overall if you can finish every day knowing that the Lord is more or less satisfied with the way you used it.
Internalize D&C Section 4
Other than that, my advice consists of two things:
First: Read the following books:
1: The Book of Mormon
2: The New Testament
3: The Doctrine and Covenants
4: Lectures on Faith by Joseph Smith
5: Jesus The Christ by Talmage
Second: Work. Hard. You are not going on a mission to have fun, or to find yourself, or to mature, or any of those things. You are going on a mission to serve God. To serve Him with all your heart, might, mind, and strength. That is the measure of a missionary- not the number of baptisms, not the number of discussions, nor the number of Book of Mormons placed, but how hard you labored for God. The parable of the widow’s mite applies just as much to missionary work as it does to tithing.
Some will tell you to take it easy, “don’t burn yourself out”. That’s a load of crap. Men used to work from dawn to dusk and even beyond doing hard physical labor all the time. (In fact in many places they still do). Don’t try and substitute our modern life of ease and leisure as the standard or limit of what you can healthily do.
Yes, take care of yourself. Make sure you get 7 to 8 hours sleep every night. (ie don’t stay up late, go to bed at 10:30 like you’re supposed to). Make sure you eat right. Make sure you complete your daily studies. You need to feed yourself physically and spiritually. However, the rest of the time, bend all your efforts in serving God and preaching His gospel. Don’t spend your Preparation Day playing, spend it preparing: doing laundry, shopping, writing letters, planning ahead- that way the rest of the week can be spent focused on serving God instead of worrying about these other things. (After all these needful things are taken care of, if you still have an hour or two of P-day left, sure a little sightseeing or playing B-ball with the other district missionaries is fine- but take care of the work first, don’t put it off and have it eat into your proselyting time).
Memorize D&C Section 4. That is the list of character traits you need to develop, and the best advice on serving a mission you will ever find.
Also, joy and congratulations! You have chosen to serve God and He will bless you. It will be the best of times, it will be the worst of times. Know that if you serve God with all your soul, you can be assured that whatever happens, it is God’s will, and therefor can be endured and will be for your benefit.
Great question Ray.
I suggest that your son enjoy himself like others have already said.
Also, do your best to focus on the Savior. It is His work you are doing. Avoid, as best you can, the distractions of comparing yourself with other missionaries. If you’re the top dog, be humble. If you’re the under dog, be faithful. If you’re somewhere in the middle don’t envy those on top, but help those who can use your help.
If you need to learn a foreign language don’t be worried if others pick it up faster than you do. If you pick it up faster than others, don’t gloat, but encourage others who are struggling. Pray for them and pray that you can be humble. This same approach should apply to whatever success or disappointment you may encounter. Be humble in successes and faithful in disappointments.
Become friends with the Savior, and the adversary’s foe.
Be sure to record sacred experiences the Lord gives you as soon as possible after the event.
Here’s a post I wrote some months back about the best advice I received before leaving on my own full-time mission. ..bruce..
CONFORMITY vs. COMMON SENSE: find an honest, working balance, and be aware that others may honestly work best somewhere else along on that scale.
I would find a tactful way to let him know about some of the less talked about things he’ll see within his mission. While I think that most missionaries are there for the right reasons and are trying their best, there are inevitably those who are, for whatever reason, not living mission rules, in some cases egregiously. Granted, I went on my mission before the “raise the bar” period, and I know my mission was a clear exception to what normal missions are like, but I saw some behavior upon getting to the mission field that was staggering. I had an idealized notion of missions and missionaries. The fact is, he’s going to see missionaries do things they shouldn’t be doing. This can be very troubling for a young missionary who thinks every missionary is living by the spirit and doing the lord’s work. Unfortunately that’s not always the case. I’m not saying he needs any graphic details, and hopefully he won’t be surrounded by missionaries who are doing anything shocking. Undoubtedly he’ll witness some behavior that is disappointing, though, and it’s best if he has a heads up before he gets out.
I would make him aware that a lot of the Mission President’s time can be spent on lecturing entire groups of missionaries for behavior that is demonstrated by only some of the group. I used to listen and think that I must be doing something wrong to have incurred this ‘punishment’. It also seemed that the point in the mission where I was doing the best at keeping the rules was when the lectures of this type seemed to be the most severe. You just remember that you and your fellow missionaries are a team, and that the goal is for the entire mission to progress. Be confident when you are doing the best you can with the rules and let your example teach others.
Regarding member missionary work, be very careful in the way you consume material/information that you will find written in your area books about members. Not all members gel with all missionaries, and this fact (unfortunately) results in some less-than-thinking missionaries who write things like “These members don’t like to do missionary work,” in the area books. Many of the choicest experiences I had as a missionary came through working closely with a couple of member families I had avoided because of something negative I had read/heard about them.
Likewise, never write anything negative about members’ willingness to help in the area book yourself.
This same counsel could be applied to gossip/rumors about other missionaries (past/future companions), mission presidents, and local leaders in the area you are serving in. Despite the choice experience and wonderful blessings you’ll receive as a missionary, the experience will have its difficulties. Removing any gossip-induced drama will help.
Be prepared to enter a time in your life when you may struggle to recognize yourself. You will be asked to do and say things that you have never done before & probably some things that you have no internal desire to do. Many missionaries struggle to reconcile who they are with the person the missionary program sometimes asks them to be. Among other things, use your mission as a time to find yourself. Don’t allow your mission leadership or anyone else to set goals for you or dictate your relationship with Jesus. Remember that we serve Jesus by serving People, not by serving The Church.
Before you enter the MTC, learn the difference between church policies, doctrines, & rules. Learn to tell the difference between them & formulate a hypothesis about where they all come from & under what circumstances they arise. Then determine under what circumstances it may be appropriate to disregard them.
I agree with what’s been said, esp. Andrew Ainsworth. I’d add/reiterate:
1 – keep a sense of humor and don’t take yourself or others too seriously. This is good advice for life.
2 – find the good in everyone and overlook or laugh off the bad.
3 – be yourself. Don’t pay attention to what others think of you: their goals, their ideals, their advice (even this advice).
4 – be willing to do whatever is needed to be of service to others: companions, the people, anyone who needs something. There’s joy in service.
5 – study the Savior. That’s the most important part of your mission is learning to understand Christ.
One addendum to my earlier comment:
Almost all missionaries come home in one of two categories (note I said “almost all”): Those who wish they had been a little more strict with their interpretation of the rules, and those who wish they would have loosened up a little bit. Figure out what your own tendencies are now, be mindful of them, and it will make getting along with your companions much easier.
I only received a few pieces of advice that were of any practical value. So I’ll pass them on:
1) Laugh every day. Not just chuckles — laugh until you cry.
2) Remember that missionaries are just people, not angels. A black name-tag doesn’t make one more Christ-like, just more responsible.
3) “Remember that you have no idea what you are getting into. MWUAHAAHAHHAHAHA!” [Cue evil laughter] (My brother said this to me; I have quoted him verbatim. He was right.)
And a few of my own:
4) It is all about love, and love, to be real, involves suffering. Really loving the people you serve will involve a level of emotional/spiritual pain on their behalf that you may have never before experienced.
5) Missionary work is nothing less than spiritual warfare. Don’t expect to come through it unscathed. You will likely have some scars.
6) Study the temple. Go as often as you can before, and, if there is a temple in your mission, as often as you can while you are there. Also, use the other ordinances as a means to receive revelation. Ordinances are the foundation stones of the life of prayer; do not miss an opportunity to participate in them.
Thank you, everyone. I am touched by all of these responses.
brjones, I apologize for singling out your comment, but I appreciate deeply your contribution to this thread. For some reason, I felt the need to tell you that.
I agree heartily with #1 (It’ll be tougher than you expect) and #14 (He’ll meet his share of dingbat missionaries). My mission was tougher than I expected not just physically, but culturally, spiritually, socially, etc. While there are amazing spiritual experiences, there are many days–sometimes weeks–that are just plain discouraging. Don’t expect it to be a constant spiritual high.
Loyalty and obedience was stressed constantly in the MTC and my mission. I’ve come to learn that absolute loyalty and obedience is due only to the Lord. Not the Zone Leader, not even the mission president. Just worry about following the Lord first, and the behavior of other missionaries, ward leaders, etc. will bother you much less.
1. With a nod to Cicero (#10), “internalize” D&C 121. I often think of this section as an “Owner’s Manual” for priesthood holders.
2. Resist, with all the strength you can muster, the urge to value your service by the number of people you baptize. You are going out to serve as a disciple of Christ and an emissary of the Church. Love the people you serve. If some are brought to baptism by way of your efforts, great! If not, you are still a success if you look yourself in the face when you get home and say that you honestly tries your hardest to love and serve the people in your mission (that includes your companions, too).
3. As a corollary to # 2, steer clear of those whose focus is numbers. They will suck the soul out of you and your work.
4. Pray the Lord finds you worthy enough to be sent to Guatemala!
5. If you serve south of the broder, carry rocks in your pocket to keep stray dogs away. Trust me on this one.
I haven’t read all the comments so this may be a repeat, but make sure you write your parents every week! 🙂
#1. Cowboy up, cupcake! Nobody’s mamma comes along on the trail.
#2. If you don’t love God’s children (including your companion, APs, etc) with His unconditional love, they’ll never believe you are His servant- and they’ll be right.
#3. Dump your girlfriend and don’t find another one in the field.
#4a. Two years will seem like nothing, so live every day of it, and never look to the end.
#4b. Work every day until the flight home- no exceptions.
#5. There was but one perfect man, so know that you’ll see lots of shenanigans from contacts and missionaries alike.
#6. Live worthy, pray always, forgive freely. Do nothing that isn’t for the benefit of His children.
#7. Love God with all your might, mind, and strength, and trust Him.
#8. Never let a list get to nine items.
I just wanted to wish your son well. I currently have a son serving in Russia and he loves it. I think your son has a huge advantage over many missionaries because of your knowledge of the tougher questions he will encounter. I’m sure you’ve taught him well and therefore he’s been well immunized.
My two cents worth would be about mission statistics and comparing his performance to that of others. Missions use numbers and peer pressure to motivate Elders. For me, that led to lots of self doubt and depression. Once I let go of worrying about how I and my comp were faring in relation to the rest of the Zone, I had a lot more success. The same applies to the MTC; don’t let him get caught up in comparing his ability to learn with anyone else.
Lastly, warn him about the dangers of seeking after leadership positions. There is no shame in serving as a foot soldier for one’s whole mission. Getting caught up in mission politics and worrying about where one serves instead of just serving the people he’s called to can ruin a good mission. Best of luck!
“Lastly, warn him about the dangers of seeking after leadership positions.” Hear, hear!
What a timely post. My son just opened his call (two hours ago!). I plan to print the responses and give them to him. This is our third missionary but the first to go in ten years (there was a little bit of a break there) and rather be more prepared, I think we as parents are more nervous than ever. The world has changed so much in the last 10 years and certainly in the past 35 years since I went! But then, I think he is more ready than his brothers were at his age. He’s certainly had to go through more to get this far (health issues.) Thanks again, Ray, for bringing this subject up.
Thanks, again, everyone.
Doug G., Russia is a complicated country – and still dangerous for missionaries. I will pray for your son.
I hope I’m not too late to chime in.
FIND YOUR OWN WAY TO STAY POSITIVE
Before my mission, I was afraid that I would wake up one day on my mission and not want to be there. This was an especially scary thought because I knew it was possible that that day could come early in the mission, meaning I would be trapped for the eternally long remainder. But looking back, I am so glad I had that fear because it seems that because I was worried about that even before my mission, that day never came. If I even had a minor thought or negative feeling of that type I would immediately take action to dispel it before it could grow. Sometimes that meant saying a prayer, sometimes it meant reading a talk or the scriptures, sometimes it meant just taking a step back and thinking, I AM WHERE THE LORD WANTS ME TO BE. This thought, and the peace that came with it, is what I miss most about my mission.
DON’T BE AFRAID
Luckily, although I was a bit timid as a child, I decided during my first year of college (before my mission) that life was simply too short for that. On the first day of my mission I decided I would not let fear prevent me from doing what I needed to do. As it turns out, my mission required us to stop everyone we encountered on the street and try to talk to them about the gospel. Many elders struggled with this. I don’t know why, but knocking on a door is somehow less intimidating than sticking out your hand and talking to someone who is already in front of you. At any rate, if you simply decide to do it from the get-go, it might be hard for a few days, but then it will be easy for the rest of your mission.
HARD WORK LEADS TO SUCCESS ?
Ray, I’m sure in your ward you and your son can point to examples of hard-working, obedient, spiritual people who struggle with some aspect of life. Perhaps financially, or perhaps a wayward son or daughter. The point is, in life, obedience and hard work don’t necessarily correlate to things panning out like we want them to. Despite knowing this before my mission, I fell for the AP’s closed minded advice where they taught: if you obey, you will baptize. This is done to motivate, but the fact is, just like in your family ward, some of the most obedient and hardest-working people struggle. So please don’t think a mission is suddenly super simple where hard work leads to baptisms. It’s just like life. Sometimes the slackers baptize the golden family and sometimes the hardest-working and most obedient elders have the least quantifiable success. I struggled with this for months on my mission as I worked extremely hard but didn’t feel that I was getting the results I deserved. I found peace when I accepted that I should still work hard and be obedient and that the Lord would bless me in some way or in some time but not necessarily in the number of baptisms I wanted.
I hope your son knows that even when he is new and the “junior companion” he is EQUAL to his senior companion. The titles carry a lot more weight than they should. Your son is a person, his companion is a person, and who cares if one has more time in the field? I’ve heard so many stories about a new elder in a mission simply following his senior companion even if the senior companion is blatantly violating the rules. Forget that. Your son knows right from wrong, and after the MTC, he will know enough about what is right and wrong in the mission too. He probably already does. If your companion is doing something wrong, don’t follow, take a stand and assert yourself.
WHEN LOVING THE PEOPLE, DON’T FORGET YOUR COMPANION IS A PERSON TOO
I hope I don’t sound like an arrogant self-righteous jerk but I truly loved my mission and I am very proud of my dedication there. If any of you are annoyed by my attitude, let me say I’ve had plenty of terrible failures since so don’t be too rough on me. I am very proud of my hard work and that I didn’t let any elders talk me into doing something I didn’t want to do. However, my focus was a bit off, I admit. I was so focused on loving the people that I forgot sometimes that my companions and mission leaders were people too. My only regret from my mission is that I sometimes expected too much from leaders* and companions because they didn’t seem to be doing a very good job, and I thought I could do better. I was ignorant. I thought that because I enjoyed the mission and enjoyed working hard, they should figure it out too. But the fact is, some really struggled with it. Some truly didn’t want to be there and it showed. Now don’t get me wrong, I got along fine with my companions and I treated them with respect. More than my actions, I regret the thoughts I had about them. If I could do it again, I would simply be more sympathetic and compassionate to my fellow elders, because some are really struggling with being away from home, etc.
*this is another problem others have alluded to. Don’t assume the AP is the most spiritual guy in the mission, sometimes they are the least spiritual.
LOVE THE SISTER MISSIONARIES
Finally, I want to announce a major pet peeve I have, probably because my older sister served a mission before I did. I was shocked at the way elders spoke of the sister missionaries. Elders commonly refer to the sisters as headaches and other more derogatory terms. Many elders act like they are more trouble than they are worth. This is nonsense. They are out there working hard for the Lord. Please don’t fall into that trap or let other elders talk about sisters that way. Frankly, I respect them a ton for going because they truly go for the right reasons. They are not simply expected or commanded to go like elders are.
IN A NUTSHELL-LOVE THE PEOPLE AND FOLLOW THE SPIRIT
It’s funny how long this turned out to be because during my mission I came to the conclusion that the advice I would give to someone going on a mission is simply this: love the people and follow the spirit. Everything fits there, in my opinion, because if you love the people you will work hard, you will truly try and teach them with compassion and empathy, etc. I purposely say “follow the spirit” instead of “obey the mission rules” because we had ten million mission rules. We had rules about not putting your hands in your pockets. It was a little ridiculous. I found more peace when I focused on the people in my area instead of looking at a list of rules. I’m not saying you shouldn’t obey the rules, I am trying to say that if you focus on too many rules sometimes there won’t be room to think about anything else, like creative ideas on how to best find and teach people.
In the end, though, this advice will probably be meaningless. Missions are like life. You have to find what works for you through experience. I think that’s the beauty of life (and the mission), the experiences you have are yours and yours alone. No one else will have the combination of experiences you have.
Work hard and follow the rules, but don’t be a jerk about it.
Don’t let rules outweigh common sense or the Spirit.
Be hard on yourself, but be easy on everyone else.
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Give all of your heart to loving the Lord and his children and you will see miracles. Though your definition of miracles will have changed. Remember the rules are important, but sometimes the people will be more important, keep the rules so you can have the Spirit and know when exceptions(to the rules)are necessary. Laugh everyday, be kind to your companions and help them succeed. Remember that your job is to bring people to Christ(companions, members, and yourself too) . Rejection is part of the work…Heavenly Father was rejected by a third of his children, Christ was rejected by the very people he was sent to save, so you are in good company when they slam the door in your face. Just remember that most of the time, they don’t realize what they are rejecting. The MTC is a safe place to learn and practice teaching the gospel, enjoy it for what it is…a boot camp for your testimony. And enjoy you have twom years to serve it, but a lifetime to think about it.
There’s been lots of good advice, which I agree with whole-heartedly.
The only other part I would add is learn to serve people without expecting any sort of reward, be it in baptism, or reactivation, or referrals or whatever.
I taught a woman who lived just south of San Francisco, and who was very ill with gangrene and gout and diabetes and a whole host of other things that kept her bedridden. Her fridge broke while we were teaching her. We said that we would move out the old one and install the new when she got one. A few days later, we came back to teach again, but she didn’t want to continue the lessons. We said fine, when can we come and move the fridge? She was shocked that we would still serve even though she didn’t want to get baptized. I think that act of service taught more than any of our discussions, even though she never got baptized.
Read the book of John and the book of Romans.
Joe, I considered many options when I read your comment – everything from deleting it to letting it stand un-addressed. Please understand, I did not make my final decision (and I am not writing this comment) in anger. Frankly, there isn’t much emotion in it at all, other than weary sadness. I mean that sincerely. Ultimately, I decided to leave it exactly as you wrote it and add a personal message so that everyone else understands that I understand.
Your comment shows clearly, better than anything you’ve ever written here, how totally and completely unconcerned you are for us as real individuals with real feelings that should be respected. You took even a thread like this, with the explicit request I wrote at the end of the post, and used it to make a comment that had an anti-Mormon motivation at its core.
Fwiw, my son has read John and Romans, and those two books are central to my understanding of the apostasy and the uniqueness of our claims. Some of the most powerful examples of how far astray I believe evangelicals (and Protestants generally) have gone astray from the pure doctrines of Christ are contained in those books – and yet you gave him that advice specifically because you believe by following that advice he will “see the light” and “realize how wrong Mormonism is”. You tried to sneak in an anti-Mormon comment and perhaps pull my son away from the LDS Church, and I’m not sure if you thought you were being clever and I wouldn’t understand.
Shame on you. Please don’t try to deny it. The advice might have been sincere, but it also was manipulative and deceitful and directly against the request for understanding I included in the post itself.
As I said in an earlier thread, I am not angry at your comment – because I have come to expect it from you. I tried to hold out hope that you would honor and respect me (and everyone else here) and not make an anti-Mormon comment on this very personal thread, but I honestly and sincerely didn’t know if you would be able to help yourself. I was correct, and I am left only with sadness that you would stoop that low.
At one point, I honestly respected you to a degree, as much as I disagreed with your conclusions. You’ve now lost fully any respect I once had for you.
This is a very personal thread, and as its author I asked everyone to respect my wishes that the comments here not be used as a way to take pot-shots at the LDS Church. Others with whom I disagree regularly respected that request; you did not. I have no authority to delete comments on others’ posts, but I am formally banning you from mine.
Why would you consider my statement “clever”, anti-mormon, and hateful toward you or your son. If I truly believed with all my heart soul and mind that your son was going astray isn’t it be more loving for me to say something?
I thought long and hard what to say on this one (even taking the time to pray for you and your son). I tried my best to carefully approach the situation with respect to your request, while attempting to save your son from what I consider to be a huge mistake. I say that with all honesty.
My only hope now is that your son comes to find the truth on his LDS mission. I genuinely hope you can see my concern and genuine love for you guys. I am troubled that you find my comment to, “read the book of John and Romans” as being anti-mormon. Those are accepted LDS scriptures and I see nothing anti-mormon about my comments.
I am sorry you have lost your respect for me. I do not regret what I said on this thread. On others I admit I’ve said things I wish I hadn’t. I hope you come to understand my heartfelt concerns for you and your son.
Thank you, Joe, for proving what I said.
I understand your sincerity and concerns. I respect your sincerity and concerns. I am leaving your comment untouched for that reason. However, I don’t respect your blatant ignoring of my wishes on this thread. I am banning you from this post for that reason, and for that reason alone. I hope you understand.
*steps over landmines*
So, your comment on my blog made me think of something that I probably could give as advice:
Since your son has already committed, that means he knows that this is what he is motivated to do. Or at least, he knew it once. So, now that this is the case, he shouldn’t run away from this. He can’t run away from the fact that this is what he felt was right for him to do. He can’t run away when things get tough; he can’t run away when things are painful; he can’t run away until things are completed.
I guess to reach both sides of the fence, I would say this: I don’t think a mission is for everyone. But for those people who truly feel called on it (and it’s something that comes from *within them* and not just from what the church or parents or friends or whatever say), they shouldn’t and cannot escape it. They have to find a way to remember that calling that touched them — whether they want to call it a confirmation from the spirit or whatever — and then hold on to it through tough times.
Because if you do something with a sense of personal motivation, you can put your will to it. And I mean, your will isn’t everything, but if you aren’t putting *yourself* into it, it’s unlikely that anything else will work in your favor.
Advice: 1- to keep in mind that he will mostly function within the missionary social group and its from within this group that most of the more difficult problems will arise: betrayals, gossiping (behind your back), mocking, conflict etc etc.
What can happen outside this group isn’t as damaging or hurtful as the problems which will happen inside the group. For example getting hosed after door knocking isn’t as bad as being betrayed by a companion who we think is a friend.
-And second is that the only way to overcome hurt and dispare (especially after a betrayal) is with work, and then more work. From the scripture study in the morning to the street walking and talking to people, working is the cure to almost all the missionary ills.
One of the good things to come out of reading the anti-mormon stuff is that it helps people to recognize the difference between the spirit and the absence of it. If you son reads Joe P, he may actually feel the difference and the conversion of souls is all about a spiritual event.
Dear future missionary:
Starting in the MTC, and throughout your entire mission, at least once a week, ask your companion: “How can I be a better companion?”
After you get to the mission field, after 1 week, and every week thereafter, throughout your entire mission, ask your companion: “How can I be a better missionary?”
FLOOD your area with the Book of Mormon! Your mission office will only give you so many copies (like 10 copies every transfer). That is insufficient. You should be able to distribute at least 30 copies every month. Get the extras from your Ward mission leader and other members of the ward in which you serve. Have your parents and home ward send (or pay for) more copies.
Think BILINGUAL. If you are foreign, don’t just offer the BoM in the local language, offer it in the the local language along with an English copy for learning english.
Think outside of the box. Take what your trainers teach you, and expound/expand upon it. If you only do what your trainers tell you, you’re only going to baptize as many people as they do.
Once you are willing to talk to literally everyone you meet, and start to do that, the Lord will then guide you to those he wants you to talk to, and will guide them to you. But you have to start out with literally _everyone_.
Eye contact with someone means they are giving you permission to speak with them.
Eye contact with a smile means they are _requesting_ you to speak with them.
Bookslinger: 10 copies a transfer?
We usually got 2 big boxes with 30 copies each… of course I guess that was the District Leader, the other companionships usually only had one box. Never had any problem getting more from the mission office whenever we wanted.