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“Missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience.” -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland1
Maybe you have read John Bytheway’s book What I Wish I’d Known Before My Mission. There are some things that I think everyone who is going to serve a mission should know. Please don’t think I’m trying to scare you off with these. (make sure you read the last one or you’ll think I’m a cotton-headed-ninny-muggins).
1. A mission isn’t physically easy
Some days on my mission we walked over 10 miles in one day. There were days when we had so many appointments that we had to run from one to the next in full suits. Not all missions walk all day or bike all day, but some do. Full-time missionaries may relate to this picture:
2. A mission isn’t emotionally easy
The mission is not for the emotionally weak. You will be yelled at by people you never met before who accuse you of things that are not true. You’ll likely be made fun of at one point in your mission. You’ll have companions who you do not agree with. You’ll have heart break when investigators and members reject you after developing a relationship with them. You’ll likely witness the worst of the world and the worst side of people.
You’ll only be able to talk to your parents and family twice a year (Christmas and Mother’s Day)
You can’t date or flirt or even think about members of the opposite sex the whole time (I guess you can think about a special someone back home, but keep this in mind).
3. Things will be different when you come back
- Technology: I left when only wealthy people had cell phones and USB drives didn’t exist (I’m that old). I came back and everyone had a mobile flip phone and was staring at it all day. Facebook was huge and I didn’t have one. Many missions now use technology (like iPads) to share the gospel, but there will be many things that will change.
- Social life: my friends were all gone to different parts of the country for jobs or still on their missions. I had to make a new group of friends.
- Family life: when I left, my best friend and I were blessing the sacrament together. I came back and he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. It broke my heart.
- Your body: my body went from collegiate sprinter to olympic walker. I lost almost all my upper body and quick-twitch sprinting muscle and exchanged it for walking muscles.
4. “Full-time” missionaries work much longer hours than “full-time” employees
A typical full-time job requires 40 hours a week.
If you include study and planning time, a typical full-time missionary works 55 – 66 hours a week with no breaks for the entire mission. Each mission may vary a bit, but you are a full-time missionary, not part time. You eat, sleep, and drink missionary work, all day, every day for 18 months to 2 years.
5. Sunday is NOT a day of rest in the mission
You probably work harder on Sunday than almost any other day of the week because this is your day to bring people to church. Call investigators, go pick them up, remind them, get members to pick them up, give talks, give lessons, then after church, you just go out and do the same thing you do every other day. Sunday is prime time to find people. It is no time to rest for missionaries.
No more Sunday naps.
P-day becomes your only rest time, but you don’t want to rest during it because it’s your only time to read and write letters, shop for food, and get any other things done that you can’t do during the rest of your “work” week. On P-day, there is no P-night, you work that evening too.
6. You will miss a lot of new movies TV shows and epic YouTube videos
This may be harder for some than others. But you are taken out of the world. You go on a mission-long fast from mainstream media.
7. People will hate you for wearing the tag
Regardless of the good person inside of you, some people will hate you just because you have a name tag on. You will be persecuted because you are Mormon or because you are Christian or both.
8. You’ll be fed really CRAZY food.
9. Some days you will want to quit
There are days when everything goes wrong, people spit in your face, you step in dog poop, the investigators you had hope in put the copy of the Book of Mormon in a bag on the door with a note, your power goes out, it rains, you get sick, you get fleas or bedbugs, your suit gets ruined, and your companion gets cranky.
These are days never to be forgotten.
If you currently feel this way, listen to Elder Holland’s talk called “Don’t you Dare Come Home.”
10. It will be the most amazing experience of your life. Period.
Despite the difficulty of a full-time mission, missionaries come home loving their mission more than any other experience in their life up to that point.
When I was a teacher at the MTC, I told the missionaries I taught that the mission is kind of like a rosebush. It is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen from a distance. As you get closer to it, it becomes even more beautiful and all the details become more evident.
Then you enter the mission and even though the roses are more beautiful than you have ever seen from afar, it is painful and the thorns prick and scratch you until you bleed. Just when you are about ready to cry out because of the pain, you exit the rosebush. You look back at the beautiful roses and think about going through the bush. Then as the distance increases and your wounds heal, this bush becomes the most beautiful bush you have ever seen. You love and cherish that bush that has become even more beautiful to you after going through it. Any time to see the roses looking back, you don’t remember the thorns, you only remember the good and the roses are even more rich and beautiful than they were before.
The mission is such a beautiful thing. Don’t be scared away by how hard it is, remember that it IS hard, but that it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. The mission was probably the hardest prolonged experience I have ever had in my entire life, but I look back on it as the greatest conglomerate of life-changing experiences I have ever had. It has formed me into the person I am today.
What else do you think we need to know before serving a mission?
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