If you’re preparing to go on a mission, it’s quite normal to have some feelings of fear, inadequacy, or nervousness about the task that is ahead. Sometimes these feelings simply mean that you have a realistic understanding that it will sometimes be very hard work that stretches you to your limits.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf reassures future missionaries with these words: “Consider the example of the Apostle Peter, who overcame his fears and became a courageous missionary and leader of the Church… We can learn not only from Peter, we can learn from all missionaries who have the same kind of commitment and dedication—missionaries like the many you find in all missions around the globe—missionaries like those who will serve with you. Each day, let us remind ourselves that we are disciples of the Savior Jesus Christ. And because He is with us, we do not fear.”
For those who are shy, the thought of knocking on doors and talking to strangers can be terrifying. President Monson shares this encouragement: “Now, some of you may be shy by nature or consider yourselves inadequate to respond affirmatively to the call to serve. Remember that this is the Lord’s work, and when we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help. The Lord will shape the back to bear the burden placed upon it.”
Feelings of Inadequacy
If you have feelings of inadequacy about serving a mission, you are not alone. Elder Neil L. Anderson expressed similar feelings in a general conference talk: “Nearly 40 years ago as I contemplated the challenge of a mission, I felt very inadequate and unprepared. I remember praying, ‘Heavenly Father, how can I serve a mission when I know so little?’ I believed in the Church, but I felt my spiritual knowledge was very limited. As I prayed, the feeling came: ‘You don’t know everything, but you know enough!’ That reassurance gave me the courage to take the next step into the mission field.”
It’s also important to remember that your inadequacies don’t need to be a stumbling block. The humility that comes with facing your limitations can invite Spirit. President Gordon B. Hinckley once shared this about two missionaries he was acquainted with: “One was a superstar. He was educated. He was bright. He was quick. He was a little arrogant. We had another who was a sign painter. … with very little education, but he knew his inadequacies and he relied on the Lord. When he prayed, you knew he was talking with the Lord. … That young man accomplished wonders while the other young man went through the motions. The power that was in the one and the absence of power in the other was so apparent.”
What Fears? I have no fear!
For those who are fearless at the thought of a mission, we commend you. How wonderful to have such confidence and optimism. It will take you far, but don’t be surprised if you struggle at some point in your mission with feelings of fear or inadequacy. Please remember the following quote just in case you need it later. President Uchtdorf, when comparing missionaries to Peter, said:
“They arrive in the mission field brimming with confidence—in themselves, in the Lord, and in their mission president. They are ready to baptize the entire city, starting with whoever opens the first door they knock on. They will walk on water if you tell them there’s a golden investigator on the other side of the lake. And they are quite certain that they will never, ever get discouraged or tired or fearful.”
Until they do.
“Because lurking beneath their confidence and zeal are human imperfections, inexperience, and fear. And if they are to become the kind of disciples, the kind of leaders the Lord expects, they will need to face and overcome those weaknesses, just as we all must in our individual journey of discipleship.”
Missionaries, especially seniors with grown children and grandchildren, may worry about how their absence will effect their families. Elder Robert D. Hales offered this counsel on the subject: “The Lord will send special blessings to your family as you serve. ‘I, the Lord, give unto them a promise that I will provide for their families’ (D&C 118:3). Couples are sometimes concerned that in their absence they will miss weddings, births, family reunions, and other family events. We have learned that the impact on families while grandparents are on missions is worth a thousand sermons. Families are greatly strengthened as they pray for their parents and grandparents and read letters sent home which share their testimonies and the contribution they are making in the mission field.”
President Dieter F. Uchdorf also talked about how the families of missionaries are blessed, saying: “He will visit you with knowledge, peace, and courage. He will lighten your sorrows. He will bless your family at home, even your extended families. He will take care of you and the things you worry about. He will prepare the way for you and send His angels to surround and uphold you.”
Learning a Language
While not every missionary is asked to learn a foreign language as part of their missionary assignment, the possibility of it worries some future missionaries.
Preach My Gospel includes this great quote from President Monson, reminding missionaries that there is more to communication than spoken language: “There is one language … that is common to each missionary—the language of the Spirit. It is not learned from textbooks written by men of letters, nor is it acquired through reading and memorization. The language of the Spirit comes to him who seeks with all his heart to know God and keep His divine commandments. Proficiency in this language permits one to breach barriers, overcome obstacles, and touch the human heart.”
For Those with Known Physical or Mental Health Issues
Not every fear or feeling of inadequacy is pre-mission nerves. Some individuals thinking of serving a mission know that they struggle with a very real health issue. Whether the health issue is emotional, mental, or physical, it may interfere with mission service. This doesn’t mean that every past and present health issue will prevent mission service. Elder Richard G. Scott taught: “Missionary work is extremely demanding. If you have emotional challenges that can be stabilized to meet the rigors of a full-time mission, you can be called. It is vital that you continue to use your medication during your mission or until competent medical authority counsels otherwise. Recognize that emotional and physical challenges are alike. One needs to do all that is possible to improve the situation, then learn to live within the remaining bounds. God uses challenges that we may grow by conquering them”
Sometimes, in spite of all efforts to stabilize or heal a health issue, it remains to an extent that mission service isn’t a viable option. In these circumstances, other forms of service should be considered instead. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught,
“There are parents who say, ‘If only we can get Johnny on a mission, then the Lord will bless him with health.’ … It seems not to work out that way. Rather, whatever ailment or physical or mental shortcoming a missionary has when he comes into the field only becomes aggravated under the stress of the work. …We simply must face up to the facts. …There are other areas where those with serious limitations may work and have a satisfying experience. And the Lord will bless them for what they are able to do. …”
Elder Scott also talks about other options for those unable to serve a traditional mission: “Your physical or emotional circumstance may be such that you have been excused by the President of the Church from full-time missionary service. For you there are other ways to render meaningful service compatible with your condition. Your bishop or stake president can help you identify such service where you live. It could be in a Church family history center, temple, welfare project, or employment center, or in a local hospital, care center, shelter, or elsewhere. There are many places where help is needed. You can live at home and contribute powerfully.”