For those supporting missionaries while they’re away, it’s good to help them remember what is or isn’t important to be a “successful” missionary. Here are a few things that will help any missionary be happier, stronger, and a better emissary of Jesus Christ.
Love those who ridicule you.
It is inevitable that every missionary will run into antagonistic people who will belittle their beliefs. But, as Christ said, we are to “turn the other cheek” and still see the other person as a son or daughter of God.
With that in mind, we should still love everyone— even those who attempt to tear us down. David A. Christensen, former MTC and mission president and author of Missionary Questions of the Soul, says, “Dealing with difficult or negative people— people who scoff, scorn, and sneer at that which is true, good, and right—has been one of the challenges of every true disciple of Jesus Christ all through the annals of history. However, how we deal with negativity and agitation is important. We can’t stoop to the ways of the ‘natural man,’ choosing to retort or snap back. We must yield to the enticing of the Holy Spirit.” Missionaries should respect everyone they meet and withhold judgment.
We all make mistakes. Missionaries need to remember that they are just as mortal as their investigators and should repent just as much as they teach repentance. In a recent general conference address, Elder Dale G. Renlund said, “A Saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.”
Missionaries must continually repent and change for the better so that they can more fully testify of the blessings of repentance to others. Christensen says, “Humility is a key to repentance and to being forgiven. It is best for us to choose to be humble by seeking the will of Christ. But because He loves us, the Lord allows our experiences to humble us so that we will repent.”
Former mission president David A. Christensen explores common questions that missionaries encounter. Though directed to full-time missionaries, Christensen's work is a must-read for anyone with questions about life's uncertainties.
Study the scriptures, but don’t worry about being a “scriptorian.”
There’s a reason missionaries study the most fundamental principles of Christ’s doctrine in Preach My Gospel. The basics are what matter most. Studying the scriptures with the Spirit will help missionaries teach with power and authority, but becoming obsessed with understanding every mystery of God may be unhealthy and not a productive use of a missionary’s time.
Even Alma, one of the greatest missionaries of the Book of Mormon, admitted to not knowing all the mysteries of God: “Nevertheless, there are many mysteries which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself” (Alma 40:3).
Always be obedient.
President Ezra Taft Benson put it most poignantly when he said, “When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power.” Obedience is the first law of heaven. It is a primary covenant. It is a stimulator that produces and increases faith. It is essential to meriting the trust and confidence of the Lord so that He can endow the obedient and faithful with power.
Understanding the attribute of obedience isn’t about rules—it’s about faith. Christensen says, “It is less about keeping a mission rule regarding the clock (getting up or going to bed at a certain time), dressing in accordance with university dress codes, driving slower in a school zone, or maintaining one’s yard in conformity to community ordinances. It has more to do with our attitude toward obedience. When we are obedient to our commitments, we are blessed with power that comes through the Holy Ghost.”
Be bold and talk to everyone.
One of the crucial parts of being a missionary is simply talking to everyone. This is why it’s so important for missionaries to have good social skills before they enter the field. Even if a missionary can’t find the courage to talk to someone in a crowd, they should at least learn to talk to them one-on-one in their home.
Preach My Gospel states, “It is natural to be somewhat apprehensive about talking to people, but you can pray for the faith and strength to be more bold in opening your mouth to proclaim the restored gospel.” When missionaries speak with boldness and the Spirit, miracles can happen.
Be willing to work hard.
Future missionaries are often told that the mission will involve a lot of hard work. But rarely do those future missionaries understand how much harder it will be. For the next 18 or 24 months, they will experience 16-hour days filled with studying, teaching, and proselyting. It may take time for some missionaries to adjust to having every hour of every day planned out.
However, missionaries must also learn to roll with the unplanned moments of a mission—of which there are many! Missionaries must know what hard work feels like so that they can keep up and give it their best.
Be patient with others—and yourself.
Preach My Gospel explains, “Patience is the capacity to endure delay, trouble, opposition, or suffering without becoming angry, frustrated, or anxious.” Missions are most definitely filled with “delay, trouble, opposition, and suffering.” Missionaries must learn to be patient with others through all of these trials. But, they must also be patient with themselves.
Sometimes missionaries place themselves under undue pressure to be “perfect.” But the Lord does not expect them to serve a perfect mission—just their best. There’s a fine balance between pushing yourself to be better while still acknowledging that you aren’t perfect.
Learn the language of the Spirit.
Everyone feels the Spirit of the Lord differently. There are many ways that the scriptures explain how one may feel the Spirit of the Lord, but the best way to learn is simply to ask. Missionaries should ask the Lord to teach them how He communicates with them. Missionaries must also understand that their companions will not always feel the Spirit in the same manner as they do. It’s important for companions to trust one another and the Spirit.