Check out our other articles for more about how to help your missionary when they are out in the mission field and how to help your missionary adjust to being home.
Let’s face it: missions are hard work. Our children will be paired up with complete strangers, put on a strict schedule, and walk or bike more than they ever have in their lives. They must be able to physically, spiritually, and mentally endure the sheer rigor of a mission—and you, as their parent, are the perfect one to help get them ready. Here are a few ways you can help your missionary successfully prepare, serve, and return from a mission.
By Merrilee Boyack
Imagine for a moment a young man or woman being sent on their mission. All of a sudden, they find themselves in the MTC. Now imagine that they have no idea how to wash their clothes. They have no idea how to cook. They have never managed their own money. This poor missionary is scrambling—trying to learn how to be a missionary in a foreign environment with a companion they just met—and also trying to learn how to take care of themselves temporally. While other missionaries are learning the language, they are learning how to iron.
To prepare a future missionary well, it is important to turn over to them the responsibility of their own care bit by bit. At age 7, they should be able to pack their own lunches—let them. At age 10, they can start learning to do their own wash—let them. By age 14, they can get their own bank account and debit card—let them. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve, while serving as a mission president, said, “May I suggest to you wonderful mothers that you put your arms around your children, look them squarely in the eye, and tell them to learn these skills because you want them to be happy and successful on their mission. What son or daughter will not respond to the loving eyes of his or her mother?”
Professional lecturer and attorney Merrilee Boyack teamed up with Emily Belle Freeman to create this welcome volume, which is written primarily for mothers who will be sending children into the field.
Similarly, former MTC president Robert Wagstaff says, “Generally, a young person who has been allowed to take responsibility and develop appropriate independence will have an easier time adjusting to missionary service. This means that it is important for parents to nurture their children in such a way that encourages independent, responsible decision-making skills founded on gospel principles” (“Preparing Emotionally for Missionary Service,” Ensign, March 2011).
Another important part of missionary preparation is learning to adapt to the life of a missionary. Teens who are constantly connected to technology or who consistently sleep late will be in for a shock on their missions. It is important for children to learn how to de-stress in ways they can use on their mission—reading scriptures, praying, singing, walking, running—and not in ways that involve technology. They need to learn how to socialize outside of social media—having conversations, spending time with others, or serving others. These practices will be crucial while serving a mission.
By Don Staheli
Perhaps the most important part of missionary preparation is spiritual preparation. Elder Ballard stated, “We need worthy, qualified, spiritually energized missionaries. . . . We need your whole heart and soul.” This is perhaps the most important thing to understand when preparing for a mission.
Preparation for elders and sisters begins with understanding the oath and covenant of the priesthood found in Section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Although sisters don’t receive priesthood ordination, they do make the same promises to serve and stay morally clean. All missionaries should study and understand the requirements and blessings of acting under priesthood power, because all have access to identical blessings.
Before serving as secretary for the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Don Staheli was a mission president in France. Here, he delivers a powerful must-read for all prospective missionaries.
The next step in spiritual preparation takes place in the temple. Here, future missionaries continue along the covenant path started at baptism. At baptism, we all promised to give of our time and efforts to care for others and to help them in their struggles. In the temple, we covenant to sacrifice for the Lord and to consecrate everything we have to build up the kingdom of God. A mission is the embodiment of those covenants.
However, missionaries must also understand that success is not measured in baptisms. Preach My Gospel makes it perfectly clear: “Your success as a missionary is primarily measured by your commitment,” or in other words, a determined heart and faithful soul.
Overcoming fear is another important part of preparation. The enemy of every missionary is fear. Fear of the language; fear of the people; fear of speaking up and sharing the gospel; fear of hard work; fear of leaving home behind. In the heart of a prepared missionary, this fear is replaced with love of God and of our brothers and sisters who need the gospel. Truly, as the prophet Mormon declared, “I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.”
A missionary must prepare himself or herself by assessing where their heart really lies. They will probably find some imperfections and a few regrets. Encourage future missionaries to talk to their bishops about those. They might find a bit of fear, and maybe even a doubt or two. But they will also likely discover a lot of love, a spark of testimony, and a sincere desire to help others find the hope and joy of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s all it takes to get started. Then, by diligent study, faith, and prayer, they will develop the loving heart and committed soul a missionary needs.
Read more of this article in the July/August issue of LDS Living, available at Deseret Book or at deseretbook.com.