Recently, Cleo Madison asked returned missionaries to give their best advice to those who are preparing to serve. Here are some of the powerful responses:
Willow Dawn Becker
Lousiana Baton Rouge Mission
There's no such thing as a "perfect" missionary. If you want to present all your discussions in mathematical form, street contact at the local county fair, or participate in the talent show as a way to share the gospel, do it! You must remember that the Lord sent *you* to do this work, not some ideal version of a cookie cutter member of the LDS faith. The people you are meant to help will not recognize you if you are too busy pretending to be something you are not.
Canada Montréal Mission
Let's talk about your mission.
But first… well, let's start with a little context.
I served in the Canada Montréal Mission, French-speaking. The summers were hot and sweaty—interrupted, most evenings, by thunderstorms marching down from the north. In the winter, temperatures dropped well—well!—below zero and snow piled up under our windows. If you had the right gear, it was magical.
I had eleven companions, all told. We were young. Some of us were idealists. Others were there to please their families or sweethearts. But, all-in-all, I remember my fellow missionaries as earnest and hardworking. And we still made mistakes. Lots of them.
Looking back, I think a lot of those mistakes might have been prevented (or the sting of personal failure soothed), had I been given better advice…
1) Follow the Rules. When (and it's always when) the rules don't make sense, let folks up the chain of command know—don't just sulk or murmur or (worse?) white-knuckle it. There are good rules and bad rules, and sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. Part of being an adult is learning how to the tell the difference and then working constructively to change the bad ones. Which brings me to…
2) Learn how to break the rules with grace and humility. Sometimes you break a rule. Don't beat yourself up. Take note of what you could have done better, then move on. If telling someone will help you avoid the problem in the future, tell someone. Otherwise, get back to work.
3) Understand that baptisms don't flow to those who are "righteous." Rule-keeping is not a way of "paying" for blessings. Period. Don't let anyone tell you differently. "Bad" missionaries baptize. "Good" missionaries might never see the inside of a font. They are unrelated. Don't cheapen the agency of others—or turn God into a petty tyrant—by believing that God blesses and curses his children (you, your companion, your investigator, that lady on the bus) based on whether or not you are perfect. When you obey the rules and work smart, your reward is a deeper connection with the work—if that leads to a baptism, awesome.