After over 12 years of supporting her husband through his career as a Major League Baseball player, Jenny Guthrie hadn’t been enjoying her husband’s retirement long when the couple was called to serve as mission leaders of the Houston Texas South Mission. This time, the two had the opportunity to serve side-by-side as they led the mission from 2018–2021. During that time, Jenny saw firsthand what contributes to a missionary’s success in the field. On this week’s episode of All In, she was gracious enough to share four tips for parents of children preparing to serve missions.
Listen to the full episode with Jenny in the player below or by clicking here. You can also read a full transcript here.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones Pearson: I wondered if you would have any thoughts like maybe three tips that you would give parents to prepare their children for their missions?
Jenny Guthrie: Absolutely. My first piece of advice to parents would be to listen to your kids. They’re growing up in challenging situations, in cultures that are difficult to navigate. And I think it’s so important that we listen, but not necessarily just with our ears, but with our hearts, because kids need to be heard, and they need to be understood. And they need to have safe places to express where they’re at. And then they need patient parents to help gently lead them to Jesus, and … God will help you know how to do that.
The second piece of advice I feel is incredibly important is to let your kids’ struggles lead them to Jesus. I think sometimes as parents, we feel like we need to solve the problems of our kids, or we want to lessen the blow and certainly, I feel like it is so important to be there to help your kids carry the challenges that they face. But I think sometimes we can do them a disservice when we suggest or advise in all the ways to fix the problems—that the challenges can actually be essential to the path that will lead them to Jesus. And so again, kindly in the way that Heaven will help you know how to do this, help their challenges lead them to Jesus but don’t solve them for them.
The third, I think, really important thing for kids to understand. A lot of youth feel like it’s really difficult to be a member of the Church. The expectations are really high. They feel like failures, and they’re very aware of their inadequacies. Nobody needs to point them out. … They know.
Morgan Jones Pearson: They’re already their own worst critic.
Jenny Guthrie: Absolutely as are all of us, right? I think young people, need to understand better who this Jesus is, who the Savior is, and what He can do for them. Last year in seminary, I didn’t know the Old Testament very well, Morgan. I think the last time I probably read the Old Testament in chronological order was when I was in seminary, and so it was an incredible experience. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. It was like every single class, we were all on the edge of our seats.
Morgan Jones Pearson: You and me both, I had no idea what was coming next.
Jenny Guthrie: Oh, it was incredible. But I learned so much. … But I have a big wall hanging in my house that says “Choose you this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” And I knew that was Joshua chapter 24, verse 15. But I love that scripture, but I really didn’t understand the background until seminary, and I share this because I think it’s so important in helping kids understand who this Jesus is that they are going to go serve. And in chapter 24, if we read the verses that precede verse 15, it talks about who this God is. And let me just pull up a few of the verses it says, “I sent Moses also, and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, and I brought your fathers out of Egypt. And when they cried unto the Lord, I put darkness between you and the Egyptians. And I brought you into the land of the Amorites. And they fought with you, and I gave them into your hands, that you might possess their land.” And it just talks about all of these ways that the Lord blesses them. It says, “I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out.” I mean, in all of these really incredible ways, God was protecting His people. And He says, and I gave you land, and you didn’t even have to labor for it. And you didn’t have to build cities, they were given to you, like all of these really incredible things that the Lord had done for His people, right?
And then we get to this verse. And then it says, so “choose you this day, whom you will serve. But for me and my house” I’m serving that God that can do miracles, that will bring protection, that can help you overcome any obstacle, I mean, really, [there are] just limitless possibilities of what this God can do for you. And I think young people need to be taught about that Lord because then the decision becomes so obvious and easy. Like, that’s the Lord that I want to serve. I want to be part of that gospel, I want to be part of that gathering of Israel that is going to just provide miracles and light and hope and protection and peace and overcoming obstacles that seem insurmountable. And that’s the God that I want to be with. And I feel like young people need to be taught that.
They’re very much taught about expectations. But I think they become very aware of how challenging it is to meet that. But in the missteps, as they pursue this life, that is what God wants for us, that God can help them get there, that they can experience the miracles themselves. And then can stand as powerful witnesses to those that they stand in front of in the mission field, but they need to experience that Jesus. And the last one, maybe I’ll add a fourth?
They need to read the Book of Mormon with the intention to know if it’s true and pray to a God that can help them in all the challenges, all of the things that they face, that they need to learn to rely on him for the help that they stand in need of. If they’ll do those things, they will enter the mission field ready for all the things that they’ll encounter. Because there are many when you get to the mission field.
Morgan Jones Pearson: I want to come back to something you said in that third point talking about. There’s a lot of talk about expectations. And I had the thought when you were talking that maybe instead of focusing so much on the expectations of us or of those young people, we should focus more on what they can expect from God. Because I think as we come to know God and His nature, we know what to expect from Him. And that is what brings peace and confidence and the ability to do moreso than focusing on what’s expected of us. Jenny, you mentioned that you’re a seminary teacher, which, I’m jealous of those kids for getting to have you as their seminary teacher. And my poor seminary kids, if they listen to this episode will be like, how did we get stuck with her?
Jenny Guthrie: I don’t buy that.
Morgan Jones Pearson: No, it’s true. But I wondered: you’ve said that one of the biggest things you’ve tried to stress to your youth and your seminary classes is that missteps are okay. Why do you think that it’s so important for youth and young people to know that?
Jenny Guthrie: Yeah, I feel like not only are they okay, but they’re unavoidable. Mortality was not set up by God or it wasn’t designed in a way where we wouldn’t misstep. Because if we never misstep, then there wouldn’t be a need for Jesus, and He’s central to this plan. Certainly, it takes effort. So I don’t want to be dismissive and say it doesn’t matter. It does. But I think it can become paralyzing to young people who are growing up in cultures that oppose God in every way. We live in Portland, Oregon, Morgan, and the landscape of belief here very much opposes what I know to be true in a lot of ways. And kids make mistakes. It is hard. One of the things that I learned from the Old Testament study is that culture, no matter how righteous you are, seeps in and it’s almost unavoidable. And so mistakes will happen. And I’m okay with that because when I consider my own life, the very missteps drew me back to Jesus. A profound experience myself when I was their age, when I was in high school when I received my patriarchal blessing. Morgan, it was really eye-opening for me, because I was an okay kid. But what God told me in my blessing was a perspective that I had never considered about myself. He saw things in me that I never could have imagined. And it blew my mind. And I think these young people need people to help them capture the vision for them that God has for them. And when they get that, then everything else changes.