"Can you explain missions? Does everyone have to do it? How does it work?"Well Lily, if my wife had known the question you'd ask, she'd roll her eyes. Asking a RM (returned missionary) about their mission requires you to have roughly 3-4 days to listen! But I'd be glad to explain how missions work in our Church.
Elder Lane and I on our mission...alot of walking!
The BasicsWhen we mention a mission in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, most often, we are talking of the time that the young men and women of the Church set aside personal, educational and career ambitions to serve as missionaries full-time away from home.
Young men typically begin their service at age 19 and serve for 2 years. Young women begin their service at 21 and serve for 18 months. This is unpaid service, and as a matter of fact, it costs about $10,000 to serve a mission. This money is paid by the missionary, their family, and, if help is needed, the local congregation. This money pays for transportation, food, lodging, and all other expenses for the two years.
When you go on a mission you fill out mission papers (basic info, medical info, etc), have interviews with your local church leaders to to determine your worthiness (you don't want people out teaching and representing the Church who are not living what they are teaching...) and then your papers are sent to the Church headquarter in Salt Lake City. A member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, through the spirit of revelation, determine where Heavenly Father would have you serve your mission.
There are over 300 individual missions throughout the world. A mission is a geographical area where a missionary will spend the entire duration of his mission. I served in the Utica New York Mission. It is presided over, or led, by a mission president and his wife, who are, themselves, called by the Church leadership to serve a mission. Their mission is to lead, direct, and guide the mission.
Me with my mission president and his wife
President and Sister Mullen
Mission Presidents and their wives serve for three years, also at their own expense. Those who have children bring them along on the mission. A mission president and his wife become an example, mentor and counselor to the missionaries they preside over. President and Sister Mullen certainly were those things to me!
What do you do?
Elder and Sisters (what missionaries are called) spend their time finding and teaching people to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people in the areas they serve. Their calling is to offer to share and testify of the message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith. Those who pray and find this message to be true are invited to be baptized members of the Church.
A family I taught and baptized on my mission.
Regardless of whether people are interested in hearing the message they share or not, missionaries seek to love and serve people as the Savior would do. Missionaries spend a couple hours a week performing regular service in the communities where they live. On my mission in various areas we did service at a Boys and Girls Club, The Red Cross, a soup kitchen, and several other places. Missionaries also do "unplanned" service. These are oppurtunities to serve individuals include raking leaves, painting, shoveling snow, helping people move, and any other times people are in need of help.
Unplanned service on my mission, clearing brush away from a bridge after a flood.
If you ever need help doing anything around your house, don't hesitate to grab the guys with the white shirts and ties! Even if you aren't interested in learning more about our Church, they will be more than happy to help!
Is it a requirement to serve a mission?
All men ages 12 and older in our Church are holders of the Priesthood. This is authority given by God to man to lead the Church and administer the ordinances of the gospel (Sacrament, baptism, blessings, etc). Another of these priesthood duties is to serve a mission. So every worthy and able young man is expected to serve a mission. The Prophet and President of the Church today, President Thomas S. Monson said recently:
"Every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission. Such service is a priesthood duty—an obligation the Lord expects of us who have been given so very much."With that being said, it is not forced. Young men are encouraged to go, and are taught that this is a priesthood duty that they have. However, if they choose to not go there are no negative consequences, you simply miss out on the opportunity to serve the Lord and your fellow man and the blessings that follow.
Young women are not under the same obligation to serve, but are welcomed into missionary service if they so choose. President Monson continued:
"Sisters, while you do not have the same priesthood responsibility as do the young men to serve as full-time missionaries, you also make a valuable contribution as missionaries, and we welcome your service."
In additionIn addition to young men and women, Senior missionary couples serve missions for 6, 12, and 18 months. They serve proselyting missions, as well as service missions. Service missions range from working to provide water, sanitation, and other necessities to villages in developing countries to teaching english and other skills. They also can include working at Church visitor centers, historical sites, and temples and helping others with geneological research. There are also opportunities to serve missions from your home for those who may have physical or other limitations that make serving a full-time mission difficult. These may include family history work, service in church employment offices or other duties locally.
What does a mission do for the missionary?Serving a mission provides untold blessings to those the missionaries teach and encounter, but the blessings to the missionary are miraculous as well. I can honestly say I would not be the man I am today without the experience of serving a mission. It solidifies a testimony of the Gospel in the young man or womans heart. It teaches them that service to the Lord should always be a top priority in life. It teaches your to rely on your Heavenly Father for guidance, counsel, etc.
I knew that Christ was my Savior before my mission, but as a missionary I came to know Christ. I spent two full years studying the Gospel over two hours a day and teaching it for over 8 hours a day. I watched Spirit teach and change people's lives and change my life. Missionary work is a choice, but I tell every young man in my local church that it is the absolute best decision they could make for their lives and their family's life.
I tell my four year old daughter that when she decides to get married (in like 40 years, haha) she should choose to marry a man who chose to serve a mission. I say this because serving a mission shows that that man can put all his ambitions and wants on hold to serve the Lord. If he can do that, he will be able to put her interest ahead of his wants in their marriage. He will have a foundation of honoring God, and THAT is a necessity in a successful marriage!
One of my favorite missionary companions, Elder Busath and I
To ConcludeIn short, missions to a Mormon are a very sacred and important part of life. I am grateful I served a mission, and I hope next time you see two elders or sisters walking down the street or riding bicycles you will have a better understanding of what they are doing and the type of men and women they are becoming. Please be kind to them. They are a long ways away from home and doing their best to serve their God and their fellow man.
Question: How does serving God affect your and your family?
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