One Habit Worth Keeping

By Tiffany Tolman

Over the last several years, Elder Paul and Sister Jeanne Nelson have formed a habit worth keeping. For them, missionary service has become a way of life. They are currently serving their fifth mission together, and with each mission, they have gained greater confidence, an increased appreciation for family, and a stronger love for the Lord.

Their first foray into missionary service came shortly after Elder Nelson’s retirement. After raising seven children and completing a successful career, the Nelsons looked forward to serving a mission. But family circumstances led them to look for an opportunity close to home. That opportunity came in the form of a Church-service mission as volunteer tour guides at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah. After being trained for several months, the Nelsons served one evening a week as tour guides. During their two-year mission, they shared stories, fielded questions, and strengthened their ability to strike up conversations with others.

After completing their first Church-service mission, the Nelsons were ready to serve full time. Before long, they were off to the Florida Tampa Mission as full-time member and leader support (MLS) missionaries. For eighteen months, the two served in a ward in St. Petersburg, Florida, working with other full-time missionaries to find people, teach the gospel, and provide help for the local members. But all too soon, it was over.

Once home, the habit of serving missions couldn’t be suppressed. So within a month, the two were looking for another Church-service mission to serve. When Elder Nelson suggested serving with guest services on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Sister Nelson suggested serving with Family History, they compromised—and served both simultaneously. For the next two years, they served on-call with guest services, assisting as ushers for different programs, conferences, and concerts. At the same time, they served every Monday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Family History Department, training family history directors around the world and answering questions about family history work over the phone.

Then, a conversation with their bishop opened the door to their fifth mission. After hinting that they were getting ready to serve another full-time mission, their bishop suggested a mission they hadn’t considered. A full-time senior couple was needed in their home stake. Now they are back to serving full-time in the Utah Ogden Mission—while living at home in Layton, Utah—for another 18 months.

When asked how this habit of serving missions has blessed their lives, Sister Nelson laughs. “When I signed up for our first Church-service mission,” she shares, “it pulled me out of my comfort zone—way out. But it helped me be more outgoing—to be able to walk up to a total stranger and start talking.” That was great preparation for the mission experiences that followed.

They both agree that their habitual missionary service has blessed their lives in two important ways. First, it has strengthened their family. It’s ironic that being apart from their family for a time has brought them closer together. Not only is their extended family blessed by their missionary service, but as they teach important principles about the family to others, their love for their own family has grown.

Second, as Sister Nelson points out, missionary service “brings you closer to the Savior.” As missionaries, the two study the life and teachings of the Savior in the scriptures, testify of His divinity, and emulate His service through their own.

Elder Nelson can’t wait to share his excitement for missionary service with others. “We try to encourage [our friends] to serve missions,” he shares. “It makes you focus on service.” And the Nelsons should know. Even as they serve their current mission, they look forward to their next missionary opportunity. While they don’t know where it will be, one thing seems certain—they will continue to serve, because it has become a habit worth keeping.

Learn more about the many Church-service opportunities available to you today.