I know I’m expected to go on a mission, but I’m not sure I want to. I know it’s a good thing to do, but there are other good ways of spending those two years also. Why is a mission so essential?
Look around your ward and find someone you admire who served a mission—someone you really look up to. Ask that person if a mission was worthwhile. That person will likely tell you that the missionary experience was invaluable.
On the other hand, those who can serve and don’t often have regrets. Take the case of the doctor who said, “In college I told my friends that my mission was to become a doctor. So while my classmates took two years out to serve the Lord, I continued my studies. Now, thirty years later, I have a different perspective on my life. Whereas I was able to relieve the physical suffering of people two years sooner than my friends who went on missions, they relieved the spiritual suffering. My medical relief lasted only a few years, but their spiritual relief will last throughout the eternities. There is no difference now in my medical practice and the practice of my friends who went on missions. I see now that I was short-sighted and selfish.”
But there are better reasons to serve a mission than just to avoid regret. Heavenly Father extends a personal invitation to you to give him two years of your life and devote twenty-four hours a day to his service. What an opportunity! What a way to show the Lord how much you love him! What are you saying to your Heavenly Father if you avoid that opportunity?
And then there’s the personal growth you can have. The learning experiences you’ll have on your mission cannot be obtained any other way. If you give a mission your full concentration, you’ll come back a far better person for having served. You’ll learn invaluable lessons on how to relate to other people and how to apply gospel teachings in your life; you’ll gain insight into the scriptures and Church doctrine; and, best of all, you’ll learn to love.
You see, by taking the steps that the Lord took while he was on this earth—by teaching the most important message the world can hear—you will learn to love like the Savior loved. You’ll have a greater understanding of him and a greater compassion for his mission. You’ll learn how to love your family and friends better, because after following the Lord’s example, you’ll be able to see them from the same perspective that he sees them.
Of course, your mission will not be one glorious series of revelations and spiritual experiences. Missionary work is hard—probably the most difficult thing you’ll do in your life up to that point. But you’ll discover a sense of achievement even in your trials. You’ll be able to say to your Heavenly Father, “Yes, Lord, I’ll even go through this for you.” It will give you spiritual self-confidence and help you form a bond with Heavenly Father that can last forever.
And just think of the joy you will experience by devoting two years to helping others! There are billions of people out there who are starving for the truth. You can be an instrument in God’s hands for making their lives fuller and more complete. Think of all the blessings that the gospel of Jesus Christ has brought into your life. Do you want your brothers and sisters on this earth to make their way blindly through life without those blessings?
Sure, there are many other good things you can do with those two years. You can go to school. You can work and earn money. You can get married and start a family. But what are you saying to the Lord when you put something else before what he asks you to do? Besides, all those things will be there when you return. Do you think Heavenly Father will let you lose the opportunity for anything while you’re taking time to serve him?
Now there are a number of people who, for health or other reasons, are not able to serve missions. There are some who joined the Church later in life and did not have an opportunity to serve. The Lord makes it clear to those people that he gladly accepts whatever offering they can give, and, if they work together, he will help them learn the things they didn’t have the opportunity to experience on a mission.
But if you’re in a position to serve a mission, you won’t regret the two years you spend devoting your heart, might, mind, and strength to the Lord. Until you experience it, you can’t even imagine “how great will be your joy.” (See D&C 18:10–17.)
If you know that it’s a good thing to do, ask your bishop or branch president to help you. Pray and ask your Heavenly Father to guide you in doing the things that are right, and he’ll answer your prayer.
Arlene Swaby, 16 Manchester, Jamaica
Follow your heart, pray to your Father in Heaven, talk to your bishop, listen to your leaders, and take good advice.
Irene Mamea, 19 Pago Pago, American Samoa
When I read your question, it troubled me. I know the feelings all too well. I really wanted to get my life started, be married, be in school, and be responsible to myself. In fact, everything in my life pointed against serving a mission. But now I am laboring under the most humbling conditions. My mission has not always been a pleasant experience. In fact, the good times I have are really fought for. But I am so thankful I have accepted the call to serve. I don’t miss all of the worldly joys. I know that they will be waiting for me when I return. But after serving the Lord, you will be able to experience the worldly joys in a better light.
Elder William Bosley, Jr., 20 Philippines Ilagan Mission
I remember hearing some returned missionaries say, “Serve a mission; you’ll love it!” I used to think, “Oh, sure I will,” but I went ahead and accepted a mission call anyway. Do you know what? I do love it! Having an individual come to you thanking you for bringing them the gospel and seeing their lives change for the better makes it all worth it.
Elder Wayne Schlosser III, 21 Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission
I think that serving my mission is essential. All the missionaries I know treasure their experiences and say they wouldn’t have given up the opportunity for anything. They’ve met great people, strengthened their testimonies, and had lots of fun. Not only is it a terrific way of getting close to the gospel, but it’s a great way to say thank you to our Heavenly Father.
Elizabeth Moyle, 16 Dunedin, New Zealand
When I was small, I didn’t receive any training from my father, but the mission field has given me all the training I needed from my Heavenly Father. It has changed my life.
Elder Ohajuru, 22 Aba, Nigeria
I had just graduated from high school and had just gone to work as a disc jockey at a radio station. As I was making money and gaining valuable experience in broadcasting, the thought of serving a mission was pushed further and further from my mind. After much deliberation I accepted a mission call. I had a great mission and grew to know that some things in life are not as important as we sometimes feel. When I got home, the radio station that I had worked for before my mission called me and asked if I would like to return. I did and had a great opportunity to report on sports, which is what I have always wanted to do.
I tremble when I think of the time that I considered not going on a mission in order to pursue my own goals. I know the Lord will bless you in your life pursuits when you decide to put his work first.
Scott C. Miller, 23 Bountiful, Utah
After living here in the mission field for some time and working closely with the full-time missionaries, I can honestly tell you that no matter what you did for two years, you wouldn’t learn as much or be as happy as you would serving a mission. I feel as though serving a mission should not be perceived as an expectation, but rather as a privilege and a blessing.
Kami Henderson, 20 Okinawa, Japan
Going on a mission will give you the best opportunity to experience what sharing the gospel is all about.
Sean Neave, 15 Capalaba, Queensland, Australia