Chapter 11: Physical and Emotional Preparation

Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Religion 130, (2005), 74–79

President Gordon B. Hinckley said of missionary service:

“There must be health and strength, both physical and mental, for the work is demanding, the hours are long, and the stress can be heavy” (“Missionary Service,” in First Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting [2003], 18).

Potential missionaries should strive now to establish and maintain habits conducive to good physical, mental, and emotional health. Prospective missionaries who follow prophetic counsel enjoy better health and more productive lives. They can also receive special blessings of insight and wisdom (see Daniel 1:8–20; D&C 89:18–21). Those with physical, emotional, or mental challenges should counsel with health professionals, their bishops, and their stake presidents as part of their mission preparation. Serving the Lord with “all your heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2) is a goal requiring your best effort in all aspects of your life.


Note: You are cautioned to avoid making judgments regarding a prospective missionary’s qualification for service; this should be left to bishops and stake presidents.

Doctrines and Principles to Understand

  • Prospective missionaries should prepare for the physical and emotional demands of a full-time mission.

  • There are honorable alternatives to full-time missionary service for those individuals excused by priesthood leaders because of their physical or emotional circumstance.

Teaching Suggestions

Prospective missionaries should prepare for the physical and emotional demands of a full-time mission.

DVD Track 20 Read President Gordon B. Hinckley’s statement in the student manual chapter introduction (p. 89) regarding physical or emotional challenges missionaries may have before serving missions, or you may choose to show DVD track 20, segment 1 (1:01).

  • What are some ways that good physical health is important for effective missionary work?

  • What are some ways that good emotional (mental) health is important for effective missionary work?

  • Why is it important to determine if a missionary’s physical and mental health is adequate for full-time missionary service?

DVD Track 20 Read with students the counsel President Gordon B. Hinckley gave to priesthood leaders regarding their responsibility to judge the physical and emotional readiness of potential missionaries (see student manual, 90), or you may choose to show DVD track 20, segment 2 (0:48).

  • What must a priesthood leader determine regarding your physical and emotional readiness to serve?

  • How would it affect your spirituality and effectiveness as a missionary if you knew you had a serious health concern that you did not tell priesthood leaders or medical examiners about?

List the following four health guidelines on the board.

Basic Guidelines for Good Physical Health

  1. 1.


  2. 2.

    Regular exercise

  3. 3.

    Proper hygiene and dental care

  4. 4.

    Clean living quarters

Divide the class into groups of two or three students, and assign one guideline to each group. Ask each group to prepare a short three- or four-minute lesson for their assigned topic. These lessons should include (1) why the guideline is important and (2) what we can do to follow the guidelines while preparing to serve and while serving a full-time mission. Give each group a copy of the questions and information from below that correspond to their assigned guideline. They may wish to use the questions in their teaching or develop their own questions.

  1. 1.

    Nutrition. Eat a balanced diet, and use pure water and sanitary food (see student manual, 91).

    • According to the Word of Wisdom in Doctrine and Covenants 89:10–17, what three essential food group categories are spoken of?

      1. a.

        Fruits and vegetables (vv. 10–11).

      2. b.

        Protein (vv. 12–13). This category includes meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, and beans.

      3. c.

        Grains (vv. 14–17). Whole grains are best, such as brown rice and whole wheat.

    • What are some dangers in the mission field associated with water usage? (Students may not have considered the danger from ice cubes from polluted water in drinks, brushing teeth, and rinsing dishes.)

    • How can a missionary purify water?

    • What practices should be considered for sanitary food preparation? (Use clean preparation areas and utensils, cook food thoroughly, do not eat food left unrefrigerated over two hours, keep raw meat separate from all other food, and so on.)

    • What are the risks in eating food sold by street vendors?

    • What challenges do full-time missionaries face trying to eat a balanced diet as described in the Word of Wisdom?

  2. 2.

    Regular exercise. Be physically fit for missionary service (see student manual, 91).

    Review the statements from Elders M. Russell Ballard and Russell M. Nelson in the student manual (p. 90).

    • How does daily exercise benefit emotional and physical health?

    • What three kinds of exercise are there? (see student manual, 91).

    • What principles relating to good health are taught in Doctrine and Covenants 88:124?

  3. 3.

    Proper hygiene and dental care. Keep bodies and teeth clean (see student manual, 91).

    • What does proper hygiene mean to you?

    • When should you wash your hands?

    • How should you wash your hands?

    • How could keeping your body and teeth clean affect your proselyting activities?

  4. 4.

    Clean living quarters. Keep your apartment clean and orderly.

    • What is the connection between the Holy Ghost and clean living quarters?

    • What are reasonable housekeeping expectations for missionaries?

Another important element to consider is mental and emotional health. Encourage students who have experienced anxiety, depression, or other similar challenges to counsel with their bishops and stake presidents regarding these obstacles. Such challenges do not necessarily rule out serving a full-time mission.

DVD Track 21 Read with students in the student manual (p. 94) the counsel from Elder Richard G. Scott regarding missionaries taking medication, or you may choose to show DVD track 21 (0:50). Discuss with sensitivity the need for missionaries to counsel with their health care providers regarding medications they may be taking. Some missionaries mistakenly feel that a mission will solve all their health concerns and unwisely stop taking medications that are necessary for their well-being. Others incorrectly think that the need for medication may automatically disqualify them from missionary service. Counseling with health care officials and priesthood leaders can help determine eligibility for a full-time mission.

Explain that a common challenge among new missionaries is the feeling of homesickness. Leaving familiar surroundings and people may produce a degree of discomfort. This is a normal reaction, but when the discomfort persists and begins to affect a missionary’s productivity, it weakens his or her ability to serve effectively in the Lord’s kingdom.

Invite students to suggest what prospective missionaries can do to help prepare to deal with the separation from family and friends when leaving on a mission. (You may want to refer to the statement by President Ezra Taft Benson in the student manual, 93.)

Ask students to suggest other typical challenges that hardworking and obedient missionaries may face. List their answers on the board. You may wish to include the following challenges on the list:

  • Discouragement

  • Shyness in public

  • Poor speaking ability

  • Fear of new situations

  • Difficulty learning a foreign language

  • Inability to budget

  • How can prospective missionaries prepare now to overcome each of these challenges?

  • According to Alma 17:5, what challenges did the sons of Mosiah deal with?

  • What did they do that helped them through the physical and mental difficulties of their missions? (see Alma 17:2–3).

DVD Track 22 Read with students the story of President Hinckley, who struggled at the start of his mission (see student manual, 93), or you may choose to show DVD track 22 (1:27). Have students recall the one suggestion of President Hinckley’s father. Write it on the board. (“Forget yourself and go to work.”)

  • How did this brief suggestion influence the rest of his mission?

  • How can President Hinckley’s experience help you prepare for your mission?

Have students turn to the list of activities for good emotional health (see student manual, 92). Divide the class into small groups and assign each group one of the listings (make sure the listings are covered evenly among the groups). Give the class adequate time to select three or four traits and discuss what the traits mean to them, why they are important, and how to develop those traits.

Invite a representative from each group to give a summary of the discussion on one trait from their list. Continue with additional summaries on other traits as class time permits.

Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 4:2. Invite them to share any additional thoughts on ways they can prepare to serve with all their hearts, might, minds, and strength.

There are honorable alternatives to full-time missionary service for those individuals excused by priesthood leaders because of their physical or emotional circumstance.

Explain to students that mental and emotional illness should be viewed like physical ailments requiring treatment. A mental or emotional illness may prevent an individual from serving a full-time mission.

Present the following hypothetical situation:

There is a fine tradition of missionaries in the Gonzales family. Juan’s brothers have all served successful missions. He is the last of the children to turn 19. He grew up in the Church singing “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission” (Children’s Songbook, 169). Juan desperately wants to continue the tradition of missionary service. There are two limiting factors, however: (1) Juan suffers from severe depression and needs to take medication to cope, and (2) he is afraid of failing in the mission field because he doesn’t handle stress very well. All of his brothers think that if he just has faith, everything will work out all right and he can serve a full-time mission just like they did.

  • Why would it be important for Juan to counsel openly and honestly with his priesthood leaders and health care provider regarding his emotional limitations in addition to his desire to serve?

Invite a student to read to the class the statement by Bishop Richard C. Edgley of the Presiding Bishopric (student manual, 94).

  • What do you think it means for someone to be “honorably excused”?

  • Why is it important that a priesthood leader determines who is “honorably excused” from a full-time mission?

Read to students the following counsel President Hinckley gave to priesthood leaders regarding those who are unable to serve full-time missions:

“For those who should not go but wish to serve, let [priesthood leaders] find other places where they may make much-appreciated contributions” (“Missionary Service,” 18).

Read the statements by President Gordon B. Hinckley and Elder Richard G. Scott (see student manual, 94), and look for other ways that a young man or woman who is honorably excused from a full-time mission may make contributions to the Church through service.

  • What are some other possible ways to serve for those who are honorably excused from a full-time mission?

You could share the following list of service areas where opportunities may exist for worthy individuals honorably excused from full-time missionary labors. Emphasize to students that these kinds of opportunities are determined and come by way of calls issued by the stake president:

  • Church Educational System

  • Welfare

  • Farm management

  • Temples

  • Visitors’ Centers (sisters only)

  • Missionary Training Centers

  • Building maintenance

  • Special local projects

  • In what ways would this kind of service be a blessing to a young person who was not able to serve a full-time mission?

  • How would this kind of service bless the Church?

Suggested Assignments for Students

  • Plan a week’s menu, and then buy the ingredients for, prepare, and serve several healthy meals to family members or roommates.

  • Give a family home evening lesson on good personal hygiene practices or daily exercise.

  • Exercise for at least one hour daily for one week (not including the Sabbath day). For example, you might want to walk briskly for one hour (preferably including walking up and down hills or stairs) each day, or you could ride a bicycle instead of driving to places you need to go.