Lesson 21: Sustaining Missionaries through Letters

Young Women Manual 2, (1993), 78–80


Objective

Each young woman will learn ways to encourage and support young men and young women in the mission field.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Optional: Write each of the seven questions in the second section of the lesson on a piece of paper. Put these papers in seven separate envelopes. Then, put these envelopes in a mailbag. The mailbag might be an oversized envelope or a canvas bag with “Mailbag” written on the outside.

  2. 2.

    Assign young women to present any scriptures, stories, or quotations you wish.

Note to the teacher

This lesson discusses supporting friends and family members from your area who are serving full-time missions elsewhere. The activities and suggestions in the lesson would not be appropriate for those serving full-time missions in your area.

Suggested Lesson Development

Missionaries Face Many Challenges and Opportunities

Teacher presentation

Ask the young women to imagine themselves in the following situation: You are 2,000 miles away from home living in a city you have never visited before. Your family and friends are back home. The people around you speak another language that you are learning so that you can communicate with them. The small apartment you live in is much different from the home you left. The food of this country has its own special flavors and varieties. You are living with someone you did not know a month ago. Everyone you associate with is new to you. You must take total care of all your own physical needs. You are very careful with your money, and you must budget it well to pay for your living expenses. You prepare your meals, care for your clothes, do your mending, and take care of your apartment.

Each day is very busy. Your purpose is to interest strangers in learning about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of the people you talk to are rude. They do not want to hear your message and sometimes shut the door in your face. Other strangers welcome your message and become your very good friends as you teach them. You are increasing your knowledge of the gospel faster than at any time of your life. You are studying at least two hours each day and spending the rest of the day proselyting. You read and memorize scriptures and discussions. You are becoming an authority on spiritual matters because you need to be prepared for the many questions people continually ask. You pray for the Spirit of the Lord often during the day because you must have it to be effective in your work.

Chalkboard discussion

  • What are some of the responsibilities a missionary has?

List the young women’s ideas on the chalkboard.

Teacher presentation

Explain that former missionaries report that a mission is hard work. Yet when missionaries commit themselves to their work, their time in the mission field is one of the happiest times of their lives. Missionaries must be diligent, determined, and willing to sacrifice their own desires for the Lord’s work. They must concentrate and study hard.

A young woman who is aware of the responsibilities of missionaries can be a positive influence in their lives.

Discussion

  • How can you help missionaries meet the challenges they will face?

Letters Can Support and Encourage Missionaries

Quotation

Explain that letters let missionaries know that their family members and friends are thinking about them.

Elder Gordon B. Hinckley said: “My heart goes out to the missionary who does not receive regular mail from home. Generally a letter once a week is a good rule. But on the other hand, too much mail can be damaging to a missionary’s morale. To be effective a missionary has to move away from home; so the kind of mail he receives will make a vast difference in what he does and how he feels. Letters that set forth the problems at home, that dwell on the difficulties, hurt the morale of the missionary. Wise letter writers will be sure to state their positive feelings—how proud they are to have a missionary in the field, how the Lord is blessing them because of his work in the ministry. Such letters bless the life of a missionary” (Brian Kelly, “A Visit with Gordon B. Hinckley about Missionary Work,” New Era, June 1973, p. 32).

Display the mailbag with the envelopes inside.

Survey

Explain that a group of returned missionaries from missions all over the world were asked about the mail they received while in the mission field. The most common answers to the questions are listed below. Ask each young woman to take one or more of the envelopes out of the mailbag and read the question to the class. Let the young women suggest how the missionaries might have responded. Then read and discuss any of the answers not mentioned.

  1. 1.

    Question: While you were in the mission field, whom did you enjoy receiving letters from?

    • Responses: My parents

    • Friends I had frequently dated

    • Relatives

  2. 2.

    Question: In letters from home, what subjects did you most want to hear about?

    • Responses: News about the family

    • News of those I knew who were also on missions

    • Information about Church or ward activities

    • Serious questions or comments about the gospel and spiritual matters

    • Questions about my work, contacts, and living conditions

    • Information about school activities and the achievements of my friends and family

  3. 3.

    Question: What kinds of letters helped you most?

    • Responses: The ones that lifted my spirituality

    • Those that told of the experiences of others and how their testimonies had grown

    • Letters about the gospel and genuine spiritual experiences

    • Happy, informative letters about home

  4. 4.

    Question: What letters did you find depressing or unwelcome?

    • Responses: Those containing negative comments, especially about the gospel

    • Those containing gossip

    • Letters written when the person was depressed

    • Letters about how soon my mission would be over

    • News about problems in the country or dissatisfaction at home

    • Letters telling me about all I was missing at home

  5. 5.

    Question: How often should a casual friend write?

    • Responses: On Christmas and birthdays

    • Every one to three months

  6. 6.

    Question: What letters did you find unwelcome from that special young woman or young man at home?

    • Responses: Letters talking about dates with others

    • Letters dwelling on parties and other activities

    • Letters saying that the relationship is over

    • Romantic letters

  7. 7.

    Question: If your special friend at home found his or her feelings for you changing, what would you want your friend to do?

    • Responses: Be honest about the changing feelings

    • Talk about the doubts as soon as they appear

Teacher presentation

Explain that letters from home can be an influence for good in the life of every missionary, but missionaries cannot be expected to answer all the letters they receive. They are encouraged to write home once a week, and they must write to the mission president once a week. Missionaries are very busy, so letters to others can be expected only periodically.

Discussion

If time permits, let the young women discuss ways they can personally encourage friends who are serving missions.

Conclusion

Teacher presentation

Explain that letters are an essential part of missionaries’ lives. Positive letters can help them find joy in their work. Remind the young women to put themselves in the missionaries’ place when they write letters and to write about the things that will help them. They can share the new concepts they are learning as they study and develop their testimonies. They can tell the missionaries that others are praying for them. The Lord will bless them as they encourage missionaries through letters.

Suggested Activities

  1. 1.

    For the next holiday, send a letter from your class to each of the missionaries serving from your ward. These can be prepared on an activity night.

  2. 2.

    Suggest that the young women set a goal to write to a relative or friend on a mission at least once every three months.