People throughout the world acknowledge Mormon missionary elders as being outstanding young men. One major reason is the self-control they have developed. To be a good missionary one must develop within himself a high degree of mental discipline. A successful mission requires total commitment—the giving of one’s heart, might, mind, and strength to the cause.
In Ecclesiastes we read: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
“A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
“A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
“… a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
“A time to get, and a time to lose; …
“… a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” (Eccl. 3:1–2, 4–7.)
A mission is a time to serve the Lord with all of one’s heart, might, mind, and strength. It is a glorious experience beyond compare if done with a singleness of purpose. The Lord said, “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.
“Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God. …
“… cast away your idle thoughts and your excess of laughter far from you.” (D&C 88:67–69.)
Good mental discipline is essential to effective missionary work. Every missionary who comes into the mission field wants to be a highly successful missionary. The extent to which he succeeds is even more dependent on the mental discipline he develops early in his mission than it is on his background or what he knows when he enters the mission field. When one develops a strong mental discipline, he is able to control his thoughts so that he can serve the Lord with all his heart and with all his mind.
It is not likely that we can control the thoughts we think unless we exercise some control over the environment in which we live. A young man is called into the mission field at a time in his life when by nature he is attracted to those of his own age of the opposite sex. Prior to his mission call he has usually dated and enjoyed the companionship of a young lady. While doing so he has committed himself to treat her with respect and never engage in petting or any act that would detract from her purity and sweetness. When the missionary arrives in the mission field, his commitment changes. For the next two years he should be committed to excuse himself from the company of young ladies when they change the subject of their conversation from missionary work.
This may sound overly strict, but it is wise for this reason: It has been said that if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, he will immediately leap out unscathed, but if you put a frog in a pot of tepid water and gradually turn up the heat, you will have a dead frog. The frog would have stayed alive if he had jumped out of the water before it got hot, but he didn’t know when to do so. A frog must know when to jump and a human must know at what point he should stop. The longer he waits, the warmer the water becomes and the more his resistance weakens.
If a missionary excuses himself from the company of young ladies when the subject of conversation changes from missionary work, he will maintain control and can continually center his thoughts on converting and baptizing with steadfast resolution. If he does not do so, the frivolity that follows results in his mind being on subjects that detract from the objective of his mission.
Missionaries are instructed not to go swimming during their mission tenure. They are expected to forfeit this pleasure, which tests their self-control and obedience. Church leaders have no way of knowing the varying swimming capabilities of more than 30,000 missionaries. There are the thoughtless dives in water that is too shallow, the sudden unexpected attack of cramps, the temptation of hazardous horseplay, the natural hazards of dangerous tides and currents, and even injuries from stings and other attacks from “denizens of the deep.” Relaxing the rules on swimming would make the ban on even more dangerous water sports such as skin diving, waterskiing, and boating more difficult to enforce.
Every mission president is aware of the difficulties that arise when missionaries proselyte in beach communities. They usually send their strongest elders, because in such an environment, the pictures that enter are stored in the mind and are subject to recall by the subconscious; they have a weakening effect and are in opposition to the thoughts that build good missionaries. Although there is much wholesome, legitimate physical exercise and recreation at beach areas, there are still the all too obvious revelry, drinking, and language problems, which at best can only tarnish the spirit of the missionary.
The missionary can obtain good, healthful, wholesome physical exercise in any number of ways (tennis, volleyball, jogging, etc.) that are far more conducive to the spirit of his mission and calling.
Missionaries quickly learn that the reward for obedience is the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit. With that companionship a missionary cannot fail. The habits formed in the mission field influence the balance of a missionary’s life. The mental discipline and the attitude toward obedience he develops has a marked effect on the person he becomes. Every young man in the Church should take advantage of the exciting and growing experience that a mission offers.