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 ways of spending those two years. Why is a mission so essential?
Look around your ward and find someone you really like 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, 30 years later, and with perfect hindsight, I can plainly see the score. 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 asks us to give our lives in service to him. He also extends a specific invitation to you to devote 24 hours a day to his service on a mission. 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 pass on that opportunity?
And then there’s the growth involved. The learning experiences you’ll have on your mission are unsurpassed. If you give it your all, you’ll come back a far better person for having served. You’ll learn invaluable lessons on how to relate to others 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 about 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.
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, the Lord 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 and 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
I remember hearing some returned missionaries say, “Serve a mission; you’ll love it!” I used to think, “Yeah, right,” but I went ahead and gave a mission a shot. 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
A mission is essential because it is a starting block in building your relationship with Christ; as we serve him we grow to know him. The happiness we have received as missionaries in loving other people, ourselves, and our Savior would not have been developed without making that first step of faith in deciding to serve.
Elder Darren Robinson, 20 Elder John Karren, 21 South Carolina Columbia Mission
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
If we really loved one another then we would love people enough to share with them a way to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ once again. Every night I kneel down and thank the Lord for letting me take part in bringing lost spirits back home. It is a truly great pleasure for me to help.
Elder David Creighton, 25 Idaho Boise Mission
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
I was nine years old when I got baptized. I am so glad that Mother let the missionaries in. She was one of those special people who was desperately looking for the truth. There are many people looking for the gospel who do not know where to find it. May Heavenly Father bless you with a desire to serve.
Sister Susan B. Pauvif Australia Sydney Mission
I had just graduated from high school and went 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 do sportscasting, my ultimate goal.
I shake 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 a year 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
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
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
If we refer to Jacob 2:18 in the Book of Mormon it clearly explains that we should always put the Lord first in everything. Anything you desire to do first will satisfy you only in this life. But this calling, if you can fulfill it, not only brightens your future in this life but also the life after death.
M. Samuel Sanjay, 17 Hyberabad, India
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 my own man. 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 been a bed of roses, or much of a bed at all. 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