by Casey Null and Aaron Randall Buhler
Find good role models. Talk to and spend time with teachers, parents, friends, returned missionaries, your bishop, advisers, and any others who can inspire and encourage you.
Learn to love the scriptures. Find a way of studying them that interests and inspires you.
Learn how to recognize the Spirit. Be aware of how and when it works in your life. Live in a way that you will be receptive to the Spirit’s promptings.
Bear your testimony. Practice telling people how you feel about the gospel. The more you do it, the easier it will feel.
Attend seminary. Not only will it give you the doctrinal background that you need, but it will help you develop discipline, which you’ll also need.
Don’t just believe—do. Get in the habit of going the extra mile, of sacrificing, of serving. That’s what a mission is all about.
Mind your manners! It’s important to have a gracious attitude. Learn how to be gracious, how to observe good table manners, how to speak well and politely, and how to order and act in a restaurant.
Make an effort to get along with anyone and everyone. Start learning how to see the good in people and not get frustrated in the way they’re different from you. This will help you in your relationships with your companions and with those you serve.
Learn communication skills. You’ll need to express yourself with ease and sincerity, and you’ll need to help others to do the same. Honesty and openness are key. So are good listening skills.
Learn to lead. You’ll be leading members, missionaries, and investigators. To give them the help they need, it will be important for you to know how you and the Lord can work together.
Learn to follow. You’ll need to be grateful about letting others be in charge. If you excel at following instructions, you’ll be better prepared when it’s time to give them.
Find fine friends. Be around people who will uplift you, and do your best to uplift them. Learn to give, not just to take, and to be sensitive to people’s needs.
Learn to love. Find out all you can about charity, the pure love of Christ, and pray about it. It will be one of the most valuable traits you can obtain.
Get a job. Your mission will mean a lot more to you if you can help pay for it yourself. And good work habits will help.
Sell away. Many missionaries have helped support themselves by selling a car, stereo, waterbed, baseball card collection, etc. You might look around to see if any of your possessions would be worth parting with.
Account for savings. If you don’t already have one, open a mission savings account now, and never take the money out until you get your call.
Budget better. Practice living on a budget now. Your parents won’t be there to help you out financially. You’ll get so much a month and will have to adjust. Get used to limiting expenses.
Buy now, use later. As you approach mission age, buy scriptures and other items you will need on your mission. By buying in advance, you’ll ease the financial strain later.
Shape up! You’ll need a lot of physical stamina for the rigors of mission life and for those workouts in the MTC. When you’re in good shape physically, you’ll feel better mentally and spiritually as well.
Start eating right. Fried foods and sugar will not get you through a missionary day. Start eating fruits, vegetables, and healthy carbohydrates.
Get a tune-up. Make sure your premission physical is a complete one, and try to solve health problems before you go. Make sure your doctor knows what you’re going to be doing for the next 18–24 months, so he can accurately advise you.
Get a haircut. It wouldn’t hurt to get used to wearing your hair in a style that’s nice, but easy to take care of. The last thing you want to do on your mission is spend hours on your hair.
Make clothes calls. Learn how to take care of your clothes and keep them clean and in good shape. Know how to do laundry, how to mend things, how to get spots out.
Just think what it would be like to help people enjoy some of your favorite Christmas customs for the first time. That’s what the young women of the Rockford First Ward, Rockford Illinois Stake, did recently, when they sponsored a party for five Vietnamese families celebrating their first Christmas in the United States.
In preparation, the girls had collected gifts from Church and community members to give to the families. Local stores even donated products after reading about the project in the paper.
On the day of the event, they decorated the cultural hall and made refreshments. At the party itself they sang Christmas carols; played Pictionary, which helped the families with their English; and had a visit from Santa—for the first time in some of their lives.
The Vietnamese participants commented that Christmas could have been a very lonely time for them, but the Young Women helped make it better.
Every year the North Ogden 14th Ward, North Ogden Utah Ben Lomond Stake, puts on a super service project, but last year’s was something special. They decided to provide a party and presents for the residents of an adult mentally handicapped facility.
Each family with a teenager was assigned one resident, so it became a family project as well. Each family provided a stocking with their friend’s name on it and several gifts.
The program included a puppet show of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” carols, a slide show with the residents’ pictures, and the reading of the Christmas story from Luke. It also included the making of many new friendships.
Instead of canceling the Young Women activity that was to take place the night war broke out in the Persian Gulf, the young women of the Kihei Ward, Kahului Hawaii Stake, decided to pitch in and do what they could to support the troops.
On the spur of the moment they wrote letters to the Latter-day Saints serving in the Middle East. Many of the addresses had previously been listed in the LDS Hawaii News. They also designed hand made cards and sent candy, and wrote scriptural messages. “By the time the activity was over, a feeling of calm replaced the anxiety every one had been experiencing,” said leader Diane Harris.
What would the Gonzales Ward, of the Baton Rouge Louisiana Stake, have done without the Richardson brothers? At one time Jared, Shane, and Joshua served as leaders in their priests, teachers, and deacons quorums, respectively.
Each of the Richardson boys has earned his Eagle Scout Award, and each excels in school. Jared, the oldest, has been attending his first year at BYU. Shane plays football, and, like his older brother, has done a lot of volunteer work with Students against Driving Drunk. Josh, a ninth grader, plans to follow in his brothers’ footsteps and start a few projects of his own.
The Ottawa Third Ward, Ottawa Ontario Stake, has an amazing track record when it comes to Scouting. This year seven earned the highest ranking awards in Canadian Scouting.
Trenton Tustian, Perry Spencer, and Brock MacNab all earned the Chief Scout’s Award.
Travis Tustian, Stacy Bleeks, Rick Boyer, and Ken Iwaasa were honored with the Queen’s Venturer Award, the highest Canadian award in senior Scouting. LDS Scouts make up a very small proportion of Venturer Scouts, yet they received four of ten awards given in the National Capitol Region last year.
But Scouting is not the only thing these Venturers do well. Travis was his high school’s most outstanding athlete. Stacy has lost most of his sight, but still plays guitar in a band, skis, and works as a disc jockey. Rick is an outdoor enthusiast and a professional cabinet maker, and Ken is an outstanding student with a black belt in tae kwon do.
Justin Pfeifer, 13, of the Bel Air Ward, Baltimore Maryland Stake, has flipped over gymnastics. He earned the Maryland State All-Around title, and is a regional floor exercise champ. He also placed regionally on the rings and the vault.
Although Justin spends 15–20 hours a week in the gym, he gives much of the credit for his success to following the Word of Wisdom and to family prayer held before each meet. His father also gives him many blessings of comfort.
Just this year Justin added early-morning seminary to his school and workout schedule. He’s excited about that too.
Steven Scoville, of the Kingwood First Ward, Kingwood Texas Stake, has an interesting hobby. He’s into bench metal working, and at 13 has already won state competition for his ability to bend and weld metal. The go-cart he built for his industrial technology club was one of his favorite projects.
Steve is also a biker—he pedals off on 20–30 mile rides at a time, when he’s not doing his duties as president of his deacons quorum.
Marsha Conrad, 18, of the Ramah Second Ward, Gallup New Mexico Stake, has been doing more than just learning and performing ballet and jazz; she’s been passing on her talents by organizing classes for 4–7-year-olds. She taught three-month classes, ending with a recital, to 21 children divided into three groups.
Marsha conducted a youth choir that sang in sacrament meeting, and participates at school in volleyball, cheerleading, and track.
It isn’t easy being part of a military family that moves every few years, but Christa Bowers and Marie Badger have found that the Church makes things a lot easier. So does a friendship like the one they share.
They are both members of the Ewa Beach Ward, Waipahu Hawaii Stake. They became great friends as soon as Christa moved in. Since then they’ve gone to school together, been involved in the ROTC and seminary programs together, and done hundreds of other things together.
For a young man, the priesthood can be difficult to use wisely, especially when you don’t have a father at home to give you advice. But Brad Olsen, 16, whose father died in a car crash several years ago, is magnifying his priesthood in many ways.
One of the people he visits as a home teacher wrote to tell the New Era what a fantastic job Brad and his companion do when they come to visit. Brad also takes the sacrament to an elderly housebound couple, goes on exchanges with the missionaries, and volunteers at the Fairbanks Rescue Mission.
Brad’s mother, Nani, is grateful for the example he sets for his younger brothers and sisters. The Olsens are members of the Fairbanks Third Ward, Fairbanks Alaska Stake.
Penny Cormack of Warwick, Queensland, Australia, has had one busy year. Not only was she named Warwick Rose Girl at the Rose and Rodeo Festival, but she also came in second in the regional scripture mastery competition, competing with more than 160 other students from Southeast Queensland.
When she’s not doing community or Church work, you’ll find Penny studying (she received an academic award for excellence) or dancing (she’s accomplished in jazz, ballet, and tap). Then again, you might catch this Mia Maid on the stage—she sings in the school choir and has had leads in several musicals. It seems she keeps royally busy.
Most of us can’t even pronounce oxylophyte, let alone spell it, but Velma Kee of the Window Rock Ward, Chinle Arizona Stake, could and did, winning the Arizona state spelling championship in the process.
Thirteen-year-old Velma, a Navajo, is the first native American to win the honor. “I want my fellow students to know they can attain their highest goals regardless of their nationality or minority status,” she said. She also talks about the roles the Church, her parents, her teachers, the Navajo Division of Education, and many others played in her success.