Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

I know great blessings can come from serving a mission. But I know a college degree is good, too. It seems they both happen at about the same age. How can I make such an important decision between two right things to do?

New Era

  • Attending college is creating a new debt, going on a mission is paying off a debt.

  • When you’ve accepted the blessings of the gospel into your life, you’ve created a massive obligation.

  • By delaying a mission you run the risk of not getting the chance to make a unique payment on the greatest debt you will ever have.

  • Your experience as a missionary will make it far more likely that you will be willing and able to serve society as repayment for your education.

When looking for answers, the New Era does the same thing everyone should do—looks at what the scriptures and our Church leaders say about the topic. This time we found that Elder Henry B. Eyring answered this same question in our magazine when he was the Deputy Commissioner of Church Education, prior to his call as a General Authority. The following response is adapted from Elder Eyring’s comments in the May 1979 New Era.

It’s not fair to compare a mission and going to college, because, in an important way, they are opposites. One is paying on a debt. The other is creating a debt. One is mostly giving. The other is mostly getting. When you’ve accepted the blessings of the gospel into your life, you’ve created a massive obligation. And by far the most effective way to begin paying on that debt is to qualify for a full-time mission and take the gospel, with all your energy, to other people.

Attending college is creating a new debt. Most of the cost of your education is given you by society, even if you earned the money for your expenses and tuition. Attending college creates an obligation to pay society by added skill in your work, service in civic life, and by support of educational institutions.

At 18, I thought that a mission was an extra sacrifice some members made for the Church. I didn’t understand that it was payment on an eternal obligation I already owed. And I thought college was an investment on my part for which society should repay me in better salary and greater opportunities. I didn’t understand that society was investing in me, expecting I would return that investment, and more, in service.

Whether you feel a mission or two years of college is more important depends on how you feel about debts. By delaying a mission you run the risk of not getting the chance to make a unique payment on the greatest debt you will ever have. By serving a mission you run little risk of failing to pay your obligations to society for college training. On the contrary, your experience in devoted service as a missionary will make it far more likely that you will be willing and able to serve society as repayment for your education.

At least part of the reason for that obligation must go back to the promises we made before we were born. It’s my belief that we were permitted to come into the world at a time when and in a place where we could hear the gospel in return for our covenant that we would then take the gospel to others.

You and I have been blessed with that gospel. It’s our obligation now to try to bless all the families of the earth. A full-time mission is the best way I know to do that. I’d put opportunity to pay debts ahead of creating new ones. Of course, there’s this about a mission: the harder you work, the more the Lord blesses you, and the further you get in His debt.

President Ezra Taft Benson

“You can do nothing more important. School can wait. Scholarships can be deferred. Occupational goals can be postponed. Yes, even temple marriage should wait until after a young man has served an honorable full-time mission for the Lord” (Ensign, May 1986, 44). —President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994)

Readers

The glory of God is intelligence; and the most intelligent thing you can do is seek first His kingdom. Your life will be greatly blessed, and after your mission He will provide for your temporal needs.

Tim Douberley, 21 Apopka, Florida

Every day I learn things on my mission that are not taught anywhere else or through any other experience. While it is important to get an education, it is also important to educate yourself about the gospel and work on gaining a stronger testimony.

Sister Stephanie A. Folaumoeloa, 21 California San Fernando Mission

As a missionary, I am developing self-confidence, and learning to speak up, organize, and set goals. I learn about people and places, and I learn to learn. Serving a mission is my greatest preparation for a college degree, career, and the rest of my life.

Elder Glen Mari Lamis, 22 Philippines Olongapo Mission

God has asked, through His prophets and apostles, that every worthy young man serve a mission. The decision to serve a mission, and to give two years of our lives towards service to the Lord, is very Christlike and will bring us true happiness.

Bryce Evans, 18 Lindon, Utah

A college degree is important, but when we accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, we also accept the responsibility to share it with others. The scriptures tell us to seek the kingdom of God first and the rest shall be added.

Sister Janet Monalisa Akambasi, 22 Ghana Accra Mission

[photo] Photography by Robert Casey. Posed by models