For many young LDS women, “Marriage or Mission?” is no small matter. My last post touched on this in the context of the right reasons to serve a mission, but I did not do this question justice. As I was on the way to get my husband a really late Father’s Day gift yesterday, this question came back to me and wouldn’t go away. So I hope this post finds whoever needs it!
When I was at the age of making this decision, everything seemed now or never. Even though I technically knew that time passes, I didn’t have the perspective to realize my choice didn’t have to be either/or. I’m also going to throw college into the mix. The fact is, you can’t be in two places at once. You can’t go to college at the same time you’re on a mission. You can’t be on a mission and get married. But time does pass, and you can do all those things if you want to; just not simultaneously.
I have now been home from my mission for 13 years and married for 12. The 18 months I spent as a full-time missionary are a drop in the bucket of all life has to offer. The week of my mission I now refer to as my “Can’t Do It Anymore” week seemed like it would never end. But it did, and my oldest son is now 10.
Let’s go into the head of a young woman trying to make this decision. Buckle up and brace yourself, because it’s a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that looks something like this: What if I go on a mission but my future husband is at BYU and marries someone else? What if I’m supposed to go on a mission but don’t and the people I’m supposed to teach won’t have the gospel? What if my life is Saturday’s Warrior and the kids waiting to come to my family can’t because I made the wrong decision? WHAT IF I CRAWL INTO A HOLE SO I DON’T HAVE TO DECIDE AT ALL?
Maybe I’m way off now that the mission age has changed to 19, or maybe I’m just cuckoo, but that’s what you would have found inside my head when I was trying to make this decision. If I could go back to my younger self and tell her just one thing, it would be to calm the heck down. My internal battle was completely unfounded. I just didn’t have the luxury of hindsight to know that if I acted in faith, everything would work out for the best.
But God knew! He knew that while my friends were all sending wedding invitations across the ocean to
gloat let me share in their joy, my husband was knocking on doors in Uruguay. Not proposing to the wrong girl and leaving our beautiful life together in the dust. God knew some of the best friends I’d ever make would be my mission companions and that I would need them in my life far beyond the time we spent wearing name tags. At that point, God was still with the four sons who now tear my house apart on the regular, and He knew what was right for me in preparation to raise them.
In my second city, one of the Elders asked if I’d write a letter to his sister, who was trying to decide whether or not to turn in her mission papers. I wrote a copy in my journal because I myself was kind-of surprised at what came out. Here’s part of what I wrote:
As a missionary, you will learn to love a people, a culture, and an entire country. It drives you to your knees to ask Heavenly Father, who loves them as much as He loves you, how to help them return to Him. You’ll meet people that will change you, and your life, forever. The thing you’ll want to give them most is the way back to God. You will have companions you will absolutely love and create eternal friendships with. But the most precious relationship you will strengthen is the one you have with God. You will learn to depend on Heavenly Father’s care, Jesus Christ’s comprehension of sin and pain, and the Holy Ghost’s promptings more than you ever thought possible. I have learned humility and patience, church doctrine and better scripture study skills, but without a personal relationship with God those things are of little worth. I have gained a much better understanding of who it is I pray to, and of His love for all of us.
I have just begun to comprehend the worth of souls. The worth of souls is so great to the Savior that he subjected Himself to the lowest of lows to give everyone the chance to be saved. This great and amazing sacrifice, done out of perfect love, was made so we could choose to follow God’s plan and accept Christ as our redeemer. The thing is, people don’t know! They don’t know they have a choice because a lot of them don’t know there was atonement. They know Christ died on the cross but don’t understand what the atonement did for us. So I am screaming from the bottom of my heart and the top of my lungs that teaching people about Christ so they can accept Him is worth every second. The important thing is that these children of God get back to Him. Yes, the worth of souls is great in the sight of God!
Now that I’m half-way finished with my mission, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My mission has made me nothing but better. Yes, I miss my family and friends and I loved college, but it was worth letting go of for this small piece of my life. It is a sacrifice. And it’s hard. But it’s worth what I’ve gained and more than anything, it’s all worth it for the people who now know about the gospel that didn’t before. God needs us to do His work. The Spirit is the one who teaches and changes lives, we are simply the physical conduit through which He works. But he needs people who are willing. We all have a purpose and a responsibility to fulfill. If part of yours is to be a missionary, do it!
That doesn’t mean what was right for my life will be what’s right for yours. If you’re trying to decide if you should go on a mission or get married, you can do both. The order in which they happen is between you and God. If you get married first, you can go on a mission with your husband later.
Make your decision prayerfully and have faith that God knows!