The most asked question in my survey for future missionaries was, “How Do I Know I’m Ready for a Mission?” Along with, “Why Did You Choose a Mission?” and, “What are the Right Reasons to Go on a Mission?”
Serving a mission is a big, potentially life-changing decision between you and Heavenly Father. Your parents, bishop, and youth leaders can all offer advice. But ultimately, you need to pray about it and make sure it’s right for your life. Nobody else can get personal revelation for you. That’s why it’s personal! If you don’t know it’s what God wants you to be doing, when times get tough, not being able to rely on that answer will make them even tougher.
Also keep in mind that being ready and feeling ready are not the same thing. You can be ready and still be nervous. You can be solid in your testimony and know your decision to serve a mission is the right one and still be a little anxious about what’s to come. How could you not? You’ve never done it before!
One question I got was, “Why are men in the church supposed to go on missions? Will I be looked down on if I don’t?” The same person also said, “I’m not sure if I want to serve a mission but everyone I know wants me to. What can I do?”
Again, start with finding out what God wants for your life. This is between you and Him. Period. I asked my husband this and he said, “For men, sharing the gospel is part of their Priesthood responsibility. If you’re willing but don’t feel adequate, Heavenly Father will help you. If you’re not willing and aren’t doing it for Him or yourself, it doesn’t usually benefit anyone. So pray about it and let Him guide you.”
Everyone who wants you got go on a mission loves you very much. Be honest with your parents, who know you best and love you most. If they’ve served missions, they probably want it for you because it has blessed their own life. Ask them why they feel it’s so important and why they’re glad they did it. This may help you understand where they’re coming from as well.
Elder Boyd K. Packer helped me understand why this is a Priesthood responsibility when he said, “It has been over 180 years since the priesthood was restored. We now number nearly 14 million members. Even so, we are a tiny fraction when compared to the billions of people on earth. But we are who we are, and we know what we know, and we are to go forth and preach the gospel. The Book of Mormon makes it clear that we never will dominate by numbers. But we have the power of the priesthood. Priesthood is the authority and the power which God has granted to men on earth to act for Him. When priesthood authority is exercised properly, priesthood bearers do what He would do if He were present.”
When Christ was on the earth, he preached the gospel.
When the mission age was lowered to 18 for boys, it seems like people made that the new requirement. But that was never the intention. When I went on a mission, girls had to be 21. There were Elders in my mission who were older than me; they simply weren’t ready when they were 19. But once they decided to go, they were fully committed and served faithfully. The decision, as well as the timing, is between you and Heavenly Father.
For girls, the decision is a little different because they don’t have the Priesthood responsibility part attached to it. One girl asked, “Mission or Marriage?” Ah, the question of the ages! I will answer this in more detail when I tell you my own story, but first I want to address a different aspect. When I left, the attitude boys my age had toward sister missionaries was not favorable. When I told my male RM friends I was going, all but one of them (thank you Spencer!) questioned my decision. Some flat-out told me not to and had no problem going on about why. At that time, a lot of young men thought sisters only went because they couldn’t get married. I hear that has now gone to the other extreme, with boys wanting to date girls who have gone on missions.
My advice to girls is the same advice I give boys: find out what God wants for YOUR life and proceed accordingly. As part of this new attitude toward sisters, I’ve also heard people now think going a mission will make them better moms. HOLD THE PHONE RIGHT THERE MY FRIENDS. My mom didn’t serve a mission and has sent out seven missionaries: five boys and two girls. She taught us to have unconditional faith, unconditional love, and supported us through prayers, letters, emails, and packages the entire time. Hands down, she was our #1 cheerleader. I did served a mission and she’s by far a better mother than I am. I try my best, but I would carry mom guilt around with me no matter what. It’s part of the territory. Don’t do it because of the idea that your future husband will like you better. Do it to share God’s love and gospel, and to help others understand the healing power of the atonement.
My Decision to Serve a Mission
I had big plans to graduate from college in 3 years instead of 4, get a Master’s Degree by the time I was 23, and become a professor. I took 18 credits almost every semester and did independent study classes each summer. I was right on track to achieve my goal when my then boyfriend started talking about getting married. He still had two years of school left, so I didn’t load up what would have been my last semester with 18 credits. I decided to ease up on my homework load and stretch it out for one more since we’d still be there anyway.
The one-sentence version of that relationship is it didn’t work out. I was heartbroken, three classes shy of achieving my goal, and had zero trust in my own judgment. So I prayed for comfort and asked God what to do. To my surprise, the answer came immediately: Go on a mission.
Whaaat?! Did you miss the part about how that’s not what I asked?
I prayed again, telling Heavenly Father thanks, but no thanks. I wanted to know where to start applying for graduate school. But the answer didn’t change: Go on a mission. To be quite honest, I was (more than) a little upset. I wanted to get married. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Get married and bring spirits to earth so they can experience mortal life? That was a worthy goal! I had friends who wanted to serve missions but didn’t feel like it was right for them. The one who wanted to go the most and prayed about it repeatedly ended up getting engaged. Couldn’t we trade life plans?
We all have the agency to make our own choices and follow the Spirit or not, so I could have said no. But I couldn’t deny the answer God gave me either. So my life got a major plot twist and I turned in my mission papers. I ended up taking my final three classes through independent study and took my last final five days before entering the MTC. Technically, I graduated from college while I was on my mission!
Am I Glad I Did It?
Every. Single. Day.
If you get the answer to go on a mission, ask God to strengthen you. Be brave, be fearless, and don’t look back. I’ll talk about the blessings of serving a mission later (this post is long enough already) but I don’t regret it for a second. The longer it’s been since I’ve been home, the more ways I see how following God’s will instead of my own was the right way to go.
Another question I received was: “What made missionaries sure of their decision to serve? What were their reasons, and how did they get their confirmation?” I’ve shared mine, but that’s the only perspective I can give! If you’ve served a mission, please share yours in the comments!