Mission Prep Checklist for Youth

mission prep and life skills checklistWhen my oldest son recently turned twelve, I began thinking about specific things he should be doing or already have done in preparing for his mission and what he needs to be doing in the coming years. In discussing this with my wife, she pointed me to a list of life skills written by Merrilee Boyack of things children should be able to do by age, starting at 3 and going up each year until age 18. Merrilee calls it “The Fabulously Brilliant, Flexible, and Comprehensive Plan for Raising Independent Children Who Will Be Able to Take Care of Themselves as Adults and Have a Family Plan of Their Own.” The list is found in Merrilee’s book, The Parenting Breakthrough, and I also found it on her website and there she stated she is okay with people adding to it or editing it.*

I thought I would make a Mormon Mission Prep version of the list which would focus on spiritual and physical preparation items that youth should achieve in preparing themselves to live independently and serve as full-time missionaries for the Lord. I didn’t want to replicate Raising Independent Children checklist, but rather have something unique to mission prep. I wanted it to be brief, one-page, list, focusing on the most important physical and spiritual skills young missionaries will need. I ended up 77 items in eight categories: Church Programs, Finances, Food Prep Skills, Household Chores and Maintenance, Personal Development, Spiritual Progress, Tech Savvy, and Transportation.

Putting this list together was a great exercise because it made me realize we are behind, a little, with my son. But it has given us many ideas of things we need to work on with him now and in the coming years to make sure he is physically and spiritually prepared to serve his mission. I know this will help us, and helpfully it will help many other parents and youth as well.

You may want to add, delete, or edit items on this list to meet you particular family needs, and that would be fine with me. Let me tell you a little about why I put the things I did in each category.

Church Programs: In this category, you’ll find check points for progress in the LDS Church’s official programs such as Faith in God Award, Duty to God, Young Women’s (Personal Progress), Aaronic Priesthood, and Boy Scouts. These programs are inspired by God and have been instituted by our Church leaders to help the  youth develop spiritual skills and Christ-like qualities.

Finances: This section lists items necessary to help youth gain an understanding of money and how to use it responsibly such as earning an allowance for chores and learning to budget. It also includes more advanced topics like understand about debit and credit cards, and having youth begin to pay for some of their own things like clothes and cell phone when they get old enough. It also lists benchmark points for saving money for the mission. On that topic, I spaced it out so that youth double their mission savings each year. If they start at $150 at age 12 and double their mission savings each year, they will have the required $9,600 by the time they are 18.

Food Prep Skills: A missionary who doesn’t know how to cook could find himself/herself very hungry very often. Therefore I created this category to help youth learn to cook for themselves and do so in a healthy way. An anxious mother of a prospective missionary once asked President Thomas S. Monson what he would recommend her son learn before the arrival of his missionary call. His answer: “Teach your son how to cook” (Who Honors God, God Honors).

Household Chores and Maintenance: Missionaries often live in their own apartment and will need to understand basic home maintenance. They also often do acts of service at other people’s homes that require knowledge and ability to do home maintenance. And of course, they will need to keep their room and apartment clean and tidy. Having these skills will help youth be more clean and orderly and be able to be more self-sufficient with chores around their apartment.

Personal Development: This is the largest category because I have included many life skills and skills for hygiene, manners, and living independently. Also included in this category are some benchmarks for emotional strength that will be necessary for young missionaries to live away from home for an extended period without mom and dad around. Also included here are some skills for being able to take care of themselves and others by knowing first aid and CPR and about medical drug use, and making appointments with doctors.

Spiritual Progress: While everything on the list is important, I believe this is the most important category. It is the things youth need to do to spiritually prepare themselves to be missionaries. These items will help young people develop their own testimonies of Jesus Christ, the scriptures, living prophets, and the restored gospel. Doing these things will help bring the Spirit of God in greater measure to the lives of the youth and will help them know how to teach by the power of the Spirit. Many of these items are not one time things, but habits that should be established like daily prayer and scripture study. I have also listed things like teaching lessons, giving talks, and talking to neighbors about the gospel to give youth practice being missionaries.

Tech Savvy: Having technical skills is important for life and is growing in importance in doing missionary work. Here I have listed just a few important skills such as using a computer and digital camera and email, all of which they’ll need to know how to do to write home to the family each week.

Transportation: Missionaries do a lot of traveling via bikes, cars, buses, trains, and airplanes. Knowing how to get yourself around is an important skill for missionaries so I’ve included some of those things in the list. These are also important life skills, so it’s good for youth to have practice while they’re still at home.

*My wonderful wife Heather made her own edition of the Raising Independent Children list. Download it below. There you will see all the original items from Merrilee Boyack’s list, plus a few things Heather added for our family. I think it is a great addition to the mission prep checklist with more detailed things for children to learn to do to help make them strong and well adjusted and ready to take on the world.

Journal Keeping

A common topic of discussion on this website, for young women but also for some young men, is figuring out whether or not you should serve a mission. Figuring that out requires knowing how to get answers to your prayers, how to receive and how to understand the spiritual promptings you receive from God. Keeping a journal is one thing that I have done throughout my life that has helped me develop the skill of recognizing the Spirit of God and learning how to interpret the inspiration and revelation he gives me.

As I have kept my journal, particularly of spiritually promoting experiences, I have had an increased number of spiritually experiences. And as I have written down and acted upon the promptings that I think might be from God, I have learned how to better distinguish the personal revelation from God compared to my own desires, feelings, and thoughts. My personal journal keeping has been an important part of my spiritual journey, and I believe it can be a big help to young men and women who are trying to determine God’s will for them.

Journal Keeping Before, During, and After My Mission

elder lopez writing in journal argentina rosario missionPrior to my mission, my journal keeping was sporadic, and when I did write in my journal it was about day to day events in the life of a typical teenager. But a rarely wrote about spiritually significant things. Still it planted the seed of a great habit that would eventually grow into more faithful and faith promoting journaling. During my mission I kept three journals. One was a notebook that I kept with me and in which I wrote about once a week during my mission. The other journal was one that my parents helped keep for me by saving all my weekly letters to home. Third was a bit of a surprise to me when at the end of my mission, my mission president presented me with the letters I had written to him weekly throughout my mission. These journals have been of infinite value to me. I treasure them and have referred to them often as I have told the stories of the people, places, and events of my mission.

As I have gotten older, my journal keeping has evolved and improved. While a week rarely goes by without writing in my journal, I have never been able to accomplish daily writing in it. Though I do make notes, almost on a daily basis, which I later copy into my journal. Whenever I have a profound spiritual promoting, I pull out my mobile phone and write it down in a notes app on my phone. I even do this frequently at Church. Later, when I am in front of my computer, I copy the note into my journal and elaborate on it with more detail. Over the years I have received countless impressions from the spirit and by writing them in my notes app and then putting them in my journal, I remember them better and I am better able to apply these personal teachings from God in my life.

I encourage you to try this method. When a thought comes to your mind and you think it might be a whispering from the Spirit, wherever you are, jot it down on your phone or on a piece of paper. When you have more time or a better opportunity, refer back to that brief note and write it out in more detail in your journal. Elder Richard G. Scott, former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave similar advance once when recounting an experience from his life when he attended the lesson from a humble priesthood leader in Mexico City.

“In that environment, strong impressions began to flow to me again. I wrote them down. The message included specific counsel on how to become more effective as an instrument in the hands of the Lord. I received such an outpouring of impressions that were so personal that I felt it was not appropriate to record them in the midst of a Sunday School class. I sought a more private location, where I continued to write the feelings that flooded into my mind and heart as faithfully as possible. After each powerful impression was recorded, I pondered the feelings I had received to determine if I had accurately expressed them in writing. As a result, I made a few minor changes to what had been written. Then I studied their meaning and application in my own life” (To Acquire Spiritual Guidance, Oct 2009).

journal keeping quote from henry b eyringPresident Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency of the Church has also often spoken about the importance of keeping a journal. Here’s a personal journal keeping experience that he shared:

“When our children were very small, I started to write down a few things about what happened every day. Let me tell you how that got started. I came home late from a Church assignment. It was after dark. My father-in-law, who lived near us, surprised me as I walked toward the front door of my house. He was carrying a load of pipes over his shoulder, walking very fast and dressed in his work clothes. I knew that he had been building a system to pump water from a stream below us up to our property.

He smiled, spoke softly, and then rushed past me into the darkness to go on with his work. I took a few steps toward the house, thinking of what he was doing for us, and just as I got to the door, I heard in my mind—not in my own voice—these words: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.”

I went inside. I didn’t go to bed. Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family. Grandpa didn’t have to do what he was doing for us. He could have had someone else do it or not have done it at all. But he was serving us, his family, in the way covenant disciples of Jesus Christ always do. I knew that was true. And so I wrote it down, so that my children could have the memory someday when they would need it.

I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.

More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.” (O Remember, Remember from October 2007 General Conference)

keeping a journal quote from spencer w kimballAnd this is what former LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball said about keeping a journal:

“We urge our young people to begin today to write and keep records of all the important things in their own lives and also the lives of their antecedents in the event that their parents should fail to record all the important incidents in their own lives. Your own private journal should record the way you face up to challenges that beset you. Do not suppose life changes so much that your experiences will not be interesting to your posterity.

…Your journal is your autobiography, so it should be kept carefully. You are unique, and there may be incidents in your experience that are more noble and praiseworthy in their way than those recorded in any other life. There may be a flash of illumination here and a story of faithfulness there; you should truthfully record your real self and not what other people may see in you. Your story should be written now while it is fresh and while the true details are available.

…Get a notebook, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity. Begin today and write in it your goings and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies. Remember, the Savior chastised those who failed to record important events (see 3 Nephi 23:6–13).” (The Angels May Quote from It, October 1975 New Era)

Scripture Journals

The scriptures themselves are in large part the journals of the prophets. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma once said this of the scriptural records he was keeping: “And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved; for behold, they have enlarged the memory of this people, yea, and convinced many of the error of their ways, and brought them to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls” (Alma 37:  8). A journal can do the same for you in your personal life. It can improve your memory, particularly of your blessings from Heaven, and preserve the knowledge you receive from God through His Spirit to aid in the salvation of your soul.

Preparing to Receive the Melchizedek Priesthood

One of the requirements to serve a mission is for young men to be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood which John Taylor, third President of the Church, called “simply the power of God.” (from The Gospel Kingdom by G. Homer Durham) Receiving the priesthood, therefore, is not something to be taken lightly, and all young men should do their duty to prepare beforehand. Four things that all young men can do to prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood are:

  • Gain a testimony of the restoration of the priesthood
  • Receive and magnify the preparatory priesthood
  • Study the scriptures, including the oath and covenant of the priesthood and the duties of an elder
  • Learn how to perform priesthood ordinances

Gain a testimony of the restoration of the priesthood

priesthood restoration statueOn May 15, 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery went into the woods on the banks of the Susquehanna River and prayed to God with questions about the ordinance of baptism. Their prayer was answered and the resurrected John the Baptist, the same who had baptized Jesus Christ, appeared, laid his hands on their hands, and ordained them to the Aaronic Priesthood. Some weeks later, Peter James and John, all resurrected beings, came to Joseph Smith and ordained him and Oliver to the higher, Melchizedek Priesthood. (On a side note, the Church recently opened a Priesthood Restoration visitors center in the spot where the Aaronic Priesthood restoration occurred.)

Having a testimony, or receiving your own spiritual witness, that these priesthood restoration events really happened is an important part of preparing to receive the priesthood. It is through the priesthood that the Lord does his work, blesses mankind, and administers the ordinances that will seal them up to eternal life. It is a privilege and a blessing to hold the priesthood, and it is also a calling to serve. Missionary work is an inherent part of the duties of priesthood holders. Gain a testimony that the priesthood of God has been restored and you will also know that the Lord will give you the power to accomplish His work.

Receive and Magnify the Preparatory Priesthood

In the church, there are two priesthoods, or rather, two major divisions in the priesthood. The first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood and “the second priesthood is called the Priesthood of Aaron, because it was conferred upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations. Why it is called the lesser priesthood is because it is an appendage to the greater, or the Melchizedek Priesthood, and has power in administering outward ordinances.” (D&C 107)

The Aaronic Priesthood is often called the preparatory priesthood because it gives young men the opportunity to perform services that will prepare them to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, to serve a full-time mission, and to continue in lifelong service to the Lord. President Henry B. Eyring, in his October 2014 talk titled The Preparatory Priesthood, said “the time we are given to serve in the Aaronic Priesthood is an opportunity to prepare us to learn how to give crucial help to others.” Young men who are preparing to go on a mission should take seriously their duties in the Aaronic Priesthood and seek to magnify that calling to prepare themselves for the Melchizedek Priesthood and full-time missionary service.

Study the Scriptures

In the same Henry B. Eyring talk referenced above, he said “the scriptures are so important to prepare us in the priesthood. They are filled with examples. I feel as if I can see Alma following the angel’s command and then hurrying back to teach the wicked people in Ammonihah who had rejected him. I can feel the cold in the jail cell when the Prophet Joseph was told by God to take courage and that he was watched over. With those scripture pictures in mind, we can be prepared to endure in our service when it seems hard.”

Studying the scriptures is an important part of preparing to receive the priesthood. The Church’s seminary program, with it’s focus on learning the scriptures, is a great thing for future missionaries to be a part of. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma has a great discussion of the priesthood in Alma Chapter 13. The Doctrine and Covenants is full of important scriptures about the priesthood. One in particular that you’ll want to study is D&C 84, in which the Lord describes the oath and covenant of the priesthood:

“For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God… And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood. Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.” (D&C 84:33-34, 39-40)

Other scriptures you’ll want to focus on are ones that outline specific duties of the offices of the priesthood. Young male future missionaries, who know they will need to be given the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordained to the office of an Elder, can read what the Lord has said are the duties of an Elder in D&C 20:38–45, D&C 42:44, D&C 46:2, D&C 107:11–12, and elsewhere in the scriptures.

Learn How to and Perform Priesthood Ordinances

confirmation priesthood ordinanceMissionaries are called upon to administer many priesthood ordinances like passing the sacrament, and performing baptisms and confirmations. Additionally, many missionaries are also asked to perform ordinances such as the laying on of hand to heal the sick, consecrating oil, conferring the priesthood, ordaining someone to a priesthood office,  giving blessings of comfort, and other ordinances.

All of these ordinances are sacred acts performed by the authority of the priesthood and should be conducted in a dignified manner. In order to accomplish that, young men should be taught how to do these ordinances and be given the experience of actually doing them whenever possible. Of course, all brethren who perform ordinances and blessings should prepare themselves by living worthily and striving to be guided by the Holy Spirit. You can also refer to the Church’s Handbook 2 or the Family Guidebook for more detailed information and instructions on performing priesthood ordinances and blessings.

Doing these things will help young men be better prepared to receive the higher priesthood and help them be better prepared to magnify their calling unto the Lord.

Related Article: Young men must be 18 years old to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood

Preparing for the Temple

Of all the things we do in the church, there is nothing more worthy of our preparation than temple worship. The topic of preparing for the temple is especially applicable for soon-to-be missionaries, as all full-time Mormon missionaries go to the temple to receive their endowment prior to entering the MTC to begin their missionary service.

Scripture study, prayer, righteous desires, and complete worthiness are among the best things you can do for preparation as first-time temple attenders, as well as all who enter the temple. Those going to the temple for the first time should also consider taking the Church Temple Preparation (called Endowed from on High) from your ward or stake. The Church pamphlet called Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple is also a great resource to anyone attending the temple. That pamphlet states:

“What we gain from the temple will depend to a large degree on what we take to the temple in the way of humility and reverence and a desire to learn. If we are teachable we will be taught by the Spirit, in the temple.”

In my 20 years of attending the holy temple, the Spirit of the Lord has taught me many things. Many of those things are sacred and personal and should not be shared publicly, but many things I have learned can be shared and consist of blessings and knowledge within the grasp of all. What I have come to know is that the temple is

  1. A Place of Prayer
  2. A House of Wholeness
  3. A Sacrament of Symbols

As you understand these principles about the temple, I believe you will be more prepared for the experiences you will have in the temple and you will get greater blessings from your temple worship.

Place of Prayer

House of the Lord inscribed on the gila valley lds templeFirst, the temple is a place of prayer. Inscribed on each LDS temple is the phrase: “The House of the Lord.” The temple is literally the Lord’s House. There is no place on earth where you can be closer to God, figuratively or literally, than in His temple. As such, it is an ideal place to approach God in prayer. In fact, in the Doctrine and Covenants, the temple is referred to as a “house of prayer” (see D&C 88:119 and 109:8).

When you are facing difficult decisions or tough challenges in your life, I encourage you to go to the temple and pray. If you cannot yet enter the temple, that’s okay. You can still go to the temple grounds, feel close to God, and ponder the things of eternity. In a previous stake, I worked in a calling closely with the stake president. When he dealings with individuals with disciplinary issues that prevented them from going inside the temple, he still encouraged them to attend the temple grounds on a regular basis. He felt, and I agree, that the temple grounds, which are quiet and beautifully landscaped, will help draw people’s thoughts and desires toward God. And if the outside of the temple is a good place to approach God in prayer, just think how good the inside of the temple is.

Prayer, in the scriptures, is often linked together with fasting, and the temple is also referred to as a “house of fasting.” At one point in my life, I was earnestly praying for a new job. I had been searching for a new job for many months, and I was getting very little traction. Then I read D&C 88:119 which calls the temple a house of fasting, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon me in an unmistakable fashion. The Spirit reminded me that I had never in my life gone to the temple while fasting. If the temple is a house of fasting, I thought, I better attend while fasting, and I immediately made plans to do so. A few days later, I fasted and went to the temple and in the days that followed I received an outpouring of the blessings I sought. All of a sudden, I was getting dozens of requests for job interviews and before I knew it, I have several good leads and landed a great new job. This blessing was clearly a result of combining fasting and prayer and temple worship and strengthened my testimony of this principle.

President Thomas S. Monson, in his biography, To the Rescue, tells a story of fasting and prayer in the temple:

“[President Spencer W. Kimball] underwent open-heart surgery in 1972; the Apostles were in the temple that day, fasting, and they were “filled with hopeful anxiety” as they waited for word. When the phone rang, President Harold B. Lee left the room to take the call. “President Lee was a master at masking his feelings, and he walked back into the room as somber as he could be. He said, ‘That was Brother Nelson [speaking of President Kimball’s heart surgeon, Dr. Russell M. Nelson]. Spencer is off the pump!’” [Then] Elder Monson’s journal entry at the end of the day was tender: “We all smiled and said a prayer of thanksgiving.” (Chapter 24 of “To the Rescue”)

Truman G. Madsen once said:

“[My] testimony of the restored temple is that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ yearn not to widen that gap but to close it. In the house of the Lord we may come to Him in light, in closeness, and in holy embrace. He promises in latter-day revelation: “I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house” (D&C 110:7).” (The Temple and the Mysteries of Godliness By Truman G. Madsen)

Not only do we leave our worldly clothes behind us at the temple in exchange for uniform, white clothing, but we also leave behind the cares of the world when we enter the temple. As you pray, the Lord will communicate to you about what really matters, eternally speaking. I have often gone to the temple in prayer and not received answers. Better stated, it’s not that I didn’t receive answers, it’s that my worries were the cares of the world. God, in his eternal perspective, knows what is really important and cares most about our eternal well-being and returning to his presence in the Celestial Kingdom. If answers to prayers are hard to come by, don’t confuse God’s eternal perspective with divine indifference.

There is no place on the earth where we can get closer to God and no place better to pray and receive answers to prayer than in the House of the Lord. The Temple truly is a place of prayer.

House of Wholeness

Second, the temple is a house of wholeness. By wholeness, I mean the temple is a place where the complete and full gospel is presented. The temple is all-encompassing of the whole gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is the center of all we do in His Church. All the things we do in the Church, all ordinances, all programs, and all teachings ultimately lead to the temple. Missionary work, Sunday services, family history work, and all other programs of the Church have the ultimate design to help families go to the temple and receive the ordinances there.

President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught this principle when he said that “missionary work is only the beginning” of the gathering of Israel.  He said, “the fulfillment, the consummation, of those blessings comes as those who have entered the waters of baptism perfect their lives to the point that they may enter the holy temple. Receiving an endowment there seals members of the Church to the Abrahamic covenant” (Thanks for the Covenant, Nov 22, 1988).

The ancient American prophet Nephi also taught this principle in 2 Nephi chapter 31 when he said:

“For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; …And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” (2 Nephi 31:17-20)

Receiving the higher ordinances of the temple and keeping those covenants is a key part of what Nephi described as pressing forward after baptism. The path we start at baptism is not complete until we also go to the temple.

Elder David A. Bednar, in a general conference address in May 2009, explained that “the baptismal covenant clearly contemplates a future event or events and looks forward to the temple.” Quoting Elder Neal A. Maxwell in this talk, he said, “Clearly, when we baptize, our eyes should gaze beyond the baptismal font to the holy temple.”

Elder John A. Widtsoe, former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke of the wholeness of the temple when he said:

“The temple ordinances encompass the whole plan of salvation, as taught from time to time by the leaders of the Church, and elucidate matters difficult of understanding. There is no warping or twisting in fitting the temple teachings into the great scheme of salvation. The philosophical completeness of the endowment is one of the great arguments for the veracity of the temple ordinances. Moreover, this completeness of survey and expounding of the Gospel plan, makes temple worship one of the most effective methods of refreshing the memory concerning the whole structure of the gospel. (John A. Widtsoe, “Temple Worship,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 12 [April 1921]: 58.)

In the temple, we are taught about the creation of the earth, the fall of mankind, and the plan of salvation through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Those doctrines are both central to the gospel and all-encompassing of God’s plan. As we understand that the centrality of the temple and the complete wholeness of the gospel teachings presented there, then we will be better prepared to attend the temple and receive the blessings promised there. Only in the temple can we reach our full potential.

Sacrament of Symbols

salt lake mormon templeLastly, the temple is a sacrament of symbols. By sacrament, I mean the generic sense of the word in which a sacrament is an ordinance. Many Christian churches have sacraments or ordinances such as baptism and partaking of the Lord ’s Supper. We have those ordinances as well in our church, but in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we also know about higher ordinances that only can take place in the temple. Sacraments, or ordinances, are an important part of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is through the ordinances of the gospel that the power of godliness is revealed (see D&C 84:20).

In the early days of the restored Church, the Lord explained that the purpose of the building temples was to reveal ordinances. “And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people; for I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.” (D&C 124:40–41.)

Through the ordinances of the gospel, we make covenants or promises to God and he, in turn, promises us certain blessings. We know that the purpose of life as stated in Abraham 3:25 is for God to see if we will do the things he commands us to do. Through the covenants of the temple, God will see if we will do the things we have promised to do.

The temple and the ordinances that take place inside are rich in symbolism and meaning. If you have seen any one of our temples at night, fully lit, you get a glimpse of the symbolism. The temple stands out in the darkness and shines for a long distance. It is symbolic of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to shine light upon a world that seems to be sinking further and further into spiritual darkness. Many other gospel truths are referred to in the temple through symbols and not necessarily spelled out. It is up to you to study and ponder and pray and come to know what these things mean. The Spirit will be your teacher.

Elder John A. Widtsoe once said, “We live in a world of symbols. No man or woman can come out of the temple endowed as he should be, unless he has seen, beyond the symbol, the mighty realities for which the symbols stand. (“Temple Worship,” page 62.)

The Church’s “Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple” pamphlet says:

“The temple ceremony will not be fully understood at first experience. It will be only partly understood. Return again and again and again. Return to learn. Things that have troubled you or things that have been puzzling or things that have been mysterious will become known to you. Many of them will be the quiet, personal things that you really cannot explain to anyone else. But to you they are things known.”

One of the ways the Lord loves to teach us is through symbols, stories, patterns, examples, etc. When the Savior was on the earth, he frequently taught through stories, parables, and the pattern of his own life. In the ordinances of the gospel we find those symbols and patterns. In D&C 52:14 the Lord says, “I will give unto a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived.” And what is the pattern? He answers that question in the following verse: “The same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances.”

Study the ordinances of the gospel, including those recorded in the scriptures such as the Savior’s baptism, Alma baptizing Helam, the last supper of Jesus with his apostles, and Abraham receiving the priesthood. As you come to understand these ordinances and the deep meaning behind them you will come to a better understanding of the temple and you will be more prepared to receive the blessings of temple worship.

Brothers and sisters, I testify that the temple is a place of prayer, a house of wholeness, and a sacrament of symbols. The temple has the power to transforms individuals from unworthy telestial beings, to sons and daughters of God, worthily of the Celestial glory. Any and all efforts you make to prepare and enter the Holy Temple are well worth the sacrifice.

I testify of our Savior Jesus Christ lives. Through his infinite and eternal Atonement he died and was resurrected that we too may live again and be brought back to live with our Heaven Father. I know that Our Savior leads our church today through living prophets who hold the keys of the priesthood and temple ordinances. As we worthily participate in temple ordinances, we will be blessed in this life and blessed with eternal life.

Cost to Get Ready to Go on a Mission

Suitcases by Mandy JansenOne question that has come up often from readers is how much do missionaries need to have saved to buy clothes, suit cases, and other gear (dresses, suits, shoes, socks, garments, pajamas, toiletries, winter coat, sheets, etc.) before going on their mission. These purchases are in addition to the monthly cost of an LDS mission, but similarly must be paid for by the missionaries, and their families, themselves.

While the needs of ever mission and missionary are different, making it difficult to estimate these costs with exactness, many future missionaries would benefit from a ball-park estimate of how much to expect to spend to get ready to go on their mission. So I reached out to several families in my stake who had recently sent missionaries out and I asked them how much it cost to get ready to go on a mission. The responses varied from $1,000 to over $3,000.

One mother replied who has sent two daughters on missions. She estimated that with the purchase of temple garments, clothing, suitcases, and other things, they probably spent close to $1,000. She feels like, based on helping some nephews getting ready to go mission, that it’s probably less expensive to send out sister missionaries than elders, primarily because suits are more expensive than dresses. Of course, she notes, there are a lot of variables depending on where they go to serve. She also had some advice for parents and future missionaries–get things for the mission along the way during their teenage years, like the missionary reference library and some items of clothing,  so you don’t have to buy everything at once.

One father who has sent two sons on missions, said that each time it was around $1,500 for clothes, suitcases, bedding, etc. He remarked, though, that neither son had to buy a bike and that could have easily pushed the cost to $2,000 or more. You see, costs of getting ready to go on a mission, including clothes and equipment such as bikes, will vary depending on the specific mission needs and requirements. Some missions in the US and elsewhere even require the missionaries to buy technology such as an iPad (which they get to keep at the end of their mission).

Another mother responded who’s son went to Argentina. She kept detailed records of the costs because she has three more sons to send on missions in the coming years. His mission required two suits plus full winter gear, but she also bought him a few additional items, such as extra shoes, spending about $1,600 total on clothes alone. Additionally, she spent a couple hundred dollars on a camera and supplies for it, a couple hundred on luggage, and several hundred on toiletries and other miscellaneous items (power converter, laundry bag, shoe shining, towels, sheets, watch, messenger bag, journal, first aid kit, etc.). Then there were the costs of his Visa and Passport, and this particular son wears contacts and so there was also the cost of a two year supply of contact lenses. The grand total for getting this son ready to go on his mission was about $3,200.

So as you see, the cost to get ready to go on a mission can greatly vary. How much will you need to save? It’s had to say exactly, so if I were you, I’d err on the conservative side and save at least a couple thousand dollars. Good luck!

P.S. To calculate how much money you’ll need to save for your mission, please check out our mission savings calculator.

Top 10 Reasons the LDS Church Participates in Boy Scouts

Summary: This is a list of the top 10 reasons why the LDS Church participates in Boy Scouts and how those ten reasons also make Scouting a great missionary preparation tool. 

boy scout silhouetteDespite being “deeply troubled” by recent rule changes made by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) National Executive Board to allow openly gay leaders, the LDS Church issued a statement this week saying the Church “will go forward as a chartering organization of BSA.” They said they have received assurances from the BSA that Church sponsored Scouting units will continue to be able “to appoint Scout leaders according to their religious and moral values.”

The First Presidency of the Church further stated that:

“As leaders of the Church, we want the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to succeed in its historic mission to instill leadership skills and high moral standards in youth of all faiths and circumstances, thereby equipping them for greater success in life and valuable service to their country.”

All this news about the Boy Scouts has caused me to once again reflect on how Scouting prepares young men for missionary service. In preparing for this year’s Friends of Scouting fund raising drive in my stake, I came across this article from the Utah National Parks Council of the BSA on Why Scouting Matters to LDS Church Leaders. I found the article quite interesting, particularly the results of the survey of local Church leaders regarding why they feel the LDS Church participates in Boy Scouts.

The questions posed to the survey respondents was: what is the  most important outcome of Scouting? Here are the top ten responses according to the research conducted by Rushford Lee, owner of Research Emotion Design (RED), in the aforementioned article:

10. Learn to serve others

Boy Scouts teaches duty to God and country and the importance or serving in our communities. Scout “service projects” are a core part of the Scouting program, including the boys’ capstone Eagle Project. Mormon missionary service is also all about service. Our common vernacular of “serving” a mission is exactly right, a mission is a two-year act of service to God, the Church, and the people in the area where a missionary goes.

9. Provide young men with good role models

From his research, Lee explained, “Our young men need heroes to look up to. They need role models in their lives, at home and as they grow. Our goal [in the Boy Scouts] is to help them become men such as the great leaders and teachers around them.”

8. Develop a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ

Gary Stevenson, Presiding Bishop of the LDS Church, said “Duty to God is the heart of Scouting. It is a founding principle as old and deep as the organization itself.” (See BSA Annual Meeting Keynote Speech 2013) Duty to God and the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ is at the heart of the Church’s involvement in Scouting. In the survey, one leader described it this way, “If we take our young men to outdoor activities and forget to have them bear their testimonies around the fire, we’ve missed the purpose of Scouting.”

7. Teach real life skills

Going through the Boy Scouts program teaches young men many practical skills that will help them throughout the rest of their life. The Scouting program is well known for teaching boys how to camp and thrive in the great outdoors, how to build fires and how to find their way in the woods, etc. But most Scouts live in cities or suburban areas and the Boy Scouts teaches practical skills for them as well, such as economics, budgeting, computers, home repairs, plumbing, communications, gardening, first aid, law, and physical fitness. You can see how many of these skills will help in the practical aspects of a mission and mission prep. On top of that, Scouting helps boys to be well rounded and teaches social and cultural skills such as the theatre, social media, painting, poetry, chess, movie making, and many more.

6. Teach strong work ethic

As a young man goes through the Scouting program, he learns the value of hard work and gains a strong work ethic. He learns of the satisfaction that only comes through hard work and perseverance as he earns merit badge, makes rank advancements, and eventually earns his Eagle. One of the survey participants noted that Scouts aids in “learning how to do hard things, gain confidence and preparing for the future.”

5. Prepare to be a husband and father

Because of many of the aforementioned benefits, teaching real life skills and a strong work ethic, Boy Scouts prepares young men to be better husbands and fathers. Additional, the core values of Scouts teaches boys to be morally straight and prepares them to be faithful to their future wives and children. One surveyed Church leader described it this way: “Life is full of difficult experiences. Teaching resilience in the early years is very helpful preparation for missions, marriage, and parenthood.”

4. Prepare to go on a mission

Church leaders who responded to the survey consistently pointed out that Boy Scouts is great mission prep. In fact, fourth highest on their list of desired outcomes for the boys in the Scouting program was that it would help them be better missionaries some day. I think if you look at this list of benefits of Scouting, physical, spiritual, and emotional, it’s easy to see why it is such a great missionary preparation system.

3. Provide opportunity to connect and interact with others

Young men’s ability to be social and connect and interact with others will make them better missionaries and Scouts helps build those skills. To quote another Church leader from the survey: “Many young men don’t have the opportunity to connect with others. They don’t have strong family ties, they may not make friends easily, don’t fit in well at school. Scouting provides an atmosphere where the kids can fit in with their peers. Our leaders try and do a variety of activities that interest all of the boys. Gives leadership a chance to reach the one.”

2. Become spiritually minded

The spiritual aspects of Scouting are at the root of the program and cannot be overlooked. One survey respondent explained the purpose of Boy Scouts this way: “To develop young men through faith in God, hard work, problem solving, achievement, and character-building activities.” Lee further clarified, “this is what Scouting is meant to be; bringing God into Scouting in a large way and making this tie together. It’s time to make the purpose of Scouting clear.” Scouting helps young men be spiritually minded and I have often thought that to be spiritually minded (see Romans 8:6 and 2 Nephi 9:39) is the key to success in the missionary training center and throughout your mission.

1. Provide young men unique experiences

Number one on church leaders list of reasons for participating in the Boy Scouts is that is gives young men unique experiences that they wouldn’t otherwise have. In the survey, a Church leader said:  “There are life learning experiences in an outdoor environment with other boys and men that give the boys a unique experience outside of the home that support what’s going on inside the home.”

In my own personal experience as a Boy Scout in my youth, I participated in service projects, went on hikes and camp outs, learned a wide variety of skills, interacted with many other men and boys, and had countless other experiences that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. The Boys Scouts of America provides young men with wonderful experiences and is an effective missionary preparation tool that I hope all the young men of the Church will take full advantage of.

10-reasons-lds-church-boy-scouts

Making Home an MTC

[colored_box color=”yellow”]Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Rebecca Irvine, author of MTC at Home: Preparing the Lord’s Future Missionaries. We welcome her to our family of guest post authors.[/colored_box]

“Think of the power of our future missionary force if mothers considered their homes as a pre–missionary training center (MTC). Then the doctrines of the gospel taught in the MTC would be a review and not a revelation. That is influence; that is power.” (Julie Beck, Mother’s Who Know)

The Missionary Training Center (MTC) offers a vigorous instruction and preparation program for new missionaries. In 2012, in an effort to prepare for higher numbers of missionaries, Church leaders cut back on MTC training time by a third. This shifted, in part, the impetus of preparing future missionaries from the MTC to parents and leaders.

Missionary Training Center - Missionary MormonAd

Missionary Training Center: Now is the time to prepare. Home is the place to start. (See D&C 38: 40) From the New Era magazine, March 2007.

While discussing his future missionary service, my 16-year-old son revealed his biggest fear as having to teach doctrine to people. “I’m scared to have to teach people things I am just learning myself,” he noted. In learning about this fear, my husband and I determined we needed to help prepare our children to be confident and competent missionaries. In doing so we trust in the scripture, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30).

Following are five things we are doing to help make our home a missionary training center:

Be Familiar with PMG

The primary training manual for missionaries is Preach My Gospel (PMG). It is available online for free, or can be purchased for low cost in bookstores (in both regular or mini format). Missionaries use this manual to:

  • Learn how to find investigators,
  • Know what to teach,
  • Know how to resolve investigator concerns,
  • Recognize how to improve themselves,
  • And understand how to communicate with their companion.

Parents can use PMG in the home as either part of family scripture study time, or as the basis for FHE lessons. By letting teens lead in these teaching situations, they also will become more familiar with this key handbook.

Use Role Playing Techniques

Missionaries spend several hours each day in the MTC practicing the PMG lessons in various role play scenarios. As I have used role playing techniques at home and as a college professor, I have found most people feel awkward at first. However, practicing definitely helps. Parents can use role play on a variety of occasions—at the dinner table, during FHE, or even in the car. Ideas of role play scenarios to try include:

  • Inviting (to be baptized, to read the Book of Mormon, to attend Church)
  • Resolving a concern (investigator is not sure Joseph Smith is a prophet)
  • Teaching a gospel concept (have them role play teaching you what they were taught at Church on Sunday)

Daily Family Scripture Study

[two_third last=”no”]Continuous regular scripture study will help build a foundation of gospel knowledge, as well as strengthen cohesive bonds of family unity. Despite these incredible blessings, many families find scripture study difficult. The key is to be flexible but persistent. Many parents prefer to get scriptures done first thing in the morning. But with hectic and varied a.m. schedules, morning study does not work well for every family. Our family has had to re-evaluate our scripture study time each new school year. We experiment until we find a time that works at least five days a week.[/two_third][one_third last=”yes”][colored_box color=”green”]Also see the post by Teresa Osorio about the Best Mission Prep Class Ever: Reading the Book of Mormon with Your Children or Jimmy and Heather’s experience of Reading the Book of Mormon as a Family.[/colored_box][/one_third]

Weekly FHE

Family Home Evening (FHE) is the best opportunity parents have to give their children opportunities to teach. The current youth curriculum the Church is using, Come, Follow Me, applies strategies designed to involve teens more actively in the teaching and learning process. If parents use the same type of teaching techniques the benefits are threefold for youth: stronger testimonies, more teaching experience, and deeper understanding of Gospel doctrine. All three of these blessings help prepare youth to be missionaries.

Develop Social Skills

Missionaries spend much of their days interacting with the public. In preparation for this, parents can plan opportunities for their children to improve social skills. Behavior during dinner appointments, interaction with mission and ward leaders, and the ability to handle rejection are some abilities to consider.

Technology plays a role strongly related to missionary social skills. Recent studies have shown texting causes apprehension in using verbal communication among youth and adolescents. Delaying or limiting cell phone usage among teens may help to prevent this. In addition, modern missionaries are often required to use social media in their service. Parents should help their youth understand both how to use common social media sites as well as to exercise proper etiquette online.

Traveling to and Entering the MTC

The very last step missionaries take in preparing to go on a mission is to travel to and enter the missionary training center (MTC). The mission call packet will give missionaries and their families all the details about travel, which is arranged and paid for by Church headquarters, and information on what to bring when entering the MTC (clothing list, etc.). But for those who have not yet received their call, let’s review some of the details.

The majority of the audience of this website is from the United States, so I’ll approach it from that vantage point. I apologize to my international visitors, but you should still get value out of this because much is the same in other countries.

Reporting to an MTC out of the county

If your call letter has indicated that you’ll be going to an MTC out of the country, for example many US missionaries are being sent to the MTC in Mexico, Brazil, and elsewhere, you’ll report directly to that MTC. Your stake president will set you apart as a missionary, and within a day or two you’ll be on a flight to that country. You’ll say your goodbyes to family and friends at the airport, and when you get to the country of your MTC, the Church will have made arrangements to get you from the airport to the MTC.

Reporting to the Provo MTC

cars dropping off missionaries at the mtc

Cars arriving at the Provo MTC. Photo courtesy of Ravell Call of the Deseret News.

Still, the largest destination for US missionaries is the MTC in Provo, Utah. Several hundred new missionaries arrive there each Wednesday. In recent years, they have changed the procedure for dropping of missionaries. Nowadays, you are only allowed one vehicle per family to enter the MTC grounds. When you pull in with the car, you will be directed to a spot to park and unload. You will only have a few minutes for a quick farewell to say goodbye to your family (you’ll need to say goodbye to extended family and friends prior to your arrival). The Provo MTC website encourages you to take pictures before arriving because there may not be time to do it then, but most people report that their is enough time to take a quick snapshot.

Now that I mention it, the Provo MTC website has a lot of helpful information about entering the MTC, like:

In fact, the Church now has a section of LDS.org for each of the 15 Missionary Training Centers where you can get answers to questions like those above and many more specifically related to the MTC where you will be training. Please check out those pages or feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Internet and Video Game Addiction

video game addiction

By Flickr user Dixie Lawrence

One topic that has often come to mind regarding how to prepare young people for missionary service is to help them overcome cell phone, social media, internet, or video game addiction or obsessive behavior long before they enter the MTC. Once missionaries begin their service, cell phones are taken away, and there is no time for video games.

In the MTC and as you enter the mission field, the online world of Twitter, video games, texting, and just about everything else in our digital society is replaced with gospel study, acts of service, and gospel teaching. Of course, in the last year, the Church has been ramping up on the use of Facebook by missionaries, but this is strictly for proselytizing purposes, not for socializing with friends back home.

This switch from the digital world to the life of a missionary can be a difficult transition. It will be best for young people to overcome any internet or video game addictions long before they begin their mission. Elder D. Todd Christofferson has said, “young men, you have no time to waste. You can’t wait to get serious about preparing until you are 17 or 18.” In that same talk he added, “We cannot afford to have those who exercise the Holy Priesthood…spend their lives in cyberspace (ironically being of the world while not being in the world)” (Brethren, We Have Work to Do).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said: “Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best” (Good, Better, Best).

Elder David A. Bednar spoke of this topic extensively at a CES Devotional entitled Things as They Really Are.

“Sadly, some young men and young women in the Church today ignore “things as they really are” and neglect eternal relationships for digital distractions, diversions, and detours that have no lasting value. My heart aches when a young couple—sealed together in the house of the Lord for time and for all eternity by the power of the holy priesthood—experiences marital difficulties because of the addicting effect of excessive video gaming or online socializing. A young man or woman may waste countless hours, postpone or forfeit vocational or academic achievement, and ultimately sacrifice cherished human relationships because of mind- and spirit-numbing video and online games. As the Lord declared, “Wherefore, I give unto them a commandment … : Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known” (D&C 60:13).”

“I raise an apostolic voice of warning about the potentially stifling, suffocating, suppressing, and constraining impact of some kinds of cyberspace interactions and experiences upon our souls. The concerns I raise are not new; they apply equally to other types of media, such as television, movies, and music. But in a cyber world, these challenges are more pervasive and intense. I plead with you to beware of the sense-dulling and spiritually destructive influence of cyberspace technologies that are used to produce high fidelity and that promote degrading and evil purposes.

If the adversary cannot entice us to misuse our physical bodies, then one of his most potent tactics is to beguile you and me as embodied spirits to disconnect gradually and physically from things as they really are. In essence, he encourages us to think and act as if we were in our premortal, unembodied state. And, if we let him, he can cunningly employ some aspects of modern technology to accomplish his purposes. Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, earbuds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication. Beware of digital displays and data in many forms of computer-mediated interaction that can displace the full range of physical capacity and experience.”

Overcoming Obsessive Online Behavior

BYU professor Charles Knutson and Kyle Oswald of LDS Family Services, in an August 2009 Ensign article called Just a Game?  said: “Spiritual help is available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Such a promise can be especially poignant for those caught in a trap of obsessive online gaming. Hope in the Atonement, coupled with the guidance of the Holy Ghost and counsel from inspired leaders, will help individuals as they seek to apply principles of balance and move toward a life—an actual one and not merely a virtual one—that is rich and full.”

Another way to protect ourselves from the harmful effects of online and digital media is to follow the counsel given by Elder M. Russell Ballard:

“Besides making our voices heard, let me conclude with seven things that every parent can do to minimize the negative effect media can have on our families:

1. We need to hold family councils and decide what our media standards are going to be.
2. We need to spend enough quality time with our children that we are consistently the main influence in their lives, not the media or any peer group.
3. We need to make good media choices ourselves and set good examples for our children.
4. We need to limit the amount of time our children watch TV or play video games or use the Internet each day. Virtual reality must not become their reality.
5. We need to use Internet filters and TV programming locks to prevent our children from “chancing upon” things they should not see.
6. We need to have TVs and computers in a much-used common room in the home, not in a bedroom or a private place.
7. We need to take time to watch appropriate media with our children and discuss with them how to make choices that will uplift and build rather than degrade and destroy” (Let Our Voices Be Heard).

web mouse trap mormonad

The web can be a useful network or a terrible trap. Some sites must be left unseen. (See Moroni 10:30.) New Era, September 1999.

President James E. Faust (1920–2007) taught, “While some addictions require professional clinical help, let us not overlook the spiritual help available to us through priesthood blessings and through prayer. The Lord has promised us, ‘My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them’ (Ether 12:27). Let us remember that the power to change is very real, and it is a great spiritual gift from God.” James E. Faust, “The Power to Change,” Ensign, Nov. 2007, 124.

Additional Articles and Resources

Preparing Emotionally for a Mission

missionaries in veracruz mexico forestWhile most missionaries leave the MTC confident about their ability to teach the gospel and bear testimony, many also deal with concerns like: finances, homesickness, living with a different person, living in a different culture, adjusting to missionary rules, and learning a new language. These concerns are normal, almost every elder or sister experiences one of them, and most successfully overcome them.

Some missionaries, though, have difficulty coping with these kinds of emotional challenges. Stress may contribute to many missionaries’ most common physical complaints, including headaches, back pain, insomnia, fatigue, and stomach problems. Because of these challenges, it is important that future missionaries do all they can to prepare emotionally for full-time missionary service.

Speaking to future missionaries, Elder L. Tom Perry explained: “Missionary service is emotionally demanding. Your support system is going to be withdrawn from you as you leave home and go out into the world. … There will be days of rejection and disappointment. Learn now about your emotional limits, and learn how to control your emotions under the circumstances you will face as a missionary.”

The following are some recommendations from Robert K. Wagstaff, a former mission president and president of the Philippines MTC, which he gave in a March 2011 Ensign article called Preparing Emotionally for Missionary Service.

How Can Future Missionaries Prepare Themselves Emotionally?

young men working1. Work part time or full time before the mission call. This experience helps potential missionaries learn how to manage money so they will be prepared to live within their budget in the mission field. Also, in my experience, missionaries who pay at least part of the cost of their mission are often more dedicated and have fewer concerns about money while in the mission field.

2. Live away from home for a period of time before leaving for the mission field. Whether future missionaries go away to college or for work, living away from home helps them adjust to the necessary independence of being a missionary. This also provides opportunities for them to wash their own clothing, clean their own living areas, prepare food, and be responsible for their own safety and well-being. Even if future missionaries cannot live away from home, they can be more independent by taking on these responsibilities.

3. Practice meeting and talking to others. Missionary work involves meeting and interacting with new people daily. This can be a significant source of anxiety to missionaries who are naturally shy. Many young people today are used to interacting via text messaging or social networking sites on the Internet rather than through face-to-face interaction. Future missionaries can prepare themselves for tracting and other missionary activities by challenging themselves, in an appropriate and safe manner, to talk with people they do not know well and by striving to be friendly, courteous, and respectful to others.

4. Resolve emotional concerns before submitting mission papers. Some young people suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression, or eating disorders before they enter the mission field. Dr. Judi Moore (former medical adviser in the South America South Area) recommends that parents take notice of symptoms of emotional distress and take actions to help. Most young people will not overcome such problems in the mission field. In fact, these problems often become exacerbated under the stresses of a mission. Counseling and medical treatment may be beneficial to stabilize these conditions before applying to serve a mission. LDS Family Services and family doctors are excellent sources of help, as are local priesthood leaders—particularly your bishop.

5. Practice living a balanced life. Missionary life is structured and intense. Learning how to live by a schedule and keep appointments is critical to success. For a period of time before entering the MTC, a prospective missionary may want to follow the missionary schedule of going to bed at 10:30 p.m. and arising at 6:30 the next morning. Using a day-planning system and taking part in extracurricular activities can help young people learn to manage time and meet deadlines. Examples include holding a job or participating in activities such as sports, drama, clubs, student government, or community service.

6. Find appropriate outlets for stress. Before their missions, many young people relax by playing video games, watching TV, hanging out with friends, surfing the Internet, or participating in other recreational activities. In the mission field, such activities are not an option, so missionaries need to find new ways to cope with stress. Taking advantage of 30 minutes each morning to exercise, as outlined in Preach My Gospel, can be a tremendous stress reliever. Adequate rest, exercise, and turning to the Lord for guidance rather than comparing oneself to others also help. Sometimes it just helps to talk about things.

7. Learn to view personal weaknesses with proper perspective. Some conscientious missionaries have great difficulty when they feel their efforts are imperfect or less than “the best.” They may worry excessively if they feel inadequate in mastering a language or in achieving some missionary goals. They may feel distressed when the demands of being a missionary show them weaknesses they had never encountered before. But, as the prophet Ether taught, recognizing our weaknesses can teach us humility and reliance on the Lord and success in overcoming our weaknesses (see Ether 12:27).

sons of mosiah praying8. Learn to put trials in the proper perspective. Occasionally, accidents, serious illnesses, and other traumas happen in the mission field—just as they do in regular life. They are not a sign that a missionary is unworthy or that the Lord is not watching over him or her. Ammon, one of the great missionaries of the Book of Mormon, faced serious trials on his mission. Recording the Lord’s words to him and his missionary companions at a time of deep discouragement, Ammon wrote: “Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success” (Alma 26:27). Success came for them—and will come for faithful missionaries after they patiently persist in doing the work they have been called to do.