10 Tips for Preparing Missionaries

young men preparing missionariesWhile the Lord expects each young person to do his or her own part to prepare spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially for missionary service, preparing missionaries should also be a high priority for parents and Church leaders. Parents should give special attention to helping their boys prepare to serve a full-time mission. Bishops, youth leaders, and other Church members also have an important role in helping young men and women qualify for missionary service.

The following 10 tips will help give guidance to parents and Church leaders in preparing missionaries:

  1. Desire: Work with young men beginning at an early age to help them develop the desire to serve a mission. One of the best ways to do this is to help them gain a testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Hearing mission stories, from your own life or the experiences of others, is another powerful way to bring the spirit of missionary work. See one of my many article on motivating missionaries or check out my presentation on Gaining a Desire to Serve a Mission.
  2. Worthiness: Help young men and women to always remain worthy to serve a mission. Help them to know the commandments and be committed to obeying them, and pay particular attention to the law of chastity. Also help them know that the Lord is very willing to forgive when we make mistakes, and help them to understand the repentance process.
  3. Expectations: Teach young people what will be expected of them when they serve missions. Teach them about the mission rules and the schedule missionaries keep. Teach them about mission life and help them understand the missionary guidelines regarding personal conduct, language, dress and grooming, media, and communications to family and friends.
  4. Purpose: Help future missionaries to understand the doctrinal basis of missionary work and what their purpose will be as missionaries. That purpose is to: “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”
  5. Seminary: Encourage youth to attend seminary. Seminary is available in just about every corner of the globe and will teach our youth important basic doctrines of the restored gospel and help them develop their testimony of the Savior.
  6. Leaders: If you are a bishop or stake president, the handbook encourages your to call youth leaders who love missionary work and will help the youth learn to love it as well. It also says to invite returned missionaries to speak about missionary work often in sacrament meetings and on other occasions.
  7. Service and Teaching: Provide opportunities for prospective missionaries to serve others, including serving in Church callings. Young men should serve as home teachers. The new youth curriculum also gives young men and women many opportunities to teach which will help them become better missionaries.
  8. Mission Prep Class: If possible, have the youth take a missionary preparation class. Most wards and stakes offer this class, and it is also taught in Institute. The main source material for the mission prep class is the scriptures, the Missionary Handbook, and Preach My Gospel. Young men and women should study these materials thoroughly as they prepare for their missions.
  9. Scriptures: A large part of mission preparation includes studying the gospel and gaining a personal testimony. Young people should read the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great price, and especially the Book of Mormon and have a testimony that these books contain the revealed word of God.
  10. Share: Encourage young people to share the gospel with their friends and family. As they open their mouth, share the gospel, and become missionaries in their everyday life, they will be blessed and see how the gospel blesses others. They will catch the spirit of missionary work and become great representatives of the Lord.

LDS Missionary Clothing List

Summary: This article discusses the LDS missionary clothing list and other items to bring on your Mormon mission.

Mormon Missionary Suitcase

The General Instructions Checklist that you get in your mission call letter will tell you in more detail the clothing, luggage, and other items you will need to bring with you on your mission. There are slight variations between missions, and the letter from your mission president will advise you if that is that case. For the most part, though, the clothing, toiletries, and other items each missionary will need to bring on your mission is relatively standard. Also be advised to follow the missionary dress and grooming standards (which were updated in July 2013 to allow greater flexibility and more modern styles) when buying clothes for your mission.

Mission Clothing List: Elders Mission Clothing List: Sisters
  • 10 – 12 White shirts (some short sleeve and some long sleeve)
  • 2 Dark colored, Conservative Suits
  • 5 – 6 Pair of dress slacks
  • 5 – 6 Conservative ties
  • 8 – 10 Solid, dark colored socks
  • 2 Pairs of thick-soled, comfortable, conservative shoes.
  • 8 – 10 Pairs of temple garments
  • Waterproof, winter boots, as needed
  • Dark overcoat with liner, as needed
  • Pajamas, robe, and slippers, as needed
  • Dark raincoat, lightweight plastic or nylon
  • Cold-weather gear (gloves, scarf, ear-muffs, winter hat, thermals) as needed
  • Sweater(s), solid dark color, as needed
  • Umbrella
  • Pair of flip-flops/shower shoes
  • Shaving equipment
  • Deodorant and other toiletries
  • Set of work clothes and gym clothes (jeans, t-shirt, shorts, athletic shoes, etc.)
  • Small first-aid kit, and sewing kit
  • Alarm clock (wind-up or battery)
  • 2 Towels, washcloths
  • Twin-size bed sheets with pillowcase
  • Shoulder bag (no backpacks)
  • Sunscreen and lip balm, as needed
  • 4 – 5 Outfits of modest design: blouses, skirts, dresses, jackets, vests, jumpers, suits. Mid-calf length. Nothing tight-fitting, or baggy; no wrap-around skirts, t-shirts, polo-shirts, denims, or leathers.
  • 12 Pairs of nylons or knee-highs
  • 2 – 3 Pairs of shoes that are conservative and comfortable
  • 1 Pair of dress shoes
  • 1 Pair of winter boots
  • 8 – 10 Pairs of temple garments
  • Personal toiletries
  • Underclothing, modest and durable.
  • Dark winter coat
  • Pajamas, robe, and slippers, as needed
  • Dark raincoat, lightweight plastic or nylon
  • Cold-weather gear (gloves, scarf, ear-muffs, winter hat, thermals) as needed
  • Sweater(s), as needed
  • Umbrella
  • Pair of flip-flops/shower shoes
  • Set of work clothes and gym clothes (jeans, t-shirt, shorts, athletic shoes, etc.)
  • Small first-aid kit, and sewing kit
  • Alarm clock (wind-up or battery)
  • 2 Towels, washcloths
  • Twin-size bed sheets with pillowcase
  • Shoulder bag or purse (no backpacks)
  • Sunscreen and lip balm, as needed

Missionary Luggage

Of course you will need luggage to carry your clothes and personal belongings.  Mormon missionaries are suggested to bring 3 pieces of luggage that follow these guidelines: Two large suitcases (that you could check at the airport) and one smaller bag (a carry-on). The first, larger, checked suitcase should be no larger than 62 dimensional inches (height plus width plus depth), and no heavier than 70 pounds. The second piece should be no larger than 55 dimensional inches and no heavier than 70 pounds. The smaller, carry-on bag should be no larger than 45 dimensional inches. For more information, see missionary clothing needs and what should I bring to the MTC?.

Missionary Books

Missionaries should bring their scriptures and they are also allowed to bring the following books, if they desire:

  • True to the Faith
  • Jesus the Christ, by James E. Talmage
  • Our Heritage: A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Our Search for Happiness, By M. Russell Ballard
  • See the approved Missionary Reading List for more detail

What NOT to Bring on Your Mission

Do not bring the following items to the MTC or to the mission field:

  • Briefcases
  • Any books not listed above
  • Daily planners, including electronic planners
  • Laptop or other computers
  • Any video recording devices, or any video or DVD players
  • Cellular phones, pagers, e-mail devices, or unauthorized electronic equipment
  • Radios or clock radios
  • Musical instruments
  • Playing cards, games, footballs, soccer balls, or any other kind of sports or hobby equipment
  • Packages for other missionaries in the MTC or in the mission field
  • Weapons of any kind

For information on how much you can expect to spend on clothing and other items, see my related article: Cost To Get Ready To Go On A Mission.

The “Why” of Keeping the Law of Chastity

Summary: Understanding why keeping the law of chastity is important will help young people see the divine purpose behind this commandment and inspire them to live it.

In the April 2012 General Conference, in a talk called The Why of Priesthood Service, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said “Understanding the why of the gospel and the why of the priesthood will help us to see the divine purpose of all of this. It will give us motivation and strength to do the right things, even when they are hard… [The what] teaches us what to do. The why inspires our souls. The what informs, but the why transforms.”

Keeping the Law of Chastity

Why is the law of chastity so important?

In his April 2013 General Conference talk titled, We Believe in Being Chaste, Elder David A. Bednar posed the question: “Why is the law of chastity so important?” His answer had several components:

  • It is part of Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness. “The eternal importance of chastity can only be understood within the overarching context of our Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness for His children…The Father’s plan enables His spirit sons and daughters to obtain physical bodies, to gain mortal experience, and to progress toward exaltation.”
  • Physical limitations prepare us for eternity. “Our relationships with other people, our capacity to recognize and act in accordance with truth, and our ability to obey the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ are amplified through our physical bodies…Simply stated, there are lessons we must learn and experiences we must have, as the scriptures describe, “according to the flesh” (1 Nephi 19:6Alma 7:12–13).
  • The power of procreation is divine. “Marriage between a man and a woman is the authorized channel through which premortal spirits enter mortality. Complete sexual abstinence before marriage and total fidelity within marriage protect the sanctity of this sacred channel…Specific guidelines for the proper use of the ability to create life are vital elements in the Father’s plan. How we feel about and use that supernal power will determine in large measure our happiness in mortality and our destiny in eternity.”
  • We are on earth to be tested. “The precise nature of the test of mortality, then, can be summarized in the following question: Will I respond to the inclinations of the natural man, or will I yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and put off the natural man and become a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord (see Mosiah 3:19)? That is the test. Every appetite, desire, propensity, and impulse of the natural man may be overcome by and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
  • Being chaste brings blessings. “Alma counseled his son Shiblon to “bridle all [of his] passions, that [he] may be filled with love” (Alma 38:12). Significantly, disciplining the natural man in each of us makes possible a richer, a deeper, and a more enduring love of God and of His children. Love increases through righteous restraint and decreases through impulsive indulgence…Obedience to the law of chastity will increase our happiness in mortality and make possible our progress in eternity…Chastity and virtue are now, always have been, and always will be “most dear and precious above all things” (Moroni 9:9).

Discussing “the why” of keeping the law of chastity is a topic Elder Bednar has also spoke about in years past. In his June 1998 Education Week talk titled Teach Them to UnderstandElder Bednar spoke about the importance of understanding “the why” of gospel commandments.

“In the times in which we live, only the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has the answers to the why questions that matter the most…It concerns me as I see young people in our Church who know all the correct things they should do and do not have a clue as to why. They have a check-list mentality. “Say my prayers morning and night. Read the scriptures.” Why do they do these things? “Because I am supposed to. Because the prophet said. Because my mom and dad will jump my case if I don’t.” …[But] do we understand why? If we do not understand the why, then the power available to us through the doctrine of Christ will not be evident in our lives.”

“This is particularly true with young people pertaining to the law of chastity. They know they shouldn’t, but do they know why they shouldn’t?…I do not know a young person who truly understands the doctrine related to “the seed of Abraham” who would violate the law of chastity. We were foreordained in the premortal existence to the blessings associated with birth through a particular lineage, even the chosen lineage of Abraham–not because we are better, not because we are more special, but because we have particular responsibilities that we covenanted we would fulfill. Therefore we came to the earth through a lineage with the birthright blessing of the priesthood. Every man who holds the priesthood was foreordained to that very responsibility in the premortal existence. Does a young man who understands that doctrine have a choice to go on a mission? He made that choice before he was ever born.”

“…As I have opportunities to visit with young people, I like to talk about what it means to be the “seed of Abraham.” Hoping that the Spirit of the Lord will touch their hearts, I highlight the story of Jacob and Esau. Esau gave up his birthright blessing for a bowl of red bean soup. Now a question directed to the young people: Would you really want to forfeit your birthright as the seed of Abraham–foreordained in the premortal existence, living on the earth at this particular time to bless the families of the earth, the most glorious spiritually destiny you could ever hope for? Do you really want to give up those blessings and opportunities for a few minutes of messing around? If we understand the doctrine of who we are and why we are here, then that understanding changes the way we do things.”

I pray that all future missionaries will study, ponder, and prayer about why this commandment is so important and the ways in which keeping the law of chastity will bless their lives. Understanding these things will give them added strength in fighting the many temptations that bombard our youth today.

Teaching by the Spirit

Teaching by the Spirit is one of the most important skills you can learn as a missionary. If you have the Spirit of the Lord with you in all your mission activities, teaching, tracting, reactivating, etc., you will be a more effective instrument for God. 

Teaching Spirit to Spirit - Sister MissionariesPresident Ezra Taft Benson once said: “The Spirit is the most important single element in this work. With the Spirit magnifying your call, you can do miracles for the Lord in the mission field. Without the Spirit, you will never succeed regardless of your talent and ability” (see Preach My Gospel, 176).

The missionary lessons that you will teach from contain the gospel doctrines and ideas for teaching, however, the lessons will not tell you exactly what to say. Instead, as a missionary, you are responsible to study and understand the principles of the lessons and then teach by the Spirit in your own words. By teaching through the Spirit, you will help others strengthen their faith in Christ, have a desire to repent, and then enter into covenants with God through baptism (see Preach My Gospel, 19).

Blessings of Teaching by the Spirit

The Preach My Gospel manual points out at least five reasons why missionaries must teach by the power of the Holy Ghost in order to be effective. The Spirit will…

  • Teach you new truths and bring the doctrines you have studied to your remembrance (see John 14:26).
  • Give you words to speak in the very moment you need them (see D&C 84:85).
  • Carry your message to the hearts of the people you teach (see 2 Nephi 33:1).
  • Testify of the truthfulness of your message and confirm your words (see D&C 100:5–8).
  • Help you discern the needs of the people you are teaching (see Alma 12:7).

In teaching the gospel, as a missionary or in other callings in the LDS Church, you should not rely primarily on your intelligence, teaching expertise, or personality but rather you should to have the influence of the Holy Ghost present (see 2 Nephi 4:34). As you make yourself a conduit of the Spirit, the Lord will use you to move His work forward.

Spirit to Spirit

When we teach by the Spirit, our message is carried directly into the hearts of the audience, which is a far superior form of communication that oral or written language. Elder D. Todd Chistofferson said, in his April 2012 General Conference talk, “The Spirit does not need to be limited to words; He can communicate Spirit to spirit with a language that is unmistakable because it has no words. It is a communication of pure knowledge and intelligence from the Spirit, and I have come to know that it truly is the best way to acquire knowledge. It is stronger and longer lasting than touching or seeing; we can come to doubt the physical senses, but we cannot doubt when the Holy Spirit speaks to us. It is the surest witness.”

Similarly, Elder M. Russell Ballard said in his October 2004 General Conference talk, “The missionaries are now preparing to teach the lessons, not as memorized dialogue or a rote presentation; but rather, they will outline gospel principles in an organized way, calling upon the Spirit to direct how they communicate gospel truth to investigators, spirit to spirit and heart to heart.” Read 3rd Nephi 19: 31-34 for more information on the spirit to spirit and heart to heart communication.

An example from my mission of teaching by the Spirit

german arrieta familyIn the latter half of my mission, when I was in the Godoy ward in West Rosario, Argentina, I remember during this time that I felt particularly guided by the Spirit in all aspects of our missionary work. I felt the subtle promptings of the Spirit helping my companion and I know where to go, what streets to tract, what to do, and what to say to help the members and investigators in this area.

I specifically remember one lesson that we taught to German Arrieta and his family. It was not one of the official six missionary discussions of the time, but as we sat with him one night, I felt prompted to talk in detail about our pre-earth life. I taught about the council in Heaven, the plan of salvation, the role of the Savior, and how we all sustained the plan that would allow us to come to earth, gain a physical body, and be given the opportunity to prove our worthiness and progress back to our Heavenly Father’s presence. The Spirit was present during the lesson, and perhaps it was exactly what the family needed. The lesson was well received and German was baptized soon thereafter.

Teaching by the Spirit doesn’t negate preparation

To teach by the Spirit does not mean that preparation is not needed, on the contrary in fact, teaching by the Spirit often means you will need to prepare more and then be flexible in your lesson delivery. I love this quote from the Seminary and Institute manual called Gospel Teaching and Learning: “Teachers should keep in mind that teaching by the Spirit does not remove their responsibility for diligent, thoughtful lesson preparation, including using the curriculum that has been provided. On the other hand, teaching by the Spirit requires more than merely following every curriculum suggestion without prayer, thought, or possible adaptation. In addition, teachers should not be so focused on rigidly following their lesson outline that they are not open to receive and follow impressions from the Spirit during class.” (GTL, p. 13)

Tips for being prepared to teach by the Spirit

The Preach My Gospel manual gives the following tips to help missionaries (and future missionaries can start these steps now) to be prepared to teach by the spirit:

  • Daily personal and companion study strengthens your faith and your ability to teach by the Spirit.
  • Pray for the Spirit (see D&C 42:14).
  • Purify your heart (see D&C 112:28).
  • Keep the commandments (see D&C 20:77, 79)
  • Diligently treasure up God’s word (see D&C 11:21; 84:85).
  • Teach so that others understand your message and are edified (see D&C 50:13–22).
  • Exercise faith (see Moroni 10:7).

I’ll conclude with a wonderful scripture from the Book of Mormon about teaching by the Spirit.  The prophet Moroni is speaking here and discussing the importance of being led by the Holy Ghost in conducting meetings in the Church. “And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done.” (Moroni 6:9) I know that if you, as a missionary and throughout your life, teach by the Spirit, then you will always be led to do and say the right things, and you will have great success in building up the kingdom of God.

Enter the Mission Field on the Run

missionaries on bikes bronze statueWhen I arrived in my first area in Argentina (the city of Parana), I was shocked at how fast my companion walked. He didn’t quite run, but he sure did speed walk, and it took a file for me to get used to it. When Ezra Taft Benson was President of the Church in May 1986, he encouraged new missionaries to “enter the mission field on the run.” While missionaries should be physically prepared for the hard work of missionary service, President Benson was talking more about hitting the ground running spiritually.

“We love all of our missionaries who are serving the Lord full time in the mission field. But there is a difference in missionaries. Some are better prepared to serve the Lord the first month in the mission field than some who are returning home after twenty-four months. We want young men entering the mission field who can enter the mission field ‘on the run.’” (To the “Youth of the Noble Birthright” by President Ezra Taft Benson, May 1986)

Here are specific things that President Benson said future LDS missionaries can do to  “enter the mission field on the run.”

  • Prepare Your Whole Life: “Prepare well for a mission all your life, not just six months or a year before you go.”
  • Stay Morally Clean: A “vital ingredient in preparation for your mission is to always live a clean life. We want morally clean young men in the mission field. We want you to live the clean life all of your life. We want the morally clean life to be your way of life.”
  • Have Faith: “We want young men entering the mission field… who have the faith born of personal righteousness and clean living that they can have a great and productive mission. We want missionaries who have the kind of faith that Wilford Woodruff and Heber C. Kimball had, each bringing hundreds and thousands of souls into the waters of baptism.”
  • Stay Active in the Church: “Give me a young man who has kept himself morally clean and has faithfully attended his Church meetings. Give me a young man who has magnified his priesthood and has earned the Duty to God Award and is an Eagle Scout. Give me a young man who is a seminary graduate and has a burning testimony of the Book of Mormon. Give me such a young man, and I will give you a young man who can perform miracles for the Lord in the mission field and throughout his life.”
  • Realize the Privilege of Missionary Service: “Not only should a mission be regarded as a priesthood duty, but every young man should look forward to this experience with great joy and anticipation. What a privilege—what a sacred privilege—to serve the Lord full time for two years with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.”
  • Date People Who Give Encouragement: “You can do nothing more important…even temple marriage should wait until after a young man has served an honorable full-time mission for the Lord. And I would admonish you to date only faithful young women who also believe this and give you that encouragement.”
  • Understand the Purpose of Missionary Work: “Know that the real purpose in going into the mission field is to bring souls unto Christ, to teach and baptize our Heavenly Father’s children so that you may rejoice with them in the kingdom of our Father. (See D&C 18:15.)”
  • True Repentance: “The miracle of forgiveness is real, and true repentance is accepted of the Lord. But it is not pleasing to the Lord prior to a mission, or at any time, to sow one’s wild oats, to engage in sexual transgression of any nature, and then to expect that planned confession and quick repentance will satisfy the Lord.”
  • Look Forward to Missionary Service: “Young men, look forward to full-time missionary service….Prepare now for your mission by doing these things we have discussed this evening.”

History of the For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet

1965 For the Strength of Youth coverIn December 2011, the pamphlet called For the Strength of Youth was updated and refreshed. Young Women general president Elaine S. Dalton explained, “the standards have not changed, but times have changed… For the Strength of Youth has been revised to address the issues youth face today—to teach them the doctrine behind the standards and the promised blessings of obedience.” Copies of this new 2012 edition of For the Strength of Youth are being sent to wards all over the world beginning this month.

This new edition replaces the 2001 version of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet that many of you are very familiar with. Some of you old timers, like myself, may even remember the one before that, the 1990 version. But did you know that the first version of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet was published by the Church in 1965, and that the 2012 version is the 9th update to it? Jared A. Jepson, an LDS Seminary and Institute Director in Arlington, Texas, conducted a comprehensive study of the history of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. Here are some of his finding, which I think you will find interesting.

Funny Quotes from the 1966 Version

One of the things that caught my attention in Brother Jepson’s report was some funny quotes from the 1966 version of For the Strength of Youth:

  • “Pants for young women are not desirable attire for shopping, at school, in the library, in cafeterias or restaurants. Any apparel that suggests a house robe should not be worn in public but only in one’s home or apartment. Tight-fitting sweaters and figure-hugging clothes of any kind are not appropriate LDS dress.”
  • Under the “Acceptable Dancing” section: “Members of the Church should be good dancers and not contortionists. Extreme body movements should be avoided, and emphasis should be placed more on styling and clever footwork.”

As you can see, some cultural practices change over time (like encouraging women to wear a dress instead of pants in public), while timeless principles stay the same (like encouraging the wearing of modest clothing). This is actually quite indicative of the broader changes that have taken place to the For the Strength of Youth over the years.

Textual Changes Over the Years

In order to analyze how For the Strength of Youth has changed over the years, Brother Jepson categorized each sentence in the pamphlets into one of five different statement types:

  • Declarative statements: These are informational in nature, declaring the Church’s position, defining principles or policies, or clarifying gospel doctrine. An example would be, “Variety in dating is desirable.”
  • Instructional “do’s”: These are statements that contain behavioral instruction or counsel to youth about positive behavior. An example of this would be, “Begin to prepare now for a temple marriage.”
  • Instructional “don’ts”: These are behavioral instruction or counsel to Church youth about negative behavior. An example would be, “Don’t listen to music that contains ideas that contradict principles of the gospel.”
  • Prophetic promises: These are statements that identify the promised rewards or positive consequences of youth’s actions. An example of this would be, “As you devote yourself to serving others, you will draw closer to Heavenly Father.”
  • Prophetic warnings: These are statements that identify punishments or negative consequences to youth’s actions. An example of this is, “Wrong choices delay your progression and lead to heartache and misery.”

Based on these categorizations for the statements in For the Strength of Youth, the follow chart summarizes how the pamphlet’s text has changed over the years.

For the Strength of Youth Changes in Number and Type of Statements
Statement Type   1965   1966-1969   1972   1990   2001 
Declarative 105 118 141 181 199
Do’s 164 204 211 150 257
Don’ts 82 93 93 68 86
Promises 27 36 39 114 192
Warnings 1 1 1 84 75
Total 379 452 485 597 809
Table 1: Adapted from Jared A. Jepson, “A Study of the For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet, 1965–2004” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 2005).

As you can see, the size of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, based on the total number of statements it contains, has more than doubled since the first edition in 1965, from 379 to 809. The number of declarative statements and instructional do’s has grown slightly over the years. The number of instructional don’ts has remained almost unchanged. The biggest difference is in the number of prophetic promises and warnings. The number of prophetic promises has grown seven fold, from 27 to 192, from 1965 to 2001. The number of prophetic warnings has grown from 1 in 1965 to 75 in 2001.

Topic Changes Over the Years

The textual analysis above reinforces the fact that the For the Strength of Youth standards today are far more than a list of things not to do. When it was first published, it was primarily a list of do’s and don’ts, but it is now much more spiritually focused. In fact, the following chart illustrates Brother Jepson’s analysis of the how topics covered in the pamphlet have changed from primarily physical and social topics, to mental and even more spiritual topics.

Figure 1: Adopted from Jared A. Jepson, “A Study of the For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet, 1965–2004” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 2005).

As you can see, when the For the Strength of Youth manual first came out, it was all about dress and grooming, dancing, dating, and social interactions. By 2001, the pamphlet still talked about those things, but added were mental and spiritual topics such as education, language, Sabbath day observance, honesty, and repentance. The 2012 edition has continued to move in that direction with greater emphasis on gospel principles and prophetic promises. I invite you to take a look at the new For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, and apply those principles to your life so you can receive the physical and spiritual strength referred to in the title.

I want to thank Brother Jepson for his data, charts, and analysis regarding the evolution of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. It is interesting to see how, though some things have remained the same, many other things have changed and improved over the years. May each of us, young and old, apply the For the Strength of Youth standards to our lives, and reap the promised prophetic blessings for doing so.

The History of LDS Seminary as It Celebrates 100 Years

First LDS Seminary near Granite High SchoolThe LDS Seminary and Institute programs are wonderful tools in helping young men and young women prepare for full-time missionary service. The year 2012 marks 100 years since the first Seminary class was establish. To commemorate this anniversary, the Church held a worldwide Seminary Centennial Broadcast on Sunday, January 22, 2012 with President Boyd K. Packer as the featured speaker.

A Brief History of the LDS Seminary Program

  • 1912: The first Seminary class is held at a home near Granite High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. Thomas J. Yates was hired as the first teacher and taught afternoon classes to 70 students.
  • 1920: Seminary enrollment was 2,982.
  • 1925: Seminary enrollment was 8,527.
  • 1926: President Heber J. Grant initiated “collegiate seminaries” which would later be called LDS Institutes of Religion.
  • 1938: There were ninety-eight functioning seminary programs in the following US states:  Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.
  • 1950: The early-morning seminary program began in California. The first early-morning seminary classes were taught before school in Church meetinghouses near public schools. Seminary enrollment was 28,677.first LDS seminary class in Brisbane Australian 1969
  • 1962: Early-morning seminary was introduced to Finland and Germany (a total of 34 students) in response to requests for programs outside of the U.S. and Canada.
  • 1967: The first home-study seminary classes begun in scattered rural areas for students are held in Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois.
  • 1975: Seminary enrollment was 183,670.
  • 1980: Sequential Scripture Teaching, the program to use the four books of scripture (Old Testament, New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants) for the four years of seminary, was introduced emphasizing the importance of using the scriptures in the lives of students.
  • 2010: Seminary enrollment was 369, 373.
  • 2012: 100 year anniversary of LDS Seminary.

Patriarchal Blessings

As I mention in my post on the mission application timeline, if you have not received your patriarch blessing by the time you begin to fill out your missionary paper work, you should make arrangements at that time to get it. Missionaries are required, per the instructions in the mission call letter, to receive a patriarchal blessing before they serve a full time mission.

What is a Patriarchal Blessing?

Jacob or Israel blessing his sonsA patriarchal blessing is a special blessing given to worthy members of the LDS Church by ordained patriarchs. Patriarchal blessings contain personal counsel from the Lord which a person can use throughout his or her life as well as a declaration of a person’s lineage in the house of Israel. As a person studies his or her patriarchal blessing and follows the counsel it contains, it will provide guidance, comfort, and protection.

Every Mormon can receive a patriarchal blessing once in their lifetime. There is no set age, but it is frequently done when the person is a teenager or soon after being baptized if they are an adult convert to the Church. The requirements for receiving a patriarchal blessing are that the person should be worthy and that they should be old enough to understand the significance of it.  The blessing is considered highly personal, and recipients are counseled not share their blessings with people outside of family members.

Importance of Patriarchal Blessings

A patriarchal blessing can reveal talents and strengths which the person should develop during life. Often, individuals receive guidance about weaknesses or temptations they may face. Sometimes prophecies may be made regarding the person’s life, and generally other blessings are promised which are contingent upon the faith and obedience of the individual.

The ancient apostle Paul wrote about patriarchs (he referred to them as “evangelists”) and the purpose and importance of patriarchal blessings in Ephesians 4:11-15

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”

James E. Faust Talk on Patriarchal Blessings

“As moved upon by the Holy Spirit, the patriarch declares by inspiration the lineage in the house of Israel of the recipient, together with such blessings, spiritual gifts, promises, advice, admonition, and warnings the patriarch feels inspired to give. The patriarchal blessing is, in essence, a prophetic blessing and utterance.

“A patriarchal blessing from an ordained patriarch can give us a star to follow, which is a personal revelation from God to each individual. If we follow this star, we are less likely to stumble and be misled. Our patriarchal blessing will be an anchor to our souls, and if we are worthy, neither death nor the devil can deprive us of the blessings pronounced. They are blessings we can enjoy now and forever.

As with many other blessings, patriarchal blessings should ordinarily be requested by the one desiring the blessing. Responsibility for receiving a patriarchal blessing rests primarily on the individual when he or she has sufficient understanding of the significance of a patriarchal blessing. I encourage all members of the Church having this maturity to become worthy and obtain their blessings. By their very nature, all blessings are conditional on worthiness, regardless of whether the blessing specifically spells out the qualifications. The patriarchal blessing is primarily a guide to the future, not an index to the past. Therefore, it is important that the recipient be young enough that many of the significant events of life are in the future.

…Patriarchal blessings should be read humbly, prayerfully, and frequently. A patriarchal blessing is very sacred and personal, but it may be shared with close family members. It is a sacred guideline of counsel, promises, and information from the Lord; however, a person should not expect the blessing to detail all that will happen to him or her or to answer all questions. The fact that one’s patriarchal blessing may not mention an important event in life, such as a mission or marriage, does not mean that it will not happen. In order to receive the fulfillment of our patriarchal blessings, we should treasure in our hearts the precious words they contain, ponder them, and so live that we will obtain the blessings in mortality and a crown of righteousness in the hereafter.” From Priesthood Blessings by James E. Faust

Patriarchal Blessings: Video from October 2011 General Conference

The following is a video montage and transcript of words and testimonies from the living apostles during the October 2011 General Conference regarding patriarchal blessings:

President Boyd K. Packer, Counsel to Youth

“Against the certainty that I would be drafted, I joined the air force. Soon I was in Santa Ana, California, for preflight training. I did not then have a firm testimony that the gospel was true, but I knew that my seminary teachers, Abel S. Rich and John P. Lillywhite, knew it was true. I had heard them testify, and I believed them. I thought to myself, “I will lean on their testimonies until I gain one of my own.” And so it was.

“I had heard about patriarchal blessings but had not received one. In each stake there is an ordained patriarch who has the spirit of prophecy and the spirit of revelation. He is authorized to give personal and private blessings to those who come recommended by their bishops. I wrote to my bishop for a recommend. J. Roland Sandstrom was the ordained patriarch living in the Santa Ana stake. He knew nothing about me and had never seen me before, but he gave me my blessing. In it I found answers and instruction.

“While patriarchal blessings are very private, I will share a short quote from mine: “You shall be guided through the whisperings of the Holy Spirit and you shall be warned of dangers. If you heed those warnings, our Heavenly Father will bless you so that you might again be united with your loved ones. That word if, though small in print, loomed as big as the page. I would be blessed to return from the war if I kept the commandments and if I heeded the promptings of the Holy Ghost.”

Elder Russell M. Nelson, Covenants

“Some of us are the literal seed of Abraham; others are gathered into his family by adoption. The Lord makes no distinction. Together we receive these promised blessings—if we seek the Lord and obey His commandments. But if we don’t, we lose the blessings of the covenant. To assist us, His Church provides patriarchal blessings to give each recipient a vision for his or her future as well as a connection with the past, even a declaration of lineage back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Elder Robert D. Hales, Waiting upon the Lord

“We may not know when or how the Lord’s answers will be given, but in His time and His way, I testify, His answers will come. For some answers we may have to wait until the hereafter. This may be true for some promises in our patriarchal blessings and for some blessings for family members. Let us not give up on the Lord. His blessings are eternal, not temporary.”

Elder David A. Bednar, The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn

“I encourage you to study, to search out your ancestors, and to prepare yourselves to perform proxy baptisms in the house of the Lord for your kindred dead (see D&C 124:28–36). And I urge you to help other people identify their family histories.

“As you respond in faith to this invitation, your hearts shall turn to the fathers. The promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be implanted in your hearts. Your patriarchal blessing, with its declaration of lineage, will link you to these fathers and be more meaningful to you. Your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase. Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding. And I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives.”

 

Missionary Requirements

A reader emailed me and asked what are the requirements to serve a mission. It was then that I realized that I had never put all the qualifications for full-time missionary service in one place, so here we go.

Requirements to Serve a Full-Time Mission in Your Youth 

Missionary putting on name tagThe Lord expects every young man who is able, and as many young women as have the desire, to prepare spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially and to serve a full-time mission. Full-time missionary service is a privilege, not a right, and in order to qualify for this privilege, young men and women should meet the following qualifications:

  • Be worthy: The Lord expects young men and women to keep themselves clean and worthy, repent, keep the commandments, and live a righteous life. By so doing, they can have His Spirit and represent the Savior and His Church. For more information on this topic, see my post on what it means to be worthy to serve a mission.
  • Age requirements: Men should be ages 18 through 25 and able to serve for 24 months. Women should be ages 19 and up and able to serve for 18 months. There are some rare exceptions to the 18 year old rule for young men. If a young man’s father is a mission president, they may be able to go at a younger age.
  • Be single and unmarried. People who have been divorced, young men who have fathered a child, or young women who have given birth to a child are not normally recommended to serve full-time missions. If exceptions were to occur, you would need to speak with your bishop to get his endorsement.
  • Be spiritually prepared: Spiritual preparation means reading the scriptures and praying regularly, building faith in Jesus Christ, and developing a testimony of the Lord’s true Church. It also means living the commandments and being an example to others of what it means to be a true follower of the Savior. Preparing spiritually also includes studying and understanding gospel principles, attending Church meetings regularly, and honoring the priesthood if you are a young man.
  • Be physically prepared: Missionary work can be very physically demanding. Many missionaries have to walk or ride bikes for as much as twelve hours a day. Before serving, a doctor must certify that the potential missionary is physically able to handle the work. A prospective missionary who has a physical disability or medical limitation may or may not be recommended to serve a mission depending on the severity of the issue. In many cases, people with physical disabilities or serious medical conditions can still be called to serve, but they often have restrictions placed on exactly how or where they go, or in some cases they are able to serve Church Service Missions.
  • Be financially prepared: Future missionaries should begin at as early an age as possible to save money to pay for their mission expenses. Missionaries and their families should be prepared to make sacrifices to provide financial support for a mission. However, young people who are worthy should not be prevented from serving a mission solely for financial reasons when they and their families have made sacrifices according to their ability.
  • Be mentally and emotionally prepared: A mission requires young people to be of sound mind and emotionally capable of living and working independently. Candidates for missionary service who have previously had significant mental or emotional challenges must be stabilized and confirmed by a medical professional to be fully functional before being recommended for a mission. Young people who have severe mental or emotional challenges are honorably excused from missionary service, though many of them can, if they desire, participate as a Church Service Missionary.
  • Able to receive the Temple Endowment. Future missionaries are instructed to go to the temple to receive their endowment prior to starting their mission. This usually happens within a few weeks or a month of entering the MTC. This requirement also means, by implication, that potential missionaries should be a member for at least a year prior to beginning their missionary service.
  • Melchizedek Priesthood Ordination for young men. Young men should be given the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordained to the office of an Elder prior to going on a mission and prior to receiving the temple endowment. Receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood, like many of the other steps above, requires preparation and worthiness.
  • Receive a patriarchal blessing. For many youth, they will receive their patriarchal blessing long before, sometimes years before, going on a mission. There is no set age for receiving a patriarchal blessing, but missionaries are required to get it before entering the mission field.

Young men and women who meet these requirements can set up an interview with their bishop, begin filling out the mission paperwork, and complete the other steps of the mission call process.  Please remember that while full-time missionary service is a priesthood responsibility of young men, women should not feel obligated to serve missions.

Senior Couples’ Full-Time Missionary Requirements

Senior couples’ requirements to serve a mission are similar in many respects to the young people, with some differences.

  • Age requirements: There really aren’t any, so long as the couple is physically, mentally, and emotionally able. There is a great variety of assignments that senior couples can be given ranging from some that are physically demanding to other that are not.
  • Married. The couple should be married (obviously otherwise you wouldn’t be a couple). Elderly single women can serve full-time missions, but elderly single men usually do not.
  • No children at home. The couple shouldn’t have any dependent children still living at home.
  • Able to serve for between 6 months and 2 years. Senior couples have the flexibility to choose the length of a mission that works for them.
  • Retired. Neither one of the couple should be engaged in full-time employment.

What Does It Mean to Be Worthy to Serve a Mission

Youth going to the templeLet’s talk about what it means to be worthy to serve a mission. The prophets have long taught that every worthy young man should serve a mission, and that every young man should strive to be worthy. Worthiness requirements for missionaries are set forth in the scriptures and through the living prophets. Let’s first discuss what it means to be worthy to serve a mission according to the scriptures.

Worthiness Requirements from the Scriptures

Missionaries who represent the Lord and His Church must meet the qualifications revealed in section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord said: “O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day… And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work. Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence” (D&C 4:2, 5-6). The scriptures also discuss how missionaries are required to be morally clean. See D&C 38:42 where the Lord said “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.”

Repentance of Serious Transgressions

A prospective missionary who has been guilty of serious sins such as violations of the law of chastity, drug abuse, serious crimes, or other sexual sins or serious transgressions must repent completely before they can be considered worthy to go on a mission. If this applies to you, your bishop and stake president must confirm that you have been free of transgression for sufficient time to manifest sincere repentance. This time period is generally one year from the most recent occurrence of a serious transgression, but could be as long as three years for multiple serious violations. You must show evidence of a broken heart and contrite spirit and demonstrate a lasting change of behavior, and follow the revealed steps of repentance.

Temple Worthy

Young people must also be worthy to enter the temple before they can be considered worthy to serve a full-time mission. We won’t go into detail on all the temple recommend topics here, but let’s hit the highlights. You must…

  • Believe in God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
  • Have a testimony of the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ.
  • Have a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators.
  • Be honest in all you say and do, attend Church meetings, and live in harmony with the teachings of our Savior and His Church.
  • Live the law of chastity.
  • Be a full-tithe payer.
  • Keep the Word of Wisdom.
  • Not support or affiliate with anti-Mormon groups or individuals.
  • Resolved any serious sins or misdeeds with priesthood authorities.