Mission Prep Quotes from October 2019 General Conference

People will notice the light and will be drawn to it

The Message, the Meaning, and the Multitude By Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Such a quest for faith and conviction is our purpose in these conferences, and by joining with us today, you will realize that this search is a broadly shared endeavor. Look around you. Here on these grounds you see families of all sizes coming from every direction. Old friends embrace in joyful reunion, a marvelous choir is warming up, and protestors shout from their favorite soapbox. Missionaries of an earlier day look for former companions, while recently returned missionaries look for entirely new companions (if you know what I mean!). And photos? Heaven help us! With cell phones in every hand, we have morphed from “every member a missionary” to “every member a photographer.” In the midst of all of this delightful commotion, one could justifiably ask, “What does it all mean?”

Be Faithful, Not Faithless By Stephen W. Owen

However, through our Young Men activities, I was able to build relationships with the other members of my quorum, and they became my friends. In addition, members of the bishopric and Aaronic Priesthood advisers began to take a special interest in my life. They attended my athletic events. They wrote me encouraging notes that I have kept to this day. They continued to keep in touch with me after I went to college and when I left for a mission. One of them was even at the airport when I came home. I will be forever grateful for these good brothers and their combination of love and high expectations. They pointed me heavenward, and life became bright, happy, and joyful.

Spiritual Capacity By Michelle Craig

Recently, I read in the scriptures about another great missionary who obtained his errand from the Lord. Aaron was teaching the king of the Lamanites, who wondered why Aaron’s brother Ammon had not also come to teach him. “And Aaron said unto the king: Behold, the Spirit of the Lord has called him another way.”

The Spirit spoke to my heart: each of us has a different mission to perform, and at times the Spirit may call us in “another way.” There are many ways to build the kingdom of God as covenant-making, covenant-keeping disciples of Jesus Christ. As His faithful disciple, you can receive personal inspiration and revelation, consistent with His commandments, that is tailored to you. You have unique missions and roles to perform in life and will be given unique guidance to fulfill them.

They chose to be baptized and confirmed

Unwavering Commitment to Jesus Christ By Elder Dale G. Renlund

Brother and Sister Banza were greeted warmly at the branch. They asked some of the persistent questions they had about the nature of God, such as, “If God is a spirit, like the wind, how could we be created in His likeness? How could He sit on a throne?” They had never received a satisfactory answer until the missionaries explained restored doctrine in a brief lesson. When the missionaries left, the Banzas looked at each other and said, “Isn’t this the truth that we have heard?” They continued coming to church and meeting with the missionaries. They knew that baptism in the restored Church of Jesus Christ would have consequences. They would be stripped of their scholarships, their visas would be revoked, and they and their two young children would be required to leave Switzerland. They chose to be baptized and confirmed in October 1979.

Found through the Power of the Book of Mormon By Elder Rubén V. Alliaud

Just before I turned 15, I was invited by my uncle Manuel Bustos to spend some time with him and his family here in the United States. This would be a great opportunity for me to learn some English. My uncle had converted to the Church many years before, and he had a great missionary spirit. That is probably why my mother, without my knowing, spoke with him and said she would agree to the invitation on one condition: that he did not try to convince me to become a member of his Church. We were Catholics, and we had been for generations, and there was no reason to change. My uncle was in complete agreement and kept his word to the point that he didn’t want to answer even simple questions about the Church.

Of course, what my uncle and his sweet wife, Marjorie, could not avoid was being who they were. I was assigned a room that contained a large library of books. I could see that in this library there were roughly 200 copies of the Book of Mormon in different languages, 20 of them in Spanish. One day, out of curiosity, I took down a copy of the Book of Mormon in Spanish.

It was one of those copies with a sky-blue soft cover, with the figure of the angel Moroni on the front. When I opened it, on the first page there was written the following promise: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

And then it added: “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” It is difficult to explain the impact that these scriptures had on my mind and heart. To be honest, I was not looking for “the truth.” I was just a teenager, happy with his life, enjoying this new culture.

Nevertheless, with that promise in mind, I secretly began reading the book. As I read more, I understood that if I really wanted to get anything from this, I had better start to pray. And we all know what happens when you decide not only to read but also to pray about the Book of Mormon. Well, that is just what happened to me. It was something so special and so unique—yes, just the same as what has happened to millions of others around the world. I came to know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon was true.

I then went to my uncle to explain to him what had happened and that I was ready to be baptized. My uncle could not contain his astonishment. He got into his car, drove to the airport, and returned back with my plane ticket to fly back home, with a note addressed to my mother that simply stated, “I had nothing to do with this!”

Consistent and Resilient Trust By Elder L. Todd Budge

Our son Dan got very sick on his mission in Africa and was taken to a medical facility with limited resources. As we read his first letter to us after his illness, we expected that he would be discouraged, but instead he wrote, “Even as I lay in the emergency room, I felt peace. I have never been so consistently and resiliently happy in my life.”

As my wife and I read these words, we were overcome with emotion. Consistently and resiliently happy. We had never heard happiness described that way, but his words rang true. We knew that the happiness he described was not simply pleasure or an elevated mood but a peace and joy that come when we surrender ourselves to God and put our trust in Him in all things. We too had had those times in our lives when God spoke peace to our souls and caused us to have hope in Christ even when life was hard and uncertain.

Get into my car youre coming home to teach me

Finding Joy in Sharing the Gospel By Cristina B. Franco

At the Salt Lake airport, my mother and brother met a seven-year-old girl who was returning home from a skiing trip with her family. Her parents noticed how long she had been talking to my mom and brother and decided to join them. They introduced themselves and their daughter as Eduardo, Maria Susana, and Giada Pol. There was a natural and warm connection to this sweet family.

Both families were excited to be traveling together on the same flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. As their conversation continued, my mother noted that until that moment, they’d never heard about the restored Church of Jesus Christ. One of the first questions Susana asked was “Would you tell me about that beautiful museum with the golden statue on top?”

My mom explained that the beautiful edifice was not a museum but a temple of the Lord where we make covenants with God so we can return to live with Him one day. Susana confessed to my mom that before their trip to Salt Lake, she had prayed for something to strengthen her spirit.

During the flight, my mom bore her simple but strong testimony of the gospel and invited Susana to find the missionaries in her hometown. Susana asked my mom, “How will I find them?” My mom replied, “You can’t miss them; they are either two young men dressed in white shirts and ties or two nicely dressed young women, and they always wear a tag showing their name and also ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’”

The families exchanged phone numbers and said goodbye at the Buenos Aires airport. Susana, who since then has become my good friend, has told me many times that she felt so sad to leave my mom at the airport. She said, “Your mom glowed. I can’t explain it, but she had a brightness about her that I didn’t want to leave behind.”

As soon as Susana got back to her hometown, she and her daughter, Giada, went to share this experience with Susana’s mom, who lived just a few blocks away from their home. As they were driving, Susana happened to see two young men walking down the street dressed as my mom had described. She stopped her car in the middle of the street, got out, and asked these two young men, “Are you by chance from the Church of Jesus Christ?”

They said, “Yes.” “Missionaries?” she asked. They both replied, “Yes, we are!” She then said, “Get into my car; you’re coming home to teach me.”

Two months later, Maria Susana was baptized. Her daughter, Giada, was also baptized when she turned nine. We are still working on Eduardo, whom we love no matter what. Since then, Susana has become one of the greatest missionaries I have ever met. She is like the sons of Mosiah, bringing many souls to Christ. In one of our conversations, I asked her, “What is your secret? How do you share the gospel with others?”

She told me, “It is very simple. Every day before I leave my house, I pray, asking Heavenly Father to direct me to someone who needs the gospel in their life. I sometimes take a Book of Mormon to share with them or pass-along cards from the missionaries—and when I start talking to someone, I simply ask them if they have heard about the Church.”

God does not need you to sell the restored gospel

Your Great Adventure By Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

May I remind you that God does not need you to “sell” the restored gospel or the Church of Jesus Christ. He simply expects you not to hide it under a bushel. And if people decide the Church is not for them, that is their decision. It does not mean you have failed. You continue to treat them kindly. Nor does it exclude that you invite them again.

The difference between casual social contacts and compassionate, courageous discipleship is—invitation! We love and respect all of God’s children, regardless of their position in life, regardless of their race or religion, regardless of their life’s decisions. For our part, we will say, “Come and see! Find out for yourself how walking the path of discipleship will be rewarding and ennobling.” We invite people to “come and help, as we try to make the world a better place.”

And we say, “Come and stay! We are your brothers and sisters. We are not perfect. We trust God and seek to keep His commandments. “Join with us, and you will make us better. And, in the process, you will become better as well. Let’s take this adventure together.”

…And to those who have not yet begun, why delay? If you want to experience the wonders of this great spiritual journey, set foot upon your own grand adventure! Speak with the missionaries. Speak with your Latter-day Saint friends. Speak with them about this marvelous work and a wonder. It’s time to begin!

Knowing, Loving, and Growing By Elder Hans T. Boom

It is that love, that light that needs to shine and brighten our surroundings as we go about our daily lives. People will notice the light and will be drawn to it. That is the kind of missionary work that will draw others to “come and see, come and help, and come and stay.” Please, when you have received your witness about this great work and our part in it, let us rejoice together with our beloved Prophet Joseph Smith, who declared, “For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it.”

Printable Schedule / Plan for Saving for a Mission

The following is a formal plan or schedule to help young men and women track their savings for their full-time mission. Full-time missions for Latter-day Saint youth cost $500 a month (beginning July 2020). For more details on the cost of missions for Latter-day Saint youth, click here. Also check out my mission prep checklist for youth, in which I recommended that youth start small and exponentially grow their savings each year and so you will see that in this plan.

Savings Plan–Brief Instructions

Instructions on how to use this schedule for saving for a mission is included in the downloadable PDFs below, but I’ll repeat it here. In short, there are a number of boxes in the printable handout, with each box representing $100. Youth should fill in each square, or somehow mark them, when they have saved each $100 increment. When all the squares on the sheet are filled, the youth will be, financially, ready to go on a mission.

 

Detailed Instructions

The cost to serve a mission is $500 per month. That comes to $12,000 for a young man’s 24 month mission and $9,000 for a young woman’s 18 month mission. The main chart in the printout will have 120 boxes, or 90 boxes, for young men and women respectively, each square representing $100, plus 20 extra boxes for the additional expenses of getting ready to go. Missionaries are expected to buy and bring this additional gear, which adds an average of around $2,000 to the cost of getting ready to go on a mission. When all boxes are marked off, the youth will have the money saved up that is needed to pay for a mission.

This plan recommends easing young people into saving by starting small and roughly doubling the amount saved each year and having them prepared to go by the time they reach 18 or 19. Of course, many people may end up getting a late start, so depending on when the youth starts saving, individual timing may vary.

Try to Pay for Your Mission, but Don’t Let Money Stop You

When many youth and their parents first see the attached schedule, they may be a little overwhelmed. But remember, though youth should try to pay for their own mission, the lack of finances should not stop anyone worthy from serving. To help get youth started or to help them get caught up with the plan, parents, family, and friends may consider donating to the youth’s missionary savings fund. To get my son motivated to save and to help him get caught up, I’m telling him that I will put $100 in his mission fund when he comes with me to the bank to open up a savings account. Parents may also want to take a look at this list of ideas for earning money and saving for a mission.

Blessings of Paying for Your Own Mission

young men earning money to pay for missionLiving and past prophets have taught that God will greatly bless the young people who are financially prepared and have saved for their own mission. Elder M. Russell Ballard has said that young people preparing for a mission “ought to have a job and save money for their missions. Every mission president would concur with me that the missionary who has worked and saved and helped pay for part or all of his or her mission is a better prepared missionary” (How to Prepare to Be a Good Missionary, Liahona, Mar. 2007).

President Spencer W. Kimball said to the youth, “Every time money comes into your hands, through gifts or earnings, set at least part of it away in a savings account to be used for your mission.” He further said, “How wonderful it would be if every boy could totally or largely finance his own mission and thereby receive most of the blessings coming from his missionary labors.”

Mission Transfers and the Two-Transfer Mission

sister missionaries on transfer day

When I was a missionary, in the 1990s, “transfer” was primarily a verb or perhaps a noun meaning that act of being transferred from one area to another. For today’s missionaries, however, “transfer” has taken on a whole new meaning and is usually a noun meaning a period of time, generally six weeks, between the transfer events. This shift in primary meaning for the word “transfer” seemed to have happened in the early 2000s (if someone has inside knowledge as to more precise timing, please let me know). In this article, we will discuss mission transfers within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, both the traditional and more modern meaning of the word, as well as the two-transfer mission that has become more common in recent years.

Transfer (Verb): to move from one area to another

Missionaries are assigned to serve in a large geographic area called a mission for two years, for young men, or eighteen months, for young women. The geographic area of the mission is usually very large, consisting of multiple large cities–it could be a whole state in the United States or even a whole country in parts Europe, Central America, or South East Asia. Missionaries are generally transferred ever three or four months to different cities or wards (congregations) within their mission. These cities or wards are referred to as the missionaries’ “area” within their mission.

I’m not totally sure why we do this periodic transferring, but I imagine it is designed to give missionaries a variety of experiences, which could vary from area to area, and it also keeps things new and interesting for the missionaries to keep them engaged in the work. While most missionaries spend a few months in an area before being transferred to a new one, the time frame can vary widely, and I’ve heard of missionaries being in an area only 1 month or for as long as a year.

Transfer (Noun): the period of time between two transfer events

When I was a missionary in Argentina from 1995 to 1997, we had transfers once a month, and since transfers always happened on the same day of the week, this meant that sometimes there would be four weeks between transfers and sometimes five weeks in between. That inconsistency of time between transfers, I presume, is what prompted the Church in the early 2000s to standardize the time between transfers to six weeks. Now, every six weeks, the mission president will transfer missionaries to different areas in the mission and that six-week length of time is now known as a “transfer”, as in a transfer period.

Not every missionary is moved to a different area every time there is a transfer–as stated before, missionaries can stay in an area for three or four transfers some time. And not every transfer event happens at the regular six-week interval. Sometimes, on rare occasions, a non-scheduled special transfer can occur due to situations such as an injury or illness causing a missionary to go home early. The change of missionaries assigned to one area can have a ripple effect in many other areas as the mission president shifts people around.

Mission Rules about Transfers

Missionaries are instructed, per the rules in the Missionary Handbook, to stay with their companion at all times. Obviously, this is not possible if the two missionaries have been transferred to two different areas. In my experience, mission presidents usually only transfer one missionary at a time out of an area, to keep continuity. But still, this can leave a missionary on his or her own for a while without the presence of their companion. In talking about transfers, the missionary handbook says:

“Unless otherwise directed by your mission president, go directly to your new area when you are transferred and meet your new companion without delay. If your companion is transferring but you are staying in the area, make arrangements with your district or zone leader so that you are never alone.” (Missionary Handbook)

How Missionary Transfers are Determined

Since transfers are on a regular schedule, it’s no secret when transfers are coming and missionaries are generally anticipating it, wondering if it will be their time to be transferred to a new area. Missionaries are usually kept in suspense about whether or not they will be transferred until a day or two before the transfer. I suppose this is designed to keep young missionaries busy in their regular schedule of teaching, rather than getting trunky and putting things aside if they were to know too far in advance that they are being transferred.
mission president coordinating transfers
There is no set amount of time for a missionary to be in an area–when the missionary is to come and go from an area depends on the inspiration that the mission president receives. Every six weeks, generally the week before transfers are to happen, the mission president will prayerfully consider the circumstances of missionaries, areas, and the will of the Lord to determine who should be transferred to where. As Elder W. Christopher Waddell of the Seventy reminded us in General Conference:

“Prophets, seers, and revelators assign missionaries under the direction and influence of the Holy Ghost. Inspired mission presidents direct transfers every six weeks and quickly learn that the Lord knows exactly where He wants each missionary to serve.” (The Opportunity of a Lifetime, Oct 2011)


Two-Transfer Missions

A two-transfer mission is a concept I first heard of also in the early 2000s. Since that time, I have heard them mentioned progressively more and more frequently. The November 16, 2018 letter from the First Presidency, in which they announced that service missions would be treated the same as proselytizing missions, mentioned the two-transfer mission, defined it, and explained how it is utilized by the Church.

“When the stake president is unsure if a candidate could serve a proselyting mission, he may discuss with the candidate the possibility of being called to a two-transfer mission, a service mission, or being honorably excused. …A two-transfer mission is a trial proselyting mission. If the trial mission is successful, the missionary may receive a 15-month or 21-month proselyting mission extension to the same or a different mission. If not, the missionary can be reassigned to a service mission.”

As you can see, the two-transfer mission is using the word transfer in reference to the six-week period of time between transfer events. A two-transfer mission is a trial mission that lasts for 12 weeks (2 six-week transfer periods). In recent years, more and more missionaries have been asked to do two-transfer missions , so please know that if this is asked of you that you are not being singled out.

If missionaries, their parents, or priesthood leaders are not sure if a traditional, full-time proselytizing mission is right for the individual, then then Church could ask them to do this two-transfer mission. During this trial period, the mission president will evaluate if he thinks the missionary would perform well in a full mission. If the answer is yes, the missionary will then receive a new call that will extend their mission to two years or eighteen months. If the answer is no, then the missionary will be honorable excused from missionary service or they may choose to serve a church service mission. (see the Church’s page called A Customized Experience)

Conclusion: Memorable Mission Transfers I Had

I have written about my first day in Argentina, including my journey there and traveling to my first area, which basically is a transfer though a unique one since you are transferring from the MTC. I have also written about my first transfer from one area in Argentina to another, so I recommend you reading about both of those memorable transfers. Additionally, I fondly remember one other transfer in Argentina after I had been serving in the Godoy Ward for several months. While there, I had baptized several people include an entire family with the last name of Godoy and a great man named German Arrieta. German and his family, when they heard I was being transferred to another city, quickly but thoroughly arranged a going away party for me. I was very moved by the gesture and was touched in my heart by the fact that German and the others loved me and would miss me.

Going Away Party at German Arrieta Home August 1997

And so it is with mission transfers. You do great work building up the Kingdom of God on earth and meet many people and make wonderful friends but eventually you get transferred away. But those friendships endure and when we all receive our final transfer to the Celestial Kingdom of Heaven, then we will be reunited. Until we meet again, God be with you.

Understanding and Helping Early Returned Missionaries

Reasons Why Missionaries Return Home Early
This website is dedicated to helping young people be better prepared to serve the Lord as full-time missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While we want every missionary that goes on a mission to complete their term of service fully and honorably, we know that a percentage of missionaries will need to come home early for one reason or another. In this article, I’d like to talk about the reasons why missionaries come home early, how to help those missionaries adjust to that reality, and what we as their friends, family, and fellow church members can do to help and support them.

Elder Holland once said this to a missionary who came home early because of mental health issues:

“Obviously we want everyone to have a full and complete mission. We’re anxious that no one succumb to homesickness or battle fatigue and truncate their mission, come home early. …But listen. Understand, this young man and anybody else out there in the audience who is concerned. There are reasons that people can’t serve a mission. There are reasons that people can’t go on a mission in the first place. We know that. We understand that. …So I say commendation to you, and the love of the Lord to you, and the blessings of the Church to you for trying to go, for wanting to go, and for the fact that you successfully served for four months.” (see Elder Holland’s Counsel for Early Returned Missionaries, March 2016)

I’ve heard many news stories in recent years about the increasing number of missionaries returning home early. While the Church doesn’t publish the exact number or percentage of missionaries returning home early, anecdotal evidence does seem to indicate the figures may be on the rise. Regardless of those trends, we know some missionaries do return home early and the brethren have taught us to love and support those individuals. As this 2014 Church News article reminds us, “Returned Missionaries Need a Friend, a Responsibility, and Spiritual Nourishment” regardless of why or when they come home.

Why Missionaries Return Home Early

Missionaries return home early from their missions for a variety of reasons—physical health issues, mental health, transgression, and other issues. A 2012 survey of 348 ERMs was published by BYU in a 2015 article called Return with Trauma: Understanding the Experiences of Early Returned Missionaries (see “Issues in Religion and Psychotherapy” Volume 37 | Number 1 | Article 9 by Kristine J. Doty of Utah Valley University and S. Zachary Bullock of Brigham Young University) examined the reason why missionaries come home early. It found that:

  • “Thirty-six percent reported that mental health issues were a factor in their return”
  • “Thirty-four percent returned due to physical health issues.”
  • “12% of the respondents came home due to unresolved transgression”
  • “11% for breaking mission rules” (see p40 of the article referenced above)

Another study of early returned missionaries (ERMs) conducted by Drake and Drake (2014) corroborated those results showing “38% of early releases were for mental illness diagnoses alone” and “34% who were released due to physical reasons” (p36). That leaves 28% for other reasons including transgression before or during mission.

That makes two studies within a two-year period that show basically the same results—the vast majority of early returned missionaries come home because of health reasons and only around a quarter of all ERMs are home early because of inappropriate behavior such as breaking the mission rules or entering the mission field with previous transgressions still unresolved.

Regardless of why missionaries come home early, almost all of them feel like they have failed at their mission and are uncomfortable talking about it. “Of the ERMs responding to the quantitative survey, 73% said they had feelings of failure. Two-thirds of ERMs felt uncomfortable in social settings, and 44% felt uncomfortable answering questions about their missions” (p 41). These feeling are prevalent among ERMs, “regardless of whether their early return was related to personal conduct” (p 41) or if it was due to health or other issues. Due to the fact that mental health issues is the biggest reason young people come home early from their missions, and due to many misunderstandings about this issue in our society, I, and the authors of the study we are examining, think it deserves a deeper exploration.

Returning for Mental Health Issues

The biggest reason missionaries are returning home early is due to mental health related issues. The authors of the study we’ve been discussing say, “mental illness is overrepresented in early returned missionaries (ERMs) compared to their peers who complete their full term of expected missionary service. For ERMs, the challenges and hardships missionaries face may overwhelm their coping resources and exacerbate the turmoil, anxiety, and crises of emerging adulthood.” (p36)

Mental illness situations, like physical illness, are sometimes unavoidable though sometimes there are steps that can be taken to mitigate their impact. There are things missionaries can do to help themselves as well as steps family, friends, and church leaders can take to help prepare young people to handle the mental and emotional stress of going on a mission.

Internal Testimony rather than External Pressure for Good Mental Health

One thing that can be done to help reduce mental health stress on missionaries is to help them develop their own testimony instead of relying on the testimonies of others. The study we’ve been discussing found that missionaries who have a strong personal testimony and desire to serve the Lord without outside pressure from family or church leaders are more likely to have good mental health during their mission. Said the authors, “A high degree of intrinsic (internal) commitment to religion tends to correlate with good mental health better than an extrinsic (external) commitment” (p 36).

This reminded me of the oft-quoted statement from Heber C. Kimball, former apostle and member of the First Presidency:

“To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourselves. The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess his personal knowledge or witness will fall. … The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand?” (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 3d. ed., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1945, pp. 449–50)

borrowed light Heber C. Kimball

 

Preparing for Transitions and Realities of Mission Life for Good Mental Health

The other suggestion from the authors to help lessen the likelihood of mental health issue by missionaries is to prepare them for the frequent transitions that occur in the mission field. Going on a mission is a big life style change for all missionaries. They transition from school or work or playing full-time, to full-time service of the Lord. They leave their family and friends and go to far off places, often having to learn a new language and culture. Every few months, they move from city to city and often have even more frequent changes in the companions they live with. There are a lot of transitions involved in missionary work, and young people will have better mental and emotional health if they know what they are getting into and are prepared for those transitions.

“A person’s mental health may be affected, however, if preparation for a transition is inadequate, if there is discontinuity between the roles, if there is too much change in too little time, or if those transitioning experience culture shock or role shock service—discrepancies between a person’s expectations and the realities of their new environments and responsibilities” (p36).

If future missionaries can be taught about the nature of missionary work and hear stories from others who have gone before them on a mission, they can be better prepared for the transitions of missionary work. And, say the authors of the study, “Mastering those transitions can lead to enhanced self-esteem, personal growth, and maturity” –all aspects of good mental health.

The benefits of emotional preparation to serve a mission cannot be understated. The study clearly showed that “missionaries who were emotionally prepared to serve and believed missionary work was the work of the Lord were more likely to have strong spiritual experiences while on the mission.”

Reception of ERMs by Home Ward Members

One aspect of the ERM experience upon which the study dwelt heavily, and which also deserves our attention, is how he or she was received by their home ward upon returning from the mission. “Fifty-eight percent [of ERMs] felt they were received indifferently or poorly by their congregation (ward), and almost half felt they were treated indifferently or poorly by their ward leaders. Thirty-one percent of the survey respondents indicated that their friends and family were indifferent or unkind.” (p 40)

Even without the judgement of others, “many ERMs feel like people assume they returned for worthiness issues. They feel stigmatized and ashamed, whether or not there was sin involved.” (p 40) However, “ERMs who felt their ward members received them better upon returning home had lower feelings of failure” (p 42)

“Nearly half of the survey respondents (47%) reported they are not as active in the Church as they were before they went on their mission.” In fact, one survey respondent said “I took a job on Sundays and that way I didn’t have to explain things to people anymore.” But again, there are things we are ward members can do to lessen the likelihood of ERMs falling away from the Church. Say the study authors, “ERMs who felt their ward members received them well upon their early return were less likely to experience a period of inactivity” (p 42).

Having said that, we should also remember to give ward members the benefit of the doubt on their reception of ERMs as often times ERMs perceive prejudice from ward members, whether or not it intended or even really there. “There appears to be a strong perceptual component to these reactions. Of the interviewees who stated they were poorly received, few had specific or concrete examples they could recall” (p 41). However, if we go out of our way to let ERMs know that they are loved and welcomed back into our wards, then we can dispel that doubt and they can enjoy the blessings of our ward families.

How to Help Early Returned Missionaries

In addition to the other helpful items we have discussed, the authors of the ERM study offer several other suggestions to help early returned missionaries. “The quick release [of an ERM] does not leave time for a young adult in the identity development phase to emotionally, mentally, or spiritually adjust to the change and consider the impact it will have on his or her immediate future.” They recommend these steps to help ERMs adjust and have a higher likelihood of remain happy, healthy, engaged with the Church and living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Allow the ERM to share his full story. “We were surprised at how many ERMs did not feel encouraged, or even comfortable, to talk about their missions to anyone.”
  • Promote empowerment. “The majority of ERMs were not given the choice whether they returned home, they feel a loss of control. …The ERM will need to feel empowered to own his or her healing journey.”
  • Teach communication skills. “Work with them to gain assertiveness skills so they can comfortably express what they need to their family members and church leaders.”
  • Encourage the use of spiritual strategies. “Fasting, prayer, temple attendance, scripture study, and most importantly application of the Atonement can provide them continued emotional and spiritual strength to find their new path.”
  • Encourage good emotional coping resources. “Help ERMs learn to reject shame and embarrassment. Many choose church inactivity as a way to cope with shame and embarrassment.”
  • Avoid urging them to return to the mission quickly. “The ERM should be empowered to focus on resolving the reason for coming home before engaging in any discussion about returning to the field. Moving on with his or her future by securing employment or attending college or vocational training may be the path he or she prefers or feels inspired to take.”
  • Consider a Church-Service Mission. “Not all ERMs can finish the full term of their proselyting missions, but many want to successfully complete their service. …[therefore] investigate whether the CSM program is an appropriate option.”

Conclusion

I’ll conclude with a word for the study authors and another great quote from Elder Holland. The study authors say, “Therapists, church leaders, family members and friends can offer support in a meaningful way to help ERMs make the needed adjustment to their unexpected return. …If ERMs can focus on being refined rather than defined by their experience, they will be much stronger to meet the future life challenges that most certainly lie ahead.”

And finally, this is what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said to one early returned missionary:

“[Your mission] wasn’t a full term, but it was missionary service. It was honest. You were loyally participating and testifying. And I want you to take credit for that. I want you to take the appropriate dignity that you deserve from that and to know that the Lord loves you and the Church loves you for serving. … I want you to be proud. Appropriately proud. I want you to take the dignity and the strength and the faith that came from your four months and cherish that forever. I don’t want you to apologize for coming home. When someone asks you if you’ve served a mission, you say yes. You do not need to follow that up with ‘But it was only four months.’ Just forget that part and say yes, you served a mission. And be proud of the time that you spent. … Cherish the service you rendered. Be grateful for the opportunity to have testified, to have been out in the name of the Lord, to have worn that missionary name plaque.”

Mission Prep Quotes from April 2019 General Conference

Answers to Prayer by Brook P. Hales

“Our youngest son was called to serve as a missionary in the France Paris Mission. In preparation to serve, we went with him to purchase the usual shirts, suits, ties, and socks, and an overcoat. Unfortunately, the overcoat he wanted was not immediately in stock in the size he needed. However, the store clerk indicated that the coat would become available in a few weeks and would be delivered to the missionary training center in Provo prior to our son’s departure for France. We paid for the coat and thought nothing more of it.

“Our son entered the missionary training center in June, and the overcoat was delivered just days before his scheduled departure in August. He did not try on the coat but hurriedly packed it in his luggage with his clothing and other items.

“As winter approached in Paris, where our son was serving, he wrote to us that he had pulled out the overcoat and tried it on but found that it was far too small. We therefore had to deposit extra funds in his bank account so that he could buy another coat in Paris, which he did. With some irritation, I wrote to him and told him to give the first coat away, inasmuch as he couldn’t use it.

“We later received this email from him: “It is very, very cold here. … The wind seems to go right through us, although my new coat is great and quite heavy. … I gave my old one to [another missionary in our apartment] who said that he had been praying for a way to get a better coat. He is a convert of several years and he has only his mom … and the missionary who baptized him who are supporting him on his mission and so the coat was an answer to a prayer, so I felt very happy about that.”

“Heavenly Father knew that this missionary, who was serving in France some 6,200 miles (10,000 km) away from home, would urgently need a new overcoat for a cold winter in Paris but that this missionary would not have the means to buy one. Heavenly Father also knew that our son would receive from the clothing store in Provo, Utah, an overcoat that would be far too small. He knew that these two missionaries would be serving together in Paris and that the coat would be an answer to the humble and earnest prayer of a missionary who had an immediate need.”

dragging your feet when it comes to sharing the gospel

Missionary Work: Sharing What Is in Your Heart by Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“Some members of the Church seem to have a gift for [missionary work]. They love being ambassadors of the gospel. They boldly and gladly serve and lead the work as member missionaries.

“However, others of us are more hesitant. When missionary work is discussed in Church meetings, heads are slowly lowered until submerged behind the pew, eyes focused on the scriptures or closed in deep meditation to avoid eye contact with other members.

“…But remember, the Lord has never required expert, flawless missionary efforts. Instead, “the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind.”

“If you are already happily doing missionary work, please continue, and stand as an example to others. The Lord will bless you.

“If, however, you feel that you have been dragging your feet when it comes to sharing the gospel message, may I suggest five guilt-free things anyone can do to participate in the Savior’s great commission to help gather Israel?”

  1. First, draw close to God.
  2. Second, fill your heart with love for others.
  3. Third, strive to walk the path of discipleship.
  4. Fourth, share what is in your heart.
  5. Fifth, trust the Lord to work His miracles.

when necessary use words

“…What I am asking is that you always look for opportunities to bring up your faith in natural and normal ways with people—both in person as well as online. I am asking that you “stand as witnesses” of the power of the gospel at all times—and when necessary, use words.”

“…Pray not only for the missionaries to find the elect. Pray daily with all your heart that you will find those who will come and see, come and help, and come and stay. Keep the full-time missionaries in the loop. They are like angels, ready to help!

“…In whatever ways seem natural and normal to you, share with people why Jesus Christ and His Church are important to you. Invite them to “come and see.” Then encourage them to come and help. There are numerous opportunities for people to help in our Church.

“Pray not only for the missionaries to find the elect. Pray daily with all your heart that you will find those who will come and see, come and help, and come and stay. Keep the full-time missionaries in the loop. They are like angels, ready to help!

“As you share the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, do so with love and patience. If we interact with people with the sole expectation that they soon will don a white jumpsuit and ask for directions to the nearest baptismal font, we’re doing it wrong.”

don a white jumpsuit and ask for directions to baptismal font

A Home Where the Spirit of the Lord Dwells by Henry B. Eyring

“Our family members will grow in their desire to share the gospel as they feel the joy of forgiveness. That can come even as they renew covenants when they partake of the sacrament. The missionary spirit will grow in our homes as children and parents feel the joy of forgiveness in the sacrament service. By their example of reverence, both parents and children can help each other feel that joy. That joy can go far in turning our homes into missionary training centers. All might not serve missions, but all will feel the desire to share the gospel, which has brought them to feel forgiveness and peace. And whether currently serving full-time or not, all can feel joy in offering the gospel to others.”

turning our homes into missionary training centers

The Quorum: A Place of Belonging by Carl B. Cook

“All 12 young men were gathered and baptized within two years of each other. Each was the only member of the Church in his family. But they were supported by their Church family.

“…Together they set a goal that they would all serve missions. Since they were the only Church members in their families, they had many obstacles to overcome, but they helped each other through them.”

“One by one, the young men received mission calls. Those who left first wrote letters home to those still preparing, sharing experiences and encouraging them to serve. Eleven of the young men served missions.

“These young men shared the gospel with their families. Mothers, sisters, brothers, friends, as well as people they taught on their missions, were converted and baptized. Miracles occurred and countless lives were blessed.”

Great Love for Our Father’s Children by Quentin L. Cook

“As General Authorities assigned to work on Preach My Gospel 15 years ago, we concluded that the attribute of love was essential to missionary work in our day, just as it has always been. Chapter 6, on Christlike attributes, including charity and love, has consistently been the most popular chapter among missionaries.

“As emissaries of the Savior, most missionaries feel this kind of love, and when they do, their efforts are blessed. When members gain a vision of this kind of love, which is essential in assisting the Lord in His purpose, the Lord’s work will be accomplished.”

Preparing for the Lord’s Return by D. Todd Christofferson

“President Nelson has repeatedly emphasized that the “gathering [of Israel] is the most important thing taking place on earth today. Nothing else compares in magnitude, nothing else compares in importance, nothing else compares in majesty. And if you choose to, … you can be a big part of it.” The Latter-day Saints have always been a missionary people. Hundreds of thousands have responded to mission calls since the beginning of the Restoration; tens of thousands currently serve. And, as Elder Quentin L. Cook has just taught, all of us can participate in simple and natural ways, in love, inviting others to join us at church, visit in our homes, become part of our circle. Publication of the Book of Mormon was the signal that the gathering had begun. The Book of Mormon itself is the instrument of gathering and conversion.”

Exercising Our Spiritual Muscles by Juan Pablo Villar

“When I was 16 years old, my oldest brother, Ivan, who was 22 at that time, came home one day and shared some news with the family. He had decided to get baptized in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our parents looked at him somewhat skeptically, and I remember not completely understanding what was going on. A year or so later, he gave us more surprising news: he had decided to serve as a missionary of the Church, which meant that we were not going to see him for two years. My parents were not thrilled with this news; however, I saw in him a clear determination that increased my admiration for him and the decision he had made.

“Months later, while Ivan was serving his mission, I had the opportunity to plan a vacation with some schoolmates. We wanted to celebrate the end of our high school years and spend a few days at the beach.

“I wrote a letter to my missionary brother, mentioning my summer vacation plans. He wrote back that the town he was serving in was on the way to my destination. I decided it would be a good idea to stop by and visit him. It was not until later that I learned that missionaries are not supposed to be visited by family.

“I made all the arrangements. I remember sitting on the bus thinking of all the fun Ivan and I would have together on this beautiful sunny day. We would have breakfast, chat, play in the sand, sunbathe—what a great time we were going to have!

“As the bus arrived at the terminal, I saw Ivan standing next to another young man, both in white shirts and ties. I got off the bus, we hugged each other, and he introduced his companion. Without wasting another minute, I told my brother my plans for the day, but little did I know what Ivan had scheduled. He looked at me, smiled, and said, “Sure! However, we need to do some errands first. Would you come with us?” I agreed, thinking that we would have enough time to enjoy the beach afterward.

“That day, for more than 10 hours, I walked through the streets of that town with my brother and his companion. I smiled at people all day. I greeted people I had never seen in my life. We talked to everyone, knocked on the doors of strangers, and visited people my brother and his companion were teaching.

“…Looking back, I realize that my faith grew that day because my brother gave me the opportunity to put it in action. I exercised it as we read from the scriptures, looked for people to teach, bore testimony, served others, and so on. We never got around to sunbathing that day, but my heart was bathed in light from heaven. I did not see even one small grain of sand at the beach, but I felt my faith grow like a small grain of mustard seed.4 I did not spend the sunny day as a tourist, but I gained wonderful experiences, and without realizing it, I was a missionary—without even being a member of the Church!

“… I am grateful for my brother Ivan, who not only shared the gospel with me but also indirectly invited me to live it and recognize my weaknesses. He helped me to accept the invitation of the Master: “Come, follow me”6—to walk as the Savior walked, seek as the Savior sought, and love as the Savior loves us. Months later, after my missionary experience, I decided to get baptized and to serve my own mission.

Prepared to Obtain Every Needful Thing by David A. Bednar

“Let me summarize a few basic implications of gospel learning becoming increasingly home centered and Church supported. The ultimate missionary training center is in our homes; secondary missionary training centers are located in Provo, Manila, Mexico City, and in other locations. Our most instructive Sunday School classes should be our individual and family study in our places of residence; helpful but secondary Sunday School classes are held in our meetinghouses.”

10 Year Anniversary of the Mission Prep Website

Summary: At the ten year anniversary of the Mission Prep website, I thought it was a good time to reflect on the history of the site, the blessings that have come to me and others through the site, and what the future may hold. 

10 years of mission prep site design evolution
It was March 1, 2009, 10 years ago from my writing today, that I launched the Mission Prep website. The idea to start this website actually came to me a year and a half prior to that. It was late 2007 and I was living in Memphis, Tennessee, and I had just accepted a job as the new Web Analytics Product Manager for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was to start my new job in January 2008 with the IT department of the Church and I was really looking forward to it. My new job would entail analyzing the data regarding traffic to all Church websites and making reports and recommendations for improvement.

As I was preparing to move to Utah, I wanted to hit the ground running in my new job and I spent a lot of time looking at the Church’s web presence. For some reason, it stood out to me at that time that there were little to no online resources specifically for young men and women preparing to serve a full-time mission.

As I contemplated what online resources could help future missionaries, my mind was drawn back to my own mission as a young man to Rosario, Argentina. I remembered fondly, and still do, my time as a missionary, and I felt my mission had been successful, both in terms of helping many people come unto Christ through the waters of baptism, as well as the blessings I personally received, temporally and spiritually. I felt like I had something to share to help future missionaries be better prepared to have a successful full-time mission. I began to feel a vision coming to my mind and heart of what a mission preparation website might contain, and I wondered if my new job at the Church might lead to opportunities to help build such a website for the Church.

With the craziness of moving my family across the country and starting a new job, I put the mission prep website toward the back of my mind. I did, though, keep my eye open for opportunities to pitch the idea to official Church website representatives during my first year of working for the Church. But when it was clear that nothing was going to develop along that front, in early 2009, I again felt urged by the Spirit of God that a mission preparation website needed to be created. The thought came to my mind that if the Church wasn’t going to build it, then I needed to do so. I acted on the prompting and immediately bought the domain name, MormonMissionPrep.com.

I had no idea if I could run a popular or successful website, but I thought I’d give it a try. And if nothing else, I thought, writing about my mission and documenting my missionary preparation advice could be of benefit to my children as they grew older and prepared to serve the Lord. The site, I thought, could also serve as a sort of sand box, or testing ground, for me to hone and improve my digital marketing, web analytics, and search engine optimization (SEO) skills.

I had tons of ideas of things to talk about on the website, and I looked forward to giving my advice and sharing the stories from my mission, particularly stories that led to the conversion of families to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. As a professional in the digital marketing and SEO field, I also started researching topics that could be discussed on the website by doing keyword research. I found people were searching for information on how to do missionary work, how to become an effective missionary, and what young people can do to be preparing for a mission now. So that’s what I wrote about.

As I operated the site in the first year, I got lots of comments and questions from visitors, and I realized that as much help youth needed in preparing spiritually, they wanted even more help navigating the temporal aspects of mission prep. I was flooded with questions about how much a mission costs, requirements to serve a mission, how to fill out a mission application form, the timeline for submitting the mission paperwork, and tons of other questions about the mission call process. Additionally, I got many questions from young people about the repentance process, how to get courage to confess sins to the bishop, and how to clear up past transgressions like law of chastity violations so they could be worthy to serve a mission.

So again, that’s what I wrote about. I added a social media presence for Mission Prep on YouTube, Facebook, and elsewhere. I posted videos, made infographics, and shared stories about missionaries. The site grew slowly but steadily. Within a year, I had several thousand people coming to the site each month. And a year after that, the site had doubled traffic again. So popular was the site that I tried my hand at writing a book on the topic of mission preparation. It was moderately successful and I hope to have time to make a revised edition of it some day.

The site reached it’s peak in traffic in late 2012 and 2013 after the announcement was made by the Church lowering the age requirement for missionaries. After that ground swell died down, the traffic leveled off to roughly were it is today–a popular destination for thousands of people a month, youth, parents, and leaders of future missionaries, to get practical tips on all things related to spiritual and temporal missionary preparation.

I guess one of the things I am most surprised at now is that after ten years, I haven’t run out of new things to post to the site and there doesn’t appear to be a shortage of new topics for the foreseeable future. I wish I had more time to write articles for the website, but I am super busy with a large family, full-time work, and Church callings. When I started the site, I had three kids and now I have six, which as it turns out is exponentially more work, not just double. 🙂 Of course I love my family and they are my top priority, which is why I am not able to write more often. I do, though, offer this site as a place for you in the community to offer your mission prep advice to the future generation. Go see my page of guest post opportunities on Mission Prep if you’d like to publish an article here.

As my kids get older and begin to leave the house, I hope to have more time to dedicate to this site. In the meantime, I’ll plug along posting articles, answering visitors’ questions, and making updates as often as I can. I have been richly blessed by running the website and by pondering frequently on one of our core duties as disciples of Jesus to share his gospel with the world. I had a prompting from the Spirit of God and I followed it. I didn’t realize at the time how it would affect my life so dramatically, consuming so much time and energy, but it has and I have grown from the experience.

Hopefully this website has also been a great benefit to the thousands of readers who have come across the Mission Prep site and will do so in the future. May God bless and be with you all as you prepare yourselves to go and serve the Lord and your fellow beings as full time missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Missionary Phone Calls, Texts, and Video Chats with Family

sister missionaries communicating with family on pday

On February 15, 2019, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made an exciting announcement about the youth full-time missionary program. “Effective immediately, missionaries are authorized to communicate with their families each week on preparation day via text messages, online messaging, phone calls, and video chat in addition to letters and emails.” (That’s from the Missionary Department memo to Church leaders called “Missionaries Communicating with Their Families“.)

In additional to the weekly calls on preparation day (p-day) that are now allowed, missionaries also are encouraged to communicate with their families on special occasions such as their parents’ birthdays and other holidays of significance in the missionary’s home country or culture (like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.). It should also be noted that missionaries are still encouraged to write letters or emails to their family and friends to share their spiritual experiences and to have a good written record of the mission.

Prior to this announcement, and as long as I can remember, young missionaries had been only allowed two phone calls home per year, once on Mother’s Day and once on Christmas. This mission rule was designed to help missionaries stay focused on their job of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, and there were other practical reasons for the rule. When I went on my mission to Argentina, which was only about 20 years ago, long distance phone calls would cost an arm and a leg, making the cost of calling home very often prohibitive. Nowadays, however, phone calls, even international ones, are relatively inexpensive and video chats can often take place at no charge. I suspect this change in communication technology and costs is one of the reasons for the policy change.

Included in the announcement from the Church on this topic, they released a video of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf explaining some of the reasons why the Church has made this change. He lists the following as an explanation of why Church leadership has instituted these new mission communication rules and the benefits we can all expect to see:

  • Missionaries love their families want to share their experiences with people back home.
  • Families want to hear what their missionaries are doing.
  • Part of the joy of missionary work is sharing what you do with your loved ones.
  • The Church hopes that a closer connection between missionaries and their families will stem from this.
  • Both missionaries and families should feel more comfortable with the situation of youth being away from home for two years or 18 months.
  • Missionaries will more motivate than even to go out and serve the lord with even brighter heart and a more joyful countenance.

Here are a few other important things to remember from the communication from the Church on this topic:

  • The missionary needs to be the one who initiates the phone call, text, or video chat.
  • The call and chats are meant to take place on the missionary’s preparation day (p-day).
  • If the family has a need to contact their missionary directly, they should contact the mission president first.
  • If a missionary’s parents live in two different locations, the missionary may contact each parent separately.
  • It is not expected that missionaries will call or video chat with their parents every week.
  • Missionaries should be wise in determining the duration of phone calls and video chats, be considerate of their companions and keep in mind the purpose of their service, to invite people to follow Jesus Christ.

I personally feel that this is a positive move. I believe missionaries will now be able to get an extra boost of comfort and reassurance from their families that will help them serve with more confidence, energy, and enthusiasm. In the next few years my children will be old enough to serve missions and our family, particularly my wife, will be greatly comforted to know that she’ll be able to talk to her children once a week, hear their voice, and receive extra reassurance that they are well and that they are doing great work to build the kingdom of God.

This Missionary is TOAST–thriving off awkward situations today

sister missionary car stuck in mud
Editor’s note: My niece has been serving a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the past 18 months in Oklahoma, USA, Spanish speaking. She gets home this week and below is one of the last emails she sent home to her family and friends. I thought it was a good representation of mission life and a good example of hard work and persistence in the face of trials so I include it here on this website with her permission.

We were talking to one of the other missionaries the other day and he was saying his motto for his mission is “TOAST” which stands for “thriving off awkward situations today” which I’ve decided to adopt myself. So, drum roll please, get ready for the top 3 TOAST moments of the week:

1. We were out tracting (knocking doors) in the cold on Saturday. We were walking back towards the car and we saw a lady in her garage a house or two down. The little devil on my shoulder says “don’t go talk to her. That’s weird. She won’t want to talk to you anyways. She’ll probably run you off.” The little angel on my other shoulder says “open your mouth and it will be filled! Send it! Con ganas! (with desire or eagerness)” I looked at my companion, Sister Wendt and was like “well, this might be kind of awkward, but let’s go for it!” We walked down her driveway and started talking to her. She was on her way out, so really quick before she got in her car we offered her a Book of Mormon…. and she accepted! She gave us her number and we are going to schedule a time to meet with her!

2. Sister Wendt and I went out to try to contact an investigator the missionaries in this area had taught before. We got to the neighborhood and pulled over for a second so that we could figure out exactly how to get to their house. All of the sudden we hear the engine start straining, and there’s mud flinging everywhere. We didn’t realize it but we pulled over right into a deep muddy ditch, and we got super stuck. We knocked on the closest house, and the lady opens the door and she seriously at least 20 dogs came out. That is not even exaggerating. And they were all barking and yipping and howling. So we’re trying to explain to her what happened and ask for help but it’s impossible to hear because we’re trying to yell over all the racket and at the same time fend off all the dogs that were coming at us.

Finally the lady just told us to try backing out. So we go back to the car, and we try again, but we’re still stuck. At this point another guy and his daughter walk up to us and start trying to dig the car out. As we talked to them, we realized they were the former investigators we were trying to find in the first place! The digging did nothing, so we called a ward member to pull us out and they got us out, thankfully. And we did get to find that former investigator, so it all worked out in the end, and it makes for a good story now, haha. We might need a car wash now though.

3. On Saturday, we decided to watch one of the videos of Jesus’ life with one of the people we had met. In the middle of the video, the husband of the family we were with says, “wait, I just remembered another video I really like” and proceeds to look up on his phone the music video for Ray Stevens – The Mississippi Squirrel Revival. Sister Wendt and I tried to redirect the conversation, but to no avail. So we now can say we have seen the Mississippi Squirrel Revival music video. I still like the videos of Christ’s life better, but to each his own.

Love you all! I know God is watching out for all of you!

Hermana (Sister) Smith

sister smith and wendt - missionaries in oklahoma

Modesty in Principle and Practice

youth girls and boys walkingSummary: A review of the doctrines and principles that influence what is modest as well as an overview of the modesty standards in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet.

I have an analytical nature and I often analyze gospel doctrines and principles in order to understand them better. I find great insights often come by understand what’s at the core gospel topics. I have two teenage children, and modesty has been coming up as a topic more often so I thought I should do an analysis of the principles and practices of modesty. Many people typically think of modesty as a topic that applies primarily to how people dress, particularly for women. My study of the subject, however, shows that topic applies to behavior far beyond the clothes we wear and the modesty topic is just as applicable to men as it is to women.

Modesty Defined

The Church defines modesty as so: “Modesty is an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves. Instead, we seek to “glorify God in [our] body, and in [our] spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:20; see also 1 Corinthians 6:19).” (see https://www.lds.org/topics/modesty?lang=eng)

A few parts of this definition stick out to me:

  1. Modesty is about more than how you dress. It’s about dress, and grooming, and language, and all aspects of behavior.
  2. Modesty is about using “propriety” in our dress and behavior.
  3. Modesty is about giving glory to God and avoiding “undue attention” for ourselves.

So, let’s dive into what it means to have “propriety” in our dress and behavior, as well as the difference between “undue attention” and appropriate attention, and I think this will naturally lead into how modesty is a matter of all aspects behavior and not just our physical appearance.

What is “propriety” in dress and behavior?

Propriety is a word that many youth may be unfamiliar with. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary says propriety means the “state of being proper or suitable : appropriateness.” Therefore, to be modest is to be appropriate in dress, grooming, language, and all behavior. What is appropriate in one situation, may not be appropriate in another situation, so we must look at surrounding circumstances when determining modesty. For example, wearing a swim suit at a swimming pool is appropriate, but wearing a swim suit to school would not be appropriate and would therefore not be modest.

Since modesty is connected to the larger situation or context—where you are, what type activity you are engaged in, etc. –what is modest in one situation may not be modest in another situation. This reality helps explain why modesty is such a difficult topic to teach and underscores the importance of helping youth truly understand the principle of modesty in order to live it.

Other contextual factors that influence modesty could be what country you live in and what year you live in. If someone showed up at a Church meeting in Joseph Smith’s day wearing a modern suit or dress, their style would likely be considered extreme and therefore immodest. And vice versa, if someone showed up at a modern Church meeting wearing a robe and sandals from New Testament times, their dress would not be proper and would therefore be immodest. The exact same robe would be modest in a first century church meeting, but immodest in a 21st century Sunday school class.

Glory to God and Not Undue Attention to Ourselves

The other aspect of the definition of modesty that stood out to me was that we should not draw undue attention to ourselves, but rather, we should glorify God and bring attention to Him. This principle of bringing glory to God, I believe, really gets at the heart of modesty. As in all things, Jesus Christ is our prime example for giving all glory to God the Father rather than taking attention for ourselves.

In the pre-mortal council in Heaven, we are taught that Satan came before God and said “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” But God’s Beloved Son Jesus Christ said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” (see Moses 4:1-2) Jesus did not want to take inappropriate attention or honor to himself. He was dedicated to bringing glory to God and he did that by honoring God’s will in all he did.

We see this principle of bringing glory to God carried out throughout Jesus’s life. Jesus taught:

  • “Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.” Matthew 6:13
  • “The light of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single to the glory of God, thy whole body shall be full of light.” (Matthew 6:22, Joseph Smith Translation)
  • “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me” John 8:28
  • “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do” John 5:19
  • “Not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Modesty is about bringing glory to God rather than attention to ourselves and Jesus is our example so therefore we should do as Jesus taught when he said that mankind shall “not live by bread alone” but that we should live “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4) Furthermore, God has said in the latter-days that “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38) We know that God is interested in modesty because through his modern prophetic servants, he has taught us standards of what is appropriate in dress and behavior.

The prophet has given us For the Strength of Youth standards which outline appropriate, modest dress and behavior and we will go over those standards a little later. But before we go into those details, the dos and don’ts of modesty, let’s examine more of the underlying principles of being modest.

Your Body is a Temple, therefore Glorify God

Most youth in the Church have heard that the physical body is a temple because it houses the spirit of God. This relates to modesty because, taught Paul, that like a temple we should use our body to glorify God. He said, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Paul is teaching that dress, grooming, language, behavior, and other things we do with our body can and should be used to glorify God. These outward expressions of our body are symbolic of our inward honor and glory that we give God. Conversely, immodest dress and grooming and inappropriate language and behavior can also be an outward expression of our inward pride and arrogance and neglect toward God.

Inward vs Outward Modesty

In an ideal world, the outward would always be an expression of the inward, but in this world, that is not always the case. Jesus taught, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:15) Conversely, the Savior taught by example that there are people who may appear bad on the outside, but on the inside, they are closer to God than most of us. “But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?” (Luke 5:30)

While in this life, the outward is not always an expression of the inward, it often is and our long-term eternal goal is to be godly, inside and out. There are many people who are modest in dress and behavior, but inwardly still need to improve the way they glory and honor God. Conversely, there are many people who are inwardly dedicated to glorifying God, but their dress and actions still needs some improvement to reflect that. And there are plenty of people who need improvement both inwardly and outwardly.

A Tale of Two Trees

two treesSome years ago, I met a friend who had bought a home with two large, beautiful oak trees on the property. He thought that these trees would stand for many years adding shade and beauty to his yard. However, not long afterwards, when a fierce thunder storm came through the area, one of the trees came crashing down. In the morning, when friend inspected the fallen tree, he discovered that it had been infected with insects and was rotting on the inside. While the looked strong outwardly, inwardly it was damaged and dying. Like these trees, if modesty standards are only surface level, outward only and not internalized then they will not help you withstand the storms of life. When our outward modesty is an expression of our inward reverence and glory to God, then we will be strong, inside and out, and we will be able to withstand the storms like the tree that stood firm.

Deep Beauty Shines from the Inside Out

Speaking on this topic in 2010, former Young Women’s General President Elaine S. Dalton said, “‘Deep beauty’ [is] the kind of beauty that shines from the inside out. It is the kind of beauty that cannot be painted on, surgically created, or purchased. It is the kind of beauty that doesn’t wash off. It is spiritual attractiveness. Deep beauty springs from virtue. It is the beauty of being chaste and morally clean. . . . It is a beauty that is earned through faith, repentance, and honoring covenants. The world places so much emphasis on physical attractiveness and would have you believe that you are to look like the elusive model on the cover of a magazine. The Lord would tell you that you are each uniquely beautiful” (Elaine S. Dalton, “Remember Who You Are!” March 2010 general Young Women meeting).

For the Strength of Youth

For The Strength of Youth PamphletThe prophets have documented their teachings about appropriate dress and behavior in a booklet called For the Strength of Youth (FTSOY). Therefore, I think it is appropriate to conduct a brief review of the dress and conduct standards outlined by the prophet there. In FTSOY, the First Presidency of the Church reminds us that the modesty standards of dress and behavior standards established there will help us look appropriate, act appropriate, and become people inside and out that will be able to have eternal joy in the Celestial Kingdom of glory. They have said:

“The standards in this booklet will help you with the important choices you are making now and will yet make in the future. We promise that as you keep the covenants you have made and these standards, you will be blessed. … Keeping the standards in this booklet will help you be worthy to attend the temple, where you can perform sacred ordinances for your ancestors now and make essential covenants for yourself in the future. … It is our fervent prayer that you will remain steadfast and valiant throughout your lives and that you will trust in the Savior and His promises.” Click here to read my related article on the history of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet.

Appropriate Dress and Appearance

“Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner. Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance. Young men and young women should be neat and clean and avoid being extreme or inappropriately casual in clothing, hairstyle, and behavior. They should choose appropriately modest apparel when participating in sports.” (FTSOY)

“Can ye be puffed up in the pride of your hearts; yea, will ye still persist in the wearing of costly apparel and setting your hearts upon the vain things of the world, upon your riches?” (Alma 5:53) Click here to read my related article on dress and grooming standards for missionaries.

Appropriate Language

The language we use isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind when talking about modesty, but it is just as much a part of that topic as how we dress. Remember, modesty is an outward expression of our inward feelings, feeling about ourselves, about God, and about our relationship with God and others. Our inward reverence to God, or lack thereof, shows outwardly in our dress and in our language.

The prophets have taught: “How you communicate should reflect who you are as a son or daughter of God. Clean and intelligent language is evidence of a bright and wholesome mind. Good language that uplifts, encourages, and compliments others invites the Spirit to be with you. …Speak kindly and positively about others. Choose not to insult others or put them down, even in joking. Avoid gossip of any kind, and avoid speaking in anger. …Do not use profane, vulgar, or crude language or gestures, and do not tell jokes or stories about immoral actions. These are offensive to God and to others. Remember that these standards for your use of language apply to all forms of communication, including texting on a cell phone or communicating on the Internet.” (FTSOY)

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Appropriate Behavior

Just like King Benjamin who said, “I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin” (Mosiah 4:29), it would be impossible to list all the behaviors that are appropriate and inappropriate. But let me attempt to touch on a few important areas:

Appropriate Behavior: No Bullying

Extremes in Friendship can be bad on either end of the spectrum leading to cliques on the one end that exclude people and bullying and mistreating others on the other end of the spectrum. “To have good friends, be a good friend. Show genuine interest in others; smile and let them know you care about them. Treat everyone with kindness and respect, and refrain from judging and criticizing those around you. Do not participate in any form of bullying. Make a special effort to be a friend to those who are shy or lonely, have special needs, or do not feel included.” (FTSOY)

Appropriate Behavior: Honesty and Integrity

“Closely associated with honesty is integrity. Integrity means thinking and doing what is right at all times, no matter what the consequences. When you have integrity, you are willing to live by your standards and beliefs even when no one is watching. Choose to live so that your thoughts and behavior are always in harmony with the gospel.” (FTSOY)

Appropriate Behavior: Music

Styles of music can be influenced by the world, extreme, and immodest just like styles of dress. Remaining modest means also being modest in the music we listen to. “Music has a profound effect on your mind, spirit, and behavior. Choose carefully the music you listen to. Pay attention to how you feel when you are listening. Some music can carry evil and destructive messages. Do not listen to music that encourages immorality or glorifies violence through its lyrics, beat, or intensity. Do not listen to music that uses vulgar or offensive language or promotes evil practices. Such music can dull your spiritual sensitivity.” (FTSOY)

Appropriate Behavior: Dancing

“Dancing can be fun and can provide an opportunity to meet new people. However, it too can be misused. When dancing, avoid full body contact with your partner. Do not use positions or moves that are suggestive of sexual or violent behavior or are otherwise inappropriate. Attend only those dances where dress, grooming, lighting, lyrics, music, and entertainment contribute to a wholesome atmosphere where the Spirit may be present.” (FTSOY)

Appropriate Behavior: Dating

“A date is a planned activity that allows a young man and a young woman to get to know each other better. In cultures where dating is acceptable, it can help you learn and practice social skills, develop friendships, have wholesome fun, and eventually find an eternal companion. You should not date until you are at least 16 years old. When you begin dating, go with one or more additional couples. Avoid going on frequent dates with the same person. Developing serious relationships too early in life can limit the number of other people you meet and can perhaps lead to immorality. Invite your parents to become acquainted with those you date. Choose to date only those who have high moral standards and in whose company you can maintain your standards.” (FTSOY)

Appropriate Behavior: Sexual Purity

“Do not have any sexual relations before marriage, and be completely faithful to your spouse after marriage. …Never do anything that could lead to sexual transgression. Treat others with respect, not as objects used to satisfy lustful and selfish desires. Before marriage, do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body. Pay attention to the promptings of the Spirit so that you can be clean and virtuous.”

“Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. …God has commanded that sexual intimacy be reserved for marriage. When you are sexually pure, you prepare yourself to make and keep sacred covenants in the temple. …Do not participate in any type of pornography. The Spirit can help you know when you are at risk and give you the strength to remove yourself from the situation. …Make a personal commitment to be sexually pure.” (FTSOY) Click here to read my related article on the law of chastity.

Conclusion

I encourage you to be intentional about modesty. If you’re not intentional you will get caught up in the fashions and behaviors of the world, which are often designed to be provocative and sensational and not in line with the teachings of the prophets of God. We should be intentional in our clothes choices and try to convey reverence for God and ourselves in all our behavior.

In President Russell M. Nelson’s worldwide devotional for youth in June 2018, he encouraged modesty in dress and behavior. He said, “The Lord needs you to look like, sound like, act like, and dress like a true disciple of Jesus Christ” (“Hope of Israel”, worldwide youth devotional, June 3, 2018). As you do so, “you will be blessed with the companionship of the Holy Ghost, your faith and testimony will grow stronger, and you will enjoy increasing happiness.” (FTSOY)

P.S. Below is a link to a Kahoot quiz I built about the standards from the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet that goes along with this lesson on modesty.

Mission Prep Quotes from October 2018 General Conference

missionary work ministering to the spiritual needs of others

Deep and Lasting Conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ by Elder Quentin L. Cook

“There is so much more to this adjustment than just shortening the Sunday meetinghouse schedule. President Nelson has acknowledged with gratitude how much is being accomplished as a result of your faithfulness to previous invitations. He and the entire leadership of the Church desire to bring greater gospel joy—to parents, children, youth, singles, the elderly, new converts, and those people the missionaries are teaching—through a home-centered, Church-supported, balanced effort.”

Lift Up Your Head and Rejoice by M. Joseph Brough

“Young people, God requires hard things of you. One 14-year-old young woman participated in competitive basketball. She dreamed of playing high school basketball like her older sister. She then learned that her parents had been called to preside over a mission in Guatemala.

“Upon arrival, she discovered that a couple of her classes would be in Spanish, a language she did not yet speak. There was not a single girls’ sports team at her school. She lived on the 14th floor of a building with tight security. And to top it all off, she could not go outside alone for safety reasons.

“Her parents listened to her cry herself to sleep every night for months. This broke their hearts! They finally decided they would send her home to her grandmother for high school.

“When my wife entered our daughter’s room to tell her our decision, she saw our daughter kneeling in prayer with the Book of Mormon open on the bed. The Spirit whispered to my wife, “She will be OK,” and my wife quietly left the room. We never heard her cry herself to sleep again. With determination and the Lord’s help, she faced those three years valiantly.”

“At the conclusion of our mission, I asked my daughter if she was going to serve a full-time mission. Her answer was “No, Dad, I have already served.” I was just fine with that! But about six months later, the Spirit awoke me in the night with this thought: “I have called your daughter to serve a mission.”

“My reaction was “Heavenly Father, she has given so much.” I was quickly corrected by the Spirit and came to understand that her missionary service was required of the Lord.

“I soon took my daughter to lunch. From across the table, I said, “Ganzie, do you know why we are here?” She said, “Yes, Dad. You know I have to serve a mission. I do not want to go, but I am going.”

“Because she gave her will to Heavenly Father, she served Him with all of her heart, might, mind, and strength. She has taught her father how to do a hard thing.”

Laying the Foundation of a Great Work by Elder Steven R. Bangerter

“Our lives have been blessed by setting aside time on a regular basis to enjoy personal interviews with each of our sons. During one interview I asked our son about his desires and preparation to serve a mission. After some discussion, there was a moment of reflective silence; then he leaned forward and thoughtfully declared, “Dad, remember when I was little and we started having father’s interviews?” I said, “Yes.” “Well,” he said, “I promised you then that I would serve a mission, and you and Mom promised me that you would serve a mission when you got old.” Then there was another pause. “Are you guys having some problem that will stop you from serving—because maybe I can help?”

Truth and the Plan by President Dallin H. Oaks

“We are a missionary people. We are sometimes asked why we send missionaries to so many nations, even among Christian populations. We receive the same question about why we give many millions of dollars of humanitarian aid to persons who are not members of our Church and why we do not link this aid to our missionary efforts. We do this because we esteem all mortals as children of God—our brothers and sisters—and we want to share our spiritual and temporal abundance with everyone.”we are missionary people

Believe, Love, Do by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“Just think about missionary work; the courageous, humble, and confident sharing of the gospel is a wonderful example of ministering to the spiritual needs of others, whoever they are.”

Sisters’ Participation in the Gathering of Israel by President Russell M. Nelson

“In our worldwide youth devotional last June, I spoke about a young man whose life changed when his parents exchanged his smartphone for a flip phone. This young man’s mother is a fearless woman of faith. She saw her son drifting toward choices that could prevent him from serving a mission. She took her pleadings to the temple to know how best to help her son. Then she followed through with every impression.

“She said: “I felt the Spirit guiding me to check my son’s phone at specific times to catch specific things. I don’t know how to navigate these smartphones, but the Spirit guided me through all the social media that I don’t even use! I know the Spirit helps parents who are seeking guidance to protect their children. [At first] my son was furious with me. … But after only three days, he thanked me! He could feel the difference.”

“Her son’s behavior and attitudes changed dramatically. He became more helpful at home, smiled more, and was more attentive at church. He loved serving for a time in a temple baptistry and preparing for his mission.”

The Role of the Book of Mormon in Conversion by Elder Shayne M. Bowen

“As a young missionary going to Chile, I learned a life-changing lesson about the conversion power of the Book of Mormon. Mr. Gonzalez served in a respected position in his church for many years. He had extensive religious training, including a degree in theology. He was quite proud of his biblical expertise. It was obvious to us that he was a religious scholar.

“He was well aware of the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as they went about their work in his home city of Lima, Peru. He always wanted to meet with them so that he could school them in the Bible.

“One day, almost as a gift from heaven, so he thought, two missionaries stopped him in the street and asked if they could come to his home and share the scriptures with him. This was his dream come true! His prayers had been answered. Finally, he could set these misguided young boys straight. He told them that he would be delighted to have them come to his house and discuss the scriptures.

“He could hardly wait for his appointment. He was ready to use the Bible to disprove their beliefs. He was confident that the Bible would clearly and articulately point out the error of their ways. The appointed night came, and the missionaries knocked on the door. He was giddy. His moment had finally arrived.

“He opened the door and invited the missionaries into his home. One of the missionaries handed him a blue book and bore a sincere testimony that he knew the book contained the word of God. The second missionary added his powerful testimony of the book, testifying that it had been translated by a modern prophet of God named Joseph Smith and that it taught of Christ. The missionaries excused themselves and left his home.

“Mr. Gonzalez was so disappointed. But he opened the book, and he started to leaf through its pages. He read the first page. He read page after page after page and didn’t stop until late into the afternoon of the next day. He read the whole book and knew that it was true. He knew what he had to do. He called the missionaries, received the lessons, and gave up the life he had known to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”