This category of blog posts contains articles designed to help members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in preparing for a mission. The articles are on a variety of topics containing both practical tips for preparing physically as well as many posts on spiritual topics designed to help missionaries be prepared with knowledge and testimony of the restored gospel.

Preparing for the Physical Demands of a Mission

youth exercising credit churchofjesuschrist.org

“Bishops and stake presidents have the serious responsibility to identify worthy, qualified members who are spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for this sacred service and who can be recommended without reservation” (First Presidency letter, Dec. 11, 2002).

I have written previously about preparing for the emotional demands of missionary service, and much of this site is about spiritually preparing, but one thing I haven’t written much on is what young people should do to prepare for the physical demands of missionary service. Missionary work is just that–work, and it is often hard physically work. Missionaries should be physically healthy and be capable of performing the physical tasks common to missionary work.

Physical preparation includes getting your body physically fit through exercise, learning to follow a healthy sleep schedule, being accustomed to following personal hygiene rules, and learning to eat healthy foods, among other things. A few years ago, Donald B. Doty, Chairman of the Missionary Department Health Services, wrote an article for the March 2007 Ensign magazine called “Missionary Health Preparation.” In the article, he advised future missionaries to start habits of physical health long before their full-time mission. Here is some of his advice.

Regular / Daily Physical Exercise

“A missionary must be able to walk an average of six miles (10 km) per day and ride a bicycle 12 miles (19 km) per day. Prospective missionaries who aren’t walking more than from the car to a class or a job will likely get sore feet and blisters when they reach the mission field. Those who are not used to riding a bicycle regularly will also become very “saddle sore” when a bike becomes their primary means of transportation. A missionary who is out of shape will be fatigued by missionary work, and a tired missionary is more open to discouragement and health concerns than a missionary who is physically fit.”

“Prospective missionaries can prepare for the rigors of missionary life by establishing a regular pattern of aerobic exercise—walking, running, or cycling for one hour every day. Those whose primary form of exercise is playing electronic games or text messaging will take at least four months to achieve the level of conditioning that will allow them to actually enjoy a workout.”

Healthy Eating Habits, Weight, and Cooking

“Rather than living on sugar and fat, young people should learn to enjoy meals consisting of protein and fiber, such as lean meat, yogurt, vegetables, and fruit. Also, drinking more than 12 ounces of carbonated beverage per day is too much. The Missionary Department requires that missionaries have a body mass index no higher than 37. This is actually on the border between obesity and morbid obesity. Prospective missionaries should strive to keep their weight in the normal range, thereby avoiding obesity-related health problems. Being markedly under normal weight can also have serious health consequences.”

“Parents can help their sons and daughters learn how to prepare simple, healthy meals. I stress the word simple because missionaries often cook food on a hot plate or a single gas burner and may not have an oven. Every prospective missionary needs to know the basics of cooking and sanitary food handling.”

Adequate Sleep Habits

“Although sleep needs vary, young adults generally need to sleep seven to eight hours per day. Ideally, they should be in bed by 10:30 to midnight and out of bed by 6:30 to 8:00 a.m. Staying up until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. and sleeping until 10:00 a.m. leaves a person feeling tired all the time and wanting to sleep until noon. Staying up all night to cram for examinations, playing video games most of the night, or working a graveyard shift can be detrimental because keeping late hours resets the body’s clock. Missionaries live a scheduled life. They are in bed by 10:30 p.m. and up by 6:30 a.m. every day. This schedule will be difficult unless prospective missionaries get into a similar routine well in advance of the call to service.”

Employment and Work Ethic

“Missionary work is just that, work. There is nothing easy about missionary work, so young people should develop the ability to work reliably. A regular job teaches such habits as getting to work on time, not missing work unnecessarily, doing assigned tasks well, looking for more work when the assigned task is completed, and not going home early. A job also helps young people understand the value of money. Where possible, prospective missionaries should plan to pay as much of the cost of the mission as possible, rather than depending on parents or donations from others. Helping pay for their own missions will help prospective missionaries learn to live within the stringent missionary allowance.”

Personal Hygiene

“Personal cleanliness and good grooming habits are vital to missionary success. Favorable first impressions are lasting. Clean hands also help missionaries stay healthy and prevent the spread of communicable diseases.” On dental health, he said, “prevention is the key to good dental health. This means a habit of brushing teeth at least morning and night, daily use of dental floss, and consistent visits to your dentist.” Not mentioned by Brother Doty, but other personal hygiene items probably applicable to some young people is getting in the habit of showering daily, using deodorant, and learning to do their own laundry.

Finally, Brother Doty encouraged young people not to wait to establish these habits of physical health. “Those who wait to prepare until the last minute or until after they have received the call to serve may not be ready and may even have their missions delayed.” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated, “The single most important thing you can do to prepare for a call to serve is to become a missionary long before you go on a mission.” (“Becoming a Missionary,” Ensign, Nov. 2005) That includes becoming physically fit and ready for the physical demands of missionary work. And as missionaries are more physically prepared, they will be better servants in hands of God and more effective in inviting other to come unto Christ.

Mission Prep Class: Lesson 6: Preparing for Life as a Missionary – Video and Podcast

In this video (above) and podcast (below), I am teaching Lesson 6 of the Mission Preparation class from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to my teenage kids. The lesson topic is preparing for life as a missionary, particularly, how to prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I began planning this series of lessons (there are 15 lessons in all for the Church’s Mission Prep course) long ago but the timing could turn out to be very good for people stuck at home right now due to the COVID-19 virus quarantine. The video/audio is about 40 minutes, so you will want to set aside enough time to watch or listen to it. It could be a great Sabbath day activity to do on a Sunday. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: While I am going by the Church’s Mission Prep manual, please remember this video is not a publication of the Church. I am simply a dad, teaching my children, and I’m sharing our lesson for others to enjoy. This video is not meant to replace the Mission Prep class people can take from their stake or ward or the Church Education System, but for those people wanting to prepare for a mission and unable to take that class, I hope this digital lesson helps fill the gap.

Mission Prep Class: Lesson 5: What is the Role of the Book of Mormon? – Video and Podcast

In this video (above) and podcast (below), I am teaching Lesson 5 of the Mission Preparation class from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to my teenage kids. The lesson topic is the role of the Book of Mormon in missionary work. For investigators, an essential part of conversion is receiving a witness from God that the Book of Mormon is true. For missionaries, a personal testimony of the Book of Mormon is also essential to share their message with power. The Book of Mormon is powerful evidence of the divinity of Jesus Christ and provides another testament of his life, mission, and atonement.

I began planning this series of lessons (there are 15 lessons in all for the Church’s Mission Prep course) long ago but the timing could turn out to be very good for people stuck at home right now due to the COVID-19 virus quarantine. The video/audio is about 40 minutes, so you will want to set aside enough time to watch or listen to it. It could be a great Sabbath day activity to do on a Sunday. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: While I am going by the Church’s Mission Prep manual, please remember this video is not a publication of the Church. I am simply a dad, teaching my children, and I’m sharing our lesson for others to enjoy. This video is not meant to replace the Mission Prep class people can take from their stake or ward or the Church Education System, but for those people wanting to prepare for a mission and unable to take that class, I hope this digital lesson helps fill the gap.

Mission Prep Class: Lesson 4: Teaching by the Spirit of God – Video and Podcast

In this video (above) and podcast (below), I am teaching Lesson 4 of the Mission Preparation class from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to my teenage kids. The lesson topic is Teaching by the Spirit of God. Missionaries must teach by the power of the Holy Ghost because it is the Spirit of God, not the missionaries or their words, that cause people to be converted to Jesus Christ.

I began planning this series of lessons (there are 15 lessons in all for the Church’s Mission Prep course) long ago but the timing could turn out to be very good for people stuck at home right now due to the COVID-19 virus quarantine. The video/audio is about 45 minutes, so you will want to set aside enough time to watch or listen to it. It could be a great Sabbath day activity to do on a Sunday. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: While I am going by the Church’s Mission Prep manual, please remember this video is not a publication of the Church. I am simply a dad, teaching my children, and I’m sharing our lesson for others to enjoy. This video is not meant to replace the Mission Prep class people can take from their stake or ward or the Church Education System, but for those people wanting to prepare for a mission and unable to take that class, I hope this digital lesson helps fill the gap.

Mission Prep Class: Lesson 3: Learning by the Spirit of God – Video and Podcast

In this video (above) and podcast (below), I am teaching Lesson 3 of the Mission Preparation class from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to my teenage kids. The lesson topic is Learning by the Spirit of God. Before missionaries can teach by the Spirit, which is essential, they first must come to understand how to learn by the Spirit.

I began planning this series of lessons (there are 15 lessons in all for the Church’s Mission Prep course) long ago but the timing could turn out to be very good for people stuck at home right now due to the COVID-19 virus quarantine. The video/audio is about 40 minutes, so you will want to set aside enough time to watch or listen to it. It could be a great Sabbath day activity to do on a Sunday. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: While I am going by the Church’s Mission Prep manual, please remember this video is not a publication of the Church. I am simply a dad, teaching my children, and I’m sharing our lesson for others to enjoy. This video is not meant to replace the Mission Prep class people can take from their stake or ward or the Church Education System, but for those people wanting to prepare for a mission and unable to take that class, I hope this digital lesson helps fill the gap.

Mission Prep Class: Lesson 2: Our Need for the Atonement of Jesus Christ – Video and Podcast

In this video (above) and podcast (below), I am teaching Lesson 2 of the Mission Preparation class from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to my teenage kids. The lesson topic is Our Need for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. When young people understand the blessings that only come through Jesus and have a testimony of his role as our Savior, they naturally will have desires to share the good news of the gospel by being a missionary.

I began planning this series of lessons (there are 15 lessons in all for the Church’s Mission Prep course) long ago but the timing could turn out to be very good for people stuck at home right now due to the COVID-19 virus quarantine. The video/audio is about 40 minutes, so you will want to set aside enough time to watch or listen to it. It could be a great Sabbath day activity to do on a Sunday. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: While I am going by the Church’s Mission Prep manual, please remember this video is not a publication of the Church. I am simply a dad, teaching my children, and I’m sharing our lesson for others to enjoy. This video is not meant to replace the Mission Prep class people can take from their stake or ward or the Church Education System, but for those people wanting to prepare for a mission and unable to take that class, I hope this digital lesson helps fill the gap.

Mission Prep Class: Lesson 1: The Missionary Purpose – Video and Podcast

In this video (above) and podcast (below), I am teaching Lesson 1 of the Mission Preparation class from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to my teenage kids. The lesson topic is the Missionary Purpose–to invite others to come unto Christ. While I am going by the Church’s Mission Prep manual, please remember this video is not a publication of the Church. I am simply a dad, teaching my children, and I’m sharing our lesson for others to enjoy.

I began planning this lesson, which I hope will turn into a series with all 15 lessons from the Church’s Mission Prep course, long ago but the timing could turn out to be very good for people stuck at home due to the COVID-19 virus quarantine. This video is not meant to replace the Mission Prep class people can take from their stake or ward or the Church Education System, but for those people wanting to prepare for a mission and unable to take that class, I hope this digital lesson helps fill the gap.

The video/audio is about 50 minutes, so you will want to set aside enough time to watch or listen to it. It could be a great Sabbath day activity to do on a Sunday. Enjoy!

How to Receive Spiritual Guidance

How to Receive Spiritual Guidance Cycle

In my personal gospel study, I was recently re-reading a talk by Elder Richard G. Scott entitled “To Acquire Spiritual Guidance” from October 2009 General Conference. As I read it, I realized (a spiritual prompting, no doubt) that Elder Scott’s words were excellent advice for young people, particularly young women, who were trying to decide if they should go on a mission or not.

My mind then turned to my own teenage daughter and son who will soon be reaching the age to go on a mission. They will also, within a few years, be making important life decisions like where to go to college and who to date and marry. It occurred to me that there are few more important topics for older teens to learn than how to receive spiritual guidance from God. So of course, I made plans to have that be the next topic in family home evening, and I thought I’d share the lesson with this audience too.

There Is No Simple Formula

While I have organized Elder Scott’s advice into a cycle with six steps, he says “there is no simple formula or technique that would immediately allow you to master the ability to be guided by the voice of the Spirit. Our Father expects you to learn how to obtain that divine help by exercising faith in Him and His Holy Son, Jesus Christ. Were you to receive inspired guidance just for the asking, you would become weak and ever more dependent on Them. They know that essential personal growth will come as you struggle to learn how to be led by the Spirit.”

So again, the steps I have extracted from Elder Scott are steps I identified as I read his examples. I have seen this same pattern play out in my own life, so they ring true. But they are not the one and only way to receive spiritual guidance from God. Some of the elements may differ for you and learning how to recognize the voice of God in your mind and heart is a skill you will have to fully learn through your own experiences. But hopefully this will still help.

Step 1: Recognize the Spirit of God

“What may appear initially to be a daunting task will be much easier to manage over time as you consistently strive to recognize and follow feelings prompted by the Spirit. Your confidence in the direction you receive from the Holy Ghost will also become stronger. I witness that as you gain experience and success in being guided by the Spirit, your confidence in the impressions you feel can become more certain than your dependence on what you see or hear.”

Step 2: Write down the inspiration

“Now I share an experience that taught me a way to gain spiritual guidance. One Sunday I attended the priesthood meeting of a Spanish branch in Mexico City. …[the teacher’s] sincerity, purity of intent, and love permitted a spiritual strength to envelop the room. I was deeply touched. Then I began to receive personal impressions as an extension of the principles taught by that humble instructor. …As each impression came, I carefully wrote it down. In the process, I was given precious truths that I greatly needed in order to be a more effective servant of the Lord. The details of the communication are sacred and, like a patriarchal blessing, were for my individual benefit.”

Step 3: Write more detail in private

“I received such an outpouring of impressions that were so personal that I felt it was not appropriate to record them in the midst of a Sunday School class. I sought a more private location, where I continued to write the feelings that flooded into my mind and heart as faithfully as possible.”

Step 4: Ponder and make adjustments

“After each powerful impression was recorded, I pondered the feelings I had received to determine if I had accurately expressed them in writing. As a result, I made a few minor changes to what had been written.”

Step 5: Apply the inspiration

“Then I studied their meaning and application in my own life. …Spirituality yields two fruits. The first is inspiration to know what to do. The second is power, or the capacity to do it. These two capacities come together. …God answers prayer and gives us spiritual direction when we live obediently and exercise the required faith in Him.”

Step 6: Thank God and ask if there is more

“I prayed, reviewing with the Lord what I thought I had been taught by the Spirit. When a feeling of peace came, I thanked Him for the guidance given. I was then impressed to ask, ‘Was there yet more to be given?’ I received further impressions, and the process of writing down the impressions, pondering, and praying for confirmation was repeated.” In other words, return to Step 1.

A Repeatable Experience “as you make this a practice in your life”

“What I have described is not an isolated experience. It embodies several true principles regarding communication from the Lord to His children here on earth. I believe that you can leave the most precious, personal direction of the Spirit unheard because you do not respond to, record, and apply the first promptings that come to you.”

“Impressions of the Spirit can come in response to urgent prayer or unsolicited when needed. Sometimes the Lord reveals truth to you when you are not actively seeking it, such as when you are in danger and do not know it. However, the Lord will not force you to learn. You must exercise your agency to authorize the Spirit to teach you. As you make this a practice in your life, you will be more perceptive to the feelings that come with spiritual guidance. Then, when that guidance comes, sometimes when you least expect it, you will recognize it more easily.”

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.

Missionaries on Prescription Medications

doctor writing a prescriptionIn a continuing effort to answer the most pressing questions from readers, today I want to address the prospects and limitations and procedures of missionaries who’s health situation requires them to be on prescription medications during their mission. The Church doesn’t say a lot about this subject publicly, so I am going to pull together all the resources I can find and hopefully it all comes together and makes sense.

Disclaimer

I am not an expert on the matter of prescription medications, but due to the many questions I get from the readers on this subject, I’m going to attempt it. My hope is that this article can answer some questions on the minds of future missionaries and their parents regarding the options and limitations for those who have to take prescription drugs. And for those questions that I can’t answer right now, I’m hoping the article can spur participation from people who do know the answers in the form of comments on this page. Nothing here should be construed as professional medical advice or official counsel from a Church leader.

Burning Question: Can They Serve a Mission?

The burning question on the minds of numerous future missionaries and their parents is: will the fact that an individual is on prescription medications prevent him or her from going on a mission or limit where he or she will be able to serve? The answer, unfortunately, is that it depends on a lot of factors. The fact that the potential missionary is taking prescription drugs usually does not prevent them from going on a full-time mission, but it frequently does affect where they can serve. There are a lot of considerations you and the Church and doctors have to make on this matter, so let’s start to unpack it.

If Health Is Stabilized, Then Yes

The Church’s Missionary Preparation Student Manual has an excellent chapter on physical and mental health preparations that a missionary should make before going on a mission. The chapter starts with this important quote from former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, who emphasized the importance of establishing good mental and physical health before serving a full-time mission:

“Missionary work is not a rite of passage in the Church. It is a call extended by the President of the Church to those who are worthy and able to accomplish it. …Good physical and mental health is vital. …There are parents who say, ‘If only we can get Johnny on a mission, then the Lord will bless him with health.’ It seems not to work out that way. Rather, whatever ailment or physical or mental shortcoming a missionary has when he comes into the field only becomes aggravated under the stress of the work. …Permit me to emphasize that we need missionaries, but they must be capable of doing the work. …There should be an eagerness and a desire to serve the Lord as His ambassadors to the world. And there must be health and strength, both physical and mental, for the work is demanding, the hours are long, and the stress can be heavy” (“Missionary Service,” First Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 2003, 17–18).

The manual goes on to emphasize that potential missionaries who are suffering or have suffered with mental or emotional illness (such as depression or anxiety) should prepare for a mission by seeking professional treatment and perhaps medication. But again, the implication is that if the condition can be controlled through medication, then a full-time mission is possible. Elder Richard G. Scott, former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

“Missionary work is extremely demanding. If you have emotional challenges that can be stabilized to meet the rigors of a full-time mission, you can be called. It is vital that you continue to use your medication during your mission or until competent medical authority counsels otherwise. Recognize that emotional and physical challenges are alike. One needs to do all that is possible to improve the situation, then learn to live within the remaining bounds. God uses challenges that we may grow by conquering them” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2003, 45; or Ensign, Nov. 2003, 43)

In March 2007, Donald B. Doty, M.D., then Chairman of the Church Missionary Department Health Services, wrote an article for the Ensign magazine called Missionary Health Preparation.  He said that “during the course of preparing to serve, prospective missionaries may discover serious physical or emotional issues. Prospective missionaries and their parents should be completely candid in disclosing all health issues and medications on the missionary recommendation application.” Regarding chronic health issues he said:

“Headaches are a common, difficult health problem that may worsen during missionary service and that can be difficult to evaluate and treat in the field. Occasional stomach and bowel problems may also become chronic during missionary service. Heart problems and breathing problems such as asthma should be thoroughly evaluated before missionaries begin service. With proper treatment, many health problems become controllable, making missionary service possible if treatment continues throughout the mission. …Those who suffer from chronic or recurring feelings of depression, sadness, anxiety, or fear should be evaluated by a doctor or mental health counselor. Mood swings, especially when they involve temper and anger, should also be evaluated. Treatment, including counseling or medication or both, often reduces or relieves mood disorders, making missionary service possible.”

Everything I’ve read from the Church indicates that prospective missionaries that have health challenges in their life, whether physical or mental, who can get those issue under control, including with the aid of prescription medications, and have reasonable expectations to be able to do the missionary work and live the mission schedule can serve a full-time mission.

Laws Governing Prescription Drugs May Limit Where You Can Go

While people on prescription medications can serve a mission if the guidelines above are met, where they serve may be limited due to the nature of the medication, the laws governing it’s transportation, and the ability to see doctors to keep prescriptions current.  According to United States Postal Service rules, in order to send prescription medicines through the mail, you must be a registered drug manufacturer, pharmacy, medical practitioner, or other authorized dispenser. In most cases this will mean that missionaries taking prescription drugs will need to have the medications mailed to them directly by an online or mail-order pharmacy. Parents will not be able to pick up medications at their local town pharmacy and mail them to their missionary.

Laws governing the transportation of prescription medications across international border can be even more problematic. As Latter-day Saint, we strive to obey the laws of the land, therefore these legal requirements have natural implications about where a missionary can serve. In most cases that I am aware of, and please correct me if I’m wrong, when a missionary has a medical condition requiring continuous prescription medication, then he or she is generally sent to serve a mission in the country where he or she is from. They are not usually sent to a foreign country because of the difficulties getting the medications there and also I believe the Church likes to keep them in their home country in case a medical situation arises, that they are close to their home doctors.

Another legal factor in this discussion that can affect where a missionary serves is that prescriptions need to be kept valid and often times that means the doctors are required to physically see the patient periodically in order to keep the prescription up-to-date. If the medical condition is relatively straight forward, like asthma or diabetes, a physical meeting with the doctor may not be required for the duration of the mission or if it is, establishing a relationship with a local doctor in the mission is not difficult. But for more complex medical conditions, like mental and emotional health disorders, periodic physical visits are often required and establishing a relationship with a doctor in a far away place is not practical. In such cases, serving a mission close to home may be the only alternative.

Instructions to Priesthood Leaders

Local priesthood leaders are in charge of making sure every full-time missionary that leaves from their ward and stake are fully qualified to serve a mission and are medically capable of performing their duties. In 2017, the Church issued a policy that bishops and branch presidents should assess the worthiness of youth and their physical and emotional preparedness to serve a mission by periodically reviewing with them a standard set of missionary interview questions in the years before their mission. In addition to testimony and worthiness topics, these questions are designed to help priesthood leaders determine whether a prospective missionary is ready for the demands of missionary service physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Only those individuals who are capable of handling the rigors of missionary work should be recommended to serve. If prescription medications are required to help a missionary stay physically and mentally able to serve, they can still go, though the medical issues and drugs taken will need to be disclosed in the missionary application. If approved for missionary service and the youth receives a call, the mission president will work with the family to help ensure the missionary’s physical and mental health throughout the mission. Mission presidents are instructed to become familiar with the medical histories of each of the missionaries that arrive in the field including becoming aware of any chronic health problems, mental health issues, and medications they are taking.

Develop a Plan with Your Doctor

If you are a prospective missionary who takes prescription drugs and you feel capable of fulfilling a full-time mission, or if you are the parent of a youth in this situation, I encourage you to develop a plan with your doctor before you submit your application to the bishop. Do your homework and know where you can and cannot get the medications you need. Know where, geographically in the world, it will be possible to get the prescriptions needed or to have the medications mailed to you. Have a plan for who is going to call the doctor or go to the online pharmacy periodically to make sure the prescription gets renewed.

Be prepared to discuss your plan with your bishop and stake president as you are turning in your application and fully disclose the situation in your mission paperwork. Also ask your doctor to put a helpful note in the comments section of the medical forms he or she fills out for your mission. This comment section is a good place the the doctor to explain your health situation and instill confidence in your priesthood leaders, including those at Church headquarters, that though you are taking prescription drugs, the situation is under control, you will be able to continue to take them during your mission, and that you are fully capable of serving as an ambassador of the Lord in a full-time mission.

I should also warn you that if you have health conditions similar to those discussed in this article, be prepared for delays when your application gets to Church headquarters. There is a team of doctors at Church headquarters who reviews the medical portion of each mission application form. They are trained to look out for certain medical conditions and prescription medications that are often associated with missionaries who have had a hard time fulfilling and completing their missionary service. If the missionary is flagged for those health reasons, the doctors will want to be very certain you are capable of missionary service before they allow your application to proceed in the mission call process. Often times this can mean many communications between yourself, Church headquarters, your doctors, and priesthood leaders. So please be patient.

Honorably Excused and Church Service Missions

Unfortunately, some health problems can present insurmountable obstacles to serving full-time proselytizing missions. The First Presidency has stated: “There are worthy individuals who desire to serve but do not qualify for the physical, mental, or emotional challenges of a mission. We ask stake presidents and bishops to express love and appreciation to these individuals and to honorably excuse them from full-time missionary labors.” (First Presidency letter, Jan. 30, 2004) In such cases, if the youth still has a strong desire to serve, young people should seriously consider a Church service mission. Church service missions allow individuals to live at home and receive appropriate medical care while serving a mission with part-time or full-time equivalent hours in a variety of functions. Talk to your bishop  and stake president about arranging a Church service mission that would be a good fit and enjoyable.

In summary, I hope this article has been helpful. As I began to write this, I didn’t think I would find much official information from the Church, but in the end I found quite a bit. If you have additional questions or if you have had experiences related to this topic, please use the comments section below. The road to going on a full-time mission for youth on prescription medications can be bumpy, but for many of them, it will result in serving an honorable full-time mission, which is an experience unlike any other and one well worth the struggle. Both missionaries and the people they teach are recipients of the wonderful blessings of missionary work such as growth in faith and testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope and pray that as many as possible will have that opportunity.