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.

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.

Elder Sanchez’s Journey into the Mission Field

elder sanchez and rowell with smith family rockwall texas may 2018About a month ago, I believe it was the first Sunday in May, I was sitting with my family in fast and testimony meeting. The two full-time missionaries, both relatively newly assigned to our ward, each went to the pulpit, introduced himself, and bore his testimony. First was Elder Justin Sanchez and he told about how his family was from Honduras and that he grew up in rather poor circumstances, often living in double-wide trailers and generally wearing hand-me-down clothes. While they were poor as to worldly belongings, he said, they were rich in the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In his testimony, Elder Sanchez mentioned that he was older than most missionaries—he was 25 years old. He went on to bare a nice testimony of the restored gospel, and as he spoke, I felt inspired to invite him to our home to talk to our children in more detail and give more of his background story and testimony. I felt my children, who are good kids that we try not to spoil, are nevertheless, accustomed to a rather comfortable life in many ways, especially when compared to many other people in the world. I felt my kids could benefit from hearing Elder Sanchez’s humble life story and perspective.

After the meeting, I asked him if he could come present a family home evening lesson to our family one night in the coming week and he agreed. Upon hearing his more detailed life story, I also thought it would be of great benefit to the audience of this website to see his perseverance in preparing for and fulfilling a full-time mission for the Lord. With Elder Sanchez’s permission, I now share his story.

Elder Sanchez’s Family Background

Elder Sanchez’s maternal grandfather was a member of the LDS Church, but he was inactive, and therefore, his mother did not grow up in the Church. At some point during his mom’s adult married life, but before Elder Sanchez was born, their family met the Mormon missionaries and joined the Church. When Elder Sanchez’s mom was pregnant with him, she received a spiritual prompting that there would be complications with his birth. Their family was poor and did not have health insurance. So, the family decided to go to Honduras, where Elder Sanchez’s father was from, to have the baby there because the family would have good medical coverage.

Miraculous Birth in Honduras

Elder Sanchez’s mother’s spiritual premonition and inspiration turned out to be right—he had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck three times and he ended up being safely delivered via C-section. The family felt his safe birth was a miracle and that he would have been still born had they stayed in the United States for the birth. While his family moved back to the US soon after his birth, they soon did relocate to Honduras.

Elder Sanchez’s family, financially, was not doing very well in the US, but his father’s family owned some land in Honduras that they offered to him to use as a homestead and farm. The family decided to go for it, and so Elder Sanchez’s parents and all his brothers and sisters moved to Honduras. On the first night there, they all slept on a single mattress in one room. But soon their situation improved and they ended up with a nice home and circumstances. All the siblings helped on the farm where they grew pineapples, mangoes, corn, and peanuts.

Hurricane Mitch Forced the Family to Move

It was fall of 1998 and on October 26, Hurricane Mitch was in the Caribbean Sea and had become a category 5 hurricane. It made landfall in Honduras a few days later, on October 29. Some parts of Honduras reported three feet of rainfall from the storm and the hurricane produced ocean waves estimated to be 44 feet in height. The rainfall also caused widespread mudslides across the mountainous areas of the country. An estimated 70 to 80% of the country’s transportation network was destroyed, including most bridges and roads. Crops and agricultural livestock damage was valued in the billions. All told, the storm caused 7,000 deaths in Honduras and cost the people of that country $3.8 billion in damage (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Mitch). The Sanchez family was safe from the storm, but their farm was wiped out and so they packed up once again and moved back to the United States.

Hurricane Mitch damage in Honduras

A Mission Call and Difficulties at the MTC

The Sanchez family eventually settled in the state of Oregon, and though they continued to struggle financially, they were active in the gospel. Elder Sanchez had some of his older siblings serve missions, which was a great example to him. After he finished high school, he worked for a while to earn and save money for his mission and then at age 20, Elder Sanchez received a mission call to Billings Montana.

In the Missionary Training Center (MTC), his thoughts frequently turned to the difficult financial situation of his family back home.  His family counseled him not to worry about their needs and to focus on his mission, but it was difficult. Elder Sanchez says that, at this time, he also began to struggle somewhat with his personal testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. He said that throughout his life, he had leaned on the testimony of his parents and siblings, but now he realized he needed to know for himself if he believed the things that he would be teaching as a missionary. That, together with the personal struggles of challenges back home, made it difficult for Elder Sanchez to feel the Spirit of God while at the MTC.

After three weeks in the MTC, in counseling with the MTC president, the difficult decision was made that Elder Sanchez should return home and come back to the mission when he was more ready. Upon returning home, he knew his family loved and supported him, but he felt misjudged by the other members of his ward. He stopped attending church meetings as regularly as he should have, and while he never went inactive, it was a couple of years later before he became fully engaged with the church again.

A New Mission Call

Elder Sanchez didn’t go into detail about what led him back, but he said that certain circumstances led him back to full participation in the gospel and the Church. At this time in his life, he wanted to make the efforts necessary to find out for himself if the gospel and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was true. He attended his church meetings, read the scriptures and prayed, and began to feel the Spirit of God working in his life. He knew he had felt the Spirit confirm the truthfulness of the gospel and he prayed to know what God wanted him to do with his life. He wanted to improve himself and the prospects for his future and when he prayed, he felt like he should look into going back into the mission field. He asked his bishop about it and soon he received a new mission call, this time to the Dallas Texas mission.

So at age 24, Elder Sanchez began anew his full-time missionary service. He said it was difficult coming into the mission field when he was considerably older than most the other new missionaries, who are generally 18 or 19 years old, but he’s glad he did it. I can imagine it took a great amount of faith, dedication, and humility to return to the mission force, but we too are glad he did it and that we have gotten to know him.

Lessons Learned through Service and Adversity

Elder Sanchez said that before his mission he had many challenges, but the mission has helped him to lose himself in the service of others. Prior to his mission, he spent his life concerned about his own trials, but the mission has been just the opposite, he says, you concern yourself with others and their well-being. He learned the lesson President Hinckley taught when he said: “Why are missionaries happy? Because they lose themselves in the service of others” (Chapter 14: Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley). Or as the Savior taught: “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35).

Elder Sanchez additionally said that he has found that because of his struggles in life, he has been able to relate to others he has met on his mission and the challenges they  have. He has found that facing and overcoming adversity is an experience that connects us and that Jesus Christ in particular, who suffered more than all of us with his infinite atoning sacrifice, is the common connection between everyone’s life. Elder Sanchez has found that when we realize the love Heavenly Father has for us in sending His Son, that we can receive hope and courage to conquer all of our challenges.

My family and I were very grateful that Elder Sanchez came over and shared his story with us and that he is allowing us to sharing it now with the Mormon Mission Prep community. His strong faith and testimony is clear and we know the Lord has blessed him and will continue to watch over him and his family. We’re thankful that the Lord assigned him to our ward so that we could get to know him and we pray for the choicest blessings to attend him the remainder of his mission and throughout his life.

5 Tips on Saving Money For a Mission

Introduction: The following is a guest post by Dennis McKonkie, who served a mission in Atlanta, Georgia for the LDS Church. His mission changed the trajectory of his life, and he feels indebted for all he learned during his two-year service. Dennis has a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science from MIT and works as a Computer Science Consultant.

Serving a full-time mission is incredibly fulfilling. It changes lives, both yours and the people you meet and teach. However, it is also expensive. While the church does a great job of crowd-funding for it’s Elders and Sisters through missionary funds, there is an added boost to your personal mission when you know you are paying for it with your own money. Here are a few tips for those future missionaries who want to start earning money now.

1. Set Up A Budget

Regardless of what you plan to do with your life after getting out of high school, setting up a budget is a necessity. Whether you decide to go on a mission or go straight to college or to a job, having a budget will help. While you are in high school (or even before), maintaining a budget will help develop important life skills that you will use forever. It might be hard to set up a budget if you are still in high school, simply due to the fact that you may not have many financial responsibilities. If this is the case, try doing what I did: Set a goal of how much money you will spend each month and save everything else. My monthly budget was usually about 100 dollars. That covered the gas for my truck, the few times I would eat out at lunch time, and some play money to spend on things like going to the movies or a baseball game. I saved the rest of the money I earned for my mission and only spent it if I really wanted something, like the time I splurged on a new baseball bat.

2. Get A Part-time Job

If you live in a rural area, you can work as a farm hand or in a local convenience store. If you live in a more populated area, you could work as a night-time janitor for office buildings (I did that for a couple of years at my father’s office). I had a mission companion who worked at a Dairy Queen throughout high school. By the time he left, he was a manager at the restaurant and made more money than his peers. He was able to purchase his own truck in high school and saved up enough money to pay for his mission.

Many restaurants will hire people who are as young as 14. This means that those who take these jobs early on will be able to save up some money for at least four years before leaving. Making $3,000 or $4,000 a year for part-time work could add up to a nice sum.

Once you turn 18, you could spend the summer before a mission selling door to door. There are plenty of options, ranging from selling pest control services to home security systems. These companies love working with returned missionaries, as they develop great communication skills and work ethics while serving the Lord. If you are a pre-missionary, you will develop many of these skills before heading out to the mission field, which will make your mission even better.

3. Become An Entrepreneur

If you’re looking to become an entrepreneur, it’s possible to get started at a very early age. You could look to meet needs that require physical labor, like mowing lawns or shoveling walks, or you could look to babysit or walk dogs. Finding out what people in your community need and then seeking to meet that need at a fair price can lead to some pretty good earnings down the road. Enterprising young people could also look to flip cheap items for a profit on sites like eBay or Amazon.com. I’ve seen a couple of my friends pay for their missions through these efforts.

4. Look For Scholarships

Many missionaries attend college for a year or more before leaving on a mission. As part of an overall plan to save money, it’s important to look for scholarships to help you conserve money that you could use to pay for your 18-month or 2-year missionary service. Some options are athletic scholarships and academic scholarships, and for readers in the United States, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Also, if you are interested in studying science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) in college, there are scholarships just for people who are studying in those fields such as this STEM scholarship. There are similar opportunities for students in almost all fields of study.

5. Save Money Gifted to You

Most teens will get a gift of some sort for major life events like birthdays and Christmas. Additionally, some cash gifts can come in around high school graduation. You should look at these gifts as building blocks toward your ultimate goals. Even a couple of hundred dollars a year could add up to $1,000 by the time you hit graduation. Graduation gifts could add up to even more.

In my family, my father gave us a rule to live by from a very young age: as soon as we got money, we were to put 10 percent away for tithing and 20 percent away for savings. The remaining 70 percent was for us to do what we wanted. Oftentimes I would put more than 20 percent into my savings account, because my needs were met and I didn’t need more money to blow on candy and baseball caps.

Conclusion

I promise you this, serving a mission will be one of the most challenging things you have ever done. It will also be one of the most rewarding. Paying thousands of dollars to go serve others is a tough pill to swallow, but the blessings come back to you tenfold. Trust that you are doing what is right and give it everything you have. God bless you.

Saving for a Mission: A Plan for Youth

My oldest son is getting older, he’s 13, and I’ve known that we’ve needed to put together a more formal plan to get him on track for saving for his mission. In the mission prep checklist for youth that I put together last year, I recommended that youth start small and exponentially grow their savings each year. Still liking that idea, I thought I’d put more detail around it and I came up with the following plan for my son that I’d like to share with the wider Mormon Mission Prep community. Download it below. Check it out and let me know if you’d like to see any changes to it.

 

Brief Instructions

Instructions on how to use this schedule for saving for a mission is included in the downloadable PDFs above, 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 $400 per month. That comes to $9,600 for a young man’s 24 month mission and $7,200 for a young woman’s 18 month mission. The main chart in the printout will have 96 boxes, or 72 boxes, for young men and women respectively, each square representing $100. 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. There is also a separate column on the right representing additional money the missionary may want to save to pay for clothes, suitcases, and other gear. 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.

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 Prep Skills Checklist for Youth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journal Keeping

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

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

Journal Keeping Before, During, and After My Mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scripture Journals

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

Preparing to Receive the Melchizedek Priesthood

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

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

Gain a testimony of the restoration of the priesthood

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

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

Receive and Magnify the Preparatory Priesthood

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

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

Study the Scriptures

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

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

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

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

Learn How to and Perform Priesthood Ordinances

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

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

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

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

Preparing for the Temple

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

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

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

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

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

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

Place of Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

Truman G. Madsen once said:

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

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

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

House of Wholeness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacrament of Symbols

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cost to Get Ready to Go on a Mission

Summary: The cost to get ready to go on a mission (to buy clothes, suit cases, and other gear) varies depending on the mission and personal situation of the missionary, but the average is around $2,000.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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