Sunday, November 2, 2014

Why You Should Not Serve a Mission

ALERT: These here writings are my opinion.  You don't have to like it.  You don't have to agree with it.  All I ask is that you respect that it's okay for me to possibly think differently than you do.  

Alrighty folks.  I want you to know that at this moment in time, I am not going to serve a mission.  Nor am I currently getting married.  I know that right now, being 20 and at BYU, this is highly unusual.  But I have spent many hours talking this over with my Heavenly Father and this seems to be the right thing for me to do.  It took a long time for me to reach that decision, and I hope that my experience might help somebody else.  So let's go back in time for just a few moments...

It was October 2012.  I had just started my freshman year here at BYU.  I went home for the weekend so I could watch General Conference with my family.  I'm sure everyone remembers this day as well, so I won't go into too much detail.  But when I came back Sunday night, Provo had caught fire.  Like, everywhere.  The mission age change was all people talked about for weeks and weeks and weeks.  All of my roommates quickly made the decision to serve and began their papers right away, along with everyone else.  To put things in perspective, there were 120 kids in my freshman ward, and at Christmas, there were 90 open mission applications.  It was crazy.  

During this time, I began to think about a mission for the first time in my life.  It had always seemed very far away, and I had decided that I would start to think about it once I got there.  But suddenly, that changed.  

It was a mad frenzy.  As I started to try to think about a mission and prepare to serve, I began to realize that I had been riding the coattails of my parents' testimonies.  It was hard to watch all those close to me bury themselves in preparation for missionary work, so sure of what they were doing, and I hardly even knew if the gospel was true.  That process of gaining my very own testimony for myself is a story for another day.  But back home, I was the "perfect" girl from the "perfect" family, and everyone expected me to either go on a mission right away, or get married right away.  Yet neither was happening.  I had never experienced pressure like that before.  

So now we're going to jump back to present day.  I'm still not going on a mission, nor am I getting married.  And that is okay.  The pressure is still there for me to serve though.  But as I've been going along my merry way, I've both observed and been told reasons why I am supposed to serve a mission, and I do not agree with those reasons.  Now, this is your final warning.  This is all my opinion based on my experiences.  These are the reasons I have come up with for not serving a mission:

     1. Serving a mission is the best way to prepare for wife and mother hood.

Is a mission going to help you be a better wife and mother?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Is it the only way to prepare to be a good wife and mother?  Certainly not.  For example, I don't believe that Sister Hinckley ever served a mission.  Do you think she was able to serve as a worthy wife and mother for President Hinckley without missionary experience?  Of course!!  You can still be strong in the gospel, sustain your husband, and set an example for your children without missionary service.  Your spirituality depends upon what you do to strengthen it, not whether or not you can check the "RM" box.  This is meant to be a benefit of a mission, not a cause for one.  As long as you are living righteously, you and your family can be just as worthy of the blessings of the celestial kingdom without you serving a mission.  

     2. Everyone else is going, so why not me?

I fear that some girls will go on a mission simply because of the social pressure.  It can be hard to not be sharing in the same experiences as everyone else your age.  It can be hard to have people question why you are not serving.  However, decisions like this are meant to be between you and your Heavenly Father.  For some people, a mission is the right thing right at 19, and that's wonderful.  Some will serve later, and that's wonderful.  Some will not serve, and that's wonderful.  What matters is that you are doing what's right for YOU.  You are Heavenly Father's precious child, and His children will never get a one-size-fits-all treatment.  You are His greatest creation, and you deserve much more than that.  I promise He has a plan just for you, all your own, and as long as you are living righteously, you will figure it out.  

     3. Guys only want to marry RMs.

I'm starting to hear some gentlemen saying that they will only be interested marrying girls that are returned missionaries.  If that is the case, I hope they realize that they could very well be missing out on a bunch of great girls.  Some girls may want to serve with all their hearts, but can't for medical reasons, or simply that it's not in the Lord's plans.  The type of man you want to marry will be one who will make you want to push yourself to be a better person.  He will appreciate you for how Christ-like you are with or without being able to share mission stories.  

     4. My marriage is more likely to fail if I haven't served a mission.

Out of all of these reasons, I think this one bothered me the most.  The first thing that came to my mind when I heard this was my dear mother.  She and my dad have been happily married for over 27 years now, and they still love each other very much.  And guess what?  Plot twist!  My mother is not a returned missionary.  

In the end, it will all come down to agency.  The reason female RMs might have a more successful marriage is because they are the type of people who will make the choices needed to have a happy marriage.  However, are there RMs who go inactive in the church?  Yes.  Are there girls who haven't served missions who are still happily married?  Yes.  It all comes down to the choices you make.  

     5. I want to come back at the same time as my high school crush.

A lot can happen to someone in 18-24 months.  Especially when they've spent it serving the Lord everyday.  Don't serve a mission simply because it's a way for you to "save yourself" for that guy you kind of dated in high school.  If you've prayed about it and it's the right thing to do, that's great.  Go for it.  However, I ask that you have faith on this one.  I promise that if it's meant to work out, it will find a way.  Heavenly Father always makes a way for things to work out for the faithful.  

     6. Getting an education is a selfish thing to do.  

I will be honest in saying that I don't understand this one.  The prophets and apostles have told us to get an education.  We're told to be life long learners and to try to improve ourselves.  As I'm still learning, it's perfectly okay to just be going to school right now.  It's actually a perfectly wonderful thing to do.  Just because you are not furthering the plan of salvation by being a full tim missionary or having babies at this moment absolutely does not mean that you are being selfish or doing something wrong.  Going to college will help you to learn about yourself, how to interact with all sorts of people, and will allow you to provide for a future family if need be.  

Now, as a final piece of advice from an oh-so-wise 20 year old, the most important thing to remember is that Heavenly Father has a plan for you.  If you are living righteously and doing all the things you should be doing, that plan will eventually be revealed to you.  Serving a mission for the Lord is a wonderful thing to do, and I love those who choose to do so.  I admire their spiritual strength.  But it can take strength to stay behind too.  Someone needs to hold down the home front, and that's okay.  You can't always know what goes on when a girl prays to her Father in Heaven.  

Do I really know what the plan is for me right now?  No, not really, to be honest.  I'm going to play it by spiritual ear for now, you could say.  But I promise I still love the gospel.  I still do my best to serve the Lord here at home by being an example of Christ, magnifying my calling, and helping to lift those around me.  But I hope you will turn to your Heavenly Father to find your own path.  I hope you will not fear for the future.  I hope that you will be able to feel even the slightest bit of His love for you.  And I hope this helped somebody out there.  Stay strong sisters!