Dear 100 Hour Board,
I head to the MTC in less than two weeks. Stateside. What is your best advice for me?
Dear incredibly excited,
Be yourself. You're going to be a tool for the Lord, and it does Him no good if He has a million rakes but no shovels. There's a certain missionary mold that many missionaries try to fit into, because we sometimes have this false assumption that there's only one way to do missionary work. I had two very different companions on my mission—one was very quiet yet loving, and the other was insanely energetic and happy all the time. (The elders in our ward had a bet that she only acted like that. Nope. She was 110% from the moment she woke up until bedtime.) Despite their differences, both had a profound influence in my life and the lives of so many others. The Lord used their individual personalities and willingness to follow Him and created a masterpiece. So stay true to yourself. Be Christlike, be loving, be obedient, be humble, and be you.
Follow the Spirit in all you do. There are plenty of talks about following the Spirit to talk to someone, or to bring up a certain topic. This is crucial for missionaries (and, well, everyone). But equally important is following the Spirit to not talk to someone. A returning less-active member I knew mentioned one elder who had brought her back to church by never mentioning it. His companions always talked about the Church, but he never did, instead focusing on her needs. The member explained that this elder's influence ultimately brought her back to church. It's a seemingly backwards story, and hopefully no one uses it as an excuse to not talk to someone, but it highlights how critical it is to follow the Spirit, even if it's telling us to do something we don't understand.
This talk undoubtedly had the greatest influence on me. I read it maybe 30 times on my mission. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Finally, don't be like the two elders in my district who had a bet on who could gain the most weight in the MTC. If Alma lived in our day and had the same talk with his sons, I'm pretty certain he'd include that in his list of unforgivable sins.
-guppy of doom
Keep a journal. One of my greatest life accomplishments is the fact that I wrote in my journal every single day of my mission, even if it was just a one-line entry about how much my feet hurt. I love being able to look back and see a snapshot of my mission, because even though I felt so inadequate trying to sum up missionary life in my journal entries, I feel even more inadequate trying to remember it after I've been home for almost three years. Writing in my journal gave me an outlet for my emotions, it was a way to unwind at the end of the day, it helped me write better emails home because I could actually remember what had happened in the week, and it gave me a tangible way to look back and see my own progress. And now it's something that I can read to remember how I felt as a missionary and remember what sorts of experiences I had. So, keep a journal. You won't regret it.
Be enthusiastic about the work. Sometimes it's unbelievably hard, but trying to keep a good attitude makes a big difference. Not only will you feel better, but both members and investigators will notice and respond to your enthusiasm.
Serve your companions. Even (especially?) the most difficult ones. But also don't be afraid of telling someone if your companion starts being emotionally or physically abusive to you, because you shouldn't feel like you just have to love it out of them or something.
Remember that it's not about the numbers. Numbers only matter because they give information about people, but they can't cover everything. Just focus on loving and serving the Lord and other people, and following the Spirit, and you can rest assured that you're a good missionary no matter what your numbers are.
Be okay with your own imperfection. You're going to try hard, but sometimes you still won't be the best missionary ever, because nobody is 100% of the time. Just try to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord, and remember that He'll make up anything you can't.
Good luck, friend! This will probably be the hardest thing you've ever done, but it will 100% be worth it, and I'm so excited for you!
Dear Almost A Missionary,
All the other writers have amazing advice which you should totally listen to. Also, everything in the Missionary Handbook and Preach My Gospel is pure gold! My personal best advice is to learn to rely on the Lord.
Once you get out into the missionary field, you will soon realize that missionary work is really hard. Personally, I would say that missionary work is nearly impossible to do by yourself. The good news is that you don't have to do it all by yourself! You will have companions, mission leaders, ward members, the Holy Ghost, the prayers of loved ones, and angels to help you invite others to come unto Christ. The great thing about being a missionary is that it isn't about you, it's about God and his children who are seeking for the truth. If you give all you've got the Lord will do the rest.
The Lord is preparing people right now in your mission to receive the gospel. You will see miracles unfold as you find these people and help them come unto Christ. Being a missionary is such an awesome privilege. Working with the Savior in his vineyard is like being on a basketball team with Lebron James and Steph Curry; your own skill doesn’t matter too much because you have a great team to support you. Doing your best to teach the gospel is important, but you have to remember that in the end you depend on the Lord. My most amazing experiences on the mission came when I felt totally inadequate because that’s when I leaned on the Lord the most, and boy did he deliver!
Good luck on your mission! God doesn’t make mistakes. He sent you to your mission because there are people waiting to receive the gospel from you. Work hard, obey the mission rules, and trust in the Lord and you will find happiness beyond anything you have felt before.
On a philosophical note: I recall having the impression as a new missionary that no missionary would ever steal, lie, or be dishonest. When a wallet had been stolen and turned up empty on my MTC floor, we were each brought in and asked privately if we'd done it. I was highly amused at the time. A missionary? Stealing?
While I think most missionaries are generally good—or at least try to be—suffice it to say just like in normal life, I discovered there are missionaries who acted or behaved in ways I felt didn't mesh well with their calling as a missionary. Some missionaries were dishonest. Some were scheming. Some were jerks. Some were downright scummy. And some missionaries I found to be kind, motivated, friendly, Christlike and the kind of person I'd like to become. People are different. Missionaries are like that, too.
On a practical note: you'll have very little time to exercise while in the MTC and will probably lose, well, virtually all control of your schedule. I think my companion and I subconsciously attempted to compensate for this shift through our eating habits at the awesome cafeteria.
I'd like to observe my missionary companion's surname was very similar to mine. Add an "-ing", and, well, that was about it. We had much in common. And true to what I perceived as his name's "-ing" suffix, Elder Ferozing and his metabolism were like an action verb to me and mine. Not only was he constantly eating; it appeared he might die if he did not do so. I loved food as well, and my desire to exert control over my life and Elder Ferozing's inspirational eating habits meant our mealtimes usually went something like this:
E. Feroz: Hey, Elder Ferozing. What do you want to eat? A hamburger? Lasagna? A wrap? Chicken cordon bleu? Cheesecake? Ice cream?
E. Ferozing: Hmmmm... How about ALL of them?
E. Feroz: Ohhhhhkaaaay!
As he watched us eat, a senior missionary one day remarked we should enjoy ourselves while our metabolisms were still quick. Knowing the day would likely come--if only in thirty or forty years--I heartily agreed and dug into my third piece of cheesecake.
And so went our glorious mealtimes, day in and day out. Elder Ferozing—true to form—remained unaffected by this tremendous surge of calories. I didn't focus on it too much. I thought it impossible to gain, say, fifteen pounds in less than three weeks' time.
I thought wrong.