I was assigned to give a talk today on what parents can do to help their youth prepare for missionary service. The full text of the talk is located here.
Here are a few excerpts:
Our minds are wonderful things. All the studying we do, both before and during our missions is indelibly recorded in our brains. The power Heavenly Father has given our brains to absorb and retain information is one of the reasons that we must be careful about the kinds of words and images we view. Sometimes as mortals – especially when we get older – we have a hard time recalling all the information that has been stored in our minds.
However, the Holy Ghost has a key to unlock our minds. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, all that we have previously studied and learned can become available to us as we teach the gospel. One of the special functions of the Holy Ghost is to bring all these things to our remembrance. (See John 14:26)
If we have diligently studied and learned the gospel beforehand, the Spirit will bring the things we learned back to our remembrance, just in the moment they are needed in teaching situations. I know this was the case with me when I was on my mission. A scripture, or a concept would just pop into my head at the most opportune moments. I learned that this was Spirit prompting me to teach the things that the person I was teaching needed to hear – at that very moment.
On the other hand, if we have not sufficiently prepared ourselves, the Spirit will have less within us to work with, and we will not be as effective of a teacher as we might have otherwise have been.
Recognizing The Spirit
As parents, one of the greatest things we can do is to help our children learn to recognize the presence of the Holy ghost. Take the time when you have your family scripture study, or home evenings to point out moments when the presence of the Spirit can be felt. In fact, helping children and youth learn to feel the promptings and impressions of the spirit may be even more important than the subject matter that you are teaching at the time. Because once a person learns how to receive light and knowledge from the Holy Spirit, the key to the knowledge of all things is then opened up to them.
Practical Living Skills
Practical living skills are also important for a young man, or young woman as they enter the mission field. Things like basic cooking skills, how to do laundry and household cleaning, and even a little bit of basic sewing – like how to sew on a button or basic mending. Other practical skills like budgeting, time management, and goal setting are also great preparation for a mission. Many of these skills can be learned throughout their lives from daily chores and responsibilities around the house.
So kids -- when your parents ask you to do the dishes, or clean up your room, they are not only wanting you to do your chores, but they are also trying to help you prepare for your mission as well. While its true, parents could do these chores themselves, they are actually unselfishly *grin* trying to help you prepare for your mission, and for your life later on after you leave home! You will one-day thank them for teaching you these valuable skills! (Yeah, right.)
Physical and Mental Preparedness
Spiritual preparedness, and the ability to take care of oneself on your own are important ways to prepare for a mission. However, we also need to prepare ourselves physically and mentally as well.
One thing you will find, is that missionary work is hard, strenuous work – both physically and mentally! A missionary’s day begins early in the morning, at 6:30 am, and their whole day is filled with scheduled activities until 10:30 pm. It takes a lot of energy to be a missionary. Being in good physical condition is important to be being able to keep up with what is expected of you.
Likewise, good mental health is also important for effective missionary service. One problem many missionaries struggle with is homesickness. It is good for youth to occasionally spend some time away from home. This can come in the form of scout or young women’s camps. Spending a few days away from home with grandma and grandpa, or an aunt or uncle when school is not in session is another way to learn about being away from home. Time spent away from home, while going to college also his an excellent way to learn how to function on one’s own, while still being able to call mom or dad on a regular basis, or come home for the weekend if you are close enough to home.
When a young man or woman enters the mission field, it is time to leave the thoughts of home, school, and girlfriends behind. Time serving on a full-time mission is consecrated time. When we agree to missionary service, we are asked to serve with all our hearts, might, mind, and strength. If a part of us is still so wrapped up in life back home, we cannot fully focus on our missionary responsibilities, and we are not able to give the full measure of service that is required.
Teaching our children how to deal with discouragement is also another way in which parents can prepare their children for the mission field, and for life in general. Missionary work is filled with many ups and downs. There are many great and marvelous experiences to be had. However, we know that there is opposition in all things, and along with those highs, will be some low moments as well. We cannot expect every moment of our mission, or of our live to be one continuous high. Young people need to learn how to deal with discouragement, and how to continue pressing forward, with faith, even in the face of adversity.
Discouragement comes to all missionaries at one time or another. It is not the same thing as depression. Individuals who are prone to serious states of depression or mental illness, who have previously required counseling and medication should consult with their priesthood leaders prior to submitting an application for missionary service. The application must include an honest history. If medication has been prescribed, it should be continued while serving in the mission field. (See: S. Brent Scharman, “Preparing Your Future Missionary,” Ensign, Oct. 2004, 17)
Be Missionaries Now!
All of the things we have talked about thus far, are important, excellent ways in which to prepare our youth to serve missions. All of these things are quite useful and necessary.
However, if I were to choose one single way, that you can best prepare a child for a mission, it would be to become missionaries right now! You don't have to wait until your are 19 (or 21) to be a missionary. Likewise, we shouldn't quit being missionaries after being released from full-time missionary service.
If you, as a family are actively seeking out missionary opportunities, and inviting your friends and neighbors to be taught the gospel in your own home, you will provide the opportunity for your children to see real missionaries in action!
Having the full-missionaries frequently in your home, as they teach a neighbor or friend brings a powerful spirit into your home. What better preparation for a mission is there than actually seeing the change of conversion come over a friend or loved-one as they accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. What a powerful influence it will be on your children as they see investigators enter the waters of baptism, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Let your own children study and pray, and gain their own testimonies of the gospel, right along with the investigators who are being taught in your home.
The spirit and the example of the full-time missionaries will also rub-off on your whole family as well. If your home is filled with the spirit of missionary work, your children will be also. They will have tasted of that sweet spirit the gospel brings, and have a desire to share it with others. And when the time comes, it will be their desire to serve a full-time mission, and declare the glad tidings of the gospel to all who will hear.