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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dear Elder / Sister ____________

I wish I had a chance to talk to young men and women before they enter the mission field, and give them a short talk about expectations and reality.  I fear that too many are succumbing to pressures to meet or beat mission-based statistics that many will never achieve.  I felt that on my mission.

Elders and sisters need to know that a mission isn't about statistics, or numbers of hours spent tracting or teaching.  It's about something far deeper.

Now, I'm not talking about those who disobey the mission rules or slack in their standards.  I'm talking about young men who feel pressure to leave on their mission when they're 18 (and sisters at 19), despite Pres. Monson having said that leaving on a mission at those ages is an "option."

I'm talking about those who compare themselves with others and, in the process, encounter futility and depression.

I'm talking about those nights that you cry yourself to sleep, wondering why you're even there in the mission field in the first place.  Wondering if you really can make a difference.  Wondering if He hears you in the stillness of the night.

Although you don't know me, take me at my word when I say: He does.

You see, you bring a unique, individual gift to the mission and the people you serve.  It is your uniqueness, your combination of individual gifts  -- not shoehorning yourself into someone else's expectations -- that makes the difference and makes the magic happen.

You need to know that if you will give it your best, the Lord will make up for what you lack.  Start by seeking out your individual gifts and sharing them.  As you do, you will find that your gifts -- and other's -- will be magnified both in quantity and quality.  So has He promised; so shall He those who are truly in His service.

The Lord will definitely use you in your imperfections.  He has a long, distinguished history of using truly imperfect people to bring about truly miraculous, awe-inspiring results.  He will do that as well -- very soon -- when He directly elevates 144,000 High Priests from a status of activation to action.  On that note, elders and sisters should be asking the Lord where to go, where to turn, what to say and what to do.  Ask to be led to those that are looking for truth.  He is the ONLY one who will guide the way.  He always has, and always will.

Because when you follow Him, you ARE a success.

OK, maybe you don't know the language.  Maybe you don't know the lessons.  Maybe you feel anxiety at the prospect of meeting total strangers.  Maybe you miss the comfort and security of home.  Maybe your companion is sub-human.  I'm not going to tell you to "buck up" and be a big boy or big girl, because (quite frankly), He doesn't want you to rely on yourself.  He wants you to rely on Him.  Be meek and humble.  Take advantage of this opportunity to study faith, test faith and exercise faith.  Jesus Christ will not only rejoice in your doing so, but He will also show you the next steps.

If there are mistakes in your past (and there are for any and everyone), the best way I know of to fix your mistakes is to seek Him and feed His sheep.  There is no better way to show the Lord the depth of your repentance and where your heart is.  He is very aware of even your tiniest acts of devotion.  And He is more anxious to forgive you -- and to activate the atonement which far too few people take advantage of -- than you can imagine.

If I could only tell you how great your worth is in the Savior's eyes.  You can do so much good - even if the good is for yourself or your companion.  It pains me to hear of missionaries hurting and giving up.  There is nothing here that can't wait, there is nothing here of greater value, than serving the best you can as a servant of the Lord.  I know it's not easy.  Rejection is the way of the disciple.  But there is light that punctuates the darkness and the despair that is all too often your daily lot.  I remember it well.

I think we need to better inform all pre-elders and pre-sisters and give them a flu shot against the adversary, and the dogma he will certainly teach in trying to derail them.

And should an elder or sister go home early for medical or emotional reasons, so be it.  There are many who return home early these days.  A shocking number.  But who are we to judge their standing before God?

When I meet an ERM (Early Returned Missionary), I look them in the eyes and tell them that I'm confident the Lord is so appreciative that they tried their best to serve Him.  After all, even Peter sank into the water when he left the boat to approach the Savior.

Some see Peter's sinking as a sign of failure.

But he was the only one who left the boat in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this, which I am going to share with my son, who is 18 and in the field in Czech and struggling with all these things you write about. Your words are a comfort to my soul. And I hope his as well.

    And thanks for sharing my Hugh Nibley collection:)