The time between when a young woman decides to go on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the day she enters the Missionary Training Center is filled with much to do. It can be difficult to determine what is necessary versus what can slide. Here are some things prospective sister missionaries should consider doing (as many wish they’d done) before entering the MTC.
1. It’s time to go shopping. If you’re leaving for a mission in the summer or spring, you might have a difficult time finding proper clothing for the full 18 months. A salesperson laughed at one sister when she asked the clerk where the long skirts were in June. You need to purchase a basic year-round wardrobe since you might not have access to clothing stores once out on the mission.
Pay attention to materials sent from the LDS Church's Missionary Department or mission president and his wife (or contact your mission president’s wife, if possible) about what to wear, as some standards can change from mission to mission. For instance, in one mission the sisters wore skirts just below the knee, but in another most of the sisters were on bikes and ankle-length skirts were easier to wrap around a bike bar.
Weather can also factor into what you need. Those nice business jackets and fitted skirts don’t come out often if you’re in the jungles of South America, but will be necessary if you’re at a visitor's center. For wherever you go, make sure you get a decent pair of comfortable dress walking shoes.
2. Buy church-approved music you like. Those two Especially for Youth CDs you got for your 14th birthday are going to grind on you after 18 months of nothing but. Do pay attention to music that has been approved for missionaries in your mission.
3. Research your mission. Talk to those who have gone there, read the information sent to you about your mission, contact your mission president (if possible) and learn about the local customs. A mission experience varies drastically from one mission to another and even from mission president to president.
4. Start an exercise routine. A Mormon mission is physically taxing and the more fit you are now, the easier the transition will be. Many sisters (and elders) spend the first few months of their mission in pain because they’re sore from going from Internet surfer to constant biker or walker.
5. Step up studying of your scriptures and other doctrine. A mission can be very spiritually fulfilling, but there needs to a very strong foundation for it. Every day people are going to be challenging your beliefs. You need to be strengthening your testimony because in the mission field it’s going to get torn down. Many skip this important step because they think that in a few months they will be studying nonstop so it doesn’t matter. But your testimony will come under fire, and if you’re not prepared it will be much like not exercising, you will be spiritually sore for a while.
6. Develop an after-your-mission plan so you don’t wallow when you come home. If you’re in school, talk to your professors and administrators to determine what you’ll need to do to get re-enrolled. (While on their missions, some sisters received special permission to go online and register for the semester after they came home.) Talk to your employer about your work options. Will you have a job when you get home?
If you’re going to be seeking employment or enrollment in different place, get the necessary recommendations and references in order before you leave, since a year and a half can make it more difficult for people to remember you.
7. Before you leave, do some of the things you love that you won’t be able to for the next 18 months. Maybe you love to travel, so take a weekend getaway before your mission. Or maybe you'd rather spend an evening reading your favorite book one last time before you leave. I went white-water rafting the weekend before I went into the MTC. My only warning is to keep it within reason, so it's not too difficult to walk away from and not something that will bring about unneccesary injuries.
Melissa Dymock is the author of "Sisters: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Serving a Mission" published by Covenant Communications.