13 ways to make a good mission great

By Brian Stutzman

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, April 22 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

7. Be bold. My favorite saying is “fortune favors the bold.” Successful missionaries talk to people. The scriptures say to “open your mouths.” Many are naturally shy. It takes courage, boldness and a bit of practice to be able to talk to and relate to people of all ages. With the Lord’s help it can become natural and easy. Being able to speak to strangers, small groups, and large groups is a valued skill in most of the world and will certainly be a blessing to you in most professions after your mission is completed. People love to talk about their family, work, and hobbies. Avoid discussing politics and talking negatively about the church or its' members.

8. Love the people. You will most likely be teaching people from all walks of life. This includes children, youths and the elderly. Learn what foods are popular and about local customs and pastimes. Know what is popular with children and youth so you have something interesting to them to talk about. This helps build rapport. As a child, I loved the missionaries who shared simple magic or card tricks with me and my friends.

9. Time management. Make the most of your time. To a young man, just starting their two years of service may appear like an eternity, but it will go by very quickly. Enjoy your service. Seize each day as a new opportunity to do the most you can do, be the best you can be and to live life to the fullest. Shed homesickness by immersing yourself in the now, in the today. Home and loved ones will be fine. In fact, they will feel the blessings of the Lord as you serve with all your heart, mind and strength. Keep focused on your primary duty of teaching and testifying of the Lord Jesus Christ and the restored gospel. Don’t spend large amounts of time visiting with the members unless you are actively teaching their friends or relatives.

10. Be grateful. Find all the good in life and in your mission. Learn from your companion. Each one will be different. Glean the positives from each. Whenever someone feeds you or shows kindness, be sure to say "thank you." Be gracious and be an example of the Savior. An "attitude of gratitude" will help make missionary service a very happy time. Respect others and find the good in all you meet. Avoid criticizing your companion, the local culture, investigators or the people you are called to work among. Be complimentary. We once had a missionary over for dinner who, upon walking in our home, loudly proclaimed, “Wow, something smells good!” and complimented my wife even before we sat down to eat. He instantly became a favorite missionary.

11. Be patient. A mission is a great place to learn patience. Sometimes the Lord’s timetable is not yours. Sometimes your companion or others will stress or annoy you. Approach things with love. Let the little things go and remember most things are little. I recall two missionaries who were arguing about whose day it was to take the trash out. They both refused and a petty standoff ensued. No one removed the garbage from their apartment for over two months! Both were stubborn and tried to make a point. Without being a martyr, a more loving and mature missionary would happily take the trash out on his turn as well as on many days that weren't “his” day. Rise above the little things. If you have to do most of the chores, you will get most of the blessings. You can serve your companion, even the difficult ones, just like you serve your investigators.

12. Don’t do dumb. I recall some missionaries visiting a historical religious site on a preparation day. Without much thought they were goofing around as a group of typical young people might normally do. But they weren’t typical young people. As full-time missionaries, there is a higher expectation and scrutiny. At the time, what seemed innocent and fun to these young people could have been interpreted by others differently if it were known they were missionaries from our church. Regular youths might be labeled as goofing off, but because these were missionaries on a preparation day, some might have felt our church had disrespected “their” religious historical site. This simple thing could have had serious and damaging effects on the reputation of the church. A good rule of thumb is this: Do not do anything or go anywhere you would need to remove your missionary name tag.

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