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Wright Words: What do you tell a prospective missionary before entering the MTC?

Published: Tuesday, April 22 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Elder Wright in his first area, Sete Lagoas. (Jason Wright) Elder Wright in his first area, Sete Lagoas. (Jason Wright)

Don’t you love mission-call season?

It’s that special time of year where nearly every Sunday, someone stands at the pulpit and announces that another young man or woman has received a mission call. Texts are flying and Facebook lights up with cellphone videos of those iconic, large white envelopes being opened in front of a huge world map.

Then, no matter where one is called to serve, cheers erupt, mothers cry and the countdown begins.

Of course, adults young and old enter Missionary Training Centers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the year, but with high schools and college classes ending, this is the season of the surge.

With so many preparing to serve, and with my own daughter considering a mission later this year, I've been thinking back on the same season years ago when I received my call in April and reported to the Missionary Training Center in July.

Elder Wright poses in the kind of wagon that played a major part of life in rural communities. (Elder Jean) Elder Wright poses in the kind of wagon that played a major part of life in rural communities. (Elder Jean)

I’ve imagined sitting down and writing a letter to a much younger, much more dark haired Elder Wright to share insights on this critical time in his life. What would I say?

Dear Younger Jason,

It's hard to believe after years of singing, “I hope they call me on a mission...” they’ve finally called you on a mission!

No longer are you wondering what the day will be like. The fuzzy hypothetical has become concrete reality. You’re about to graduate from that tiny “Future Missionary” nametag to the real deal.

Soon your mission call will arrive — or maybe it already has — and the tick tock to your report date at the MTC will begin to get louder.

Jason, you'll be tempted in these last few months, weeks and days to grow out that scruffy facial hair you call a beard. You’ll say that it won't be an option for the next two years and so you should grow it while you can. Knowing you as I do, you might also want to let that hair get a little long or dye it a funky color.

Missionaries walk to the bus to travel to their new areas of assignment. They are leaving the Provo Missionary Training Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Provo, Utah Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Missionaries walk to the bus to travel to their new areas of assignment. They are leaving the Provo Missionary Training Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Provo, Utah Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Don't.

Use this sacred time now to begin to think, behave and look like a missionary. You don't need to wear a white shirt every day or shave at 6:30 a.m. You need not knock random doors in the neighborhood or engage in street contacting. But if you’ll start to look the part and begin thinking like a missionary, you’ll send a message to heaven that you're ready be led by a mission president, a trainer in the mission field and, most importantly, by the Spirit.

Acknowledging that your days of dating will come to pause during your mission, you might challenge yourself to date as much as possible. A friend might even dare you to go on three dates on a single Saturday less than a month before reporting for your mission. Like other missionaries, you might convince yourself to leave it all in the field before you enter the field.

Members of Torres family were among the first baptisms for Elder Wright, shown here with his companion, Elder Castro (left). (Elder Eldridge) Members of Torres family were among the first baptisms for Elder Wright, shown here with his companion, Elder Castro (left). (Elder Eldridge)

Don't.

By all means, socialize and spend time with those you love that share your values, particularly those other young adults in the same stage of their life preparing to serve. But rather than spending time chasing romance, use these days to build friendships and share the gospel. There will be time to find a spouse. This isn’t it.

May we talk about your sleep habits, Jason? 6:30 is a real time of day, not just numbers on your watch. Knowing your schedule is about to change dramatically, you might choose to sleep late until rules require otherwise.

Don’t.

While it isn't necessary to begin getting up at 6 o'clock and following a missionary’s morning routine, sleeping until noon will be a tough habit to turn around when you suit up. Begin now to get up early, work out, go for a walk, read your scriptures and pray before heading to work, class or wherever your day needs you.

Cards are pulled for new missionaries on their first day at the Provo Missionary Training Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Provo, Utah, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Cards are pulled for new missionaries on their first day at the Provo Missionary Training Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Provo, Utah, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

You willingly accept that your entertainment options are about to be narrowed from “U2” to “MOTAB” and from “Top Gun” to “Families Are Forever.” You’re going to spend too much time and money cramming in every movie or Super Nintendo video game between now and the Wednesday you say goodbye.

Don’t.

Remember that a good movie, concert or other wholesome diversion is a wonderful way to decompress, but use your preparation time to step away from the world and toward divinity. Memorize the 13th Article of Faith, or all of them for that matter, and gain a testimony of what moderation in all things might mean to a soon-to-be missionary.

Do enjoy your family.

A goodbye message discovered on the day Elder Wright was transferred with a broken foot from Vicosa, Brazil. (Elder Boulton) A goodbye message discovered on the day Elder Wright was transferred with a broken foot from Vicosa, Brazil. (Elder Boulton)

Do enjoy your friends.

But don’t forget that you’ve grown a foot or two, and the Lord is waiting for you.

Send the message that you're prepared to land in the field, ready to hasten the work and ready for the promised harvest.

There will be tough days ahead, Jason. But the work you’re doing now to prepare will enable you to better call upon the Spirit and to weather the storms.

Younger Jason, please know I love you, even on the days you don’t shave.

And remember, God loves you, too.

It’s true — trust me.

Sincerely,

One of Elder Wright's apartments featured banana trees in the yard. (Jean Carlos Pereira) One of Elder Wright's apartments featured banana trees in the yard. (Jean Carlos Pereira)

Older Jason

Jason Wright is a New York Times bestselling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars" and "The Wednesday Letters." Learn more at jasonfwright.com, or connect on Facebook at facebook.com/jfwbooks or by email at jwright@deseretnews.com

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