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Sharon Hodges
Elder Kyle Hodges, right, and his companion, Elder Vinicius Machado serve in the Brazil Sao Paulo South Mission.

Nearly a year has passed since President Thomas S. Monson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the historic change to the church’s missionary program. It’s become known colloquially as the “age change” — meaning that worthy young men are eligible to serve at the age of 18 instead of 19 and after graduating from high school. Young women are now invited to serve at 19 instead of 21.

This change has produced a remarkable surge in missionaries entering the field. The LDS Church estimates there will be about 80,000 missionaries serving by October. Before the announcement, there were about 54,000 missionaries.

This wave of willingness to tune out the world and serve the Lord as his full-time representative is inspiring. Witnessing these young men and women flood the field reminds me of my own mission to Brazil many years ago. My time there remains among my most treasured experiences and chief accomplishments. If I could return today, I would.

While serving as a young man — and later teaching for a short time at the Mission Training Center in Provo, and even now having Mormon missionaries into my home as often as possible and working with them at every opportunity — I’ve learned a few things about the differences between happy, successful missionaries and the unpleasant alternatives.

I call them my 11 can’t-miss tips for successful missionaries.

1. Be obedient — period. Following mission rules brings blessings you cannot fathom until you are immersed in obedience. Learn the rules and follow them.

2. Don’t judge. At times, you will feel tempted to judge other missionaries and their efforts. Remember, your skills and natural abilities may be different than those you serve with. Their best effort doesn’t need to be good enough for you; it needs to be good enough for the Lord.

3. Be obedient every minute of every day. You are unlikely to meet returned missionaries who were obedient but still regret their missions. But you will certainly encounter others who were never consistently obedient and never found the promised success and happiness. Being obedient doesn't mean you won't have difficult days, but it does mean more much success and happiness than otherwise.

Continue reading: 11 can't-miss tips for successful LDS missionaries

Jason Wright is a New York Times bestselling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars," "The Wednesday Letters," and "The 96th Annual Apple Valley Barn Dance." He can be reached at jwright@deseretnews.com or jasonfwright.com.