What we wish we'd known before we served a Mormon mission

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  • zipper Strawberry, AZ
    Jan. 9, 2014 2:10 p.m.

    My wife and I served in India, Sri Lanka and Singapore and though we had lived in three other countries and thought we were well aclimated to different customs, India was not easy. There were many "oh, oh" moments but we adapted and have many wonderful memoiries. I agree with all the comments in the article and they should be passed on to all semior couples. We would certainly go to those countries again.

  • dan76 san antonio, TX
    Jan. 8, 2014 12:44 p.m.

    @Dave in AZ

    My condolences for your loss. Having lost my best friend and spouse some time ago, I have some idea of what you're experiencing.

  • East Coast Reader Richmond, VA
    Jan. 6, 2014 9:14 p.m.

    One thing that never was a challenge for me was being with my wife all the time. Before we left on a mission she was working or helping others so she was gone a lot. It was a treat not being married to a "missing person". The mission was hard with the language barrier and the church being so new in the Asian Country where we served. Despite the challenges it was a glorious experience and I cherish the experiences we had there.

  • RobCaldwell Bethpage, NY
    Jan. 6, 2014 8:06 p.m.

    Nice perspective. I always loved all of the Senior Couple Missionaries when I served.

  • silvercloud41NE Fremont, NE
    Jan. 6, 2014 3:44 p.m.

    Trust in The Lord and He will take thee by thy hand and guide you in your mission, whether it be your earthly probation or your calling to assist in the gathering of His faithful sons and daughters from the four corners of the earth. That said... I will say I wish I had learned to be a bit more compassionate and humble BEFORE I left on my mission. I quickly gained those attributes but feel I could have been better if I was more prepared. Learning to give your all will help set the tone for the rest of your life. Again... trust in The Lord. Read the Book of Mormon and know that it is true. Identify with those whose experiences are shared and pray sincerely to know and bear witness that it is true and that this work is divine and inspired. There are so many out there who are really searching for the truth and yet know not where to find it. We can be their saviors, we are told, and this will bring you real peace of mind and desire to serve. It may not be easy but it is worth it.

  • GTOBoomer USA, UT
    Jan. 6, 2014 1:49 p.m.

    My husband and I had lived and traveled in many countries before our 18-month senior mission in Penang, Malaysia. I can honestly say that we had no adjustment to the culture or culture shock and completely enjoyed the culture and people. We also had no adjustment to spending so much time together. The biggest adjustment was in deciding, as member-leader support missionaries, how best to spend our time in service. That was in flux until our callings in the branch were so demanding, we spent almost all our time filling them. Everyone who is able should serve an LDS mission. As usual, those giving service receive the most benefit.

  • bjdoc Boise, Idaho
    Jan. 6, 2014 10:56 a.m.

    The article was filled with wonderful generalities, but I missed the inclusions of real experiences that promted your generalities.

  • DR Hampton Portage, MI
    Jan. 6, 2014 10:05 a.m.

    Sister Carpenter wrote a thoughtful, balanced account. My aunt and uncle had a really rough mission at an Indian reservation decades ago. My wife and I are looking forward to our mission in 8--9 years. However, figuring out where to go and what to do are challenging. My wife doesn't want to learn a foreign language, and I rather not learn another language besides French, which I used during my first mission. I want to serve where my groundwater expertise can benefit people. In the end, we may just say "Send us where you feel inspired to use us." Meanwhile, I'm trying to learn from others like the Carpenters, and to prepare myself physically, spiritually and financially.

  • grouchyoldman Arden, NC
    Jan. 6, 2014 5:08 a.m.

    I served a mission in CASM in 1966-68 and later returned to marry a beautiful young woman that I was able to teach and see enter the waters of baptism. Now some 46 years later we are planning our mission. Thanks for the heads up...I'm sure we will need it.

  • Dave in AZ Snowflake, AZ
    Jan. 6, 2014 12:04 a.m.

    My wife and I always wanted to serve on a mission, but she took sick 7 years ago. Three years ago she was confined to a wheelchair with oxygen. Two years ago, I noted to her that we were serving ON our mission---a mission from home in which the children, grandchildren and many friends could pray for her during her surgeries, hospitals visits, pain and suffering, thereby increasing their faith and attitude of prayer. We also became very, very close in our lives and our love actually increased. We don't know whose life or lives she/we touched but we know that our faith increased many fold as we constantly witnessed the Lord's tender mercies in her life and in our pathway. Our mission was completed two months ago as she entered the Lord's realm above. I am forever thankful for my eternal missionary companion and what she has taught me. Who knows what she has taught others as she literally planted a lot of seeds along her journey in life. God bless those couples who have the health to serve for they are truly needed!

  • I Choose Freedom Atlanta, GA
    Jan. 5, 2014 8:52 p.m.

    I served in the great California San Diego Mission from 1978 - 1980 and I can honestly say that I loved every minute of it. Well, almost every minute, There was that one companion . . . . . :-)

    Everyone likes to say that a mission is "The best two years of your life." I don't agree. I have had some incredibly great years since my mission. But what I will say is that my mission was "The best two years FOR my life!" It laid the foundation that I have built a very happy life upon. And I thank my Heavenly Father for my mission every day.

    My wife and I truly look forward to serving a mission together someday. Hopefully soon.

  • BrentBot Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 5, 2014 3:27 p.m.

    The workload varies - for example, in a temple mission, you have two periods of two weeks of "vacation". In a Visitor Center or Member-Leader Support the stress is also minimal, but there are no "vacations". In a Family History Center, those unaccustomed to computer work will find it stressful, but when the FHC is closed, your time is your own. Perhaps the most stressful is working in a Mission Office with secretarial or financial/housing responsibilities. There are no vacations or "two-day" holidays. It is worse than a 50 hour work-week (which Seniors endured when they were younger). Mission Presidents (who work even harder than Seniors in the Office - but are younger) will avoid "burn-out" of their Senior couples if they assign these responsibilities to junior missionaries (rotating every six months or so).

  • Carol P. Warnick Ephraim, Utah
    Jan. 4, 2014 8:54 p.m.

    One of the greatest things that I discovered as a Senior Missionary was how much the Lord had guided and prepared me for my mission. I have such a strong testimony that my husband and I were where we needed to be to help others. Although there were challenges, the blessings were great. I will always be grateful for our missionary experience and love the people we served.

  • Llew40 Sandy, UT
    Jan. 4, 2014 6:42 p.m.

    Someone needs to make a list for all the young kids too. Here's mine for all future sisters:
    It will not automatically grant you dating that leads to a temple marriage upon your return (I've been home for almost fifteen years now and I'm still waiting)
    You will encounter many situations of cohabitation that will break your heart and be the number one reason you and your companion struggle to find folks to teach and baptize.
    Be prepared for rudeness from both members and non-members who feel your true place and calling in back home in the kitchen making babies and to stop bothering them with names of people to teach, not to mention all the member wives regarding you with suspicion as competition for their husbands.
    On the bright side, you will develop a great love for the Book of Mormon and the gospel and be blessed with the strength and endurance you will need to get through in eighteen months what it takes the young men two years to accomplish! A mission is a nice place to visit, but you'll never want to live there!

  • Lois South Jordan, UT
    Jan. 4, 2014 12:31 p.m.

    If you have held a position in the church, you know there are ups and downs. Same with a mission. If you stay home and/or travel you will get sick during a certain period of time. Same with a mission. If you are with your spouse 'too much' at home you can go in the other room or go shopping. Same with a mission. Others have answered the family time situation but haven't mentioned that family can come visit as well as communicate in many ways. Often you can get children and grandchildren to listen better when you are away than when you are there in person. Generally it is true that what you put in to a mission is what you will get out just like all other callings. If you had a difficult experience once, please try again. We've served away from home 4 times and they have been wonderful, enriching, growing, happy, joyous, learning, fulfilling times. We have met people every time who have become eternal friends. Nothing can replace how blessed we and our family have been. Nothing! Certainly not staying at home.

  • Flashback Kearns, UT
    Jan. 4, 2014 10:07 a.m.

    I'm betting that my friend that was called to serve a full time mission with his wife in the Salt Lake City Utah Central Mission will experience severe culture shock. Especially since he still gets to live in his home in Holliday while serving.

  • Farr West OGDEN, UT
    Jan. 4, 2014 8:42 a.m.

    Re: ElJefeOcho,

    I agree with everything you said...except for one thing. Your description is what constitutes the "best two years." By doing the things Elder Featherstone taught, one is setting the course for the rest of their life. For those that go out on a mission 'unprepared'...well they either sink or swim real quick. And that is not a pleasant experience, for you or your companion.

  • Elder Dave Woodland Bremen, GA
    Jan. 4, 2014 8:11 a.m.

    These points are all very good. My wife and I are half-way through a 6 month Member & Leader Support mission in the Georgia Atlanta Mission right now and loving it. (Serving in the unbelievably-great Buchanan Branch of Powder Springs Georgia Stake.) As I read each of the first 11 Learning Curve points I thought, "Yes, and we loved that experience too".

    Important to note:
    *Senior Missions may be 6, 12, 18 or 23 months - you choose. We chose 6 months so we could leave after our youngest son left on his mission (now in Ohio) and get home before his next older brother returns from Texas.
    *The missionary application welcomes suggestions on where/how seniors might like to serve. No guarantees you will be called there, but it is not at all presumptuous to make requests.
    *Seniors don't have to be retired. You do need to let go of your work life, but if you are able to take a sabbatical for 6 or 12 months and give it your all, you will never regret it.

    Great needs and great experiences. Know that there are more than 400 loving Mission Presidents in the world who would welcome, love and support many more couples.
    Hurrah for Israel!

  • Don37 Nottingham, MD
    Jan. 4, 2014 7:33 a.m.

    We live in Baltimore, Maryland and have seen many senior missionary couples as well as young elders and sisters.
    All have been great missionaries. The senior couples especially useful in this area. We often have a home teaching load which would require each set of home teachers to be responsible for up to 40 families. Many of these senior couples have been very effective in helping inactive PH holders to become active. Their tireless efforts were of great value to us.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Jan. 4, 2014 6:18 a.m.

    I did not understand this article at all. My wife and I served a mission in a 3rd world country in Asia and loved it. Not a day goes by that we don't think of those wonderful two years in a vastly different culture, vastly different climate, with vastly different food, a vastly different language and a vastly different life. Honestly, we would say they were the best two years of our lives, our marriage and our faith! We are going to serve another mission soon! It was an excellent adventure!

  • ElJefeOcho STAFFORD, VA
    Jan. 3, 2014 10:04 p.m.

    I served as a young elder from 1979-81 in the England Leeds Mission and my brother served in Norway in the mid-1980s. We both agree missions are worth it, but for those who say their mission was the "best two years" of their life... well... good on ya... but for many of us... it was the most challenging experience of our then-young lives. We both saw people get baptized, but getter there required inspiration, prayer, study and lots of hard work.

    In 1979 Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone summed it up very well, "The mission life is not easy. It requires self-denial, mental and physical exertion, maturity, self-mastery, spirituality, and a very strong, positive mental attitude. It requires an elder to be a man, not a boy. A mission should be a Spartan life. It will require resiliency and total commitment."

    Don't get me wrong -- I recommend missionary work for the prepared. But is called work for a reason...