In D&C 133:8 The Lord instructs, “Send forth the elders of my church unto the nations which are afar off; unto the islands of the sea; send forth unto foreign lands; call upon all nations..."
Just a few months ago, my nephew, Rigby, returned from a mission serving in Kentucky and next Tuesday another nephew, Chandler will return from Chile. Chandler's brother, Tanner will soon be following in his footstep as he leaves his family, friends and life behind to serve an LDS mission in beautiful Hawaii.
In case you were wondering about these pictures of my suited up, 18 year old, nephew, I thought I would shed a little light. Sending our youth abroad for 18 months-two years with not much more than a few suits and ties and their scriptures seems entirely insane! LDS Missions are not easy. They are long and regimented and oftentimes, drudging. Our youth, literally, put their lives, their schooling, their girlfriends/boyfriends, their jobs, their sports and everything else on hold while they devote two years in service to others, their God and their church.
Why then? From a very young age, we are taught that it is important to spread the gospel and share it with others. We believe that not only has the Lord asked this of his servants but our living prophets as well. President Thomas S. Monson has said: “Every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission. Missionary service is a priesthood duty—an obligation the Lord expects of us who have been given so very much. Young men, I admonish you to prepare for service as a missionary” The Savior taught, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations" (Matthew 28:19) and in 1 Samuel 2:30, it says "For them that honor me I will honor". Church members actually consider it a privilege to show their love for other people and the Lord by sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. While serving a mission is entirely a personal choice and one that should not be taken lightly, most make the decision to go. Not serving a mission or returning early, however, does not affect a person's standing in the church in any way. In fact, there are many reasons, including medical situations or family obligations that would prevent one from serving or returning early but this does not mean that our youth should not hesitate to "prepare themselves" as President Monson admonished.
Our children look forward to the day that they receive their mission calls and prepare themselves physically, financially, mentally and spiritually to go. In fact, you might not know this but on the missionary recommendation form it asks “Can you work 12 to 15 hours per day, walk 6 to 8 miles per day, ride a bicycle 10 to 15 miles per day, and climb stairs daily?” Missions are not easy and they require more than spiritual preparedness to go. Missions are generally around $400 a month. While this might not seem like a significant amount of money for US missionaries, the costs and sacrifices of those wanting and willing to serve around the globe are substantial. There is financial help for missionaries but it does not change the magnitude of the burden and strain on many families.
As a mother, I know that serving a mission will be a great training ground for my boys, if they choose to go. They will learn to be on their own and do hard things. They will have to rely on the Lord and have great faith. They will have to learn to get a long with and respect others. LDS Missionaries are never without a companion and this can sometimes be the hardest part of a mission. My boys will gain their own testimonies of the Savior Jesus Christ and understand the Plan of Salvation. They will learn the scriptures and begin to understand them more deeply. They will find joy and happiness in living simply and for others. They will learn to go without, sacrifice greatly and be humbled. Depending on where they serve, they will gain a deeper understanding of the world around them and their brothers and sisters who suffer and go without. Hopefully, they will return with a deeper love for God's planet and His children for we are all equal in the sight of God.
I am so proud of my nephews and for their service and I am super excited, now, for Tanner, who is on his way to heaven on earth! He will love the Hawaiian people and their culture and traditions. He has been taught well and is beyond prepared to go out and teach others about Jesus Christ. Mahalo Tanner!