Friday, July 30, 2010

On new missionaries

Another nephew entered the MTC this week, and one left the MTC for his field of labor. How cool is that? I'm glad that these young men, who come from great families and are well prepared, will serve missions. They are part of a tradition in our extended family that includes many, but not all, of their similar aged cousins.

I'm excited for them because of what they'd do and what they'll learn. Their serving causes me to reflect on my own missionary service. And it causes me to reflect on the missionaries who taught my parents and me over forty years ago. And it reminds me of young men and women whom I interviewed as a bishop several years ago prior to their serving.

The rite-of-passage missionary service can be a remarkable thing in the life of the missionary, especially if the blessings to the missionary are incidental to his or her efforts. It was true on my mission and it is true now in my life: some of my greatest lessons come when I least expect them, and some only upon reflection of what has already happened.

I had a companion whose brother (with permission from our mission president) visited us for lunch late in my mission. The brother observed that one of the best kept secrets in the church is what a mission is really like, implying that the hardest parts of a mission are often not discussed in priest quorums or homecoming talks. My companion and I agreed, and also suggested that at least part of the reason for that is the need to "be there." Just as an inside joke is funny only to those who share the experience, just as only women who have experienced childbirth really understand it, so are there parts of a mission that only those who live it will know and understand it.

I'm grateful that young people choose to serve. I remember while teaching in the MTC years ago that there were lots of reasons missionaries came on their missions. My own service showed me that my greatest success (however you define that for missionaries) came when I served out of love for the Lord and for His children. I trust my young nephews will learn that lesson, too.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't serve a mission, but many of those closest to me did. One general observation I've made is how serving a mission gives so many gifts, which help in other areas of life. So many college-age kids think of themselves as "independent", because they're buying into this fantasy. Truthfully, they may live down the road or across the country, but they're not independent in any meaningful way. However, to step out on your own, and choose to spend a year and a half, or two years, as the case may be, truly living on your own in strange and often unsettling circumstances...that teaches independence and self reliance. As does the experience of being surrounded by people who not only think differently than you, but think less of you for what you believe. I actually got plenty of that going to school in Cambridge, MA.

    It's also a great bonding opportunity, after the fact--how many people know what it's like, for whatever reason (mission, studying abroad, serving in the military...that's about it) to be plunked down in a foreign country, at a young age, and having absolutely no idea what to do there? Mr. CJ and BIL come from very different backgrounds, and have had very different life, and educational experiences, but that "oh, no, what now" experience is something they share.