Thursday, June 14, 2012

The other mission

I’ve written recently about how happy we are that one of our daughters has chosen to serve a full time mission. It is exciting news and it’s an exciting time as we (and by we I mean my lovely wife) help to get her ready to leave in a couple of weeks.

At the same time I’ve reflected on another daughter who chose not to serve a full-time mission. Her decision was not taken lightly. She had many friends who served and she worked at the MTC in a support function, so she had plenty of thoughts about missions and missionaries at that time. But as she prayerfully considered whether to serve, she felt it wasn’t the right thing for her to do.

Of course there is nothing wrong with her thinking, either. Instead she finished her degree at BYU, and during those last years there served in a Relief Society presidency in her ward. After graduation she began working for a magazine in Northeastern Pennsylvania. She attends a very small ward of the church (what would probably be a branch if it were a new unit), and presently she serves as the Young Women’s president.

Because of who she is, my daughter throws herself completely into her service. She is working hard to shepherd the few young women in her charge, to learn how to be an auxiliary president (actually, she’s really good at it), to live by example as she works to complete the Young Women Personal Progress program (again; she did it when she was a young woman, too), to support her bishop and other members of the ward council, to attend the temple whenever she can (whether as a leader on a youth trip, or for her own temple service), all on top of doing her best at her job and trying to live a gospel-centered life.

While she did not serve a full-time mission, there is no doubt she is serving as hard now as she would be if she had. Having lived in these small units before, I know the value of having young energetic people move in to liven things up, bring new perspective, and just maybe reach one or two people who otherwise wouldn’t have been reached. As her parents, we know (because she tells us) how hard she works in her calling, and how much physical, spiritual and emotional energy she invests in the young women she serves. And we are pleased that she is so willing to serve; surely it would be easier to sit back and enjoy her chosen forms of recreation rather than working so hard. We are grateful that she recognizes that blessings don’t necessarily flow from the easy path, but rather from the path of service.

I’m reminded of my parents who never served a mission. They were in their 30’s when our family joined the church. By the time they were old enough to serve a senior mission together, they were serving so much in their stake that perhaps going on a mission would have provided a rest! In one stake, Dad served on the high council and was responsible for all the family history centers in the stake, and Mom was the director of one of those centers. When they retired again, Dad quickly because branch president in his rural unit of the church (and for a while he served simultaneously as branch president and branch mission leader). Mom served in a variety of callings during those years, too. Coincidentally I served with a brother several years later who was a bishop in my parents’ stake at the time Dad was branch president; he thought my parents were a senior missionary couple! Although they never served a full time mission, their service was as valuable as any senior couple’s would have been.

Elder Uchtdorf taught us several years ago to lift where we stand. Yes, some will be called to distant shores to preach and lift and serve. And others will serve quietly at home. My lovely wife and I are of an age where we’ve begun to look forward to a senior mission or two or three. We dream of serving in a temple or in family history or in some exotic location. Whether and how we serve will certainly be influenced by our own preparations, financially, physically and spiritually. But it may also be influenced by local needs wherever we live at the time.


  1. I think you have amazing daughters! They always uplift me by their great example.

  2. I appreciate you sharing the example of your parents who didn't serve a senior mission, but served faithfully where they were.

    There are so many different experiences in the Church and it's a blessing to know people and know of people who have, as you said, lifted where they stand.

  3. Cassie, it goes without saying, but I'm right there with you! :-)

    Becca, thanks for reading, as always. I think had my folks asked either stake president to sign mission papers, he would have refused to let them go!

  4. Is anyone besides mission presidents called these days on a mission, in the sense that a Sunday School teacher or a quorum secretary is, or do they all initiate the matter themselves?

  5. John, great question. I have not heard of anyone being called on a full time church service mission without first applying. I suppose a bishop or a stake president might meet with someone and encourage them to apply.

    And I do know local church service missionaries (to serve in leadership roles in smaller units or in the storehouse or in the ARP program, for instance) are called by the local stake all the time.