Over at Times and Seasons Russell Arben Fox gave an interesting perspective on his slowly changing perception of Missionary work. In reply over at Trash Calls one of the commentators brought up the idea that they hated to hear how people struggled or hated their missions.
I have a slightly different view of life in the mission field. I saw a lot of what went on in my mission as a self development which I could not have done without, but at the same time I did see a fair amount of change in some of the people I dealt with over the two years.
However, been 21 in 2008 instead of 1990 I am not sure I ever would have been allowed to go. That would I think make me sad. I think my mission was a great success in convincing me that I was a part of the church of God and not just some one who was attending a church.
Before my mission I would classify myself as someone who sort of believed. I was not convinced fully and had not built my testimony to the point where I could fit into the church. In many ways I relied on others to keep me interested while I slowly built up my understanding and knowledge, as well as my faith.
I was 21 when I went because of this issue. I went in to my Bishop’s office in December of 1989 to talk to him about another matter and the next thing I knew he had convinced me of going on a mission. From January 1990 until August 15, 1990 I prepared in many ways to go on my mission, each of these things rebuilt my testimony and developed my faith.
Looking at my journal from that period I was able to show that I became an Elder, got my patriarchal blessing, got my endownments, all of which are similar to others but I also worked a lot with the Missionaries in the area and read all four of the standard works in that period.
It was something that helped me when I got to the MTC and learned what I needed to do. For me looking back at my journals it is obvious that I still had a lot to learn and I took that with me on my mission. Yet at the same time I knew how to do some basic things, recognize the spirit, teach, and help others understand the basics of the message. While that does not seem like a lot it was a huge leap for me.
My mission was a typical US English speaking mission, there were good missionaries, great ones and some average and bad ones. We had some level of success but nothing earth shattering and the areas where I had the greatest success had nothing to do with knocking doors.
At the end of my mission I loved it, but I was burnt out, the rules are such that at the end of two years all I wanted to do was break them. I knew it was enough.
The idea of raising the bar, which the Church has asked of potential missionaries, would have excluded me because I was inactive for a number of years (and committed a few things which might have excluded me during that period). I understand the concept of what they are trying to do but for me I would have missed a great development for me as a member of the church.
I also think of those people who were converted while I was there and I am truly amazed. While there were things I think I would not have enforced, or might have modified, and there were people, both missionaries and members who I could have done just fine never meeting, I think it just set a pattern in my life that as I have matured I have recognized as ones set on my mission.
So I am thankful ever minute to have had that once in a life time opportunity to serve.