While not serving a mission, I learned more about myself, my Heavenly Father, and the places he is leading me.
As waves of missionaries return home, lots of things have changed, such as housing, dating, school enrollment, and marriage. President Thomas S. Monson’s 2012 general conference announcement lowering the ages for missionary service changed more than the numbers of missionaries serving worldwide. For me, the thing that has changed the most is social life. When many meet, they immediately ask one question:
Where did you serve your mission?
Many light up and name off a foreign country. Others proudly proclaim a stateside mission, and conversation flows smoothly. But for me and for many others like me, the answer is different. Where did you serve your mission?
I have been on a solo journey to come closer to Christ and to become the woman I’m meant to be. I say solo because with over 20 of my friends on missions, I’ve felt alone many times during the past few years. During this time, I have found strength in Elder John H. Groberg’s talk “What Is Your Mission?” Elder Groberg speaks of three important points:
- “God, our Father in Heaven, does have a specific mission for all of us to fulfill and perform while we are here upon this earth.”
- “We can, here and now in this life, discover what that mission is.”
- “With His help we can fulfill that mission and know and have assurance—here and now in this life—that we are doing that which is pleasing to our Father in Heaven.”
Through Elder Groberg’s talk, I’ve come to know that I do have a mission—one given to me long before I came here. Part of that mission is to learn more about my Father and what he wants me to do.
My decision to not go on a mission is another story altogether, but it came with a great deal of thought and prayer. I did not make this decision lightly because I knew it was one that would shape my life forever.
Even though I didn’t open a letter from the First Presidency, during the last few years I have learned more about the gospel and God’s plan for me than I had ever known before. I know that serving a mission would have enhanced that knowledge, and I have great love for those who leave the world behind and share their light. However, through my studying, pondering, praying, pleading, and planning, I’ve learned a few things—even without wearing a nametag.
Five Things I’ve Learned from Not Serving a Mission
- My relationship with God is not worse because I didn’t wear a nametag. Not serving a mission means I haven’t had a companion watching to see if I wake up on time and say my prayers. I have had to completely discipline myself to work on my relationship with God, and it’s becoming a wonderful thing.
- My testimony is just as strong as returned missionaries’ testimonies. This one is similar to number one. I may feel inadequate as RMs talk about their testimony-building experiences in the Amazon. However, I know that I have worked and am still working to strengthen my testimony and that it can strengthen my knowledge and actions in the gospel.
- I need to use my time wisely. Naps are great, but being productive is the best feeling. I look up to missionaries worldwide because they gain life skills in time management, planning, and communication.
- I can still share the gospel. I live in Utah, and it seems as though everyone in Utah is LDS. But I have still found ways to share my testimony. Social media, however potentially harmful, has the power to be a useful tool if we use it the right way.
- Missions are hard. Letting my friends go was hard, and I will never know exactly what missionaries go through. But that doesn’t mean I have no idea what a mission is like. My father, brother, uncles, cousins, and friends have served, and I know it’s one of the hardest things a person will ever be asked to do. I learned that as I plan for a senior mission someday with my husband, I need to be close to the Spirit and be ready to work.
I will not be ashamed that I didn’t serve a mission, nor will I judge those who did serve. Serving a mission is an individual choice for women and a priesthood duty for men. But that does not mean that those who come home early or do not serve are any less spiritual. Your missionary nametag and your time in the field are not directly related to your spiritual status in the Church. I’ve known returned missionaries who served a full two years but who have lost their testimonies, and I’ve known missionaries who came home early who are spiritual giants.
I received my temple endowment this year and love going with my family and returned missionary friends to the House of the Lord. I’m preparing to serve a mission with my husband someday, and I actively write my close friends who are serving missions around the world.
I didn’t serve a mission, and that’s a wonderful thing. Many of my friends served missions, and that’s a wonderful thing too. I grew from my time alone because I was never really alone. While not serving a mission, I learned more about myself, my Heavenly Father, and the places he is leading me.
That’s a wonderful thing.
Read Elder Groberg’s complete talk “What Is Your Mission?”
Source: BYU Speeches
—Jenna Koford, Mormon Insights