What I Learned From Not Serving a Mission

While not serving a mission, I learned more about myself, my Heavenly Father, and the places he is leading me.  

KofordPQ4As 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 didn’t.

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 Ive Learned from Not Serving a Mission

  1. My relationship with God is not worse because I didnt 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

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8 Comments

  1. I wish I had been able to read this a few years ago. I was nineteen when the mission age changed. I prayed about it and felt that a mission was not right for me. I felt ashamed when I answered the often asked question, “When are you going on a mission?” with “I don’t plan on serving one.” people all around me almost seemed like they expected me to go. Now, a few years later, I have seen the blessings of staying home–yes, that sounds weird–but I have seen God’s plan for my life, something I had a hard time seeing a few years ago. Thank you for your insight Jenna.

  2. Thanks for your article, Jenna. I served a mission because I knew that was what i needed to get closer to reaching my spiritual potential and prepare me for the future. the lord has a plan for each of us, and there are a variety of experiences that can enable us to develop as children of God; a mission is not the only way.

  3. I did end up serving a mission, but i have always had So much admiration and respect for those who decide not to go, especially for those who made their decision when pressure to go was high. Neither my mother Nor my sister served missions, and it amazes how strong tHeir tEstimonies are without that paRticular experience. Sometimes i think that the reason i needed to go was because my faith WASN’T as strong as theirs and that i couldn’t be as faithful a memBer without such an experience. Choosing to serve a mission is a very personal decision, and i believe that when we have studied it out in our minds and in our hearts and prayed with real intent, the Lord will reveal what is needed of us.

  4. i CAN TOTALLY RELATE TO THIS ARTICLE. i FEEL LIKE WE HAVE A NEW STANDARD IN THE CHURCH THAT ALL YOUNG WOMEN want to serve/are serving/will serve a mission. I know that may sound exaggerated, but that is how it feels sometimes to someone who hasn’t served a mission. I firmly believe that i have still grown spiritually in the last few years despite not serving a mission like most of my friends. i know that god has a plan for all of us and that he loves us all so much. i know that he loves and respects anyone’s decision to serve or to not serve a mission.

  5. I honestly appreciate this article so much. Thanks for addressing this. This is a real problem for many young women. People are putting a lot of pressure on girls to serve even if they’ve decided that they are meant for something else during that time. Missions are not for everyone.
    I love how you put a positive spin on this by discussing what insights we can get from not serving a mission. Sometimes staying home can be just as testimony-building as going. Of course I love and appreciate sister missionaries! Very much so. But I do think people need to be less judgmental.

  6. Like the other comments, I really appreciated this article. I had a mission call, and then fell in love and got married instead of serving a mission. I felt confused because I felt that I should serve a mission, and then I got married instead. I have since learned that I was supposed to prepare to serve a mission, to become a better person, so that I could be the kind of person my husband would want to marry. That being said, I still feel some residual emotions that tell me that I am a worse person now than I would have been if I had served a mission. This article helped me realize that that does not have to be true, and I have grown in lots of ways in understanding our missions. I think that most of us don’t understand our “missions” clearly enough. Although I enjoyed Elder John H. Groberg’s talk “What Is Your Mission?” I think that we can misinterpret our “missions” in life to being something really specific and if we don’t do exactly what we need to do at the time we need to do it, then we are forever doomed. I think that my life would have honestly been fine if I had gone on a mission rather than marrying my husband, but if I follow my core mission of coming closer to Christ and keeping the commandments (including following promptings), I think everything will work out just fine.

  7. I was curious if you ever considered changing the
    page layout of your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people
    could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for
    only having one or 2 images. Maybe you could space it out better?

    • Thank you for your feedback! We will definitely take that into account. Currently, our purpose as a blog is to highlight other content (such as general conference talks) and help give it more exposure, which is why many of our posts are shorter in length. However, we are always looking ways to improve the blog, so thank you for bringing that to our attention!

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