Tag Archives: Missionary Training Center

The 25th Anniversary of Starting My Mormon Mission…

It has been 25 years, today.

mtcprovoJuly 3, 1991…I was 19 years old and my parents and brothers and I were at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, saying our goodbyes. They were going to drive off and leave me there…

I had never lived away from home up to that point since my first year of college was spent at a local college. I don’t think I had been east of Utah in my life. Being the oldest, our family had never sent a missionary off. I was nervous. I’d imagine my parents were nervous. This was new territory. After a short presentation by the staff and leadership of the MTC, I hugged everyone, cried, and walked into a hallway with hundreds of new missionaries while my family walked back to the car with hundreds of families in similar situations.

First thing I learned as a missionary: I loved my family.

Then I hauled my bags to my room. Then I met Elder Evans who I would grow to love like a brother. Then I met the other missionaries going to my mission, and a few others going to other missions. I spent about three weeks in the MTC, learning, studying, playing basketball, eating (and immediately using the restroom), praying, praying…And eventually traveling to Texas where I served as a representative of my family, my church, and my Savior in bringing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone who would listen.

It has been 25 years since I embarked on that adventure. I served for two years. I’ve had 23 years to think about it. Here are some of the things I learned:

I learned that I could get along with anyone. I didn’t have to just stick with my friends like I thought I needed to do in high school. The mission president could stick me with any missionary companion and it wouldn’t be long before we were laughing and joking and working together. I even had one companion who didn’t speak any english (and I didn’t speak his language). We got along great!

I learned that I could work hard. I didn’t grow up on a farm or as an olympic athlete. It is doubtful that I would be remembered in high school as any other than an average worker. But very quickly I learned that I could go all day, so to speak. We were up at 6:30 AM, out the door by 9:00 AM, and gone all day until 9:00 PM that evening. And I liked it. I really enjoyed it. It was tiring, and could be discouraging, but we found ways to enjoy just working.

I learned that my intestines didn’t like 32-Bean-Soup.

I learned that my Samoan companion punched a lot harder than I did.

I learned that when you sense that a dog is going to try to bite you, it is because it really is going to try to bite you.

I learned that not everyone likes Mormons.

I learned that there was beauty and truth and great people in every religion.

I learned that there were incredible people who weren’t religious at all.

I learned to enjoy the friendship that developed with other religious leaders.

I learned that I enjoyed attended the Jewish Synagogue, Catholic Mass, and Baptist worship meetings.

I learned to let rejection, disappointment, and frustration bounce right off of me.

I learned that I could choose to be happy regardless of my circumstances.

I learned to get off of my bike, get out of my car, and get out of my routine to help strangers with no expectation of repayment. A person didn’t need to listen to our message to receive our help.

I learned to follow those quiet promptings, impressions, and feelings that come from a loving Heavenly Father.

I learned that obedience isn’t limiting or oppressive. Following the council of leaders doesn’t require that I become un-thinking or un-feeling. Just the opposite. And blessings and protection seem to follow.

I learned that Joseph Smith did, in fact, see God the Father and Jesus Christ. And that there was a lot to learn about that experience and from that experience.

I learned of the power of the word of God and the special relationship between the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

I learned that Jesus Christ really did live and die for all of us. He was resurrected and lives today.

I learned that God knew me very personally, and knows me today.

There’s certainly a lot more. Lessons were learned everyday. Over the last 23 years, since returning home and moving on with life, I’ve also learned that those two years as a missionary were not the best two years of my life. They set the stage. The mission ended up teaching me the patterns I would need to understand to make the next 23 years wonderful.

I will forever be grateful for parents and church leaders who encouraged me, but didn’t force me to serve as a missionary. I could have not served in that way and everyone would’ve loved me just fine. I had friends who didn’t go as full time missionaries and they were loved as much as me. So I learned that being a missionary didn’t make me any more special or loved by others or God.

But I’m grateful I went. I would go again. We’re encouraging our children to serve as missionaries because of the blessings and lessons that come. Those two years were critical in becoming who I am today.

Be encouraging…

BJM

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Throw Back Thursday (A Post on Discouragement)…

 

 

handwritten-letter-to-a-friend

(I recently had a person talk about how much they appreciated this post from months ago. Since I don’t have anything to write about today, I’m doing a “throwback Thursday”…)

 

Not long ago one of my previous and wonderful students entered the Missionary Training Center…and wouldn’t you know it? It was tough. Just like it is for most of the missionaries there. And just like it has been for most of the missionaries who have ever been there. Including me to some extent. I sent a few thoughts her way, and hope there is some help for some other missionary out there…I’ve edited a few details to protect, well, whoever…

Dearest Sister _______,
You’ve been there a few days, and if you’re normal at all you’re probably feeling a little bit of discouragement…
 
I know. I felt it, too. In fact, long after your mission experience, you will feel discouragement, and you’ll feel it over a lot of things: dating, marriage, finances, school, employment, pregnancy, children, callings, neighborhoods, sin…everything. I wish it were different, but it just isn’t.
 
But…with all of the discouragement coming in the future, you have much, much, much more enjoyment coming. There will be so much more enjoyment than discouragement. In fact, there will be enough enjoyment and satisfaction to more than overshadow the frustration, I promise. The joy of marriage will overshadow the discouragement of dating. The happiness in employment will overshadow the toughest days of college. The love of being a mother will make up for the struggles you may have getting pregnant. The hard things don’t go away, they are folded up and tucked away and only remembered occasionally. Your focus will be on the joy.
 
Your mission will be a pattern of that. Though you might feel discouraged today, in about a week things will be balancing out. And in a month, you won’t remember feeling this discouraged. And your life will go much like that. So a mission is great practice for life. It is hard practice, but good practice.
 
Here are a couple things that helped me, and still do:
 
1. I try to picture discouraging moments as a future funny story. I can either feel discouraged, or I can shrug and laugh a little and pray for better “luck”. When I tell someone else about my frustrations and try to laugh a little, I feel better about it.
 
2. I often picture myself thinking about this in a week or a month. I ask myself, “Will I still feel this bad a week from now, or will I feel fine? In a month, will I be ok?” I can’t think of many instances where the answer was anything other than, “As bad as I feel right now, I know I’ll be all right in a week or so…”
 
3. I try to imagine myself telling my children (when they’re older) about whatever particular trial I am going through. What do I want to be able to tell them about my reaction and effort? What will they learn from my current situation? What can I teach them about “hard things”?
 
You probably have a dozen other emails to read, so I’ll end. Well, except for one thing: When Christ miraculously healed people during His ministry, it was usually when things looked the worst. He knew the people would be all right, but they didn’t. Christ knows that you will be all right, even if you don’t. But you will. Sooner than you think. There is a big difference between being alone and feeling alone. In Heavenly Father’s family, there is no such thing as being alone. There is a little voice inside of you that is telling you that you can do this, you can make it, you can learn the language, you can love your companion, you can, you can, you can…Just listen to that voice.
 
So many people love you and are praying for you, myself included. Missions are hard. But you are on the “front lines” so you have direct access to Heavenly Father. You’re His daughter, and that’s that
 
If, by chance, you’re not feeling discouraged, then this is awkward. File this email away and give it to a sobbing companion when she needs it 🙂
 
You’re great!
 
…And the letter ends… I hope it was helpful, and she is doing wonderfully, and not because of the letter. She’s doing great because she is great and she is participating, directly, in a great work. For all of you future (or current) missionaries…you are, too.
These views are personal, and are not the official views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints...