“An Answer That Was Hard to Accept,” Ensign, April 2017
The historic announcement had been made lowering the age that young women could serve missions,1 and thousands had been called. Over the next two years, I would see many friends leave to serve the Lord as full-time sister missionaries.
Caught up in the excitement, I wondered if I should serve too. I knew it would be hard, but I admired those sisters who courageously served away from their families for 18 months, sometimes learning an unfamiliar language.
But after I prayed and fasted, I felt that I shouldn’t go.
I had tried to be humble and follow the Lord’s plan for me, and I was relieved to have an answer. But then my friends started returning from their missions, and I saw the incredible blessings in their lives because of their service. They all seemed different—in a good way. I loved having spiritual conversations with my roommates who had served missions, and I loved hearing mission experiences in Church.
However, I found myself feeling a little jealous. Wasn’t I good enough to have those same experiences? I wondered if maybe I hadn’t listened well enough when I prayed about a mission.
I prayed and fasted some more. Again the answer: Not right now.
I tried to move forward, trusting I had received God’s answer, but it wasn’t long before doubt set in again. It felt like young men were noticing the amazing changes I was seeing in my friends as well. Certainly I had had amazing spiritual experiences through callings, college, and work, but I began to feel like I had to compete with the mission stories and experiences—and I couldn’t even keep the difference between a zone and a district straight in my mind.
I even heard about young men who said they wouldn’t marry a young woman who hadn’t served a mission. I started to panic. Was that why some of the guys I had gone out with recently had lost interest in me after just a few dates?
In desperation I prayed again. Still, I felt that I shouldn’t go.
It was so hard to accept. For a time I felt like everyone around me was either going on a mission or getting married and that I was stuck in some kind of in-between space. At one point I even felt that I should go on a mission. I started to prepare. I even canceled my contract for an apartment I was going to move into with one of my best friends. But just a few days later, I felt strongly once again that Heavenly Father was asking me to wait.
Trying hard to act in faith instead of fear or frustration, I decided to evaluate why I wanted to serve. Did I want to go for the right reasons? Did I want to go so I could become more “datable”? Was it to see miracles or for self-improvement? Did I want to serve Jesus Christ and bring people to Him? Was the mission I wanted so much for Him or for me?
I fasted and prayed for the courage to be willing to grow through the experiences that Heavenly Father had planned for me if I wasn’t supposed to serve a full-time mission right then.
After two and a half years, I finally felt at peace. Heavenly Father had a plan for me, and if I was willing to learn and serve in the ways that He wanted me to, I didn’t have to serve a mission to see miracles and have life-changing experiences. Those things had been happening all along the way as I kept my covenants and trusted God. With His help, I was able to stick to my decision to stay.
Soon after, I ran into the young man I would marry. I was so grateful that he didn’t judge me or hesitate to date me because I had decided not to serve a mission. He loved me for the person I had become, and I loved him for the person he had become. Heavenly Father had prepared us both through our different experiences, even though mine didn’t include a full-time mission.