“Small, Quiet Assurances,” Ensign, April 2017
Growing up I never wanted to serve a full-time mission. Talking to strangers about the gospel and inviting people to change their lives sounded too scary. But as I got closer to being old enough to go, I started thinking about it more and more. I wanted other people to have the blessings of the gospel, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to serve a mission. I decided that if Heavenly Father wanted me to serve, I would do it—but I desired a loud and clear answer. I soon learned that receiving revelation doesn’t always work that way, but that doesn’t mean God leaves our prayers unanswered.
There was no lightning-bolt answer to my many prayers about serving a mission. However, over time I felt many small, quiet assurances that serving a mission would be a good thing for me to do. I remember feeling a strong desire to serve God while studying the scriptures one day. Then during a Sunday School class, I felt the Spirit when the teacher talked about how serving a mission had blessed his family. I also felt peace while sitting quietly in the temple and thinking about serving a mission.
I hadn’t fully committed to serving a mission yet, but I knew I needed to act. So I scheduled an appointment with my bishop to start filling out my papers. After my interview, I called my parents and told them my thoughts. As I talked to them, I felt the Spirit confirm that I had made a good choice.
I never got the big, showy answer I wanted, but I felt that the combination of my positive experiences constituted an answer. I put my trust in the Lord, worked with my local leaders to have a missionary recommendation submitted, and was called to serve in the Canada Toronto Mission.
Preparing to leave on my mission was an exciting time, but my fears and doubts didn’t magically disappear. To help me prepare, I watched The District, a video series used to help train missionaries. The videos showed the day-to-day lives of real missionaries and probably helped a lot of future missionaries be excited about serving a mission, but seeing what missionaries actually did just made me more anxious. One episode showed a new missionary giving the Book of Mormon to someone on the street. I remember sitting on my bed thinking, “Oh no. What have I gotten myself into?”
I remembered the small spiritual experiences I’d had that helped me decide to go, but I started wondering: Were those small experiences really my answer? Were they enough? Despite my questions, I chose to trust the good feelings I’d experienced earlier and entered the missionary training center a few months later.
Even in the MTC I still had fears and doubts. I met a lot of missionaries who told stories about how they received a clear, distinct impression from God that they needed to serve a mission. I didn’t feel I had ever received a distinct answer of confirmation like that, and I wondered if it mattered to Heavenly Father that I was there.
Gradually I learned that I wasn’t serving a mission for me. I was there to serve Heavenly Father by serving His children. As I came to understand more about the gospel and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, my desire to share the gospel increased, and I was less anxious about talking to strangers about the gospel or inviting people to change. I was no longer concerned by the different ways missionaries had received answers from God. My fears and doubts didn’t matter anymore because I saw how the gospel blessed the people I loved and served.
The people I served weren’t the only ones who were blessed. I received priceless blessings as well. Most important, my testimony of and faith in Jesus Christ were strengthened, and I came home with a greater desire to live His gospel.
I’m grateful I didn’t receive the big, loud answer I wanted about serving a mission. Because I learned that God answered prayers with quiet impressions, I was able to recognize the impressions I received while serving my mission and have confidence they were from God. I was also able to help the people I taught recognize their answers from God, which often came gently and quietly. It turns out the impressions I had early on in my decision-making process hadn’t led me astray. Serving a mission was a good thing for me to do.