Lesson 6: Preparing for Life as a Missionary
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“Lesson 6: Preparing for Life as a Missionary,” Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 6,” Missionary Preparation

6

Preparing for Life as a Missionary

Introduction

To serve a full-time mission is to accept a call to represent the Lord Jesus Christ. A mission is a joyful experience, but it also involves hard work. To be effective missionaries, young men and women must be prepared to trust in the Lord when they face challenges. As prospective missionaries establish healthy expectations of mission life, they will be better prepared to serve with all of their “heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2).

Advance Preparation

Suggestions for Teaching

Becoming a Missionary

Begin the lesson by asking the class these questions:

  • In what ways do you expect your lifestyle to change when you begin your service as a missionary?

  • What can you begin doing now to prepare for those lifestyle changes?

Display and invite a student to read the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, or show the video clip of the statement. Explain that although Elder Bednar was addressing young men in a general conference priesthood session, the principles he teaches apply to young women as well.

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Bednar, David A.

“In meetings with young members of the Church around the world, I often invite those in attendance to ask questions. One of the questions I am asked most frequently by young men is this: ‘What can I do to prepare most effectively to serve as a full-time missionary?’ Such a sincere question deserves a serious response.

“My dear young brethren, the single most important thing you can do to prepare for a call to serve is to become a missionary long before you go on a mission. Please notice that in my answer I emphasized becoming rather than going. Let me explain what I mean.

“In our customary Church vocabulary, we often speak of going to church, going to the temple, and going on a mission. Let me be so bold as to suggest that our rather routine emphasis on going misses the mark.

“The issue is not going to church; rather, the issue is worshipping and renewing covenants as we attend church. The issue is not going to or through the temple; rather, the issue is having in our hearts the spirit, the covenants, and the ordinances of the Lord’s house. The issue is not going on a mission; rather, the issue is becoming a missionary and serving throughout our entire life with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength. It is possible for a young man to go on a mission and not become a missionary, and this is not what the Lord requires or what the Church needs.

“My earnest hope for each of you young men is that you will not simply go on a mission—but that you will become missionaries long before you submit your mission papers, long before you receive a call to serve, long before you are set apart by your stake president, and long before you enter the MTC” (“Becoming a Missionary,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2005, 45).

  • What did Elder Bednar say was the most important thing you can do to prepare for a call to serve a mission? (Become a missionary long before you go on a mission.)

Have a student read the next part of Elder Bednar’s quotation, or show the video clip of the statement:

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Bednar, David A.

“Obviously, the process of becoming a missionary does not require a young man to wear a white shirt and tie to school every day or to follow the missionary guidelines for going to bed and getting up, although most parents certainly would support that idea. But you can increase in your desire to serve God [see D&C 4:3], and you can begin to think as missionaries think, to read what missionaries read, to pray as missionaries pray, and to feel what missionaries feel. You can avoid the worldly influences that cause the Holy Ghost to withdraw, and you can grow in confidence in recognizing and responding to spiritual promptings. Line upon line and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, you can gradually become the missionary you hope to be and the missionary the Savior expects” (“Becoming a Missionary,” 45–46).

Then ask:

  • According to Elder Bednar, in what ways can you become a missionary before you enter the missionary training center?

After students answer, write the following truth on the board: I can become a missionary now in the way I think, feel, and act. To illustrate this principle, ask students to turn to Alma 17:2–3, 9, 11, and explain that these verses describe the sons of Mosiah, who were serving a mission to the Lamanites. Invite a student to read the verses aloud while the class follows along, looking for what the sons of Mosiah did to prepare to teach with power and authority. Then ask students:

  • What did the sons of Mosiah do in order to prepare to teach with power and authority?

  • How can prospective missionaries follow the example of the sons of Mosiah as they prepare to become missionaries now?

Have students turn to page 137 in Preach My Gospel, and have a student read aloud the third paragraph. Then ask questions like the following:

  • According to the missionary call letter, what are missionaries expected to devote to the Lord, and what are they expected to leave behind?

  • What are examples of “personal affairs” that missionaries are asked to leave behind when they begin their missionary service?

  • When have you been blessed by making sacrifices in order to serve God?

Next, give students a few minutes to ponder and write responses to the following questions in their study journals. Encourage students to specifically write down what they feel the Holy Ghost is communicating to them personally. Then ask:

  • What are some things you could do now to begin thinking, feeling, and acting like a missionary?

  • How can you prepare to leave behind personal affairs and devote all your time and attention to serving the Lord?

  • How might doing these things help prepare you to teach with power and authority like the sons of Mosiah?

Encourage students to write down specific goals in their journals. Ideas might include studying the Book of Mormon every day, praying morning and night, attending all church meetings, going to bed before 10:30 p.m. and getting up by 6:30 a.m., cutting back on their use of electronic devices, or striving to be more obedient to the commandments.

The Standard of Worthiness

Write the word “prerequisite” on the board, and ask students to think of settings in which prerequisites are necessary. Give students a moment to search Doctrine and Covenants 88:74 for some prerequisites for serving a mission. Then ask:

  • What did the Lord counsel laborers in His kingdom to do to prepare to preach the gospel? (Sanctify themselves, purify their hearts, cleanse their hands.)

  • What does it mean to be sanctified? (To be clean, to be worthy of the Holy Ghost.)

  • What principle regarding missionaries is taught in Doctrine and Covenants 88:74? (After students respond, write the following on the board: The Lord commands His servants to be clean.)

To help explain what it means for a missionary to be clean and worthy to serve a mission, display the following excerpt of a talk given by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read it aloud:

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Ballard, M. Russell

“As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I call upon you to begin right now—tonight—to be fully and completely worthy. Resolve and commit to yourselves and to God that from this moment forward you will strive diligently to keep your hearts, hands, and minds pure and unsullied from any kind of moral transgression. Resolve to avoid pornography as you would avoid the most insidious disease, for that is precisely what it is. Resolve to completely abstain from tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs. Resolve to be honest. Resolve to be good citizens and to abide by the laws of the land in which you live. Resolve that from this night forward you will never defile your body or use language that is vulgar and unbecoming to a bearer of the priesthood” (“The Greatest Generation of Missionaries,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2002, 47).

Ask questions like the following to help students analyze Elder Ballard’s counsel:

  • What commandments did Elder Ballard specifically mention that prospective missionaries should obey?

  • What does it mean to have your heart, hands, and mind “unsullied from any kind of moral transgression”? (If needed, you might refer to the section “Sexual Purity” in For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 35–37.)

  • Why is it wise to avoid pornography as we would an insidious disease, and how might avoiding pornography help you think, feel, and act like a missionary?

Show the video “Stay within the Lines” (5:10) to help students to feel the truth and importance of being worthy to serve a mission. Prior to showing the video, consider discussing why boundary lines are important in certain sports. Discuss the difference between “in bounds” and “out of bounds” and the way boundary lines affect athletes’ actions during the game. Tell students that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has spoken about what it means to stay within spiritual lines before a mission.

After watching the video, consider asking students the following questions:

  • What is the relationship between “staying within the lines” and preparing to serve a mission?

  • Elder Holland pleaded for those on the Lord’s team to stay on the team and not go “out of bounds.” What does this mean to you?

  • Why would failing to repent of past sins prevent a missionary from effectively helping others come unto Christ?

Give students a moment to ponder their own level of worthiness to serve a mission. Explain to students that if they have any concerns about their worthiness, they should seek guidance in sincere prayer and discuss these concerns with their bishop or branch president.

Physical and Emotional Preparation

Display the following statement issued by the First Presidency in 2002, and invite students to read it silently. Or have a student read the statement aloud.

“Full-time missionary service is a privilege for those who are called through inspiration by the President of the Church. Bishops and stake presidents have the serious responsibility to identify worthy, qualified members who are spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for this sacred service and who can be recommended without reservation” (First Presidency letter, Dec. 11, 2002).

Then ask:

  • In addition to preparing spiritually, why would a person need to prepare physically and emotionally to serve a mission?

Display the following quotation, and invite one or more students to read it aloud:

Regular (daily) exercise. A missionary must be able to walk an average of six miles (10 km) per day and ride a bicycle 12 miles (19 km) per day. Prospective missionaries who aren’t walking more than from the car to a class or a job will likely get sore feet and blisters when they reach the mission field. … A missionary who is out of shape will be fatigued by missionary work, and a tired missionary is more open to discouragement and health concerns than a missionary who is physically fit.

“Prospective missionaries can prepare for the rigors of missionary life by establishing a regular pattern of aerobic exercise—walking, running, or cycling for one hour every day. …

Adequate sleep. Although sleep needs vary, young adults generally need to sleep seven to eight hours per day. Ideally, they should be in bed by 10:30 to midnight and out of bed by 6:30 to 8:00 a.m. Staying up until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. and sleeping until 10:00 a.m. leaves a person feeling tired all the time and wanting to sleep until noon. … Missionaries live a scheduled life. They are in bed by 10:30 p.m. and up by 6:30 a.m. every day. This schedule will be difficult unless prospective missionaries get into a similar routine well in advance of the call to service.

Healthy eating habits. Rather than living on sugar and fat, young people should learn to enjoy meals consisting of protein and fiber, such as lean meat, yogurt, vegetables, and fruit. Also, drinking more than 12 ounces of carbonated beverage per day is too much” (Donald B. Doty, “Missionary Health Preparation,” Ensign, Mar. 2007, 64).

  • If a missionary is not physically fit, what effect can this have on the progress of the work, the missionary’s companion, and the missionary’s own well-being?

Ask students to silently ponder the following questions:

  • How would you describe your current physical preparation to serve a mission?

  • What are some things you can do now to prepare to meet the physical demands of a full-time mission?

Encourage students to make a plan to begin now to get enough sleep, to eat healthy food, and to exercise so they will have the physical stamina they need to succeed as missionaries. As time allows, invite students to write their plans in their study journals.

Have a student explain how the body responds to physically stressful activities such as racing up and down a flight of stairs (increased heart rate, heavier breathing, perspiration, tired muscles, and so on). Explain that physical stress is only one type of challenge missionaries face. Then ask:

  • How might a missionary’s body and mind respond to emotional or psychological stress that results from difficult challenges or unexpected problems?

Explain that all missionaries experience some degree of emotional stress, feelings of homesickness and inadequacy, sorrow, or other emotions that may weigh them down, and these are a normal part of missionary life.

Show the video “Preparation of Gordon B. Hinckley: Forget Yourself and Go to Work” (2:04). Encourage students to watch for reasons why President Gordon B. Hinckley felt discouraged as a young missionary in England.

Ask the class:

  • What were some of the reasons that President Hinckley felt discouraged after arriving in the mission field?

  • What did President Hinckley do that helped him to overcome discouragement?

Explain to the class that some of the greatest missionaries in scripture experienced discouragement and other struggles in their missionary labors. Write the following scripture references on the board: Jeremiah 1:4–9; Alma 17:5; 26:27; and Moses 6:31–32. Have class members select and silently read one of the scripture passages, looking for challenges that the individuals they read about identified or encountered. As students respond, consider summarizing their answers on the board, as shown:

Jeremiah 1:4–9. Jeremiah was afraid that the people would not listen to him because he was too young.

Alma 17:5; 26:27. Ammon and his fellow missionaries suffered in body and mind. They felt depressed and were ready to quit.

Moses 6:31–32. Enoch worried no one would listen to him because he was slow of speech and still very young.

Then ask:

  • What do you learn from these three accounts about the emotional challenges of preaching the gospel? (As students respond, you may want to write this truth on the board: Physical and emotional challenges are a normal part of missionary life.

  • What thoughts do you have when you read the statement that physical and emotional challenges are a normal part of missionary life?

  • How might knowing that all missionaries face challenges affect how you prepare to serve?

Help students understand that almost all missionaries experience emotional or physical challenges. Therefore, missionaries should learn how to deal with stress in a healthy and mission-appropriate way. Often, healthy ways to deal with stress that are effective outside of the mission field, such as spending time alone, listening to music, or playing sports, are not feasible for missionaries on a regular basis. Missionaries must learn to deal with stress in ways that comply with mission rules.

Divide the class into small groups, and distribute the “Demands of Missionary Life” handout to students. Have each group (1) read aloud the first section, titled “Demands of Missionary Life,” and (2) discuss how being aware of the demands of missionary life can help them be better prepared for the challenges of mission life.

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Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Rel 130
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Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Rel 130
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Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Rel 130

After groups have had sufficient time to read and discuss the section, ask several students to share some of the main points that their groups discussed. Then, as a class, take a few minutes to read and discuss the next section of the handout, titled “Adjusting to New Experiences,” and talk about how understanding the typical stages of adjustment might help students when they enter the MTC.

Look to the Lord for Help with Challenges

To encourage students to begin thinking about how they will deal with challenges when they experience them in the mission field, explain that Nephi faced deep feelings of inadequacy and discouragement and wrote about what he did to overcome those feelings. Have a student read aloud 2 Nephi 4:17–19. Then ask:

  • What words or phrases did Nephi use to describe the results of his weaknesses?

Ask students to study 2 Nephi 4:19–26, looking for the things that helped Nephi overcome his feelings of discouragement. Then ask:

  • What phrases did Nephi use to describe how he overcame his deep negative feelings? (Students should identify that Nephi trusted in the Lord [see verse 19], he remembered what the Lord had done for him in the past [see verses 20–23], he offered mighty prayers [see verse 24], and he remembered the Lord’s mercy [verse 26].)

  • How has remembering the Lord and His goodness helped you during times of discouragement or stress?

  • Earlier in the lesson, we acknowledged that it is normal for missionaries to experience emotional stress, feelings of homesickness and inadequacy, sorrow, or other emotions that may weigh them down. Considering what Nephi wrote in 2 Nephi 4:19–26, what advice would you give to a missionary who experiences these kinds of feelings? (Help students identify the following principle, and consider writing it on the board: When missionaries trust in the Lord, the Lord can help them manage the physical and emotional demands of missionary life.)

Consider sharing with students the following statement from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

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Holland, Jeffrey R.

“I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.

“If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, ‘Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass’ [see Mark 14:36], then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.

“The Atonement will carry the missionaries perhaps even more importantly than it will carry the investigators. When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him—the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (“Missionary Work and the Atonement,” Ensign, Mar. 2001, 15).

Then ask:

  • According to Elder Holland, what reason do missionaries have to stand tall during times of struggle?

Tell students that when dealing with trying circumstances in the mission field, they should remember that the work they are doing is helping to bring others to Jesus Christ. Write the following scripture references on the board: Alma 26:11–13; 29:10; and Doctrine and Covenants 18:15–16. Ask a few students to take turns reading these passages aloud while the class follows along, looking for what the passages teach about missionary life. Invite students to share insights, and then assure them that although full-time missionary service is hard work and can sometimes be discouraging, when we labor to bring others unto Jesus Christ, the Lord blesses us with joy. Consider asking students to share experiences when they have already experienced this principle.

Point out to students that from time to time they may have a companion who deals with emotional or mental health problems. In such cases, they should listen and show love to their companion, because a companion’s supportive attitude can be crucial to helping overcome issues. They should never suggest that if a struggling missionary just had more faith his or her challenges would go away.

Explain also that some challenges require additional help from priesthood leaders and mental health professionals, and that most missions make appropriate health professionals available for missionaries. Missionaries who are struggling emotionally should discuss their situations with their mission presidents to determine what help might be appropriate.

To help students further consider how they might deal with physical and emotional challenges they may face as missionaries, give them several minutes to write about a time when they had to overcome difficult circumstances. Follow up by asking students what they learned about the Lord and about themselves from the experience and how they might use the experience to strengthen them in the future.

In closing, express your confidence in your students and their ability to deal with the changes that accompany missionary life. Share your testimony that the Lord helps individuals who turn to Him to manage the physical and emotional demands of their lives.

Invitations to Act

Invite class members to prepare for mission life by completing one of more of the following activities:

  • Consider what you need to do to become clean and worthy to serve a mission. If needed, eliminate inappropriate thoughts and behaviors that are offensive to the Spirit.

  • Set personal goals to follow a daily exercise program, to eat healthier, or to develop sleeping habits that follow the daily missionary schedule.

  • Review the dress standards for full-time missionaries located on LDS.org.

  • Ask a returned missionary to discuss what he or she did to manage stress and overcome the challenges of missionary life.

  • Discuss with parents or priesthood leaders ways to relate to a missionary companion with whom you may not have much in common or with whom you have difficulty relating.

Handout

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Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Rel 130
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Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Rel 130
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Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Rel 130