Monday, August 5, 2013

Beginning the Process

The process of becoming a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints can be a daunting one. If you're anything like me, you probably feel alone in the fact that you don't really have anyone to ask about what to do and how to do it and what you will experience in the MTC or the field. A great resource for you to turn to is here on LDS.org.

My experience getting ready to serve has been an up and down roller coaster. While beginning the process of completing and submitting my papers I was praying for patience. God answered my prayers very obviously. There has been one thing after another to set my papers back. I couldn't start/submit my papers until I changed wards which took about three months due to some random computer glitches and once I submitted them, the Mission Office informed me they needed some additional information which has kicked the whole process back about six additional weeks. Between that and some stresses in every day life, I struggled with my decision to serve. I began doubting whether I was really meant to go and then I remembered a quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:

"If it was right when you prayed about it and  trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don't give up when the pressure mounts. You can find an apartment. You can win over your mother-in-law. You can sell your harmonica and therein fund one more meal. It's been done before. Don't give in. Certainly don't give in to that being that is bent on the destruction of your happiness. He wants everyone to be miserable like unto himself. Face your doubts. Master your fears. 'Cast not away therefore your confidence.' Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you." -"Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence", BYU devotional March 1999.

That made me remember why I originally desired to serve and the answer I had finally received after months of thought and prayer. God had answered me with a yes to missionary service. And maybe I'm not going out as soon as I had planned, but the point is I am going to serve. I can serve now in my family, ward, town and workplace and I can certainly serve as a full-time missionary when I receive my call in the Lord's own due time.


And I've learned my lesson not to pray for patience and humility while making life-altering decisions (just kidding!).

Here's what I discovered about preparing to serve.

  

First and foremost- know why you want to serve.

  • Is it because of the age-change announced by President Monson in 2012
  • Because you want to see the world or learn or a foreign language? 
 Or is it because you have a desire to serve the Lord and bring others unto the one, true gospel of Christ?

Once you have established why you want to serve, ask yourself these things:
  • What do I know about the gospel?
  • Do I have a testimony?
  • Am I worthy? Have I upheld the standards of the gospel?
  • Am I willing to do whatever it takes to become worthy and to serve others in and out of the mission field?
  • Have I dedicated myself to the callings God has given me thus far?
  • Can I take care of myself (i.e. laundry, cooking, cleaning, navigating)?
  • Do I follow through with promises and goals?
  • Am I capable of walking six miles or biking twelve miles in a day in harsh climates? (Here are the physical requirements and preparation suggestions in full.)
  • Emotionally, will I be able to handle being away from family and friends? (Here is a great talk about emotional preparedness)
  • What have I done/can I do financially to pay for my mission?
Your bishop will be able to discuss these things with you further and help you figure out why you want to serve and how you can get started. Don't get caught up in the hype of great talks, friends going or the glory of serving. This is a very important task- perhaps THE most important task you may ever participate in. Just helping one person be converted to the Lord could bring hundreds, if not thousands of progeny and friends to the truthfulness of this gospel as well as increase your personal testimony and the testimonies of your family and friends.

 

Pray about it. 

I prayed for months before and after the age change and didn't receive a sure answer from the Lord until this year after I had started vocational training to become a Dental Assistant and had started looking for a job. This was certainly His timing (here is a great talk about the Lord's timetable and missionary work) and I got very lucky with the office that hired me seeing as they are all LDS and supportive of my missionary efforts.

For females in the Church, it is not and has never been a requirement nor a commandment to serve as a full-time missionary in the field. Much of the time, we are encouraged to get an education, to decide what occupation we wish to pursue and to search for an eternal companion. There is no shame in any of this and I want to remind you to make certain you are not being pressured one way or the other to or not to serve. Sometimes, we start school or a new job and God says it's time to serve Him as a full-time missionary. Other times, you may be pursuing a mission and then suddenly God presents a different opportunity for you. No matter which road you go down, you can faithfully serve your God in all things.

Research it, ponder it, pray about it. Be confident in the answer you receive. 

 

Talk to your bishop. 

Discuss anything that might hold you back from serving whether it be minor or serious. Be honest. Do not be embarrassed or worried about what he will think- everything you say is between you, him and the Lord. Your bishop and his counselors love you and they will do everything in their power to help you overcome your past or your concerns if you are willing to open up. This may take time if you have more serious transgressions to overcome, but DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED. That is Satan's way of trying to convince you that you will never be worthy enough to serve. I promise you, you can and will be worthy if you endure to the end and submit yourself to the Lord's will.

If you do not have anything holding you back or if you have successfully come unto the Lord, your Bishop will either give you a physical set of mission papers to complete or he will have you go on LDS.org and complete them online. (For those filling them out online, you will find the Online Recommendation System from the home page under the tab Resources > Missionary (under Callings) > Online Recommendation System (left-hand side). You will need an LDS account with your membership record number to sign in and complete them.)

 

Fill out your Mission Papers.

These papers will include personal information about where you live, languages you may speak, talents, insurance information, health and dental information, emotional disorders, etc. They will also need to know if you have a valid Driver's License if you are to serve in your native country (but don't count on being able to drive). Again, BE HONEST. They ask for this information so that they can properly evaluate the capacity in which you can serve and where you will be most suited for. Obviously, the ultimate decision is made by the Lord through revelation to His servants, but He wants to know that you're going to be honest with His servants and honest with yourself when it comes to your capabilities.

 

Medical Exam

Don't worry about the physical for your medical papers. They can be embarrassing but remember why you are getting this done. For Elders, you most likely know what the physical is going to entail or you can ask your father/brothers about it. (And you may want to skip the next paragraph.)

Sisters, you may or may not need a full physical (meaning a visit to your Gyno). It's the standard in the U.S. to encourage annual exams and/or pap smears starting around the age of 21, BUT if you haven't been sexually active (and even if you have been), many physicians will not require it dependent upon your circumstances. Talk to your physician about it and be honest about your past. Remember, you are not confessing all over again. If something happened and you've taken care of it be factual and discuss any concerns with an open mind. If you have had problems with severe pain during menses, endometriosis, poly-cystic ovarian disorder or anything else, let your physician know so it can be treated or medication prescribed.  Remember, the Lord needs you to be at your physical best. Missions are tough!

Now that the potentially embarrassing is out of the way, what other things will be discussed/done at your physical? They will check your height-weight ratio, blood pressure, mobility as well as complete a series of tests. These tests include: a urinalysis, blood tests for irregularities/diseases, TB  (tuberculosis), and perhaps a few others. They will also check your immunization records (DO NOT FORGET TO BRING IT!) and schedule dates for you to complete them if you haven't. For those in the U.S., you will likely have them completed already since the public education system tends to require updated immunizations before starting kindergarten. You may, however, need to check if your Hep A and Hep B series have been completed. My Hep A had been started, but never finished so I will be going in at the end of the month to get my last booster.

 

 Dental Exam

This exam is potentially the simplest thing you will do for your mission. Even if you have no cavities to speak of when you go in, you will most likely need to get your wisdom teeth removed. This isn't really that big of a deal. My best friend didn't swell or have any pain when he got his removed and I was the complete opposite, but I had a great surgeon and didn't need my medication for very long after. Every case is individual so go to a dentist or oral surgeon that you trust and be prepared for the worst, but plan on the best. I've seen many patients who only need their pain medication for the first day or two and then they are fine with Ibuprofen. Just follow what they tell/prescribe you, do your exercises and don't eat anything with seeds.

P.S. Any orthodontic treatment that has been prescribed or that you have begun MUST be completed before you begin your service (this doesn't include wearing a retainer).


Continued in Completing the Process.

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