If you’re going on a mission, your parents, your bishop, and everyone in your ward has already told you how wonderful it is. They’re right, but they tend not to tell you everything. Missions are incredible, but you should have realistic expectations of what you’re going to experience.
1. By “best 2 years” they mean “hardest 2 years”
We’ve all heard RM’s say “It was the best 2 years of my life.” That may or may not be the case for you, but I can guarantee that it’ll the hardest 2 years of your life, both physically and mentally. I’ve seen guys on the mission fall over from exhaustion, develop medical issues that will never go away, and be bedridden from mental breakdowns. I’m not sure if it’s a selective memory or if they’re trying to impress, but I’ve never heard a single missionary refer to it as the best time of their life until after they’re home. A mission is tough!
2. Not everyone is there for the right reason
Everyone shows up in the field with the naive assumption that everyone else is there to serve the Lord and spread His word. In reality, a whole lot of them are there because of social pressures, whether it be from their girlfriend, friends, or family. Usually it’s more subtle, but you’ll even hear of parents who tell their missionary son “If you come home early, it better be in a box.” Make sure you’re one of the ones going for the right reasons. No, that does not include “to marry a hot Mormon wife”. If not, I promise, you will be miserable.
3. You are never alone
With the exception of the shower, you will always have someone right next to you. If there’s one thing missionaries miss more than their girlfriends or boyfriends, it’s being able to spend even 5 minutes by themselves.
4. Bible bashing gets you nowhere
This seems like a no-brainer, but that doesn’t stop some Elders from doing it. No hardcore Christian ever walked into a fight and walked out a Mormon. It’s unchristlike and unproductive. Not only that, but you’ll turn away anyone who might be watching.
5. You’re going to get asked some really tough questions
Don’t underestimate the people you teach. They’re going to have some very difficult questions and you’re going to need to have answers. There are several scary sounding historical events and doctrines that very few pre-missionaries have ever even heard of. Without plausible explanations, you can’t expect them to take a leap of faith and trust you. Study, understand, and make peace with both sides of these issues before you attempt to teach others. Here’s a list of the most common difficult questions you’ll get asked about Mormonism.
6. Your carnal desires won’t magically go away
You know how it’s super tough to keep your thoughts pure, especially when you’re with a girl or alone at your computer? Well, that doesn’t go away. In fact, in a lot of ways it gets worse. Even if girls never gave you the time of day before, they will flock to you when you have that name tag. I don’t know if it’s because you’re unattainable, well dressed, or something else, but attractive girls (and boys) will do their best to get with you. A two year dry spell doesn’t make that easier. You’ve been warned.
7. You’ll probably have a gay companion
Before you say eww, try to understand the position he’s in. By deciding to be a Mormon and go on a mission he’s giving up his chance at a loving relationship with someone he’s physically attracted to… forever! You, on the other hand, get to enjoy sex one day. Not only that, but he has to completely hide the fact that he’s gay. Any hint of homosexuality and he’ll be completely ostracized by other missionaries. His mission and life in the church is going to be a whole lot tougher than yours so if you know of a gay missionary, instead of telling people and harassing him, try to be understanding.
8. Don’t spread lies, even if they serve a higher purpose
Have you ever heard the phrase – faith promoting rumor? They tend to run through the mission field like wildfire. When used as parables, they’re great. When they’re passed off as true events, they can be manipulative. The most common one at the MTC is about an older convert who gets his patriarchal blessing which says – “You would have enjoyed the blessings of the gospel 20 years earlier had Elder [insert your name here] stayed on his mission.” This never actually happened. It’s just a simple scare tactic. The true church doesn’t need to lie to keep missionaries on their missions. Don’t listen to or spread these rumors.
9. She’s probably not going to wait for you
Yes I know, your relationship is different. Your love is pure and true and will withstand the test of time… just like everyone else’s. The reality is that the chances of this actually happening are dismal. If it makes you feel better, it has nothing to do with you or the amount of love you have for each other. It’s just time and circumstance. Two years is long enough for a person to move on from a deceased spouse. Unfortunately, there are other guys who are just as fun as you who are already home, who she doesn’t have to wait for. Don’t worry though, you’ll get to come home and marry a girl waiting for her missionary.
10. You will not spend 2 years on a spiritual high
More missionaries struggle with this fact than about any other. When visualizing their missions, they picture constant promptings from the Holy Ghost and surges of the Spirit. Just like before your mission, truly spiritual experiences are few and far between. Boredom and frustration will be far more constant companions.
There is no doubt that going on a mission will be the most important decision you make until the day you decide to marry. Make sure you do it with your eyes open.