Dear Elders and Sisters,
Your mission is a microcosm of your life. There is so much you can learn as you serve that will apply to your future. There may be times on your mission where you are not with a companion who would naturally be one of your close friends if you were back home. You may be assigned to an area where the work is not going well. You may be bored, frustrated, ill, or constantly fatigued. You may be disappointed in yourself, or in what you have accomplished. There may be times when you feel you are not being recognized for your diligence or that opportunities have passed you by. You may have experienced all of these or any of a hundred other similar feelings.
Prior to coming on a mission, your lives have been mostly filled with doing things that you wanted to do, when you wanted to do them, and with those of your own choosing. The process of submitting yourself to the Lord, and seeking to do His will, is the quest of a lifetime. He can make so much more of you than you could ever make of yourself. But being submissive requires great faith. Great faith is a result of tests and trials. No one would knowingly seek to have tests and trials in life– they are experiences that we would all like to avoid.
Perhaps in the past, we have all responded to trials and test by slacking off, making excuses, feeling sorry for ourselves, distracting ourselves with inappropriate or nonproductive thoughts or activities, etc.
As missionaries, however, we know our purpose. And we know that Heavenly Father is giving us our mission experience to forge us into a perfect tool. May I offer some suggestions when we encounter tests and trials? First, recognize that you are currently in a situation that is beyond your capacity to do well. In order to accomplish all that the Lord would have you do, you need help. Ask for it. Follow the Savior’s example and ask for the help that you need. “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly…” (Luke 22:44). Learn to pray on your mission. I mean really pray.
Second, be patient in suffering. Think of the example of Joseph Smith who was just a little older than you when he organized the church. His life was full of persecution, disappointments, moving from place to place, and ultimately giving his life for what he knew to be true. He was a great example to us of pressing on amidst the difficulties of life. What he knew must surely have been a tremendous source of strength. Do you know what he knew?
Lastly, keep going. Press forward. Lose yourself. “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Ne.31:20).
You are here on your mission to learn how to endure and overcome. It is not easy. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes. You mission will enhance your ability to learn these lessons an hundred fold. You can learn more in these 18 months or two years than you could otherwise learn in decades, if you will. It is up to you. The Lord needs your best every day. You are not just here to put in your time. Here is how one of your fellow missionaries said it in a recent letter to me: “for the first time, I had a glimpse of what Heavenly Father knew I could become, because of the Atonement. For the first time, I have an idea of what to become and how I can get there, and that would not have happened unless I came on a mission. It's funny though; I came on a mission not looking for that. I didn't come looking to help myself, I came to help others.”
Mentor of Champions