Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Called to Serve

So, in case my attempts at mass communication escaped you, I've got some news.

I have been called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the West Indies Mission. I will be speaking English and I leave on August 17.

I've been getting a lot of questions about what I'll be doing obv, so I thought I'd just, y'know, write a real blog entry for once! I can't promise there won't be at least one video, though (was that a double negative?

Many people have referred to my call as a mission trip, which has several different connotations. In general, mission trips are service-oriented trips (hence the trip in mission trip) with a specific purpose. For example, people went on mission trips after Hurricane Katrina to help rebuild parts of New Orleans. Some mission trips send people to third-world countries to build schools, wells, or other needed fixtures. Once these acts of service are finished, the mission is completed. Mission trips can also be for revival, where members of a congregation go and meet up with sister congregations to discuss current social problems and how to handle them with Christian faith. These trips last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, at most.

When I tell people I'm going on a mission for my church, I imagine the above definitions are usually what comes to mind. Howevs, the colloquial understanding of mission trip is a tad different from what I will be doing as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At this point, you're probably thinking, "jeez this child is long winded!" SO, hur's the basics of what an LDS entails.

When a young Latter-day Saint decides they would like to serve a mission, they begin working on a set of paperwork that includes information like (but not limited to) jobs they've held, hobbies, languages spoken, in addition to dental and physical exam. They also put an availability date, which essentially says they are available to serve at any time after that date. After all this paperwork is submitted, they go through two interviews (one with their bishop, another with their stake president). Once this is complete, the paperwork goes to a committee at the Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City. Over a two week period, the committee looks over the candidate's materials while looking at available missions. The committee, after selecting which mission the candidate will go to, sends out a mission call letter and a packet with mission details. The mission call includes three elements: the mission itself, reporting (beginning) date, and language to be spoken.

The missionary then goes to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah on their reporting date. If the missionary is a native speaker of their mission language, the missionary will stay at the MTC for three weeks. If the missionary must learn a language, they can be there for 2-3 months, depending on the language. At the MTC, missionaries learn and practice teaching techniques that will help them reach out to people who are learning about the gospel, using a manual called Preach My Gospel.

Once a missionary is in the mission field (after leaving the MTC), it is their primary responsibility to find people that they can teach about the gospel, with the hope that these people (called investigators) will commit to being baptized, effectively becoming a member of the Church. The call letter states the missionary's purpose is "to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." How do missionaries find people? In a variety of ways!
- People who visit can request to learn more about the Church; in turn, missionaries can go visit them.
- Mormons can fill out referral forms for friends they would like the missionaries to contact.

- Missionaries participate in street contacting, or speaking to people in public places about the Church.
- Mormons can invite friends and the missionaries into their homes, where the missionaries can teach these friends about the gospel.
- Missionaries go door-to-door.
- In some missions, missionaries can do a live chat on

Missionaries live a unique lifestyle while in the mission field. Each missionary is paired with another missionary (called a companion) that they must be with at all times; these missionaries live together in an apartment. Missionaries are not paid to serve missions. In the call letter, it states "you will be expected to maintain the highest standards of conduct and appearance by keeping the commandments, living mission rules, and following the counsel of your mission president. As you devote your time and attention to serving the Lord, leaving behind all other personal affairs, the Lord will bless you with increased knowledge and testimony of the Restoration and of the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ." In terms of leaving personal affairs behind, missionaries essentially put their life - every aspect of their life - on hold for the duration of their mission. This can mean work, education, or relationships. Beyond a Church-given email address, missionaries do not use Facebook, their own email accounts, etc. Most missionaries are allowed to send a weekly email home (which many have forwarded to friends or posted on a blog). They can also communicate with their friends via snail mail.

WELLLLLLL, I think that about sums up the general info.

Some missionary facts!
- Men in the Church are eligible to begin their missions at age 19, and they usually serve for 24 months.
- Women can begin at age 21, and they serve for 18 months.
- The first "officially appointed" missionary was Samuel H. Smith in 1830. He served in Kirtland, Ohio.
- According to Wikipedia, there are roughly 51,000+ LDS missionaries currently serving in 344 missions, give or take. One million missionaries have been sent on missions over the history of the Church.
- There are 14.1 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, half of which live in the United States.
- The first sister missionaries were Inez Knight and Lucy J. Brimhall in 1898. They served in England.

I believe I've covered the who, what, when, where, and how of missionary service in the Mormon church. Yet, a question I've been asked - and have not covered - is "why?" Why would I do this? Why am I doing this, when it is completely voluntary, and it means throwing my education off schedule?

I live an incredibly blessed life. I know that I am a child of God. No matter what trials or problems I face, I know that my Heavenly Father loves me. My faith is my greatest strength.

I want to share this happiness - the happiness I find in living the gospel - with others. I firmly believe that everyone - EVERYONE - is a child of God. Anyone who has lived, is living, or will live is a child of God! I cannot imagine anything more glorious. Everyone - Mormon or not - is my brother or sister in Christ. Whether they are aware of it or not, they have the ability to return to live with our Heavenly Father. I want people to know this. I could not give anyone a greater gift than this knowledge. Jesus Christ died in order to atone for our sins, and conquered death. If we accept him as our Savior, we can return to live with our Heavenly Father.

My friends, let me be clear. This is not just another religion. This is not an American church. This is the restoration of the gospel, as it was taught and revealed from the beginning. This is the fulness of the gospel. God has a plan for everyone. He has a plan for Guyana, just as he has a plan for the United States, Afghanistan, Russia, and all nations. The gospel is for everyone. The Book of Mormon is sacred, holy scripture that was translated by the power of God through Joseph Smith, and it is evidence of God's love for his children.

I want to share this! I am compelled to do so. I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to serve!

Cross-posted from here.

1 comment:

  1. Rachel! i am so excited for you!!! you are going to be an amazing missionary :) you're awesome!