This video was taken by my parents on ２１日１２月２０１１年. This is the opening of my mission call.
A full-time proselytizing mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a no small undertaking. Not only will a missionary be asked to leave his home, travel to a distant and possibly strange land, and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ all day, every day for two years, all on his own dime – but leaders of The Church will require him to meet a standard of personal conduct that frankly is just not practiced in today’s society. What’s more, he will undergo a rigorous screening process to determine whether he is physically, mentally, and emotionally capable of carrying out the demanding work of mission life. He will be interviewed by several local leaders and asked specific questions regarding his personal worthiness, in which he will be expected to answer honestly many deeply personal inquiries into his moral conduct. The answers to these questions will determine whether or not he is eligible to serve. If he is found unworthy or unable, he may face a deeply discouraging struggle against his particular shortcomings, which he may or may not be able to conquer. During this time, he must try to find his place among a legion of his friends and neighbors who all seem to be conspicuously aware that he is not on a mission. And if he succeeds in overcoming these trials, then the hard part begins.
On a particular day specified in his mission call, he will report to one of seventeen Missionary Training Centers, most often the one in Provo, Utah. He will wake up early and work harder than he ever has in his entire life. He is told when to wake up, when to eat, when to exercise, when to study (which is the bulk of what he will do), when to shower and practice teaching and do laundry and write letters and sleep. During this time, if he failed to fully repent of any serious misdeeds, the guilt brought about by the constant exposure to the Holy Ghost will sear his conscience, and he may be spiritually unable to complete his tour of duty in the MTC. Even if he can, the physical and mental demands place an unprecedented level of stress on his young adult mind, which is sometimes more than even perfectly healthy people can endure.
Oh, and through every moment of this, he must learn to live with and abide the constant presence of a mission companion who he is sure must have been fathered by the Devil himself.
When he finishes his training in the MTC, though, it’s a piece of cake. All he will need to do then is spend every waking moment teaching and preparing to teach people who probably hate him, or at least find him and all Mormon missionaries annoying. He will have to suffer persecution for his beliefs, have his nearest and dearest convictions scrutinized, ridiculed, and mocked. He will be called to stand toe-to-toe with some of the brightest minds in academia and defend his faith. He will face rejection on a daily basis, in volumes he never imagined possible. He will suffer discouragement, depression, doubt, frustration, humiliation. He will become homesick. He will miss his bed, his mother, his girlfriend, his dog. His dog may die, and his girlfriend may send him a “Dear John,” and that’s if he’s lucky. If he is unlucky, he will receive a lengthy letter explaining how his mother was diagnosed with a fatal and degenerating neurological condition, and may or may not survive long enough to see him come home. He will struggle with crushing feelings of inadequacy when he gives the work his all, and despite everything he cannot see that he is having any success.
By now you must be wondering “WHY?! Why would ANYONE voluntarily subject themselves to this?! How can perfectly intelligent, reasonable people put themselves through this kind of tribulation?”
The answer to this question is the single most important answer to any question that has ever been asked, and it is the reason I am writing to you today.
Because it’s true.
In 1820, a fourteen-year-old boy walked into the woods, knelt down, and prayed to know where he could find the true Church of Jesus Christ. In answer to his humble supplication, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him, there in the Sacred Grove, and informed him that the true Church did not exist on the earth, but it would soon be restored. And it was. Ten years later, the Book of Mormon was published in the English language, translated by the gift and power of God from an ancient record of Christians in the New World. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was organized a year after that, and the true Priesthood Authority was restored to earth. With it came the power and authority to perform Baptism, to cast out evil spirits, to heal the sick, and administer the sacred ordinances necessary to qualify for exaltation, through the saving grace of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
I testify that these things are true. I know they are true. And because they are true, I readily and wholeheartedly accept the call to serve issued to me by living Prophets and Apostles in the latter days. I know full-well that I cannot comprehend the challenges that I must soon encounter. It matters not to me. I shall march forward with Faith, and meet these challenges head on, relying not upon my own strength and cleverness to carry me through, but upon the merits of Jesus Christ, with whom all things are made possible.