Sunday, May 25, 2014

How to Prepare a Child for a Mission

(I gave this talk on March 16, 2014 in our ward.)

After getting off the phone with the Bishop, I quickly felt inadequate for this talk.  I haven't sent a missionary out, so I feel like a mom with her first baby in her arms looking around sacrament meeting, noting everything other people's kids are doing, and thinking, "My kids will never do that."  Well guess what - they will.  Since I haven't actually sent a missionary out, the things I have to say could be totally wrong, so anyone that actually has done it, don't laugh too hard at my lack of knowledge.

(I forgot about this part, but if I hadn't, this is where it would have been.)

When my brother heard I would be talking about this, he said I needed to share this advice:
-- Every Elder should know how to catch, kill, prepare, and cook various forms of waterfowl  (I wasn't actually going to say this one, maybe mentioning that they should be prepared to use their special gifts and talents in creative ways, and be willing to learn more).
-- Every Elder should be well-trained in how to perform sweet BMX-like tricks on a non-BMX bike
-- It is absolutely critical that every Elder possess the courage and adventurism necessary to eat whatever is placed in front of them -- and then ask for more.

In our stake we had a Relief Society activity a month ago, and one of the classes likened preparing for a mission like getting ready for the Olympics.  An Olympian doesn't start learning how to play the game when they are trying to get on the Olympics team.  They practice for years to get to that point.  With a mission, preparation doesn't begin 120 days out when mission papers are filed.  It needs to start years ahead of that.

This is my personal mothering battle vision.
Alma 49:8-9 - But behold, to their uttermost astonishment, they were prepared for them, in a manner which never had been known among the children of Lehi. Now they were prepared for the Lamanites, to battle after the manner of the instructions of Moroni.  And it came to pass that the Lamanites, or the Amalickiahites, were exceedingly astonished at their manner of preparation for war.

I want my children to be prepared for battle the best they can be, so personal revelation is an inherent part of that.  The things I feel are important in my family for our "astonishing" preparation might be different than the things that are important to [the missionary I was speaking with]'s family.  With personal revelation, every family here would bring in different aspects to their preparation that will make their preparation new and astonishing.  

In the church we've been counseled that if we follow certain patterns, our families will be blessed.  The patterns I'm talking about are family home evening, family prayer, and family scripture study.  We've heard about that plenty of times before so I'm not going to go into that.  But it does take a consistent effort, and I'll be the first to tell you it's not easy.  It's not always spiritually filling, but we keep working and we keep trying.

We had a family home evening a few weeks ago that started out really well.  Erin was in charge of the lesson, and she wanted to talk about Joseph of Egypt.  After going through the story, I was pointing out how all these terrible things happened to Joseph, but that he had faith like it says in the scriptures, "Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good" (D&C 90:24).  By that point, family home evening had turned to chaos, so I ended my thoughts with, "just like I have faith that even though family home evening usually turns into this, I have faith that good things will come out of this too!"  (My poor children...)

Even though each individual effort has been less than stellar, I am seeing the fruits from the years we've been doing these.  I'm impressed with the knowledge my kids have of the scriptures, and they are gaining their own personal testimonies.

At the same stake Relief Society activity that I mentioned earlier, a video was shown with some mission advice from a couple in our stake that are serving as mission president/mission mom right now in Chili.  One of the things they suggested is that before serving a mission, young men/young women should have an experience where they've had to do something really hard to the point that they wanted to quit, but that they kept going.  When these missionaries are away from home for 1 1/2 to 2 years, they need experiences like that in their back pocket so they know they can continue through the new hard things they'll experience.

For our family, scouting has provided a lot of those activities, like camping out in the cold during a klondike, going on a backpacking trip, or a really long hike.  During Adam's first year working at scout camp, he had been hired to work in the shooting sports area and loved it, but halfway through the summer they had some people quit and he was pulled from that area and was moved to teaching First Aid.  He found out about the change on a Sunday evening, and we got a letter from him telling us about it the next Saturday (camp mail is slow).  We knew how devastating it would be for him, and we discussed going up to visit.  Before that was decided, Adam suddenly walked in the door.  We asked about the position change, and told him how bad we felt for him.  I think the question was asked, "Did you think about quitting?" because I remember him saying, "Yes, but I knew you guys would make me go back."  Besides struggling through that first week without having our "you can do it!," he continued through the rest of the summer and finished well.

To bring in another point on mission preparation, let's talk about Alma the Younger for a minute.  This guy came from a great family, but has made his own choices and was going around with his friends "stealing away the hearts of the people, causing much dissention," and "seeking to destroy the church" (Mosiah 27:9-10).  Suddenly an angel appeared and told them to knock it off, then got him back on the right path.

I haven't seen an angel, but I am deeply grateful for the people who have been angels in my life and in the lives of my children.  Susan Tanner stated that "Everywhere there are young [people] who are in the middle of their own stories, facing dangers and hardships. ...There will be 'angels round about you, to bear you up' (D&C 84:88). They will sustain us as we carry our earthly burdens. Often in our lives, those angels are the people around us, the people who love us, those who allow themselves to be instruments in the Lord’s hands."

I know that my children have been influenced by many angels in this ward.  I've asked them here and there, who do you look up to in the ward?  Who has been an example to you?  I've told some of those people but there are many others, and I'm so grateful for the influence they've had.

Several years ago a book was written called, "It Takes a Village."  I haven't read it, but I remember many people bothered by it, even retorting that "it takes a mother."  Honestly, I'm in the "it takes a village" camp.  I know that I couldn't do it all on my own.  I have wonderful parents, but I have also had plenty of angels in my own life that have helped to make me who I am today.

(Forgot to say this paragraph and the next, but it's important...)  In the fall Adam went on a hike to Ben Lomond peak with my brother and brother-in-law.  We talk off and on about where our boys will go on missions, and many times we've said that Adam will go to Africa for different reasons.  When he got home that day, he was all over going to South America because of everything his uncles had been saying about their missions in Uruguay and Argentina.  He insists it was the food talk, but regardless, the mission excitement was passed on.

One night after YM/YW a few months ago I was waiting and waiting for my kids to get home.  Finally at 10:00pm, an hour and a half after their activities should have ended, I was uptight and decided to drive to the church to drag them home, but passed them on the way.  I beat them home, and waited while they pulled in the driveway to give them some correction on just when it was appropriate to come home.  When they climbed out of the car, Adam got a "and where have you been?"  His response - "First we played basketball for a while, then we were talking about missions with the young men's leaders there."  Of course my lecture was gone, and I sent up a silent prayer about great leaders.  I did tell them 10:00 was too late to be coming home, though, but a lot kinder than I would have.

Probably the most important step in mission preparation is gaining a personal testimony so they can share that with the people there.  Unfortunately, that's not something I can cook up, serve on a platter, and consider it done.  Really, there isn't a whole lot I can do about that beyond doing these other activities and hoping they are touched by the spirit.

From Jeffrey R. Holland, "A 14-year-old boy recently said to me a little hesitantly, 'Brother Holland, I can’t say yet that I know the Church is true, but I believe it is.' I hugged that boy until his eyes bulged out. I told him with all the fervor of my soul that belief is a precious word, an even more precious act, and he need never apologize for 'only believing.' I told him that Christ Himself said, 'Be not afraid, only believe,' a phrase which, by the way, carried young Gordon B. Hinckley into the mission field...  What was once a tiny seed of belief for me has grown into the tree of life, so if your faith is a little tested in this or any season, I invite you to lean on mine."

Elder Holland is great and all--I love reading his talks myself--but he isn't someone that our children can watch and hear from all the time beyond his recorded talks.

Our children need to hear our testimonies!

We are people they can watch and learn from daily.  To realize the importance of that, check out these three examples from the Book of Mormon.

Even though Enos had a grandfather, uncle, and father that were prophets, he still needed to gain his own testimony.  While out hunting one day, he stopped to pray.  "Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart" (Enos 1:3).

Alma the Younger, also the son of a prophet, made poor choices and needed a change of heart.  When he was knocked from his astonishment at seeing an angel, everything he had been doing to destroy the church was running through his mind.  "And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world" (Alma 36:17).

We know that the stripling warriors relied on the testimonies of their mothers.  "They had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.  And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it" (Alma 56:47-48).

Maybe a huge reason for having family home evening, family prayer, and family scripture study is so we will have lots of opportunities to share our testimonies with our children.  If they know we know, they can lean on our testimonies when they need to.

Hopefully in the end, even with all the mistakes I make, this end vision will come to pass.

D&C 123:17  "Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed."

All I can do is cheerfully do my part, follow the patterns the church has given us, seek and follow personal revelation for my family, and do what I can to help my children gain their own testimonies.  But someday I hope when I look back I will see how deeply Heavenly Father has been involved in raising our children too, through their life experiences and through the people that have influenced their lives.  And hopefully, through all that, they will be well-prepared to serve a mission.

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