3 Life Lessons I Learned as a Mormon Missionary

A lot of people thought I was crazy when I revealed that my plan after graduating college was to move to another part of the country to do missionary work. But, I knew that this would be an important time in my life because I was dedicating every day of the next eighteen months as a missionary— serving the Lord and my fellow man. What I didn’t know was how much I would personally benefit from this service in ways I could not have comprehended.

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as “Mormons”) decide to serve missions in their youth.  They are eligible to serve beginning at ages 18-19 years old and leave their family and home for a period of 1.5-2 years to travel to another part of the world (could be near or far) to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ as well as to engage in whatever service opportunities that are put into their path.  I had recently joined the LDS Church at age 20 after learning about it from my then-boyfriend (now husband) and receiving lessons from missionaries myself.  I knew that what they taught me about Jesus Christ’s Church being on the earth in its fullness, being led with modern day prophets and apostles–just like Christ set up in His original Church with Peter, James, and John–was knowledge that had brought me newfound joy that I wanted to share with others.

What I experienced still affects me to this day, and I’m going to share the most striking lessons that I learned.

flowers and snow
Seasons in West Virginia and Virginia

The World is a Diverse Place

I ended up serving my mission in West Virginia and parts of Virginia.  I had lived in Texas all my life and all of a sudden I was meeting so many different people with different life experiences.  As a missionary, you are supposed to speak to everyone you see.  This leads to some pretty interesting (and sometimes weird) conversations.  I talked to a lot of homeless people, elderly people who were lonely, sick people in hospitals, people who were hurting emotionally, and people with complicated family dynamics.

Probably the experience that sticks out in my mind the most was visiting a woman in the hospital who was newly baptized and later became homeless and disappeared.  She had a substance abuse issue and was found unconscious in the snow after touching an electric fence.  Her fingers were black from frostbite and had to be amputated.  When I saw her and how she had changed, it was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. Yet we still had hope.  You learn so much about why people are the way they are, and how they ended up in situations they were in.  Your perspective widens dramatically when you realize just how diverse the world and the people in it are.

woman
A really special woman we taught.

People Are the Same Everywhere

But the happy lesson in noticing these differences is realizing that people are still the same:  there are good people and bad people in every place you live. I prefer to focus on the good people in every place we went.  You find out you have a lot in common with people who may seem different: they love their families, they want to leave the world a better place, and you can almost always find something to laugh about together.  Once you look a little deeper behind superficial differences, you see a person’s heart and realize how special each person on the earth really is.  Some people that I taught lessons to exuded sheer joy from learning about Christ.  You could almost literally see them light up–and my heart was so full I thought it might burst.  It was truly a miraculous feeling!

One of the most positive individuals we met

God is the One You Can Rely On

It was hard being away from home, family, and friends…despite feeling that what I was doing was the right thing.  Missionaries each have a companion, or partner, that they live with and work with.  I assumed that I could rely on my companion to always pull me out of my hard days.  But it’s not that simple.  People don’t always understand what you’re feeling, and I was too demanding in thinking that others could help me fix my problems.  It was very humbling to realize this, and I got down on my knees and pleaded for help.  I called upon the comfort and healing of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, to give me strength and peace as I adjusted to my new life.  And I realized that He understood me.  He was there.  He felt my pain.  He gave me strength and confidence.  I knew I could turn to Him always.  I don’t think I truly understood that until I felt completely alone in a new place.  I deepened my relationship with God in a way that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Poplar Forest, bushes, and shoes
We got to see and do many neat things I never otherwise would have.

I would have to say that was the crowning glory of the life lessons I gained.  Being forced to become humble and rely on God brought me to where I wanted to rely on Him the remainder of my life.  I was not perfect (and I still am not perfect), but the Lord guided me, and I was able to serve the Him with all my heart, might, mind, and strength.  When I returned home from my mission, I felt an indescribable peace knowing that I really tried my hardest and I gave my all in the work of sharing Christ’s gospel.

These important lessons helped build a stronger foundation for the rest of my life.  I understood people and the world a little bit better (although I still had a lot to learn).  I knew what was important in life and what I wanted for my future.  I am thankful for all of the experiences I had from being a missionary–too many to be listed here.  But it definitely was not a wasted time in my life.  Although starting my career may have been delayed a few years, I know I benefited greatly from accelerated life experiences.  I wouldn’t have changed any of it for the world!

To learn more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, visit www.mormon.org.

23 Comments

  1. Great post

  2. Great post, I never knew too much about missionaries. I like that you said people are the same everywhere- I’ve definitely noticed that in my travels as well. I’m glad you enjoyed your experiences.

  3. My husband has traveled for work for almost twenty years, and he says that the same people are all over the place. It is neat to see someone else make a similar observation.

  4. Thank you for sharing about your mission! It’s important and wonderful that you are spreading the gospel even after your mission by sharing on your blog.

  5. Thank you for sharing this! Missionaries are so important. I think it’s great that you are educating people about it!

  6. Absolutely wonderful! I love your story!

  7. Such a humbling experience and a widening perspective that is invaluable.

  8. Thank you for sharing your experience! I love this “Once you look a little deeper behind superficial differences, you see a person’s heart and realize how special each person on the earth really is.” It’s such a valuable life lesson and one that can only be learned through traveling and meeting with people from all walks of life.

  9. Lovely story and photographs.

  10. Thanks for sharing. I have a former co-worker that left teaching to be a missionary. She seems much happier doing what her heart desires! Hats off to you for doing the same!

  11. I love how your experiences have given you such a broad perspective. One of the things I always try to do is to ask God to help me to see people and experiences the way He sees them so that I don’t judge or apply my opinion.

  12. Great post! I served a mission as well and I agree I learned so much! People are people, wherever we are! We have the same basic needs!

  13. I love this! I also agree that God is the one and true person that you can rely on anything for. 🙂

  14. It’s so good to reflect back on our experiences like this. 🙂

  15. This sounds like it was a great and positive experience. A long long time ago I went on a youth group trip and the people coordinating it were so kind. I remember them to this day being able to help the less fortunate and not be so pressing in their views.

  16. Nothing beats Woking for God. I’m glad you got to do these and I hope to oneday.

  17. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  18. What a great story! I also learned in my travels that people are the same everywhere.

  19. This sounds like a life changing experience. Its amazing how many lives you touched and what a great experience to have met all those people!

  20. This sounds like an amazing experience! You touched so many lives and now have so many great memories!

  21. I think it is amazing to see how much serving God and others always tends to teach us or benefit ourselves. God has an amazing way of doing that! 🙂

  22. I am an atheist, but one of the things I love most about organized religion is the emphasis on community service. I think what makes Jesus the most powerful teacher/figure throughout history was his love for all people, and his message that we would do even greater things than he would.

    And you are proving him right.

    Good for you sister.

  23. Helping others can truly be a life-changing experience! I served in West Africa, not as a missionary but as a Peace Corps agroforestry volunteer. It’s humbling and enriching at the same time. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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