22 things I wish I would have known before my mission

Let’s get personal for a minute, guys.

Yesterday, I received a call from my brother Cooper who has been waiting for nearly a year for his discharge papers from the military. They had finally come. After literally, years of waiting, Cooper can finally turn in his mission papers. #itsahugedeal

Well today is his 22nd birthday. (Happy birthday, kid!)

In honor of that, I decided to post 22 things I wish I would have known before my mission. This one’s for you, Elder Buchanan.

  1. It’s true. All of it. Everything we believe is really, actually, 100 percent real. I knew the Church was true, and I had always known the Gospel of Jesus Christ was true, but somewhere in the disconnect of my mind and reality it had seemed like one big great idea. Far from it, guys. It’s real. This knowledge came in really helpful as a missionary.
  2. Mission calls are inspired. This is coming from the girl that prayed to God and told him he made a mistake after she got her call. False. God doesn’t make mistakes. He sends YOU to the place where YOU are needed. If you are feeling hesitant about your call, let’s be friends. 
  3. D & C 100:5-6. Trust me.
  4. Be brave. All those times I didn’t talk to someone on the street because they looked busy or disinterested? Yeah, I wish I would have talked to them. All those times it seemed uncomfortable and I didn’t want to ruin my chances? Yeah, I should have contacted them. Talk to everyone.
  5. Serve your companion. Like, all the time.
  6. Don’t buy new scriptures. For the love of everything. Don’t buy new ones.
  7. Your stomach will stretch. I promise you, if you don’t think you can take another bite of food during your third dinner of the night, you absolutely can. Courage, brethren, and on, on to victory.
  8. You’ll forget. All those moments you think “I’ll never forget this experience, I don’t need to write it in my journal.” Write it down. You’ll forget.
  9. You’re normal. One thing I learned is that every missionary that has ever tracted the face of this earth had already felt what I was feeling. I wasn’t an anomaly because sometimes I wasn’t motivated after District Meetings on Tuesdays. I wasn’t crazy because I worried about being worthy enough to be an effective vessel of the spirit. Everything I was feeling was normal. And everything you will feel will be normal. Enjoy the ride.
  10. Equality. Everyone, and I mean everyone. Is a child of God. Never in your life will you have more reason to wonder, as you see some of the most bizzare or heartbreaking things, but trust me on this. We are all children of God. And he loves us dearly. Brace yourself to feel that love for the people you serve. Totally blindsided me. Totally.
  11. The end does come. I promise. The end of the transfer will ALWAYS come. Six weeks isn’t eternity. Yeah, it absolutely feels like it at times. But you can do it. It’s all about love.
  12. Introspection. If I ever had a problem with someone on my mission whether it was a companion, another missionary, a ward member or an investigator, it was me that had to do the changing. Every time.
  13. Prayers. You will pray as you never have before, and 97 percent of it will not be for yourself. It’s great.
  14. You’re going to gain weight. It’s fine. It magically comes off when you get home. Promise.
  15. Be obedient. In everything. Always. 100 percent.
  16. Lose yourself. I had always heard that sweet little story of “you have to lose yourself in order to find yourself.” Testimonial: it totally works, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you find.
  17. Get over yourself. Maybe you were a big deal on the football field. Maybe you were the best writer on your newspaper staff. Maybe you were the most beautiful and popular girl at your school. Maybe you gave the funniest talks in sacrament meeting. Cool. But you’re a missionary now, and none of that stuff really matters. What does matter is that you are doing what you can to fulfill your purpose. Because guess what? It’s so not about you. And it’s FANTASTIC.
  18. Love everyone. I’m serious.
  19. Study, study, study, study. You have two hours each morning. Make them count, and miracles happen. For reals.
  20. Never ignore a prompting. I once had one to drive over 14 miles into what was essentially a field. Some of the greatest moments of my mission happened because of that. NEVER ignore a prompting.
  21. Lock your heart. Boys are dumb. Girls are dumb. Even when they are missionaries.
  22. You are enough. God has never, nor will he ever call a missonary to fail. He knows you, he knows your investigators, and YOU are enough to be His hands as you labor in His vineyard.

Congratulations to Elder Buchanan and the countless others who will soon be entering the mission field. You will change lives, including your own.





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64 thoughts on “22 things I wish I would have known before my mission


  2. thanks this was great! I am leaving in 2 months for my mission and this is really interesting. I have a question, Why do you say not to buy new scriptures?

    • Rachel, this is one of the items that I would 100% disagree with. Buy brand new ones as they will be a treasure for you for your entire life. Your missionary scriptures will be the ones that you will pass down to your children as they read your notes and other markings of the time when you were serving the Lord. You will also go back to them from time to time and I promise you will remember exactly where you were when you wrote your thoughts, impressions and markings as prompted by the Holy Spirit.

    • because you won’t be able to find anything in the new ones 😉 I love my trashed marked up ones from seminary. I was given new ones for my mission which was really frustrating, but then I went spanish speaking and had whole new ones to mark up anyways. but seriously you’ll appreciate your old beat up scriptures.

    • I would recommend buying new scriptures. What I did was wrote down all the marked scriptures from my seminary scriptures on a separate piece of paper. Sure it was tedious, but during personal study I would mark the scriptures I thought would help me with my calling as a missionary. I had so many answers to prayers when I was copying the scriptures from the list to my new scriptures. One in particular was when I was on the airplane to Germany and I was way nervous. I was copying the list into my scriptures on the flight and I came to the scripture Deuteronomy 31:6 and it says “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” I was really afraid of the German people and for the next couple days I had to look at that scripture every morning so that I could calm my nerves and knew God would be with me and would support me. I’m so glad I wrote that list of scriptures, because I wouldn’t have found it in brand new scriptures and I wouldn’t have found it in my old scriptures even thought it was marked, because who looks for comfort in the beginning of the Old Testament? 😉 But I knew the Lord was very aware of my fears and I’m so glad that I followed the spirit and chose which scriptures would help my missionary service. But I think it’s different for every person.

  3. I front a rock band, and I am a practicing lawyer. I’m not religious anymore–I like spiritual things but I do not like what appear to me to be false certainties, or false claims of certainty, because of how misleading and problematic those things have been. But my little girl is leaving on a mission this Wednesday. I really liked your piece. I’m sharing it with my daughter and her sisters. As a songwriter and a member of a rock band, I have to say, you are indeed, totally hipster. It appears you are awesome. Thanks for that.

  4. Thanks for this. Jut tonight I was feeling inadequate and worried I will fail as a missionary that I’m not ready enough. I leave in 10 days for my mission. Thanks for #22

  5. Thanks you sooooooooo much for sharing this. I find it inspiring and extremely useful for my mission in the near future. I will bare these in mind.

  6. #14 needs a little more specification, I think. If you go to a stateside mission where you get to drive a car and they feed you three dinners a day, you’ll gain wait. On the other hand, if you serve in Guatemala where you walk everywhere and half the food has parasites, you will lose weight – 90 pounds in my case. Though, you’re right, it all comes back after you get home.

  7. I served as a Sister Missionary to the Belgium Brussels Mission from 1999-2001. It was one of the best, most awesome experiences of my life. Nearly 12 years of marriage and four children later and I still think about my experiences. My husband and I are still learning and growing from what we both lived while serving our missions. I agree completely, 100%, with everything you have said here. This is perfect advice for all missionaries. Thank you for serving! Thank you for posting!

  8. Great thoughts, and Julie after 40 years of coming home off my mission I still remember it. What a wonderful time, (and hard) May the Lord bless all of you future missionaries!! Just serve the Lord with all your heart, might, mind, and strength and you will be blessed in this life and in the eternitieS! (I have a daughter leaving in 3 weeks)

  9. We’ve had all of our 4 sons serve, I got the advice down to 3 things:
    1) Total, unreserved obedience
    2) Work hard (physically and mentally – heart, might, mind and strength)
    3) Act in faith with enthusiasm

  10. I love this list! It’s exactly what I’d like to tell my sons who will be up and coming missionaries. I served waaaaay before it was cool. And yet it WAS cool. The best. I am giving a workshop on prepping our sons and daughters for missions next week. May I *please* reprint this for all the RS sisters who attend? It says so well just what I’d like the women to be able to tell their departing dear ones.

  11. This is awesome, and yes, I wish I had known this before my mission… However, there is one advice that I heard from my priest quorum adviser that when you are serving your mission is to TRUST IN THE LORD. And I have learned that trusting in the Lord has brought me great blessings, and experiences… As what brother Holder said, If we trust in the Lord the three things that he mentioned will come out naturally. At least that is what I learned. It is a remarkable thing to have H.F. guide you while you serve his people in the mission that he chose for you…

    Good luck Elder Buchanan in your mission field. and thank this author for making this list for you and to other missionaries preparing to serve…

  12. Whether or not to buy new scriptures, or if you’ll gain or lose weight can be different for each missionary! However, the rest, i believe to be universal for every missionary! I’d like to just add one thing. Most everyone has to learn these things by their “own experience”. What you wrote will likely help many Missionaries be more prepared to learn these very important Truths by their “own experience”, and be able to apply many of them through out their lives! As a Father who served a mission and has one daughter putting in her papers, and 4 younger sons preparing for future service, I found what you wrote to be very uplifting and inspiring….brought back fond and deep memories! Thank You!!!

  13. I love this list, I took my old scriptures because I knew that I’d have new scriptures in my new language. On that note, I would also add to try and speak the language of the mission in public. When you get with another English speaker it is easy to fall back into speaking English to them. I was lucky to have a few native speakers who spoke no English, so we always talked in Russian. We had a few people approach us that were interested but they always saw the missionaries talking in English and did not know that we could speak Russian and teach them. Speaking the language of the people at all times will open doors.

  14. I am from Brazil and all my three children have already served a mission. The last one is arriving home next month! I loved your post and I’ll share it with all of them. Thank you for writing inspired words to your brother and if you allow me I’d like to share it on my facebook.

  15. Wow, incredible. It’s like all other advice takes a backseat. I just love how real you are. I have made the pact with myself to remain real as a sister missionary (so many missionaries just seem fake.) I also just wrote all of this down for my friend who is in the MTC. May I ask where you served? I report to the MTC on May 1 to go to the Belgium/Netherlands mission and as I was reading this I was thinking “I don’t know who this girl is, but I really like her. I want to be her friend.” Seriously great stuff. I started a blog for my mission and stuff like this is just so inspiring so just thanks. Congrats to your brother, too!

    • Thanks so much, girl. It sounds like you will be an awesome missionary. And congrats on your call! I served in the Montana Billings mission. I loved it. It was absolutely perfect for me. I hope you feel like that about your mission too. And I agree with you about being real. In fact, you inspired me to write another post. So thank YOU. You are awesome. And let’s be honest. I’d love to be friends.

  16. I believe you may have been as much of a hipster sister missionary as I was. (and I was pretty rocking, not gonna lie). Just wanna add my second witness that each one of these 22 statements are 100% true! Perhaps the 23rd point could be..’Remember, this is going to be the single best experience of your life….and it will change you forever, embrace every moment!’ ahh I miss the field! Let’s be friends! : )

  17. What a wonderful list! I served a mission and would have benefited from your great advice. I’m totally sharing this with my son before he leaves this August. Thank you!!

  18. Thank you so much for this. i really needed it. I enter the MTC in 16 days and have been kinda freaking out. so thank you sooo much. this is wonderful!! 🙂 where did you serve your mission?? Im going to the Guatemala, Coban Mission. 🙂 and the Guatemala MTC!!

  19. Ahhhh! Love, love., triple scoop love. I’m cutting, pasting, and sending tomorrow to my daughter Sorella Bradford in Rome. You can read about her right here:

    I was a missionary, too, and can say that every fine, elevating, truly precious thing in my life today (25+ years post-name tag) can be traced to that decision to serve. Brimming right this moment with gratitude. Thanks again and much love.–M.

  20. Thank you SO MUCH for this! I felt completely lost and uninspired when I first got my call, and I thought I was a terrible person surrounded by others who loved their calls the minute they opened them. SOOOO nice to know that I’m human, and that others go through it too. I’m writing these down 🙂 You’re the best!!

  21. After I turned in my mission papers and about 2 weeks before I got my mission call back, I had a dream. I dreamt I was sitting in a classroom. Someone came in and stated the mail had come and handed me a large envelope. I saw that it was from the church and knew it was my mission call.

    I opened the letter and pulled out a map of the United Stated. I looked at the map and saw a town in Texas that was circled. I thought that must mean I am going to Texas. I looked again at the map and saw a town in New Mexico that also had a circle around it. Slightly confused, I thought maybe I would also serve in New Mexico. I looked a third time at the map and saw a town in Arizona with a circle around it. Now completely bewildered, I had no idea what it meant. Surely I wouldn’t serve in all three places, no mission was that big.

    Two weeks later I got my real mission call. I was called to serve in the New Mexico Albuquerque Mission. I spent several months of my mission on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona. Prior to reporting to the MTC, I received my endowments in the closest temple to where I lived, Dallas Texas.

    Mission call really are inspired.

  22. Oh my heck! I could have so written that. Every word. Except…..you did a much better job than I ever would have. Thank you for sharing. I sent the link to my daughter who is preparing to go.

  23. WOW. I dont know who you are but I am so glad that I stumbled upon a Pinterest pin with a link to this blog post. I so needed this!! I just got my call to Lima, Peru. Thank you so, so much for sharing so much wonderful advice! I loved all of it and now I am crying. So grateful for veteran sister missionaries that remind me I CAN DO THIS! You are awesome! Thanks again!!

  24. “Mission calls are inspired” seriously what I needed to hear! I got a mission call a few weeks ago and literally said to Heavenly Father, “seriously?!” and I was super mad. Haha it’s so funny that we think we know better than Him. Let’s be friends:)

  25. Hey HipsteRm, love this list. I’m leaving for South Africa, Durban on December 1st and definitely can use this as personal motivation. Thanks for serving and thanks for the indirect support. Truly I thank you because this list motivates and uplifts me in ways that I can really do myself. See you all in 2 years!! 🙂

  26. Pingback: 6 ways my LDS mission prepared me for motherhood - the wit logs

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