I would like to start this post by saying that I recognize that there are some situations revolving around pains, injuries and illness that merit an honorable release from a mission.
There are other situations where pain becomes an excuse.
With that being said, here is a letter I wrote to a missionary today. This is reflective of one particular situation and not of all missionaries as a whole. #benotoffended
*Names have been changed for privacy.
I hope that introduction strikes you.
You are not Jake anymore. You are now Elder Jones, a representative of Jesus Christ.
This is a talk from Elder Holland. Read the whole talk. But first, read this:
“Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?
You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.”
That talk is called “Missionary Work and the Atonement.” Here’s the link. Read it after you finish reading my letter, because I have a few things to say to you in the spirit of Elder Holland.
First of all:
Elder Jones, I love you. And because I love you, I’m sending you this email.
Elder, don’t you dare come home. Elder Holland said that too. And I add my voice and testimony to his.
I’m sorry your back hurts. Here’s a little secret: I have had back pain every day for the past 9 years thanks to that car accident. That includes the 18 months I spent walking and biking in Montana, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
There were days I was in incredible pain. The only thing that would offer some kind of relief was laying down in my bed at night after a long day of tracting and trying.
But at the end of each day I could say that I had tried my best. But I could always do better. So each morning I would wake up at 6:30 a.m. and try harder the next days. I had difficult companions. I had areas where we had no one to teach. I had days when I had to bike uphill in the wind in a skirt.
THAT IS WHAT A MISSION IS.
It’s giving God your all no matter what.
When you bear your testimony of the Atonement you are saying thank you to the Savior for not giving up. How could you look him in the eye if you give up on your mission?
You know as well as I do that in your setting apart, it said you could serve a full, two-year mission. That’s because you choose to.
Don’t you dare come home.
Elder, my first companion was the best missionary I have ever met. And she told me that at the beginning of her mission she prayed for an illness that would allow her to come home early. God didn’t answer her prayer, and she continued to be one of the most effective missionaries in our mission.
Elder, it’s normal to struggle at the beginning of your mission. I did. It’s hard. And it’s not what you’re used to. But it’s your life now. A life you willingly gave to the Lord for 2 years. Now stick with it. Acknowledge that it’s going to be hard. Then put your head down, lengthen your stride and forget yourself and go to work.
We recited this scripture every day on my mission:
“Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people that they might have everlasting life.” (3 Nephi 5:13)
Also, this scripture meant a lot to me too:
“And now my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.” (Moroni 9:6)
Elder, you were not just called to serve, you were called to finish.
Now recommit yourself to the work, and finish. Remember, God doesn’t call us to fail- and that includes 2 year missions.
I love you so much. This was a little tough love, but I know you can take it.
You are a great man, Elder. Now be a great missionary.