|Are you planning on going on a mission in the relatively near future?
If you are, you've probably already learned the following:
People with missionary experience love to give advice to new
Here is my advice for Mormon missionaries and prospective missionaries
who may be reading this. Thank you for indulging me.
- Be your companion's best friend. A missionary was once
telling me about an experience he had with one of his companions.
His companion asked him why he seemed so quiet and depressed. He
replied, "The truth is, you aren't the kind of guy I'd choose to hang
out with, if I had the choice." The truth is, most of your
companions aren't going to be the ones you'd choose to be companions
with. But the reality of missionary life is that that isn't a
choice that you get to make. But there is a choice you do have:
you can choose to be an outstanding friend to the companion you are
assigned to, or you can choose to endure the companionship the best you
can and hope your next companion is better. My advice is to chose
the former. Figure out how to be genuinely excited to be
companions with every companion. Figure out how to make them feel
that if you had the choice, he is the companion you'd want to be with.
Be genuinely and endlessly curious about every chapter of their life leading
up to you guys being stuck together. In other words, do everything
humanly possible to make the person who you spend all of your time with
your best friend in the whole world. At least for the time you
- Have empathy for your companion. A couple of months
before I finished my mission, I was assigned two brand-new missionaries.
I was the official trainer to one missionary, and the other missionary
was temporarily assigned to our companionship while he waited for his
Mexican visa. The other missionaries in the zone called us "Loomis
and the greenie squad." What was so interesting about this
threesome was that one of the greenies thought I was an unbearably lazy
and trunky underachiever, while the other thought I was an exceedingly
zealous workaholic. What I learned is that people interpret the
rules differently and have different valid and sincere ideas for how
missionary work should be conducted. You've got to figure out a way to harmonize
your personal views of ideal missionary life with those of your
companion. Offer lots of suggestions for how you spend your time
but also be flexible and try to do the things your companion wants to
do, too. And whatever choices you come to as a companionship, make
the best of it and don't complain about it or resent it. Don't expect
your companion to conform to doing everything that you want to do, and
don't bear a grudge that your companion is different than you.
- Write in your journal about people and thoughts. Only
write about events when something interesting happens. Don't waste
your time writing about the boring, repetitive, and mundane drudgeries
of missionary life. Rather, focus your journal on thoughts and the
people you meet. Every day, choose to focus on a single person.
Tell about how you met them, what they are like, what their ideas are,
and what you talk about when you are with them. Record in your
journal their address and phone number in case you want to send them a
letter or Christmas card down the road. You could even have them
write a little message in your journal to help you remember them.
And also record your ideas. Be brutally honest here. Write
about things you learn and what you are thinking about. Leave a
trail of how your thoughts grow and evolve.
- Remember that quitting is an option. If your earnest efforts
at missionary work great you with the constant companionship of
hypocrites and depression rather than with the companionship of the
Spirit, do you have the moral right to quit you mission? That is
for you to decide of course, but I believe the answer is an unequivocal yes. If
honest introspection leads you to the conclusion that being on a mission
isn't where you are supposed to be, then you should do the brave thing:
assert your free agency and go home.