“The mission. Two years where I willingly volunteered to go beardless, to not eat undercooked meat (yep, that’s a rule), and to work nonstop with no video games or movies to break the monotony. I sacrificed my lifestyle to go around preaching the Gospel to everybody I saw.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say that a mission is the longest shortest two years of your life. Or maybe it was that it was the shortest longest two years of your life. I can’t remember. All I know is that it wasn’t true for me. My mission was the shortest shortest two years of my life. I couldn’t believe it when the end came, and I had to go home. I would have been willing to serve another two years. They say that the days are long, but the weeks are short, but for me the days were short and the weeks were shorter. The days felt like hours, and the weeks felt like days.
“My mission was not a sacrifice. I hear a lot of people say that missionaries “sacrifice” two years of their lives to serve the Lord. Well it didn’t take me that long to figure out the truth: I didn’t make a sacrifice to go on a mission; the Lord made a sacrifice to let me go on a mission. I wasn’t ready to be a full-time disciple of Jesus Christ. I don’t think any 18-20 year old is. I was immature. I was inexperienced. My testimony was just in its baby stages. For the Lord to allow me to preach His gospel full-time showed a lot of sacrifice on His part. He let a young man who was still learning from his mistakes go into a new and different world to ultimately turn me into the man I need to be. Elder Bednar has said that the Lord doesn’t send us on missions to learn how to be missionaries. He sends us out to learn how to be members of the Church.
“So I want to share some of the things that I learned on my mission. Some of the things that have shaped me into the man that I am today. Some of these things are obvious and are talked about regularly. Some are a little more obscure.
“First- I learned how to be a husband. For two years you spend 24 hours attached to somebody at the hip, whether you like them or not. You have to learn to get along, regardless of your differences. Sometimes my companions and I had almost nothing in common. I was the nerdy city boy from Las Vegas. He was the simple farm boy from Kingston, Utah (population 100). I had to learn how to compromise and accept that we had differences, just like I someday will have to do with my wife.
“Second- I learned how to work. On a mission, you do nothing but work nonstop. You wake up at 6:30 and go to bed at 10:30. The time in between that is filled with work. From studying, to teaching, to knocking doors, to planning, everything was devoted to furthering the Lord’s work. Free time was just something that didn’t exist. I didn’t know what to do with free time when I got home. My work load was intense, and it taught me how to handle working and going to school now that I’m home.
“Third- I learned how to love unconditionally. It was hard sometimes. One time my companion and I knocked on a door, and the person answered and told us that he prayed every day that our ministry failed. People like that are hard to love sometimes, but being a missionary and being constantly surrounded by the Spirit really helps to learn how to love them. I learned to love people regardless of their circumstances. And today, I’ve learned how to love people for who they are, and not to judge them by their mistakes.
“Fourth- I learned how to be a leader. I spent over a year of my mission as a district leader. I had to use the Spirit to learn the best way to further the Lord’s work. I had to motivate and inspire the missionaries in my district, some of which were in very difficult areas. I learned how to encourage obedience without condemning every flaw a missionary had. I learned how to speak simply and clearly. And I learned how to love every missionary in my district, regardless of who they were or what they were going through.
“And most important, I learned the Lord’s love for me. I thought I understood God before I left on my mission. I thought that I had felt His love and was ready to preach that to the world. I had only seen the very tip of the iceberg. I felt the Lord’s love and saw the answers to my prayers on a regular basis. I woke up every morning knowing He was going to be with me that day. It was a beautiful thing. I learned the joy of repentance, and of seeing other people repent. It was beautiful, and it changed my life and shaped my testimony….
“Missions aren’t just about preaching the Gospel. They are about becoming the person that you are going to be for the rest of your life. They are the Lord’s way of shaping us into His vessels, the people who are going to be the example of Christian living. I will never regret having served a mission, and I will always be grateful for those beardless, movieless two years of my life.”