Saturday, October 4, 2014

Happy Birthday, Bryan - missionary edition!

It's Bryan's 19th birthday today! (Oct. 3rd is his birthday but by the time this gets uploaded it will probably be Oct. 4th, so I am just clarifying in case anyone thinks I forgot when my own son's birthday is! Although I wouldn't put that past me... ;) I so wish we got to celebrate with him!

Bryan is spending his birthday in Torreon, Mexico where he is serving a two year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We are REALLY missing him, but we wouldn't want him to be anywhere else. I get asked almost daily how I can stand to send my son away for two years? Friends and acquaintances are incredulous and I don't blame them. As you can see from these pictures, we have been completely in love with this beautiful boy for a very long time!
In our church, boys are taught that it is every young man's priesthood duty to serve a mission, though, there is no punishment for not serving. It is similar to wanting your kids to go to college but not disowning them if they don't. If young men are not able to serve because of poor health or a disability, they are honorably excused. Girls may also serve missions if they choose to, but they are not expected to serve in the same way that boys are.
Missionaries are not paid for their service, in fact, they pay their own way! Missionaries are expected to save $400/mo. x 24 months or close to $10,000. Most Mormon boys are taught to save for their mission and college funds from the time they are young, while the tradition in other families is to just pay for their kids' missions. If there is anyone who wants to serve a mission but has very little means by which to do so, there are funds that are made available to them by contributions from members for just such a purpose. However, they are still required to earn a certain portion of their cost before assistance is given and that is determined by their local leader. Generally, people don't value that which is given to them freely as much as something they have had to earn themselves.

Also it should be noted that the Mormon church does not have a paid clergy. Every bishop and stake president you know serves as an ecclesiastical leader in addition to their chosen vocation and their responsibilities as a family man. No one in the church is paid for their service except for the Prophet and the twelve apostles who have no choice but to give up their professions when they are called because their service is 24/7. Even still, many refuse church living stipends because they are able to support themselves because they were close to retirement when called or had earned financial independence.
Missionaries do not get to choose where they serve. They go wherever in the world they are called. Thus, the assignment of where a missionary will be serving is referred to as a "mission call." It is an exciting day in every missionary's life when they receive their call in the mail and open the envelope to find out where they will be spending the next two years! In our family, David served in Brazil, Brad served in Slovakia, Kristy served in Ireland, Kendall is serving in Louisiana and Bryan is serving in Mexico.

The LDS church is worldwide and it is the exact same everywhere. The only difference is the language it is being spoken in! It is almost comical how much it is the same even in the most remote areas of the world. The reason it is the same is because the doctrine is not of man. It is not subject to change by local leaders or cultures. The doctrine is of God and the only man who has the authority to modify it is the prophet, of which there is only one, and currently it is Thomas S. Monson. “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7
Missionaries are sent to a Missionary Training Center (MTC) for a brief preparation at the start of their service. Those speaking English only stay in the MTC for about 2 weeks. Those who are learning a foreign language spend 2-3 months in the MTC depending on how difficult their language is. That is all the training they get! It's mostly a crash course in being obedient and learning to listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost because God is in charge and this is His work. Missionaries are merely His messengers.

Missionaries are only allowed to email or write home once a week. They are only allowed to call home twice a year on Mother's Day and Christmas. They are not allowed to date or watch TV or go to movies or listen to any music other than approved church music. They study the scriptures, they teach people about Jesus Christ and about the doctrine of the church, they look for members who have stopped coming to church to see if they need any help, and they do community service in their areas of whatever type is needed. The people they teach are people who refer themselves or referred by friend or neighbor (preferred method) or they knock on doors when they have no referrals. That is the life of an LDS missionary. Quite a stark contrast to the life of a typical 18-20 year old male these days.
Missionaries have one day off per week which is usually Mondays. It is known as P-day which stands for Preparation Day.  It is called that because they are supposed to use that day to prepare for the coming week by cleaning, shopping for groceries, doing laundry, etc. Saying they have a day off is a bit of a stretch because they have to be back to work by Monday night so it's more like a half day off every week. Some get to play soccer or basketball on P-day and some get to do a little sightseeing and get to know the areas they are serving in.
Missionaries always work in pairs and are never alone except in the shower and bathroom. They are assigned a "companion" and companions usually change every 6-12 weeks. Many become life long friends with their companions, but some of their companions they just learn to tolerate so the work can continue to go forward.

Missions are the best preparation for marriage! If a missionary can learn to get along with a companion he or she is forced to live with that they don't even particularly like, then they can certainly learn to get along with a spouse they got to choose themselves... that they love!!
I grew up Catholic and joined the Mormon church when I was 14 so it's easy for me to describe a mission to my Catholic friends. I tell them it is like sending your son or daughter off to be a priest or a nun for two years but then you get them back! And they are able to marry and have families! It's like having the best of both worlds!! And that's what I found so appealing about the church when I learned about the doctrine from the missionaries. It didn't take away anything that I had been taught and cherished growing up as a Catholic, the LDS doctrine simply added to it and expounded upon it to where I felt I had the best of both worlds and I still do. As someone who was taught by missionaries myself, I have immense gratitude for the service that they render and the lives that they are able to affect. Mine was one of them!
Here are a couple of questions every non-Mormon should ask themselves:

Why would a major world religion which claims to be God's restored church trust such a vital message to be delivered by 18 year old untrained, uneducated boys whose frontal lobes are not even fully developed?

What would make normal, good looking, intelligent, athletic, girl crazy boys like these want to give up two years of their life to serve God in a day and age when most religions are struggling just to get their youth to come to church?
These boys are willing to give up two years of their lives because they truly believe that they have a message of hope and happiness that will help people all over the world which is that Jesus Christ is our Savior and there is a prophet on the earth today that leads and guides His church.

And these fine Moses Lake boys are just the tip of the iceberg! There are over 88,000 missionaries serving around the world right now and the number of missionaries just keeps growing! Either there is something really profound going on here or Mormons have the most obedient kids ever? 
(Spoiler alert: it's not the latter!)

The church entrusts mere teenagers as its emissaries for two reasons. One, because the message is true and speaks for itself. The missionaries don't convert people, the truth does. Two, because it is God's inspired program. He knows that in the process of selflessly serving mankind on a mission, these young boys will turn into men who will be prepared to be upstanding citizens, righteous leaders, faithful husbands and devoted fathers.

There is an unofficial maxim among Mormons that goes something like this, "If the gospel wasn't true... the missionaries would have proven it long ago!"  Haha! For sure!

We are our brother's keeper...

...“nearly three-quarters of the public (72%) now thinks religion is losing influence in American life, up 5 percentage points from 2010 to the highest level in Pew Research polling over the past decade.” 

Watching religion dwindle in importance is more than just sad; it constitutes an emergency. If we don’t amp up our efforts to turn this around, it won’t take many years for us to live in a jaw-dropping world we don’t even recognize.   When generations grow up without a moral code, without faith, without any connection to God, disaster looms. Look to any nation that has sterilized its people from the truth, scrubbed clean the hard lessons of history, and you’ll see disintegration of that people—poverty, crime, submission to tyrants, loss of freedoms, breakdown of the family, even economic ruin. 

I’ve heard many say, “Well, this is a sign of the times—the polarization of good and evil,” as if it’s just the unstoppable, inevitable outcome of life leading up to the millennium. But we aren’t supposed to shove our hands in our pockets and give up. We’re to reach out and try to save all those we can. We’re to be part of the Search and Rescue team. Each individual matters, and each one is worth saving.                                                                                                      – Joni Hilton

So the answer is... YES, it's extremely hard to send a son on a mission knowing that we don't get to see him for two years. It's a HUGE sacrifice for him and for us! But the man we get back in return is so worth the wait!! And to think there are people in Mexico whose lives will forever be changed for the better, just like mine was, because of my son's willingness to serve them makes it even more worthwhile. It's a win-win! We sacrifice our son for his own sake and for the sake of the people he will help on his mission.

So the next time you see some cute Mormon missionaries, ask them to tell you what they are teaching that is so important that it was worth leaving their friends and families and comfortable lives for two years to live in poverty and give service 7 days a week? Or better yet, request that the missionaries come visit you through It just might change your life!

Happy Birthday, Elder Earl!

We couldn't be more proud of you!!

Check out this interesting article:

Why Mormonism’s Claim is So Crazy to People- 

"Mormonism is either one of the biggest frauds in human history or it is the second most important thing to ever happen on this planet."

General Conference Oct. 4th & 5th: Due to the miracle of modern technology that we enjoy today, the prophet and other church leaders will be speaking in a televised conference this weekend. Check it out here.

For accurate information about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints visit