In case you don't already know, I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Each Sunday, I'm going to discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. Regardless of your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better.
I have been spending the last week with my wonderful family. I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't be with them for Christmas! It's just not truly the holiday without them.
However, I have been missing my sister this week. As I've mentioned, she is currently serving a mission for our church in the Texas Houston East Mission. You can read more about her adventures on her blog (which I update for her).
What is a mission?
The Lord has declared that missionary work is the responsibility of all who follow Him. Members of the Lord's Church can, by the goodness of their lives and the strength of their testimonies, share the gospel message and help prepare family members, friends, and other acquaintances who are not Latter-day Saints to be taught by the full-time missionaries
There are a few different ways to do missionary work.
One is a proselyting mission, which is what my sister is doing. Young single men and women are called for 18 months (women) or 24 months (men) with the primary goal of sharing and preaching the gospel to those who want to learn more. These young men and women do not get to choose where they go, but are assigned missions based where the Lord and church leadership feels they should go. They are aided by members in their areas who are introducing friends to the gospel, or they may find people to teach through knocking on doors or contacting people on the street. They are the nice young people in white shirts and ties (or nice dresses) you'll see going about two by two with nametags on. Since their primary goal is to serve the Lord and the people in their missions, they follow strict rules, like only listening to Church appropriate music and only calling their families on Mother's Day and Christmas (it was a precious 30 minutes for us on Saturday). They are expected to write home once a week, and it's always a highlight of my Monday!
Another option is a mission for a senior couple who have retired and are able to leave their family and home obligations for 18-24 months. They are also called wherever the Lord and church leadership sees fit. They usually are called to fulfill service opportunities, like serving in the temple, as my grandparents did in London a few years ago, or Family History Centers, or otherwise supporting local church leadership in a different country, as my mom's cousin and his wife are doing in New Zealand right now.
There are other service missions, either served by senior single sisters or young people who are unable to serve a full-time mission for medical reasons. These are often served for shorter periods of time, usually close to home (though senior sisters may be called elsewhere).
Finally, there are member missionaries. That's supposed to include all the rest of us as we share the gospel to those we come in contact with, even if it's living our lives in accordance with the gospel and being examples of faithful members of the church. Blogging about church topics every Sunday is a form of missionary work as I help you get to know more about us, even just to help us be less misunderstood. I'm also always happy to answer questions about my faith, here online or in person.
As for the rest of my family, my brother served in Atlanta, GA, until sidelined after shattering his elbow, then completed his mission in Baltimore, MD. My mom served in Quito, Ecuador, and my father in Salt Lake City, UT.
In case you were wondering, I have not served a full-time mission. Young men are expected to go, but it's a choice for young women. Instead, I choose to be an example of my faith and share my beliefs whenever appropriate.
Non-Mormon readers/friends - now you know who those young men in the white shirts and ties on bikes are!
Mormon readers/friends - I'd love to know where you served a mission! What did you love most about it?