One of the blessings of going on a mission is that an individual is cleansed and perfected through and/or because of the sacrifice, work, and trials they endure. I witnessed this in myself during my first full-time mission as a youth, saw it in the Hopkins (my in-laws) during their two senior missions in Mongolia and Hong Kong, and have seen and experienced it again during my own senior mission.
There is a proven adage that you only get out of something the amount you put in. That is true with a mission also. The amount of hard work and dedication a person puts forward during their mission directly correlates with the amount of blessings one receives, or the growth/perfection one can and will obtain during your service.
We have seen missionaries that spend their time in worry and complaining about the work, or the people, or the circumstances in which they have been placed…and in the end they remain either unchanged or embittered. They received no blessings, and in some cases lost blessings, due to their poor attitude.
On the other hand we have seen missionaries that came with many issues and problems…but, due to their persistence and dedication to the work, they developed into great men and women—blessed with power and spiritual insight.
The difference in outcome was due to their attitude and desire to do the work. Those that focused on the work, or, who ‘lost themselves’ in the work, soon forgot their problems and, almost without realizing it, changed their very nature. They lost their imperfections at the same time they were blessed with strength and power. As noted in the oft-quoted scripture in Ether 12:27: God made their weaknesses strengths.
As Terri and I look back on this mission (a natural situation as we prepare to leave) we both can see areas of our lives—parts of ourselves—that have changed and/or become better.
In reflecting upon this process that we have both experienced in ourselves and seen in others who have served missions, we have pondered about the importance of making the profound and life-changing decision to serve a mission:
The person who is willing to “lose their life for my sake” (Matthew 16:25) will, in fact, find it. They will be blessed beyond their understanding—the blessings received quite literally cannot be measured because they included blessings upon your entire family. More than once we have heard the profound blessing that our sacrifice of coming on a mission will ensure that we will be able to keep all of our children and eventually bring them with us into the kingdom. So, we not only assure that we will make it to the kingdom (through the process of change that occurs during our time of service), but we assure our entire family can receive the same blessing!
On the other hand, those who do not find the faith/courage to make the decision to “lose their life” through service, not only will not receive, but cannot receive these blessings. It is not possible because it is a ‘process’ of perfection, and you cannot be made perfect without going through the process! While many refuse to serve because of the great love they have for their children or grandchildren, they simply do not realize the blessings they have lost—both for themselves and their family—due to their unwillingness to make that sacrifice.
We long ago learned the lesson that sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven. From what I understand, there is no other way:
“My beloved brethren and sisters, humbly and gratefully I approach this sacred assignment with a prayer in my heart that what I say will strengthen our resolve to live the principle of sacrifice as a prerequisite to a godly life, for this is a day of sacrifice.
The Lord said in September 1831, “Now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice … of my people” (D&C 64:23; italics added).
The Prophet Joseph Smith prepared this remarkable statement on the principle of sacrifice for the Lectures on Faith:
“Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation” (Lectures on Faith, 6:7).
As I have pondered this principle of the gospel, I contemplate a legacy of faith and sacrifice left by our forefathers…
Yes, as I contemplate the faith, devotion, and sacrifices of thousands—even tens of thousands—of faithful Saints who have preceded us, I am in complete accord with this statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those … who have offered their all in sacrifice … unless they, in like manner, offer unto him the same sacrifice (Lectures on Faith, 6:8; italics added).
I repeat: This is a day of sacrifice, and the opportunities are ever present.”
(This is a day of Sacrifice, Ezra Taft Benson, April 1979 Conference)
These comments may seem rather tough to hear, even offensive to some, but that does not make them any less true. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The universal principles that bring men to Christ and bring blessings to men on earth do not change, nor are they confined to a specific religion or race—we are all children of God. Any man or woman who is willing to sacrifice their lives to serve others will receive the same blessings.
For example: Mother Teresa sacrificed her own life to serve the poor in India. Though of a different faith, she went through the same cleansing process that all go through while serving God. She became perfected as an individual through serving others. Gandhi did the same, as have others through history. Though of different faiths, races, and nations, it is clear from simple observation that it was through their personal sacrifice they became personally blessed and perfected. The whole world honors them for what they did and who they became.
We can do the same. Anyone can do the same! It is simply a matter of making the choice to serve.
So, I encourage you to make the choice! Choose to serve, choose to give up your life—to save it. You will not only bless your own life, you will obtain eternal blessings for your entire family.
Just do it!