In the Aaronic Priesthood Quorum Theme young men say, “I will prepare to become a diligent missionary … by being a true disciple of Jesus Christ.”
A full-time mission can be a big part of that gathering. Yet, young men are constantly bombarded from all sides by messages, temptations and opportunities that distract them from serving. They may not recognize that this is the most important time in the history of the world to serve as a full-time missionary.
Some young men fear the unknown, especially because of changing conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. They don’t know what assignments may come or how they will change. Others worry because health concerns may keep them from serving a teaching mission and do not know the variety of service missions that are available. Either way, the time to serve is now.
Some young men fear that fewer people want to hear about Jesus Christ and His restored gospel in the world today. That does not change the fact that there have never been more people who need to hear about Jesus Christ and the blessings of His Atonement.
Below are five ways to talk to your son about serving a mission:
1. Help him understand his divine identity.
He is a beloved son of God and God has a work for him to do. President Nelson has said, “Our Heavenly Father has reserved many of His most noble spirits — perhaps, I might say, His finest team — for this final phase. Those noble spirits — those finest players, those heroes — are you!” Read Abraham 3:22-23 and Doctrine and Covenants 138:55-56 together.
2. Share the prophet’s invitation to serve.
Read with your son what the Prophet has said about this great work. “My dear young brothers and sisters, these surely are the latter days, and the Lord is hastening His work to gather Israel. That gathering is the most important thing taking place on earth today. Nothing else compares in magnitude, nothing else compares in importance, nothing else compares in majesty. And if you choose to, if you want to, you can be a big part of it. You can be a big part of something big, something grand, something majestic” (“Hope of Israel,” Worldwide Youth Devotional, June 3, 2018).
3. Talk honestly about missions and ask questions.
Talk openly and honestly about the realities of missions but also the blessings to help alleviate concerns. Prayerfully ask questions that will focus on his needs, interests and righteous desires. Then, truly listen and ponder his answers. Be willing to respond to his questions by offering to study “Preach My Gospel”, scriptures, and words of the living prophets together. Share your testimony about your personal relationship with the Savior and your conviction of the blessings you and those you love have experienced by turning to the Lord to do something worthwhile even when it is difficult.
As the 2022 youth theme assures, when we trust the Lord, He will direct our paths.
4. Encourage him to receive and study his patriarchal blessing and ponder its meaning and power.
Help your son understand that a patriarchal blessing is a personal map to help navigate the decisions of life and shed light on what will bring happiness. Assure him that patriarchal blessings contain personal revelation from his Heavenly Father, who knows his strengths, weaknesses and eternal potential.
You may even read his blessing with him or share your feelings when you were with him as he received his blessing.
5. Offer to fast and pray with him.
Encourage your son to prayerfully seek to find the courage and strength to do what Heavenly Father and the Savior would have him do with respect to serving a full-time mission. Attend the temple with him to do baptisms for the dead. If he does not have a current temple recommend, offer to help him in whatever he would like you to help in order to reach that goal.
Of course, it is vital to remember that your son has agency. He must feel of your love and support regardless of his choice. There are also opportunities to serve at different ages. If he is not feeling ready to go at age 18, it does not mean he can’t prepare and determine to go in coming years.
Express your love for him. Have faith that you are not the only parent who can guide him at this time. His Heavenly Father cares about his choices, loves him and will help him.
— Brother David T. Lisonbee is a member of the Young Men general advisory council.