3 Habits From Your Mission Worth Keeping

As a full time missionary you developed many habits that helped you share the gospel more effectively.  These habits ranged from how you managed your time, to the very way you said your prayers.  These were the daily ins and outs of the life of a missionary.

Many of these habits don’t have to stop simply because you are home.  In fact, I would argue that keeping the good habits you’ve already formed from your mission will help you to live a happier, more fulfilled life.  It’s generally much easier to continue doing something then it is to completely start over from scratch.

Here are three important missionary habits that are worth keeping:

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 1. The Habit of a Spiritually Oriented Morning Routine

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As a missionary you had a very strict schedule.  You woke up, prayed, exercised, studied the scriptures, studied with your companion and then, if you were speaking a foreign language, you spent more time learning the language.  All of this was done before you even left your apartment.  There is great wisdom in this.  The habit of a morning routine helps focus you and prepare you for the rigors of the day.

I remember an experience that taught me the importance of this principle.  A few years ago I used to go on jogs around the neighborhood at night.  Usually before I exercised, I took time to stretch, used my inhaler for my asthma and warmed up my body before I pushed it harder.  One night I decided to forego all of this and jump right into running.  It was miserable.

I ran much worse than I ever had before, my knees and muscles ached and I felt like my lungs were going to send my body a resignation notice. My run was far less productive than if I had taken the time to prepare for it.

Life is the same way.  If you prepare for your day by putting the Lord first and focusing your mind on what is truly important, your day is bound to be more fulfilling and productive.

Obviously you probably won’t be able to devote the same amount of time to your morning routine now as you did on your mission, but you can add the same elements by saying your prayers, exercising and studying the scriptures before you do anything else.  This principle isn’t unique to the Church’s missionary service, even top productivity leaders have argued the value of having a powerful morning routine.1

It will take some sacrifice on your part, but it will be worth it.

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2. The Habit of Praying for People to Share the Gospel with

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Chances are the majority of your prayers as a missionary were focused on finding people to share the gospel with and blessing those you were already teaching.  Every single day my companions and I would kneel and pray and plead with the Lord to lead us to those who were prepared to receive the gospel.  Most likely this type of prayer became ingrained in you when you were a missionary.

These types of prayers shouldn’t stop simply because you no longer wear a name tag.

I can testify that if you continue to pray for missionary opportunities, Heavenly Father will lead you to those who are prepared.  Many returned missionaries feel like they’ll never be able to make as big of a difference as they did on their mission.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  You may not teach the gospel full time but you can still be instrumental in bringing others to Christ.  The struggle is not to be so distracted by daily tasks, obligations and personal interests that you overlook serving and helping those around you.

Consider this paragraph from Preach My Gospel and how it can apply to you as a returned missionary:

“While the Prophet Joseph Smith was traveling with a group of missionaries on the Missouri River, the Lord revealed, “It is not needful for … mine elders to be moving swiftly … whilst the inhabitants on either side are perishing in unbelief” (D&C 61:3). As you move swiftly to planned activities, pray for the ability to see unplanned opportunities to serve and teach those who may be “perishing in unbelief.” Pray for the spiritual sensitivity to recognize opportunities.” 2

There are many people all around us who are struggling whether with their testimonies or with life in general.  Many of these people could be all around you.  They could be sitting next to you in class.  They could be in your circle of friends.  They could be the families you home teach.  They could be people you encounter every day as you go about your labors.  They could be people online whom you’ve never met.  The fact is they’re there and only the Lord knows their struggles and He needs your help to meet their needs.  But He can’t use you if you’re too caught up in other things.  Remember to still keep your “eye single to the Glory of God” (D&C 4:5)

I learned this principle the hard way.  Since getting home from my mission, life came at me pretty fast.  I got married, had kids and attended school.  I was constantly worried about providing for my family and I was continually focused on what I wanted to do for a career.  I spent many prayers and fasts asking for direction on what I should do with my life.

After I watched the Missionary broadcast that the church released a few months ago I went to bed and once again prayed about what I should do after graduation and received an answer I didn’t expect.  In His own tender but firm way, I received a rebuke from the Spirit.  The Lord answered my prayer by saying,

“Did you not listen to my servants?  There are more important things to pray for.  Pray for missionary experiences.  Stop worrying about yourself.”

Since that prayer I’ve tried to be more missionary minded and it has greatly blessed my life.  And the other aspects of my life that I was so worried about?  They found a way to take care of themselves.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t pray about what jobs to take, or where you should go to school but I am saying that you shouldn’t let something important (school, work, careers, etc.) keep you from also focusing on what’s most important, inviting others to come unto Christ.

3. The Habit of Seeking the Spirit

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Seeking the spirit may not be thought of as a habit, but it was one you constantly worked on as a missionary.  As a missionary you couldn’t do the work without it.  If you didn’t have the Spirit, you could not teach.  In turn you did everything you could to keep it.  You studied the scriptures, you prayed, you repented often and kept yourself away from anything that could distract from the Holy Ghost.

As an RM it can be incredibly easy to take the Spirit for granted and not seek to have it more fully in your life.  Sometimes you may think it’s not as important now that you’re not a full-time missionary but it’s just as critical to stay close to the Spirit now as it was when you were preaching the gospel full-time.

If you break down one of the simple differences between the Lord and the adversary it’s this:

The Lord wants you to continually do good.  (Moroni 7:13)

The adversary wants you to continually do evil.  (Moroni 7:12)

Thus you need to recognize that partaking in something that drives the spirit away is not a choice that stands on its own.  It’s not a single moment.  The choices you make today can impact the choices you make tomorrow.  

For example, if you don’t have the spirit you’re more prone to anger, impatience and contention.  You’re more likely to make decisions and compromises that you would not make if you had the spirit with you.  You’re more likely to develop unrighteous habits that could lead to addiction, inactivity and spiritual blindness.  Your ability to receive personal revelation and guidance will be hindered.  

The adversary clearly understands this.  That’s why he tries so hard to strip you of the Spirit.  And he starts by bombarding you with harmful messages in the media every day. The content in media has progressively gotten more crude, more violent, and more morally deprived every passing year.  And it will only get worse.  The limits will continually be pushed until there are none.

While the negative content in mainstream media is getting worse, the writing and actual craft involved has actually become better.  This is a dangerous combination.  TV shows with zero values have become more addicting, songs that solicit sex have become catchier and violence-filled-profanity-laden video games have become more and more immersive and visually impressive.  Don’t be afraid to see these as they really are.

This counsel from H. Burke Peterson’s address,3Touch Not the Evil Gift, Nor the Unclean Thing” is particularly fitting,

“Again I say, leave it alone. Turn it off, walk away from it, burn it, erase it, destroy it. I know it is hard counsel we give when we say movies that are R-rated, and many with PG-13 ratings, are produced by satanic influences. Our standards should not be dictated by the rating system. I repeat, because of what they really represent, these types of movies, music, tapes, etc. serve the purposes of the author of all darkness.”

One of the rationalizations I often see (and even used myself) is the false notion that because the media is well made (in regards to the actual craft involved), it’s worth taking the time to “appreciate” it.

But this just doesn’t make sense.  Would you admire the weapon of an enemy before he stabbed you with it?  Would you choose to drink something you knew was poisonous because you were impressed by how the ingredients were arranged?

What I’ve learned, above all, is that the Holy Ghost only cares about the content.  The Holy Ghost doesn’t care how good the writing or the acting is.  The Holy Ghost doesn’t care if the graphics are amazing.  He doesn’t care about rating systems.  He doesn’t care if the musicians are instrumentally skilled.  He doesn’t care how many awards a movie has won.  You can’t rationalize what media you consume and expect that the Spirit will stick around.  You can’t tell the Holy Ghost, “Hey I know I probably shouldn’t watch this, but it’s so good!  This guy won an Emmy!  So idunno maybe just step out of the room for a minute and I’ll come get you in an hour…”  It doesn’t work that way.

So how do you combat this?  How do you keep the habit of continually seeking the companionship of the Holy Ghost and still allow yourself to have entertainment?  The answer is found in the 13th article of faith.

“If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” (Emphasis added.)

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ we actively “seek after” things that are good.  This directly applies to media.  While there’s a lot of garbage out there, there’s also a lot of media that’s well made and in harmony with gospel principles.  Generally this type of media doesn’t fall into your lap and needs to be sought out instead.  It may take more work on your part to find it, but you’ll be grateful you put forth the effort in the end.  Elder Ballard spoke directly on this:

“Because of its sheer size, media today presents vast and sharply contrasting options. Opposite from its harmful and permissive side,media offers much that is positive and productive. Television offers history channels, discovery channels, education channels. One can still find movies and TV comedies and dramas that entertain and uplift and accurately depict the consequences of right and wrong. The Internet can be a fabulous tool of information and communication, and there is an unlimited supply of good music in the world. Thus our biggest challenge is to choose wisely what we listen to and what we watch.” 4

 

Overall, there are many good habits you can bring home from your mission.  Habits that if continually exercised can not only lead to a more fulfilling life, but also help you endure to the end.

What other missionary habits do you think are worth keeping?

Alex Barlow is an LDS poet and blogger.    You can find his brand new Facebook page here.  He also blogs regularly at justamormonwriter.com

avatar Alex Barlow (1 Posts)

Alex Barlow is a husband, father, poet, blogger and returned missionary. He loves the Gospel, online missionary work, and dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets. He is the founder of the brand new Latter Day Poetry Facebook page.


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