6 Reasons Why Sisters *Should* Serve a Mission

I am a fan of social media.

And if we’re being honest, fan is not a strong enough word.

But if we’re also being honest, I’ll say that I hate social media fads passionately.  Like the giraffe profile photos, or if one million people like this, my husband will let me go to space camp.

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Hate is a strong enough word.

Mormon Meme Dieter Uchtdorf

But there’s a fad recently that has piqued my interest. Not enough to do it, but enough to blog about it. So I guess this is where I stand:

Social media: 1

Emmilie Whitlock: 0.

I’m sure you’ve seen it. Your friends get a number and start disclosing little known facts about their lives.

And so here I stand, ready to break all of my social media fad rules, and play the Internet’s games. (But please, STOP with the Candy Crush invites.)

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I texted my husband the other night, asking for a random number between 1 and 15. Fate was generous, and he texted back 6.

I won’t make you like this post, and I wouldn’t give you a number even if you did, but I will beg your indulgence. Because, as a blogger, there’s not too much about my life that people don’t know.

But my soul is another matter entirely. And the most chiseling and cultivating my soul has ever undertaken has been across the wheat fields, snow capped hills and dusty roads of Montana, where I was called to serve as a missionary.

Here are 6 things that I didn’t know about me.

That is, until I did. Through my own personal Gethsemanes, and subsequent Sunday mornings. Six things I learned as a missionary for Jesus Christ.

1. Love of people.

LDS Missionary Baptism - Returned Missionary

I am an extrovert. And as such, I’ve always carried with me a supreme love of others. Or, so I thought.

My second area of my mission was Kalispell, and it had captivated my heart.

And then there were the people. Jeremie Flanigan. Josh Wilhelm. Keara. The man I met on a doorstep of an all-boys house who solidified my testimony that God speaks to us in the way we need to hear it.

I spent 6 months in Kalispell. And when it was almost time to leave, I had a realization. It came during an interview with my mission president.

“What have you learned most in this area, Sister Buchanan?”

The words that came out of my mouth surprised even me.

“I think, President, I’ve learned to love people. Really, truly love people. I’ve always thought I loved them, but I think before they simply amused me.”

President Gardner’s eyes crinkled in that characteristic way of theirs and we simply smiled at each other.

I’ve reflected on this again and again. And I’ve changed my mind. I didn’t NOT love the people in my life. Simply, my mission opened up new compartments in my heart, sweeping out the dust, and taking down the caution tape. It softened the calloused corners and opened the doors that once refused to budge.

And that’s because I learned who Jesus Christ was. I had always known. Until I really knew. And that love, though far from perfect has defined me ever since.


2. I can do hard things.

I Can Do Hard things - Returned Missionary

Enough said.


3. The meat and potatoes.

Montana - Moose Kiss - Returned Missionary

If you have never been to Montana, I’ll tell you something right now. They love hunting season more than Christmas.  And that equaled meat and potatoes almost every night. Even in the summer, because those Montanans are wicked serious canners as well.

Before my mission, I wouldn’t have considered myself a vegetarian — I would eat turkey sandwiches, and pepperoni pizza and that’s about it. Needless to say, it was an adjustment. But I learned to love it. Now there are few things I love more than well-prepared elk. Oh. My. Goodness.

But my love of meat is really just a parable about gospel study. I learned quickly that my gospel knowledge couldn’t be sustained on a meager turkey sandwich if I wanted to be an effective missionary. And in my case now, and effective member missionary.

Because as Preach My Gospel teaches us, you cannot convert beyond your own conversion.

One day, we will be expanding Team Whitlock and as a mother, I need the meat of the doctrine of the gospel to prepare our little Emmilies and little Erics for the world.

4. Be obedient.

Missionary Shave Rule - Obedience - Returned Missionary

This applies to the spirit, the commandments, the prophet and your mom. Read more about the why of obedience here.

5. Change is essential.

MTC Teacher - Sister Missionary - Returned Missionary

Hi, I’m Emmilie and I’m a change-a-phobic.

Thus was my mantra for the first 21 years of my life. When I got my call to Montana, I was devastated. Montana was the last place I wanted to go because I didn’t want to change. That is, I didn’t want to change the way MONTANA would make me change. I was happy the way I was, thank you very much.

In the MTC they taught us to how to be effective like Ammon.  The trick was to become like the people, they said. Ammon didn’t go to Montana, I told myself.

And suddenly, as the great teacher named experience has a way of doing, I found myself changing. I had already decided in a moment of surrender to love everything about my mission and I figured the change was part of that. So I did. I loved it. And I was transformed.

I learned something vital: Change is essential, because we believe in eternal progression. And thank goodness. We will never reach a quota, we will never be finished growing. We simply keep going. So it’s best to accept it. Even if it’s a mission call to Montana.

6. Montana is essential.

LDS Convert - Sister Missionary - Returned Missionary

Everyone takes different paths. Mine was straight through the Treasure State. And an experience I had to go back to my mission almost a year after returning home taught me why.

I had driven all through the night to get to Billings a little after sunrise. Marvin, one of my dearest friends and favorite people had passed away, and his funeral was that morning. I had taught Marvin for months, and right before I left, saw him enter the waters of baptism.

The funeral was beautiful. I cried, I laughed and I remembered my dear friend.

The rest of that day I spent visiting friends and members of Marvin’s branch. I had served there for 7 ½ months, and we had all become very close. They asked about school, the dating world, and my work as a reporter for my local newspaper.

All of my responses were very characteristically Emmilie. I was in my element, surrounded by friends. But during our conversation, I realized, they didn’t know Emmilie. They only knew Sister Buchanan.

And that’s when I felt the gap. The slight reaching I had to do to fill the shoes of the missionary they had known and loved.

To be clear, my life as a returned missionary was full, and good and clean. But my scripture study had started to wane, and I could have been doing a better job of magnifying my calling. It had been a few weeks since I went to the temple, and I hadn’t tried to share the gospel in months.

The realization was a pitcher of cold water being poured into my heart. And I realized the reaching I had yet to do.

While I will never be Sister Buchanan again, I cannot forget what she taught me, and how she changed me. A small print of Montana hangs on a wall of our home, inside the shape of the state is a small heart. That’s where my heart transformed. That’s where a piece of it remains to this day. And that’s where my thoughts will go if I ever start to forget myself.

Sister Missionary Companions - Returned Missionary

Like I said, we all have different paths. But you can bet your path will have a Montana in it for you where your heart and your soul can find pasture.

**Like what you saw here? Well there’s plenty more where that came from. In fact, Emmilie is working on publishing her blog (Hipster RM) into a book! Check out our Kickstarter page and get your copy today! It’s perfect for any future, past, or member missionary.


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