When I came back from the mission, people often came up to me and said something like: “Wow, you really have that missionary glow.” Years later, I met an impressive returned missionary who was always so excited about missionary work. He spoke often of missionary experiences he had been having in his present life. I assumed that he had been back for a very short amount of time because he couldn’t stop talking about it. After church one Sunday I went up to him and said: “Jason, I just have to say that I really admire your love for missionary work, you really have the missionary glow. When did you get back from the mission?” To which he responded: “Thank you! I have been home for 5 wonderful years.” This blew me away! I was so impressed and it became my goal to keep the missionary glow for as long as I live.
Mormon Glow in Psychology Today: “Mordar”
This glow is not just a myth or silly Mormon slang. It has actually been measured and even researched. In 2008, one of the contenders of the widely-viewed reality TV show American Idol was Brooke White, a Mormon. She ended the season as a fifth place finalist on the show, yet never mentioned that she was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, many people assumed that she was Mormon because she did mention that she never drank a cup of coffee or watched an R-rated movie in her life. In a post-season interview she said that she never really knew she was setting off the “Mormon radar.”
After this happened, some social scientists were very interested in whether people really could tell the difference between a Mormon and a non-Mormon by just looking at them – if the Mormon radar (what they called the “Mordar”) went off or not. In some recent studies, they found that Mormons were recognizable by those of their faith as well as those who were not members of the LDS church. You can find the whole article about Mormon glow on Psychology Today’s website.
This is also true of missionaries. They have a glow. Full-time missionaries are expected to live a higher spiritual standard because they are representatives of Jesus Christ. But when we come home, why should that change? Do you feel like you still have the missionary glow? What does it take to have the missionary glow? What do you think it takes to have the Mormon glow? Has anyone told you that you have it? Do you feel like you have it? You probably do and people have probably told you that. Keep it! Keep that glow! Even if your old friends make fun of you, or things happen in your family that feel awkward, don’t lose it.
3 Ways to Keep the Missionary Glow – Set off the “Mish-dar”
There are more than just 3, but I know that if I list more than that, you wont read. You are just scanning anyway. No one reads blog posts anymore.
1. Spiritual Hygiene*
- Remember the power that comes from sticking to the basics. Maybe it seems boring to brush and floss your teeth, shower and put on deodorant on a daily basis, but in the long run those things could have a huge impact on your health. If you only brush and floss once a week, you will pay for it in a few months (and it can cost a fortune). If you don’t shower and put on deodorant, uh…that’s just gross. Similarly, there are certain spiritual hygiene principles that keep our Spirits clean and fresh and healthy. Read and study the scriptures. Pray and talk to God from your heart. Go to church seeking spiritual refreshment like a weekly spiritual shower. Just doing the basics will keep you fresh and spiritually healthy. It doesn’t take much either. Consider Elder Boyd Packer’s analogy about leavening: “Things of the Spirit need not—indeed, should not—require our uninterrupted time and attention. Ordinary work-a-day things occupy most of our attention. And that is as it should be. We are mortal beings living in this physical world. Spiritual things are like leavening. By measure they may be very small, but by influence they affect all that we do.” (Revelation in a Changing World, Oct 1989).
2. Living Higher-Level Principles*
There are certain “higher level” principles that will give us an added measure of the Spirit. I will only list a few here, and will give examples.
- Seek Heaven through Sacrifice - Three words: fasting always works. We fast every month and though it is a simple sacrifice, it is a quick and powerful way to open heaven’s door. But fasting isn’t easy. No sacrifice is. Fasting is especially hard when you forget that it is fast Sunday, and start making a really amazing omelet with tomatoes and basil or even pour a bowl of Quaker Oatmeal Squares – and then BAM, you remember. Strong is the man or woman who can dump that cereal. It is a sacrifice. Even if you don’t go through the forgetful cereal crisis, you still feel hungry. Maybe you even get a headache, or feel weak. But when you feel the physical difference, you know where you stand. There is no question. You just gave up your favorite cereal! Why? You know why. And every true sacrifice – like unto fasting – will plant in your heart a boldness to approach the throne of grace with confidence. When you are praying at the end of a 24 hour fast, there is no question in your mind that you are hungry. You know it, and God knows it. So if you want to keep the glow, don’t just fast, but sacrifice to come closer to heaven. Pray to know what to do. You’ll be glad you did. And you are sure to keep the glow.
- Deep Reverence - Respect for sacred things is a sure way to keep the glow. “Reverence invites revelation” (Boyd K. Packer) and revelation will render the glow. Not just being quiet during the prayer, but doing those things that help both you and God to know that you respect that which is holy. Even little things. Getting to church 5-10 minutes early. Keeping your church clothes on all day on the Sabbath. Turning off the music in the car while you drive by the temple. Standing when an apostle enters the room. Turning off your cell phone during sacrament (not just putting it on vibrate). Praying earlier than when you go to bed to make sure you don’t fall asleep during your prayer. Saving up to purchase your own set of temple clothes. Being cognizant of how you wear your garments. There are really no rules about these things, but there are blessings of the Spirit when you have a deep reverence for that which is holy. Think of how you feel when you join the crowd in standing when an apostle enters a chapel or stake center. That is the idea.
- Stand Up for Truth - I was in San Francisco traveling with a business partner and we had just come from a SF Giants game. We went to a hotel and were standing in line to get our room key and heard the receptionist say: “I’m sorry, but you’ll need to have someone who is older than 18 sign for you or you can’t get a hotel room here.” I looked up just in time to see two very attractive youngsters (boy and girl) walking away from the front of the line toward us. The young man approached us (we were also young and cool looking, but looked older than 18) and asked “Dude, you wanna help us out here? All we need is your signature.” In his expression was a sort of assumption that we were both “dude-like” manly men who would understand a fellow dude’s desire to have sex with an attractive young woman – as if we had gone through the same thing at his age. He looked at Jared, my business partner, who looked even more dude-like than I, with a slightly-tilted baseball cap and some facial hair. Before I could say anything, Jared looked straight at the hopeful kid and said loud and clear: “Absolutely NOT.” There was a big line of people behind us who saw and heard it all. The great thing is that this set the stage for everyone else in line. The youngster continued to ask others in the line behind us if they would vouch for them, to which all of them said: “NO.” They left embarrassed and I felt honored to be friends and partners with Jared, who stood TALL for what he (and I) believed. And you could feel it in the air after.
3. Stay Excited about Missionary Work!
- The best way to keep the missionary glow is to never stop being one. No matter what anyone says about “you need to let go of your mission” or “Stop being such a missionary!” you must never cease to become a missionary. There is power that will begin to flow into your life the moment you fully commit to being a life-long missionary. There will always be something you can do to share the gospel. For more ideas about how you can share the gospel online, read our post about online missionary work. And while you’re at it follow the prophet (on Google+ and Facebook).
The Glow is a Tangible Reality
The missionary glow isn’t just a cute and naive lack of awareness of the world after being released from full-time missionary service. It is a tangible reality that is evident to those who possess the glow as well as those who surround them. It is an endowment of light to those who actively receive the Holy Ghost. It inspires and invigorates those who have it and those around them.
Parley P. Pratt describes very well the glow that comes from the Holy Ghost:
The gift of the Holy Ghost adapts itself to all…organs and attributes. It quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being. In the presence of such persons, one feels to enjoy the light of their countenances, as the genial rays of a sunbeam. Their very atmosphere diffuses a thrill, a warm glow of pure gladness and sympathy to the heart and nerves of others who have kindred feelings, or sympathy of spirit. (The Key to the Science of Theology, p. 101 – emphasis added).
Brooke White’s Mormon glow was recognized on national television and reported by Psychology Today. Jared’s glow was recognized by the entire line of people at the hotel. Your missionary glow will be noticed as you apply the suggested principles above.
What else can we do to keep the glow?
*These terms were introduced to me by Reed Davis, a friend from Harvard Business School.
Andy is the creator of TheReturnedMissionary.com and the co-creator of HappyMormons.com and LDSmissionaries.com. He is an internet entrepreneur and loves doing online missionary work. He graduated from BYU in 2009 after living in the Holy Land and studying at the BYU Jerusalem Center. He is currently writing a book to help returned missionaries find their new purpose and apply what they learned on their mission to their post-mission life. He is married and can't wait for the kids to start dropping from heaven.