It’s Valentine’s Day. With the amount of missionaries being called into the field, there will likely be a lot of hopeful young men and women waiting and writing their faithful missionary friends. Are you one? Here are a few tips to help you.
Waiting for a Missionary
Have you created a countdown chart yet? Did you download the LDS Missionary countdown app on your smartphone? 🙂 I don’t blame you if you did. If you are dating someone who is a voluntary servant of the Lord and who desires to serve God full-time for as long as missionaries do, you have found a winner! Hold on to them (if you can). Here are some tips on how you can keep your relationship strong across the seemingly un-ending time you will be waiting for them.
1. Provide Spiritual Support their Whole Mission – Be a “True Friend”
They will be constantly on the spiritual rise and if you don’t rise with them, you will most likely grow apart. They will still remember the shared experiences you have, but they will have a new love for the gospel and for The Lord that may draw you apart if you do not truly have that same love and passion for the gospel. Elder Robert D. Hales gives the perfect example of what you should do. He says you should be a “true friend” and then he defines what a true friend is:
“1. A good friend is a good companion. A good friend will never have you choose between their way and the Lord’s way. 2. With a true friend it will be easier to live the laws, ordinances, and covenants [of the gospel]. Such a person is truly a good friend and an eternal companion.”1
Never make them choose between your way and the Lord’s way (these should be the same) and it should be easier for them to live and serve as a full time missionary because of you, not the opposite.
2. Become Spiritually Stronger as they Become Stronger, Because They Will.
If you really want to make things work out, this will help you come closer than any mushy love letter. Read and listen to talks. Get the Mormon Channel app on your phone and listen to that instead of your favorite playlists. Go to the temple more than you usually do. Go out of your way to serve in your ward – be the best darn home / visiting teacher this church has ever known. Go into the mountains to pray and commune with God (or somewhere private). Write in your journal. Do family history. Go on a temple roadtrip. Do online missionary work! Go talk to your bishop even if you don’t have sins to confess, just talk to him and ask what you can do to help in the ward or if there is anyone he knows who needs to be served. Sit towards the front in sacrament meeting and in your classes. Participate and come prepared. Go to institute or religion classes regularly. Memorize scriptures. Ask God to bless you with spiritual experiences to match the ones your sweetheart is having. Grow. Progress. Become. Not only will this bless your relationship with Elder Right or Sister Superstar, but more importantly, it will improve your relationship with God.
3. Do NOT Send Mushy Love Letters!
Just don’t do it. I can’t emphasize this more. The mission call (from the prophet) is pretty clear about this. “Leaving behind all other personal affairs.” The honest truth is that a letter going into depth about how you remember that time when you cuddled under the stars and had your first kiss and other romantic intimate moments that you may have experienced together is just plain inappropriate. Romance is not bad. It is great! And after their mission is through, I’m sure it will be even better!
Just think about it this way, for every distracting love letter you send, you may be taking away from the work that they are there to do. The work they have been commissioned by a prophet of God to fulfill. To invite others to come unto Christ. Everyone is different, (and feel free to disagree with me here), but when a missionary gets one of those letters, it could be a few days before they snap out of the distraction that this creates. Anytime they see a person of the opposite sex they will probably think about you. And if their mind is not single to the work, there are things that they might miss, contacts they may not make, lessons they may not teach, and people they may not help to come unto Christ. Not to mention the conflict this may cause within the companionship. Like it or not, the companionship they should be most focused on is the one that they are assigned to as a missionary. Not yours. And most likely, the one they are in with their missionary companion may already have enough drama to worry about and resolve. Please, provide spiritual uplifting and spiritual support. Not romantic distraction. Please, no cologne/perfume or lipstick on letters. Enough said.
I submit to you that the thing that will make you fall in (lasting) love more than any other will be this: become a missionary yourself. I’m not saying to go and apply for full-time missionary service with your bishop (though I am not saying that you shouldn’t! – pray about it, if you feel it is right). I AM saying that you should seek to do missionary work right now. In your situation and sphere of influence. And if you live in Utah and feel like there is nothing to do and you can’t really do missionary work, then please read this article about what you can do right now to be a missionary online. I promise you that the degree to which you focus on becoming a missionary will be the degree to which you are blessed in your life and in your relationship with all people–Not just your significant other who is serving. Think of the good you can do. For those in your own sphere as well as for the one you care about who is serving a mission. This will help you become true friends, as Elder Hales taught above.
Please don’t take this to mean that love or romance is bad. And that showing your love to a full-time missionary sweetheart is a negative thing. It is not. I’m only saying that we should be careful the way we express that love. John Groberg was in love with his sweetheart while serving a mission in the Pacific islands. (If you haven’t seen the movie about his mission called “The Other Side of Heaven”, it’s a classic). Consider his story of how true love motivated him and even saved his life while he was serving a full-time mission.
“We were caught in another violent storm, only this time at sea. The waves became so big they flipped our small boat over, throwing the three of us into the raging, churning ocean. When I found myself in the middle of a tumultuous sea, I was surprised, scared, and a little upset. ‘Why has this happened?’ I thought. ‘I’m a missionary. Where is my protection? Missionaries aren’t supposed to swim.’ But swim I must if I wished to stay alive. Every time I complained I found myself underwater, so it didn’t take long to quit complaining. Things are how they are, and complaining doesn’t help. I needed every ounce of energy to keep my head above water and make it to shore. Having earned my Eagle Scout Award, I was a pretty confident swimmer, but over time the wind and the waves began to sap my strength. I never quit trying, but there came a time when my muscles simply would move no more. I had a prayer in my heart, but still I began to sink. As I was going down for what could have been the last time, the Lord infused into my mind and heart a deep feeling of love for a very special person. It was as though I could see and hear her. Even though she was 8,000 miles away, the power of that love came rushing across those miles and, penetrating time and space, reached down and pulled me up—lifted me from the depths of darkness, despair, and death and brought me up to light and life and hope. With a sudden burst of energy I made it to shore, where I found my shipmates. Never underestimate the power of true love, for it knows no barriers.”
Feel free to listen to Elder Groberg tell the story here: http://youtu.be/jTPbOPaaWt8?t=9m13s
Serving a full-time mission is not an easy thing to do. There are storms to swim through that are so daunting that they nearly drown the missionary. The love you send can strengthen and lift that missionary. Communicate love through the filter of the Savior’s desire for all people to come unto Him and you will empower your serving friend to accomplish mighty miracles.
I understand that this article may be a bit controversial. I’m fine with that. I just know that generally, this advice will really help the work move forward. And I also know – absolutely – that if you apply the above principles of drawing closer to them spiritually more than any other thing, you will come closer than you ever could have by being a romantic distraction. This will bless you both.
Your Faith has EVERYTHING to do with your Romance
The closer you become spiritually (during their mission and after they return), the stronger your bonds will be. I conclude with Elder Holland’s words:
“You want capability, safety, and security in dating and romance, in married life and eternity? Be a true disciple of Jesus. Be a genuine, committed, word-and-deed Latter-day Saint. Believe that your faith has everything to do with your romance, because it does. You separate dating from discipleship at your peril. Or, to phrase that more positively, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, is the only lamp by which you can successfully see the path of love and happiness for you and for your sweetheart.” 2