Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Missions and the Plan of Salvation

I chose Tuesday to post about missions so I could get Tucker's response to Jen's question:

I have so many questions to ask about missions and missionary work. Sort of like what are the reasons you go through them and if it's required for everyone to do missions?

Here is what Tucker said:

Missions are a sacred privilege and duty. No one is compelled to serve a mission, but all worthy young men have been strongly encouraged to do so, to the point where many feel it is obligatory.  . . . Initially, motives range from obligation by church leaders, to compulsion from parents, to . . . The reasons morph quickly to a love for the people, a love for the Lord, and a love for our mission. I guess in short, the reason we're here is love. We love these people and know what we have will help them.

 I've struggled trying to find the words to answer this question.  I never served a mission.  My dad and brother never served a mission.  Brad served a mission from 1986-88 in Tokyo, Japan, but that was before I knew him. Tucker's is the first mission I have experienced first-hand.  The best information you could read about the why, who, where, and what of missions is  here, on mormon.org

It's difficult to explain to people not of my faith what a mission means to a young man, to a family, to a mom.  As the mom, the minute that new baby boy is placed in your arms, you hope that one day, nineteen years from that very moment, that newborn son will no longer be yours and it will be time to entrust his care to God for two years.  We have no input on where they serve or what language they will speak, but we know that those two years will be fully dedicated to serving their Heavenly Father, serving their fellow man, and hoping to teach others about our Church.
Young men, ages 19-26 are strongly encouraged to dedicate two years of service on a mission.  Young women, ages 21-28 are also supported in their decisions to serve 18-month missions.  Why the difference in time served?  I don't really know.  Senior couples who no longer have children at home are also strongly encouraged to serve--any amount of time from 3 months to 2 years.  Couples (like Tucker's mission president and his wife, pictured above) are also asked to serve as presidents of each of the missions, serving for a period of three years.  Missions are largely paid for by the missionaries and their families.  Members who wish to serve missions but are unable to pay for them are supported by the Church with money from the General Missionary Fund, voluntary contributions from members for this purpose.

As a mother, my greatest desires for my missionary son (and the three following behind him) are these:
  • I know that the best way for teenage boys to grow into men is to leave the sometimes overprotective care of their mothers to serve God for two years.  During this time, they learn independence, people skills, and life skills like budgeting and living with others.  What better way than to be completely away from everything you know?
  • I want Tucker to stand on his own beliefs, not just the things he has learned while growing up in our home.  I want him to know in his own heart and mind what HE believes.
  • I see blessings in my family as he is away serving the Lord.  My children are less selfish in their prayers, always remembering Tucker and hoping he's safe and happy.  I am more aware of how hard it is for these young people, and I see what a great sacrifice it is, not only of their time, but other things as well, like time away from friends, learning a different language and culture, living with people you've never met before.
  • Most of all, I want my boys to learn to love Jesus Christ and God above everything else.  What better way is there than taking two solid years focused solely on that?
While on missions, missionaries spend time finding people who have sent in requests to receive a Book of Mormon or talk with missionaries.  Missionaries talk to people wherever they go, looking for opportunities to serve and work and teach. Tucker helped people board their homes for Hurricane Irene, then spent an entire day helping people clean up from the aftermath.  They seek out lost members of the Church, encouraging them to return to Church.

One thing many people point out about members of my Church is that in general, we are a happy people.  Happy not because our lives are so easy and trouble-free, I can tell you.  Mormons in general are happy people because of our belief in God's plan of salvation (also called "the plan of happiness"), one of the primary ideas that missionaries share with the people they meet.

For an in-depth explanation of the plan of happiness, you can go to this link on mormon.org.

My own explanation is this:

I believe that before we were born here on earth, we lived in Heaven, with our Father, God.  He had a plan for us to return to live with Him one day, and that plan included getting a body and coming to earth for a mortal experience, where we would learn to love others, choose right from wrong, experience pain, sorrow, happiness, families, sin and the joy that comes through repentance.  I love that it was a PLAN.  It wasn't just something that happened or was thrown together without thinking about it.  God had a plan, and at the core of that plan is man's happiness.  In order for man to appreciate joy, there had to be sorrow.  To appreciate health, there had to be sickness.  To compensate for sin, there had to be the miracle of forgiveness and repentance--all part of a master plan.

The crucial piece of this Plan is Jesus Christ.  Jesus agreed to come to earth, be born into mortalilty with immortal power, suffer and die for man, which He did.

Our job here on earth is to make our way the best we can through this mortal experience, using the tools God has given us to find our way back--the scriptures, covenants, prophets, families, repentance, and the Atonement of Christ, among other things.  Life is hard and we all stumble.  Luckily, Christ led a perfect sinless life that we can look to for comfort, guidance, and most importantly, forgiveness.

When our life here on earth is complete, we will return to that God who gave us life, approach Him and His Son at the judgment seat, and account for our days on earth.  If we are worthy, we will then spend eternity in God's presence, enjoying the blessings that are awarded to those who are His--immortality and eternal life.

This plan for our salvation, this plan for our eternal happiness (not necessarily earthly happiness), this plan of mercy and redemption--the knowledge of this plan is what makes Mormons a happy people, what gives us a perspective on this life.  There is more to our existence than just earth, there is more to our existence than just suffering and hard things and trial. Bad things happen.  So do good things.

There is a plan.

The knowledge of that plan makes me happy, and that's why missionaries serve.  They have so much joy that they want others to understand why.

I hope this answers your questions a little.  I would love to hear your own beliefs about the plan of salvation and the purpose of life here on earth.  Leave your explanation or ask any further questions in the comments.

Second post in a series of five:
Yesterday: Why I Believe
Wednesday:  The Son of God, Birth and Conception, Mormons and the Trinity
Thursday:  The Bible and Other Sacred Texts
Friday:  Eternal Families


  1. Hi Jen, thanks for that post and whilst I am not a Mormon but am a Christian I too believe in the Plan. When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer a good friend of mine who has moved away from the Church said to me "I can't believe God has done this to you". My comment was that I don't think like that but that this is just yet another turn/bump in the path. My husband and I have often marvelled at where this journey has taken us and the opportunities that have come our way - and of course it is all part is His Plan for us, the good and the bad.

    Thank you for including Tuckers comments and I can see how much the experience of Mission has already led to a huge amount of personal growth in him. You and Brad should pat yourselves on the back for raising such a wonderful young man, and with what you are doing with the rest of your family, Heidi and Sam and Ellie included. '

    Thanks, Catherine

  2. Beautiful post about missions and your missionary. And a wonderful explanation of the plan of salvation, too.


  3. Wow, the answer you gave me in this post was much more than I was prepared to read! It's another great post in this series of posts you are writing about being Mormon.

    I have a better understanding about Mormon missionaries now than I did before and it really helped to see Tucker's response to the question as well as from your perspective as a missionaries mother. Having this better understanding also makes me appreciate the work that Tucker and the others are doing.

    I also loved your explanation of God's plan for us. To be honest, reading it touched me so much that I began to cry. I think I've mentioned before that I'm a lapsed Roman Catholic. I stand by my decision because there are things in the Catholic teachings I cannot agree with, especially since they are hurtful to people I know and love. But deep in my heart, I still truly believe in God and in his son, Jesus Christ. I still deeply believe that Jesus died for our sins. I, too, believe there is Plan for all of us and that we just have to trust God and know that whatever happens it is for a good reason.

    Thanks, again for sharing such an insightful and thought provoking post.

  4. beautiful, simple and eloquent. Makes me miss talking to you. Thanks, friend for taking the time to do this series

  5. Beautiful post.
    Great information.

    Tucker looks like he's a happy young man.

  6. Jen, thanks for sharing all of these posts in such a clear way--you are an amazing example to so many of us!

  7. Good stuff, Jen. I'm taking notes. I love that you're doing this.

  8. Well said, Jen. In case noone's told you today--you're AWESOME. Thanks for taking the time to post these truths.

  9. I love this series of posts. You've done such a great job. I would like to add one thing here that I think is very important.

    From President Monson:
    “To young men of the Aaronic Priesthood and to you young men who are becoming elders: I repeat what prophets have long taught—that every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission. Missionary service is a priesthood duty—an obligation the Lord expects of us who have been given so very much. Young men, I admonish you to prepare for service as a missionary."

    Here's the link:http://lds.org/ensign/2011/02/a-call-for-missionaries?lang=eng&query=all+worthy+young+men