Dear Senior Girls…You Don’t Have To Serve A Mission

I was a sophomore in high school when our leader and prophet President Thomas S. Monson stood at the pulpit during General Conference and announced that the age was changing for young men and women to serve missions. I distinctly remember hearing the news, texting all of my friends, and feeling excitement and anxiety at the fact that I could have a mission call by the end of my senior year. It felt so surreal.

The announcement came with a flood of excitement from all of my friends. I went to a high school with a super high Mormon population, so everyone was constantly talking about “the age change.” From that day forward, a common topic of conversation was whether or not you were going to go on a mission.

It was a weird position to be in. The guys I was friends with were leaving a whole year earlier than they could before, and girls who probably wouldn’t have thought about serving had a very real decision to make. I had friends all around me who were praying and pondering about whether to serve a mission, and they were getting solid answers. I, on the other hand, would occasionally half-heartedly pray about whether I should go because, in all honesty, I was terrified that my answer would be “yes.”

It’s not that I didn’t want to go and serve my Savior. I love and believe in Him with my whole heart, and if He would have told me to go, I would have served in a heartbeat. The problem was that I felt uneasy, and with most of my friends preparing and planning to go, I felt serious outside pressure to start my papers.

Every time I thought about serving a mission, my stomach tied in knots. I felt so guilty for feeling that way — after all, we’re commanded to give our hearts and service to the Lord. I felt selfish, and there were times when I felt I wasn’t as adequate as some of my friends who were fearlessly moving forward with their decision to serve for a year and a half.

At this point, I was approaching my senior year. I knew I needed to sincerely kneel and pray to figure out if I should serve, but I was still terrified of that “yes.” After months of anxiety, stomach knots, and gentle promptings to “just pray about it already,” I humbled myself and said a simple, sincere prayer to know whether I should serve an 18-month mission.

I felt relief after I prayed, but my answer still wasn’t quite clear. I went about my life, and my amazing bishop counseled me to prepare to serve, even if I didn’t end up actually going on a mission. This gave me so much peace because I knew I would be prepared if I eventually did get that “yes.”

A few weeks passed, and I was reading my scriptures in Doctrine and Covenants. I stumbled across Doctrine and Covenants 11:15-17 and it says:

“Behold, I command you that you need not suppose that you are called to preach until you are called. 

Wait a little longer, until you shall have my word, my rock, my church, and my gospel, that you may know a surety of my doctrine. 

And then, behold, according to your desires, yea, even according to your faith shall it be done unto you.”

I still get teary-eyed when I read those passages in my high school scriptures. Underneath the verses, I wrote, “Mission?” When I read those words as a scared 18-year-old, I felt peace. I knew that the decision was mine to make and that if I waited a little longer, I would know what I needed to do.

About four months later, I met and fell head over heels for a returned missionary, and I knew that my mission at the time was to marry him and spread light right where I was. I felt peace in knowing that I didn’t have to embark on an 18-month mission to be a missionary, and I was thrilled to finally have my answer.

I am forever grateful that I found my answer for myself and that I didn’t give into the outside pressure to go on a mission. For you high school girls trying to make this difficult decision, the choice is between YOU and the Lord. It’s no one else’s choice to make, and if you sincerely pray you WILL know what to do. He may or may not tell you not to go on a mission, and He may or may not tell you to get married. He might just tell you to stay right where you are, and that’s perfectly fine because it’s the Lord’s plan for you. If you sincerely ask and listen for your answer, you will know and be guided to where you need to be.

As I considered my options during my high school years, I came to realize one important truth — and it’s that the most important thing you can do is get to the temple. The temple brings incredible peace and comfort whether or not you’re serving a mission, and the blessings you receive from it will help you in every aspect of your life.

If you decide to serve, that is truly incredible. You’re changing lives, and serving the Lord is what we were put on this earth to do. Missionary work is a sacred responsibility that helps the church to grow. Bringing people into the gospel and giving them the knowledge of eternal life and family is absolutely priceless.

However, if you decide not to serve, you are NOT less of a person. You’re still incredible, and you can still do amazing things right where you are. Share your light and love with all you come in contact with — after all, we’re all here to share the happiness the gospel brings, whether or not we’re wearing a name badge. As long as you’re living the gospel, doing the things you’re supposed to, and keeping the Lord close, you’ll be led to where you need to be. Whether your answer is a “yes” or “no,” never forget that your answer came from the Lord, and He has a divine plan specifically for you.