About a month after my nineteenth birthday, while I was off at college, I received a much anticipated envelope in the mail. It was my official call and instructions to be a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Each year, tens of thousands of young men and women, as well as senior couples, embark on a mission trip, or period of missionary service (lasting up to 2 years for young men and 18 months for young women). Surprisingly to many, those who choose to serve don’t decide where they go. Rather, like I did, they submit an application to the prophet and president of the Church and he or one of the 12 apostles of the Church issues an official call.
When I received my envelope on a cold Fall afternoon, I had no idea where I was going to spend the next 2 years of my life. With excitement and nervousness, I opened my letter to discover I was asked to serve in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was some of the best 2 years of my life.
Recently, in the 182nd Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Church president Thomas S. Monson announced that the men may now begin serving missions at age 18 and women at age 19. Previously, it was age 19 for men and age 21 for women.
Missionary service is not unique to the Mormon Church. I’ve known of many people, and even some good friends of other faiths, you have embarked on some sort of missionary service or humanitarian project for some period of time. Perhaps what is different though, is the shear amount of time Mormon missionaries spend in missionary service, and some of the regulations to such service. For example, did you know that Mormon missionaries are only allowed to speak to family 2 times each year? Once on Christmas and the other on Mother’s Day. They also refrain from secular, or normal day-to-day activities, such as watching TV, attending sporting events or going to a movie theater. Church missionary service is a dedicated time to serve God and His children.
What is also unique is their message, and that of the Mormon Church. First and foremost, the message of the Church is that God lives— He is real and He loves us. Each of us is a child of God. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. Secondly, missionaries teach that prophets and apostles once again are on the earth, like in the time of Jesus, and that God has restored His true church to the earth, the same church established by Jesus centuries ago. Related is that through modern prophets, God has revealed new scripture as companions to the Bible, including the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
The reason all of this is on my mind is because I recently said good-bye to my little brother for 2 years. He is now serving as a missionary in Mexico. He is anxious and excited to talk to the people of Mexico about Jesus Christ and His plan of salvation. I know he will learn much about life and learn to love the people of Mexico and see them the way God sees all of His children.