In the midst the changes accompanying General Conference and the Face-to-Face event with Elder Gong, one might have missed the announcement of the new Missionary Handbook. Last updated in 2010, the Handbook has been adjusted to reflect recent changes in policy. It is available now on the Gospel Library app. The cover of the handbook, which was previously white, now prominently displays a picture of the Savior.
A Lifelong Mission
The new handbook stresses that the call to spread the Gospel as missionaries started way before the call to be a full-time missionary. That call will also continue far beyond the release.
“Your mission didn’t really begin the day you were set apart and won’t end the day you are released. A mission isn’t like putting on an employee or school uniform in the morning only to take it off again when the day is done. Since the time you were baptized, you have been on the covenant path that leads to eternal happiness, joy, and peace. Your full-time mission experience can be a transforming event but should also be an integral part of your life mission experience.”
I appreciate that we are reinforcing the fact that a mission is a life-long commitment to Jesus Christ, not just a check-box on our way.
Follow the Commandments
“You will be most safe when you follow the commandments and missionary standards and use common sense. But realize that even when you keep the commandments, you may experience trouble, sickness, or harm.
“The Savior experienced all of these things and He promises, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”
Missions are hard. Or so I’ve heard (I never served a full-time mission.) However, I love this statement as a general reminder for all of us that striving to live a righteous life will not stop all of our trials. The good new however is that the Savior can and will help us.
Don’t Try to Make Deals with Heavenly Father
I know I can’t be the only one guilty of this. We all have a tendency to look beyond the mark. This little tidbit is valuable for all members.
“God loves you. Choose to keep the commandments because you love God. Do not try to make deals with the Lord and expect specific blessings by adjusting what is required of you. The requirements you are expected to uphold are approved by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and are found in these standards. For example, don’t try to bargain with the Lord by getting up earlier, going without food or drink (beyond the monthly fast), or skipping a preparation day.”
The Mission Leaders
It is worth noting that the handbook stresses the importance of not only the mission president, but his wife as the leaders of the mission.
“Your mission president and his wife, who serve together as your mission leaders, are called of God and set apart to lead the mission. Together they love and serve you, help you fulfill your purpose as a missionary, and help keep you safe and happy.”
Also worth noting further down in the same section:
“You may invite the mission president’s wife, a senior missionary, or your missionary companion to join any interview with the mission president. Your decision to invite someone to join you should not diminish your mission leaders’ love, concern, or admiration for you.”
With the recent changes to how missionaries can interact and communicate with others, this section became a necessity to update.
“Your family, mission leaders, and friends can be a great support to you on your mission. Use a portion of your preparation day to communicate with them, members, and recent converts from other areas. Prioritize your time on preparation day by communicating with your parents first and your mission president second. You may read any communications you receive during the week whenever you have appropriate time to do so. You should reply to communications from home only on preparation day unless it is an emergency.”
Prior missionaries were only to call home on Christmas and Mother’s day. It’s great to see that increased communication is encouraged at other times as well. This might go along way to combating some of the anxiety and depression that appears to be increasing in our missionaries.
“You also are encouraged to contact your family on other special occasions, such as Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, your parents’ birthdays, and other holidays that are significant in your home country or culture.”
The section also outlines how missionaries could theoretically use friends or family at home to help them on their mission:
“You may know a person at home whose personal experience could help someone you are teaching in your mission. You should ask your mission president for permission for that person to share her or his experience and testimony. Counsel with the person about the best communication technology to use.”
So What? I’m Not a Missionary
You might be thinking, “This doesn’t apply to me, I’m not a missionary.” Or, “I don’t have a missionary in the field.” As stated above, as members of the Church we will always be missionaries regardless of whether we have a name tag on or not. And unless we are living under a rock, we have contact with the missionaries in our stakes, wards, and branches. Knowing the guidelines can help us to support and sustain these young men and women during their service. And I can’t think of a greater thing to do than to support our youth and young adults during one of the most critical and formative times in their lives.