Friday, May 27, 2022

The Thing About Missionary Service

As I sat in the Mission President’s office, I could see out the window over the field that was across the parking lot. The sun was setting in the distance. It was so beautiful, yet I couldn’t enjoy it. I’d gone to two counseling sessions in the past three weeks and I still felt just as lost as ever about what to do. As I was lost in my sea of thought, my mission president returned to the office after returning from taking a phone call with my counselor.

“Elder Ficiur,” President said, sitting down. “With all this spiritual interference—” he was referring to my mental health problems, “—combined with your Asperger’s, we think that it would be best—” No! No! He couldn’t be saying what I think was about to say. “—for you to take a break from your service and for you to go home.”

The news hit me like a brick. Tears had started coming before President could even finish speaking. “No… no…” I muttered, “I can’t go home.”

Canada Toronto West Mission 2010

I came home from my mission after two transfers, about 3 months. I wanted so badly to be a missionary that I worked for a year after the story above to go back out–Only to come home again after another two transfers. Because of the heart break associated with my missionary service, I’ve developed some strong opinions on the subject. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to tune out or step out of Elders Quorum in order to avoid the tears when I heard the words “when I was on the mission”. But as much as I feel the heartbreak still at times almost 12 years later, I have a deep love for missionary work. So when President Nelson and President Ballard spoke about missionary work this past General Conference, I kind of knew this post would happen. 

A Priesthood Duty 

Shortly after General Conference, I saw a post on a Latter-day Saint Reddit page asking if missionary service is a commandment. Talking to a friend recently, I thought about how much pressure the phrase “priesthood duty” can put on young men. A dictionary definition of “duty” will use the words “obligation” and "responsibility" to describe someone’s actions. In contrast, the seminary Doctrinal Mastery document calls commandments “the laws and requirements that God gives to help us progress and become like Him.” A full-time mission is a marvelous and miraculous way for us to progress and become like God, but (as I was gratefully told as I prepared to come home) a mission is not a saving ordinance. I don’t know why this made such an impact on me as an early returned missionary. Maybe it reminded me that I hadn’t diverged from the gospel path? Maybe it was reassurance that the Lord wasn’t upset with me? Either way, missionary service is our duty as priesthood holders, as in our responsibility, but it's not what'll take you to the Celestial Kingdom.

Home from Toronto 2010

Prepare to Serve

I’ve seen the question posed a lot on social media about whether to serve or not serve. What if a person can’t? Preparation for a mission is preparation to consecrate our lives to God. If you are wondering whether you should prepare to serve a mission, prepare. Even if the answer is no, prepare. The spiritual and emotional preparation that goes into serving a mission will benefit you throughout the rest of your life. A testimony of the gospel and the Book of Mormon will strengthen your resolve to live the gospel, regardless of which turns it takes.

Service Missions

I made a friend recently who was honorably excused from full-time missionary service. But because he wanted to serve a mission, he went forward with a service mission. In preparation for this post, he told me that it bothers him when people speak about service missions as though they’re simply a backup plan or less than. No one ever said this to me about my mission, but it was very tempting to look at my short missionary service as a second-class mission. My friend was asked “Why didn’t you serve a real mission?” I’ll be honest, when I came home from my mission I was one of these people… I thought a service mission was beneath me. Looking back, I wish I’d given it more of a chance. I think I’d have learned a lot from a service mission. “Now behold, Helaman and his brethren were no less serviceable unto the people than was Moroni.” (Alma 48:19) Missionary service looks different for everyone. And they all matter.

Canada Calgary Mission 2011

A Desire to Serve

This last point is possibly my most important. The Lord told Joseph Smith, “if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work” (D&D 4:3). If you want to serve a mission, go for it! If you don’t have a desire to serve, figure out why that is. If something is holding you back, talk to your bishop or a counselor and figure out what’ll get you there. But like I said, missionary service looks different for everyone. I wanted to serve a 24-month mission… but instead I was blessed with two short missions and four mini-missions at the Hill Cumorah Pageant. I’m grateful for the chance I had to serve, in Toronto, Calgary, and the Hill Cumorah. And someday, with my wife, somewhere new, I’ll serve again. 

Hill Cumorah Pageant 2001, my first mission

1 comment:

  1. Spencer, I am so grateful that I got to read this! What you have shared here will bless the lives of so many. Your open heart and transparency will relieve much of the angst that many young men and women feel. I love that you pursued in faith and found one that works through our Savior Jesus Christ and your covenants with him! Thank you for being that man!