Preparing for a mission

A talk Dustin gave in the sacrament meeting of the Pineville Ward, Charlotte North Carolina South Stake, Sunday, 23 July 2000.

Good morning! My name is Dustin Joyce. For those of you who don’t know my family and me, we actually used to live in this ward back when it was the Third Ward, but we ended up in Fourth Ward, or Carmel Ward, when the boundaries were redrawn. But, now we’re back. I just haven’t been in this ward a lot because things would come up and it would be more convenient for me to attend Carmel Ward. But I’m here today, since I have to give this talk.

In January, I’ll be turning nineteen. At that time I’ll be donning the dark suit, name tag, and bike helmet that characterize the Church’s missionaries around the world. At this time, I’m preparing to serve a mission, and that’s what my topic is today: preparing for a mission.

At the mini Missionary Training Center that this stake had with the Central Stake at the beginning of last year, participants were given something that President Hinckley once said. It was a list of ten “gifts” that the Church’s missionaries should bring home with them from their missions. Those ten things are:1

  1. Knowledge of God and Christ.
  2. Knowledge [of] and love for scriptures.
  3. Increased love for parents.
  4. Love [for] people who[m] you serve.
  5. Appreciation for hard work.
  6. Knowledge of importance of teamwork.
  7. Recognition of importance of good dress and demeanor.
  8. Appreciation of the beauty and value of personal virtue.
  9. Faith to act and courage to try.
  10. Humility to pray.

In my talk today, I’d like to present ten2 things that future missionaries can work on now to help prepare them serve missions from which they can bring these ten gifts home.

1. Want to serve a mission

Elder Joyce and Elder Glassett
Dustin (left) as a missionary in the Utah Salt Lake City South Mission in February 2002 with one of his companions, Elder David Joel Glassett. They served together in the Bennion Utah Stake from 28 November 2001 to 20 February 2002.

I don’t believe that you’ll do anything as well as you should do it unless you want to do it. Same goes for a mission. You need to want to serve a mission. Wanting to serve a mission is the first step in choosing to serve a mission.

To you young men in the congregation: you know that you should serve a mission. Your parents and Church leaders have told you you should, and you’ve seen the examples of many of the men around you in serving a mission. A President of the Church, President Kimball, if I’m not mistaken, once said that you don’t have to go on a mission. Young men are only as obligated to go on a mission as they are to pay tithing, attend Church meetings each Sunday, and obey the commandments. Proclaiming the gospel to the world is a part of the three-fold mission of the Church, and it’s a commandment.3

And I know that some of you who should and need to serve a mission don’t want to. So you’ll have to start a little bit farther back. Want to want to serve a mission. It’s kind of like what Alma said about faith in the twenty-seventh verse of the thirty-second chapter of his book in the Book of Mormon:

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. (Alma 32:27)

You can want to have faith if you don’t already have it, and you can want to want to serve a mission if you don’t already want to serve a mission. But, no matter where you begin, at some point you must want to serve.

2. Choose to serve a mission

The next step is to choose to serve a mission. You can want to serve a mission all you want, but until you choose to serve a mission, it ain’t happenin’. Consciously choosing and making it a goal to serve a mission will help “get the ball rolling,” so to speak, on the rest of your preparation to serve. When you and your parents and the other people around you who can help you prepare know that you have chosen to go, you can then begin working on some of the other things that I will be talking about. It all begins with a choice.

3. Learn to recognize and invite the Spirit

Learn to recognize the Spirit. More than anyone or anything on your mission, the Spirit will be your guide, it will be your motivator. But there is someone out there who absolutely does not want you to serve a mission and tell the world about the truth that you know — I think we all know who that someone is — and you must be able to distinguish between the feelings he’ll give you and the feelings that the Spirit of the Lord will give you.

Recognizing and using the Spirit for the time of your mission will give you incredible experience in recognizing and using the Spirit throughout your life. In life, there’s no greater guide or gift that you can have than the Holy Ghost. With his guidance you can make any decision you need help with, such as where to go to college, what to study and college and what to do as a career, where to live, and whom to marry, among many, many others. He will help you when you’re having problems, he will comfort you, and he will help give you the greatest joy you can have in life. And learning who he is and what he’s all about may just begin in the mission field for many of you.

Once you’ve learned to recognize the Spirit, learn how to invite him and the feelings he brings back into your life often. There are many, many ways you can invite the Spirit into any situation. Bearing testimony, singing a hymn, praying … these are just a few of the very obvious ways to invite the Holy Ghost into your life often. Use them, practice them, and the Spirit that you will have as you prepare to serve an honorable, full time mission will greatly help you and will be something that you take with you on your mission.

4. Get to know the scriptures

Get to know the scriptures. They will be your textbooks in teaching and your instruction manuals in life. For example, as you are preparing for a mission and as you are on a mission, one section of the Doctrine and Covenants will greatly guide you in all you do and say. Some call it the “Missionary Constitution.” It’s Section 4, and, just in case you haven’t heard it before, here it is:

Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.

Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.

Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;

For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;

And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.

Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.

Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.

If you are in seminary or have yet to begin seminary, here’s a word of advice: learn your scripture mastery scriptures! They contain the gospel in a nutshell, and you’ll have to memorize many of them at the MTC anyway.

5. Be excited about the gospel

Be excited about the gospel. People aren’t going to be interested in what you have to say if you say it like this: “We believe in God, [yawn] the Eternal Father, and in his [yawn] Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost [yawn]” (First Article of Faith). Paul was excited about the gospel, and he spent his entire life after his conversion as a missionary. This is what he said to the members of the Church in Rome:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

6. Earn money

Earn money. You will have a greater experience on a mission if you help pay your own way. Work at a job where you’ll be comfortable and where you want to be, but don’t be prideful in choosing one. And save the money! You can go without something that you want in order to save the money you would have spent on it. Most likely, you’ll have to go without that thing while you’re on your mission, so why not start going without it now?

7. Learn to know and love foreign cultures

Brother Jim McCulloch, at his son Pace’s missionary farewell last Sunday, mentioned that out of all the advice he was given when he was leaving on his mission years ago, three items of advice proved to be the most helpful. He called them the “Three ‘L’s of Missionary Work,” and they are:

  1. Love the people.
  2. Live the mission rules.
  3. Learn to cook.

They have a lot to do with the next three things that I’m going to talk about. The first is the necessity to know and love foreign cultures. You must love the people you serve and whom you teach. Without that love, you’ll have no success.

Become familiar with cultures around the world. You might not get called to a foreign mission, but you still need to know how people around the world live, because there’s still a chance you may be called to serve among them. If you know how they live before you go out in the mission field, it won’t be such a shock once you get there. If you have the opportunity to travel to a foreign country, or even to another part of the United States — believe me, some parts of America can seem like a foreign country — take it! Take a foreign language in school to help familiarize yourself with how to learn a foreign language and also to familiarize yourself with other cultures. Watch PBS! Just do whatever it takes to get to love people who aren’t like you before you’re among them. It will be easier over here.

Along with learning to know and love foreign cultures comes learning to eat varied — and strange — foods. I have a problem with this one. No matter where you get called, you may have to eat some foods that you’re not familiar with. You either starve or learn. Even in the United States, cuisine can vary greatly from one region to another, and even from one house to another, with the melting pot of cultures we’re blessed to have here in America. Like before, if you learn now, it’ll be easier once you get out there.

9. Learn to do housework

Speaking of food, let me return to the three ‘L’s of missionary work: learn to cook. Learn to do household chores. When you’re out in the mission field, mom and dad aren’t there to do the dishes, cook, shop, clean everything, and do all the other things they do. You have to handle it all for yourself. Learn to do it before you go.

10. Live a morally clean life

Finally, I’d like to talk about the last of the three ‘L’s: live the mission rules. Get practice doing that now. Live life’s “mission rules”: obey the commandments and keep the promises and covenants you’ve already made and will make before and after you go on a mission.

A lot can be said, of course, about living a morally clean life. There are reminders of being morally clean all around us. Here’s just a short list of things that and people who remind us to live good lives: parents; teachers; friends; Church leaders; general authorities, apostles; prophets; CTR rings; the scriptures; For the Strength of Youth; church books, videos, music, and magazines … the list goes on and on. But I’d like to mention something that the Prophet said when he was here4 a few years ago: the five “be”s that he told us to be in his talk:5

  1. Be grateful.
  2. Be clean.
  3. Be smart.
  4. Be true.
  5. Be humble.

Follow these words of advice from the Prophet as you are preparing for a mission, follow the commandments, and keep the promises and covenants that you have made and that you will make, and you’ll certainly have the Lord’s help in preparing for a mission, and when the Lord’s on your side, you cannot fail.


Going on a mission will be one of the greatest experiences you’ll ever have. Almost nowhere else can you gain the amount of knowledge about the gospel, life, yourself, and the world around as you will during the eighteen months or two years of your mission. In order to be successful on your mission, begin preparing for it now. Talk it over with your parents, your Church leaders, your Heavenly Father, and even your friends. Figure out how to handle things like college and financing. Decide what’s best for you. But remember that, if you’re a young man, going on a mission is the best thing you can do at that point in your life.

I know that sending missionaries throughout the world is one of the best things that the Church can do. I know that what the missionaries teach is true: the Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he is the Savior of the world; that the books that testify of him, the Bible and the Book of Mormon, are true; that the man who brought us the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, is a prophet of God; and that the Church has continued to be led by the Lord Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith’s successors as President of the Church, and that our prophet today, President Gordon B. Hinckley, leads us by divine inspiration. I know these things are true and I say them in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Also check out “Ten Things to Know Before You Go” by President James E. Faust, The New Era, July 2002, page 4.

  1.  Slightly different versions of this list were printed in The New Era, March 2007, pages 2–4, and the Church News, 23 December 1995
  2.  I noticed only when I was laying out this article that the talk actually includes only nine things, not ten: I inadvertently skipped number 8 when I recorded this talk in my journal back in 2000 (and, I presume, when I presented it). 
  3.  Yes, President Kimball did say that: Ensign, October 1974, page 8; Aaronic Priesthood Manual 3 (1995 edition), lesson 25
  4.  President Gordon B. Hinckley, then president of the Church, spoke at a regional conference in Dustin’s hometown, Charlotte, on Sunday, 25 February 1996. (See Ensign, May 1996, and the Church News, 4 March 2000.) The regional conference was held in the Charlotte Coliseum, which, notably, is where Dustin’s high-school graduation also took place. The Coliseum was demolished on 3 June 2007. 
  5.  President Hinckley added to this list in later talks and in his book Way to Be! 

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