Hi! I served a mission in the Sweden Stockholm mission several years ago and am now married to a returned missionary and starting a family.

Please share this blog with others so we can help as many future missionaries as possible. Feel free to add your own advice. I hope this can help many young people preparing to go on a mission, but most specifically, sisters.

Have fun and let me know if you have any questions or any post ideas!
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Mormon Messages

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Personal missionary experiences #3

9/24/2007
   I absolutely love being a missionary! We gave away 3 copies of the Book of Mormon today on our way home from dinner with some members! It makes me so happy! We're really working towards "tala med alla" [talk to everyone] this transfer and Sister Carlson is really good at it. She's only been in Sweden for 2 months yet she still opens her mouth and does her best at preaching the gospel. She's such a great example to me! If she can do it, I certainly can!

9/25/2007
   We have a baptismal date! for Janelle!! Feb. 7th! I'm so excited! She still needs her dad's permission [she was only 15] so we're going to pray and fast with her. "With God, all things are possible"!
   And I want to write about one more thing today... We got home at 8:30pm and still hadn't given away a copy of the Book of Mormon so we decided to go back out for a little while. I ended up stopping this young couple with a baby. We talked to them for 10-15 minutes about the gospel. They're Catholic but not really religious. She took the Book of Mormon and promised to read and pray about it and sounded really interested! We didn't get their number [her husband really didn't seem interested], but still, it makes me so incredibly happy to help wonderful people find the truth. I love being a missionary!

11/27/2007
   What a funny day we had today... hehe. We taught Billy today - He is really interested! He's 20 something, Swedish, AND he believes in God and Christ! It was an awesome lesson. We tracted into this lady today who let us in and then talked about all kinds of crazy things, like how Islam isn't a religion or something. Anyways, it was interesting. [She wasn't the least bit interested, it turns out. Just likes to talk, I guess.] Then we taught this Bosnian family, or rather tried to. We're not sure how much they understood. We ended up walking out with a bag full of fruit, bread, wafers, and this sausage/salami/pepperoni thing that we'll probably never eat. Haha. Life as a missionary...

12/30/2007
   It's interesting to read what I wrote when I was first here in Sweden. It's amazing how far I've come with the language and with being a missionary. It's cool to see how many really hard times I've had and how I somehow got through them every time. I've forgotten how hard it was for me to understand Swedish at first. I can understand almost everything now without concentrating that hard. It's so cool to see how I've changed. I really have grown, I think.

**For Personal missionary experiences part 1, click here.
**For Personal missionary experiences part 2, click here.

Personal missionary experiences #2

Some more parts of journal entries. :)

5/22/2007
   We had some awesome lessons today! We finally talked to Matthew about why he doesn't want to get baptized. He hasn't gotten an answer yet and he doesn't want to get baptized until he knows it's true. So he said he'll read the Book of Mormon every day for 2 weeks (which he hasn't been doing) and pray about it. Yay! And our other lesson... we're working with Robert and Jessica and their little girl, Isabella. Robert and Jessica were members but were excommunicated and want to come back now. We watched the first half of The Testaments with them. They loved it and they promised to read the Book of Mormon together as a family! Yay again! I love this gospel!

5/31/2007
   We were walking home from the train station today and we ran into a couple of ladies who were struggling to carry a lot of stuff. We stopped and helped them to their apartment which wasn't that far away from ours. They're from Turkey and don't speak English or Swedish very well. So our "conversations" were pretty interesting. Haha. They were really cool though. They invited us into their apartment for some juice to thank us for helping them. We gave them a pass-along card and told them about the website but we're not sure how much they understood. Oh well, they'll remember that we helped them and maybe, hopefully, they'll meet some missionaries they can talk to some day.

6/8/2007
   Sister Madsen and I were talking the other day about how interesting it is that we can have 6 hard, discouraging days and 1 wonderful day in a week and all we'll remember is that one wonderful day. That one wonderful day makes up for all the hard and discouraging days.
   We've been having a hard time staying motivated lately. It's actually not the fact that we keep getting turned down that's hard for me. What's hard, I think, is waking up exhausted and with sore feet, sore arms, sore back, sore everything, and we still need to go out and work. Then I concentrate so hard on everything people say and try to think of something to say back so my brain feels like it's going to explode. So at the end of the day I"m just totally exhausted yet I still should talk to that girl sitting at the bus stop and think about how I can help her rather than think about how much I want to go home. Then I do get home and know that I'm going to wake up and do it all again the next day. Just being out in public as a missionary is exhausting... being on our best behavior and happy all the time... oh well, it's good.

6/9/2007
   Today I read an awesome quote about motivation (like I was talking about yesterday). Elder Neil L. Andersen quotes President Hinkley in his talk this last conference. Pres. Hinkley said: "When [an individual] is motivated by great and powerful convictions of truth, then he disciplines himself, not because of demands made by the Church, but because of the knowledge within his heart." Then Elder Andersen adds: "Are we sufficiently motivated by 'great and powerful convictions of truth'? Do our choices reflect this motivation? Are we becoming who we want to become? It's true, isn't it? Then what else matters?"
   So I guess I need to be motivated because, well, I'm a missionary. I'm a representative of Jesus Christ and I'm on His errand. I should stay busy because I love Him. And because I love the people of Sweden. The best thing I can remember right now is that I"m doing this because I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. I'll do anything for him... so here's my perfect chance to show Him.

**For Personal missionary experiences part 1, click here.
**For Personal missionary experiences part 3, click here.

Personal missionary experiences



I decided today that I will post parts of some my journal entries from my mission. I hope they will help each of you  know a little more of what to expect of missionary life. And hopefully get you excited to serve a mission. :) (All names have been changed.)

3/26/2007 (I had been in the mission field for just over a month)
    We had an amazing lesson with Amy [an investigator about 40 years old] today! I didn't understand all of it, of course, but I understood what was important. Brother and Sister Hansen from the ward came with us, which ended up being a very smart decision. They're originally from Finland but have lived in Sweden for most of their lives, just like Amy. AND Bro Hansen has dealt with depression so he knows what Amy is going through. AND he's a convert. It was so wonderful to hear his testimony and to have someone she can relate with. They're getting her to come to general conference with them next weekend too! At the end of the meeting, Amy started crying! I don't really know what that means, but hopefully it's because she realized how much we care about her and want to help her. We had a really good lesson about prayer and how we can ask God for help whenever we need it. So hopefully, just maybe, she'll pray herself. We've asked her before, many times actually, but so far she hasn't. But maybe she will this time.

4/5/2007
    Matthew's [an investigator about 25 years old] doing pretty well. We've taught him up through the 2nd lesson now. He's awesome and actually a lot of fun to teach. I'm getting to the point that I don't really care about making mistakes while talking to him. I guess it's because he's already heard me make tons of mistakes so why not make more. Haha. Anyway, the thing I'm worried about is that he says he hasn't gotten an answer about The Book of Mormon yet. He says he doesn't feel anything different about The Book of Mormon than any other book. And we he prays, he doesn't feel bad, but he doesn't feel good either. I want him to get an answer so bad. I know it's true and I know that he can know it's true too. He would make an awesome member. But what if it's not the right time for him right now? I would absolutely love to see him get baptized. But I know that as long as we do our best, whatever's right for him will happen.
    We had the chance to get 3 new investigators this week! We were so excited! But all 3 of the appointments fell through. One of them was sick, so we'll reschedule with him, but one called and said she wasn't interested anymore and the other didn't show up (for the 2nd time). I guess we'll see what happens.

4/25/2007
   Exciting news! We have a new investigator! His name is Steven and, well, I don't really know that much about him yet. We taught him the 1st lesson today and it went really well! He listened intently to everything we said then promised to read the parts of the Book of Mormon we asked him to and to pray about it to know for himself that's it's true. And he wants us to come back! He seemed to really like the fact that we want him to pray for his own testimony rather than just relying on ours. He must really like cats though, because he has 10 of them. Weird... Anyways. I think I did pretty well. I probably made a million mistakes, but he understood me so that's good. And in the middle of the lesson he asked me how long I've been here, and when I told him, he said that I speak Swedish really well for being here such a short time. And then he talked about how hard it must be to come to a new country and speak a new language. So that made me feel better. He's pretty cool. I'm trying hard to have faith that this very well could lead to another baptism, but the doubt and fear are still there. Satan is sure trying hard to destroy my faith... but he's not going to!

**For Personal missionary experiences Part 2, click here.
**For Personal missionary experiences Part 3, click here.

Mission meal ideas #3

Some more meals that I grew up with. :)

E-Z Chicken Tetrazzini:

- 2 cups uncooked spaghetti
- 4 cups diced and cooked chicken (or turkey)
- 1 can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
- 1 cup grated cheese (try different kinds)
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup water

Cook spaghetti noodles. In casserole dish, add soup and water. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Add chicken, noodles, cheese, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Bake at 350 degrees F until warm or zap in microwave for 10 minutes.

Tuna Casserole:

- 1 can of cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
- 1/2 can of milk (using cream of soup can)
- 1 cup cooked flat noodles
- 1 can tuna fish
- onion (or onion powder)
- grated cheese
- chinese noodles or rice krispies cereal

Mix all ingredients except cheese and chinese noodles or cereal together in casserole dish. Cook in oven at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes or zap in microwave until heated through. Sprinkle grated cheese on top and let melt. Add Chinese noodles or cereal on top to make it crunchy.

Taco Salad:

- 1 lb hamburger
- 1 cup chopped onion (or onion powder)
- 2 cups water
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2/3 cup rice
- 1 tsp oregano
- pinch of pepper
- 8 oz. tomato sauce
- 1 tsp cumin

Brown hamburger and onion. Drain. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Turn down to low and simmer for 30 min. Serve over/with tortilla chips and top with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream.

Mission meal ideas #2

Before I start with the meal ideas, here are a few tips for you:

Tip #1: Sit down with your mom or someone and type up all the recipes you have grown up with that you think would be mission friendly. I will warn you that they probably won't turn out just like you remember them (different brands of food, different pots/pans, different stoves, etc) but you'll still enjoy being able to cook things you are familiar with.

Tip #2: Like I mentioned above, remember that you will be working with different foods, different dishes, different stoves, etc. They may be very different if you go foreign. Be ready to be flexible and try new things! You may want to make sure you are comfortable enough with cooking that you can be flexible without too much stress. Even if you go state-side though, you will have to learn to cook with whatever is in the apartment, and that could take some getting used to.

Tip #3: Be sure to eat healthy as a missionary. It will make a world of difference in how much energy and strength you have if you are eating healthy. You all know how... now do it! Eat your fruits and veggies. (It's not that difficult - and pretty cheap - to pull out canned or frozen fruit or veggies to add to your meal.) You'll thank me later. :)

One of my favorite dinners is crock pot salsa chicken. But since you most likely will not have a crock pot as a missionary, here's an alternate. It's not quite as good, but it's still pretty good.

Baked Salsa Chicken:
http://allrecipes.com/recipe/salsa-chicken/detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Title&e11=salsa%20chicken&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Home%20Page

- 4 chicken breasts
- 4 tsp taco seasoning
- 1 cup salsa
- 1 cup cheese
- 2 tbl sour cream

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
2) Place chicken breasts in a lightly greased 9 X 13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle taco seasoning on both sides of chicken breasts, and pour salsa over all.
3) Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 to 35 minutes, or until chicken is tender and juicy and its juices run clear
4) Sprinkle chicken with cheese and continue baking for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with sour cream, if desired, and serve.
It goes well with rice or pasta and corn.

Here's one I grew up with:

Pizza Casserole:

- 1 lb hamburger
- 1/2 cup chopped onion (or dash of onion powder)
- 3 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
- 2 1/2 cups dry elbow macaroni
- 1/2 lb mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- pinch garlic powder

Brown hamburger and onion in large pan. Add tomato sauce and spices. Let simmer while cooking elbow macaroni. When macaroni is cooked, drain, and dump into hamburger mixture in frying pan. Top with slices of mozzarella cheese. Cover and let cheese melt.
Options: Can put anything on top of casserole that you would want on a pizza: pepperoni, olives, mushrooms, etc. Can also use different type of cheese if you want.
*This recipe makes quite a bit... maybe 6 servings?? So you could half-it or save the rest for later.

Simple, mission friendly meal ideas



My sister-in-law had the brilliant idea to include mission friendly meal ideas on this blog. So, every once in a while, I will write up a post that includes a few ideas. Here it goes. Enjoy!

One of my companions and I often made homemade burritos. We usually made them with black beans, cheese, and whatever veggies we happened to have. Sometimes we'd add rice too. We would assemble them and then stick them in the microwave for 30 seconds or so. Delicious, cheap, easy to make, and healthy!

Another easy but yummy lunch idea is toasted cheese sandwiches. There's the typical grilled cheese that most people know how to make, but then there's the gourmet toasted cheese sandwiches. Toast a couple of pieces of bread in the toaster, then spread mayo (or whatever other sauce you have/like) on them. Layer your choice of cheese(s), any type of meat (or no meat at all), and sliced tomatoes on the bread. You could also put spinach, mushrooms, onions, etc on top although those are less common in a missionary apartment. Top with basil and/or oregano, or whatever spices you have/like. (Notice that these are open face sandwiches.) Then toast in the oven for a few minutes. You can be very creative with these as you play with the ingredients and see what you like best. One of my favorite variations is simply bread, mayo, cheese, a slice of tomato, and basil. Yum!
**When toasting/broiling these in the oven, be very careful since they can burn quickly.

Instead of making a sandwich, put the same ingredients in a tortilla and make a wrap. I love adding a little ranch to mine.

One of our family favorites is broiled bagels. We'll put cream cheese and lunch meat on bagels then broil them in the oven for a few minutes. Mmm! You could also do tuna fish and cheese on the bagels instead.
**When toasting/broiling these in the oven, be very careful since they can burn quickly.

How about quesadillas? Fry a couple tortillas with beans, meat, peppers, or whatever you want and of course lots and lots of cheese inside. Delicious served with salsa.

Or maybe egg salad sandwiches. Boil a couple of eggs, mash them up and add mayo (and maybe mustard) until spreadable. Sprinkle with seasoned salt or any other seasonings you like. Spread on a couple pieces of toast and enjoy!

Canned chili is a yummy, relatively healthy lunch. Especially delicious with cheese and Frito's or tortilla chips.

To see more simple, mission friendly meal ideas, read Part 2 or Part 3!



A dictionary for mission lingo

zone = Each mission is separated into zones. They are comparable to stakes (and districts). It depends on the mission, but there are usually about 2 - 4 districts in each zone.
zone leader =  Two elders are called to be the leaders of each zone. They lead each zone conference (generally once a month or once a transfer) and are responsible for the missionaries in their zone. It's their job to make sure everyone is safe and working hard.
district = Each zone is separated into districts. These are comparable to wards (and branches). It depends on the mission, but there are usually about 6 - 12 missionaries in a district.
district leader = One elder is called to be the leader of each district. He leads each district meeting (generally once a week) and is responsible for the missionaries in his district. It's his job to make sure everyone is safe and working hard on a more local and personalized level.
assistants to the president (assistants or AP) = Two elders who are, well, assistants to the mission  president. They are at the top of the line as far as missionary leadership goes. Their responsibilities vary depending on the mission. Some may travel around the mission, some may not so much. Basically they are there to help train missionaries.
investigator = An individual who the missionaries have taught at least one lesson to and has set another appointment for the next lesson.
potential investigator = An individual who the missionaries found while out working and who is interested in the gospel, but has not received a complete lesson yet. There is a spot in the area book where previous missionaries have written down potential investigators. One good type of finding work is to go through that list and find out if they are still interested in hearing the lessons.
former investigator = An individual who has heard at least one lesson but then for some reason or another stopped visiting with the missionaries. Another good type of finding work is to go through the list of former investigators in the area book to see if they are interested again in hearing the lessons.
area = The place where (usually) two missionaries are assigned to work. Areas can vary from a few blocks to a few hundred miles, depending on the mission. Missionaries are not allowed to leave their area without permission from their leaders.
area book = Each area will have a big binder called the area book with all the information about investigators, members, the area in general, etc. This helps the missionaries stay organized and keep track of any important information. It also helps new missionaries who have just come into the area learn about their area and the people they are going to teach.
referral = A name that is received from a member or investigator of someone who is interested in learning the gospel. This is the number one best way to find people to teach.
contacting = A type of missionary work that includes going out and talking to everyone you see on the street, on the bus, on the train, etc. and inviting them to hear the gospel.
tracting = A type of missionary work that includes knocking on doors in order to find people who may be interesting in the gospel. This is probably the most well-known type, but also probably the least effective.
transfer = One transfer is typically 6 weeks long. This does depend on the mission, however. Our transfers were usually 9 weeks long. The word "transfer" is also used when a missionary is "transferred" or moved to another area.

That's enough for now. Please comment if there's a word you'd like me to define in a future post!

Dealing with persecution

Fortunately, I did not have to deal with very much persecution as a missionary. However, I know that some missionaries do so I thought (after receiving ideas from family members) it'd be a good topic to bring up.

The number one rule here is to remember that you are a representative of Jesus Christ. Be sure that you are acting and behaving like He would. 

Here's an experience my dad had on his mission in France and Switzerland:
        "I had a companion that was a very "spirited" individual. When someone would shout obscenities or throw eggs at us he would get defensive and shout back - I taught him how to just wave back and pretend it was a greeting. Whenever we were bombarded with eggs we noted that not one egg hit us. Our bikes got hit, and they landed all around us, but never did they hit us directly. One time an egg hit me in the chest as I leaned forward. I suppose my suit coat cushioned the blow enough that the egg fell down unbroken. We stood there stunned, looking at the egg on the ground (it had broken when it hit the ground)... a simple thing, maybe. But to me it was a testimony that missionaries are protected - even if it only meant we were saved from having egg on us for our next appointment."

Once on my mission, we taught a young man who was from the middle east and yet was interested in Christianity. While in his home one day, his uncle, who was very against Christianity, came home. The uncle started yelling all sorts of things at us that were not true. (I don't remember exactly what they were but they were not nice.) We were very tempted to yell back and try to correct his beliefs about us, but we didn't. We just got up and left.

It is very hard sometimes to just ignore persecution and leave. The persecutors will often be saying things against what is very sacred to you. However, it will just make it worse to get defensive and fight back. They want you to fight back. So don't. Take a deep breath, and walk away. If you need to, sing hymns to yourself or say a prayer. Like my dad and his companion were, you will be blessed for it.

Like it says it 3 Nephi 11: 28-30:


28 And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no adisputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.
 29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit ofacontention is not of me, but is of the bdevil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
 30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things ashould be done away.

What are we, as missionaries, there for? To talk and preach of Christ. To bring peace, not contention.

In D&C 42:14, it says:

...if ye receive not the bSpirit ye shall not teach.

What would happen if you fought back? You'd lose the Spirit. Losing the Spirit makes it impossible to be an effective missionary.

You are a representative of Jesus Christ. Act and behave like He would and you will be an effective missionary.

Preparing to Leave #2

So, I found this site with TONS of awesome advice from many other returned missionaries. I will post the advice I liked (and haven't mentioned on this blog yet) here. To read all of it, here's the link:
http://www.ldsmissionarymoms.com/helptopics/Advice_From_Missionaries/
(Note: some of this advice is a bit out of date)

- Start mission habits now. Study the scriptures, study Preach My Gospel, wake up early, exercise, write in your journal, bear your testimony frequently, etc.
- Go on splits with the missionaries
- Learn to recognize the Spirit and to rely on the Lord
- Start saving money as soon as possible
- Bring a personal CD player or MP3 player with travel speakers (no headphones)
- Learn to cook in small amounts and be prepared to deal with whatever the cooking supplies in each area are
- Learn to eat anything and everything
    (I had a companion who hated fish and unfortunately had to eat fish a lot. At one member's house, while the member was out of the room, this companion dumped her fish soup in my bowl and then I inhaled it. To this day I wonder if the member noticed that my bowl was empty when she left and yet I was chewing when she returned...)
- Bring a flashlight! And other things like scissors and markers. And music if you're musical.
- Bring pictures of family and friends (to look at and show companions on P-days)
- You will hear plenty of different things about the MTC. Some find it too confining. Some find it hard to sit in a desk for so long. Some hate the food, some love it. Most, if not all, will love the spiritual feast.
- Almost every missionary surveyed wished they hadn't left a girlfriend behind. Their advice was to drop the girl before you serve. If it's meant to be, she'll still be there when you return home.
- Many missionaries have a hard time adjusting to mission life. Top reasons why adjustment was difficult: Language, culture, immature missionaries, having to be with a companion 24/7, homesickness, schedules, leaving interests/hobbies, and leaving family/friends. Be as prepared as you can for a total and complete life change.
- Be social and work on your communication skills before you go
- Learn to love everyone, no matter how different they are
- Be prepared to work HARD
- Trust your mission president's advice
- Take every minute and be thankful. Time goes by so quickly so don't wish away your mission. It goes too quickly.

**For Preparing to Leave Part 1, click here.
**For tips on how to focus on preparing to serve a mission, click here.

Missionary haircuts (mostly for sisters)

So my sister-in-law brought up a good question. How do missionaries get their haircut in the mission field? At the MTC, they have (or at least they did when I was there) BYU cosmetology students who cut your hair for free while you are there. In the mission field, though... Elders have it pretty easy; a lot of guys can cut their own hair with hair clippers. You could have your companion or other missionaries do it. Some state-side missions may have barbers who will do missionary haircuts for free. Other than that, you could ask members, or maybe even the people you teach. But, as a sister (and even as an elder too), it may be hard to find someone you trust enough to cut your hair. Especially as a missionary where it is important to look your best. A good idea might be to learn how to do it yourself! My sister-in-law found a couple of good little videos on youtube that might help you. Both she and my sister have tried it and it worked out really well for them. I am strongly considering trying it out myself.

Here's how to cut and layer your own hair in only a few minutes. It would probably work best for girls with medium/long hair who want long layers. 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=f-GAilMmCqQ


Here's another one that shows how to do some framing around your face.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_s-c1eIDpzU


Setting goals

- When I was in the MTC, I was having a hard time setting goals that I didn't have control over. For example, at the referral center, where you get to talk to people on the phone and ask if they're interested in having missionaries come over, you'll set goals on how many referrals you can get, or how many times you'll send the missionaries to someone's house. I hated this since I didn't control whether they agreed or not. So I made a personal goal to bear my testimony to everyone I talked to. THAT I could control, and it led to some of the people agreeing to have the missionaries over. And those who didn't agree, well, hopefully they felt the spirit. Anyways, this became a pattern for my mission. I focused on setting personal goals I could control and those helped me reach (or at least helped me work on) the goals I could not control. And even if I didn't reach the goals I couldn't control, I still felt like I had worked as hard as I could and maybe even made a difference in someone's life.
- Setting goals is a big part of missionary work. Try not to worry too much about the numbers though. Easier said than done, of course, but if you can do this, it'll make your life a lot happier. Numbers are important because they help you set and reach goals and they help you keep track of your progress. But don't get so tied up with numbers that you forget about the people they represent.
- You will receive a daily planner every 6 weeks. You will learn how to use it to plan and set goals at the MTC and in your first few weeks in the field. Do what they tell you to do with it! Using the planner correctly will help you be organized and will help you not waste time.

Expect Miracles



I want to explain something I feel very strongly about. I hope I am able to help you understand what is in my head. If you grew up in the Church like I did, I'm sure you have heard LOTS of missionary stories. We have all heard stories about how the missionaries decided to knock one more door and ended up meeting a golden investigator at that door, and of course they ended up getting baptized. Or there are stories about how the missionaries pray and feel very strongly to knock on that door or talk to that person and that person ends up getting baptized. These things do happen, obviously, but I want to make sure that you understand that those particular experiences may not happen to you. Nothing like that ever happened to me. And for a while it really bugged me. It is important to expect miracles - a mission is full of them. BUT they may not be the miracles you are expecting. While those particular stories never happened to me, other miracles DID happen. As long as I stayed busy and worked hard, I always had people to teach. I met some awesome people who were very open and willing to learn about the gospel. I feel like I was able to influence many lives for the better because I worked hard to spread the gospel. I know that I was led to some particular people, but mostly just because I was working hard and doing what I knew I was supposed to do. Heavenly Father trusted me and put people in my way that were open to receiving the gospel. I hope I'm explaining this well enough. I guess my point is: Expect miracles but expect lots of different types of miracles! Keep your mind and heart open and look out for all sorts of possibilities. Don't be disappointed if the well known miracles don't happen to you.

Here are some examples of miracles that DID happen to me:
- The phone number we got for a potential investigator didn't work, but we "just happened" to run into him on the street again. (He became a very positive investigator.)
- We talked to a guy briefly just as he was getting on the bus and invited him to church. He showed up to church and became a very positive investigator.
- We challenged a temple worker to give away a Book of Mormon. She had no idea who to give it to at the time since she spent almost all of her time with members, but she did indeed find someone to give it to.
- We met a 15 year old girl who had come to church with her friends. She told us she wasn't a member but wanted to learn more.  
- My very last day in Sweden, my train to Stockholm was late. Because of that, I "just happened" to run into a girl who I had taught once months ago (she didn't live in our area so we turned her over to the elders after the first lesson). I found out that day that she had been baptized. We have stayed in contact and to this day we are really good friends.

Don't underestimate the power of miracles. They will change your life.

The HOW on scripture study

A question my sister asked me gave me the idea for this post. I decided maybe some of you may be struggling with exactly how to study the scriptures. I encourage you to try many different ways to find the way(s) that works best for you. How you study may also depend on where you are in life and what you are dealing with at the time.

My husband loves to study by subject. He'll pick a topic that he or someone he knows is struggling with or has questions about and then look up scriptures about that topic. This usually doesn't work very well for me. I like to read stories, and then concentrate on what I can learn from that story and how it applies to my life. Neither way is wrong or better, they are just different depending on your interests and your current life situations. 

Pray before and after. Pray for help knowing how and what to study. Pray for impressions and then pay attention to how you feel. Remember, you may not have a big spiritual experience or even have words come into your mind (although that just might happen). It just might be how you feel that matters. It may take some practice and some time before really figuring out how to listen to the Spirit and how the Spirit talks to you while studying. Be patient. 

It definitely helps to write things down as you study. Underline, circle, write in margins, etc. Color code if you want. Keep a journal to write down ideas and impressions.

Use all four standard works. It's really interesting to see how they all tie together. You can also use other church books. The four books in the missionary library are great study tools (Jesus the Christ, Our Search for Happiness, True to the Faith, and Our Heritage).

Use Preach My Gospel to help you study. Chapter 3 (the lessons) and chapter 6 (Christlike attributes) as well as other areas can give you ideas of subjects to study about. Chapter 2 is all about helping you study and preparing to teach people. Here's the online version in case you don't have a copy of Preach My Gospel.
http://www.lds.org/languages/additionalmanuals/preachgospel/PreachMyGospel___04_02_HowDoIStudy__36617_eng_004.pdf

Actually, if you don't have a copy of Preach My Gospel, stop reading this right now and GO GET ONE! Even if you don't plan on serving a mission and you're just reading this for curiosity or for someone else. Go get one! Now!

Anyways, continuing on.

One thing I want to mention: If you find that you are like me and like to read the stories rather than look up subjects, take some time to learn how to study by subjects too. Studying this way will probably come in handy as a missionary. 

Here are some other ideas I have found:

The following ideas are from "A discussion on scripture study" with Elder Henry B. Eyring:
http://www.lds.org/ensign/2005/07/a-discussion-on-scripture-study?lang=eng

- Go to the scriptures with a question
     Ex: What would God have me do? What would He have me feel?
- Write down any answers you feel you receive while reading the scriptures
- Color code
- Write answers in the front of your scriptures
- Go to the scriptures to learn what to do in a crisis
    Ex: When losing a child or spouse, look in the scriptures for specific help
- Set a regular time and place to read the scriptures
- Go to the scriptures humbly and eagerly, asking and willing to be taught
- Don't make it "a duty" or something you have to do. Enjoy the scriptures!
- Listen to the Spirit
- Make the scriptures a part of you

The following ideas are from "Getting the Most out of your Scripture Study" by David B. Marsh
http://www.lds.org/ensign/2009/02/getting-the-most-out-of-your-scripture-study?lang=eng

- Don't worry about having "perfect" scripture study sessions. You may not get wonderful spiritual experiences right away, but don't give up! Keep trying and it will come.
- Feel free to use a variety of ways to study the scriptures. There is no one right way to study the scriptures.
- Read cover to cover
- Search for answers to personal questions or challenges
- Study topics listed in the Topical Guide or Guide to the Scriptures
- Research how the Lord uses specific words throughout the scriptures
- Mark phrases, underline words, write notes in the margins
- Learn the Greek, Hebrew, or dictionary definitions of spiritual words
- Verify something you learned in church on Sunday

Letters!

(Thanks to my mom for the idea for this post! :) )

Letters are the highlight of any missionaries day. I have to admit, the mail interrupted our study time more than a couple of times. I mean, who can study when you know there might be letters sitting in your mailbox?! Today I'm going to give some ideas of what to write about while writing letters as a missionary, and also when writing to a missionary.

First, writing letters AS a missionary:

DO
- share funny stories
- share spiritual/uplifting stories
- write about investigators
- write about what it's like to be a missionary - favorite things, least favorite things, etc
- share info about the state/country you are in - traditions, cultures, climate, language, etc
- encourage and give ideas for member missionary work
- share member missionary work success stories
- keep them uplifting
- share your testimony

DON'T
- write anything that will worry Mom ;)
- lie if things aren't going well, but you don't really need to tell the whole truth either, if you don't want to
- write on any day that isn't P-day

Writing TO a missionary:

DO
- share funny stories
- share what you've been up to lately - school, work, family, etc (unless they have asked you not to)
- share what you've been studying in the scriptures, in church, in seminary/institute, etc.
- ask about their investigators
- ask about the country/state they are in - traditions, cultures, climate, language, etc
- ask about the Church in their mission - how many members? what are the members like?
- ask about what it's like to be a missionary - their favorite things, their least favorite things, etc.
- ask just about any question you have about missionary work or the country/state
- share own missionary experiences
- keep it uplifting
- share your testimony (Missionaries LOVE hearing testimonies from family members and friends. Well, at least I did.)

DON'T
- write about how much you miss them (saying "I miss you" every once in a while is fine, just don't dwell on it)
- write about things that will make them worry about home (Again, don't lie, but you don't have to tell the whole truth either...)
- write about anything you think will make them homesick
- write about when they are coming home - especially if it's coming soon

A day in the mission field

This, of course, will be different depending on your area/mission and how you chose to do things. But here's a good example of what a day in the mission field was like for me.

6:30 am - Wake up and exercise
7:00 am - Shower/Get ready for the day/Breakfast
8:00 am - Personal Study
9:00 am - Companionship Study
10:00 am - Language Study
11:00 am - Lunch
12:00 pm - Go by former investigators/tract/contact
2:00 pm - Travel
3:00 pm - Visit member family
4:00 pm - Lesson with investigator, with member from family above
5:00 pm - Travel
6:00 pm - Back at apartment for dinner
7:00 pm - Tract/contact
9:00 pm - Back at apartment for daily planning
9:30 pm - Get ready for bed/journal writing
10:30 pm - Lights off

*Yes, we did a lot of finding work. (And yes, we spent quite a bit of time traveling. A lot of the areas in Sweden were huge.) We quite often had at least one lesson with an investigator every day, sometimes with a member. If we were lucky, we got dinner with a member family. Other than that, it was going by former or potential investigators, going by less actives, tracting, contacting, and my favorite - giving away copies of the Book of Mormon. Oh, and during my last transfer, we taught a beginning Swedish class.

*Every Monday  (until 6pm) was P-day, every Thursday was district meeting (which, including traveling, took up most of the day), every Friday we had a weekly planning session lasting about 3 hours, and of course Sunday was church (Yes, you do work on Sundays). Once a month we had zone conference and once a month we had interviews with the mission president.


A day at the MTC

I copied this out of my planner one day while I was at the MTC and sent it home to my family. I had been there for about 2 weeks. I hesitated posting it since so much has changed at the MTC since I was there. But, I have decided to post it to give you a basic idea of what the MTC will be like. Just don't forget that it will probably be different.

6:00 am - Wake up and get ready
7:00 am - Personal Study (All study time is in the classroom with our district - all 9 of us going to Sweden)
7:30 am - Breakfast at the cafeteria
8:00 am - Class time with our teacher
             - Today we talked about exactly what makes a successful missionary (PMG p. 10-11)
             - We went to a SYL (Speak Your Language) workshop and learned some hints about learning a language
             - We reviewed Lesson 1 in Swedish and started Lesson 2 in Swedish
11:40 am - Personal Study
12:10 pm - Lunch at the cafeteria
12:55 pm - Companionship Study
1:55 pm - MDT (Missionary Directed Time - We get to decide what to do out of certain choices. Our teacher is not there with us)
            - Today we practiced asking and answering questions in Swedish
            - We reviewed Lesson 3 in English and then practiced teaching Lesson 3 to each other
            - We talked about the Referral Center and gave each other advice
            - Went to the Referral Center (You call or answer calls and talk to people who are interested in receiving Church materials such as The Book of Mormon, The Bible, Church DVDs, etc. You also invite them to listen to the missionaries.)
5:10 pm - Dinner at the cafeteria
5:55 pm - Class time with our teacher
             - Today we worked on Lesson 3 in English
             - We learned how to tell time and other fun stuff in Swedish
             - We learned about contacting and how to give a brief message on the street
7:30 pm - Daily Planning (planned and set goals for tomorrow)
8:00 pm - Prepare for gym
8:10 pm - Gym time!
9:00 pm - Post gym/get ready for bed/write in journal
10:30pm - Lights out

* Every day varies, some days we don't have any MDT, sometimes it's at a different time, gym is always at a different time, and of course what we learn changes day to day. We have service time once a week where we clean some part of the MTC.




Just a few thoughts

- Have fun!! Yes, a mission is a LOT of work and all that, but it is also to be enjoyed.
- Never, ever forget how much your Heavenly Father loves you. You will never be alone. Rely on Him and everything will be okay.
- Never forget why you are on a mission. You are a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are there to spread His gospel to Heavenly Father's children. A big responsibility, yes, but He will help you every step of the way. 
- One of my very favorite scriptures as a missionary (and still is):
        Moroni 7:33 "And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me."
- You can do more than you think you can. You'll be surprised what you can do when you really put your mind and heart into it and rely on God. 
- Never, ever, ever give up. You can do it!!!

Avoiding homesickness

- First tip to avoid getting homesick... WORK! The more you stay busy, the less time you have to think about home.
- It's totally fine to talk about home with your companion sometimes. It's nice to get to know them, their interests, what they like to do, what their family is like, etc. But try not to talk about home too much. Focus your conversations on missionary work.
- Read letters from home once when you get them and then put them away until P-day. Reading them throughout the week is a sure way to get distracted and homesick.
- Same with pictures. Look at them once when you get them and then put them away until P-day.
- Only write letters on P-days. It will be tempting to write them during lunch or at night, but try to avoid it.
- Saving most of your thinking about home for P-days will really help avoiding getting homesick.
- Keep your letter writing focused on the work and not how much you miss the person.
- This might be different for other people, but for me, it actually helped me to not be homesick when I was able to read emails/letters from my family about what they were doing. This helped me feel like I was a part of what they were doing at home and I felt like I was not missing anything. I will talk more about letter writing in another post, but figure out what would be best for you. If NOT hearing about what they are doing would be better for you, then make sure your family knows.
- It really helped me to not get homesick on holidays if I tried to do some of the same traditions I do at home. For Christmas, my companion and I combined my traditions with her traditions and added some of own celebrating (including some Swedish traditions). It ended up being a wonderful Christmas and I didn't get homesick at all.
- Obey the rules about calling home. You have two phone calls, one on Christmas and one on Mother's Day. Try to stick with the time limit. In my opinion (not sure if it's actual rule or not), only immediate family members and grandparents (no friends!) should be included in these calls. You only have a limited amount of time, so focus on talking to your parents and siblings!
- It's okay to get a little homesick sometimes! Most of us have never been completely away from home (no visits) for that long before. Don't get too hard on yourself if you do get homesick. Write your feelings in your journal or talk to your companion, say a prayer, then go out and work.
- Remember why you are out there. The people in your mission have you for only 18 months or 2 years. Home has you for the rest of your life. Don't waste your time thinking about home. Do what President Hinkley's father recommended: "Forget yourself and go to work!"

Studying a foreign language

 For those of you who will be learning a foreign language (if not, ignore this one :) ).

- Speak the mission language as much as possible! With members, investigators, random people, and even with your companion and other missionaries. A lot of missionaries agree to only speak the mission language whenever they're outside the apartment (English is allowed inside), or something like that. It's hard, yes, it's very hard. But it'll be worth it. I promise. Don't worry about making mistakes or about your American accent, just speak. Yes, this is easier said than done, but I urge you to try. You'll be very happy you did.
- Another tip if you'll be learning a foreign language... You'll have one hour every day to study the language. Use this hour wisely! One of my favorite things to do was to read the Liahona, especially the Friend section. I didn't just read it and look up vocabulary, though. I picked it apart and figured out WHY the sentence was structured that way. And I paid attention to common phrases. Then I asked my companion if I didn't understand something or didn't understand why they said it that way. I used the back pages of my daily planner to keep track of vocabulary and phrases I wanted to remember. That way I could study them throughout the day if I had a couple free minutes. You could also do this same thing with Preach My Gospel and the books in the missionary library.
- Another good idea for language study is to practice the vocabulary and phrases you'll use in a lesson with an investigator. Write out sentences or do role playing with your companion.
- Find out the vocabulary and some phrases for the things you are interested in, what you're studying in school, where you come from, what your family is like, etc. Then you'll actually be able to answer when members ask you questions about yourself.
- A comment by my cousin who has served a mission:
     For learning a language, read the whole Book of Mormon out loud in the mission language. Practice the sounds with certain words over and over. Have members tell you what to work on as far as pronunciation goes (even if you don't ask, they will probably tell you). And remember to apply D&C 11:21 with learning a language, to work on patience. That became one of my favorite scriptures. You need to study the language (and the lessons) in order to speak and teach well. 

Missionary work

- WORK, WORK, WORK. If you're feeling homesick, work. If you're feeling depressed, work. If you're feeling happy, work. Haha. But really. Work is the solution to everything when it comes to missionaries.
- Talk to EVERYONE. They'll drill this in your head at the MTC, but it's so true. When you're in the habit of talking to everyone you see, you will always have people to teach. It will probably make you go out of your comfort zone, but that's a mission for you. ;)
- Knocking on doors isn't the best way to find great golden contacts but it will help you learn how to teach and talk when you do find a golden contact.
- Learn how to preach repentance without passing judgement.
- I had a companion who had a goal to give away at least one Book of Mormon every day. It was AWESOME! I loved giving away Book of Mormons. Another of my companions had a gift when it came to giving them out. No one ever said no. Or hardly anyone anyways. It was amazing. We gave out tons those transfers. And in return, we had lots of people to teach. Now, my husband said that they only gave away Book of Mormons to people who were really interested. They didn't want people throwing them away. I can understand that, but being in Arizona, they had a lot more people who were really interested than we did. So you decide what you think is best for the people in your mission.
- One of the hardest things as a missionary was dealing with other people's agency. Seeing someone feel the spirit and then turn it down because of some random inconvenience? Yeah, it'll rip your heart out. So be prepared for that. At least as prepared as you can be. :-/
- You will experience the hardest, most depressing days of your life but you will also experience some of the most wonderful days of your life. Get ready for the roller coaster of a lifetime. :)

A few things from my husband:
- The easiest way to let someone know you love them is to tell them. The same applies for letting people know that God loves them. I was blessed on my mission to gain a very strong testimony of God's love for everyone and I made sure to tell people often. Coupled with nearly every testimony of a gospel principle was a testimony that I knew God loved that person, and that God did not implement any of his laws, principles, etc, except for on the principle of his great love for all of us, and his desire for us to return to him. I made sure that they knew and understood that God knew them personally and wanted them to come to know him personally. We are not like ants on the ground without name or identity, but to God you are His child, and He tracks you and watches over you with more fervor and care than your own earthly father. Telling people this profound truth is a powerful way of bringing the spirit to a lesson. It is a truth that even latter-day saints need to hear often.
- Learn this early - Teachify - Teach and Testify in the same sentences. Bear your testimony within your lesson by teaching with obvious faith. "And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes." (Mark 1:22) Remember, you are a messenger of God, given the call and chosen to preach repentance and salvation. You are a messenger of God! Do not be timid in your teaching, be bold and enthusiastic! Don not give a dry explanation of a commandment or principle, and then awkwardly shift into your testimony, teach in such a way so that before you even finish teaching the principle, they will already know you know it is true, and will wonder how they can know for themselves.
- Strive to feel God's love each and every day, and to spend a moment to appreciate it. Such moments result in a heart filled with gladness and quiet prayers of gratitude to God. Strive to speak with Him within your heart often and with sincerity.

Companions

Some tips on how to get along with companions! Those of you who have had roommates will have an advantage in this area.

- You will probably have at least one companion you will not get along with very well. You will also probably have at least one companion you become best friends with.
- You may have heard this before, but if you are mad at or not getting along with a companion, serve him/her. A good time to serve them is while they're in the shower. You can make their bed, make them breakfast, do their dishes, leave them notes of encouragement, etc. When my husband got mad at his companions, he would shine their shoes while they were sleeping. One of his companions had mighty shiny shoes, all the time...
- It always worked better for me to share food with my companion. It just made more sense. We would shop together and then split the cost at the end. Then we would usually cook and eat together. I did have a couple of companions who didn't want to share food. I felt like it was a lot harder and I wasted more food that way.
- It worked pretty well for me to split chores with my companions. For example, I had one companion who loved to cook and was really good at it, so she cooked and I did the dishes.
- Remember that your companion is human and they will make mistakes! They are on a mission for the same reason you are. They love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and are probably just trying their best. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love them so try to love them too!
- Everyone was raised differently and will do things differently. Don't throw a fit just because your companion is making rice wrong! It's okay! This may seem silly, but you will probably find yourself getting upset over the smallest things. Try to be understanding and know that sometimes different is good.
- You will learn something from each companion. Even if you don't know what that is until after you've returned home.
- If something bothers you, talk to your companion in a manner that does not drive the spirit away.
- The main character of "The Best Two Years" is a good example of a good missionary doing his best with a not-so-good missionary. He did not nag or chide his senior companion for his lack of enthusiasm, or his poor following of the rules. He was patient and made sure they worked every day. My husband's hardest companion was super concerned about following rules, to the point of driving the spirit away (kind of like the Pharisees), but some of his best companions were fairly relaxed. I'm not saying it is okay to break rules, but sometimes companionship unity is more important than minor infractions of rules. Learn to discern when an issue is worth discussing as a companionship and when perhaps the issue is not really an issue. Just like you wouldn't remodel a bedroom because of a nail in the wall, don't risk the peace of the companionship for what might be a minor issue... even if it may be annoying.
- Enjoy your time with your companion! You have someone to joke with, confide in, ponder with, explore gospel topics with, and generally bounce ideas with - all day long.

Financial

Just a bit of info for those of you who don't know how financial stuff works in the mission field.

In your first few days in the field, you will get a debit card for your Missionary Support Fund. The mission office will put a certain amount of money on that card every month (we got $120 each but it depends on the mission). This is your money to spend on groceries and other necessities for the month. Any souvenirs, clothes, etc. will need to be bought with a debit card from home. If we budgeted carefully, $120 just barely lasted one month for us. We didn't have to worry about paying rent or utilities or any other bills, just groceries and personal stuff. I had a friend who had to pay rent on her mission so I guess it just depends on where you are. The mission office gave them what they needed for rent every month in addition to the grocery allowance.

If/when you have family members and friends who would like to donate money to you while you're in the field, have them give the money to your parents who will then put it in the account associated with your debit card from home. You may have a hard time cashing checks, especially if you go foreign. And if you do go foreign, you will probably not have access to money exchange places. Another idea is to have your parents add money on your card for your birthday or other occasion to go buy something fun. You will only have a limited amount of time to shop, so don't expect to spend a lot. (Although I imagine most of you probably won't have a lot to spend anyways.)

Be sure to warn your bank/credit union that you will be going out of town so you don't have to deal with the possible fraudulent activity stuff.

Record Keeping

This is one of the most important things to do as a missionary. The people you teach and work with will probably be the thing you will want to remember most. Don't count on your amazing memory - keep records!

- Start writing in your mission journal before you even leave. Write down your feelings while you're getting ready to leave. Write down what it was like to open the mission call. Write about your setting apart. Write about how excited you are to leave and how terrified you are of the next 18 months/2 years. You may even want to write down dates and who was present at these events. These will be a lot of fun to read in the mission field and will keep you going on those hard days.
- Write in your journal EVERY DAY of your mission. Even if you don't follow any other piece of advice, follow this one. My brother-in-law challenged me to do this. I didn't do it my first couple of months, but after that I did. Even if it was one sentence, I would write something every day. Don't try to write everything down. It's a lot easier to write everything you want though when you stay caught up. I'm SO glad I did this. I love looking back and reading my journal. It's a lot of fun and brings back tons of memories. There are plenty of things I would never have written down and remembered if I hadn't been writing every single day.
- Write at least one entry in your mission journal after you get home. Write about what it's like being home again, things you miss, things you are struggling with, things you are happy and excited about. 
- Keep a copy of your patriarchal blessing and your farewell talk in the front of your journal. 
- Write names down! Including last names. Believe it or not, you will forget some of them. I had a spot at the front of my journal where I wrote down the names of everyone I taught (investigators and less actives). You could also have a spot for certain members you want to remember. It may be a good idea to put this list in two places in case you lose one. My husband wrote his list (including addresses and phone numbers) in the front of his Preach My Gospel, and then lost it. That list is gone forever. Like I said above, the people you teach will probably be the thing you will want to remember the most. Don't lose them.
- You might guess that my mission journal is one of my most prized possessions now and yours will hopefully be the same. Don't let anything happen to it! It'd probably be smart to scan/copy all of it when you're all done. 
- Take LOTS of pictures. And not just of you and your companion being silly in the apartment. ;) Take lots of pictures of investigators and members. Don't wait until the end of the transfer or you will probably miss someone. (Yes, I know this from experience. Believe me, I will always regret not having a picture of some of the people I worked with.)
- If you don't already have a camera, I would recommend one that comes with its own battery. Those batteries last a lot longer and are less of a pain. If you already have one with AA's or whatever, just make sure you have a back-up set with you at all times.
- The way I sent pictures home worked really well. My dad bought me two memory cards that were each small enough for all the pictures to fit on one CD. This made it really easy to get them transferred onto a CD and send it home. Then I could use the 2nd card while I waited for the CD to get home. Then after hearing from my mom and dad, I could erase the pictures off the first one.

Traveling

Especially for those of you who have not done much traveling in the past...

- Be sure to get really good and sturdy suitcases. I had a companion whose suitcase broke the first time she was transferred. Don't let that happen to you! The ideal would be light and sturdy. I think it would be worth paying a little extra for better suitcases. You may be using them a lot. Oh, and make sure they hook together. It makes dragging three suitcases around airports (and buses and trains, if applicable) by yourself A LOT easier if you can hook two of them together. And wheels are a MUST. No way you can get them around airports/buses/trains by yourself without wheels. Yes, you'll be with a companion and/or other missionaries, but they will often have suitcases of their own to tote around. 0
- Try not to use the extensions on the suitcases at first. You'll need the extra room later.
- Don't put all your books in your carry-on. It's tempting since they don't usually weigh the carry-on, but you won't be very happy carrying around a 50 pound carry-on. Trust me. I would recommend putting most of them in the middle-sized suitcase. The big suitcase reaches the 50 pound limit very quickly, even with just clothes. 
- It's always a good idea to put a change of clothes and some toiletries in your carry-on/backpack, especially if you're traveling internationally, in case your luggage gets lost/delayed. Also, if you do travel internationally, it's nice to be able to "freshen up" before getting off the plane.
- You are allowed to bring one personal item on the plane as well as a carry-on suitcase. An average sized backpack works well. It just has to be able to fit under the seat in front of you. You can put anything you'll want access to during the flight in this bag. It's a pain to access your carry-on mid-flight. Also, there are times when the airplane runs out of room and some people's carry-on suitcases have to go with the checked baggage. Then it'll really be difficult to access it mid-flight.
- Be sure to know the rules for bringing liquid (and toothpaste) in your carry-on/backpack. I usually just avoid putting any liquids in my carry-on except maybe a small thing of contact solution and a small thing of toothpaste. You can bring an empty water bottle and then fill it up at a drinking fountain after security, if you want.
- Be sure not to leave any other forbidden items in your carry-on/backpack. I lost a pair of scissors that way. And if you're traveling internationally, don't bring food with you. I got stopped by a drug dog in England because I had snacks in my backpack. Apparently that's a no-no. However, if you're not traveling internationally, I would recommend bringing snacks. They don't give you much food on the airplanes these days and airport food is way expensive.

Supplies

You'll get a list of supplies with your mission call, but here are a few things I recommend. (This is NOT a complete list. Just a few suggestions.)

- Get a laundry bag with backpack straps. I had one, and I loved it. It was especially nice at the MTC. It just worked really well to have my laundry on my back so I could have my arms free to carry other things. It depends on the area/mission, but I always had to got to a laundromat. It's best to plan for it just in case.
- A mission journal! This is an absolute MUST. See my "Record Keeping" post (click here) for more about that.
- Flip-flops or other slip-on sandals. These really come in handy when taking a shower and getting ready at the MTC. They also come in handy if you have a laundromat close by. You can just slip on your sandals and run over to change the laundry.
-VERY comfortable shoes. Make sure you love them. It's worth it to spend more on good shoes.
- Lots of music! The type of music you’ll be allowed to listen to will totally depend on your mission president. I would take as much music as you can that you think would be appropriate and then send home whatever isn’t approved. You’ll get tired of your music pretty quickly though so the more, the better. You can also have a family member or friend send you more music after you find out what is approved.

FOR SISTERS:

- It's okay not to only have the button-down collar shirts. You can certainly have them, but it's nice to have a variety. Layers are great because they give you that variety. If you will have cooler weather, nice sweaters work really well. I had a few sweaters I wore over top of my collared shirts. They add warmth and variety. It's also fun to have some colored undershirts.
- Skirts need to be about mid-calf length. Bring skirts with a variety of fabrics, with the climate of your mission in mind. Make sure they are not restrictive and easy to move around in. You may need to ride a bike or climb the stairs of a bus in them. Black, gray, and brown skirts are nice because they go well with many different shirts, but you can have some color too. Whether you can have patterned skirts or not and exactly how colorful they can be will depend on your mission president.
- You can totally bring more clothes than they tell you to. I brought the 6 outfits or whatever they said to bring and then found out all the other sister missionaries brought lots more than that. They just need to be able to fit in your suitcases. You will be able to buy clothes in the mission field on P-days (using money from home), but not at the MTC.
- Don't be afraid of colorful clothes. Yeah, they can't be crazy or anything, but they don't have to be boring and plain either. Try to have as much variety with your clothes as you can.

   

Preparing to Leave


(Okay, I don't know what's wrong with this post... the formatting goes all weird for some reason. It looks fine when I go edit it but then it looks weird on the actual blog. Sorry, but I don't know what to do about it.)

- Study, study, study! My bishop recommended a book called The Book of Mormon Made Easier by David J. Ridges (I think it has 3 parts). He has the Book of Mormon word for word in it but then adds definitions, histories, his own thoughts, etc. to help you understand it better. It takes a while to read, but you get a very thorough study of the Book of Mormon. Studying the Book of Mormon (whether you get this book or just study the Book of Mormon itself) is one of the best things you can do to prepare for a mission. Preach My Gospel and the books in the missionary library (Our Heritage, Our Search for Happiness, True to the Faith, and Jesus the Christ) are, of course, great study resources.

- Practice several different studying techniques and figure out which ones work best for you. Figuring this out now will certainly help you be one step ahead in your studying as a missionary. 

- Another thing you can do is to practice teaching from Preach My Gospel. For FHE (or whatever other gathering you find yourself in) teach your family/FHE group/friends one of the lessons, or any subject you find in PMG. You can pretend they're the investigators, or you can plan the lesson for members.

- Attend the temple as often as you can. Satan's influence on future missionaries is very strong. He will do anything he can to stop you. You will need the spirit that comes from attending the temple.

- If you don't know already, learn the basics of how to take care of a car. You know, what needs to be done on a regular basis, like checking the oil and things. And maybe even how to change a tire. This knowledge could really come in handy if you happen to get a car. (A note for sisters: ignore all the elders' jokes about sister missionaries and cars...)
- Also, if you don't know already, learn the basics of how to fix a bike. You may be in a bike area and may need to know things like how to change a tire. Or you might want to know hints like making sure to give it some lubricant every couple of months to help it ride better.
- Don't stress too much about learning (and remembering) car and bike stuff, but they are good to know. If you need help with them in the mission field, you can always call the mission office, your district leader or zone leaders, or a member. If you know a little about it though, you won't feel like a fool like I did.

- If you play the piano, or used to play the piano, be sure to learn how to play at least a few hymns (including at least one sacrament hymn). You may just be assigned to a branch or ward that has few musically inclined people. You don't want to have to go through the embarrassment of having the whole congregation sing acapella because you had to say "not really, not anymore" or "not any of the hymns" to the "do you play the piano" question.  District meetings will be great opportunities to practice playing while people are singing.

- I don't think this is as much of a problem as it used to be, and it may seem obvious, but I decided I better mention it. Know how to take care of yourself! Know how to cook, clean, do laundry, that sort of thing. I was completely dumbfounded to find out there were missionaries who did not know how to cook or do laundry. It would also be good to learn simple hand sewing tips. Like sewing on a button or how to hem.
- Also, learn how to go grocery shopping! It's not as easy as it looks. Go with your mom or older sibling and have them show you. Learn how to plan meals before you go and then go shopping for the ingredients. I thought I knew how to do these things but ended up struggling with it for my first few weeks. It's totally different going shopping for your mom than going shopping for yourself.
- Learn how to get along with people. Getting along with people you have little in common with goes far as a missionary.


**For Preparing to Leave Part 2, click here.
**For tips on how to stay focused as you prepare to serve a mission, click here.