“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And, the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt


Eleanor Roosevelt

Missionaries are asked to do two seemingly contradictory things: to be independent and to be completely obedient to mission rules. Rules governing everything from what time to get up in the morning to how to dress, rules which seem to control every aspect of their lives.


Some have the philosophy, “There are so many rules, you can’t possibly obey all of them. Don’t bother trying.”


Yet, that is exactly what is asked of each of these incredible young men and women. At a time in their lives where everything within them is rebelling and seeking to define themselves as individuals, they are being asked for exact obedience and to submit their independent wills to a common purpose.


They have to wrestle with selfish desires, pride, and every other natural feeling in order to follow mission rules.


Why? Why would it matter if a young man has facial hair or if a young woman has teal hair?


The purpose is so that these young adults come closer to the Lord Jesus Christ through following His perfect example of exact obedience. Through their choice to mold themselves, through the principle of self-discipline, to do all that God has asked of them, they imitate their Savior.  


There are no severe punishments for small acts of disobedience. Missionaries can actually get away with quite a few smaller infractions. This is as it should be. Obedience with severe consequences is not difficult. It doesn’t take a lot of self-discipline to obey something, which, if disobeyed, would result in a punishment. Self-governance happens when there is no severe consequence. This is where you learn the principle of obedience, recognize it is from God, and choose, of your own accord to give 110% to obeying.


In each of our lives, there will be something that will stand between what the Lord expects of us. We know what we should do, and we know what we want to do—we have to make a decision. It is at this point that we can look to the Savior, the perfect example of obedience in all things. We can choose to follow His example in perfect obedience, or we can choose to go our own way. That’s what this life is about, isn’t it? To choose to follow God in all things, or to choose to go our own way.


It takes self-discipline to be obedient in all things. It also takes desire. It takes the desire to truly give the Lord your everything, in order to receive the Holy Ghost’s assistance. We have to have the Spirit’s help to submit to the Lord. We need the Spirit’s insights into where we fall short. We need the comfort of knowing that even when we do fall short, we are not a lost cause. We need the hope and strength from God to know that as we continue to try to submit to His will, He will help us and we will see miracles.


Exact obedience also takes a determination not to even get close to breaking a rule. There are those who will walk along the edge of obedience, occasionally stepping across the line before laughingly jumping back to safety. But is this wise?


I know of a young man who, years ago, served a mission. He mocked those who faithfully tried to keep every rule. He was likable and made many friends with other missionaries in his district with his quick wit and willingness to laugh at the difficulties mission life presented. Yet, he also hurt many missionaries with his derogatory comments about their willingness to do whatever was asked of them.


After two years, when he returned home, he was much the same as when he had left—still determined that rules were not for him. Years later, he is no longer attending any church, feeling that religion is for those who are close-minded and brainwashed. He struggles in his career, often lashing out angrily at those in authority. He has been in and out of relationships with friends, family, and loved ones. Those around him love the humor and intelligence, yet the arrogant attitude of always being in the right is difficult to navigate.


This young man did not ever learn the life lesson to put something greater before self. This is a life skill. In business and in relationships, there will come moments when you will need to put your own desires second to the greater goal.


Obedience on a mission teaches missionaries to put the mission before self. The extent a missionary chooses to implement this tool of obedience will directly impact the extent the Lord can bless the missionary.


To read more of Emlee Taylor’s Missionary Mom moments, click here.

I began this article with a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, expressing that our choices are our own. Our choices reflect our inner philosophy, and eventually determine who we will become. May each of us choose to become as our Savior, the perfect example of exact obedience.


“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And, the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt


About Emlee Taylor
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years. 

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