I love lists! I love to write down what I plan on doing and crossing off tasks as they are finished. Sometimes, I will write down stuff I’ve already done, just so I can have the satisfaction of crossing off the chores! A cathartic release happens when I see a list of crossed off responsibilities.
When I have a goal stubbornly refusing to be crossed off the list, it gnaws at me. I feel let down, as though I’ve somehow failed as a successful human because the goal remains glaringly un-crossed-off!
Our missionary has been serving in an area for over a month where the work refuses to move forward. Doors are knocked, invitations extended, yet very little progress materializes. Staying positive and fully engaged has been difficult.
What tool measures if a missionary is successful in his mission? Is there a sliding ruler that measures successes and failures in mission life?
Statistically, our missionary is not successful. The numbers are almost as low as the temperatures in the North Pole. Invitations are extended and they are doing everything they can, yet missionaries cannot control someone’s choice to accept their message.
If success is measured by the ruler of responsibilities, similar to promotions in the work force, it might look like this:
Junior Companion → Senior Companion →Trainer →District Leader →Zone Leader →Assistant to the President
Given this as the measuring standard, our missionary has recently been demoted.
He was serving as senior companion and district leader, before becoming a junior companion to a new companion in a new area.
Has my son failed as a missionary? Has his mission trajectory plummeted, similar to our bank account during family vacations?
The answer is a resounding, “NO! It does not matter WHERE you serve, or in what capacity, only HOW you serve.”
This is what I write to him, to try to buoy his flagging spirits, but I know this is not enough. He faces daily rejection. He sets goals, only to see them shot down, through no fault of his own.
I think this is a lesson each of us on the path of discipleship learns for ourselves: to give the Lord everything, even when there is zero possibility of any personal gain, because you love God more than you love achieving success.
Going through this learning process, we question, “Lord, why? What is wrong with me? Why am I not given a chance?” We question our place before God, we question our worthiness. After all, if I am giving God my absolute everything, shouldn’t I be given leadership responsibility? In giving my absolute best, I am trying to earn that stamp of approval that comes from God through a calling of responsibility.
We’ve all heard the stories shared over the pulpit of someone who has gone astray, then returns to activity. The story always ends with the happy ending of, “And then they were called to be bishop/relief society president!” So, that must mean that a calling indicates worth and worthiness before God, right?
I’ve never heard someone say, “She was someone everyone admired and respected, as she led our ward in emergency preparedness.”
So … if giving the Lord our all does not result in a certain calling, then we’ve failed, right? The Lord doesn’t need us and we should just pack it in and go home.
You might laugh a bit at my examples, but they are spot on. We have a culture that, too often, mimics the world. Success is measured by a ‘promotion.’
So, how is a missionary to move forward when seeming failure surrounds them on all sides?
The short answer? GRIT. Determination. Tenacity. We dig down within ourselves and find ways to keep doing what needs to be done, even with no victory in sight.
Let me give an example. I am a long distance runner. Sometimes a run of 5 miles will fly by—the weather perfect and my body cooperating. It is a glorious, wonderful experience. However, most of the time, any run longer than half a mile requires me to play mental games with myself.
I will play loud music with a strong beat, focusing on the beat. I will give myself target points along the trail—just make it to that tree. Then I will set another target point. I will mentally plan what I’m going to reward myself with at the end of the run: a hot shower, chocolate milk, or even a social media post bragging on finishing that day’s run. Whatever it takes to finish strong, that’s what I do.
So, how does a missionary push through these hard times? Same way. Commit to finishing strong, then look for ways to encourage yourself to move forward.
Maybe you’re standing on a porch with loud mariachi music blaring from the home, yet the homeowners are pretending not to be home. Indulge in a dance before moving onto the next home! Maybe you feel strongly that you’re supposed to hit a certain area, only to see that it is a gigantic apartment complex. Keep knocking, it’ll be the last apartment that opens with a welcome.
Why is this? Why is the journey so hard? Because we have to prove ourselves to the Lord. We need to prove that we want this. We want to be of use to Him and we want it more than anything else. If we engage for any reason other than His glory, we’re in it for the wrong reason.
Instead of measuring yourself with a ruler, why not try a compass? A compass stays pointing north. Keep yourself pointing toward the Savior. If you are good before Him, then nothing else matters.
As long as you are willing to focus on repenting and giving Heavenly Father your everything through serving others, you ARE a success! You are doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing! Stay determined to finish strong. Stay tenaciously full of grit. Keep your goals high and your spirits higher!
Preach My Gospel says: “Discouragement will weaken your faith. If you lower your expectations, your effectiveness will decrease, your desire will weaken, and you will have greater difficulty following the Spirit.”
Again, according to Preach My Gospel, you can know you have been a successful missionary when you:
Feel the Spirit testify to people through you.
- Love people and desire their salvation.
- Obey with exactness.
- Develop Christlike attributes.
- Warn people of the consequences of sin. Invite them to make and keep commitments.
- Go about doing good and serving people at every opportunity, whether or not they accept your message.
“When you have done your very best, you may still experience disappointments, but you will not be disappointed in yourself. You can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you”
To my son and all of those missionaries engaged in the good work of God, let me add my voice to these words. If you are doing these things, you have already achieved success.
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.