Note from the site editor, Jimmy Smith: Though they probably wouldn’t consider themselves experts, my parents know a lot about preparing youth for a mission. They sent eight sons on a mission. So I recently asked my dad to send me his thoughts on preparing children to serve full-time missions, and this is what he wrote.
1. Love the Lord
“If the parents love the Lord with all their heart, might, mind and strength, then the children will see this, and they will be most likely to emulate the underlying faith and devotion of their parents…Children often don’t fully appreciate the devotion of their parents until the kids grow up. But still, when the parents have ‘an eye single to the glory of God,’ the kids recognize this…No sermons can undo the actions of a parent who is not truly committed to serve the Lord with all his/her heart.”
“Only by adhering to this first and great commandment can a family expect to have the Spirit in their home with sufficient frequency to make that home special. The parents who keep this first and great commandment can make their homes a bit of heaven on earth. Such homes are, of course, an important temple in the lives of our children.”
“The conversation of parents who love the Lord with all their hearts will regularly turn to the most important issues and themes of life: the purpose of life; testimony of God and faith in Him; the blessings from the Word of God, including the Book of Mormon and modern revelation; cherishing the words of living prophets; being a hard worker; giving a significant portion of one’s life to church and community service.”
“They receive the companionship of the Holy Ghost, which fills the soul with hope and happiness and love and the desire to serve others. This greatest of all gifts—the gift of a loving heart—comes to those who truly love the Lord with all their heart…These people then become the most grateful and humble and loving people in the world. Their gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ and their devotion to Him become powerful parts of their character.”
2. Read the Book of Mormon
“Encourage your children to read the Book of Mormon at an early age—10 and 11 is not too young. Then they need to re-read it when their 12 or 13. Reading the Book of Mormon brings many spiritual insights and witnesses. There is no substitute for this.” Encourage them to read the Book of Mormon individually and as in family scripture study.
3. Keep the Sabbath Day Holy
“Sabbath observance is perhaps the most important commandment to help prepare for a mission. I would suggest having family home evening FHE on Sunday as well as on Monday. FHE is a perfect family activity for Sunday: it causes the family to focus on the Lord, on the scriptures and on spiritual things.”
“Participate in important community activities. If we are to be a light to the world, we will want to interact with our neighbors and friends. We cannot share the gospel with non-member friends if we do not interact with any non-members. I think we, as a church, can do better in reaching out to others to just be friends—to participate with others in worthwhile activities or causes. This will result in missionary opportunities. When our children see this example, it will help them to know how to develop relations with non-member friends—which is one of the keys to missionary work.” In many cases this community involvement will be through sports, music, theatre, academics, and other activities.
5. Listen to Good Music
“I have benefited tremendously from listening to great music—I’m speaking of classical music and Tabernacle Choir recordings. Such music should be heard regularly in our homes. Much of it is powerful, prayerful, worshipful music. Parents should want their kids exposed to this. While some kids shun this at first, after a while they learn to appreciate it. On my mission, I found that I often reflected on and hummed or sang the inspired words of scripture that was put to music and sung by the Tabernacle Choir…This was a great source of inspiration.”
“In conclusion, I don’t suppose there is any finite list of what to do and what not to do to prepare one’s children to go on missions. The starting point may be for parents to desire this for their children with all of their hearts. If we realize the life-changing and saving effect that the mission experience will bring to our children, we will do all we can to prepare them to have this opportunity/challenge.”