"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
January 9, 2013
Musings on Missionaries - by Michela Hunter
by College Voices
Michela Hunter
Freshman, Brigham Young University

It’s 5:23 in the morning and I’m on my first plane of the day, waiting to take off and watching the other passengers file into their seats. Most are bleary-eyed and quietly polite to one another. Others are grumpy. They let the flight staff know it.

It’s been a good long three weeks at home, but I’m about ready to return to BYU. It’ll be good to see my new friends again, good to get back into the swing of classes. I’ve been far too idle lately. As the last few weeks have, understandably, not really provided many BYU experiences for me to record here, the main plan for today is to just write and let my mind wander.

And wander it does. Or rather, wander to a specific area of ramblings. Today I have missionaries on my mind. I suppose that’s not a huge surprise, seeing how a few months ago President Monson made an announcement that dramatically changed the lives of thousands of youth around the globe. Missionaries don’t usually occupy my thoughts, but today, when so many of my friends are either on missions or preparing to go serve them very soon, it’s something that’s been at the forefront of my mind quite a lot recently.

For some reason during the past few weeks at home, the subject of missionaries seemed to crop up incessantly. My aunt, who came to stay with us for a few days, provided us with many updates about my cousin Benjamin, who’s serving in Las Vegas right now; I’m getting invited to mission farewells by people who I both know well and hardly know at all; and, more and more during the break, I would talk to or hear about friends in my home stake, many of them women, who have decided to take advantage of the early missionary ages and serve missions next year.

In addition to this, five of my six FHE brothers have their mission calls and I think about them constantly; one I said good-bye to for the last time at the end of the semester, two will be around for a little longer but won’t be returning to BYU for winter semester, and two will leave right around the end of the semester. I have previously mentioned my FHE brothers as devious schemers who bait people with ice cream and steal their microwaves, and they are, but all six of them are also exceptional young men who will be incredible missionaries.

It’s very strange to be so finely tuned to all things missionary when before I didn’t really pay them much thought. They were just our missionaries, who I’d often see out knocking on doors and (my friends told me this later) who were the reason many of my high school friends would hide in their basements and pretend not to be home.

I haven’t been at BYU long enough to know how drastic of a change the announcement has made, but there is definitely more talk about missions on campus than there was during the first month or so I was there. Most of the excitement has died down, but there are jokes and Facebook memes that still linger, people changing their plans, new mission calls coming in for members of my ward constantly. The testimonies during the past few Fast Sunday testimony meetings have been largely about missions. It doesn’t surprise me that the freshman class is the one who was affected the most, nor does it surprise me that so many of the people I know are changing their plans and heading out earlier than they anticipated.

While I was home for the holidays and while my aunt and cousin Aubrey were visiting, I went with my family to see the Christmas lights at the Washington D.C. Temple. Every year, the Visitors’ Center borrows international nativity sets from members in the area and displays them in one of the rooms; these, too, we went to see.

When I walked into the Visitors’ Center, a place my parents had been bringing me to my whole life, it was jarring to see that while I was gone, the layout that they had had since before I can remember had been torn down and completely redesigned and replaced. It was fun to explore the new displays, really something else to see iPads and touch-screens that allowed visitors to learn about different aspects of the gospel.

One of the rooms, which caught my eye pretty quickly, was visible through a pair of thick glass doors. The words “Eight Stories” printed on the outside caught my eye, and judging by the fact that inside there were pictures of eight young men and women bearing missionary name tags on the walls, it had something to do with missionaries. Inside, on a wall bearing what looked like hundreds of the name tags of missionaries who had served all over the world, three widescreen TVs were playing the stories of each of these eight missionaries, how their missions had changed them, things they had learned, things they had struggled with. There were three long couches in front of these TV screens, and an iPad was set up somewhere in the middle with a screen displaying each of their faces, so you could select a specific person’s story to play if you wanted.

We watched these videos for a little while. They were powerful. They made my aunt tear up. They showed the true power of missionary service and the value it has, both for the missionary and the people he or she teaches.

My testimony of missionary work had never been as strong as it became that day. Up to this point, missionary service was something I only thought about once in a while; but the Prophet’s announcement and the changes in the atmosphere at BYU that followed have rewritten the way I look at it.

There is a reason that the ages were changed, and the change has impacted most if not all of the other freshmen, particularly the women, that I know at BYU. Some of them knew instantly, when the prophet made his announcement, that they wanted to serve missions. Some took a little longer to decide but decided they, too, wanted to go. And some, after reexamining their life’s goals and plans, decided that they needed to stay here.

Regardless of whether someone is on a mission or not, they will find countless opportunities to share the gospel, be it in the mission field, to friends and coworkers, or within their own families. There are people here at BYU who, without their even knowing it, have been missionaries in their examples to me. Whether someone takes advantage of those opportunities is, of course, up to them. But that's the wonderful thing about missionary service – that it’s universal. And it can be a part of anyone's life, no matter who they are or where in the world they find themselves.


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