"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
April 25, 2013
Senior Mission Decision
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


My wife and I have recently retired. I served a mission in my youth, and now my wife is expressing a desire to serve a senior mission.

Because of several issues including finances, health, and an unmarried son still living at home, I cannot see that this is possible.

What do you suggest?


From a practical point of view, there are a number of things you can do.

You can make a spreadsheet to see if your finances could support a mission. You can economize in order to afford the expense. You can ask your son to watch the house (he’s an adult—right?). You can visit your doctors to see what kind of service would be appropriate.

Then you can meet with your bishop to find out what kinds of missions are available. Could you serve in a local bishop’s storehouse, temple, or family history center? Could your wife serve locally but you not? Could you serve a shorter, 12-month mission?

According to my friend who just got back from a senior mission, there is never a perfect time to go. Something is always going to come up—grandbabies, weddings, graduations, even family difficulties. You just have to go. And there will be blessings for your service.

So if your objections to serving another mission truly are practical, take the above suggestions to heart and find a way to serve that fits your situation.

But if you simply don’t wish to serve a mission right now, you have a different problem. Your problem is that you wife wants to do something together—something noble and good—that you don’t want to do.

I think the first thing you should do is hear her out. When she talks about a mission, listen to her without pointing out obstacles or rebutting her arguments. Even if you are dead set against a mission, you owe her the courtesy of listening to her position.

Does she really want to serve a mission—or does she just want to spend time with you, or travel, or try something new? Does she want to do it now—or is it an idea for the future? Does she feel a very strong desire to do missionary work? Has she had specific experiences that have prompted her desire to serve?

You need to listen to her to know.

The second thing you should do is be honest about your feelings and reservations. The fact is, your wife can’t go away on a mission without you, and you shouldn’t misrepresent your interest and give her the impression that you are ready to fill out the papers when you are not.

So when she asks what you think about a mission, acknowledge that you understand her desire to go. Then express your concerns. “I just don’t want to,” is a valid concern. So are the more practical obstacles of health and finances. (I’m not sure why your adult son who lives at home is an obstacle. If you would like him to not live with you, going on a mission seems ideal.)

If your wife doesn’t ever ask you what you think about a mission, you should bring it up. “Dear,” you might say, “We’ve been talking a lot about a mission lately. It seems like you really want to go. But I’m having some doubts.” Then tactfully but clearly and honestly describe your reservations.

She might propose solutions for your reservations. If so, seriously consider them. But in the end, you don’t have to agree with them or arrive at the same conclusions she has.

Be honest about your reasons. If you simply don’t want to go, or if you feel that your youthful mission was sufficient for you, say so. Don’t use finances or another “solvable” problem as an excuse. It will give her false hope of a practical solution where there is none.

Third, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that communication alone will solve your problem. It will not.

It’s a very popular belief that if people could only communicate effectively, all disagreements would melt away and all conflicts would be resolved. This idea is completely false.

A person can completely understand another person’s point of view or opinion but still disagree with or be disappointed by it. Likewise, it is possible to perfectly and clearly communicate selfish, unreasonable, or implausible demands. And it is untrue that in a dispute, the better communicator deserves to get his way.

But communication can ensure that you understand each other’s positions and desires. And that might lead to a solution.

For example, you might be willing to trade. You will happily go on a 12-month mission if she will cheerfully go on that six-week safari you have always dreamed of.

Perhaps you would both like to attend the temple together once a week or twice a month.

Perhaps you will agree to re-visit the mission discussion in another year or two, after you have settled into and enjoyed your retirement for a while.

Or perhaps, just maybe, your excellent communication will result in one of you being genuinely persuaded to the other’s point of view.

Finally, don’t harden your position on not serving. Don’t let it become part of your identity or your relationship: “My wife wants to go, but I don’t.” Instead, keep your mind open to the possibility of serving some day, so you are ready and willing if the inclination ever strikes.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!

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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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