Preparing A Missionary

Today my wife spoke in church.

Daniel receives his mission nametag from his mother

Daniel receives his missionary nametag from his mother

Our five children were born within seven years of each other so are really close in age. When they were small our favorite song in FHE was “I’m so glad when daddy comes home“.  Instead of a great big kiss at the end of the song, the kids would tackle dad and wrestle with him on the floor until one of the kids got hurt and then the song was over. Our other favorite song was “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission” when I have grown a foot or two. I hope by then I will be ready to teach and preach and work as missionaries do. I have been asked to talk on preparing a missionary. Our oldest son served in Santiago Chile West, the next son served in California Oakland Spanish speaking, the third son served in Mexico City North and our last son is serving in the Ulaanbaatar Mongolia mission.

I don’t have anything profound or new to share, just four simple things we did in our family.

1. Family Home Evening

I am glad to be able to teach primary to an amazing group of eight year old children in our ward. They are bright and happy and it is very apparent that these children are being taught the gospel in their home. They know how to say a prayer, they are learning to read the scriptures and starting to memorize the articles of faith. They have wonderful parents. These children have parents that follow the counsel we have all been taught about holding a regular FHE, scripture study and family prayer. We had times in our own family when we were consistent and able to do these things but there were other times when family scripture study, FHE or family prayer just didn’t happen. We had our share of teenagers that came to FHE and remained in a prone position on the floor with their eyes closed the entire time. But we never decided it wasn’t worth the effort and we never stopped trying.

2. Home Teaching

Jake tracting in Mexico.

Jake tracting in Mexico.

We have been fortunate to have the best home teacher in the stake for the past twenty years or so. During all the time he was a counselor in the stake presidency and then as our stake president, he never missed a month home teaching. I’m not sure how many home teachers are that faithful. We got to know all the Hulse boys over the years — young Loren, young Nathan and finally young Joseph. They learned to set up appointments by calling us on the phone or talking to us in person. They learned how to shake hands in greeting and how to prepare and give a message. I’m grateful for Brother Hulse and his example and love for our family. I’m also grateful to my husband, Richard, and the families in our ward that allowed our boys to home teach and learn these skills.

President Monson said:

Brethren, is every ordained teacher given the assignment to home teach? What an opportunity to prepare for a mission. What a privilege to learn the discipline of duty. A boy will automatically turn from concern for self when he is assigned to “watch over” others. (Thomas S. Monson, “The Call to Serve,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 47–49)

3. Savings Account

We were our children’s employers while they were young so they could learn to manage money. As Richard was the main force behind this topic, he agreed to write how the savings accounts were managed:

A black hole has a one-way surface, called an event horizon, into which objects can fall, but out of which nothing can escape. It is called “black” because it absorbs all the light that hits it, reflecting nothing.

Thus a black hole mission savings account will not allow any deposited money to escape. The one exception made is for a mission.

We set up mission savings accounts at the bank for all the children when they were young. The accounts were set up so that their Dad’s signature was required to withdraw money. The children were required to put 50% of any earnings into their account. When they were old enough for Scouts, ten dollars was paid into their accounts for each completed merit badge. An Eagle required 21 merit badges which meant each boy earned a deposit of $210.

Remember Richard wrote this part for me:

One day my wife said the children wanted to change the mandated percentage. It sounded like a rebellion and my wife appeared to be siding with the children. I called a family council and planned for the worst. The new percentage that the children wanted was to change it from 50% to 40%. So after tithing they would still retain half their money to spend. I pretended to reluctantly agree and was happy they would still be saving a substantial proportion of their earnings.

After a few years I removed the percentage requirement but the children still contributed heavily into their black hole accounts. Their percentage would sometimes be much higher than the old 40% rate.
All four boys earned all their mission money this way. Our daughter, Sarah, was exempt from saving for a mission but the account was still a black hole. She could withdraw money for parental approved activities like marriage and buying Fathers Day gifts.

She used it to go the Europe instead.

We tried to help some of the children with dating and other expenses to allow them to focus on saving for their missions. One of our sons worked at Lagoon in Group Foods for a summer when he was 15. He went to work happy and came home covered with grease from having slaved over a hot grill frying hamburgers all day. But he came home just as happy as when he left because he was earning money for his mission.

4. School and Church Activities

Most of our children studied a foreign language in Junior High. President Hinckley said:

Study a foreign language if you have opportunity to do so. You may never be called to a land where that language is spoken, but the study will have given you a better understanding of your own tongue or of another tongue you may be asked to acquire. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Tithing: An Opportunity to Prove Our Faithfulness,” Ensign, May 1982, 40)

Paul with a little girl.

Paul with a little girl.

I’m grateful to the good youth leaders from our ward that served over the years. They took the boys camping even in the winter and organized terrific youth camps and treks. There were lots of great service projects that helped the boys learn to work and serve others.  Participating in ward activities, attending church and going to seminary helped build the enthusiasm for serving a mission.

What young man wouldn’t look forward to the adventure of eating sheep head, goat stomach, and horse pizza? Daniel, who is serving in Mongolia, also looks forward to the day his eyelashes freeze his eyes shut. When I asked Daniel what helped prepare him to serve a mission, he wrote:

To Mom:

The things that helped me prepare for a mission the most were the small and simple things we were taught to do every week and day. Scripture study, prayer, attending church, and opportunities to serve others. I am happy that I always liked going to church. I can’t really remember a day when I wanted to stay home and not go. I learned that from Dad and your example of always going yourselves. Also I don’t know how you taught me, or where I learned it from, but the discipline to wake up every morning is very helpful. I just remember always waking up myself with my alarm for school every day, and giving me that responsibility early was probably a good idea. That seems to be a struggle for some missionaries.

After turning 18 years old, going to mission prep class each week really helped. It made me want to go and got me excited about it. I learned a lot from there, especially how to take notes from teachers in that kind of setting, as in the MTC there is tons of things to take notes on.

Other important preparation was just the fact that I knew Dad and you loved me and always wanted to help. Sharing of your testimony and love for the gospel were all things that influenced me to get ready to serve a mission.

Daniel is not allowed to proselyte but serves the Mongolian people by teaching English and can share the gospel with those that express an interest. He writes:

We did two big service projects this week. One was on Friday for a member in the branch. She needed her fence to be moved since the ground where it was no longer could support it. We had most of the members in our district get to work. As I was working it reminded me of my summer job. I had the thought that, “I worked all summer earning money for my mission digging fence holes, and now I’m on my mission digging fence holes.” It made me laugh. We were able to finish the project and it looked good.

I wish I could show you a picture of the fence they moved. It consisted of some logs with the rusted tops of barrels connected eight lids across and four lids down. It is an interesting structure but I wouldn’t call it a fence.

In 1993 Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated Mongolia for the preaching of the gospel, and the Ulaanbaatar Branch was organized that same year. Today, the Mongolian members of our Church number 9,000, reportedly the largest group of Christians in the country.

Couple Missionaries

Steven's welcome home sign as he returns from his mission.

Steven's welcome home sign as he returns from his mission.

We have been counseled to get out of debt. President Threadgold said he hoped we all had a 401-M account in place in preparation for our mission. I’d like to share an experience from the blog of a couple now serving in Mongolia.

The people of Mongolia sometimes seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place. Universities and Colleges here are not as robust as we find elsewhere, like in the States. They are improving but still have some catching up to do. So, many companies located here in the capitol city of Ulaanbaatar ask for a college degree from a foreign university in order to qualify for their best jobs. But it is very difficult for most here to be able to handle that kind of expense. Particularly when a young family is involved. Sometimes, fathers have left their families to secure the needed degree, something we worry much about.

Then, a couple of months ago, Brigham Young University – Hawaii campus announced the offering of new online classes which students could register for and take over the Internet. What a tremendous blessing! Students can actually complete up to three years of college over the Internet. The final year they must spend on campus. But that is much better than four years!

Interest was high here, as one might expect. We knew the tremendous benefit this could be and tried to pass the word around. We would learn later that Mongolia would account for 50% of all enrollments in the entire Asia area!

The couple wanted to help by setting up a computer lab in the mission home. They tried lots of different ways to get the needed computers.

We finally contacted the BYU-Hawaii administrator over the online program, Brother Griffiths. He said they were in the process of upgrading computers and he would bring them personally. We worried about customs and the enormous charges that might be incurred.  We finally greeted Brother Griffiths as he made his way through the airport. We weren’t seeing what we had expected by way of boxes, etc. in which computers might be transported. So we figured they might still be making their way through customs and we would need to pick them up somewhere.

But finally we asked him how it went with the computers. And he said, “Great! They’re all right here in my bags!” He had packed them all in his luggage, only needing to pay for one extra suitcase! They didn’t even bother to ask him his name. Just checked him through without even saying “goodbye”! And he had twelve computers — six laptops and six desktops without monitors. Twelve of them!

This is the impact just one couple is making by serving a mission.

A quarterly newsletter is emailed to us telling us news from the Mongolia mission. This was recently written:

Re-upping is something that two of our senior missionary couples are doing. Elder and Sister Olpin have recently returned from a 3-month break in the US to serve a second mission in Mongolia. Elder and Sister Anderson finished their first mission in Mongolia on September 2. They will be back in November to serve their second mission here. Our complement for senior couples is 14, but we have never had more than 11 couples in the country during the past 2 years — right now we have 7. We are constantly pestering the Mission Department to send more.

Elder Tingey said that the senior couples are the scaffolding for building the Church. This is so apparent in Mongolia. We love our senior couples!

In the D&C we read “Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind”. (D&C 64:34)

In the May 2001 Ensign Elder Robert D. Hales said:

What is the best way to teach our children — and grandchildren — light and truth?  What is the most important way to set our families, both immediate and extended, in order?  Is it possible that in spiritual matters our example speaks louder than our words?  Temple marriage, family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening are all vitally important. But there is another dimension — the dimension of service. If we are willing to leave our loved ones for service in the mission field, we will bless them with a heritage that will teach and inspire them for generations to come. (Robert D. Hales, “Couple Missionaries: A Time to Serve,” Ensign, May 2001, 25)

I hope they call me on a mission, when I have shrunk an inch or two. I hope by then I will be ready to teach and preach and work as missionaries do.

Sarah inside the Colosseum on her European tour.

Sarah inside the Colosseum on her European tour.


  1. Looks like it was a great talk! I wish we would have been there. You’ve raised tremendous children!

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