I've had an idea rolling around in my head ever since my dad put it there. He tends to do that- put ideas in there that make me want to be better than I am. The idea deals with raising boys who, in my LDS culture, are brought up to know that someday they will have the opportunity to go on a mission. Girls have the opportunity as well and today more of them are serving in that capacity than ever before. The idea is to change the terminology we use from "going on a mission" to "Becoming a Missionary."
Growing up, I often heard talk about "going on a mission," and it always felt like a faraway, distant thing that guys would eventually do. There was talk of preparation, but nothing incredibly concrete. It was kind of an abstract idea. Now that I'm raising boys who will eventually go on missions themselves, I want it to be different. I don't want them to approach the end of high school and suddenly be hit with the idea that they need to hurry and turn into a missionary because the time is here. I think that is overwhelming and believe it is evident as you look at missions that deal with immature, unprepared young men who hopefully grow up quickly and figure it out, but more often become overwhelmed and either suffer through a negative experience or throw in the towel and go home. That is not what a mission is supposed to be.
Instead of having going on a mission be some abstract thing that will happen in the future, we work now on becoming a missionary. Both physically and spiritually. Beckham gave a talk on this topic Sunday and considering the fact that he is five, it was pretty simple. What does a missionary do? They teach about Jesus, and they serve. In order to teach about Jesus, you need to know Him. Reading our scriptures and developing a relationship with our Savior is the best way to put yourself in a position to teach about Him. There are opportunities to serve as a missionary would now, we don't need to wait until we are 19 years old to help those around us.
How does a missionary act? Nice, kind, respectful. They have beyond-minimal social skills and carry themselves with confidence. How does a missionary look? Clean. They take showers or baths and they brush their teeth. Habits my five-year-old understands and can easily find success with. A missionary is uplifting, not critical. A missionary follows rules, both mission rules and God's commandments. Beckham is aware of both rules in our home and at his school and is learning that following them brings happiness and blessings and the opposite invites unwanted consequences.
Can a missionary take his mom on his mission with him? The primary kids thought that was funny. But if she doesn't go, who is going to cook his meals, or wash his clothes of keep his bathroom clean? These are all skills we can learn now so that when the time comes to physically enter the mission field, it can be done with excitement and confidence rather than trepidation. I have a few friends with sons who think of their households as mini-MTCs, or mission training centers. They go through their days knowing that they are grooming the Lord's servants and that when the time comes for them to go, it will not be a rough transition because these boys have already become missionaries.
I believe the same concept can apply to other areas of life, like being a college student. If we are raising hard-workers who love to learn, transitioning to college life won't be a major shock to the system. They simply transfer the student they have already become to a new physical place- one with even more opportunity.
When I get overwhelmed at the thought that I'm responsible for teaching my children everything they need to know, this idea gives me a little peace. I can simply focus on what I am able to do now that will help them become great missionaries. So we read our scriptures and pray together before bed, and they help put dinner together. They sort and change the laundry and they wipe down the bathrooms and even if I come behind them and do it again, it's a start.