A guest post by Mette Harrison on Jana’s Flunking Sainthood blog caused me to ask the question in the title of myself. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what the answer was.
The one thing I was pretty sure it wasn’t was having dreams of being another Ammon, some incredible missionary who would convert hordes of people to the faith. I’m too much of a realist to think that was going to happen (and indeed, it didn’t). So why did I go? Upon reflection, it was probably some cocktail of the following:
- (Unstated) familial expectation. I don’t remember really talking about my going on a mission with my family; rather, it was always an unstated assumption. Of course I would be going. The only explicit discussion of it was when my father talked about finances. His deal with me when I went to college was he would give me four years’ worth of tuition at BYU in a lump sum (so no covering increases), and that was it, I was on my own for the rest. On the mission front he said he would cover $2,000 and I would be responsible for the rest. I went from 1977-79, before cost equalization, so if I had gone to London or some such I would have been in trouble. But no, I went to Colorado, and in a couple of areas we lived rent-free in members’ basements, so while my mission cost more than $2,000 it wasn’t a lot more. (And in fact my Dad never tried to collect on the excess over two grand that he paid.)
- My friends were all going. Both at BYU and back home in DeKalb, Illinois, virtually all of my church friends were going on missions themselves. It was just the thing to do, so I did it, too.
- Missionaries showing me the ropes. We happened to have a couple of really outstanding missionaries when I was like a senior in high school. They were just cool, cool guys, and they took me tracting several times and talked to me about what it was like to serve a mission. I genuinely admired those guys, and they gave me a certain comfort level that I could actually do it myself.
- I wanted to get married someday. I know what I’m about to say is going to sound kind of ridiculous. But I seriously had the idea that no Mormon girl would ever marry me if I didn’t serve a mission. While the notion seems absurd to me now, at the time it seemed very believable. BYU girls were acculturated to strongly prefer RMs, and I guess I sort of absorbed that bit of culture. Going on a mission was the price one had to pay to get married.
None of this is the great spiritual feast of motivation we like to imagine is at the root of a decision to serve a mission. But even if they weren’t spiritual reasons, they were reasons enough, and I went (and I’m glad that I did).
So now I’m really curious. What made you decide to go on a mission? Was it a hard decision, or a no-brainer for you? Did you have more of a spiritual take on the question than I did? Are you glad you went, or do you have regrets for some reason? Was the mission about what you expected, or did it surprise you in some way? Tell us your stories.