Missions are a choice, not a requirement

I’m a girl (obviously), and I have not served a mission — nor do I plan on serving a mission.

Before I continue, let me say that I am by no means saying that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should not serve missions. I think missions are wonderful experiences to build a testimony and bring others unto Christ.

They’re wonderful experiences — just not for me.

I grew up in the Church, and I like to believe that I align myself fairly well with standards the Church has set for us, but I do not think we should judge others for not serving missions.

Recently on my way to class, a stranger struck up a conversation with me about the arrows in my backpack for the archery class I’m taking this semester.

He asked me about my classes and what I’m majoring in. When I answered the obligatory “get-to-know-you” questions, he asked a simple question.

“Have you served your mission yet?”

Mind you, he said “your mission” not “a mission,” subtly implying that everyone is required to serve a mission.

After replying that no, I was not planning to serve a mission, he proceeded to question my worthiness and if that was the reason I wouldn’t be serving.

Missions are not required — for anyone.

Young men are strongly urged to serve missions, and sisters are suggested to serve if they feel it is right, but no one is required to serve.

Presidents Thomas S. Monson, Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of the LDS Church did not serve missions.

Again, I’m not saying that members of the Church should not serve missions, but we should not judge those who choose not to serve.

The fact that someone — a complete stranger — thought it was perfectly acceptable to ask if I was unworthy as the reason for not serving shows that we are emphasizing missions too harshly.

For some, missions are not the right path. We should be urging youth to serve the Lord — not necessarily to serve missions, but to serve others in general.

Many of the young men from my high school left for the MTC shortly after graduation.

Can you guess how many served full missions without coming home early due to maturity or chastity issues?

Five. My graduating class was over 300 students and a large majority of us are members of the Church. Only five young men have finished full missions without coming home early.

I’m not saying those young men who came home early are any lower on the spiritual food chain than those who served full missions, but they probably felt pressured to go, despite if they were ready or not.

We need to stop passing judgment on members of the Church who have not served. Leaders of our faith constantly advise us to love everyone without passing judgment, so, why is it OK to pass judgment on those who are trying to do as the Lord has instructed them.

We need to stop pressuring youth to serve missions and start encouraging them to serve the Lord in their daily actions.

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