Mission Lessons: Reviewed

At Church this past Sunday and then at a Stake priesthood meeting, there was a recurring theme. A large part of that theme was that we should not forget the things we learned as missionaries or slip back into bad habits, but that we should grow and build on that spiritual plane that was reached. Since my faith has undergone a fairly significant transition/transformation since I’ve been home, I began to wonder what I had learned and whether I still would count those as lessons and if not, how would I understand the experiences that led to them.
Luckily, I could fairly easily do this, since I had written up the things that I had learned as a missionary, almost exactly two years ago (I still had a few months left to adjust them, but my lessons learned were about the same). Here is that list, with commentary:
      1.   How to better seek and follow the Spirit
Definitely still applicable and a large part of my spiritual learning and journey. In fact, without the level of confidence in following the Spirit that I gained as a missionary, I don’t know if I would have made the same decisions faith-wise that I have.
2.    That God loves all His children
Yes. This has served as a cornerstone of my faith and belief in God and continues to be a large factor in the ways that I receive revelation.
3.    Godly sorrow- sadness for sin as well as those who choose to live in sin
Probably, although what I classify as ‘sin’ or ‘living in sin’ has likely shifted to something more nuanced.
4.    Everything has a purpose
I don’t think I could say this. While I would argue that there may be more purpose than we often think and that you definitely can find a purpose in everything if that gives you solace [like the difference between author based and reader based literary criticism], the idea of everything having a purpose is strongly linked (for me at least) to the idea of a chessmaster God moving us like pawns. As I reject that notion, I have to reject the idea that everything has a purpose.
5.    God has a specific plan for me and I covenanted to do certain things here for Him
Yes and I think so. I kinda dig the idea of there being a rough life sketch in the pre-earth life where God sat us down and went over the game plan and then sent us here with no memory, but with a packet of clues that would be useful and necessary to complete our mission (just like the underrated film Paycheck starring Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman and Paul Giamatti). There are some wrinkles in the idea of foreordination for sure, but overall, I like it.
6.    Part of said plan
Yeah, at least in a small sense. I definitely have felt guidance and direction in making decisions that would be a part of the ‘plan,’ so yes.
7.    How to pray
Still working on this one, but definitely improved, especially when I started praying in Lithuanian and began using less formal language. The more ritualistic pray is then the harder time I have with it, I think my best prayers come as I read scripture or work on writing my thoughts. It’s sort of like a communication where I am saying whatever and God responds, or simply nods encouragingly.
8.    Importance of sacrifice
I think so, but still undecided. Especially in a practical sense- how does this function? I’ve felt the power of sacrifice, but on my own terms- with God.
9.    Need for member-missionary work
Yes, although I feel like my role in that may be to help broaden acceptance and diversity of thought within Mormonism, rather than focusing on bringing in new members.
10.Everything goes back to Love and Fear
Indeed. Two fundamental forces, methinks. After all, all you need is love.
11.Power of testimony (can’t argue with it)
In certain situations. Listening sincerely may have more converting power however and must precede testimony.
12.God cares about the little things (sour milk)
Since God is so loving, I still think He cares about anything that may matter to us- be it big or small. If we don’t really want His care or oversight than He probably won’t say anything.
13.No coincidences
See 4.
14.How to listen
Constant need for reminders and improvement, but listening is definitely important.
15.Importance of thinking before you speak
Yep.
16.Revelation- available daily, or how much God will guide us if we let Him
I think that generally God can be more involved in our lives if we want, but that for certain individuals or time periods, that involvement is limited for growth or some other reason. More variance here than I initially intended, I would say.
17.To look for Victory and How to Find it
Winston Churchill. Still value in finding success no matter where it is.
18.Mosiah 18:30
Lithuania still is and likely always will be my waters of Mormon.
19.Vision
Not sure on this one. I’ve adjusted my approach to goals and success, but recognize the importance of having a ‘vision’ of sorts for your life.
 

I feel pretty good about that. The understanding and implementation may be different than I had thought before, but the fundamental lessons and growth that I experience as a missionary is still valid and applicable.
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