Advice to My Son as He Embarks on His LDS (Mormon) Mission

I slipped the following letter (slightly depersonalized here) into my son Harrison’s bag just as he went through security on his way to Guatelama to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the next two years.

Special thanks to the countless people who have impacted my thinking and experiences related to these points. He is way more mature and prepared than I was when I served and in some ways should be leaving me advice on how to act while he’s gone.

Missionaries outside the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah (Harrison is at the MTC in Guatemala). Photo: Mormon Newsroom

July 25, 2017


You are going to be an awesome missionary, of that I have no doubt.

You have a greater ability to harvest your potential than any young man I’ve ever known. As a result of this ability and opportunity, you have great responsibilities. Today you start becoming a man and have the obligation to live up to those responsibilities. The next hours, days, weeks, months, and two years will determine the path and success of the rest of your life. Don’t waste any of it. It doesn’t seem like it today, but time will fly by and two years is a very short period of your life. You will regret any wasted time.

The Lord has chosen you; He did long ago. You weren’t chosen by man, and you didn’t choose this yourself, you are fulfilling an assignment you received long ago. Remember that, always.

What you are doing will not be easy every day, but it will be many days, brush off the tough days. You will get discouraged, that’s normal, when you are — work harder. You will be strengthened when you are doing the work, not when you are thinking of yourself or dwelling on the challenges. Focus on service, to those you are called to serve; the people of Guatemala, your companions, and God.

This is my favorite quote, apply it to everything that confronts you, it will make focusing on the things you can control easier:

“For Every worry under the sun there is a remedy or there is none; if there is a remedy hurry and find it. If there is none never mind it.” — LeGrand Richards

On my mission, I was known as a stickler for the rules; I expect you to be too. You probably remember some missionaries I served with talking about how rigid I was; it was better than being too loose. You can control whether or not you are obedient, don’t let anyone “make you” break the rules. You will be blessed when you perfectly obey the rules; the handbook rules, whatever rules your mission president establishes, and of course, the commandments. Commit to 100% obedience and the decision will be easy when you have opportunities to make exceptions.

Love the people and remember they are children of God; the people of Guatemala, the people you teach, the members of the Church, and your companions (I was too rough on mine because I lost sight of this important point) and other missionaries. Look past their problems and more importantly, look past your strengths. You’ve been blessed in ways that many haven’t, and others have attributes that will bless you. Don’t be too stubborn to recognize the ability of others to bless you.

Make friends, but remember why you are there. The friendships, with members, missionaries, and others, will be more meaningful when they are made as you are diligently fulfilling your calling. I have many lifelong friends from my mission. I’m proud of the way I always acted in their presence as a missionary — I believe that is why our friendships have durability and substance. Think of the many people you have met and heard stories about. These are people, along with many others, who continue to impact my life for the positive. I would have missed these opportunities if I wasn’t focused on the work and serving as best as I could.


· Be humble.

· Focus on individuals.

· Study. You won’t have another opportunity to learn the Gospel in the same way you can while on your mission.

· Open your mouth. Especially when you don’t want to.

· Be a leader and be a follower. Both are important. Learn to know when you should be doing which.

· Pay attention. Be street smart. Stay out of danger. Follow promptings perfectly.

· Don’t fear.

· Don’t worry about us. No matter what is happening at home, it will be better if you are focused on the work.

· Have fun. You can do this simultaneously to being disciplined, obedient, and focused.

· Take the time to share your experience with friends who haven’t asked for you to. People need to hear about your experiences and see you grow. I only wrote my family and your mom; I wish I had shared my mission with others who it may have influenced. Pick someone every week that you are going to write to in addition to your general letter. You will influence lives beyond those people you come in contact with in Guatemala.

· Respect and learn from your mission president. You are both there at the same time for each other; it didn’t just happen.

Remember to pray, both formally and to have a prayer in your heart. You will need help and especially guidance, ask for it and show gratitude for it.

Deal with your problems, study it out, find solutions. Get help from your mission leaders and mission president if you need it. But, don’t hesitate to ask me for help too. As you know, I know how to get things done and can help if you need me — you probably won’t.

I’m proud to be your dad and proud that you are my son. I love you.