Mormons use the internet for all kinds of awesomeness and sharing of goodnesses but occasionally, if the moon is in the house of Scorpio or the deacons brought wheat instead of white that Sunday, they get a little worked up and may also use it to debate things, like the difficulty of their respective missions. For fun. Or for winning.
I always want to join in that fun but I served in the easiest mission. And it won’t surprise you to hear that it was Temple Square. Because, admit it, you suspected it was the easiest all along.
First of all, let’s address the setting. It isn’t likely that professional gardeners attended to every inch of ground your sensible shoes touched while on your mission. And I’m sorry about that. Because Temple Square gardeners are ridiculously good at what they do. I mean, have you seen the place?
Of course you have. You went there with a date. We noticed, trust me. We think you made a great impression, really put your best foot forward. The orchestrated moment of quiet contemplation in front of the Christus was a smooth move. We dug it.
Another thing that made my mission a lot easier than yours was alone time. Did you have much of that? I did. Not hours of it, but enough. Missionaries don’t have to stay in pairs while on the Square. It was entirely possible that I could be assigned the farthest desk in the corner of the basement of the visitors’ center. Just me, my introverted alone-time craving brain, and a set of scriptures.
But then, no one wants to be alone all the time, of course. Well don’t despair for me, I got to team up with different sisters for all kinds of tasks (tours, manning information booths, family history center, greeting at gates and more). And, sometimes, depending on what the computer-generated schedule randomly spun for me that day, I may have actually gotten to do something with my companion.
Did you enjoy tracting? I didn’t do any but, and correct me if I’m wrong, it sounds terrible. On Temple Square, the people came to me, naturally. And they had questions. Stuff they’d been storing up. Stuff they wanted to ask their Mormon neighbor but had been scared to lest it indicate a possible interest in, you know, converting. Other times guests’ questions came to them as they saw the Square for the first time. A common answer to a surprisingly common question: No, the bride and groom do not sleep in the temple the night of their wedding. It just kind of looks like a giant castle/hotel.
How were your living spaces? You know what… I’m going to spare you this one. This is getting to be too much. Suffice it to say, mine were nice.
In all seriousness, though my mission may not have been comparatively hard, I did earnestly work hard… and so did every sister I can remember. Our days were long and we were rarely off our feet. Just like you, we wanted to make the most of the time we had. We did get lucky, though, and we did get to perform those works in a really lovely place.
But all of this happened a long time ago. And now this former Temple Square missionary has kids that are quickly approaching missionary age. The world has changed. Even Temple Square has changed. I’m not sure if it matters where my kids go, if they choose to serve. I have a feeling it will be hard.
My husband works with the full-time missionaries in our ward and he really feels for them. They can’t accomplish much during the day. No one is home. People are busy. Few have time for a message about God. I get it. I’m busy too and, in my own way, shun messages about God far too often as well.
And then, it seems there are many who don’t feel a need to make space for God in their lives to begin with. If you are a kid serving where I live, the people you encounter already have so much. And even though the church has made some great choices for modern missionaries, like allowing them fewer restrictions on the number of hours they can perform service a week, it’s still challenging to find meaningful ways to fill the days.
My mission was a sweet (and very safe) adventure. Of all the good fortunes bestowed upon me, by what likely included some luck of the draw, the best was that I got to speak of Christ every day, and often. It was a beautiful blessing. And I hope most truly that this blessing is something our missions have in common. Even if yours was harder.