It's never been more prevalent than ever before that the more prepared you are to go on a mission, the more meaningful experiences you have, the easier to follow the spirit, the more friends you'll make, and the better missionary you'll become. But that begs two questions. What does To Prepare even look like? How do I prepare?
How Do I Prepare for a Mission?
A great way to start is to check the church's resources on missionary preparation.
1: Gospel Knowledge and Testimony. As a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, your purpose will be to invite everyone to learn of the Lord and to help them make and keep covenants. You will be required to teach the doctrine of the kingdom and to share your personal experiences to help them become closer to Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ. It's vital to teach the truth to everyone so they can be sure about their spiritual destination. To teach the truth, you must learn the truth. You can do this by starting where you are. Identify up to 3 topics that you don't know or don't know that well that interest you. Then, look up those topics in the scriptures, general conference talks, and Preach My Gospel.
Ask questions while you study. Possible questions you may ask are, "What does this mean?" "Why is this important" "What actions can I take to start applying this today?" Then, record your answers in a study journal. Over time, you will look back at your entries and be astounded by how much you've learned about foundational truths. If you think you've learned everything already, think again. Try looking at the scriptures as if you were an investigator, a new member, someone of another faith, a single mother, or a hard-working father. As your context changes, your content will change.
When I prepared to serve a mission, I read the scriptures every day, and I went with the missionaries to lessons to see how they taught because I was going to become like them. I also took the church's mission prep course with a couple of friends.
2. Personal Worthiness. The Lord requires clean hands and a pure heart. It is hard to fill a cup when it is already full. Sometimes the cup needs to be cleaned before you can reuse it. This means that he needs you to represent him as you speak, listen, and serve. Since he is spiritually pure and clean, he asks you to be spiritually pure and clean. Becoming worthy does not mean you must be perfect. It means that you are willing to take his name upon you and try every day to keep his commandments and your covenants. When you think that you're pure and clean already, you're probably right. So, what's next for you? You might consider improving your prayers to have higher-quality conversations with God. Or, you may learn to become keenly aware of spiritual promptings and follow them with exactness. And you could develop your spiritual gifts from your patriarchal blessings. In the end, the Lord wants YOU to become like HIM.
3: Work and Self-Reliance. Being a missionary for the church of Jesus Christ is a lot of work. You wake up every day at 6:30 AM and go to bed at 10:30 PM. You will dedicate your entire day to serving the Lord. That's 16 hours day after day. When was the last time you worked a 16-hour day? If you haven't, I invite you to do it for at least two days in a row and then tell me what your experience was like. Were you tired? Or were you productive and enlivened?
One of the ways to prepare for the long working hours is to get a part- or full-time job. If you haven't worked a job before, it's a great practice run, and you'll get paid while doing it. It doesn't have to be a glamorous or even a perfect job.
As a missionary, you will be responsible for managing a schedule and sticking to it. You will also be required to go grocery shopping, cook for yourself, wash, iron, fold your clothes, and clean your apartment.
When I was preparing for my mission, I did all of these things a few months before I went to the MTC to get myself into the habit. When I was in the MTC, I didn't know I needed to buy laundry detergent until I saw my companion buying detergent. It's the simple things that you take for granted when living with your parents that you learn that you need to do on your own.
4: Physical and Emotional Health. These topics aren't talked about enough. While you are young, you feel invincible on the mission. However, physical and emotional health issues aren't uncommon. I've met people that have gained over 80 lbs just from their MTC experience. I met missionaries who gained 100 lbs from their mission. People have been hit by cars on foot and on a bike, attacked by dogs, bit by black widows, lived in cockroach-infested apartments, and had severe dental and eye-sight issues. Others have had mental breakdowns and suicidal thoughts. Going on a mission isn't an easy thing. In fact, it might be one of the hardest things you experience. It's important to be aware of your physical and emotional health. Start good habits today, such as regular exercise, brushing and flossing, being conscious of what you eat, and meditating. You'll be surprised by the positive impact the small and simple things can do for your health. Remember, your body is a temple, and that includes your mind.
5: Financial Preparation. For some, the financial obligation to serve a mission can be daunting. For others, it's not a big deal. When I prepared to go on a mission, I wanted to prove to myself that I could pay for my mission. I had three part-time jobs. I worked at American Eagle Outfitters, Famous Footwear, and a pizzeria as a delivery boy. Then, someone at church got me an interview for a full-time job as a landscaper. After that, my same friend got me a job as a laborer in construction. I was able to save up enough money to pay for my mission. Through it all, I learned how to work hard and the value of money. Learning how to budget is helpful because when you're on a mission, you will have a monthly allowance. If you need to learn how to spread your allowance across the month, you could spend it all in 1-2 weeks and be left with nothing by the end of the month. Be intentional with your budget.
In conclusion. Serving a mission is one of the most rewarding and challenging times of your life. You will be tested in every area of your life. Some lessons you can prepare for, and others you will learn while on the mission. As you actually try on some of these actions to prepare to serve a mission, you will be better off, and the mission will be less stressful, so you can devote yourself to things that actually matter on the mission—serving the Lord and his children.