Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sending our sons

This is a digression from the series of posts I had planned to make, inspired by a discussion I was having with my Dad last night. He was having difficulty understanding why we LDS people send our sons on missions for the Church, rather than, say, having them skip a mission and continue their education without interruption. Dad said, "What if this kid could become a doctor and start saving lives - it would be a waste to be off on a mission instead." My response was that it is far more important to save souls than to save bodies, and that two years devoted to serving others without pay would make anyone a much better doctor in the long run.

But, as always, I had a hard time explaining my thoughts and feelings on the subject, because my forte is writing, not speaking (especially not extemporaneous speaking about important matters). So, after the conversation, I experienced some Treppenwitz, and decided it would be best to just blog my thoughts on the subject.

First, I had tried to explain that serving a mission is not mandatory, but expected. Nobody is forced to serve a mission - it is a choice. Dad had said that we "indoctrinate" the kids to serve a mission, and I explained that "indoctrination" is fine, as long as the "doctrine" is true. For instance, Dad and Mom had "indoctrinated" me to believe in God, and to try to do what's right. Nothing wrong with that - it's called good parenting.

I want to focus on two words here: expect and hope. I expect my son to serve a mission, the same way I expect him to go to college, expect him to not cheat on tests, expect him to not shoplift, and expect him to treat his mother with respect. I hope he will serve a mission, the same way I hope he will read his scriptures, hope he will say his prayers, and hope he will find a good woman to marry in the temple. In order to help these expectations and hopes come to fruition, I will teach my son what is right, tell him what I hope for, and explain to him what is expected. I will pass along my values to him.

That is one reason I want him to serve a mission.

Dad had said that he would have never sent me out "into harms way" like that. Well, of course not - he doesn't believe the same things I do. But doing the right thing isn't always easy, and worthwhile things always require effort and sacrifice. Personally, nothing would make me more proud than for Seth to serve an honorable mission for the Church.

Serving a mission will better prepare him for life than any two years of college (which he would complete when he got back anyway). Not to mention the immense reward of serving God and his fellow man. Besides, serving a mission is a priesthood duty. And if you have a strong testimony, you want to share it with your fellow brothers and sisters in the world.

I joined the Church too late to go on a mission - a fact I regret. My only consolation is that I will have the opportunity to serve a "couple" mission (or missions) with my eternal companion, Jeanie, when we are older (retirement age).

In the meantime, I will most definitely be spending the next 16 years encouraging Seth to serve a mission. It is a large part of what we are on earth for. Assisting in God's work and glory is a privilege, and those of us who are so blessed as to have the Gospel in our lives have an obligation to share it with others.

I know this concept can be hard to grasp or accept for those who do not have a testimony of the Church. But once you know it's true, it makes perfect sense.

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