What motivates a missionary to leave home and social life for 18 months?

Alf Gunn

My young friend Kayleen spoke in my church last month before she departed for 18 months of missionary service far from home. To my observation, all of the seven children in Kayleen’s family are different from one another, as with most any family, I suppose.

To me, they seem to be a model of good kids in a good family. Dad is one of the most spiritual men in my acquaintance. I have heard him pray with other Seminary teachers before early morning classes, and I knew he was speaking with God.

About Mom, I don’t know what to say except she has a sign on the wall that says, “Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, ‘Oh, crap, she’s up again!’ ”

This is just a family I admire and love.

Kayleen has a sister who is serving a mission in Brazil and a brother who departed for his two-year mission the same day Kayleen did, following in his father’s footsteps. Kayleen’s grandmother returned not long ago from an 18-month mission in Milan, Italy.

So, members of this family know how to serve the Lord and their fellow man unselfishly. But I am talking about Kayleen today, because of something she said in her talk in church.

I think Kayleen is known in her family to have a rather independent streak in her. Not the kind that shows up with stupid tattoos or different hair colors, just a quiet independence with serious reflection.

What brings a young, independent, 21-year-old to the decision to voluntarily leave the comforts of home and family; to leave job and school; to leave the social life of a beautiful girl, to go to wherever the Lord calls her in missionary service for a year and a half? This is what thousands of young women and young men do each year when they accept calls to serve what are called full-time missions, at their own expense.

What motivates them?

Kayleen gave an indication of her motivation and her humbled soul when she spoke. She quoted a favorite hymn of hers, the classic Christian hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” penned by pastor and hymnist Robert Robinson in 1757:

“O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above.”

What Kayleen knows, and what every young Mormon missionary comes to realize, is that service in The Church of Jesus Christ is inseparably connected with the powers of heaven and can only be accomplished on principles of righteousness.

When the Lord initiated the modern-day missionary effort in 1829, He revealed that “faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify (the missionary) for the work. Remember, faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.”

And with that admonition came the promise, “For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul.”

Wherever Kayleen goes in the harvest field that is Tennessee, there will be souls, precious to the Lord, waiting for the saving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ that Kayleen will bring.

And so Kayleen, with faith that the Lord who always did His Father’s will can tune her “prone to wander” heart to His service, sings, “Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.”

Kayleen and her fellow Mormon missionaries demonstrate their faith in Christ through their willingness to “Seek ... first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.”

Alf Gunn alf.gunn@gmail.com