Almost three years ago, my life changed entirely when President Monson announced the lowering of the mission age for girls and I chose not to serve.
Don’t get me wrong. I really wanted to. An option that had been, at that point, less than a year away for me was suddenly available much sooner. I thought about it almost every night before I went to bed for a month. Girls I never expected to serve were already announcing on Facebook how they were meeting with their bishops and getting their papers ready. And then there was me, a 20-year old who loved the gospel, but was worried she might choose to serve because everyone else was and even more worried because the answer she kept getting when she prayed about it was no. For the next two weeks, that was the answer that I kept giving.
So are you going to serve? No.
Is it because you’re afraid? No.
You’re not unworthy to serve, I’d think. No.
Then why not?
Because the answer was no. Not my answer, not the answer I wanted, but the answer the Lord gave me when I asked, and I must have asked him every morning, noon, and night. It was always no.
Over time, I learned to deal with the questions and accept that answer, and what followed that fateful October were, ironically, the best two years of my life. I was given a calling that changed my life, made my weaknesses strengths, gave me confidence in the Savior and the truthfulness of the church, and also led me to share the gospel in unexpected ways, one being this blog. Almost three years later, I am happy that I didn’t serve a mission, because the Lord had another one in mind for me, and it has blessed my life in numberless ways. Could I still serve? I guess so, but the answer right now is still no.
And I am okay with not being an RM.
To some of you guys who have recently returned from missions, however, I’ve learned that that answer isn’t good enough. It’s not okay. And it’s caused me to write you this letter.
It used to be that girls who didn’t serve missions were commonplace and there was nothing wrong. But suddenly, in the world of dating particularly, the tables have turned drastically and unexpectedly. Girls like me who didn’t serve missions are being ruled out as potential dates every day by some of you guys. Girls like me who didn’t serve missions are being overlooked because, as one of you said in my Institute class one day, “I’ve decided to only date RMs. It can only improve church stock to have RMs marrying RMs because both would be on the same spiritual level.”
It doesn’t matter that we sisters are doing our best to do the Lord’s will. It doesn’t matter that we are obedient and hardworking and faithful, that we are growing, too, and that we are making a difference in our communities and schools. It doesn’t matter that we attend our meetings every Sunday, magnify our callings, spend a day every single week in the temple, and it doesn’t matter if we are beautiful, funny, loving, and kind. Because we didn’t choose to serve missions and you did, you’ve ruled us out. I can try to understand why, but the reality is, I don’t really know why. It’s sad to me that an experience I thought would teach you all about humility and not judging others doesn’t seem to hold any water once you come home, look at the girls who didn’t serve, and decide they aren’t good enough for you. The question that must be asked is what makes you think that you’re too good for them?
I don’t know why this attitude exists or where it came from, and I realize that I’m already sounding harsh, but I know that lately, I hear about this all of the time and it needs to stop. I’ve had conversations with great girls who are frustrated and mortified by you because you tell them no. I’ve read comments on my blog by mothers who are completely disappointed in you because you told their beautiful daughters you wouldn’t date them if they weren’t RMs. And honestly, I’m ashamed for you.
Choosing to serve is a very personal, weighty decision–you should understand that. And yet, you don’t allow ‘no’ as an answer, even when it comes from the Lord, even when that girl you’ve unceremoniously scratched off of your dating list spent months on her knees begging to go and still got that ‘no’ as an answer. That is between her and the Lord, and when you reject her for it, in a way, you’re also rejecting the Lord’s will. I can’t imagine that Heavenly Father is too pleased about it.
It would be remiss of me to not mention that serving a mission is a Priesthood responsibility. Some fulfill it, some do not, but all are still deserving of our love and consideration, still deserving of friends and neighbors who will see their present rather than choosing to focus on their past. That aside, a full-time mission has never been asked of the sisters. Never. So why, then, are you demanding it from the girls you date? Why are your standards so much higher than the Lord’s? And why do you think that only a mission can make the ideal woman? A mission alone has never made the ideal man, and I’ve seen plenty of girls who come home having not changed at all while their friends who stay at home become spiritual giants. Life is not as black and white as you think it is.
Truthfully, I would never trade the last year and a half of my life for a mission. I know the Lord wanted me to continue my education and hold the calling I did. Why? Because the girl who came out of that experience is so much better than the girl who went into it, and many of the growth opportunities I had would never have been presented to me on a mission. Sure. Sometimes I don’t want to do what Heavenly Father asks, but I try my best to do it anyway. And if He asks me to not serve a mission, I know there’s a reason and I listen. So do thousands of girls who want to serve but are told no. So do thousands of girls who choose not to serve. They listen. Are you really going to rule out a woman who puts her life in the hands of her Heavenly Father and does everything He asks of her, even if it hurts, even if it’s not what she wants to do? The fact of the matter is that she’s probably on a much higher ‘spiritual level’ than you assume she is, and it’s really your loss.
There are a lot of us sisters. Some are older and settled in life and asked constantly why they aren’t married or serving. Others are younger and watching their friends serve and wondering when they’ll have their turn. All of us are trying. We might not understand mission terminology like you do. We might not know what it’s like to have a family we’re teaching reject the gospel or what it’s like to be missionary trainers or zone leaders. But we are great women, too, and when you overlook one of us, no matter who we are, you overlook a daughter of God, and in many instances, a daughter of God who is doing everything right.
Don’t allow our lack of a badge to scare you away from dating us. Most of us can preach and teach and work just as hard as missionaries do.