Truth: One of the biggest regrets of my life is that I didn’t serve a full-time mission for my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Truth: One of the best decisions I’ve made in my life was to not serve a full-time mission for my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Because our decisions and experiences make us who we are, these two seemingly conflicting statements are, indeed, true.
I regret not having served a mission because of the lives I could have touched for good and for the experiences I missed.
I treasure the decision to not serve a mission because of the good experiences and opportunities that came into my life as a result.
I didn’t always see not serving a mission in this light. In fact, I spent many years beating myself up for not serving a mission. I convinced myself that I was a second-class member of the Church because of that decision. As judge and jury, I convicted myself as a failure and sentenced myself to many years of self-condemnation.
Something interesting has happened over the years since—slowly and ever so imperceptibly. While I was busy degrading myself for not serving a mission, I was growing. I was maturing. I was gaining experience and learning. I was becoming the person I am now.
Along the way, I married a good woman, helped raise three good sons (who, interestingly, have served full-time missions) and a good and kind daughter. I’ve served in capacities in the Church that have helped me grow spiritually, learn how to serve others, and to rely on the Lord for the strength and ability to press forward.
I still think that the best thing for me to do in my late teens and early twenties would have been to serve a full-time mission. Who wouldn’t like a do-over from that time in their lives? Not serving a full-time mission was the wrong choice for me then, but—like He often does—the Lord took a bad choice, healed the heart of the one who made the choice, and then turned the entire package into something good.
For many years, I defined myself primarily as someone who didn’t serve a full-time mission. Thinking about it made me uncomfortable. Talking about it made me feel even worse. Thankfully, the Lord helped me overcome this problem and now I’m comfortable thinking and speaking about the experience.
Had I served a full-time mission, there’s no guarantee that I’d be where I am now. I know people who served missions and eventually fell away from the Church, both while on and after finishing their missions. Who knows? Maybe I would’ve been one of those who fell away. There might have been something that would have been too much for me to handle or maybe I would have given in and given up.
I’ve travelled a path—though difficult at times—that’s led me to a point where the gospel of Jesus Christ plays the central role in my life. I don’t know for certain if the road I would’ve travelled after serving a full-time mission would have led me to this point. Nothing in life is a given.
What I do know, however, is that the road I wound up traveling has led me to this point—with many happy, joyful, and trying experiences along the way. This leads me to believe that the road I’ve travelled is the best one for me.