MIKOKORO: “Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me” 3 Nephi 27:13
(For a full explanation of mi-kokoro, see part one)
For Millennial Mormons, missionary service holds blessings and challenges that affect both those who serve and those who do not. How does the concept of mi-kokoro affect how we view missionary service? I’ve tried to categorize my applications, but I realize there is a lot of overlap. You’ll just have to read them all.
MIKOKORO for RMs
First, what mi-kokoro means for those who serve. I’m going to skip the clichés about missionaries service. Yes, a mission is absolutely a wonderful thing. It has shaped my life and changed me in so many ways. The experiences I had as a missionary were incredibly powerful and meaningful, yet not every experience as a missionary is one fit for a church magazine. Personal flaws get in the way. No one is perfectly obedient. Investigators and new converts alike sometimes stop progressing, coming to church, and meeting with missionaries. These are the type of experiences that try missionaries’ faith and leave them wondering “what more could I have done?”
I know far too many returned missionaries who have regrets about their effectiveness as missionaries or doubts about their personal efforts as a missionary. These doubts sometimes lead to less activity in the church and in the gospel, discouragement, and sometimes the death of their faith. They think, “Oh, if only I had been a little bit better, I would’ve had more success as a missionary.”
These returned missionaries have forgot about the Atonement and Christ’s grace. They forget that even the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni voiced similar doubts when he said “Lord, the gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing” (Ether 12:23). To these returned missionaries, I offer the Lord’s response to Moroni: “Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek…If men will come unto me I will show unto them their weakness that…I [may] make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:26-27).
I personally feel that, at best, I was a mediocre missionary. I never attained the legendary status of being a “super missionary.” I’m convinced that most missionaries don’t want to come home because they feel inadequate compared to their missionary heroes. I am, however, completely at peace with my mission because I sought God’s approval frequently throughout my mission. In Elder Holland’s most famous of MTC devotionals (the “don’t you dare go home” talk) he counsels, “In the end [Christ] said that he had suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning (see 3 Nephi 11:11). When you come home, stand at the pulpit and bear your testimony at the close of your mission, and say that you suffered the will of the Father on your mission.” I know that in so many ways, I was not beyond reproach as a missionary, yet as I sought to report to God about what I had done in each of my areas, I received a feeling of God’s love that let me know that I had done his will. He didn’t need me to be a super missionary, and He helped me to do the work that He needed me to do.
These returned missionaries forget that one of the super-missionaries of the Book of Mormon, Alma, felt the same way. “Oh that I were an angel and could…speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth…” (Alma 29:1) He had his weaknesses, but found peace in the thought that “I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things that the Lord hath allotted unto me.” Whether you helped hundreds be baptized or didn’t see a single baptism, the truth remains the same: all it is that any of us needs to do is to try and do God’s will. To these returned missionaries: I invite you to look to God and become reconciled with him regarding your mission. Learn from your mistakes. Let Christ’s grace be sufficient.
MIKOKORO for Early Returnees
Second, what mi-kokoro means for those who don’t serve or come home early and their friends and families. First, If you are a missionary who had to come home early for any reason, God still has a plan and purpose for you. Whether or not your coming home was a matter of personal worthiness, there is peace to be found through repenting, or being reconciled to God’s will for you. People may look down at you or be condescending towards you (read our article on returning early). However, I think that Christ’s example again provides clues as to the appropriate way to navigate such belittling comments or behavior.
In Christ’s day, those who were considered by the Jewish community to be the most righteous were the scribes and the pharisees. They professed to know and live the law of Moses and consequently held the a lot of political and religious authority. These religious leaders, whom the majority of Jews looked to for religious guidance, were the harshest critics of Christ’s life and teachings.
What was Christ’s response? Christ almost always refuted the charges of the scribes and the pharisees by testifying of his own oneness with the father. Again, he said “of mine own self I can do nothing: as I hear, my judgement is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30). Christ humbly but powerfully witnessed that He knew that He was in the right because of His oneness with the Father.
I suggest that you (early returnees) can follow Christ’s example as you humbly seek God’s will in this challenge that you probably weren’t expecting. It may help you to realize many family members and ward members may say such things because they believe that serving a full-time mission is God’s will for you, and will make you happy. Regardless, humbly saying something like “I’m just trying to God’s will” will help those around realize that that is what’s really important here.
If you are a friend or family member of an early returnee, remember Christ’s criticism of the scribes and the pharisees. Remember that activity in the Gospel is more important even than activity in the church, the latter being a means to the former. Remember that ultimately, our righteousness will not only be measured by a checklist of things we have done, but by who we have become. If you want to help an early returnee, condemning him or her won’t help. If the gospel to us is no more than obedience and checking off items in a list, we have become as Pharisees, more focused on the law and maintaining social norms than we are about Christ, and helping others come unto him.
MIKOKORO for those who haven’t gone on a mission
This last section is for young men and young women who are thinking about going on a mission or are being pressured by others to go on a mission. First of all, I’ll say it a again: A mission is an amazing thing. For me, the reason why it was so meaningful was because I could tell that the experiences I was having were not just so that I could help investigators, but also meant to shape me. “While many of [the] experiences and lessons may be common to missionary service, each mission is unique, with challenges and opportunities that stretch and test us according to our particular needs and personalities” (“The Opportunity of a Lifetime”). Missions mean so much because they are intense spiritual experiences where God can reshape us to become who he wants us to be.
For those who are on the fence, here’s my advice: don’t worry about it. Make seeking to align your will with God’s your first priority. If you don’t have a testimony or are working to overcome some personal challenges, start with those things first. As you seek to gain a relationship with God, your ability to know his will for you will improve. You will feel the spirit in greater measure, and the spirit will tell you what you need to do. Preach My Gospel, the missionary handbook, states: “As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase. You will feel, as Lehi did, the ‘great … importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth’ (2 Nephi 2:8).” Focus first on the seminary answers and working to increase your commitment to the gospel. These things will bless your life whether or not you serve a mission and help you to make a decision guided by the spirit, as opposed to social pressures. Realize that “if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God” (Moroni 7:8). I don’t mean to suggest that you are evil if you don’t want or feel to serve a mission, but that you will get much more out of it if you go when you feel that the timing is right.
MIKOKORO and Missions: Conclusion
Each of us needs to realize that none of us is qualified to decide what mi-kokoro is for someone else, except ecclesiastical leaders and parents, to an extent. Yes, missionary service is a priesthood duty, but the prophets have repeatedly stated that it is not for everyone. As each of us seeks to do mi-kokoro, we must be absolutely humble in realizing that mi-kokoro is not one-size-fits-all. This is your journey, and its okay if yours doesn’t look exactly like mine has. I’m not espousing moral relativity; God’s laws do not change. Circumstances, however, do. Joseph Smith explained that this is a primary reason of why we need continuing revelation: “This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed” (History of the Church 5:135). He also said, “Salvation cannot come without revelation; it is vain for anyone to minister without it” (History of the Church, 3:389). As we seek revelation for ourselves to better fulfill God’s will, our capacity to help others feel the spirit that they might also receive revelation and a desire to do God’s will.