Why I Served A Mission

By Dallas Taggart

Fourteen days ago, I looked down on the Salt Lake Valley from the window of an airplane as it circled around to the international airport. I could pick out familiar spots on the ground: my old high school, my grandma’s neighborhood, a park my family had gone to once or twice. A wave of nostalgia hit me like I’d never felt before, and even the sight of Redwood Road almost brought tears to my eyes. Seeing the Jordan River Temple actually did. At 8:00 that evening, my plane touched down and I stepped out onto home soil for the first time in two years.

Like all homecomings, mine was bittersweet. I spent two years as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Scotland/Ireland mission, speaking Mandarin Chinese. The call was unique, and not a day went by that wasn’t similarly special. My mission took me to soaring heights, but also to lows I never thought I’d experience. It filled my life with a wide range of color and emotion I hadn’t thought possible, things I figured were exclusive for other people, but not for me. It felt like I’d spent my whole life playing a video game, and suddenly I’d been dropped straight into it for real. Like Jumanji.

The day I arrived in the mission field, I found a question staring me in the face everywhere I looked. Why did you come? Companions, the mission president, and ward members all asked us why we came on a mission. I had a good, general response to it. But, for whatever reason, maybe because I repeated it so much, those words began to sound hollow. So I began to question, and one day not too long into my mission I woke up with the scary realization that I honestly had no idea why I had come.

Serving a mission had always been in my future. It was something I’d planned on and even enthusiastically looked forward to for my entire life. And yet somehow I didn’t understand fully what a mission would entail. I’d have to talk to people? Teach them? Why did something so basic come as such a shock to me? Was I really prepared for this? How did I get here? Why had I come?

It wasn’t until a few months later I was posed a different question, which put everything into perspective.

“Why do you stay?”

That was a more immediate question, so it required a more immediate answer. Rather than looking deep into the past for a reason I wasn’t sure was there, I could look at myself in the here and now and decide. Why did I stay today? Why would I stay tomorrow? Well, for one thing, I couldn’t well give up on something I’d just started. The work was anything but comfortable, but I didn’t feel so out of place as I sometimes had back home. I knew I was accomplishing something, even if I wasn’t sure what it was. But there was something more than that. As I pondered, I realized that throughout all of the ups and downs and lefts and rights, the highs and lows and every shade of color you can imagine, there was one thing underpinning it all. It was the grace of Jesus Christ.

Grace lifts us, fills us, and makes us more than anything we could ever be. It is the love of Jesus Christ taking effect in our lives, and it is always available to us. It is the way spoken of by Nephi when he said, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7). That is why Christ promises us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Without Christ, we would be left to ourselves, but with him, we will far exceed what we think is our vast potential. Growth is never easy or smooth, but even on the nausea-inducing roller-coaster called life, I found the sweet symphony of grace consecrating all of those experiences, the good and the bad, so even amidst the uncertainty I could say I enjoyed the ride.

That is why I went on my mission, and why I stayed; nothing else has taught me so much of the Savior and allowed me so much unfettered access to His divine power and love. Christ is real. He lives, He loves each of us, and He is with us in ways we cannot even imagine. Trust in Him, hold fast to His teachings, live by His words, and even in the darkest of night life will carry a special glimmer that you cannot find anywhere else. That is so necessary in missionary life, but oh so much more vital in our daily lives.

“Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:34).