Mission vs. Marriage

“I want to be a mommy and have babies, but I also want to tell people about Jesus. Which one is more important?”

I was completely thrown by this question posed by my 4-year-old daughter this week. It was uncanny timing because I had just taught a lesson to the young women in the my LDS ward about preparing for missionary work as full-time or member missionaries.

In that lesson, I shared this quote, “Young sisters should not feel obligated and should not be urged unduly to serve full-time missions. A mission should not interfere with a young woman’s opportunity for marriage.”

So it struck me as odd that my daughter would also phrase her question in the way that she did, as if the choice were between serving a mission or getting married.

In my experience at BYU, I saw four different groups of 21-year-old women who faced the choice whether to serve a 1.5-year mission for the LDS church.

Group A – Women who feel strongly about serving a mission and choose to do so even if it means taking a hiatus from careers, education or prospective husbands.

Group B – Women who do not feel strongly about serving a mission, but don’t have much else going on in their lives at the moment so they go on a mission anyway. From what I’ve heard, these are the sister missionaries that often go into a mission trying to find themselves rather than share the gospel.

Group C – Women who do not feel particularly “called” to serve a mission but also don’t have a marriage proposal on the horizon, so they continue in school or work.

Group D – Women who were already married or heading down the aisle soon.

As I thought about these groups, I wanted my daughter to know that a mission or marriage is an intensely personal choice. There is no right answer.

I also wanted her to know that it’s OK to be in Group C — to not feel strongly about a mission or about getting married. It’s OK to choose neither. It’s not like if you’re a 21-year-old church member and don’t have a ring on your finger, then you better get on your mission because you really shouldn’t be loitering about polite society at such an old age without a spouse.

So I told my daughter that getting married and telling people about Jesus are both wonderful things. I told her she could be a missionary and then get married, or she could do neither, or she could share the gospel without serving a mission. As long as it’s the right choice for her, it’s the right one.

What advice would you give to young women struggling to make the decision whether to go on a mission?

Erin Stewart is a regular blogger for Deseret News. From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, Stewart discusses it all while her 4-year-old daughter crams Mr. Potato Head pieces in her little sister’s nose.


  1. Brother Jones

    Thank you for posting this blog. I’ve been looking for the Church’s or rather Christ’s stance on this same topic. I mean no offense to anyone by saying this, but from my observation I’ve noticed that women in category C almost always have weaker personal conversion or have been exposed to false doctrine from peers. That’s why they have little to no desire to serve the Lord. I believe that if they aren’t going to get married they should go on a mission, but marriage takes top priority for women. The mission will help anyone to become a better parent. If she’s not getting married she can become a more prepared wife and bring others to Christ. I see life as a continual spiritual progression. Education and career has little spiritual value in comparison with marriage or a mission since those are worldly things.

    • SingleSister

      Beautifully said, Erin!! Mission, marriage and career are such deeply personal choices and bravo telling your daughter that it’s okay to choose what she likes! Thank you. As a single sister I experience too often the harsh judgement of my choice not to serve a mission and the stigma that because I’m single, there’s something wrong with me or my relationship with the Lord. I only hope that your acceptance and love spreads to others.

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