I have a friend who hates tithing settlement with her bishop because every year he asks when she and her husband are going to go on a church mission. They are in forced retirement due to corporate downsizing, so the bishop figures this is the perfect time for them to be missionaries. What their bishop doesn’t know is that my friend has no desire to ever serve a mission with her husband. It’s not that she doesn’t have a testimony, far from it. She is counting on the promised happiness of the next life to make up for the secret misery she has lived with her husband for 40+ years. Her husband is, to put it bluntly, a selfish jerk. They have done enough marriage counseling over the years that my friend is a pseudo therapist to all of her acquaintances and I must say, she’s really good. Unfortunately, none of the professional talk and emotional clarity has changed her husband’s character, so she has resigned herself to finding happiness in her children, grandchildren and friends. And she is 100% sure she has no interest sharing a small apartment and being attached to him at the hip for 2 solid years.

I know of another couple who felt inspired by the promises made in Ensign articles, over the pulpit in General Conference, and by their local church leaders, that if they sacrificed and went on a senior mission, their lives and the lives of their adult children and grandchildren would be blessed. So they closed their small business, sold their house, liquidated their furniture, and served the Lord in a 3rd world country. While away, they lived like kings in a beautiful house that came with maids, cooks and yard workers. The pictures of their mission were gorgeous. Like all good things, their mission came to an end. They came back to the US and found that they couldn’t find a job. They ran out of money and are currently living in the basement of one of their children’s houses, working part time at the local hardware store. It’s not pretty and I don’t see an end in sight for them.

Years ago, we lived in a ward that got a senior mission couple. The husband was not in good health, physically or mentally. It was their 5th or 6th mission. They retired with the goal of being missionaries the rest of their lives. He husband, in particular, had no interest in ever returning home. He consecrated his life to missionary work and was determined to die with his boots on in the field. His wife was exhausted from taking care of him by herself in a different town with different doctors as they were transferred. She didn’t complain, but it was obvious that they needed to go home and stay there.

Just like we talk a lot about what is required of young people to serve a mission, I wonder if we acknowledge enough that the idealized fairy tale of sailing off into the Senior Mission Sunset is full of rocky cliffs and hidden sandbars. I hope that when the time comes for church leadership to put pressure on Rob and I to serve a senior couple mission, that I can honestly assess our ability to go and if it isn’t possible, that I can look them straight in the eye and say, “No, but thanks for thinking of us.”