Have you ever felt like something was impossible to change about yourself? Something so deeply ingrained in you, that you simply could not ever see it going away? Have you ever slipped into thinking that the Atonement was good enough to change everyone else, but that something was just too hard for you?

If you’ve had these feelings, as I’ll admit to having in weaker moments, then this story is for you. As I tell this story, I want you to think about the thing that seems nearly impossible for you to change, because that’s exactly how Elder Riley felt trying to get on a mission. This wasn’t a difficult journey for him, it was nearly impossible.


Riley pre-mission.


On a Tuesday afternoon I called a recently returned missionary named Riley Murdock, he sounded calm, converted and hopeful for the future. I asked him to tell me a bit about his story. Riley began by explaining that he spent his formative years quite overweight. At the peak of his size he weight over 460 pounds, (208.6kgs).

Riley turned 18 just as the church was ‘raising the bar’ (qualifying standards) on missionary service. These raised standards included, among other things, tighter regulations on a missionaries weight due to the physical demands of missionary service. However, when Riley submitted his papers he was not aware of these changes, so it was a huge disappointment to have his mission application declined.

For four years he struggled trying to figure out who he was and where he stood, “There were a lot of dark moments. I was always at the brink of less activity, I was so tired of hearing people ask me why I wasn’t going on a mission?”.

At age 22 he attempted again to submit his papers. He felt like it was finally his time to serve, even though he knew he was still over weight. Again, his application was declined.

This was devastating for Riley who twice had the ‘160 pound (72kg)’ gap separating him from his mission. Three years then passed and Riley, now 25, knew he was soon to reach the missionary cut-off age of 26.

He felt like he’d given a ‘mission’ his best shot. Finally Riley said, “I told the Lord that I must have messed up somewhere along the way and that I was sorry I could not get out to serve Him.”

Riley’s deep fear of not being able to serve a mission was a scary reality that he finally accepted. He said, “prayer was incredibly real and sobering to accept the consequences of something you knew you should have done, but couldn’t.”. Riley had practically given up hope.

Then everything changed.

A few weeks later he was at his sisters house for Christmas morning. He watched her spent the morning with her children and realised how empty his life had become. He wanted, one day, to experience that same joy she had in her family for himself.

He said, “I found myself spiritually empty inside. Here I was 25 years old and had no way to obtain this family that I wanted. I always knew that a mission was a stepping stone to that and here I was unable to go. The reality that I would likely never serve haunted me… so I decided to pray to the Lord like he was right there with me, like a friend. I poured out my desire to one day find my best friend and work towards a family of my own”.

Riley said that he felt a huge sense of humbling when he finally recognized how much he needed to “swallow the reality and plead for guidance on how to serve a mission and then obtain joy in [his] life again, a journey that would ultimately help me to find my family”.

With a firm New Year’s resolution he started fresh and was determined to not give up. He made two simple but stretching goals for the month and worked on them until they became so easy they weren’t a challenge anymore.

His first goals were: no soda and to hire a trainer. He lost 10 pounds (4.5kgs), then got sick and gained them back again… but he dug deep, started again and kept going. By February he’d made more goals. Firstly to attend the Temple and secondly to stop eating sugar all together. He began to treat his diet as a fast, he started with a prayer and asked for the strength to give up things that his body craved.

He began receiving promptings. He acted on each one to the best of his ability. The weight started to fall off extremely fast. By the end of the month he had lost 25 pounds (11.3kgs). Every achievement gave momentum to the next goal.

He began having promptings that he should put his papers in, even though he was still overweight, he thought that doing so was simply so he could be declined one last time and have closure that he had tried his best.  When he told his mom of his plans to submit again she said jokingly, “That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard”.

He knew this as well as anyone. At this point he had 5 months and 160 pounds (72kgs) to lose. This was not going to be an easy task.

Time passed.

With less then 2 months before the submission deadline , it began to be clear that he would not lose enough weight. His doctor, his stake president and bishop all promised to help him work towards going, but it was still a gamble whether he’d be accepted. He was still far too overweight.

He was almost out of time.

Riley and his mom were in the car when he got a call from his stake president.

He knew this would very likely be the third decline.

The Stake President cut straight to the chase. “Riley, you’re going to be a missionary”.  Riley’s eyes filled with tears, as did his mom’s. Riley wasn’t at the weight he needed to be, but they knew he would be if he kept working hard until the day of his departure. Somehow they crossed the seemingly insurmountable canyon of circumstance.


Riley with parents and sisters family just before he left for his mission.


Riley did lose the 160 pounds, (72 kgs) and was called to serve in the Hamilton New Zealand Mission. Serving with the people of New Zealand gave him opportunities to teach in a way that only his unique circumstances, dedication and patience could have prepared him for.



Riley as a missionary in Hobbiton, New Zealand.


When Riley looks back on his struggles get in the mission field, he feels that he journey was, “totally worth it” because everything he experienced helped him to connect with the people he loved and appreciate the time he had to serve.

Remember at the beginning of the article, I asked you to think about something you thought was impossible or too hard to change:

Is it still impossible now?



Riley at a mission reunion in Utah. (Top right)



As always, I’d love to hear from you!

Shoot me an email at: [email protected]


If you liked this story, then you’ll love this one: How one sister lost over 20lbs in one transfer

About The Author


Hello, my name's Bruce! (You can go ahead and say it, 'Hello Bruce.') I'm currently a member missionary, formally a missionary member in North Carolina and I love the gospel! I work as a counselor at Especially For Youth (efy) and I love everything about preparing for, serving and returning from a mission with power.

19 Responses

  1. Anon.

    This was a wonderful story, and just what I needed to hear. I’ve been struggling with loosing weight, even though I’ve been told in blessings that I need to do so in order to have our next child. It feels like an overwhelming task sometimes and I keep failing at it. But, when I read the part in this that said, “He began to treat his diet as a fast, he started with a prayer and asked for the strength to give up things that his body craved.” – the Spirit touched me powerfully and I just cried. That is exactly what I need to do as well, and the element to my efforts that I have been missing. Thank you so much for this story, it’s a game changer for me.

  2. glen

    I only saw two typing issues. Perhaps the others were fixed. “Annoying” is a rather strong word. It stopped my flow of reading but it didn’t annoy me.

    1. “He watched her spent the morning” s/b “spend”
    2. “When Riley looks back on his struggles [to] get in the mission field” I think is missing “to”.

  3. Karina

    Thank you for sharing this article. I find it very inspiring, specially now for New Year’s resolutions. Thank you brother Riley for serving on a mission. I appreciate your testimony given by example and not just by words.

  4. Ruthann

    Thank you for taking the time to share this inspirational story. I must say that the typo’s are so minimal compared to the message of this article. Thank you for taking the time to help those who can grow from this message.

  5. Aimee

    This is a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing. I served in Hamilton (when it was still part of the Auckland mission). Every missionary I know, minus one elder, gained weight while serving; some quite a lot. So to maintain his weight and not fall back on old habits is another feat in itself. With the Lord all things are possible. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Miriama Ormsby

    Elder Riley served here in Tauranga New Zealand.. particularly the Welcome Bay Ward.. He came many times to our home and shared his sweet spirit with us…we feel very close to him still so I am so very grateful for this article…it is wonderful…We Love you Riley..

  7. Mike

    Very nice story. It must have been really hard to commit to a mission, not just because of the required weight loss, but going on a mission at 25. Putting life on hold for two years at 18 (19) is hard, I can’t imagine doing so at 25, and then having to work with a bunch of 18 year old kids. Great job and great faith.

  8. houpopolzhu

    Яндекс не сможет запомнить вас и правильно идентифицировать в дальнейшем. Чтобы включить cookies, воспользуйтесь советами на странице нашей Помощи .

  9. David

    What a fantastic story! I admire this young man’s determination to do something so hard!

  10. Trent

    Thank you for this article. My son had a similar issue. At 19 his first missionary application was declined. He was very sad and disappointed and depressed. After following the inspiration from the stake president and a loving bishop, he attempted another try but agian his weight was an issue and he accepted that he wasn’t going to be able to serve. After months of self evaluation and much prayer and fasting, he tried again. At 22 his application was accepted and he is currently in the MTC and will leave for the Illinois Chicago mission. When we spoke with him on Christmas he sounded joyful and and thankful to be serving and grateful to have waited.

  11. poincarbogg

    As I tell this story, I want you to think about the thing that seems nearly impossible for you to change, because that’s exactly how Elder Riley felt trying to get on a mission. Where is this information?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.