Soon after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded, the Lord called Oliver Cowdry on a mission (D&C 28:8). Before Oliver left, the Lord also called Peter Whitmer, Jr., Parley P. Pratt, and Ziba Peterson to accompany him (D&C 30:5; 32). When calling Peter Whitmer, Jr., the Lord said, "Behold, I say unto you, Peter, that you shall take your journey with your brother Oliver...And be you afflicted in all his afflictions, ever lifting up your heart unto me in prayer and faith, for his and your deliverance" (D&C 30:5-6).
It is clear that God has always seen value in sending His missionaries "two by two" (D&C 42:6). Why is that? Couldn't He just send us out one by one? What are the benefits of having a companion? After experiencing many companions myself (11 to be exact!), I have come to learn that the Lord purposefully puts us in companionships, and He has good reasons. Here are some of the benefits I've seen:
Perhaps the most obvious reason to have a companion is for your safety. The Missionary Handbook states, "Staying with your companion will help provide protection from physical and spiritual dangers, false accusations, and loneliness. Obey this missionary standard at all times and in all places. Never be alone." There were many times on my mission that my companion and I entered potentially dangerous situations. I was always thankful for my companion, and knew I was safer with them at my side. Plus, companions can be the ones who point out dangers that you may not have foreseen. You may get out of a sticky situation much faster because your companion was able to see what you could not.
I've always loved the story of Alma and Amulek, two of the greatest missionaries in the Book of Mormon. Alma is trying to teach in the wicked city of Ammonihah where Amulek is a prominent citizen. After being visited by an angel, Amulek allows Alma into his home and becomes his missionary companion. One day, Alma bears powerful testimony to the people of Ammonihah. The people become angry with him, and almost throw him into prison. But Amulek steps up, testifies that what Alma has said is true, and bears his own testimony. "And now, when Amulek had spoken these words the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified of the things whereof they were accused, and also of the things which were to come, according to the spirit of prophecy which was in them." Companions can testify of what you teach, which makes our message twice as powerful. People will listen more to two people testifying rather than just one.
Missions are hard. I know you've heard it a million times, but believe it. There will be days when you don't want to get out of bed. Some days you'll feel completely helpless while your family or friends struggle thousands of miles away. And some days you'll be so tired, you won't be able to help it as the tears start to fall. But during those days, you won't be alone. Your companion will drag you out of bed and help you pick out a cute dress. Your companion will listen and offer advice as you worry for your family and friends. And your companion will hold you close as you cry into their shoulder. The Lord doesn't expect us to do His work alone. He knows how hard it is. That's why He sends us out with companions. Elder Holland has said, "We may not be able to alter the journey, but we can make sure no one walks it alone. Surely that is what it means to bear one another’s burdens." That's what companions can do for us.
"Know thou, my son (or daughter), that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good" (D&C 122:7). Not every companion will be easy. I had companions I didn't always get along or agree with. But we worked together and learned how to get along, and how to agree to disagree. I'm so thankful for what I learned from my companions, because the experience I've gained has been for my good with college roommates, friends, siblings, parents, and my beloved husband. I've often been surprised that so many of the skills I gained from living with 11 different companions have been so beneficial in my marriage. I promise, even when companions are tough, they're giving you experience that the Lord knows you'll need in the future.
When I was set apart, I was promised that I would create friendships with my companions that would last into the eternities. As I said before, I was blessed to serve with 11 companions. While we didn't always get along, I am so thankful that those 11 wonderful people have become 11 lifelong friends. As you work together in the Lord's vineyard, you and your companions can become friends as well. To me, that has been the greatest benefit of companions, and I will be forever thankful the Lord allowed me that blessing.