I’m still reeling from the recent announcement by our beloved prophet, Thomas S. Monson (supported by comments made later by Elders Holland and Nelson), declaring new age limits for LDS missionary service. This modification is going to have a significant effect on missionary work and will greatly expand our efforts to do the work of the Lord.
Recent reports state that LDS missionary applications jumped from 700 per week to over 4,000 within a few weeks of this historic announcement. I’ve watched in my own ward as several young women have rejoiced in the expansion of the age requirement and made preparations to be involved in such an important work at a younger age; one already having received her call just days after her 19th birthday.
The ripple effects of this announcement are spreading beyond the borders of the Church, and are being discussed by member and non-member alike. The world is listening! Recently, a report in the Wall Street Journal even highlighted some of the social and cultural changes that could occur within the Church as a result of this announcement. These include shifts in such things as, dating habits, college enrollments, and even shifts in the marriageable age of our members.
With literally thousands more young men and young women lining up to be a part of this expansion, I think it is important for us to explore just what this will mean in terms of missionary service and the focus taken by our young men and women.
While it’s a time for all of us to be excited about how the work is now moving into a higher gear, a word of caution is needed to ensure we all have the correct focus. Elder Holland, in the press conference immediately after Pres. Monson’s announcement, was quick to remind our young people that,
“This announcement, I say to these young people, isn’t about you. It’s about the sweet and pure message you are being asked to bear and the ever greater numbers God needs to bear it.”
It could be easy for many of our young men and women to get caught up in the hype of the moment, and see this as an opportunity to simply be a part of something historic, rather than considering whether the time is right for them to answer the call.
In the same press conference, Elder Russell M. Nelson declared, “No young man or woman should begin his or her service as a missionary before they are ready”. Careful and prayerful consideration is a fundamental element of whether an individual is ready to serve or not.
What Qualifies a Person For Missionary Service?
When I think about what it is that qualifies a person to serve my mind immediately goes to the 4th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.
Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work…
And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work. D&C 4:2-3, 5
Five qualities qualify an individual to serve…Faith, hope, charity, love, and an eye single to the glory of God. These five qualities can be used as a yardstick to measure whether a person is ready or not.
Here is what the scriptures, and some of the brethren, say about each one of these qualities:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
Joseph F. Smith: “…it is necessary to have faith in God, faith being the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness.” Teachings of the Presidents of the Church
Richard G. Scott: “…to employ its power, faith must be founded on something. There is no more solid foundation than faith in the love Heavenly Father has for you, faith in His plan of happiness, and faith in the capacity and willingness of Jesus Christ to fulfill all of His promises…You will gather the fruits of faith as you follow the principles God has established for its use.
“Some of those principles are:
- Trust in God and in His willingness to provide help when needed, no matter how challenging the circumstance.
- Obey His commandments and live to demonstrate that He can trust you.
- Be sensitive to the quiet prompting of the Spirit.
- Act courageously on that prompting.
- Be patient and understanding when God lets you struggle to grow and answers come a piece at a time over an extended period.” The Sustaining Power of Faith
Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God. Ether 12:4
M. Russell Ballard: “Moroni, having seen our day, counseled, “Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope.”… (Moro. 10:20.)…As we put our faith and trust to work, hope is born. Hope grows out of faith and gives meaning and purpose to all that we do. It can even give us the peaceful assurance we need to live happily in a world that is ripe with iniquity, calamity, and injustice. The Joy of Hope Fulfilled
Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “Hope has the power to fill our life with happiness…
“Hope is not knowledge, but rather the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us. It is confidence that if we live according to God’s laws and the words of His prophets now, we will receive desired blessings in the future. It is believing and expecting that our prayers will be answered. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance…
“…because of the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we may hope and be assured that the ending of the book of our lives will exceed our grandest expectations…
“We learn to cultivate hope the same way we learn to walk; one step at a time…We grow in our ability to abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost as we more perfectly live the gospel…
“Hope sustains us through despair. Hope teaches that there is reason to rejoice even when all seems dark around us…” The Infinite Power of Hope
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:1
Henry B. Eyring: “…charity is at the heart of the society and is to come into the heart, to be part of the very nature, of every member… Charity is born of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and is an effect of His Atonement working in the hearts of the members.” The Enduring Legacy of Relief Society
Joseph B. Worthlin: “Paul’s message to this new body of Saints was simple and direct: Nothing you do makes much of a difference if you do not have charity. You can speak with tongues, have the gift of prophecy, understand all mysteries, and possess all knowledge; even if you have the faith to move mountains, without charity it won’t profit you at all.” The Great Commandment
M. Russell Ballard: “The Apostle Paul taught that three divine principles form a foundation upon which we can build the structure of our lives. They are faith, hope, and charity. (See 1 Cor. 13:13.) Together they give us a base of support like the legs of a three-legged stool. Each principle is significant within itself, but each also plays an important supporting role. Each is incomplete without the others. ” The Joy of Hope Fulfilled
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you. John 13:34
Gordon B. Hinkley: “Love is of the very essence of life. It is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Yet it is more than the end of the rainbow. Love is at the beginning also, and from it springs the beauty that arches across the sky on a stormy day. Love is the security for which children weep, the yearning of youth, the adhesive that binds marriage, and the lubricant that prevents devastating friction in the home; it is the peace of old age, the sunlight of hope shining through death. How rich are those who enjoy it in their associations with family, friends, church, and neighbors…
If the world is to be improved, the process of love must make a change in the hearts of men. It can do so when we look beyond self to give our love to God and others, and do so with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind…
This principle of love is the basic essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Without love of God and love of neighbor there is little else to commend the gospel to us as a way of life.” And The Greatest of These is Love
Pres. Thomas S. Monson: “…we need to extend ourselves in service to our Heavenly Father if we are to demonstrate our love for Him.” How Do We Show Our Love
If your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you. D&C 88:67
Gordon B. Hinkley: “As we look with love and gratitude to God, as we serve him with an eye single to his glory, there goes from us the darkness of sin, the darkness of selfishness, the darkness of pride. There will come an increased love for our Eternal Father and for his Beloved Son, our Savior and our Redeemer. There will come a greater sense of service toward our fellowmen, less of thinking of self and more of reaching out to others.” The Greatest of These is Love
Joseph B. Worthlin: “Each of us must work in harmony with God’s will and create a spiritual climate that will bring Jesus into the midst of our lives; and then we must continue to live “with an eye single to [his] glory D&C 4:5. ” Build it Right
Willing and Worthy Missionaries
This historic occasion is underlined by the words of Elder Holland when he states, “God is hastening His work, and He needs more and more willing and worthy missionaries to spread the light and the truth and the hope and the salvation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to an often dark and fearful world. … You must prepare by personal worthiness and moral cleanliness and you must study diligently to know the gospel you will teach. We want you teaching effectively from the first day onward. And that will require preparation that starts long before you get your call to serve.” Church Lowers Age Requirement for Missionary Service
Faith, hope, charity, love and an eye single to the glory of God is what the gospel is all about. If a missionary can emulate these characteristics in his/her life, then they are truly qualified for the work. It’s clear we are counselled to determine carefully the appropriate time for missionary service, as the new age limits are simply offered as another option. Significant to this determination is the reminder that this change is not about the young people and how fast they can get out there, but it is about the, “…sweet and pure message..” that needs to be brought to the world and how willing and worthy these missionaries are to live it and do it.