Missionary Service – It Isn’t About You

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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:

FaithNow 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

HopeWherefore, 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

CharityThough 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

LoveA 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

Eye-SingleIf 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.

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The Value of a Full-Time Mission

In my online wonderings today I found this new video that the church has published on The Value of a Full-Time Mission.

I know there are many young men and young women out there who are struggling with the decision of whether to serve a full-time mission or not. So today I am posting this video here for anyone who is feeling this struggle in their life, or for any mum or dad who might need an extra resource to share with their future missionary. I hope you enjoy it, and PLEASE…..share it with your friends and family.

Have you had an experience where you or another person in your life have struggled with this question? For the benefit of those out there who are dealing with it right now, I would love if you can share a little bit about that struggle.

In memory of my life…a vision of the future

Not long ago I went on an overnight sailing trip with several of the Young Women in my ward. We moored overnight in a small cove within one of the many beautiful islands surrounding Auckland Harbour.

In the morning we decided to explore the tiny island that had been our shelter for the night. As we climbed to the highest point we noticed a single row of white headstones. Their etched inscriptions facing toward their destinination, but not quite making it. Each of them told a story of tragic circumstance, of lives cut short, and reminded us of our brief mortal presence here on earth.

As we gathered around to enjoy the view I asked each of the girls to tell me about the vision they had for their future. Tho’ there were many of them who had not yet formulated a full vision of where they wanted to be in the next 10 years, it was a reminder to me of how important it is for each of us to understand the plan that the Lord has for us.

Elder O. Vincent Haleck, in the 2012 Sunday afternoon session of General Conference suggested that, “If we are to prosper rather than perish, we must gain a vision of ourselves as the Savior sees us”.

I remember contemplating this very thing over 30 years ago when a tiny seed of an idea was formulating in my mind. I was 20 yrs. old, had just arrived back in Australia after spending almost a year in the UK with my parents, and wondered where my life was to take me from  that point. I had the world at my feet as a 20 yr. old, but I just couldn’t get a grip on what I needed to do.

I had never contemplated the idea that I could, or would, serve a mission. Indeed, as a child the idea never entered my mind, and certainly as a teenager it was the last thing I would have addressed. But at 20, it began as a tiny seed of enquiry.

This was the first time I considered the scripture that Elder Haleck read out recently in conference, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 21:18). It was also the first time in my life I considered my future with the realisation that I could actually really mess things up if I didn’t have some kind of vision of what the Lord wanted me to do with it.

My journey of enquiry took me to many places that year. In my mind and heart I considered  many options, and in the end I turned to my patriarchal blessing for some answers. I began to create a vision in my mind as to what my purpose was, and what the Lord would have me do.

Tho’ I couldn’t predict my future, there were certain truths that I couldn’t deny.

  1. This life is so short, and we don’t have time to indulge ourselves in selfish pursuits.
  2. The choices we make now will have a lasting effect, not only on us, but upon the lives of others.
  3. The Lord knows us even better than we know ourselves.
  4. To act on vision we must apply faith.

This journey of self discovery took me to places that allowed me to glimpse the possibilities. It was that year that I truly understood the wisdom of Solomon, “Where there is no vision the people perish”. I discovered that I could obtain a vision of my future, and that vision would allow me to prosper.

But, even more importantly, that vision allowed me to prepare for the day when I could fulfill things I thought I could never do. Through missionary service I was able to sew the seed of faith and vision in the lives of many individuals and families. Through my life as a mother, I am far better prepared to sew the seeds of faith and vision in the lives of my children.

Unlike those tiny headstones that were perched on the top of that island – in sight of the city of their destination, but cut short by tragedy – I prepared myself for the journey of life. In choosing to serve a mission I know that I was fulfilling a purpose that the Lord had set out for me. From that point on it didn’t matter how long or short my life would be on this earth, my path was set and it would lead me in the direction that the Lord wanted me to take.

I know that I will arrive at my destination no matter what this mortal existence involves, as long as I maintain that vision and exercise faith.