On the 20th of August, my mom texted me while I was at work with the words, “It’s here.” It was obvious that she was referring to my mission call, as we weren't waiting for anything else. I quickly finished up work for the day and headed home, full of anticipation. Not so long story short, I opened up my mission call with family and friends watching via YouTube and read that I would be going to the California San Fernando mission. That’s definitely not where I expected to go; I was hoping for
Canada or Japan. But
nonetheless, that’s where the Lord has called me, and so I shall go and do the
things the Lord commands.
For years I've been thinking about going on a mission. Pretty much my entire life has been focused on this one thing. But, being honest, a couple years ago I didn’t really want to go on a mission anymore. I was quickly slapped out of that by the Spirit when it told me that if I don’t go, I’m going to miss something really huge in my life that I need. Kind of hard to ignore a prompting like that.
I was asked to give a talk from the Saturday afternoon session from the most recent General Conference by Elder S. Gifford Nielson entitled “Hastening the Lord’s Game Plan”. He asked a question that I think we should all take a moment to think about: What would you do if the prophet of the Lord really called you? In his talk, the question came to his mind after a phone call where a young boy shouted to his mother that President Hinckley was on the phone, when in actuality it was not. His answer to the question though is that he has called all of us already. President Thomas S. Monson said, “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him.”
We've all been called to do the work. There’s a phrase that often gets said around here that states that Every Member is a Missionary. The only difference between you and me is that I got a fancy paper that told me where I could best go serve the Lord. Another difference is that you’re all allowed to go see the second part of the Hobbit, while I can’t. Now, how can we as member missionaries to our duty to God? I will let Elder S. Gifford Nielson answer that, as how he says it is better than I could say it:
First, specifically pray to bring someone closer to the Savior and His gospel every day. You could do this by seeing all people as sons and daughters of God helping each other on their journey home. Think of the new friends you would make.
Second, pray for the missionaries serving in your area and their investigators by name every day. The only way to do this is to greet them, look at their badge, call them by name, and ask them who they are teaching. Elder Russell M. Nelson wisely contributed, “Until you know a person’s name and face, the Lord cannot help you know his or her heart.”
Third, invite a friend to an activity in or out of your home. Wherever you go or whatever you do, ponder who would enjoy the occasion and then listen to the Spirit as He directs you.
Everyone on this earth is a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father, who loves us dearly no matter how far we stray from Him. He knows us better than anyone, including ourselves. When we pray every day to bring someone closer to the Savior and His gospel, and if we truly want to do it in our hearts, He will guide us to those who need to meet us every day of our lives. It could be as simple as making sure you’re living the gospel standards, or saying hi to a stranger on the street. Every little thing we can do, while having the spirit with us, can plant those seeds needed in the hearts of others that are needed to grow into the learning and comfort of the gospel we all openly enjoy.
Elder S. Gifford Nielson’s second point is to pray for the missionaries serving in your area. Greeting them, getting to know them personally, and supporting all that they do. When a ward or branch strongly supports the missionaries and their purpose, the love of the members can much more easily be seen by investigators in the church. Missionaries feel at home and more comfortable when we get to know them, and their hearts and the hearts of those they teach will be much more receptive to the teachings of the spirit.
His third point is to invite a friend or two to an activity in or out of your home. While being kind for those strangers around us and talking to them, nothing is more effective then talking with your friends. Around them, you can be more open and they may be more willing to come with you to activities. Not necessarily church, but you can invite them to Family Home Evenings, ward activities, barbeques, ice-skating, whatever it is that your ward or family is doing.
There are plenty of ways we can spread the gospel around us, from the small things to the big things. What will always be the best thing to get across though is the Spirit. Without it, there will be no true teaching. When we go and do with a heart full of song and the spirit accompanying us, anything is possible, and anyone can be taught.
I would like to continue by reading a story from Elder S. Gifford Nielson’s talk about a pair of shoes:
My awakening to these unique verses [these versus were quoted prior to the story] played an important role in my first assignment as an Area Seventy. I was a bit nervous being the companion of an Apostle, Elder Quentin L. Cook, at a stake conference. As I walked into the stake president’s office for the initial meeting that weekend, I noticed a pair of tattered-looking, bronzed shoes on the credenza behind his desk, accompanied by a scripture ending in an exclamation point. As I read it, I felt the Lord was aware of my study, had answered my prayers, and that He knew exactly what I needed to soothe my anxious heart.
I asked the stake president to tell me the story of the shoes.
“These are shoes of a young convert to the Church whose family situation was strained, yet he was determined to serve a successful mission and did so in
Guatemala. Upon his return I met
with him to extend an honorable release and saw his shoes were worn out. This
young man had given his all to the Lord without much, if any, family support.
“He noticed I was staring at his shoes and asked me, ‘President, is anything wrong?’
“I responded, ‘No, Elder, everything is right! Can I have those shoes?’”
The stake president continued: “My respect and love for this returning missionary was overwhelming! I wanted to memorialize the experience, so I had his shoes bronzed. It is a reminder to me when I walk into this office of the effort we all must give regardless of our circumstances. The verse was from Isaiah: ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!’ (Isaiah 52:7).”
I don’t think I’m going to come home in the same shoes I left in, but wouldn't’t be great if I left a few pairs of those worn out shoes behind? We should all be striving to work hard, even if we think we can’t, to bring others to the peace, comfort, and power of the gospel. As we do, we will be blessed by the Lord in many countless ways.
One thing a mission requires is sacrifice, as many of us know. There have been stories in the New Era about plenty of young men who gave up promising scholarships for school, or a great place on a fancy sports team, to go on a mission. I don’t have the opportunity to give up either of those, but there are many things I’ll be missing when I’m out in the field. I will miss my sister graduate from high school. I will miss my younger brother’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor, and his 18th birthday when he will receive the Melchizedek priesthood. If my older brother does some awesome things, which he likely will, I’ll miss that. I’ll be missing two years of school that I could have used to further my pursuits. I’ll also be missing a billion awesome movies slated to come out in the next two years, but I’m lucky enough to be coming home right before Star Wars Episodes 7 comes out, so I have something to look forward to not missing.
I’ll close with a quote from Elder L. Tom Perry and President Henry B. Eyring, both who were quoted by Elder S. Gifford Nielson in his talk:
“This is the most remarkable era in the history of the Church. This is something that ranks with the great events that have happened in past history, like the First Vision, like the gift of the Book of Mormon, like the Restoration of the gospel, like all of the things that build that foundation for us to go forward and teach in our Father in Heaven’s kingdom” (“Concluding Remarks” [address given at the seminar for new mission presidents, June 26, 2013], 1, Church History Library, Salt Lake City).
We need to be engaged as never before to match the excitement of our leaders and the commitment of our full-time missionaries. This work is not going to move forward in the Lord’s intended way without us! As President Henry B. Eyring has said, “Whatever our age, capacity, Church calling, or location, we are as one called to the work to help Him in His harvest of souls”
I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.