Poem: The Greatest Love

Charles GirouxThe following is an inspirational poem written by Charles Giroux, who served in the New York Rochester Mission of the LDS Church from 2014 to 2016. While serving in a particularly difficult area he felt inspired to write this poem in order to comfort some missionaries who were struggling under various circumstances. Though his mission was difficult at times, he thoroughly loved it and to anyone considering serving one he emphatically states that choosing to serve a mission is something you will not regret. The poem is published here by permission of the author.

Two Missionaries knock door by door.
People answer come back no more.
We’re all set so don’t come here.
We don’t want you to be near.
So the boys leave their yard
and keep on going, though it’s hard.

A man among the Zoramites
comes to give them back the light.
We know the truth they say to him.
We’re already saved upon God’s whim.
Still he pleads with his pure heart
that their new lives they might start.
Turned away he still moves on
because he knows it’s not a con.
Though hard the task his soul has taken
his love for them can’t be mistaken.

It’s an important message the missionaries tell.
It will save your soul from the depths of hell.
We mean by this that you’ll have joy.
But in their response, they still are coy.
They don’t see why it’s such a big deal
why this message could be real.

Right before the final battle
Nephites scream and walls do rattle.
It’s just a book they tell the kid.
How could evil those plates rid?
Yet the prophet knows himself
that the record does give help.
More precious than it’s weight in gold
are the stories that are told.
His friends around him do not know
that these tales help others grow.
Hunted by the winning team.
Saving others seems like a dream.
Yet he strives to hide away
what helps others fight today.
He gives his life for what they mock
while he’s hunted like a hawk.
His love surpasses their lack of care
so that truth he might share.

Gone from home he loved so much
and can’t return to live with such.
He misses family. He misses friends.
He feels his heart never mends.
He left behind an awesome job.
Sometimes he has to softly sob.
What he gave up to come out here
everything he held so dear.
He longs for home yet pushes through.
Acting in diligence he tries to do.
Away from home for two years.
The idea brings the boy to tears.

He left his land to go to preach.
His enemies he tries to teach.
The kingdom’s crown he left behind
to teach to people who aren’t too kind.
Though depressed yet he turns back
to give to them the message they lack.
Away from home for fourteen years.
The idea brings the man to tears.
But he can’t bear the solemn thought
that any soul would not be bought.
Bought from hell through heav’n above
so he goes to them to show his love.

An hour has gone and now the day
and all their efforts don’t seem to pay.
There was no spirit from on high
that spoke to the man walking by.
No tears did come to those they taught.
No miracle today was wrought.
The day’s a waste, so it seems.
Being a missionary is unlike their dreams.
One day wasted, just like the last.
So much time is in the past.
Two years gone and nothing to show.
The results of their work seem really low.

He preaches day and preaches night
yet no one sings choose the right.
The prophet hides within a cave
because of the word which he gave.
Filled with hate that does breed war.
The land is covered in blood and gore.
He has to watch his people die.
Their destruction is coming nigh.
His life now gone and nothing to show.
The results of his work seem really low.
But this man has more excellent hope
and that’s the way that he can cope.
The hope that all can one day love
and return with him to mansions above.

It’s ridiculous they tell the men
that man can know his God again.
We’ll shout at you from high and low
telling you you’ve got to go.
A sandwich thrown into your face
will surely show hate’s embrace.
Unwelcome guests missionaries leave.
Within their hearts they do grieve.

Dragged outside into the cold.
Your a liar he is told.
Tar and feathers were applied.
In the cold his baby died.
Kicked around from state to state.
Surrounded by a world of hate.
Yet he strives his very best
to declare love to the rest.
And though hated yet he’ll love
for his call was from above.

Two young men talk to a crowd.
They try their best to not be loud.
I know myself he saw them both
and through his words we might have growth.
The crowd yells back Tis all a lie.
Tis all a cult that should just die.
The scream the louder worse and worse
pointing at a Bible verse.
It is the work of sinful men
to say that God can speak again.
They say his work is done away.
God can’t add to his word today.
The young men take it to their heart.
They have done all their part.
Though with eyes yet they’re blind
for they haven’t yet an open mind.
It’s blasphemy, they say,
to think God works today.
The young men’s love drives them on
to bring others the lighted dawn.

One noble man stands midst a crowd.
At Him they jeer. No knee is bowed.
They strike Him hard and mock their God.
Emmanuel. Their iron rod.
A king, they say, He claims to be.
There is no crown on Him I see.
Let’s fashion one of plenty thorn
and cast on Him all our scorn.
Humbly He bears it all.
The sheep do not hear His call.
We have the law that Moses gave.
Has he come out of his grave?
Free us from the Roman nation.
Then we will believe Your station.
Until then You’re just a fraud
and not to us the Son of God.
It’s blasphemy, they say,
to think God lives today.
Yet He rescues that lost one
while ninety-nine only shun.

Every night and every day
the missionaries get down to pray.
They pray for help from above
for those people they’ve come to love.
Their hearts are open desires pure.
They want for others heaven’s cure.

In the garden during night
that one man prays with might.
He pleads with heaven for that grace
to save us all the human race.
Though rejected and despised
He gives them love they still deny.
He suffers all to make us free
that we one day might ransomed be.
He fears not how many go above.
For there’s not numbers only love.
So don’t despair it’s all been done.
It’s all been suffered by the Son.
What’s hard for us was hard for Him.
But even so, He did not sin.
We may struggle. So did the best.
Let’s mirror Him more than the rest.
Each hard step, though might seem grim,
will bring you closer unto Him.
Will make you brighter of a light
to dispel darkness of the night.
So men may find the way to Christ
Who payed for us the greatest price.
Paid in pain from above
to show to us the greatest love.

Finishers Wanted

Beginners are many, but enders are few

In 1972, President Thomas S. Monson delivered his classic talk entitled, Finishers Wanted. In that talk, he quoted this famous poem:

Stick to your task ’til it sticks to you;
Beginners are many, but enders are few.
Honor, power, place and praise
Will always come to the one who stays.
Stick to your task ’til it sticks to you;
Bend at it, sweat at it, smile at it, too;
For out of the bend and the sweat and the smile
Will come life’s victories after a while.
—Author Unknown

The first two lines of the poem are ones I quote to my children often in regards to chores, school assignments, and other activities. These concepts are also very applicable and important to full-time missionaries.

When I had been in Argentina on my mission for about four months, I remember getting really discouraged one day. I had thoughts of giving up and going home. I was frustrated with the lack of progress in speaking and understanding the Spanish language. I was home sick and longed for the freedom to do the things I wanted to do, as opposed to the very regimented and repetitious daily schedule missionaries follow. And Satan was probably throwing many other doubts into my mind. Thankfully, I snapped out of it by throwing myself more into the work and relying more on the graces of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Overall, missionary work is enjoyable, satisfying, and even fun at times. But it is also work, hard work. And it can be tiresome and discouraging at times. For missionaries to endure to the end of their missions and return home with honor, they will need the discipline and fortitude President Monson spoke about when he said that finishers are wanted in this Church. Here’s his story:

“I paused before the elegant show window of a prestigious furniture store. That which caught and held my attention was not the beautifully designed sofa nor the comfortable-appearing chair that stood at its side. Neither was it the beautiful chandelier positioned overhead. Rather, my eyes rested upon a small sign that had been placed at the bottom right-hand corner of the window. Its message was brief: “Finishers Wanted.”

The store had need of those persons who possessed the talent and the skill to make ready for final sale the expensive furniture that the firm manufactured and sold. “Finishers Wanted.” The words remained with me as I returned to the pressing activities of the day.

In life, as in business, there has always been a need for those persons who could be called finishers. Their ranks are few, their opportunities many, their contributions great.

From the very beginning to the present time, a fundamental question remains to be answered by each who runs the race of life. Shall I falter or shall I finish? On the answer await the blessings of joy and happiness here in mortality and eternal life in the world to come. …we sympathize with those who falter. We honor those who finish.”

President Monson goes on, in his talk, to highlight the Old Testament prophet Job, who did not falter under intense trials and persecution. Job became a finisher. He mentions the New Testament Apostle Paul, who at the conclusion of his ministry said: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7.) Like Job, Paul was a finisher. Then, ultimately, he brings up the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Says President Monson, “though Jesus was tempted by the evil one, yet he resisted. Though he was hated, yet he loved. Though he was betrayed, yet he triumphed.” At the end of his mortal life, Jesus prayed to the Father, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17: 4.)

In his Finishers Wanted talk, President Monson addresses specifically the subject of a missionary who wanted to leave the mission field and go home early. It happened when he was serving as a mission president in Canada. Here is the story:

“[A missionary] came to me in utter despair. He had made his decision to leave the mission field when but at the halfway mark. His bags were packed, his return ticket purchased. He came by to bid me farewell. We talked; we listened; we prayed. There remained hidden the actual reason for his decision to quit.

As we arose from our knees in the quiet of my office, the missionary began to weep. Flexing the muscle in his strong right arm, he blurted out, “This is my problem. All through school my muscle power qualified me for honors in football and track, but my mental power was neglected. President Monson, I’m ashamed of my school record. It reveals that ‘with effort’ I have the capacity to read at but the level of the fourth grade. I can’t even read the Book of Mormon. How then can I understand its contents and teach others its truths?”

The silence of the room was broken by my young nine-year-old son, who, without knocking, opened the door and, with surprise, apologetically said, “Excuse me. I just wanted to put this book back on the shelf.”

He handed me the book. Its title: A Child’s Story of the Book of Mormon, by Dr. Deta P. Neeley. I turned to the foreword and read these words: “This book has been written with a scientifically controlled vocabulary to the level of the fourth grade.” A sincere prayer from an honest heart had been dramatically answered.

My missionary accepted the challenge to read the book. Half laughing, half crying, he declared, “It will be good to read something I can understand.” Clouds of despair were dispelled by the sunshine of hope. He completed an honorable mission. He became a finisher.

…I pray humbly that each one of us may be a finisher in the race of life and thus qualify for that precious prize: eternal life with our Heavenly Father in the celestial kingdom. I testify that God lives, that this is his work, and ask that each may follow the example of his Son, a true finisher.”

May the missionaries of today and tomorrow follow the example of the the prophets of old who endured enormous trials and tribulations and endured with faith to the end. And most especially, let us rely on the power of the Savior, and His Atonement, follow his example and finish the work God has called us to do. “Missionary work is difficult. It will tax your energies. It will strain your capacity. It will demand your best effort—frequently, a second effort. Remember, the race goeth “not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong” (Eccl. 9:11)—but to him who endures to the end. Determine to— Stick to your task till it sticks to you.” – President Monson, The Army of the Lord, April 1979.

monson quote missionary work hard stick to it

8 Stories: Missionary Exhibit at Temple Square

8 stories missionary exhibit temple squareA new missionary-themed exhibit was recently opened at the North Visitors’ Center at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The exhibit explains how the teachings of Jesus Christ and missionary service affect the individuals who go on a mission, their families, and people they serve in their mission area.

A room is dedicated to this exhibit where guests can view eight short films, each about 8 minutes long, that explore the real life experiences of eight members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who served full-time missions.

8 stories missionary exhibit insideThe films feature 2 women and 6 men from all over the world who served their mission in San Diego, California: Tevita Tuituu, Jon Hepworth, Steve Bott, Janet Zaldivar, Alex Murray, J. Tyler Christensen, Laura Voyles, and Mike Moreno.

The films talks about each one of these missionaries, their life before their mission, and the things that made them decide to serve. Each film then spends a few minutes sharing meaningful experiences they had during their mission and finishes by showing the missionaries returning home and talks about the effect that serving a mission has had on their life.

8 stories missionary exhibit inside2If you live in the Salt Lake area or if you come to Utah to visit, please make time to go see this exhibit. Especially if you have young men or young women considering a mission and unsure if they should go or not, please go see these films. They’ll feel the Spirit of God and it will no doubt increase their desire to serve as full-time missionaries.

Poem: He’s Been There Before

mormon missionaries riding bikesHe’s Been There Before is a great poem by Elder Troy Whittle who served in the Texas Houston Mission. It is reprinted here with the author’s permission. May  it be an inspiration to missionaries present and future to work diligently and make sacrifices of obedience and know that they are not alone and will have great success and blessings as they follow the Savior, act has his representative, and endure to the end.


The alarm bell rings at 6:30, I stumble to my feet
I grab my companions bedding and pull off his sheets

A groan fills the room, is it already time to arise?
It seems like just a second ago, I was able to shut my eyes

The morning activities follow with study, prayer and such
When it’s time to leave the apartment, you feel you haven’t accomplished much

“We have a super day planned,”
My comp. says with a grin
I lowly utter a faithless breath,
“Yeah, if anyone lets us in.”

With the word of God and my faithful Schwinn, we ride off in the street
Prepared to face another day of humidity and heat

It’s 9:30 in the evening, the day is almost through
My companion and I are riding home not accomplishing what we thought to do

We ride up to the mailbox, hoping to receive a lot
Only to look inside and hear my echo reverberate “air box”

We go up to our apartment, the day is now complete
The only thing to show for our work is a case of blistery feet

It’s past 10:30 p.m. My companion is fast asleep
Silence engulfs me all about and I begin to weep

In the midst of sadness, I kneel down to pray
I need to talk to father, but I’m not sure what to say

“Oh, Father” I begin, “What happened to us today?
I thought we’d teach somebody, but everyone was away

My hands, my aching hands- worn, hurt and beat;
If our area was any smaller, we’d have knocked the doors on every street”

“Why on missions are the days so much alike?
The only difference about today was the flat tire on my bike

Will you send some cooler weather? The heat is killing me
I sweat so bad, it gets in my eyes, it’s very hard to see”

“Why do I have to wear a helmet, isn’t your protection enough?
People always laugh at me, and call me stupid stuff

Please send us investigators so I may give them what they lack
I want to give them Book of Mormons, the weight of them hurts my back”

“And what about my family, They don’t have much to say
I’m sick of not hearing from home day after day after day

Oh Father, Why am I here am I just wasting time?
Sometimes I just want to go home, I’m sorry but that’s on my mind”

“My companion, Heavenly Father, what are you giving me?”
The way he rides his bicycle, I don’t think he can see

Now you have it, I can’t go on, I don’t know what to do
That, my Father in Heaven, is the prayer I have for you”

My prayer now finished, I stand up, then jump right into bed
I need my rest for tomorrow, we have another long day ahead

Sleep starts to overtake me, I seem to drift away
Then it seems a vision takes me to another time in another day

I’m standing alone on the hill, The view is very nice
A man walks towards me and says, “My name is Jesus Christ”

Tears of joy well up inside, I fall down to His feet
“Arise,” He states, “Follow me to the shade. You and I need to speak”

My attention’s towards my Savior, total and complete
He says, “Your mission is similar of what happened to me

I understand how you feel, I know what you’re going through
In fact, it would be fair to say I’ve felt the same as you”

“I even know how you felt when no one listened to you
At times I felt not quite sure what else that I could do

I know you don’t like to ride a bicycle, for you a car would be sweet
Just remember the donkey I rode wasn’t equipped with 21 speeds”

“I understand you don’t like sweating, in fact it’s something you hate
I remember when I sweat blood from every pore, oh the agony was great!

I see you don’t like your companion, you’d rather have someone else
I once had a companion named Judas who sold my life for wealth”

“It’s hard to wear a helmet and have people make fun of you
Much like when they put thorns on my head and called me King of the Jews

So you feel burdened down by the weight of your pack
I recall how heavy the cross was when they slammed it on my back”

“Your hands hurt from tracting and knocking on doors all day
I guess when they pounded nails into mine, I ached in a similar way

It’s hard not to hear from home when your family’s not there to see
I lost communication on the cross and cried, “Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?”

“We have a lot in common, but there’s a difference between us you see
I endured to the end and finished my mission, so follow and do like me”

He embraced me with His arms and His light filled me with His love
With tears in my eyes I watched as He ascended back to the Father above

I stood with awe and wonder when a beep rang in my head
Listening I heard the alarm, then realized I was in my bed

My companion let out a groan, “it’s 6:30 already, no way!”
I sat up and said, “Come on, I’ll even carry your scriptures today!”

No matter what we go through,
When we feel we can’t take more
Just stop and think about Jesus Christ,
He’s been there before!

By Elder Troy Whittle
Texas Houston Mission

My Missionary Commission

Early on in my mission, perhaps before I even left the MTC, I received a copy of a document entitled “My Missionary Commission” by Elder Bruce R. McConkie. While I found the short poem inspiring then, and still think it is good for today’s missionaries, I have hesitated to post it on this website because the document is apocryphal (i.e. it’s source cannot be authenticated). They say it came from an address Elder McConkie delivered while serving as president of the Australian Mission from 1961–64. I post it here now due to popular demand and the fact that the poem is already well-circulated. Enjoy!

My Missionary Commission

I am called of God.
My authority is above that of kings of the earth.
By revelation I have been selected as a personal representative of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He is my master and He has chosen me to represent Him–to stand in His place, to say and do what He Himself would say and do if He personally were ministering to the very people to whom He has sent me.
My voice is His voice, and my acts are His acts.
My doctrine is His doctrine.
My Commission is to do what He wants done, to say what He wants said, to be a living modern witness in word and in deed of the divinity of his great and marvelous latter-day work.
How great is my calling!
-Elder Bruce R. McConkie

 

Buy My Missionary Commission Digital Subway Art

My dear wifey, Heather, has an Etsy shop where see sells digital prints and other inspiring subway art. She has an item in her store where you can buy a digital subway art version McConkie’s My Missionary Commission. It’s only $5 and you can print it as a 16×20, 11×14, 8×10, 5×7, or 4×6. Print it and frame it and it makes a great gift for current and future missionaries. Click on the image below to go to her Etsy shop and purchase it. Thanks!

my-missionary-commission

Missionary Mormon Ads

Summary: Below you will find all of the MormonAds from the New Era magazine related to missionary work. To download them, click on the thumbnail to open the full-sized image, then right click and select save.

Should I Serve a Mission?

Should I Serve a Mission?There is a lot of excitement about men and women being able to serve full time missions at an earlier age. Along with the many who can’t wait to get out there and knock on doors, there are some who think, “Should I Serve a Mission? What if I’m not sure I want to serve?” Many aren’t comfortable sharing their honest feelings, and others either want to bag the idea altogether, or head out to the MTC reluctantly, and with feelings of quiet concern.

What if you aren’t sure you want to serve a mission? It’s okay. This is a big step, even if you’ve been preparing your whole life for this moment. Questions, fears, and worries may arise.  Frequently, people wonder if they are truly worthy to serve a mission, if they can handle being away from home, or if now is the time for them to go.

If you feel as though you aren’t ready, or not sure if you should serve a mission, I can share one story with you that may calm your nerves and allow you to move forward with more assurance. It comes from Elder Stephen Oveson, of the Quorum of the Seventy:

“We learned a beautiful lesson about consecration from one of the assistants to the president in our mission. A decision had been made that one of our missionaries needed to be sent home early from his mission. He had been disobedient on several occasions despite counseling, contracts, and repeated warnings. The airplane ticket had been purchased, and the appropriate approvals were obtained from the South America South Area Presidency and the Missionary Department to send this missionary home.

When the assistants brought the missionary in for his final interview, he protested loudly and tearfully that he did not want to go home. He promised to improve and said he would sign yet another contract. In desperation, President Oveson called the two assistants and Sister Oveson into his office and asked the elder to wait outside while the possible courses of action were discussed. Sister Oveson, somewhat out of patience with the situation, believed that sending him home was the only reasonable thing to do. “If he is allowed to stay,” she maintained, “the other missionaries might think that obedience is not important.”

One of the assistants said, “I have to agree with Hermana Oveson. I don’t think we really have a choice.”

When President Oveson asked the other assistant for his opinion, the assistant said, “I see much good in this elder. President, if you will let me go back out into the field, I will take him for my companion for the rest of my mission. I will take responsibility for him and help him to become a loving and obedient missionary.”

We all had tears in our eyes by the time this elder finished his remarks. We could not believe that anyone could be so loving and caring, especially a 20-year-old missionary. The decision was made to do as he requested. He found it exceedingly difficult at first, but slowly his junior companion learned a great deal from him and became a trustworthy missionary. When the senior companion went home, his companion stayed to finish his mission, becoming in time a senior companion and a trainer before he was honorably released. The follow-up to this true experience is that this once-wayward elder has since married and been sealed in the temple. He and his wife now have a son. They are active in the Church and are helping to build the kingdom. What a difference a consecrated, Christ-like person made in the life of this missionary and his future family!” (Personal Consecration, Elder Stephen B. Oveson, Ensign, September 2005.)

Are you the kind of person who has the compassion to see the good in another -even when they haven’t yet seen it for themselves? If so, there might be more souls for you to help than those investigators you teach!

Are you feeling like you might want to serve, yet you wonder if you can “hold down the fort” and lock into the mission rules, guidelines, and schedule? If you prepare to go with a willing heart and a mind to continually improve, the Lord may have just the right mission president and companion waiting to help build and strengthen you.

If you feel it is not right, then wait. Work with your bishop and your stake president. Plead for insights and direction from Father in Heaven, through the Holy Ghost. And then? Then, you can go forward knowing that your choice has been the right one for you.

With prayer, reasonably thinking through the challenges that arise in your mind, and with support of those who love you, you can make the right choice. And most choose to head out with their two pair of shoes, suits or dresses, and scriptures, ready for their adventure!

Vickey Pahnke Taylor is a songwriter, author, and speaker who has spent more than two decades teaching youth and adults with positive messages and motivational themes. Whether through music, books, columns, or standing in front of people, she loves the heart-to-heart connection. You can find Vickey online at her website, Goodness Matters, or on the Goodness Matters Facebook page.

Joseph Smith’s First Vision

I was in a recent stake conference priesthood leadership meeting where Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve presided and spoke. He opened up the meeting to questions, and one brother asked for his advice in preparing young people for a mission. Elder Nelson gave two pieces of advice: one, study the word of the Lord in the scriptures, and two, gain a testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith. I’d like to focus on the latter today, particularly on Joseph Smith’s First Vision.

Joseph Smith's First VisionMany of the important gospel truths that LDS missionaries teach were restored through Joseph Smith–that we lived with God before our birth, the importance of gospel ordinances, the necessity of priesthood authority,  that families can be together forever, and much added depth of understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. One of the most profound truths restored through Joseph the Prophet was about the nature of God and Jesus, and much of that was learned in the First Vision.

Summary of Joseph Smith’s First Vision

In the spring of 1820, after much meditation and studying of the bible, 14-year-old Joseph Smith followed the counsel in James 1:5 that “if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” Joseph desired guidance in his life, he wanted to know which church was correct, and he desired to be cleansed from his sins. He left his home one morning and found seclusion in a grove of trees and prayed. In response to this prayer, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith. This sacred experience was the beginning of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It led to other visitations by angelic messengers, to the coming forth of new scriptures such as the Book of Mormon, and to the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with priesthood authority from God.

Four Accounts of the First Vision

Some young people are surprised to learn that Joseph Smith wrote, or dictated, his First Vision experience four times. Each account of the First Vision was written in response to different needs and addressed different audiences. The four accounts were written in 1832, 1835, 1838, and 1842 respectively. Critics of the Church like to focus on the differences in these tellings of the First Vision and use such differences as they can find to attack Joseph Smith. But I have found that the four accounts of the First Vision are rather complementary of each other, and come together in beautiful harmony. Each emphasizes different aspects of his experience, and gives different insights about Joseph and his interaction with Diety.

  • 1832 Account: Though it was written twelve years after the experience, this is the first written account we have. It was part of Joseph’s autobiography and emphasized his search for religious truth and his desire to be forgiven of his sins.
  • 1835 Account: This one comes from a conversation Joseph Smith had with a visitor to Kirtland, Ohio and was recorded in his diary by one of his scribes. One detail unique to the 1835 account is Joseph’s statement that in addition to two personages, he saw many angels.
  • 1838 AccountThis is the version found in LDS scriptures, in the Pearl of Great Price. It is clear that the Prophet Joseph more carefully prepared this account and intended it to be the primary one used in the telling of the history of the Church. The emphasis of this description of the First Vision is Joseph’s initial confusion regarding the various religions and God’s declaration regarding the true Church.
  • 1842 Account: The fourth account by Joseph Smith was included in a letter he wrote in 1842 to a newspaper editor named John Wentworth. In this account, Joseph included a statement implied in the other accounts but not specifically stated—that he was told “that the fulness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me.”

For more information, please refer to the gospel topic article called Accounts of the First Vision on LDS.org or the article appearing in the Ensign magazine in January 1985 called Joseph Smith’s Recitals of the First Vision.

The First Visitation

Though we call it a “vision”, the Mormon scholar Truman G. Madsen liked to refer to it as a “visitation” to emphasize that it wasn’t just a dream that Joseph made up in his mind, but that he was truly visited by heavenly beings. Furthermore, we call Joseph’s experience the First Vision, because it was the first in a series of heavenly visions, revelations, and visitations. But to Joseph Smith at the time it was not the First Vision. It was an answer to his prayer. It was a message of forgiveness and it gave direction to his life. Joseph said his “soul was filled with love and for many days I could rejoice with great Joy and the Lord was with me.”

Another LDS scholar named Richard Lyman Bushman noted in his book, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, that at the time of the First Vision, Joseph didn’t tell many people, not even is family initially,  much about the experience. He seems to have viewed it as a personal religious experience. The day of the event, Joseph only reported, “I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, ‘Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.’ I then said to my mother, ‘I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.'” (JSH 1:20)

I was in a meeting once where Elder David A. Bednar spoke. He mentioned the scripture above and pointed out that a key doctrine in that verse is that Joseph Smith learned the truth for himself. Learning the truth for ourselves is something we all must do. Missionaries especially must gain their own testimony that Joseph Smith was the prophet of the Restoration, that the Book of Mormon is true, and that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer.

My Testimony of the First Vision

During my two years in Rosario Argentina as a missionary, I bore my testimony countless times of the Prophet Joseph Smith and of the truthfulness of his First Vision. I had the following scripture memorized from the frequent telling of the experience:

“I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me…When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JSH 1:16-17)

I knew it then and my testimony is even stronger now. I know that this event really happened. Joseph was personally visited and called by God to be a prophet and to be the instrument in the Lord’s hand in restoring the full gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth.

I highly recommend that all future missionaries memorize this verse now. As you do so, your testimony will grow. Your purpose as a missionary is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon is powerful convincing evidence that Jesus Christ lives and loves us, that Joseph Smith is a true prophet, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s true church. I pray that you can develop your own testimony of these things and “learn for yourself.” The gospel will bless individuals and families, it will help meet their spiritual needs, and it will help them gain their deepest, truest desires in this life and in the eternities. And as a missionary you will have the pleasure of being an instrument in the Lord’s hands to deliver those blessings. 

What a Mission Meant to Elder Scott

Elder Richard G. Scott explains some of the blessings of missionary work, what a mission meant to him, and why he is anxious to motivate every young man to be a missionary. From his May 2006 General Conference talk, Now Is the Time to Serve a Mission!

“May I speak from my heart of what an honorable full-time mission has meant to me personally. I grew up in a home with very good parents, but my father was not a member and my mother was less active. After my mission that changed. They became strong members and served devotedly in the temple—he a sealer, she an ordinance worker. But as a young man, like many of you today, I had no way to judge personally the importance of a mission. I fell in love with an exceptional young woman. At a critical point in our courtship, she made it very clear that she would only be married in the temple to a returned missionary. Duly motivated, I served a mission in Uruguay.

It was not easy. The Lord gave me many challenges that became stepping-stones to personal growth. There I gained my testimony that God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, did in fact visit Joseph Smith to begin a restoration of truth, priesthood authority, and the true Church on earth. I gained a witness that Joseph Smith is a singular prophet. I learned essential doctrines. I discovered what it meant to be led by the Spirit. Many a night I got up as my companion slept to pour my heart out to the Lord for guidance and direction. I pled for the ability to express effectively in Spanish my testimony and the truth I was learning to a people I had come to love. Those prayers were abundantly answered. At the same time, my future eternal companion, Jeanene, was being molded to become an exceptional wife and mother by her own mission.

Most important, all that I now hold dear in life began to mature in the mission field. Had I not been encouraged to be a missionary, I would not have the eternal companion or precious family I dearly love. I am confident that I would not have had the exceptional professional opportunities that stretched my every capacity. I am certain that I would not have received the sacred callings with opportunities to serve for which I will be eternally grateful. My life has been richly blessed beyond measure because I served a mission.

Now can you understand why I am so anxious to motivate every one of you young men to be a worthy missionary? Can you comprehend why I encourage you as a mature couple to plan, if health permits, to serve the Lord as missionaries? Can you see why I suggest that some of you young women, where there is a desire and it will not affect an impending marriage, seriously consider serving the Lord as a missionary? Our home has been greatly blessed by a wife and mother who chose to serve a full-time mission during my period of service.

If you are a young man wondering whether you ought to fulfill a full-time mission, don’t approach that vital decision with your own wisdom alone. Seek the counsel of your parents, your bishop, or stake president. In your prayers ask to have the will of the Lord made known to you. I know that a mission will provide extraordinary blessings for you now and throughout your life. I urge you not to pray to know whether you should go; rather, ask the Lord to guide you in whatever may be necessary to become a worthy, empowered full-time missionary. You will never regret serving a mission, but you most probably will regret not serving if that is your choice.

I know that Jesus is the Christ, that His Church and the fulness of His gospel have been restored to earth through a singularly important prophet, Joseph Smith. I testify that devoted full-time missionary service is a source of great happiness and rich blessings, not only for those who hear the message but also for those who, under the guidance of the Spirit, deliver it. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

The Worth of Souls is Great

missionaries teaching in the streetA couple of months ago, I conducted a survey asking reasons why some young men don’t serve a mission. One of the top responses was that other priorities (like college, sports, work, girlfriends, etc.) keep young men from serving missions. So lately I have been thinking a lot about how to motivate young men, and help them see that there is no greater priority than bringing souls unto Christ through full-time missionary service.

Recently, I read a talk by Elder H. Bryan Richards from the October 1998 General Conference in which he addressed this very topic. This is what he said:

“The doctrine that will change the behavior of our young men regarding missions is understanding the worth of a single soul. Jesus Christ paid the supreme sacrifice in providing the infinite Atonement, which provides the only way for us to return and live with our Heavenly Father. When parents, bishops, and our young men understand this true doctrine, our young men will be prepared and have a desire to serve” (from “As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord”).

What is the worth of a soul?

In section 18 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord admonishes us to “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;… And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” (D&C 18: 10, 15-16)

As Elder Richards indicated, the Savior loves all of us and understands our eternal value as children of God. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Because of the Savior’s great love for us, He drank the bitter cup, suffered for our sins, and died on the cross. He “suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent” (D&C 19:16). When young men truly understand that doctrine, they will have the desire to share that message with the world, go wherever the Lord would have them to go, and bring souls unto Christ.

True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.

Perhaps the best way to motivate young men to serve a mission is to help them understand these and other gospel doctrines. Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior” (Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).

Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and the second greatest is like unto it, to love your neighbors (see Matthew 22: 36-39). What greater motivation can a young man have to serve a mission than sincere love of God and love of neighbors. What Christ suffered on our behalf helps us understand our worth and how much He loves us. When young men realize the value of a soul, and gain that love for their fellow beings around the world, they will be willing to sacrifice. They, like the Savior, will say “not my will, but thine, be done,” (Luke 22:42), and they will put a full-time mission on the top of their priority list.