Origins of the Saying “Every Young Man Should Serve a Mission”

Most of you have probably heard many times that in the LDS Church, we expect every worthy young man to fulfill a mission. This is not new, every prophet since President Spencer W. Kimball has repeated that charge. Prior President Kimball, the Church had a large missionary program and many young men and young women served missions. But the expectation that everyone young male member should prepare and serve a mission wasn’t quite as strong then as it is today.

President Kimball’s Landmark Address on Missionary Work

spencerwkimball_thumbIn 1974, President Kimball gave a landmark address that changed the way we Mormons view the missionary service of young men. Thomas S. Monson, then a member of the Quourm of the Twelve Apostles, said President Kimball’s talk “had profound and deep influence on all who heard it.” Elder Monson further said that “the impact of his dynamics as a missionary-oriented person…have set in motion factors which have resulted in one of the greatest upsurges in missionary work that we have ever seen” (Status Report on Missionary Work, Ensign, October 1977).

This is what President Spencer W. Kimball said:

“The question has been often asked, Is the mission program one of compulsion? And the answer, of course, is no. Everyone is given his free agency. The question is asked: Should every young man fill a mission? And the answer of the Church is yes, and the answer of the Lord is yes. Enlarging this answer we say: Certainly every male member of the Church should fill a mission, like he should pay his tithing, like he should attend his meetings, like he should keep his life clean and free from the ugliness of the world and plan a celestial marriage in the temple of the Lord” (Spencer W. Kimball, “Planning for a Full and Abundant Life”, Ensign, May 1974, 86).

Every Prophet Since Then Has Repeated the Call

Since President Kimball’s memorable address, every prophet of the Lord has repeated that message, that every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission. After President Kimball, came Ezra Taft Benson as the prophet and President of the Church. This is what he said:

“The Lord wants every young man to serve a full-time mission. Currently, only a fifth of the eligible young men in the Church are serving full-time missions. This is not pleasing to the Lord. We can do better. We must do better. Not only should a mission be regarded as a priesthood duty, but every young man should look forward to this experience with great joy and anticipation. What a privilege—what a sacred privilege—to serve the Lord full time for two years with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.

You can do nothing more important. School can wait. Scholarships can be deferred. Occupational goals can be postponed. Yes, even temple marriage should wait until after a young man has served an honorable full-time mission for the Lord.” (Ensign, May 1986, pp. 44–45).

Then Howard W. Hunter became Church President, and this is what he said:

“Earlier prophets have taught that every able, worthy young man should serve a full-time mission. I emphasize this need today” (Howard W. Hunter, “Follow the Son of God”, Ensign, Nov. 1994, 87).

Many of you young people may be too young to remember presidents Kimball, Benson, and Hunter.  But hopefully, many of you still remember President Gordon B. Hinckley. This is what he said:

“I throw out a challenge to every young man within this vast congregation tonight. Prepare yourself now to be worthy to serve the Lord as a full-time missionary. He has said, ‘If ye are prepared ye shall not fear’ (D&C 38:30). Prepare to consecrate two years of your lives to this sacred service. That will in effect constitute a tithe on the first twenty years of your lives” (Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1995, 70; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 51–52).

And of course our living prophet today is President Thomas S. Monson, and he has repeated the call:

“I repeat what prophets have long taught—that every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission. Missionary service is a priesthood duty—an obligation the Lord expects of us who have been given so very much. Young men, I admonish you to prepare for service as a missionary. Keep yourselves clean and pure and worthy to represent the Lord” (President Thomas S. Monson, As We Meet Together Again, October 2010).

I hope all young men, if there ever was a doubt, now know with certainty that the prophet of God expects them to serve a mission. As President Kimball said, the Church will never force you to go because that would be contrary to the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But full-time missionary service is the duty of every able young man, and we hope you will choose to accept the assignment.

Young men, we need you to be missionaries. Start preparing now. Keep yourself worthy, study the scriptures, learn how to become an effective missionary, and prepare yourself in all other ways to be a representative of the Lord for two years. Serve with honor and faithfulness and the Lord will bless you. May all the young men out there heed this call from the prophet is my prayerful desire.

Young Men: We Need You To Be Missionaries

Not too long ago, I was home teaching and taught a lesson on the importance of every young man serving a mission. I asked the 16-year-old boy in the family if he plans to serve a mission. He said yes, he was planning to go on a mission, but he said he wasn’t sure about a certain friend of his in the ward. If he were placing odds, he said there is only a “20% chance” that his friend will serve a mission.

When I heard that my heart sunk. I felt like there had to be more I could do to help people like this young man in my ward feel motivated to serve a mission. As I was pondering how to motivate young men to have the desire to be a missionary, I happened to read a talk by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In it, he was speaking to the youth of the Church, and said:

“We need you. Oh, how the Lord needs you! … My plea to you this morning for leadership has never been more critical in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than it is today. I now understand abundantly why the prophets have said that the Lord reserved for this last day some of his very choice spiritual sons and daughters. I understand why you have been reserved to come forth now: because he needs you. He needs you desperately in the building of his kingdom.” (M. Russell Ballard, “You—the Leaders in 1988”, Ensign, Mar. 1979, 69–73)

That message rang true to me as a message of motivation for young men to serve a mission. Young men, we need you! The world needs you and the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ you will bring. The Church needs you, and your goodness, and your leadership. The Lord needs every one of you to be a full-time missionary.

The Harvest is Great but the Laborers are Few

the-harvestIn Luke Chapter 10 it says that “the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few.” (Luke 10: 1-2)

Young men, the harvest is great! There is no greater blessing that you can bring to people than the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The population of the earth is approaching 7 billion people, most of whom do not have a knowledge of the gospel. A great many of those are honest and good people waiting to hear the message that only true servants of the Lord can bring.

“For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.” (D&C 123:12 )

Spiritual Starvation that Missionaries Can Alleviate

In 1975, Spencer W. Kimball, 12th President of the Church, gave a talk in which he referred to the scripture Amos 8:11: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” Then President Kimball said:

“We need to prepare all within our homes to serve beyond our homes as calls and opportunities come to provide leaven for the world. The world wants and needs what we have. In the beautiful prayer by Brother Holland, he mentioned the famine in the world—famine not of bread, not of the ordinary needs, but a famine for the word of the Lord; and you are the custodians of the bread of life, you take it to your families so that they can share it with the people of the world.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Men of Example, from an address to CES religious educators, 12 September 1975)

As missionaries, you bring the bread and water of life, the gospel of Jesus Christ, to a world that is dying of spiritual thirst and starvation. There is no greater joy than to teach a family that is hungry to know the truths of eternity, and as a missionary, you will have many such opportunities.

I hope that all young men within the sound of my voice (and the reach of my written word) will realize how much we need them to prepare and serve faithful full-time missions. As I watch the news and see the events of the world, my heart is often saddened. Crime is rampant, family values and morals continue to decline, and the influence of Satan seems to keep growing. But I know the answers to all of life’s problems are in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The key to lasting happiness in this life and the next is to follow the teachings of our Savior. And I know that you young men, if you rise up and answer the call to be a missionary, can help gather the harvest, show people the way to eternal joy, and bring souls unto Christ.

The Greatest Generation of Missionaries

I’ll leave with another quote from Elder M. Russell Ballard. It is another impassioned and powerful plea for more full-time missionaries to step up and go to battle for the Lord:

“While we are profoundly grateful for the many members of the Church who are doing great things in the battle for truth and right, I must honestly tell you it still is not enough. We need much more help. And so, as the people of Ammon looked to their sons for reinforcement in the war against the Lamanites, we look to you, my young brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood. We need you. Like Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors, you also are the spirit sons of God, and you too can be endowed with power to build up and defend His kingdom. We need you to make sacred covenants, just as they did. We need you to be meticulously obedient and faithful, just as they were.

“What we need now is the greatest generation of missionaries in the history of the Church. We need worthy, qualified, spiritually energized missionaries who, like Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors, are “exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity” and who are “true at all times in whatsoever thing they [are] entrusted” (Alma 53:20). (M. Russel Ballard, “The Greatest Generation of Missionaries,” October 5, 2002)

How young women can encourage young men to serve missions

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. She has written songs for the Special Olympics, Make A Wish Foundation, and the Especially For Youth (EFY) program. Vickey has a Masters Degree in Communications, she loves being a “Mom”, and she is the author of ‘Apron Strings – Tender Ties That Bind Mothers & Daughters.’ 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.

mormon-young-woman-and-young-man-on-dateYoung Women – Oh, the Influence You Have on the Young Men!

Ladies, you might be amazed at the influence you have on the young men. Really. Even though they may not act like it, they pay [close] attention to what you say and how you act.

One of the best things you can do – for the fellows and for yourself – is to encourage them to go on a full time mission. This isn’t just ‘shop talk’ or a trite reiteration of the counsel we’ve heard [because it’s needed] so many times.

A young man who is focused on serving the Lord full time is going to be more apt to treat young women better. He’s also going to:

  • Learn and grow a lot in the gospel
  • Learn more about service
  • Learn more social skills
  • Gain a better attitude of gratitude
  • Gain a closer relationship with our Father in heaven and with the Savior

His two years of thinking outside of himself and outside of the box will grant him the possibilities to be a much better man when he’s home….which means he will be a better candidate as a husband and a father.

If you have a boyfriend close to the age of heading on a mission, step it up. Please don’t go the route of “don’t leave me….” Or whatever. Sigh…..

young-women-and-young-menI wish I’d kept count of the men who have told me a friend, girl friend, or female ward member made it easier for them to choose to go and serve. Sometimes you might say “just the right thing” that some young guy is waiting to hear. Your good influence may be a deciding factor in his choice to head where he is needed. In turn, his good influence, and testimony of truth, is needed by someone, somewhere, who’s waiting to hear about the gospel.

Smile. Say a prayer. Send a note. Encourage. Get excited about his plans to serve. Share stories of converts that you know about. Listen to his concerns, and give caring, positive input.

President Spencer W. Kimball once said, “Missionary work is the lifeblood of the kingdom. When the blood stops flowing, the Kingdom stops growing.”

Help grow the Kingdom, young women. And help the young men in your life. Help get them on their mission!