Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

Keeping the Sabbath day holy is one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for a mission. As you keep yourself unspotted from the world through proper Sabbath Day observance (see D&C 59:9), you will draw closer to the Lord, and you will find yourself more willing to make sacrifices in order to further the work of the Lord through missionary service.

When Moses came down from the mountain with the ten commandments, this is what the Lord said, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work.” (Exodus 20: 8-10) Modern prophets have taught us that keeping the Sabbath day holy also means not shopping or playing sports on Sunday. I’d like to share three stories with you about the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy. I hope these examples fortify your desire to always keep the Sabbath day holy, and to continue to prepare yourselves to serve a faithful mission to help bring others to Christ.

  1. Eli Herring, a BYU football player who turned down the NFL because he wouldn’t play on Sunday.
  2. An experience I had that taught me the importance of not working on Sunday.
  3. Clayton Christensen, who missed his championship basketball game because it was held on Sunday.

Eli Herring Football CoachEli Herring: Said No to the NFL and Sunday Football

Eli Herring went to High School in Springville Utah where he participated in football, basketball, wrestling and track. He was the captain of the football team and earned All-Region and All-State honors and led his team the state championship. He was recruited to play football by several universities but choose BYU because it was the only school that did not withdraw a scholarship offer when he announced his plans serve a Mormon mission.

After his freshman year at BYU, Eli Herring was called to serve an LDS mission in Salta, Argentina. Brother Herring served honorably and came back from his two-year mission stronger, faster, more coordinated, and even more ready to play football. Brother Herring played the position of offensive tackle and earned honorable mention from the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) in 1993 and made the second team All-WAC in 1994. In addition to football, during his time at BYU, Brother Herring earned a bachelors degree in mathematics and got married to his sweetheart, Jennifer Anderson.

Brother Herring was projected to be a first round draft choice in the 1995 NFL draft, but he made the decision to forgo a professional career. Brother Herring wouldn’t play football on the Sabbath, and he wrote letters to each NFL team saying so. Regardless, he was still drafted in the sixth round by the Oakland Raiders. Raiders’ assistant coach Bruce Allen flew to Provo and offered Eli a three-year, $1.5 million contract, but he rejected it.

Eli Herring and his wife Jennifer now have seven children. Brother Herring works as a school teacher and assistant football coach at Mountain View High School in Orem, Utah. His starting salary as a high school teacher was around $22,000 a year, which, at that pace, would take him over 20 years to earn what the Raiders would have paid him in a single season. Without hesitation, Brother Herring says he does not regret his decision to stand by his principles rather than have a professional football career. (See the Wikipedia article on Eli Herring)

Jimmy Smith: Learned to Not Work on Sunday

When I was in high school, I had a job at McDonald’s. I always liked working the cash register, but they always had me in the back making the hamburgers. I was one of the fastest hamburger makers they had, so they almost never let me be a cashier. My first month on the job, I got the employee of the month award. It was a good after school job. It helped me save money for my mission, and the fringe benefits were nice…free hamburgers, french fries, and milk shakes.

One Sunday, I was sitting at home after church when the phone rang. It was the manager of my McDonald’s asking me to come into work. Now I had told the people at McDonald’s from the beginning that I wouldn’t work on Sunday, so they never scheduled my regular shift on the Sabbath. But this particular Sunday, they said, was an emergency, because several workers didn’t show up and they really needed someone to come in and help.

I asked my parents if I could go into work just this one time because it was an “emergency.” My parents left the decision up to me, and I decided to go in and work. While there, cooking up Big Macs and Quarter Pounders in the kitchen area, I noticed several of my school friends walk into the restaurant. These friends knew of my Mormon faith and I had remembered talking to them about my beliefs, including keeping the Sabbath day holy. I was embarrassed for them to see me, and luckily, they didn’t. On that day, for once, I was glad to be in the back cooking, rather than up front working the cash register.

I immediately knew that I had made the wrong decision to break the Sabbath and go into work that day. From that time forward my faith and determination was fortified to avoid working on Sunday and to keep the Sabbath day holy. And I am grateful that the Lord has always blessed me for keeping that commandment. I know my life before, during, and after my mission has been blessed by keeping the Sabbath day holy.

Clayton Christensen: No College Basketball For Him on Sunday

From President Thomas S. Monson’s October 2010 General Conference Talk, The Three Rs of Choice… “May I share with you an example of one who determined early in life what his goals would be. I speak of Brother Clayton M. Christensen, a member of the Church who is a professor of business administration in the business school at Harvard University.

“When he was 16 years old, Brother Christensen decided, among other things, that he would not play sports on Sunday. Years later, when he attended Oxford University in England, he played center on the basketball team. That year they had an undefeated season and went through to the British equivalent of what in the United States would be the NCAA basketball tournament.

“They won their games fairly easily in the tournament, making it to the final four. It was then that Brother Christensen looked at the schedule and, to his absolute horror, saw that the final basketball game was scheduled to be played on a Sunday. He and the team had worked so hard to get where they were, and he was the starting center. He went to his coach with his dilemma. His coach was unsympathetic and told Brother Christensen he expected him to play in the game.

“Prior to the final game, however, there was a semifinal game. Unfortunately, the backup center dislocated his shoulder, which increased the pressure on Brother Christensen to play in the final game. He went to his hotel room. He knelt down. He asked his Heavenly Father if it would be all right, just this once, if he played that game on Sunday. He said that before he had finished praying, he received the answer: “Clayton, what are you even asking me for? You know the answer.”

“He went to his coach, telling him how sorry he was that he wouldn’t be playing in the final game. Then he went to the Sunday meetings in the local ward while his team played without him. He prayed mightily for their success. They did win.

“That fateful, difficult decision was made more than 30 years ago. Brother Christensen has said that as time has passed, he considers it one of the most important decisions he ever made. It would have been very easy to have said, “You know, in general, keeping the Sabbath day holy is the right commandment, but in my particular extenuating circumstance, it’s okay, just this once, if I don’t do it.” However, he says his entire life has turned out to be an unending stream of extenuating circumstances, and had he crossed the line just that once, then the next time something came up that was so demanding and critical, it would have been so much easier to cross the line again. The lesson he learned is that it is easier to keep the commandments 100 percent of the time than it is 98 percent of the time.” (Thomas S. Monson, “The Three Rs of Choice,” October 2010)

Here’s the video version of President Monson’s story about Brother Christensen:

The Mother’s Role in Mission Prep Part 2

Last year, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared this story as an indroduction to the vital role that mothers play in preparing their sons and daughters to be missionaries: “I was in charge, chairman of the Priesthood Executive Council. We’re together and talking about how we can get more young men on missions. And Elaine Jack raised her hand. She was then Relief Society president. She said, ‘Elder Ballard, why don’t you ask the women? Perhaps we could help; after all, we are their mothers’ ” (A Conversation on Counseling Together in the Workplace, June 9, 2010).

A Mother and SonToday I’d like to talk more about the mother’s role in preparing their sons and daughters to be missionaries. I say ‘more’ because a couple of years ago I talked about the mothers’ role in mission prep, when I wrote about how most Latter-day Saint mothers were already doing many things to help their children become great missionaries some day–things like teaching them to get along with others, to be clean and tidy, to obey the first principles of the gospel, and to read The Book of Mormon.

A note to fathers: most of the content, though specifically addressed to mothers, is equally important and applicable to fathers. You may also be interested in an article from a couple years ago in which I asked my dad to talk about what he did to prepare his sons for a mission.

President Hinckley to Mothers: Nurture Your Children with Love and Counsel

“Nurture your sons with love and counsel. Teach them the importance of personal cleanliness, of neatness in their dress. Sloppy ways lead to sloppy lives. Instill in them a sense of discipline. Keep them worthy of service to the Church as missionaries. Give them things to do so that they may learn to work. Teach them to be frugal. Labor and frugality lead to prosperity. Teach them that nothing really good happens after 11 o’clock at night. And do not spoil them. If they go on missions, they may be compelled to live in circumstances that you would not wish for them. Do not worry about them. Give them encouragement” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “To the Women of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 2003).

Elder Ballard’s Counsel for Happy and Successful Missionaries

Elder M. Russell Ballard, when serving as a mission president, asked his missionaries to answer this question: “ ‘What could my mother have done to better prepare me?’ They said: ‘Somehow Mom should have insisted that I pay more attention when she was trying to teach me about housekeeping—cooking, cleaning, laundry, bargain shopping, personal hygiene, mending, quick recipes.’” Elder Ballard then gave this counsel: “Mothers, teach your children to be sensitive and aware of the needs of others. Teach them to know and to practice basic principles of good human relations. … Put your arms around your children, look them squarely in the eye, and tell them to learn these skills because you want them to be happy and successful on their mission” (Conference Report, Oct. 1976).

President Benson to Young Men: Draw Close to Your Mother

“My young brethren, I counsel each of you to draw close to your own mother. Respect her. Honor her. Receive your mother’s counsel as she loves and instructs you in righteousness. And honor and obey your father as he stands as the head of the home, emulating his manly qualities” (President Ezra Taft Benson, To the “Youth of the Noble Birthright”, Ensign, May 1986).

Heavenly Father Will Be There When Mothers Can’t Be

Elder Hugh B. Brown told how his mother helped him to rely on the Lord during his mission in England. She said to him as he left: “ ‘Hugh, my son, do you remember when you were a little boy you often had bad dreams, nightmares, and you called out to me as I was sleeping in the next room: “Mother, Mother, are you there?” Do you remember I always said, “Yes, my son, I’m here. Just turn over and go to sleep. Everything is all right.” ’ She said, ‘My boy, five thousand miles must now separate us, across a continent and an ocean. You are not going to have bad dreams only at night, but many times, in the daytime, you are going to want to call for help and comfort. Son, when you are beset with difficulties, when you meet temptation, when you are confused and don’t know where to go, call out and say, “Father, are you there?” ’ She said, ‘My boy, I promise you He will always answer and you need not fear’ ” (The Abundant Life [1965], 202–3).

Parents: Teach Your Children to Have Faith in God

“Parents, do you realize what great power you have in the lives of your sons? When you teach them that there is a just God and that He wants every able and worthy young man to serve a mission, your sons will have the faith to answer the Lord’s call” (H. Byran Richards, “As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord”, General Conference, October 1998).

Lessons Learned from Sheep and a Shepherd

shepherd with sheep leon fieldingThe Savior uses sheep and shepherd analogies throughout his teachings and throughout the scriptures. To understand these teachings better, my co-workers and I recently visited a sheep farm in Huntsville, Utah. We spoke with the shepherd and learned much about lambs, sheep, and shepherding.

A Good Shepherd Risks His Life for His Sheep

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10: 11)

The name of the shepherd we spoke with was Leon Fielding. Brother Fielding told us many stories about how he sacrificed sleep and risked his life to care for and protect his sheep. He said in the time of year when the sheep give birth, he will go days without sleep, so that he can be there to take care of the new lamb when it is born. He has also stayed up all night in a tree on his farm to protect his flock from coyotes.

Coyotes Attack the Strongest Sheep First

sheep llama shepherd“He that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.” (John 10: 12)

Brother Fielding doesn’t have to defend his flock against wolves; where he lives coyotes are the prevalent predators that try get his sheep. Brother Fielding mentioned something interesting about the coyotes if they ever happen to get in the sheep pasture: they attack the strongest sheep first. He speculated that this is because the coyotes enjoy the challenge. It may also be due to the fact that with the strongest sheep gone, the smaller, weaker ones will be easier to get. (Note the llama in the photo helps protect the sheep from coyotes.)

I think the same is often true within the Savior’s flock, that Satan frequently attacks the strongest among us. I saw many investigators on my mission that, as they started to progress in the gospel, they frequently would begin to encounter trials and temptations. Those of great faith would conquer those trials and come through even stronger in their testimony (like the Almada family).

A Good Shepherd Knows His Sheep

shepherd calling sheep“For behold I know my sheep, and they are numbered.” (3 Nephi 18:31)
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” (John 10: 14)

Brother Fielding knows exactly how many sheep are in his flock. He knows if the coyotes get one, and he knows if a stray sheep finds its way into his flock.  He knows his sheep, their names, and their personalities. He knew that there was one sheep in the flock that would rub up against him and have Brother Fielding scratch his neck all day if he would let him. And sure enough, as soon as he called them over, that sheep came to him for a back rub.

Sheep Recognize the Shepherd and Follow His Voice

sheep eating from hand of strangerJesus said this of the shepherd: “The sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” (John 10: 3-5)

As soon as me and my co-workers walked up to the gate outside the field, the sheep all walked to the far side of the field. We were wearing strange clothes and we were talking in voices they did not recognize. But once their shepherd, Brother Fielding, called for them they came right over, walked among us, and some of the sheep even took food from people in our group. (And you better believe the llama was keeping a close eye on us throughout.)

In the mission field, you represent the Savior and therefore your voice is his voice in gathering His sheep into the fold through baptism. In my mission, I learned that those who are true followers of Christ will recognize that the restored gospel we preach comes from the Good Shepherd, and they will want to join the Church. “Ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.” (D&C 29:7)

A Good Shepherd Finds the Lost Sheep

two lambs“And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” (Luke 15:3-5)

Sheep are quick to flee and panic in the face of stress which makes shepherding a difficult task for the untrained shepherd. But sheep also have a natural inclination to follow a leader, though in the absence of a shepherd a leader is often simply the first sheep to move.

So it is with people, particularly young people. With proper leadership and examples, youth tend to live up to expectations and follow righteous paths. But frequently young people follow the crowd or the example of friends and peers. It is often in these times that they get lost from the Savior’s fold. Thankfully, we have parents, home teachers, and other Church leaders who will leave the ninety and nine to go rescue the lost sheep.

Feed My Sheep

shepherd feeding sheep“Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (John 21: 15-17)

It goes without saying that a good shepherd feeds his or her sheep. May we all feed the Lord’s sheep, both those in our families, in the Church, and throughout the world. We can feed the Lord’s sheep by being good parents, holding regular family home evening, and daily family prayer and scripture study. We can feed the Lord’s in our wards and stakes by magnifying our callings, being faithful home teachers and visiting teachers, and fulfilling other assignments. And we can feed the Savior’s other sheep throughout the world through faithful missionary service.

All photos in this post are courtesy of Patti Rokus.

Respect for Women

Learning respect for women is an important part of mission prep. A young man who holds the priesthood of God and is preparing to be a missionary needs to understand the high calling of women and the importance of honoring them. I recently put together the following presentation on respecting womanhood for the 11-year-old Scouts in my ward. Feel free to download it and use it yourself.

Download: Teaching Young Men Respect for Women
View more presentations from Jimmy Smith.

The presentation discusses 10 ways that young men can honor women:

  1. Show respect and courtesy to young women
  2. Show gratitude to the women in your life
  3. Be virtuous and chaste in word and deed
  4. Faithfully attend to priesthood duties
  5. Prepare for marriage and fatherhood
  6. Honor thy father and thy mother
  7. Be an example of the believers
  8. Keep the commandments
  9. Serve a full-time mission
  10. Avoid pornography

Show respect and courtesy to young women

“You young men must cultivate a considerate attitude toward women of all ages. The young women asked me to tell you that they want you to respect them and show them common, sincere courtesy. Do not hesitate to show your good manners by opening a door for them, taking the initiative in inviting them on a date, and standing as they enter a room.” –M. Russell Ballard, “Purity Precedes Power,” Ensign, Nov. 1990

Show gratitude to the women in your life

“You young men need to know that you can hardly achieve your highest potential without the influence of good women, particularly your mother and, in a few years, a good wife. Learn now to show respect and gratitude… Thank her and express your love for her… The influence of your mother will bless you throughout life, especially when you serve as a missionary.” -Russell M. Nelson, “Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women,” April 1999

Be virtuous and chaste in word and deed

“Use language that uplifts, encourages, and compliments others. Do not insult others or put them down, even in joking. Speak kindly and positively about others so you can fulfill the Lord’s commandment to love one another.” -For the Strength of Youth

Faithfully attend to priesthood duties

“I know the immense joy and happiness that come from loving, cherishing, and respecting my precious wife with all my heart and soul. May your use of the priesthood and treatment of the important women in your life bring you the same satisfaction.” -Richard G. Scott, “Honor the Priesthood and Use It Well,” Ensign, Nov. 2008

We who bear the holy priesthood have a sacred duty to honor our sisters. We are old enough and wise enough to know that teasing is wrong. We respect sisters—not only in our immediate families but all the wonderful sisters in our lives. As daughters of God, their potential is divine. Without them, eternal life would be impossible.” -Russell M. Nelson, “Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women,” April 1999

Prepare for marriage and fatherhood

“ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. …By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” -The Family, A Proclamation to the World

“In the celestial glory there are three heavens…in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into …the new and everlasting covenant of marriage.” -Doctrine and Covenants 131:2
The apostle Paul counseled: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). Start now to obey that commandment by…

  • Respecting your mothers and grandmothers.
  • Respecting your sisters and aunts.
  • Respecting the women and young women in your ward.

Honor thy father and thy mother

The 2,000 Stripling Warriors honored their mothers: “Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” -Alma 56: 47-48

Our Savior honored his mother. “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother… When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” -John 19: 25-27

Be an example of the believers
Be a good example to your friends and always show respect for women. “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” -1 Tim 4:12

Keep the commandments
“Let us speak about our worthy and wonderful sisters, particularly our mothers, and consider our sacred duty to honor them…if one dishonors the commandments of God, one dishonors mother, and if one dishonors mother, one dishonors the commandments of God.” -Russell M. Nelson, “Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women,” April 1999

Serve a full-time 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

Young women in the Church are taught to respect young men and encourage them to serve a full-time mission. Young men can honor those young women by faithfully serving a full-time mission.

Avoid pornography
“I warn against pornography. It is degrading of women. It is evil. It is infectious, destructive, and addictive. The body has means by which it can cleanse itself from harmful effects of contaminated food or drink. But it cannot vomit back the poison of pornography. Once recorded, it always remains subject to recall, flashing its perverted images across your mind, with power to draw you away from the wholesome things in life. Avoid it like the plague!” -Russell M. Nelson, “Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women,” April 1999

Scripture Mastery and New Seminary Site

lds seminay site screen shotI’d like to talk today about Scripture Mastery, both the Seminary program by that name and the concept of mastering the scriptures in order to be a more effective missionary.

First, though, I’d like to put a plug in for the new LDS Seminary website.

Visit the New LDS Seminary Website

The Church recently completely revamped the Seminary site. The site has downloadable songs and sheet music from the Doctrine and Covenants, this year’s course of study, as well as music for the other books of scripture. The site has Scripture Mastery games and activities to help you become more proficient in your knowledge of the scriptures.

The Church’s Seminary and Institute programs help youth understand and rely on the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Active participation in Seminary and Institute serves as great mission preparation and also prepares youth to return to live with our Father in Heaven and have eternal life.

Scripture Mastery

For those of you in high school and enrolled Seminary, you know that studying the scriptures is a vital part of that program. The Scripture Mastery verses will help you (no surprise here) master the scriptures. If you do your Scripture Mastery faithfully for your four years in seminary, you will come away having memorized 100 very powerful scriptures.

Having the words of the scriptures, the “words of life,” (see D&C 84: 85) at the top of your mind will make you a better prepared missionary. Missionaries who know and use the scriptures will teach more powerfully, will be more likely to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and will be more effective in bringing souls unto Christ.

This is what Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said about knowing important scriptures by heart:

“I suggest that you memorize scriptures that touch your heart and fill your soul with understanding. When scriptures are used as the Lord has caused them to be recorded, they have intrinsic power that is not communicated when paraphrased. Sometimes when there is a significant need in my life, I review mentally scriptures that have given me strength. There is great solace, direction, and power that flow from the scriptures, especially the words of the Lord” (Richard G. Scott, in Conference Report, Oct. 1999, 112; or Ensign, Nov. 1999, 87–88).

My young brothers and sisters, I cannot stress enough the importance of becoming familiar with the scriptures prior to your mission. Read from the scriptures daily, even if it is only a few verses. You will learn the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and you will build your own testimonies. Perhaps at no point in your life will you have more ample time and reason to study the scriptures than on your mission. Take advantage of that time, read and study, ponder and pray about the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the other standard works.

Receiving Your Own Testimony of the Scriptures

If you haven’t received your own personal testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and the other scriptures, begin now to read them and pray to God to know if they are true. There is a scripture in Moroni chapter 10 verse 4 that, as a missionary, you will use frequently in your teachings. You can use it on yourself to come to know the scriptures truly are the words of God:

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:4).

With a personal witness that the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and the other scriptures are true, you will be able to go forward with more faith and confidence. You will be able to teach and testify with the Spirit and power of the Lord. And the more fully you come to know the scriptures, the more fully you will be able to tap into that intrinsic (built-in or natural) power of the word of God spoken of by Elder Scott.

The MTC Experience

See what happens on the inside of the MTC. This year the Provo, Utah Missionary Training Center is celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary. This video is a short version of the one that will be presented by KSL’s Carole Mikita on Sunday, April 3rd, 2011, at 1pm.

Missionary Preparation Class

youth-mission-prep-classSpencer W. Kimball, 12th President of the Church, once asked this of future missionaries: “Will you be a valiant and effective one or merely a set-apart missionary? This will depend on your preparation.” (from Advice to a Young Man: Now Is the Time to Prepare)

A missionary preparation class is a great way for young men and young women to further their mission prep. Missionary preparation classes are usually available from several sources:

  • From your ward or stake (branch or district). If you are under 18 and would like to take a mission prep class, talk to one of your local leaders (your young men’s president, or bishop, etc.) to see if your ward or stake offers a class.
  • From a Church college (BYU, etc.). If you are attending a Church-sponsored college, see about signing up for one of the mission prep classes they offer.
  • From an LDS Institute of Religion: If you are attending another college, see if there is an LDS Institute of Religion nearby. They likely offer a missionary preparation class.

Mission Prep Institute Classes Open to All: Ages 18-30

According to the Church’s Institutes of Religion website, single and married young adults, postsecondary students, and all young single adults (generally 18-30 years old) are also welcome to attend Institute classes. That means that if you are a young person thinking about going on a mission in the next year or two, if none of the other sources of a mission prep class are available, you could attend a course at Institute. Institute classes are free of charge, and you can find one near you with Institute of Religion Locator. Now is a great time to sign up for a mission prep class as new classes start in January at many Institutes.

Topics Covered in the Missionary Preparation Class

Whether you take the class from your ward or through an official Institute class, your teacher will likely use the official Church Mission Prep Student Manual. Subjects covered in this official Missionary Preparation course are:

  • Understanding the call to serve a mission
  • Learning the gospel by study and also by faith
  • Teaching about the Apostasy, the Restoration
  • The importance of living prophets and latter-day scripture
  • Understanding, recognizing, and teaching with the Holy Ghost
  • Personal worthiness and developing Christ-like attributes
  • Physical preparation and using time wisely
  • The conversion process and preparing investigators for baptism

Online Mission Prep Webinar

For those of you who cannot attend a mission prep class, please check out my Mission Prep Webinars. You can watch the video presentations or download the PowerPoint slides.

For the Strength of Youth Standards

strength-of-youth-pamphlets The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet is a wonderful booklet for all youth, and it is especially important for young men and women who are preparing to go on a mission. For the Strength of Youth lists the Lord’s standards of behavior for youth with topics around dating, dress, media (TV, movies, music, internet, etc.), worthiness, chastity, and much more.

For the Strength of Youth summarizes standards from the scriptures and from the writings and teachings of our living prophets and other Church leaders. These youth standards are viewable the LDS Youth website, in print as the For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet, and as a wallet-sized card. These standards serve for the guidance, strength, and blessing of the youth of our Church or any youth who chooses to live by these divinely inspired guidelines.

Strength of Youth Principles Prepare Missionaries Spiritually

Elder M. Russell Ballard, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recently said, “I also recommend that youth study and follow the guidelines in For the Strength of Youth. Missionaries need to be morally clean and spiritually ready. If they live the principles in For the Strength of Youth, they will be spiritually prepared to be great missionaries.” (New Era, March 2007, How to Prepare to Be a Good Missionary)

Summary of the For the Strength of Youth Principles

For your reference, here is the text of the For the Strength of Youth wallet card, which provides an excellent summary of the full text found in the pamphlet.

  • Agency and Accountability: Choose righteousness and happiness, no matter what your circumstances. Take responsibility for the choices you make. Develop your abilities and talents, and use them for good. Avoid idleness and be willing to work hard.
  • Gratitude: Have a spirit of gratitude in all you do and say. Thank God for your blessings, and express appreciation to others who help you.
  • Education: Prepare to be an influence for good in the world. Obtain an education, and be enthusiastic about learning. Attend seminary.
  • Family: Do your part to build a happy home. Honor your parents, and strengthen your relationships with your brothers and sisters.
  • Friends: Choose friends who share your high standards. Treat everyone with kindness and respect. Invite friends of other faiths to Church activities. Reach out to new converts and those who are less active.
  • Dress and Appearance: Dress modestly to show respect for God and yourself. Never lower your dress standards for any occasion. Do not disfigure your body with tattoos and body piercings.
  • Entertainment and the Media: Choose uplifting entertainment. Avoid anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Commit to keeping God’s standards.
  • Music and Dancing: Listen to music that helps you draw closer to Heavenly Father. Do not listen to music that encourages immorality, glorifies violence, or uses offensive language. When dancing, avoid full body contact or suggestive movements.
  • Language: Use language that uplifts, encourages, and compliments others. Use the names of God and Jesus Christ with reverence and respect. Do not use profane, vulgar, or crude language or gestures.
  • Dating: Do not date until you are at least 16 years old. Date only those who have high standards. When you begin dating, go in groups or on double dates. Plan activities that help you remain close to the Spirit of the Lord.
  • Sexual Purity: Keep yourself sexually pure. Do not have any sexual relations before marriage. Do not participate in talk or activities that arouse sexual feelings. Do not participate in homosexual activities. Seek help if you become a victim of rape, incest, or other sexual abuse.
  • Repentance: Through the Savior’s Atonement, you can receive forgiveness and be cleansed from your sins when you repent. Confess your sins to the Lord and to those you have wronged. If the sins are serious, you also need to confess them to your bishop.
  • Honesty: Be honest with yourself, others, and the Lord. Do not rationalize that dishonesty is right.
  • Sabbath Day Observance: Use the Sabbath to worship the Lord, attend church, draw closer to your family, and help others. Do not seek entertainment or spend money on the Sabbath. When possible, avoid working on Sunday.
  • Tithes and Offerings: Willingly pay a full tithe. Attend tithing settlement. Obey the law of the fast.
  • Physical Health: Keep the Word of Wisdom. Eat nutritious food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Do not use hard drugs, alcohol, coffee, tea, or tobacco products. Do not abuse prescription or over-the-counter medications.
  • Service to Others: Serve others in your Church assignments and in your home, school, and community. Seek daily the guidance of the Holy Ghost to know whom to serve and how to help meet their needs.
  • Go Forward with Faith: Be true to the Lord and to His Church. Regularly pray in private and read the scriptures. Keep your covenants and listen to the whisperings of the Spirit. The Lord will help you meet your trials and challenges.

I know that as you keep these standards, the Lord will bless you and strengthen you. You will keep yourself worthy to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and stay worthy to serve an honorable mission, and to have a temple marriage. By maintaining your worthiness, and listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the Lord will guide you and bless you in every aspect of your life.

LDS Church Video on Standards for Youth Dating and Maintaining Virtue

Funny Video with Captain America Enforcing Strength of Youth Standards

And this hilarious video comes from some of our Saints down under in Brisbane Australia.

Reading The Bible

Picture of the Holy Bible The Bible is an extremely valuable tool in missionary work. It provides a common foundation between Mormon missionaries and other Christians and other people that believe the Bible to be the word of God. By reading the Bible, current and future missionaries can come to understand its doctrines and history, and gain a testimony of gospel of Jesus Christ that is taught within its pages.

Love and Revere The Bible

I feel for the Bible what Abraham Lincoln expressed when he said: “This Great Book … is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong” (Speeches and Writings, 1859–1865 [1989], 628).

I also echo the words of the Lord’s apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, when he said, “We love and revere the Bible…The Bible is the word of God. It is always identified first in our canon, our ‘standard works.’” (from “My Words . . . Never Cease”, General Conference, April 2008)

Reading the Bible Cover to Cover

Earlier this year I finished reading the Bible cover to cover. It is a feat that only took me about 15 years :)  I had read many parts of the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, throughout my youth, in seminary and in family scripture study. On my mission, when I was in the MTC, I decided I should read the Bible in its entirety. I started with the New Testament, and actually finished that before I left the MTC.

Then, when I got to the mission field, I started on the Old Testament. I think, by the end of my mission, I got through the first five books of Moses. When I got home from the mission, I neglected to continue reading it straight through, favoring instead the reading of the Book of Mormon and other scriptures.  After graduating from BYU, I picked up where I left off, and got over half way through the Bible. But once again, I got side tracked due to life and circumstances. 

When I began working for the LDS Church a couple of years ago, I decided that I better finish my quest.  I was riding the bus to and from work each day and this gave me time to get through the remainder of the Bible. It was not easy to read. There were many chapters that I didn’t understand and were tough to get through. But I am grateful that I did it. I know the Bible is the word of God, and I can say that now with more power than ever before, having actually read every word in it.

President Kimball Read the Entire Bible as a Boy

When the 12th President of the LDS Church, Spencer W. Kimball, was a young 14-year-old boy, at the counsel of a Church leader he read the Bible from cover to cover, and was forever grateful that he completed that goal. Here is what he said:

“Let me tell you of one of the goals that I made when I was still but a lad. When I heard a Church leader from Salt Lake City tell us at conference that we should read the scriptures, and I recognized that I had never read the Bible, that very night at the conclusion of that very sermon I walked to my home a block away and climbed up in my little attic room in the top of the house and lighted a little coal-oil lamp that was on the little table, and I read the first chapters of Genesis. A year later I closed the Bible, having read every chapter in that big and glorious book.

“I found that this Bible that I was reading had in it 66 books, and then I was nearly dissuaded when I found that it had in it 1,189 chapters, and then I also found that it had 1,519 pages. It was formidable, but I knew if others did it that I could do it.

“I found that there were certain parts that were hard for a 14-year-old boy to understand. There were some pages that were not especially interesting to me, but when I had read the 66 books and 1,189 chapters and 1,519 pages, I had a glowing satisfaction that I had made a goal and that I had achieved it.

“Now I am not telling you this story to boast; I am merely using this as an example to say that if I could do it by coal-oil light, you can do it by electric light. I have always been glad I read the Bible from cover to cover” (in Ensign, May 1974, 88).

The Holy Bible is a Miracle

Just like it is important for every missionary to gain their own testimony of the Book of Mormon, every current and future Mormon missionary should read and study the Bible and gain their own witness of its truthfulness. It teaches of Jesus Christ, and how to live worthy to return to our Heavenly home. A deeper knowledge of the Bible will help missionaries and members alike come unto Jesus Christ. As Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has said:

“The Holy Bible is a miracle! It is a miracle that the Bible’s 4,000 years of sacred and secular history were recorded and preserved by the prophets, apostles, and inspired churchmen. It is a miracle that we have the Bible’s powerful doctrine, principles, poetry, and stories. But most of all, it is a wonderful miracle that we have the account of the life, ministry, and words of Jesus, which was protected through the Dark Ages and through the conflicts of countless generations so that we may have it today. It is a miracle that the Bible literally contains within its pages the converting, healing Spirit of Christ, which has turned men’s hearts for centuries, leading them to pray, to choose right paths, and to search to find their Savior.”

“…My brothers and sisters, we must help all people, including our own members, understand the power and importance of the Holy Bible. The Bible is scripture that leads us and all mankind to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. May God grant us the desire and capacity to accept and live His teachings.” (The Miracle of the Holy Bible, General Conference, April 2007)

Below is a video excerpt from Elder Ballard’s talk, The Miracle of the Holy Bible.

Overcoming Pornography

Pornography addiction is one of the greatest plagues of this generation of future missionaries. For any young person who has fallen prey to this evil device, overcoming pornography is something they will have to do prior to becoming worthy to serve a mission. In the text below and video above are some quotes from recent general conference addresses from our living prophets on how to avoid and overcome pornography:

Pres. Thomas S. Monson: Pornography will destroy your spirit. Be strong. Be clean

“Extremely alarming are the reports of the number of individuals who are utilizing the Internet for evil and degrading purposes, the viewing of pornography being the most prevalent of these purposes. My brothers and sisters, involvement in such will literally destroy the spirit. Be strong. Be clean. Avoid such degrading and destructive types of content at all costs—wherever they may be! I sound this warning to everyone, everywhere. I add—particularly to the young people—that this includes pornographic images transmitted via cell phones.

My beloved friends, under no circumstances allow yourselves to become trapped in the viewing of pornography, one of the most effective of Satan’s enticements. And if you have allowed yourself to become involved in this behavior, cease now. Seek the help you need to overcome and to change the direction of your life. Take the steps necessary to get back on the strait and narrow, and then stay there.” (Until We Meet Again, President Thomas S. Monson, April 2009 General Conference)

Pres. Gordon B, Hinckley: Priesthood holders must rise above pornography

“With this priesthood comes a great obligation to be worthy of it. We cannot indulge in unclean thoughts. We must not partake of pornography. We must never be guilty of abuse of any kind. We must rise up above such things. “Rise up, O men of God!” and put these things behind you, and the Lord will be your guide and stay…The computer is a wonderful instrument when it is properly used. But when it is used to deal with pornography or so-called chat rooms or for any other purpose that leads to evil practices or evil thoughts, then there must be self-discipline enough to turn it off.” (Rise Up, O Men of God, President Gordon B, Hinckley, Oct. 2006 General Conference)

Elder D. Todd Christofferson: Are you free from lustful desires?

“The Savior was critical of some of the early Saints for their “lustful … desires” (D&C 101:6; see also D&C 88:121). These were people who lived in a non-television, non-film, non-Internet, non-iPod world. In a world now awash in sexualized images and music, are we free from lustful desires and their attendant evils? Far from pushing the limits of modest dress or indulging in the vicarious immorality of pornography, we are to hunger and thirst after righteousness. To come to Zion, it is not enough for you or me to be somewhat less wicked than others. We are to become not only good but holy men and women. Recalling Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s phrase, let us once and for all establish our residence in Zion and give up the summer cottage in Babylon (see Neal A. Maxwell, A Wonderful Flood of Light [1990], 47).” (Come to Zion, by Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Oct. 2008 General Conference)

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: The most deadly of the seven deadly sins—Lust

young man with laptop computer“Remember that those young wives said their husbands’ infidelity began with an attraction to pornography, but immoral activity is not just a man’s problem, and husbands aren’t the only ones offending. The compromise available at the click of a mouse—including what can happen in a chat room’s virtual encounter—is no respecter of persons, male or female, young or old, married or single. And just to make sure that temptation is ever more accessible, the adversary is busy extending his coverage, as they say in the industry, to cell phones, video games, and MP3 players.

If we stop chopping at the branches of this problem and strike more directly at the root of the tree, not surprisingly we find lust lurking furtively there. Lust is an unsavory word, and it is certainly an unsavory topic for me to address, but there is good reason why in some traditions it is known as the most deadly of the seven deadly sins.

Why is lust such a deadly sin? Well, in addition to the completely Spirit-destroying impact it has upon our souls, I think it is a sin because it defiles the highest and holiest relationship God gives us in mortality—the love that a man and a woman have for each other and the desire that couple has to bring children into a family intended to be forever. Someone said once that true love must include the idea of permanence. True love endures. But lust changes as quickly as it can turn a pornographic page or glance at yet another potential object for gratification walking by, male or female. True love we are absolutely giddy about—as I am about Sister Holland; we shout it from the housetops. But lust is characterized by shame and stealth and is almost pathologically clandestine—the later and darker the hour the better, with a double-bolted door just in case. Love makes us instinctively reach out to God and other people. Lust, on the other hand, is anything but godly and celebrates self-indulgence. Love comes with open hands and open heart; lust comes with only an open appetite.” (Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, April 2010 General Conference)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks: Pornography threatens our spirituality, and our families. But there is a way out.

“We were concerned to see the inroads pornography had made in the United States while we were away. For many years our Church leaders have warned against the dangers of images and words intended to arouse sexual desires. Now the corrupting influence of pornography, produced and disseminated for commercial gain, is sweeping over our society like an avalanche of evil.

At our last conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley devoted an entire talk to this subject, warning in the plainest terms that “this is a very serious problem even among us” (“A Tragic Evil among Us,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2004, 61). Most of the bishops we meet in stake conferences now report major concerns with this problem.

My fellow holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and also our young men, I wish to speak to you today about pornography. I know that many of you are exposed to this and that many of you are being stained by it…

Pornographic or erotic stories and pictures are worse than filthy or polluted food. The body has defenses to rid itself of unwholesome food. With a few fatal exceptions, bad food will only make you sick but do no permanent harm. In contrast, a person who feasts upon filthy stories or pornographic or erotic pictures and literature records them in this marvelous retrieval system we call a brain. The brain won’t vomit back filth. Once recorded, it will always remain subject to recall, flashing its perverted images across your mind and drawing you away from the wholesome things in life…

Pornography impairs one’s ability to enjoy a normal emotional, romantic, and spiritual relationship with a person of the opposite sex. It erodes the moral barriers that stand against inappropriate, abnormal, or illegal behavior. As conscience is desensitized, patrons of pornography are led to act out what they have witnessed, regardless of its effects on their life and the lives of others.

Pornography is also addictive. It impairs decision-making capacities and it “hooks” its users, drawing them back obsessively for more and more. A man who had been addicted to pornography and to hard drugs wrote me this comparison: “In my eyes cocaine doesn’t hold a candle to this. I have done both. … Quitting even the hardest drugs was nothing compared to [trying to quit pornography]” (letter of Mar. 20, 2005)…

My brethren who are caught in this addiction or troubled by this temptation, there is a way.

First, acknowledge the evil. Don’t defend it or try to justify yourself. For at least a quarter century our leaders have pleaded with men, and also with women and children, to avoid this evil. Our current Church magazines are full of warnings, information, and helps on this subject—with more than a score of articles published or to be published this year and last year alone.

Second, seek the help of the Lord and His servants. Hear and heed President Hinckley’s words:  “Plead with the Lord out of the depths of your soul that He will remove from you the addiction which enslaves you. And may you have the courage to seek the loving guidance of your bishop and, if necessary, the counsel of caring professionals” (Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2004, 62).

Third, do all that you can to avoid pornography. If you ever find yourself in its presence—which can happen to anyone in the world in which we live—follow the example of Joseph of Egypt. When temptation caught him in her grip, he left temptation and “got him out” (Gen. 39:12)…

Finally, do not patronize pornography. Do not use your purchasing power to support moral degradation. And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you.

Please heed these warnings. Let us all improve our personal behavior and redouble our efforts to protect our loved ones and our environment from the onslaught of pornography that threatens our spirituality, our marriages, and our children.” (Pornography, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, April 2005 General Conference)

Additional Pornography Addiction Help

For more resources for overcoming pornography, please visit the site recently launched by the Church called, Overcoming Pornography. It has help for individuals, spouses, parents, youth, and leaders to prevent and overcome pornography.