Boy Scouts Prepares Young Men for Missions

Boy-Scouts-Prepares-for-Priesthood-Service The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, with over four million youth members. Since its founding in 1910, more than 110 million Americans have been members of the BSA. The goal of the BSA is to train youth in responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance through participation in a wide range of outdoor activities, and educational programs.

This year marks 100 years since the organization of the Boy Scouts of America. Boy Scouts prepares young men for missions which is why the LDS Church has been partnering with the Scouts from nearly the beginning.

History of Scouting in the LDS Church

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints formally affiliated with the Scouting movement in the United States in May of 1913 as its first institutional sponsor, and today sponsors more Scouts and Scouting units in the United States than any other organization…By providing opportunities for boys and young men to put into practice the gospel lessons they learn in the home and at Church, Scouting programs have supported the priesthood.

The Church continues to follow the programs of the Boy Scouts of America to help its young men 12 to 18 years of age as they magnify their callings in the priesthood. Scouting helps young men develop desirable character traits, citizenship, and physical and mental fitness. The Scouting program teaches young men how to rely on themselves, serve and lead others, prepare for emergencies, conserve natural resources, and become actively involved in community, school, and Church service projects.

The Young Men general presidency emphasizes that Scouting continues to play a strong role in fulfilling the Aaronic Priesthood objectives of preparing young men for full-time missions, temple blessings, and righteous manhood.“ (from an LDS Church statement on the History of Scouting in the Church)

Scouting Helped Prepare Me for My Mission

I enjoyed Scouts from an early age and set a goal for myself to earn my Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Boy Scouts. I was blessed with good parents that not only supported me, but helped guide me through the Scouting program. The perseverance and hard work it took for me to earn the Eagle rank was well worth it and prepared me for the perseverance and hard work needed to be a good missionary for the Lord. I know participating in Scouts and working toward the Eagle rank will help young men in the Church be better prepared when they arrive in the mission field.

The Prophet Desires All Young Men to Earn the Eagle Scout Award

“We desire all young men to strive to earn the Eagle Scout and Duty to God Awards… As youth work on these goals, they will develop skills and attributes that will lead them to the temple and prepare them for a lifetime of service to their families and the Lord” (First Presidency letter on Strengthening Youth, Sept. 28, 2001).

Here are some more statements from Church leaders on how Boy Scouts strengthens young men and prepares them for priesthood and missionary service:

Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church

“In this world where some misguided men and women strive to tear down and destroy great movements such as Scouting, I am pleased to stand firm for an organization that teaches duty to God and country, that embraces the Scout Law. Yes, an organization whose motto is ‘Be prepared’ and whose slogan is ‘Do a good turn daily.’

“The Aaronic Priesthood prepares boys for manhood and the weightier duties of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Scouting helps our boys to walk uprightly the priesthood path to exaltation… To all the Aaronic Priesthood assembled tonight with your fathers and your leaders, the priesthood program of the Church, with its accompanying activities, including Scouting, will help and not hinder you as you journey through life” (President Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, Nov. 1993, 48–50).

“Brethren, if ever there were a time when the principles of Scouting were vitally needed—that time is now. If ever there were a generation who would benefit by keeping physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight—that generation is the present generation” (Ensign, Nov. 1991, 47).

Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the Church

“I love the Scouting movement. The promise of the Scout Oath and the twelve points of the Scout Law point young men along the path of being prepared for the 21st century. They provide a solid and powerful magnetic force toward development of a well-rounded and noteworthy character that counts. If every boy in America knew and observed the Scout Oath, we would do away with most of the jails and prisons in this country. If each of us would live up to those few words, ‘On my honor, I will do my best,’ whether it be in school, whether it be in our social life, whether it be in our business or professional life, if I will do my very best, success and happiness will be mine” (Boy Scout Jamboral, Fillmore, Utah, Sept. 27, 1996).

Ezra Taft Benson, 13th President of the Church

“Young men, take full advantage of the Church programs. Set your goals to attain excellence in the achievement programs of the Church. Earn the Duty to God Award—one of our most significant priesthood awards. Become an Eagle Scout. Do not settle for mediocrity in the great Scouting program of the Church. . . .

“Give me a young man who has kept himself morally clean and has faithfully attended his Church meetings. Give me a young man who has magnified his priesthood and has earned the Duty to God Award and is an Eagle Scout. Give me a young man who is a seminary graduate and has a burning testimony of the Book of Mormon. Give me such a young man, and I will give you a young man who can perform miracles for the Lord in the mission field and throughout his life” (Ensign, May 1986, 44–45).

Elder F. Melvin Hammond, Former Young Men General President

“It is vital that you [thousands of Latter-day Saint Scouts participating in the 2001 National Jamboree] march the path from Tenderfoot to Eagle Scout and continue on to serve a full‑time mission. You have to stretch to prepare to be a full‑time missionary. Scouting will help in the stretching . . .  especially attending a sacrament meeting in the pouring rain like at this National Jamboree” (2001 National Jamboree).

Elder Robert L. Backman, Former Young Men General President

“The bishop’s most positive impact on youth comes in informal settings, activities, Scouting, service projects, athletics—real‑life settings where they get to know him as a man…Scouting provides a tested, proven program for us to use in holding our young men close to the Church. It appeals to boys. Its trail to the Eagle rank helps a young man set worthwhile goals, then realize them. For some reason there is a direct correlation between young men who achieve the Eagle rank and those who serve missions.” (Ensign, Nov. 1982, 39–40).

Lesson on What is the Priesthood

Download What is the Priesthood presentation.
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Lesson Activity

ordinary-flashlightMy calling in my ward is an assistant scout master with the 11-year-old Scouts.  As the boys turn twelve, they move on to do their Scouting with the 12-year-old deacons, and they are ordained to the priesthood.  I recently realized that I was with these boys for an hour a week in the year prior to getting ordained to the priesthood, yet we had never talked about this important step in their lives.

So last week I wrote the post What is the Priesthood? in preparation for a lesson on that subject that I gave to my 11-year-old Scouts. If you have interest in teaching a similar lesson, below is an outline and instructions that should be helpful. Do reach out to me if you have further questions.

Lesson and Preparation

priesthood-power-circuit-in-partsFor the lesson, I decided it would be a fun, interactive, attention activity to make an electric circuit with a batter, a cord, a switch and a light bulb. So I went to the store and I bought an ordinary flashlight and took it apart. I pulled out the battery, and the light bulb.  Then I bought a light switch and a short cable. I cut the cable into three sections and stripped the ends of each.  I hooked both of the cables up the switch and with the third section of cable, I hooked it up to the light bulb.  But I left the rest of the circuit disconnected so the Scouts could do it during the lesson.

priesthood-power-circuit-put-togetherAs we started the lesson, the boys were extremely curious about all the electric parts.  I asked them to help me assemble the circuit, and with a little help they were able to do so.  The boys really enjoyed putting the light circuit together, and I think it was a great way of introducing the topic of the priesthood.  And to parents who might be concerned about the safety of this activity: do not worry.  The batter only supplies 6 volts of electricity, which is a very small amount and completely safe to handle.

Tips for the Lesson

  • Keep it simple. The priesthood is a difficult concept to really understand, for adults as well as youth.
  • Don’t mix metaphors. The light circuit example isn’t perfect a analogy; it is simply a metaphor to help us understand the priesthood. We invited the bishop of our ward to attend when we gave this lesson and he was very helpful in explaining concepts and we are glad he came. At one point, though, he started comparing the priesthood to the power of attorney, which is a good analogy in and of itself. But trying to explain multiple metaphors seemed to only confuse the boys.  I think it’s best to save other analogies for other lessons.
  • Have For the Strength of Youth pamphlets available. When we began talking about how priesthood holders need to be clean and worthy to use the priesthood, I wished I had For the Strength of Youth pamphlets to hand out to the boys as we discussed standards for behavior, dress, and media. These 11-year-olds had some concept of worthiness, but it was clear that this was somewhat of a new topic for them.what-is-the-priesthood-bookmark
  • Print out the bookmark to hand out. I created a What is the Priesthood bookmark that has the diagram of the light bulb, switch, and battery on one side, and on the other side has what the five elements represent in the priesthood analogy. Feel free to download it, print it out, and use it in your lesson.

What is the Priesthood?

When I was a student at Brigham Young University, I took a class on the Doctrine and Covenants with a professor named Dennis Wright.  It was one of the more difficult religion classes I ever took, but it was also probably one in which I learned more than most.  I remember studying some sections on the priesthood, and professor Wright introduced the topic by asking the class: what is the priesthood?

what-is-the-priesthood-battery-light-switch-diagramHe then showed a diagram, like the one to the right, and asked, which of the five elements represented the priesthood:

  1. The battery
  2. The cable carrying the electricity
  3. The light switch
  4. The light bulb
  5. The light emanating from the light bulb

After different students in the class raised their hands and guessed all five different answers, Professor Wright said that his was a bit of a trick question.  He said all the students were right because, depending on the context in which we use the word, any part of the diagram could be representative of the priesthood.

The battery symbolizes that God is the source of all priesthood power.

The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God.  John Taylor, third President of the Church, said that “the power manifested by the priesthood is simply the power of God.” (from The Gospel Kingdom by G. Homer Durham).  Elder Bruce R. McConkie, in his book Gospel Doctrine, stated that “the priesthood is the power of God delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family.” The Doctrine and Covenants is replete with scriptures that explain how priesthood power is the power of God. Here are just a few:

  • D&C 107: 8 “The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the church in all ages of the world, to administer in spiritual things.”
  • D&C 121: 36 “The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and … cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.”
  • D&C 128: 8 “Now, the nature of this ordinance consists in the power of the priesthood, by the revelation of Jesus Christ, wherein it is granted that whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.”

The wire reminds us that we must be clean and worthy to carry priesthood power.

Metals are used for electric wires because they are good conductors, that is, they conduct the flow of electricity very easily. Through metal wires, electric power is channeled from the power source to wherever it needs to go. We can think of the priesthood as that channel that allows the power of God to flow to us on Earth, but that power only flows through good conductors. To be a good conductor of priesthood power, priesthood holders must be clean and worthy.

aaronic-priesthood-holder-sacramentPresident Thomas S. Monson, in his April 2009 talk called Be Your Best Self, said, “Each man and each boy who holds the priesthood of God must be worthy of that great privilege and responsibility. Each must strive to learn his duty and then to do it to the best of his ability. As we do so, we provide the means by which our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, can accomplish Their work here upon the earth.”

God gives His priesthood authority to worthy men, and that priesthood can and should only be used in righteousness. This is how the Lord said it in D&C 121: 41 -42, “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.”

The light switch is like priesthood keys: The power to turn on and off the power.

Priesthood power can only be used when it has been turned on, or authorized, by some who holds priesthood keys.  Priesthood authority is governed by those who hold priesthood keys such as a bishop, who holds the keys in his ward, or the President of the Church who holds the priesthood keys for the whole Church. The Lord explained, in D&C 132: 7, that it is only the President of the Church who has all priesthood keys: “I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred.”

Jesus Christ holds all the keys of the priesthood, and he has given the prophet and apostles in the Quorum of the Twelve the keys that are necessary for governing His Church. Only the senior Apostle, the President of the Church, may use (or authorize another person to use) these keys for governing the entire Church. The President of the Church delegates priesthood keys to other priesthood leaders so they can preside in their areas of responsibility. Priesthood keys are bestowed on presidents of temples, missions, stakes, and districts; bishops; branch presidents; and quorum presidents (even Deacon and Teachers Quorum Presidents). (From Gospel Topics: Priesthood)

The light bulb is like priesthood holders: Men such as Apostles, Bishops, Deacons, etc.

melchizedek-priesthood-holders-gift-holy-ghost God gives priesthood to men in the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of His children. All worthy male members of the Church are eligible to receive the priesthood and be ordained to a priesthood office. Aaronic Priesthood offices include Deacon, Teacher, Priest, and Bishop. Offices of the Melchizedek Priesthood include: Elder, High Priest, Patriarch, Seventy, and Apostle.

Here is what Elder M. Russell Ballard said about understanding priesthood offices:

Priesthood offices are not status symbols but opportunities for service. High priests and elders are equally responsible to serve faithfully in the offices to which they have been called. All priesthood holders assist our Heavenly Father in accomplishing His divine purpose: ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.’ (Moses 1:39.)…Although we speak of the Melchizedek Priesthood as the greater priesthood, we must not misunderstand the importance of the Aaronic Priesthood. The service given by a faithful bearer of the Aaronic Priesthood is just as important in the eyes of the Lord as the service given by one holding the Melchizedek Priesthood. (From The Priesthood: A Lifetime of Service)

Former Church President Joseph Fielding Smith said in the June 1971 Ensign, talking to priesthood holders, “We are the Lord’s agents; we represent him; he has given us authority which empowers us to do all that is necessary to save and exalt ourselves as well as his other children in the world.” And another former Church President Harold B. Lee said in the July 1973 Ensign, “When we [act] in the name of the Lord, as holders of the priesthood, we are doing it in the name and in behalf of our Heavenly Father.”

The light shining is like priesthood blessings in our lives.

mormon-family-dinner Priesthood holders can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation such as baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and otherwise bless people on this earth.  President James E. Faust, former counselor in the First Presidency, said these priesthood “blessings are available to all who are worthy through those authorized and even appointed to give priesthood blessings…Priesthood blessings do not just involve men. They bless equally and fully the women and children of the family.” (see Priesthood Blessings)

In D&C 84: 20- 21, the Lord explains that “In the ordinances [of the priesthood], the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh.” Gospel ordinances of salvation that bless our lives on earth and in Heaven include baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, the Sacrament, Temple Marriage, Anointing the Sick, Blessing a Baby, and many others.

The most important use of the priesthood takes place in the family where each husband and father in the Church should strive to be worthy to hold the priesthood. With his wife as an equal partner, he presides in righteousness and love, serving as the family’s spiritual leader. He leads the family in prayer, scripture study, and family home evening, and gives priesthood blessings for direction, healing, and comfort. Though many members do not have faithful priesthood holders in their homes, through the service of home teachers and priesthood leaders, all members of the Church can enjoy the blessings of priesthood power in their lives. (once again, from Gospel Topics: Priesthood)

View and download a Lesson on What is the Priesthood that I put together.

Climb Higher

Years ago I clipped this ad from a magazine. I can’t remember what the original advertisement was for, but I was struck by the applicability of the principles for many different aspects of life.

We’ll give you the training,

the tools, and the challenge.

How high the climb is up to you!

Today let’s apply this to preparation for a mission and how it will help you climb higher. It’s the perfect analogy.

1. The Training

Though you are being trained daily as you make righteous choices, study the scriptures, choose good friends, keep commitments, and work hard, the formal missionary training will be in the Missionary Training Center.

In a letter from President and Sister Smith (president of the Provo, Utah MTC and his wife) to prospective missionaries, they share great information about the experience you might have at the MTC:

“As you achieve goals, keep commitments, and stay focused on what really matters, you will receive excellent training to prepare you for your MTC experience.”

2. The Tools:

In the April 2010 General Conference President Thomas S. Monson taught us about the tools that prepare us for missionary service:

“Young men, I admonish you to prepare for service as a missionary. There are many tools to help you learn the lessons which will be beneficial to you as well as helping you to live the life you will need to have lived to be worthy. One such tool is the booklet entitled For the Strength of Youth, published under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It features standards from the writings and teachings of Church leaders and from scripture, adherence to which will bring the blessings of our Heavenly Father and the guidance of His Son to each of us. In addition, there are lesson manuals, carefully prepared after prayerful consideration. Families have family home evenings, where gospel principles are taught. Almost all of you have the opportunity to attend seminary classes taught by dedicated teachers who have much to share.” Preparation Brings Blessings by President Thomas S. Monson

a. For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. Have you read it recently? Challenge: take 5 minutes before bed every night and read through one of the topics. Double Challenge: set a goal to improve on 1 principle taught. Triple Challenge: choose 1 principle a month to work on.

b. Lesson Manuals. Preach My Gospel is an excellent tool to study NOW to prepare yourself. Scriptures are the best lesson manuals ever. Challenge: commit to study 10 minutes a day out of the scriptures. Double Challenge: commit to 15 minutes a day study time. Triple Challenge: commit to 30 minutes a day study time in the scriptures and lesson manuals.

c. Family Home Evening: Do you participate in family home evening? Are you attending with a pleasant attitude? Challenge: If your family isn’t having them regularly, YOU initiate it. Plan a lesson. Keep it simple and fun. Double Challenge: Offer to teach a lesson once a month. Teaching gospel principles NOW will prepare you for teaching the gospel on your mission.

d. Seminary. This is a great place to learn the scriptures. Memorize the scripture mastery scriptures. Participate in class discussion. If you have early morning seminary, this is great practice for rising early. Make it a habit now! Challenge: commit to graduate from Seminary. Make it priority NOW.

3. The Challenge

The Challenge is to BECOME… become a disciple of Christ… become a valiant example of gospel principles.

“Brethren, the challenge to become applies precisely and perfectly to missionary preparation. Obviously, the process of becoming a missionary does not require a young man to wear a white shirt and tie to school every day or to follow the missionary guidelines for going to bed and getting up, although most parents certainly would support that idea. But you can increase in your desire to serve God (see D&C 4:3), and you can begin to think as missionaries think, to read what missionaries read, to pray as missionaries pray, and to feel what missionaries feel. You can avoid the worldly influences that cause the Holy Ghost to withdraw, and you can grow in confidence in recognizing and responding to spiritual promptings. Line upon line and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, you can gradually become the missionary you hope to be and the missionary the Savior expects.” David A. Bednar, “Becoming a Missionary,” Ensign, Nov 2005

As you TRAIN daily,

utilize the TOOLS,

and accept the CHALLENGE to become,

you are choosing to be like those described by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“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 )” (The Greatest Generation of Missionaries by Elder Ballard in Ensign, Nov. 2002).

Climb Higher

How high the climb is up to you! Make it a worthwhile journey!

The view from the top is excellent and well-worth the hard work.

(Dead Horse Point, Utah, image used with permission from Ivan Makarov)

Brilliant at the Basics

When Vince Lombardi took over as coach of the Green Bay Packers football team in 1958, one of the first questions the local press asked him was, “What are you going to change to turn this team around after a string of failures and losing seasons?” His reply provided a window into the process of how to be successful when faced with a challenging situation.

Lombardi’s response was: “I am not going to change anything. We will use the same players, the same plays and the same training system. But we will concentrate on becoming brilliant at the basics.” In nine seasons his Green Bay Packers won five NFL Championships and two Super Bowls.” (see Being Brilliant at the Basics, by Rick McCormick)

This same principle of “Being Brilliant at the Basics” applies to preparing for a mission.

  • The players = missionaries.
  • The plays = principles of the gospel.
  • Training System = parents, leaders, mission president, personal revelation, obeying the commandments.

Challenge: Concentrate on 3 Gospel Basics

My challenge to you is to pick three things you will do that will prepare you in the gospel basics for your mission. These three goals could be in any of these areas: physical, social, mental, emotional, or spiritual preparation. Don’t just pick the easiest ones. Choose three things that will build, strengthen, and change you for the better. Decide on something that is measurable so that you can do it with exactness. You’ll be glad you did!

Here are a few ideas:

  • 15 minutes studying the Scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon.
  • Morning & Evening Prayer
  • Exercise for 30 minutes a day
  • Take time every day to listen to a friend.
  • Start up a conversation with a stranger (if you tend to be a quiet or shy person. This would be great -practice for a mission.)
  • Save a pre-determined amount of $$ out of every paycheck. Or, if you don’t have a job, find a way to help earn money for your mission.
  • Be on time for meetings and activities.
  • Memorize scriptures and study the Preach My Gospel handbook.
  • Be worthy of the priesthood.
  • Do your own laundry for one month.
  • Cook dinner once a week for your family.
  • Do something everyday that you don’t want to do, so that you can learn self-discipline.
  • Have good grooming and cleanliness habits. Begin observing missionary grooming standards such as hair length and proper dress.

(Note: Some of these ideas were gleaned from, Preparing for a Mission.)

PRECISION – not Perfection

“Live … so that you’re brilliant in the basics… You think in terms of precision, not perfection.” (Julie B. Beck, Aug 2009, CES Training).

Remember, you’re aiming for PRECISION :

pre·ci·sion : pri-ˈsi-zhən : noun

the quality or state of being precise : exactness

Don’t Get Discouraged

Don’t get discouraged if you miss a day on your “Brilliant at the Basics” goals. Pick yourself back up and Carry on! Once again, you’ll be glad you did! One of President Gordon B. Hinckley’s favorite sayings was this: “Keep trying. Be believing. Be happy. Don’t get discouraged.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign, June 1995, p. 4.)


Why should you make efforts to be brilliant at the basics of the gospel? You want to know the gospel, not just the missionary lessons. Elder M. Russel Ballard explains:

“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. …

“Listen to [these] words, my young brethren: valiant, courage, strength, active, true. We don’t need spiritually weak and semicommitted young men. We don’t need you to just fill a position; we need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate missionaries who know how to listen to and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t a time for spiritual weaklings. We cannot send you on a mission to be reactivated, reformed, or to receive a testimony. We just don’t have time for that. We need you to be filled with “faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 4:5). – Elder Ballard – Gen Conf Oct 2002 – Priesthood Session


If you’re ready to take this challenge, please leave a comment about what you picked. Then, in a few months, check back in with us and let us know how it’s going and how being “brilliant at the basics” has helped you in your mission preparation. “Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!” D&C 128:22

Seminary and Institute

seminary and institute 2 The LDS Church Seminary and Institute programs are great mission preparation services that all future missionaries should take advantage of. This is what our former prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball said about seminary and institute and how they aid in missionary preparation.

“Young men having planned for 19 years to fill a mission will be more fruitful, more effective, and more successful when they serve and more people will come into the Church and will create more enthusiasm and there will be a chain reaction….Can you imagine what would happen to the seminary and institute programs with so many wonderful young men who have been planning for missions from birth until seminary days? Seminary and institute buildings would be crowded with a new kind of maturity and seriousness that would give the Church a new image. The morality of the youth would greatly increase. They would be taught cleanliness and righteousness in a way that they have never been taught before…I wish every boy and girl could go to seminary, because that is where they learn many of the truths of the gospel. Seminary is where many of them get their ideals settled in their minds about what they are going to do, and they go on missions.” (President Kimball Speaks Out on Being a Missionary, New Era, May 1981, 46)

Testimonies of Seminary and Institute

The January 2009 Ensign article called Nourishing the Soul through Institute as has some great testimonies of mission preparation aided by seminary and institute.seminary and institute

José Araujo, said “Among the many blessings I have received by attending institute are improved family relationships and an increased interest in the scriptures. It has also increased my testimony. Before attending institute, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to serve a mission. Now I know that serving a mission is what I need to do.” (“Strengthening My Testimony,” Ensign, Jan. 2009, 54)

Malinda Morrison said, “My love for institute started back in seminary. I joined the Church at age 14, and I had a thirst for knowledge. I enjoyed learning about the gospel and loved the admirable friends and teachers I met along the way…Just as seminary enriched my life when I was a teenager, institute has enriched my life during my young adult years. I have treasured up the words of Christ in my heart and in my mind (see D&C 6:20; 84:85). These teachings helped me serve the Lord more effectively as a missionary. I am grateful for institute and know that it is an inspired program because I have seen its blessings in my life.” (“Showing Faith,” Ensign, Jan. 2009, 55–56)

presidentthomassmonson_thumb[1] Make Seminary and Institute a Priority

President Thomas S. Monson has said the following regarding institute, but I believe it applies to seminary as well:

“I ask you to make participation in institute a priority. Married students and other young adults are also welcome and encouraged to attend. Think of it. Friends will be made, the Spirit will be felt, and faith will be strengthened. I promise you that as you participate in institute and study the scriptures diligently, your power to avoid temptation and to receive direction of the Holy Ghost in all you do will be increased. Divine favor will attend those who humbly seek it. That is a promise which I leave with you.” (April 21, 2009).

Elder L Tom Perry 2

And Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave this prophetic promise: “Don’t neglect the opportunity of attending seminary and institute classes. Participate and gain all you can from the scriptures taught in these great religious-education settings. They will prepare you to present the message of the restored gospel to those you have opportunity to meet.” (“Raising the Bar,” Ensign, Nov. 2007, 48.)

How Do I Find an Institute Program Near Me?

Visit the Institutes of Religion site for information about any of the more than 500 institute locations worldwide. In many cases, you can register for classes online. If you don’t have Internet access, ask your bishop or branch president for a list of institute locations.

Here are a couple of videos I found on the LDS Institute program and the blessings, promised by a prophet, if we attend.

The MTC – Missionary Training Center

mtc provoLast week we sent my youngest brother Michael to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, who is on his way to Warsaw, Poland for his mission.  In the days before entering the MTC, in talking with Michael, I realized he didn’t know what to expect once he arrived at the MTC.  So I thought some information about what to expect at the MTC would make a good blog post.  My MTC experience, which I will tell you about below, was nearly 15 years ago, so I thought I would turn first to a New Era magazine article called The MTC Experience.

The MTC is where missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints go to get doctrinal and language training at the beginning of their missionary service.  There are 17 MTCs located in nations throughout the world including Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, and the flagship MTC is located in Provo, Utah, USA, adjacent to the campus of Brigham Young University. Missionaries not learning a language usually spend 3 weeks in the MTC, while those learning a foreign language will generally spend 9 to 12 weeks at the MTC. The MTC is a crucial part of getting missionaries prepared to serve, but it was not always so.

1897_Temple_SquareHistory of the MTC

In the early 1900s, new missionaries would report to the Mission Home in Salt Lake City, a small building adjacent to Temple Square.  Missionaries would stay there just a day or two before leaving to their assigned areas.  During the early 1900s, the typical English-speaking missionary would arrive on a Saturday and leave the following Wednesday.  Those foreign serving missionaries frequently had to wait longer for visas and would often serve temporarily as tour guides on Temple Square or do clerical tasks at the LDS Church headquarters.

In November 1961, missionaries started heading a few miles south, to Brigham Young University, at the beginning of their mission for some language training.  Soon, a new LDS mission, the Language Training Mission (LTM), was created, with the geographic extent of the mission to be the perimeter of the buildings in Provo, Utah. These buildings included dormitories as well as classrooms for the missionaries.

As the Church and the number of missionaries continued to grow in the 1970s, the church acquired some nearby land near the BYU Provo campus, built dormitories, a gymnasium, and other buildings. The name of the LTM was changed to the Missionary Training Center in 1978, to note that it was for more than just language training.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, other MTCs popped up in other parts of the world.  In 1998, all North American missionaries called to Brazil were sent to the Brazil MTC in São Paulo for the second month of their training.  Although the integrated MTC program was originally thought of as a solution to overcrowding at the MTC in Provo, it has also proven successful in better training missionaries and revolutionized the MTC experience. Now, I believe, many Americans called to serve abroad are instructed to report directly to the MTC in that country.

missionaries and provo templeLife at the MTC

Life inside the MTC is definitely different than life outside, but it is great. There’s so much to learn in just a few weeks at the MTC:

  • Gospel doctrines
  • How to develop Christ-like attributes
  • How to teach by the Spirit
  • Communication skills
  • A foreign language (for some)
  • The mission rules

You will be assigned a companion, put in a district with three or four other companionships.  Your companion and district will be with you throughout your training and you will become great friends.  Every day you will go to classes, on the gospel of Jesus Christ and on your language, with your district, and several times a week you will be able to go together to play sports in the gymnasium.  Once a week you’ll go to the temple, Sundays will be filled with Church meetings, and once a week you have a devotional by a General Authority. You’ll have weekly service opportunities on the MTC campus (‘celestial service,’ as they called it, cleaning toilets, mopping floors, etc.).

If you’ll recall my previous post, Work Hard, Obey, and Love Others, it was at the MTC that a teacher of mine made that challenge that affected my whole mission.

mtc-lifeMTC Services

In a lot of ways, the MTC is a virtual city with all the services you will need as a missionary.  Here’s a run down:

  • Cafeteria—Three meals a day are served. When missionaries have a scheduling conflict, they can pack a sack lunch instead of eating in the cafeteria.
  • Laundry—Washers and dryers are available. Missionaries must purchase their own detergent from vending machines or the bookstore.
  • Bookstore—The bookstore is stocked with learning materials, book bags, plus everyday items such as toiletries, white shirts, or treats.
  • Dry cleaning—Rates are reasonable. There is a trend for missionaries to gain weight while at the MTC, so suit alterations are also available for a fee.
  • Barbershop—Elders are entitled to one or two haircuts depending on their length of stay at the MTC. Sister missionaries are not offered haircuts, although a beautician is available for paid appointments.
  • Copy center—Services such as copying, laminating, or binding are available here.
  • Sheets and pillowcases—All bed linens are provided. Exchange for clean linen can be made weekly.
  • Mail—Letters are delivered to mailboxes, and packages can be picked up at an adjoining window. The MTC will not accept hand deliveries, so you must send packages through the post office or private carriers.
  • Banking services—The office has capabilities to cash checks and sell travelers’ checks.
  • Medical services—The health center is adjacent to the MTC. Immunizations are available. Health needs can be treated. Also, doctors are on call for emergencies.

BYU hosts a Web site for the Provo Utah MTC. Visit the site for an MTC Virtual Tour and, to get answers to additions questions, see their MTC FAQs page.

My MTC Experience

I entered the Provo, Utah MTC in October 1995 on my way to serving in Rosario, Argentina.  I was in one of the first trial programs of Technology Aided Language Learning (TALL), which I now believe is part of all missionaries’ curriculum.  I loved the MTC from the very beginning; everyone was so nice and the spiritual growth I experienced was phenomenal.

I was in the MTC just after I completed my first year of college at BYU and all the facilities (beds, laundry, cafeteria) was just like in the BYU dorms.  I was amazed at how they just threw us into Spanish, teaching us to pray and contact people in Spanish on our very first full day at the MTC.  A the MTC, in a lot of ways, I felt I had a stress-free life.  I had no worries about what was going on in the outside world, I just studied Spanish and the gospel and felt the Spirit all day, every day.

Pointing map mtc 2Other missionaries I knew, though, had a harder time.  Many missionaries have a hard time learning the language and many have a hard time being spiritual.  If you have largely ignored spiritual things throughout your life, then  going to the MTC can be a difficult transition.  All the more reason to spiritually prepare before your mission.

I had one very spiritual, faith-promoting experience after I had been in the MTC for about a month.  We had a lesson on faith and as I sat there listening, my mind and soul seemed to open up and receive knowledge from heaven.  After the class, one of the other missionaries asked me what I had learned about faith, and as I tried to convey through words what I had felt the Spirit of the Lord poured over me like never before.  The other missionaries and I worth both greatly edified by this experience.

The more I learned about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, the more I realized how much I didn’t know.  The more I studied the scriptures, the more I wanted to immerse myself in them and learn all that I could.  An hour a day of personal scripture study suddenly didn’t seem like nearly enough.

I came away from the MTC with more gratitude in my heart, more meekness and penitence, a stronger testimony of the Book of Mormon, understanding of the importance of obedience to the commandments and to the mission rules, deeper gospel knowledge, a stronger testimony of the Church and of the atonement of Jesus Christ, greater sensitivity to the Spirit, greater trust in the Lord, and joy and happiness that worldly things cannot bring.

At the conclusion of my MTC experience, I wrote in my journal, I knew I had had a life altering experience, even if I never set foot in the mission field.  While that is certainly true, oh how little I realized how much I would learn and grow once I got into the mission field.


I’d like to address a question I have gotten from time to time regarding law of chastity violations and the ability to later go on a mission.  Many young people who have had issues with sexual morality want to repent and go on a mission, but frequently they don’t know if their prior actions will prohibit them from ever serving.

While it is far better to never engage in these transgressions, let me reassure you that they can repented of, and generally these young people can eventually go on a mission.  Law of chastity issues are very serious in the sight of the Lord, though, and if serious enough, or if not fully repented of, may disqualify you from going on a mission.

white-rose-purityWhat is the law of chastity?

The law of chastity is the Lord’s commandment that we keep ourselves sexually pure.  For young people preparing for a mission, sexual purity means refraining from sexual relations and other sexual perversions such as homosexual activity, masturbation, viewing pornography, and heavy petting (inappropriate touching). Here is a concise definition of chastity from the Gospel Topics section:

Chastity is sexual purity. Those who are chaste are morally clean in their thoughts, words, and actions. Chastity means not having any sexual relations before marriage.

…In the world today, Satan has led many people to believe that sexual intimacy outside of marriage is acceptable. But in God’s sight, it is a serious sin. It is an abuse of the power He has given us to create life. The prophet Alma taught that sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder and denying the Holy Ghost (see Alma 39:3–5).

Sometimes people try to convince themselves that sexual relations outside of marriage are acceptable if the participants love one another. This is not true. Breaking the law of chastity and encouraging someone else to do so is not an expression of love. People who love each other will never endanger one another’s happiness and safety in exchange for temporary personal pleasure.

Our Heavenly Father has given us the law of chastity for our protection…Those who keep themselves sexually pure will avoid the spiritual and emotional damage that always comes from sharing physical intimacies with someone outside of marriage.

For more information, check out my article that discusses the “Why” of Keeping the Law of Chastity.

elder-m-russell-ballardPriesthood leaders determine worthiness

As much as I want to and try to help young people who email me with law of chastity concerns, these issues must be worked through with priesthood leaders before a potential missionary can be declared worthy to serve.  Elder M. Russell Ballard, in a talk called The Greatest Generation of Missionaries (Ensign, November 2002) said, “as divinely appointed judges in Israel, the bishop and the stake president determine worthiness and resolve concerns on behalf of the Church.”  So if you are struggling with sexual sin, please, talk to your parents and make an appointment to go see your bishop or branch president.  They will love and support and help you through.

In that same talk, Elder Ballard went on to say, “Please understand this: the bar that is the standard for missionary service is being raised. The day of the ‘repent and go’ missionary is over. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you, my young brothers? Some young men have the mistaken idea that they can be involved in sinful behavior and then repent when they’re 18 1/2 so they can go on their mission at 19. While it is true that you can repent of sins, you may or you may not qualify to serve. It is far better to keep yourselves clean and pure and valiant.”

Raising the bar

Our former prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, also spoke of the need to raise the worthiness standards for missionaries. In fact, he commented on Elder Ballard’s talk saying, “Elder Ballard has spoken to you concerning missionaries. I wish to endorse what he said. I hope that our young men, and our young women, will rise to the challenge he has set forth. We must raise the bar on the worthiness and qualifications of those who go into the world as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ” (“To Men of the Priesthood,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2002, 57).lds-mormon-oakland-temple

President Hinckley further said, “the time has come when we must raise the standards of those who are called … as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. … We simply cannot permit those who have not qualified themselves as to worthiness to go into the world to speak the glad tidings of the gospel.” (“Missionary Service,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 11, 2003, 17).

Elder L. Tom Perry has also spoken on missionary worthiness, comparing these standards with those needed to enter the house of the Lord, the Holy Temple.  Said he, “Personal worthiness is the minimum spiritual standard for serving a mission. This means that you are worthy in every way to make and to keep sacred temple covenants.” (Raising the Bar, Ensign, November 2007)

bishop-interview2Worthiness interview

As I mentioned above, and as I talked about in my other posts on the Mission Application Timeline and the application process for Mission Papers, only a bishop (or branch president) can interview missionary candidates and recommend them as worthy to serve a full-time mission. In this interview, your priesthood leader will ask you if you meet the qualifications for missionary service revealed in section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants: faith, hope, charity, love, an eye single to the glory of God, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, and diligence.

Full-time missionary service is a privilege, not a right, and therefore, potential missionaries must be worthy in every respect in order to receive that privilege. If you have had law of chastity violations, your bishop and stake president (or branch president and district or mission president) will need to confirm that your repentance is complete prior to submitting your application.  They will make sure that you are prepared spiritually for your mission call and that you have been free of transgression for a sufficient time to manifest genuine repentance. If you have had multiple or serious violations of the law of chastity, this time period will likely be at least one year from the most recent occurrence.


If you have had problems with the law of chastity, to prepare for a mission you will need to become worthy, and you will need to go through the repentance process. Complete repentance of law of chastity violations is necessary before a potential missionary can submit the paperwork. If you are afraid or unsure how to begin the repentance process, start by going to see your bishop. He will guide you through the steps of repentance and give you support along the way.

My young brothers and sisters, the Lord loves you.  If you have fallen into sexual transgression, He has provided a way back. The road of repentance is available thanks to the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  The Lord, your family, and Church leaders will help you repent and fully prepare for your mission.

For those of you striving and succeeding at keeping yourself clean and pure in spite of this increasingly sex-obsessed world in which we live, I applaud your faith and courage. If you always obey the law of chastity, you will be spared the hardships that inevitably come when we violate God’s commandments.  You will keep yourself worthy to become one of the Lord’s chosen representatives, and you will have immense joy and eternal blessings for the missionary work you will perform.

LDS Temples Integral Part of Missionary Work for Missionaries and New Converts


LDS Temples are an integral part of missionary work for two reasons:

  1. The Temple endowment gives missionaries power from on high to do their work.
  2. Baptism is the first step toward higher ordinances of salvation received at the temple.

Temple endowment gives missionaries power from on high

New missionaries generally go to the temple to receive their endowment just prior to leaving on their mission. Through these temple ordinances, missionaries receive knowledge, power, and strength that comes through the greater understanding of Heavenly Father’s plan.  Many modern prophets and apostles have taught the importance of receiving the temple endowment prior to serving a mission: Howard W Hunter

  • President Howard W. Hunter: “Let us prepare every missionary to go to the temple worthily and to make that experience an even greater highlight than receiving the mission call” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 118; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 88).
  • Jeffrey R HollandElder Jeffrey R. Holland: “Going to the temple for your own endowment . . . [is] an integral part of your mission preparation. . . . [You should] understand the significance of those temple covenants [and] the inextricable link between your endowment and your missionary success. Indeed, the very word endowment conveys the essence of that vital link. An endowment is a gift. “You cannot do this work alone. We have to have heaven’s help, we have to have the ‘gifts’ of God. . . . This work is so serious and the adversary’s opposition to it so great that we need every divine power to enhance our effort and move the Church steadily forward” (“Making and Keeping Covenants” [missionary satellite broadcast, Apr. 25, 1997]).
  • Bruce R McConkieElder Bruce R. McConkie: “The apostles—or any ministers or missionaries in any age—are not fully qualified to go forth, preach the gospel, and build up the kingdom, unless they have the gift of the Holy Ghost and also are endowed with power from on high, meaning [they] have received certain knowledge, powers, and special blessings, normally given only in the Lord’s Temple” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:859).
  • Joseph Fielding SmithPresident Joseph Fielding Smith: “Do you understand why our missionaries go to the temple before they are set apart for their  mission fields? This is a requirement made of them. . . He called all the missionaries to Kirtland in the early day of the Church to receive endowments in the temple erected there. He said this was so that they could go out with greater power from on high and with greater protection” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:255).

Baptism is first step toward higher ordinances received at the templeMormon Baptism

Elder David A. Bednar, in his most recent conference address in May 2009, explained that “the baptismal covenant clearly contemplates a future event or events and looks forward to the temple.“ Quoting Elder Neal A. Maxwell he says, “Clearly, when we baptize, our eyes should gaze beyond the baptismal font to the holy temple.”

Quoting Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Elder Bednar says that when we partake of the sacrament each week, “we do not witness that we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ. [Rather], we witness that we are willing to do so. The fact that we only witness to our willingness suggests that something else must happen before we actually take that sacred name upon us in the [ultimate and] most important sense.”  Elder Bednar goes on to explain that it is in the temple that we more fully take upon us the name of Christ (see D&C 109:22).  (From Honorably Hold a Name and Standing by Elder David A. Bednar, Ensign May 2009)mormon blessing sacrament bread

Elder Russell M. Nelson has also taught this principle when he said that “missionary work is only the beginning” of the gathering of Israel.  He went on to say “the fulfillment, the consummation, of those blessings comes as those who have entered the waters of baptism perfect their lives to the point that they may enter the holy temple. Receiving an endowment there seals members of the Church to the Abrahamic covenant” (Perfection Pending, and Other Favorite Discourses [1998], 207).

My Temple Experienceelder jimmy smith buenos aires lds mormon temple

My experience, in attending the temple and in baptizing families as a step toward the temple, has been that the doctrine above is true.  As a new missionary, I was better able to teach the gospel because I had been blessed with the knowledge, power, and strength that comes through the greater understanding of Heavenly Father’s plan as learned at the temple.  I know of at least one of the families I baptized on my mission, the Almada family, that eventually went to the temple to be sealed together.  It was the sweetest pleasure of my mission to hear that this family will be together for time and all eternity, through the power of the priesthood to bind families together on earth and in heaven.

May you, as a missionary, always remain worthy of the temple blessings, and may you have power and success in bringing many into the waters of baptism, and thus help them take the first steps towards the blessings of the holy temple.

Saving for a Mission

The blessings of missionary work are infinite and eternal, though there are costs to a Mormon mission and sacrifices that must be made. One of those sacrifices is the need for young men to save almost $10,000 to pay for their mission.  And I believe that, as much as possible, young men should pay for their own mission, because even greater blessing flow that way.spencer w kimball

Paying for a Mission

This is what President Spencer W. Kimball said on the subject:

“Remember it costs money to go to the various parts of the world and preach the gospel. Remember, then, it is your privilege now to begin to save your money. Every time money comes into your hands, through gifts or earnings, set at least part of it away in a savings account to be used for your mission.”

A young man’s mission preparation consists of “preparing to finance his mission so it may be his own contribution, so far as possible. How wonderful it would be if each future missionary could have saved for his mission from birth. How wonderful it would be if every boy could totally or largely finance his own mission and thereby receive most of the blessings coming from his missionary labors.”

“Of course, if the boy is a convert in his teens, his years of saving are limited. If he lives in a country where the economic standards are low and opportunities are severely limited, he can still be governed by this policy so far as possible and do the best he can.”

President Kimball Speaks Out on Being a Missionary, New Era, May 1981

Mowing lawnTips on Earning and Saving Money for a Mission

  • Start early.  When my son was four years old I got him a piggy bank to start saving for his mission.  Starting early will help you develop better money saving habits, and it will also help you let interest work in your favor.
  • Find ways to earn money.  Ask your parents, friends and neighbors if they have chores you could do to earn money for your missionary fund like mowing the lawn, washing the windows, or other indoor or outdoor work.
  • Budget! Make a budget, or plan, for how much of the money you earn will be saved for your mission.  Allow your self some money to spend on fun things too, but you’ll probably want to save at least 50% of each pay check for your missionary fund.  And don’t forget 10% for tithing.
  • Open a saving account.  When you get old enough and want to graduate from the piggy bank system, opening a savings account will be a safe way to store your money and it will also allow you to earn interest on the money you have hamburger worker
  • Get a part-time job.  When you get old enough, ask your parents about getting a part-time job.   I got my first job working at McDonald’s when I was 16 years old.  This was a great way for me to add to my missionary fund.  If your parents don’t want you to work during the school year, see about getting a summer job.
  • Talk to your parents.  For many of these options, you will need your parents’ help, so be sure to work with them to develop a plan for how your mission will be paid for.  Even if your parents can afford to pay for your mission, as President Kimball said, it is a good idea for young men and women to pay for some or all of their own mission.

mission savings calculator

Saving for Missions: Examples

The following are four examples of how young men are saving money for their missions.  They come from Mission Made Possible, a New Era article in June 2004.

Adam Sessions, age 12, Morgan Park Ward, Chicago Illinois Stake. Adam’s plan is  simple: “For every five dollars I get, I give two to my mission fund,” he says. He also always makes sure to pay his tithing.  Starting at 12 might seem early, but Adam’s really excited that he has seven years to save for his mission. He’s not old enough to have a part-time job, but he does jobs for people in his neighborhood, such as emptying recycling bins, and shoveling snow from side walks.  Along with his financial preparation, Adam has also set a goal to finish reading the Book of Mormon by the time he’s 13. He reads every day. saving for mission by babysitting

Nathan Neeley, age 15, Westchester First Ward, Chicago Illinois Stake.  Nathan started saving when he was 10.  He began by delivering papers, shoveling snow, and mowing lawns. Now that he’s 15, he babysits for some of the families in his ward. After paying tithing, he puts away 10 percent of each paycheck for his mission.  He’s had the desire to serve since Primary when he sang “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission.”  “And when my brother went,” he says, “that made me want to go even more. It made a big difference for me. He set the example. He really changed his attitude toward life because of his mission.”

David Montoya, age 17, Orland Park Ward, Chicago Illinois Stake.  David’s paycheck disappears into his mission fund so fast you’d think it was one of the coins he can make appear or disappear at will. A master of the sleight of hand, David turned his magic hobby into mission dollars when he started working at a magic store and later performing as “Magician Monte” at local restaurants and birthday parties on weekends. Now that he’s attending a local community college, he has a job as a bank teller and only does his magic show on the side.

“Your mission starts way before your mission,” David says, as he looks sage-like over the top of his glasses. He’s been preparing since he was 12, when he decided he wanted to go on a mission. Sacrifice and discipline are what David credits with his successful mission-savings plan. He started putting away half his paycheck when he was 14. At 17, he almost has all his mission money saved.

wash truck to earn money for missionAnthony Haga, age 19, Rock Island Ward, Davenport Iowa Stake.  Anthony’s first job was as a bagger at a grocery store on an air base. He saved 25 percent of his money for his mission fund at first. He later got a job at a car wash through a friend in his seminary class. He’s been working there ever since and has been saving half his earnings for his mission. A few months ago, however, Anthony realized he wouldn’t meet his goal if he maintained this saving pattern. He would have to step it up. So he cut his other expenses and started putting away much more money. And he counts it as a blessing of paying tithing that he also got a raise at work. He’s going to make it.

And it’s a good thing too, because he just got his mission call to Boise, Idaho. Because he’s been through saving for his mission, Anthony has some advice: “Be prepared to work for your money, but I can testify that when you work to earn as much as you can, then the Lord will take care of the rest.”