Receiving a Senior Mission Call

Paul and Terry Smith LDS Mission Application PhotoMy wife Terry and I received our mission call about ten days ago, on January 10, 2017. I want to let you know what that was like. Terry called me at work and said that the call letter had arrived in the mail; it was a large 9×12 envelope that was rather thick. As soon as I could break away I came home and we opened it together. Some people had suggested that we invite other family members to be with us when we opened the letter, but we wanted to be alone when we did it. It was a solemn, spiritual time for us. We prayed before opening the letter. We were looking forward to learning where the Lord would call us to serve.

The Mission Call Letters and Packets of Information

Terry and I both received separate letters from President Thomas S. Monson–each signed personally by him. He told us that we were called to serve for eighteen months in the Texas Fort Worth Mission, to serve in the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion program. We were told that we would work under the direction of President Darrell Whitney and his wife, Sally. We remembered that several months ago when we looked through the hundreds of missionary opportunities for seniors that one of those needs was in Denton, Texas, a suburb north of Fort Worth. We are to report to the MTC in Provo, Utah on Monday, March 6, 2017.

Fort Worth TexasTerry and I had dozens of questions, so we quickly read through the packet of information and instructions that had been sent with the letter from President Monson. The information in the packet was general information that applied to most senior missionaries. A lot of it was detailed, but we still had many questions that it did not answer. We knew that we would get a letter from the mission president that would provide additional information. We have yet to receive that letter, but we expect to receive it shortly. After we read the packet, we went on line and sent in our acceptance letter. The packet instructed us to begin some online pre-mission training and finish reading or read again The Book of Mormon. Later that day, we called all of our children about receiving the mission call, and we emailed our siblings about it.

Finalizing Financial Arrangements 

Although we had been making many arrangements to be able to go on a mission beginning March 1st, there still remained a lot to do, and there are some matters that have not yet been adequately arranged. For example, we need to rent our home for 18 months, and I need to obtain payments from several outstanding legal matters–payments that are critical to our being able to support ourselves for the next year and a half. We made inquiries, and located a property management company with whom we listed our home for rent. We are trying to decide where to put our furniture, books and papers that need to be stored–we haven’t made those decisions yet. In the meantime, we have begun a major project of sorting our stuff, and throwing out a lot of it. We don’t want to pay to store stuff that we would throw away after we return from our mission–we want to throw it away now.

With regard to the business payments that we are expecting–some of these are payments that I have mostly earned, but for which I don’t control the exact time when payment is made. Yesterday, I received the notice that two of those payments were about to be made. Receiving this notice has been a great relief to me. The last big financial matter is for us to rent our home. This needs to happen in order for us to avoid a major drain on our finances. But we know that the Lord knows of our need, and we are expecting him to bless us with a rental.

Learning Details of the Work We’d Be Doing

About a week after receiving our call, I called Elder Ayres, the brother in Salt Lake who helps to coordinate with the senior couples working in the Seminaries and Institutes program. We had spoken with him several times before, beginning in October, as we were inquiring into mission opportunities. Brother Ayres continued to be helpful and gracious, in responding to our questions. When I called him last week, he said that I should call Brother Kevin Clayton, the Director of the Institute at Denton, Texas. Brother Ayres said that Brother Clayton was anxious to talk with us, and that now that we had accepted the call that this type of pre-mission communication was proper and was encouraged.

We called Brother Clayton, and had a telephone call with him of almost an hour. He answered many of our questions–including giving more specifics about what we would be doing. He said that we would spend most of the week days from 8:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Institute building, and that we would do some team teaching, and that we would be the host and hostess of the Institute building–providing love and friendship and support to about 150 LDS college students who would be regularly visiting the Institute for classes and for friendship. He said that we would be replacing another couple, Brother and Sister Bond, and that we would be moving into the apartment where they are currently living. In addition to responding to our many questions, Brother Clayton said several times that he is excited and anxious to meet us and that he knows that the Lord has called us to come and work with the students at the Denton Institute. Brother Clayton is about the same age as several of our children, and we are impressed with the words he said, and with his enthusiasm, and faith and love.

Still Much to Do to Prepare to Leave

Terry and I feel like we have a lot to do before we leave for the mission, but we are excited about the mission call. The task of sorting and storing all our stuff is quite daunting. We are also trying to figure out what we will bring on our mission with us. We have more latitude than the single missionaries in deciding what to bring with us, although we may have to ship some of the things. In our case, we have a number of books and resource files that we want to bring.

Now that we have received our mission call, our bishopric asked Terry to speak in church last week, and I will speak in church next Sunday. (See Jimmy’s related post on missionary farewell talks.)

Once the Church received our acceptance, we began to get additional information online and in the mail (e.g. instructions about travel and about needing to get the flu shot before entering the MTC). We are currently considering driving to Utah–going through Peoria, Illinois (where one of our sons lives); visiting Nauvoo, Illinois; visiting Independence, Missouri; visiting Mormon Grove, Kansas (where some of my ancestors are buried); and then visiting the families of two of our children in Utah. Four of our children are expecting babies at this time. We hope to be able to meet one new arrival (projected delivery date of February 26th) in Utah, just before entering the MTC.

Updates from Paul and Terry on Preparing to Leave on a Senior Mission

 

Preparing to Be Senior Missionaries

paul and terry senior mission prepMy name is Paul Smith. I am a 65-year old attorney, with a solo law practice in Frederick, Maryland (suburbs of Washington, D. C.). My wife Terry is 63. We are waiting to receive a call from the Prophet to serve a mission for 15-19 months.

My Background

As a young man I served a proselyting mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France from 1970-1972. Terry and I married in 1973. I graduated from law school in 1978. I have practiced law in Maryland for 38 years. While I have had numerous informal lawyer associates, my practice has been mostly a solo business, focusing primarily on serving individuals and families, including many people of lesser means. Financially, my law practiced survived for the first 20+ years. During the last 10 years it has done very well financially. But in the meantime, Terry and I had 12 children (9 boys and 3 girls). Our daughter Patricia died at age 6 (26 years ago). All the others are now married, and we have 30 grandchildren, with 3 on the way, and with two other couples planning to get pregnant. We have been very active in church. I have been a bishop, and I have worked with the young men most of my adult life (serving as scoutmaster 5 different times). Terry has been a Relief Society president and an early morning seminary teacher (4 years), but she mostly has taught the children in Primary. She is an excellent teacher, and she loves this.

Desire to Serve a Senior Mission

Paul Smith mission to France 1970-1972For years Terry and I have wanted to serve a senior mission. But we have wondered when and how we could do it. We have very little savings and no retirement. As I approach my 66th birthday, we will be able to draw Social Security without any reduction in that amount when I bring in other income from my law practice. Financially, it would have been better for me to wait to draw Social Security until I reached the age of 70, and I do plan to continue working in my law practice until beyond age 70. But about a year ago, we noticed that Terry was beginning to show some short term memory deficits. Once we realized this, we immediately began to prepare to apply for a senior mission, to begin early in the year 2017. We wanted Terry to have a good mission experience, as well as me. I felt very strongly that we needed to get things in order immediately to serve. We prayed for the Lord to bless us in this effort, and He has indeed blessed us.

Preparing My Business

In my case, the biggest preparation item was to find an attorney who could manage/handle my law practice while I would be away, until I would return. I started working on this in early 2016, and I succeeded in this in the spring of 2016. There were a lot of small details that we had to work out, including coordinating our lawyer liability insurance policies, rental arrangements, the type of formal arrangement we would establish, and helping him become familiar with the several cases that would be continuing after my departure.

Preparing by Visiting Family

paul and terry smith visiting jimmy and heather kidsAs the 2016 unfolded, it has become a very good financial year, even while I stopped taking on most new litigation cases in late summer. We were able to take a couple of trips this year, visiting our children and grandchildren, and many of our siblings, around the country. We traveled all around the country–to Texas, to Nevada, to California, to Utah, to Idaho; then back through Winter Quarters, Nebraska and Nauvoo, Illinois; and to Kirtland, Ohio; to Palmyra, New York, and to Harmony, Pennsylvania. After Christmas we will take a trip to visit our son’s family in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We wanted to visit all our children before going away for 18 months.

Terry is probably less anxious to serve a mission than I am, but she wants to support me and to be with me. Terry wants to be able to visit our children when they have new babies. We understand that this may be possible, although we don’t know where we will be serving, and we don’t know how we will make this happen.

Preparing Our Home

One of the biggest issues for us is the rental and care of our home while we are away. We still have mortgage payments on our home, so we will need to rent it. For several months we have been exploring whether any of our children could live in our home for a year, but this has not materialized. We are now reaching out to find a renter. Beginning in January, we will have to engage a rental/management company to help with this. This is a major financial issue to be resolved, but our home is a nice home in a very nice neighborhood in Frederick. We are confident that we will be blessed with a good resolution to this matter.

If we did not plan to return to my law practice after the mission, perhaps we might have considered selling our home. But we will need to work after the mission. I keep my old case files in the basement of our home (about 2,000 files). This takes up some space. Also, we have a very large collection of books. We would like to keep a lot of these books and files in the home while we are away. Otherwise, we will have to put some of them in storage. Exactly how much will be put in storage, and how much we will be able to leave in the home is yet to be determined. I have spent a lot of time this year going through old files–throwing out papers that are no longer needed. We have also done a lot of little home improvement projects and painting, so that the home will be in good shape.

As we now wait for our mission call to arrive, we feel that the house is mostly ready, my business affairs are in order, and we have made the important family visits. We are anxious to see where we will be called to serve.

Determining the Type of Mission to Serve

As you may know, senior missionaries are encouraged to make suggestions of types of missionary service that they would like to do, as well as places where they might like to serve. Terry and I went to the Church website and looked through the various types of senior missionary opportunities that were available. In our case, the one that we had the greatest interest in pursuing was in the field of Institute and Seminary. There are perhaps a dozen such opportunities/needs in the United States. We mentioned this in our application. We also mentioned my love of the French people, and my interest in serving there. But we have felt that an Institute/Seminary calling in the States would be our preference. I obtained the name and phone number of an Elder Ayers, who works at the Church Seminary and Institute headquarters, and who makes recommendations to the Brethren regarding the senior missionary callings in this area. He was very happy to hear from me, and we have spoken several times. Terry and I think we will receive a call to serve in this area. Nevertheless, we want to go where the Lord wants us to go–whatever that is and wherever.

Senior Missionary Application Process

To begin the mission application process, we had to contact our bishop. The mission application is made on-line, but our bishop had to take some steps to allow us to access the on-line system. Once this was done, we completed the application on-line. We were able to revise our application a couple of times. Terry and I each had to complete a separate application and separate medical/dental evaluation forms. Once we completed the medical forms, we made appointments with our doctors and dentists to sign the forms. Once we got all the required signatures, electronically submitted our applications–this sent the applications to the bishop. We arranged a meeting with our bishop, and turned in the signed medical and dental forms to him. He then added his comments, and electronically forwarded the applications to the stake president. We arranged a meeting with our stake president, who then made his comments, and submitted the application to the Church. Now we just wait for our mission call letter to come. We understand that the brethren usually meet on Thursdays or Fridays to extend callings.

Next: Receiving a Senior Mission Call by Paul Smith

The Blessings of Humility

Eight years ago when I started this website, one of the first things I wrote about was how humility was one of the most important characteristics a missionary could posses. This weekend I was asked to give a talk in my ward sacrament meeting about humility, so I thought I’d share the text of my talk here. I hope you enjoy it and find it insightful and inspiring.

*** Talk: The Blessings of Humility ***

In order for us to achieve our eternal salvation and happiness, there is a process that needs to be followed, a plan if you will.

Opposition in the Plan of Salvation

We needed to be sent to earth, away from our previous Heavenly home with God, to experience the good and the bad, pleasure and pain, righteousness and wickedness. As the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi taught in 2 Nephi 2: 11 “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so … righteousness could not be brought to pass.” Then continued Lehi in verse 15, “And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, … it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.”

Because of our fallen state in this earth, each one of us would sin. We would need this experience to teach us and help us on our path of progression, but in the process, we would become soiled and unworthy to return to God’s presence. We would need a Savior who would atone for our sins, someone who would suffer for our mistakes and plea before God on our behalf to grant us re-entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus Christ, the Beloved Son of God, Chosen from the beginning, humbly said “Here am I, send me” (Abraham 3:27) and volunteered to be our Savior and Redeemer.

Satan didn’t like this plan. He sought to bring about the salvation of mankind without allowing us to go through the opposition and hardships of earth life (Moses 4:3). He didn’t seem to understand that there are no shortcuts to salvation. The path to salvation has been shown to us by Jesus Christ and that path includes the crucial step of humbly coming down to earth before eventually being raised to eternal life.

Humble Circumstances, as well as Pride, are Universal

We are all humbled during our mortal journey. Those experiences of humility begin from the moment we are born, helpless, and totally dependent upon our parents for survival. As little children we enter the humbling experience of school and begin to learn all the things we didn’t even know we didn’t know. As teenagers, we long for independence but are constantly reminded of our humility and our lack of understanding of the things of the world.

Throughout life we have our ups and downs. Sickness, to one degree or another, affects all of us, keeping us humble and grateful for health. Loss of a job or trouble getting adequate employment is a humbling trial that many of us face. There are very few of us who haven’t experienced financial hardships that keep us humble and grateful for our material blessings. Then there is the humbling task of trying to raise children. As John Bytheway said, “before I had kids I had six theories on parenting. Now I have six kids and no theories on parenting.” Parenting is a deeply humbling experience for anyone who has had the blessing to try it.

Yet, throughout life, we grow older, smarter, stronger, and wealthier and most of us slowly lose our humility. The evil one exerts his influence on us and then “When we are learned we think we are wise, and we hearken not unto the counsel of God, for we set it aside, supposing we know of ourselves” (2 Nephi 9:28). Pride, the opposite of humility, begins to creep into our hearts. The Book of Mormon prophet Moroni saw our day and testified against us: “And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities” (Mormon 8:36).

President Ezra Taft Benson, in his landmark talk called Beware of Pride, said that “Pride is the universal sin.” Elder Kim B Clark, in a 2009 talk, pointed out that “the perils of pride [occur] both in prosperity and in adversity.” Yet, I believe the converse is also true, that humility can be achieved in both prosperous circumstances and in adversity. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma confirms this: “there are some among you who would humble themselves, let them be in whatsoever circumstances they might” (Alma 32:25). Regardless of your circumstances, God wants you to be humble so that he can lift you up to eternal life (James 4:10).So while pride universally plagues us all, there are a righteous few who are able, by the grace of God, to overcome it.

Yet for many of us, perhaps most of us, God compels us to be humble. And he does so for good and loving reasons. Quoting Alma again, “because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved” (Alma 32:13).

Blessed are the Humble

“Blessed are ye” for being humble. That got me thinking that I’d like to talk today about the blessing of humility. In preparing this talk, I did a quick count and came up with 33 distinct blessings from God that come by being humble. Today I will focus on only four of them, they are the blessings of Grace, Guidance, Growth, and Greatness.

I. Grace

In the New Testament, Peter said “Be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). Another word for grace is atonement. Or, better said, the Grace of God comes to us by through the mission, mercy, and Atonement of Jesus Christ (John 1:17). Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke of the grace of God in his April 2006 talk, Broken Things to Mend:

“We must change anything we can change that may be part of the problem. In short we must repent, perhaps the most hopeful and encouraging word in the Christian vocabulary. We thank our Father in Heaven we are allowed to change, we thank Jesus we can change, and ultimately we do so only with Their divine assistance. Certainly not everything we struggle with is a result of our actions. Often it is the result of the actions of others or just the mortal events of life. But anything we can change we should change, and we must forgive the rest. In this way our access to the Savior’s Atonement becomes as unimpeded as we, with our imperfections, can make it. He will take it from there.”

Setting the sail rather than rowing the boat

A book called “Willpower is Not Enough” written by an LDS family counselor named Dean Byrd, has a good analogy about grace and humility. Said Brother Byrd:

“When it comes to changing our lives, our energy is often better spent in setting the sail than in rowing the boat. Throughout our days, we spend most of our effort on rowing the sailboat of our lives. We spend our energy on this concern and that, worrying, working, and trying to control. In the frantic midst of all our doing, we would do well to stop rowing and instead set the sail to pick up the winds of God’s power. How? By learning his will, and then being submissive to it. By letting his power have place in us. By letting him do his work in us, rather than keeping him out while we try to do it ourselves. When we try to conquer the problems of our lives through willpower alone, we’re essentially trying to be our own saviors. When we set our sail in Christ, allowing his blessings, power, and grace to come to us, we’re turning to him and letting him be our Savior. Putting God and his will first in our lives. Letting his power direct and guide and bless us. That is setting the sail. And that’s the true path to lasting and divine change.”

I pray that we may be humble and receive that divine blessing of grace.

II. Guidance

The second blessing of humility I want to discuss is guidance from God through His Holy Spirit. The Lord said in Doctrine and Covenants 136:33 “My Spirit is sent forth into the world to enlighten the humble and contrite.”

Alma said “But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering” (Alma 13:28).

The Lord told William Law through the prophet Joseph Smith, “let him be humble before me, and be without guile, and he shall receive of my Spirit, even the Comforter, which shall manifest unto him the truth of all things, and shall give him, in the very hour, what he shall say.” (Doctrine and Covenants 124:97)

Certainly the scriptures make it abundantly clear that being humble is a necessary ingredient to receiving the guidance of the Holy Ghost in our lives. And the Holy Ghost will teach us all the things we need to do to return to our Heavenly home and live with God in celestial glory (2 Nephi 32:5).

What Lack I Yet?

In the October 2015 General Conference, Elder Larry R. Lawrence Of the Seventy gave a talk entitled “What Lack I Yet?” in which he spoke about humility and seeking God’s guidance in our lives. He said:

“As we travel along that strait and narrow path, the Spirit continually challenges us to be better and to climb higher. The Holy Ghost makes an ideal traveling companion. If we are humble and teachable, He will take us by the hand and lead us home. However, we need to ask the Lord for directions along the way. We have to ask some difficult questions, like “What do I need to change?” “How can I improve?” “What weakness needs strengthening?”

Let’s consider the New Testament account of the rich young ruler. He was a righteous young man who was already keeping the Ten Commandments, but he wanted to become better. His goal was eternal life. When he met the Savior, he asked, “What lack I yet?” (Matthew 19:20)

Jesus answered immediately, giving counsel that was intended specifically for the rich young man. “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and … come and follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

The young man was stunned; he had never considered such a sacrifice. He was humble enough to ask the Lord but not faithful enough to follow the divine counsel he was given. We must be willing to act when we receive an answer. …Every one of us, if we would reach perfection, must at one time ask ourselves this question, ‘What lack I yet?’”

Elder Lawrence then gave several examples of people who, in a humble desire to receive direction from the Lord, asked some introspective questions and got clear answers from the Lord through His Spirit. This got me thinking about what I lack and how the Lord would have me to improve in my life. I then wrote the following questions down in a journal entry:

  • What do I need to do to be more happy?
  • What do I need to do to strengthen my marriage?
  • What does the Lord want me to change in my life?
  • What do I need to do to become the person God wants me to become?

I know that when I asked those questions, I got specific answers. The Lord prompted me with inspiration from His Spirit on how to change and improve and be a better follower of his son Jesus Christ. Guidance from God is a wonderful blessing of humility.

III. Growth

The next blessing of humility is growth.

Muscles grow after being broken down

As any of you who are weight lifters will know, in order to grow and increase your strength, you have to first break down your muscles. Muscles that are stressed beyond what they are accustomed to become damaged and that’s why your feel soreness after a workout. But your body, in a miraculous process, begins to repair those muscles and the new muscle grows back stronger and more capable.

Similarly, to grow spiritually, we must come down in the depths of humility. We must be meek and lowly of heart, repent, and then we can begin to grow spiritually. Growth is a type of change, it’s progression, a good type of change. And another word for change in the scriptures is to repent.

The Righteous are Whoever are Repenting

The Lord has called on all people everywhere to repent (D&C 18:9; 133:16; Moses 6:23, 57; 3 Nephi 11:32). Repentance has been the call of prophets and missionaries from the beginning to the present day. Church scholar Hugh Nibley once said that “the righteous are whoever are repenting, and the wicked [are] whoever are not repenting” (Scriptural Perspectives on How to Survive the Calamities of the Last Days, BYU Studies 25 (Winter 1985): 7-27). He then cited this parable from Luke chapter 18 where the Savior teaches that a humble, repentant attitude is necessary for spiritual growth and exaltation.

10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

The prophet Alma also taught of the importance of continually, humbly, repenting. He said:

“Mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice. For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved” (Alma 42: 23-24).

Never stop improving. Never stop repenting. 

There is a large home improvement store with the motto: “Never stop improving.” It strikes me that in our spiritual lives, we should never stop improving either and we can accomplish that if we never stop repenting.

Repentance and humility go hand in hand and help us grow closer to God. After briefly describing the Savior’s humble life in a 1963 talk at BYU, Elder Spencer W. Kimball gave the following definition of humility:

“If the Lord was meek and lowly and humble, then to become humble one must do what He did in boldly denouncing evil, bravely advancing righteous works, courageously meeting every problem, becoming the master of himself and the situations about him and being near oblivious to personal credit. Humility is not pretentious, presumptuous, nor proud. It is not weak, vacillating, nor servile. …Humble and meek properly suggest virtues, not weaknesses.” (Humility, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Provo, 16 Jan. 1963], pp. 2–3.)

Humility + Faith –> Weak Things Become Strong

Ether 12:27 perhaps sums up best how humility leads to growth. This is where the Lord tells Moroni, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

IV. Greatness

The last blessing from humility that I wish to speak about today is greatness.

The greatest in the kingdom of heaven

You’ll recall that when Jesus was on the earth, his disciples came to him one day and asked “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matt 18:1) Jesus, then, “called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them” (v2) and said whosoever “shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (v4).

To achieve greatness in the kingdom of heaven, one must be humble like a little child. Of course, to achieve greatness in this earth life, one must also be humble, though God’s definition of greatness is, of course, much difference than the world’s definition. The Savior taught by word and deed that “he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).

Jesus “descended below all things”

Jesus, who is without question, the greatest man to ever walk this earth, showed us a perfect example of humility. He went “forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11). Jesus suffered “temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people” (Mosiah 3:7)

Jesus “descended below all things” and thus was the most humble man to ever walk this earth. Jesus “ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:6)

President Spencer W. Kimball, who’s talk on humility I referenced earlier, shared a wonderful poem about the humility, yet greatness of our Savior Jesus Christ and his faithful followers throughout the world.

humility poemHumility is royalty without a crown,
Greatness in plain clothes,
Erudition without decoration,
Wealth without display
Power without scepter or force,
Position demanding no preferential rights,
Greatness sitting in the congregation,
Prayer in closets and not in corners of the street,
Fasting in secret without publication,
Stalwartness without a label,
Supplication upon its knees,
Divinity riding [a donkey].

Eternal Identity. God’s Perspective.

I was once sitting in the foyer of our church building and I noticed a man sitting across the way from me. I don’t know his name. I had never spoke with him. He looked tired and worn out by life. As I gazed on him, I felt like the Lord gave me a glimpse of his eternal identity. I felt reminded that he, his spirit or intelligence that is, has been alive for eons. He has had countless experiences and has gained much knowledge during that time. Unfortunately, the veil of forgetfulness we all pass through when we come to our humble mortal life, causes us to start over in many respects. But as I contemplated this, I felt humbled by what marvelous truths this man could teach me if he could pierce that veil of forgetfulness. I felt a little of what God sees as he views each of us, his children, with an eternal perspective.

Joint-heirs with Christ

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17).

Truly, our eternal potential for greatness is infinite and that blessing is accessible through humbly following Jesus Christ.

I pray that we can all faithfully accept our humble circumstances, and that by so doing we can receive the promised blessings:

  • Grace from our Savior Jesus Christ through his Atonement
  • Guidance from God’s Holy Spirit
  • Growth through repentance and positive change
  • Greatness as heirs of the Heavenly glory and joint heirs with Christ.

Mission Prep Quotes from Oct 2016 Gen Conf

The Perfect Path to Happiness By President Thomas S. Monson

Our Father’s plan for our happiness and our salvation is shared by our missionaries throughout the world. Not all who hear this divine message accept and embrace it. However, men and women everywhere, just like my young friend at the New York World’s Fair, recognize its truths, and they plant their feet on the path that will lead them safely home. Their lives are forever changed.

Fourth Floor, Last Door by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

missionaries fourth floor last door uchtdorfFaith comes to the humble, the diligent, the enduring. It comes to those who pay the price of faithfulness. This truth is illustrated in the experience of two young missionaries serving in Europe, in an area where there were few convert baptisms. I suppose it would have been understandable for them to think that what they did wouldn’t make much of a difference. But these two missionaries had faith, and they were committed. They had the attitude that if no one listened to their message, it would not be because they had not given their best effort.

One day they had the feeling to approach the residents of a well-kept four-story apartment building. They started on the first floor and knocked on each door, presenting their saving message of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His Church. No one on the first floor would listen to them. How easy it would have been to say, “We tried. Let’s stop right here. Let’s go and try another building.”

But these two missionaries had faith and they were willing to work, and so they knocked on every door on the second floor. Again, no one would listen. The third floor was the same. And so was the fourth—that is, until they knocked on the last door of the fourth floor. When that door opened, a young girl smiled at them and asked them to wait while she spoke with her mother.

Her mother was only 36 years old, had recently lost her husband, and was in no mood to talk with Mormon missionaries. So she told her daughter to send them away. But the daughter pleaded with her. These young men were so nice, she said. And it would take only a few minutes. So, reluctantly, the mother agreed. The missionaries delivered their message and handed a book to the mother to read—the Book of Mormon.

After they left, the mother decided she would read at least a few pages. She finished the entire book within a few days. Not long after, this wonderful single-parent family entered the waters of baptism. When the small family attended their local branch in Frankfurt, Germany, a young deacon noticed the beauty of one of the daughters and thought to himself, “These missionaries are doing a great job!”

That young deacon’s name was Dieter Uchtdorf. And the charming young woman—the one who had pleaded with her mother to listen to the missionaries—has the beautiful name of Harriet. She is loved by all who meet her as she accompanies me in my travels. She has blessed the lives of many people through her love for the gospel and her sparkling personality. She truly is the sunshine of my life.

How often have I lifted my heart in gratitude for the two missionaries who did not stop at the first floor! How often my heart reaches out in appreciation for their faith and work. How often have I given thanks that they kept going—even to the fourth floor, last door.

“Come, Follow Me” by Practicing Christian Love and Service By Elder Robert D. Hales

missionaries grow faithfully living consecrated lifeYouth, you are some of our most effective gospel teachers. You come to church to learn so that you can go home to teach and serve your family, neighbors, and friends. Don’t be afraid. Have faith to testify of what you know to be true. Think how full-time missionaries grow because they are faithfully living a consecrated life—using their time and talents and bearing testimony to serve and bless others. As you share your testimony of the gospel, your faith will grow and your confidence will increase!

A Witness of God By Elder Neil L. Andersen

Be open about your faith in Christ. When the occasion presents itself, speak of His life, His teachings, and His incomparable gift to all mankind. Share His powerful truths from the Book of Mormon. He has given us this promise: “Whosoever … shall confess me before men, him will I confess … before my Father … in heaven.”10 I promise you that as you pray often and sincerely for opportunities to “stand as a witness of God,” those opportunities will come, and those who seek more light and knowledge will be put before you. As you respond to spiritual promptings, the Holy Ghost will carry your words to the heart of another, and one day the Savior will confess you before His Father.

missionaries timing conversion not up to youThe spiritual work of helping someone come into the kingdom of God is a group effort. Enlist the missionaries as soon as you can, and pray for heavenly help. But remember, the timing of another’s conversion is not fully up to you.

Kamla Persand was from the Mauritius island, attending medical school in Bordeaux, France, when we met her in February of 1991. We had prayed as a family to be able to share the gospel with someone who was seeking the truth, and we taught her in our home. I was privileged to perform her baptism, but we were not the most significant influences in Kamla joining the Church. Friends, missionaries, and even family members had been “witnesses of God” in her home country, and one day in France, when the time was right for Kamla, she made the decision to be baptized. Now, 25 years later, the blessings of that decision are all around her, and her son is a missionary in Madagascar.

Be Ambitious for Christ by Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita

mormon missionaries ambitious for ChristWhat does it mean to “be ambitious for Christ”? Being ambitious for Christ means being motivated, focused, and dedicated to His work. Being ambitious for Christ will seldom mean that we are singled out for public honor. Being ambitious for Christ means that we serve faithfully and diligently in our wards and branches without complaint and with joyful hearts.

Our missionaries serving throughout the world are beautiful examples of those who are truly ambitious for Christ. …I am proud not only of Elder Cowan but also of all the missionaries throughout the world who serve willingly without murmuring or complaining. Thank you, elders and sisters, for your faith, your focus, and your strong ambition for Christ.

…My dear brothers and sisters, we are ambitious for Christ when we serve faithfully, accept humbly, endure nobly, pray fervently, and partake worthily. May we be ambitious for Christ as we accept our difficulties and trials with patience and faith and find joy in our covenant path.

Sharing the Restored Gospel by Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Nearing the end of His earthly ministry, our Savior, Jesus Christ, commanded His disciples: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). All Christians are under these commands to share the gospel with everyone. Many call this the “great commission.”

…Today we have many resources to share the gospel that were not available in earlier generations. We have TV, the internet, and social media channels. We have many valuable messages to introduce the restored gospel. We have the prominence of the Church in many nations. We have a greatly increased number of missionaries. But are we using all these resources to maximum effect? I believe most of us would say no. We desire to be more effective in fulfilling our divinely appointed responsibility to proclaim the restored gospel in all the world.

…Sharing the restored gospel is our lifelong Christian duty and privilege. Elder Quentin L. Cook reminds us, “Missionary work is not just one of the 88 keys on a piano that is occasionally played; it is a major chord in a compelling melody that needs to be played continuously throughout our lives if we are to remain in harmony with our commitment to Christianity and the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

…we can pray for inspiration on what we can do in our individual circumstances to share the gospel with others. This is different than praying for the missionaries or praying for what others can do. We should pray for what we can do personally. When we pray, we should remember that prayers for this kind of inspiration will be answered if accompanied by a commitment—something the scriptures call “real intent” or “full purpose of heart.” Pray with a commitment to act upon the inspiration you receive, promising the Lord that if He will inspire you to speak to someone about the gospel, you will do it. …As we demonstrate our faith, these opportunities will come without any “forced or … contrived response. They will flow as a natural result of our love for our brothers and sisters.”

…Our efforts to share the gospel should not be limited to our circle of friends and associates. During the Olympics we learned of an LDS taxi driver in Rio de Janeiro who carried copies of the Book of Mormon in seven different languages and gave one to whoever would receive them. He called himself the “cab driving missionary.” He said, “The streets of Rio de Janeiro … are [my] mission field.”

…Sharing the gospel is not a burden but a joy. What we call “member missionary work” is not a program but an attitude of love and outreach to help those around us. It is also an opportunity to witness how we feel about the restored gospel of our Savior.

Joy and Spiritual Survival By President Russell M. Nelson

That is why our missionaries leave their homes to preach His gospel. Their goal is not to increase the number of Church members. Rather, our missionaries teach and baptize to bring joy to the people of the world!

The Great Plan of Redemption By Linda S. Reeves

When I served with my husband as he presided over a mission, we went to the airport to pick up a large group of missionaries one morning. One particular young man caught our eye. He seemed sad, weighed down, almost distraught. We watched him carefully that afternoon. By evening, this young man made a belated confession, and his leaders determined that he needed to return home. Although we were very sad that he had been dishonest and had not repented before coming on his mission, on the way to the airport we sincerely and lovingly praised him for having the courage to come forward, and we pledged to stay in close contact with him.

This great young man was blessed to have wonderful parents, great priesthood leaders, and a supportive, loving ward. After a year of working hard to fully repent and partake of the Savior’s Atonement, he was able to return to our mission. It is difficult for me to describe the feelings of joy we felt as we picked up this young man from the airport. He was full of the Spirit, happy, confident before the Lord, and anxious to fulfill a faithful mission. He became an outstanding missionary, and later my husband and I had the privilege of attending his temple sealing.

By contrast, I’m aware of another missionary who, knowing her unconfessed sin from before her mission would surely cause her to be sent home early, made her own plan to work extra hard during her mission and confess to the mission president just days before completing her mission. She lacked godly sorrow and tried to circumvent the plan that our loving Savior has offered each one of us.

During our mission, I once accompanied my husband when he went to interview a man for baptism. While my husband conducted the interview, I waited outside with the sister missionaries who had taught this man. When the interview was finished, my husband informed the missionaries that the man would be able to be baptized. This dear man wept and wept as he explained that he had been certain that the serious sins he had committed in his life would prevent him from being able to be baptized. I have seldom witnessed the joy and happiness of someone coming out of the darkness and into the light equal to what I witnessed that day.

Beltrán: Aug 1996 to Dec 1996

I served in the city of Fray Luis Beltrán from August 28, 1996 to December 17, 1996. It was a small city a few miles north of the main city of Rosario, Argentina. I think we were part of the Capitan Bermudez ward, which was a city just to the south. This was the third area of my mission. (See this article on my first mission area, the Gazano Branch in the city of Paraná, and my second area, the Rural Ward in the city of Santa Fe). This was an enjoyable area to serve in and the first where I was able to have a leadership opportunity of being a district leader and trainer.

People I Taught and Baptized

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Above: This is the baptism of Maxi Paré Sept 8, 1996. His mom was baptized the week prior, having received most of the discussions before I got there. But Elder Gertge and I taught Maxi all the discussions and then he was baptized. I remember teaching him the principle of keeping the Sabbath Day Holy because in the lesson, he mentioned that he played in a basketball league and had games on Sunday. He did not want to stop playing ball on Sunday, and I felt bad pushing the issue. I remember him agreeing to a rather weak commitment to come to church and to avoid playing basketball if he could on Sundays. I have often wondered if I did the right thing.

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The picture above was taken at the baptism of Aldo, September 29, 1996. Aldo was a great young man. We met him my first week at Church when I was in Beltrán. He was dating a girl in the ward, Gabriela Reide. We taught him the discussions and he was soon baptized. Click here to read the full Conversion Story of Aldo.

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The baptism of Betiana Pare and Silvina Saucedo, October 6, 1996.

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This is the baptism of Agostin Zapata, November 24, 1996. Agostin’s was a memorable conversion story. Read it here.

Members in Beltrán

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This is the Columbo Family (the three in white across the front: Enrique, Yolanda, and Ines). They were baptized only weeks before I got to Beltrán.

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This is Yolanda and Maria Jose Celentano’s baptism. They are in white with Elder Gertge. Her husband and their younger son are also in the picture. They were baptized only weeks before I got to Beltrán.

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This is the familia Godoy, the older daughters were Gishela and Shamila, and I don’t remember the names of the others. Sister Godoy would wash our laundry for free. All she asked was that we pay for the laundry soap, which we were happy to do. Thanks Sister Godoy! She would go above and beyond the call of duty in cleaning our laundry. As I recall, we once arrived at her house to find her ironing our jeans. We, of course, told her that was not necessary. The Godoys also fed us frequently and for that we are very grateful.

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This photo was taken in the home of Claudia Santoro. She is in the front left, and her mom and sister, Hermana Wagner, are on the right. Her dad is in the middle. Her daughter Raquel, and other family and friends are in the photo. Sister Santoro was a relatively new member as I recall, about 6 months. She was very stalwart and served as the stake primary president. Sister Santoro would cook for us often and each Sunday night she would let us use her phone for 30 minutes (not an inexpensive thing). Read more about the Santoro family here.

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This is Monica Brenner and her three children, the younger two are named Emanuel and Pamela.

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Here’s the Santoro family. Alejandro Sr was not yet a member, but Claudia, Raquel and Alejandro Jr were baptized a few months before I got there. The dad was baptized a few months after I left.

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Here is the familia Torres with friend Leandro Paré making bunny eyes in the back. Children Daniel, Elizabeth, Maita, her son Leandro.

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Here’s Jorge Torres (no relation to the Torres family above) and his wife and seven kids.

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This is Brother and Sister Zacarías and there two youngest children, Rafael and Gloria. They were also very stalwart members. Several of their sons served missions.

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This is Sister Portillo with two of her children. One of the things I remember about her is that she had been endowed in the temple and thus one of the few people who was able to do all our laundry, including temple garments.

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Brother Jose Chopita playing ping pong in a table set up in the chapel of the Church owned and constructed building in Capitán Bermudez. The two in the back are resting against the sacrament meeting podium. Each Sunday we would set up chairs in that space for sacrament meeting.

Missionaries I Served With

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Here’s my companion, Elder Gertge, on our first day together. He had been with his trainer for four weeks. We would spend the next three months together.

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This was the composition of our district of missionaries: Elder Draper, Elder Segelke, Elder Gertge, Elder Smith, Sister Sines, and Sister Johnson.

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Me and Elder Gertge got caught in the rain and took refuge at Sister Santoro’s house.

argentina-rosario-mission-beltran-jimmy-smith-16Elder Quick, the zone leader, and I. I remember being amazed at his grasp of the Spanish language, then he confided in me that when people spoke in slang, he couldn’t understand a word.

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Another picture of the missionaries in our district. Elder Videla is the new one. This is the room in the Capitan Bermudez chapel where we had district meeting each week.

 

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This was when the Elders in our district went to downtown Rosario to donate blood for Brother Zacarías who was having open heart surgery.
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New missionary in the district is Sister Ireland. I think she was brand new out of the MTC.
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Elder Gertge and I pretending to drink mate. I only drank it for real once, and that’s when it was accidentally given to me in a normal cup by a member. Usually when Argentine’s drink mate, they do it out of those special cups with a cool, filtering straw called a bombilla.
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Here’s Elder Adams and I with Agostín Zapata.
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Two new additions to our district. This photo was taken at the mission home, where we would go once a month to have interviews with the mission president. Sister Ireland, Sister Julien, Elder Smith, Elder Adams, Elder Videla, Elder Manriquez.

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Here’s me standing out in front of the mission home in Rosario.

Neighborhoods

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This was the view looking north (I believe) from our apartment.

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The city of Fray Luis Beltránwas located right on the Rio Paraná. A large river that had huge barges going up and down it.

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This is the Terminal de Omnibus, the central bus station in Rosario. Each time we had transfers, you would see a lot of missionaries coming and going through here.

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This is a Carrefour super store, kind of like a Super Walmart, but much more rare in Argentina. They had a huge assortment of groceries and other things that were hard to find anywhere else. I believe there may have only been one in Rosario at this time and it was near the mission presidents home. So we had permission to go there after we came in for interviews with the mission president.

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The Carrefour had a McDonald’s in it. McDonald’s were rare in Argentina at that time. This was the only time I recall going.

Apartment

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Here’s where we lived. This is our land lord’s house, and he rented the second floor it us. It had one bedroom, a kitchen, and a bathroom, all a missionary needs. We would sometimes hang laundry out to dry on the roof that we could walk out to.

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This is our land lord, Luis Sanchez and his wife. They were always very kind to us.

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This is the bathroom toilet and bide in our apartment. I never used the bide and don’t think most America missionaries did. Once Luis, the land lord, found out that the bide was broken and he was shocked. He asked “how do you clean yourself?” We explained that we use toilet paper and we shower daily and that keeps us clean.

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This is the birthday party of Luis Sanchez. We almost always got back to the house around 9:30, and Luis knew that. But on this particular day we had a discussion that went long and it was about 10:25pm when we walked in. We were planning to race to bed to meet our 10:30 bedtime in the missionary schedule. But when we realized they had been waiting for us, we decided it was more important to socialize with them, so we joined them for the party.

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A picture of me at Luis’ birthday party. Luis gave this one to me and signed his name on the back.

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Here’s the bedroom in our apartment. Two bed and a desk in between. When we did daily companionship study, we did it at the kitchen table instead of this desk.
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Me in our apartment. Getting ready to go to district meeting, I believe.

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Here’s Elder Adams in our apartment.

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Here’s what my mom sent me for Christmas that year. Thanks Mom!

Journal Keeping

A common topic of discussion on this website, for young women but also for some young men, is figuring out whether or not you should serve a mission. Figuring that out requires knowing how to get answers to your prayers, how to receive and how to understand the spiritual promptings you receive from God. Keeping a journal is one thing that I have done throughout my life that has helped me develop the skill of recognizing the Spirit of God and learning how to interpret the inspiration and revelation he gives me.

As I have kept my journal, particularly of spiritually promoting experiences, I have had an increased number of spiritually experiences. And as I have written down and acted upon the promptings that I think might be from God, I have learned how to better distinguish the personal revelation from God compared to my own desires, feelings, and thoughts. My personal journal keeping has been an important part of my spiritual journey, and I believe it can be a big help to young men and women who are trying to determine God’s will for them.

Journal Keeping Before, During, and After My Mission

elder lopez writing in journal argentina rosario missionPrior to my mission, my journal keeping was sporadic, and when I did write in my journal it was about day to day events in the life of a typical teenager. But a rarely wrote about spiritually significant things. Still it planted the seed of a great habit that would eventually grow into more faithful and faith promoting journaling. During my mission I kept three journals. One was a notebook that I kept with me and in which I wrote about once a week during my mission. The other journal was one that my parents helped keep for me by saving all my weekly letters to home. Third was a bit of a surprise to me when at the end of my mission, my mission president presented me with the letters I had written to him weekly throughout my mission. These journals have been of infinite value to me. I treasure them and have referred to them often as I have told the stories of the people, places, and events of my mission.

As I have gotten older, my journal keeping has evolved and improved. While a week rarely goes by without writing in my journal, I have never been able to accomplish daily writing in it. Though I do make notes, almost on a daily basis, which I later copy into my journal. Whenever I have a profound spiritual promoting, I pull out my mobile phone and write it down in a notes app on my phone. I even do this frequently at Church. Later, when I am in front of my computer, I copy the note into my journal and elaborate on it with more detail. Over the years I have received countless impressions from the spirit and by writing them in my notes app and then putting them in my journal, I remember them better and I am better able to apply these personal teachings from God in my life.

I encourage you to try this method. When a thought comes to your mind and you think it might be a whispering from the Spirit, wherever you are, jot it down on your phone or on a piece of paper. When you have more time or a better opportunity, refer back to that brief note and write it out in more detail in your journal. Elder Richard G. Scott, former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave similar advance once when recounting an experience from his life when he attended the lesson from a humble priesthood leader in Mexico City.

“In that environment, strong impressions began to flow to me again. I wrote them down. The message included specific counsel on how to become more effective as an instrument in the hands of the Lord. I received such an outpouring of impressions that were so personal that I felt it was not appropriate to record them in the midst of a Sunday School class. I sought a more private location, where I continued to write the feelings that flooded into my mind and heart as faithfully as possible. After each powerful impression was recorded, I pondered the feelings I had received to determine if I had accurately expressed them in writing. As a result, I made a few minor changes to what had been written. Then I studied their meaning and application in my own life” (To Acquire Spiritual Guidance, Oct 2009).

journal keeping quote from henry b eyringPresident Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency of the Church has also often spoken about the importance of keeping a journal. Here’s a personal journal keeping experience that he shared:

“When our children were very small, I started to write down a few things about what happened every day. Let me tell you how that got started. I came home late from a Church assignment. It was after dark. My father-in-law, who lived near us, surprised me as I walked toward the front door of my house. He was carrying a load of pipes over his shoulder, walking very fast and dressed in his work clothes. I knew that he had been building a system to pump water from a stream below us up to our property.

He smiled, spoke softly, and then rushed past me into the darkness to go on with his work. I took a few steps toward the house, thinking of what he was doing for us, and just as I got to the door, I heard in my mind—not in my own voice—these words: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.”

I went inside. I didn’t go to bed. Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family. Grandpa didn’t have to do what he was doing for us. He could have had someone else do it or not have done it at all. But he was serving us, his family, in the way covenant disciples of Jesus Christ always do. I knew that was true. And so I wrote it down, so that my children could have the memory someday when they would need it.

I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.

More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.” (O Remember, Remember from October 2007 General Conference)

keeping a journal quote from spencer w kimballAnd this is what former LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball said about keeping a journal:

“We urge our young people to begin today to write and keep records of all the important things in their own lives and also the lives of their antecedents in the event that their parents should fail to record all the important incidents in their own lives. Your own private journal should record the way you face up to challenges that beset you. Do not suppose life changes so much that your experiences will not be interesting to your posterity.

…Your journal is your autobiography, so it should be kept carefully. You are unique, and there may be incidents in your experience that are more noble and praiseworthy in their way than those recorded in any other life. There may be a flash of illumination here and a story of faithfulness there; you should truthfully record your real self and not what other people may see in you. Your story should be written now while it is fresh and while the true details are available.

…Get a notebook, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity. Begin today and write in it your goings and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies. Remember, the Savior chastised those who failed to record important events (see 3 Nephi 23:6–13).” (The Angels May Quote from It, October 1975 New Era)

Scripture Journals

The scriptures themselves are in large part the journals of the prophets. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma once said this of the scriptural records he was keeping: “And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved; for behold, they have enlarged the memory of this people, yea, and convinced many of the error of their ways, and brought them to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls” (Alma 37:  8). A journal can do the same for you in your personal life. It can improve your memory, particularly of your blessings from Heaven, and preserve the knowledge you receive from God through His Spirit to aid in the salvation of your soul.

Finishers Wanted

Beginners are many, but enders are few

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

monson quote missionary work hard stick to it

Mission Prep Quotes from April 2016 Gen Conf

Trust in That Spirit Which Leadeth to Do Good, by President Henry B. Eyring

go and serve“The first thing you must commit to do is to go and serve, knowing that you do not go alone. When you go to comfort and serve anyone for the Savior, He prepares the way before you. Now, as the returned missionaries here tonight will tell you, that doesn’t mean that every person behind every door is prepared to welcome you or that every person you try to serve will thank you. But the Lord will go before your face to prepare the way.”

Where Are the Keys and Authority of the Priesthood? by Elder Gary E. Stevenson

“My young brothers and sisters, you may not realize it, but the keys of the gathering of Israel, restored by Moses, enable missionary work in our dispensation. Consider the full-time missionary force of approximately 75,000 laboring in the field under the direction of these keys. With this in mind, remember it is never too early for you to prepare for missionary service. In For the Strength of Youth, we read, “Young men of the Aaronic Priesthood, … work diligently to prepare yourself to represent the Lord as a missionary.” Young women can prepare also, but you “are not under the same mandate to serve.” All of your preparation, however, whether you serve as a full-time missionary or not, will accrue lifelong benefits to you as a member missionary.”

Standing with the Leaders of the Church by Elder Ronald A. Rasband

come serve amission“You too will have your many moments to respond to frequent invitations to “come unto Christ.” Isn’t that what this mortal life is all about? The call may be to come rescue a family member; come serve a mission; come back to church; come to the holy temple; and, as we have recently heard from our wonderful youth in the Face to Face event, come, please help me answer my question. In due time, each one of us will hear the call “Come home.””

The Greatest Leaders Are the Greatest Followers by Stephen W. Owen

“Isn’t it inspiring to see how a seemingly ordinary young man can accomplish great things through priesthood service, even when he feels inadequate? I recently learned that this young elder has received a mission call and will enter the missionary training center next month. I believe he will lead many souls to Christ because he has learned how to follow Christ in his priesthood service.”

find, teach, and baptize familiesEternal Families by President Henry B. Eyring
“What can the young elder do to help in the creation of eternal families? He may be about to go into the mission field. He can pray with all his heart that he will be able to find, teach, and baptize families.”

The Holy Ghost by Elder Robert D. Hales

“The Holy Ghost provides personal revelation to help us make major life decisions about such things as education, missions, careers, marriage, children, where we will live with our families, and so on. In these matters, Heavenly Father expects us to use our agency, study the situation out in our minds according to gospel principles, and bring a decision to Him in prayer.”

“In early 2005, I was guided to prepare a general conference message about senior missionary couples. Following the conference, a brother recounted: “As we listened to conference, … immediately the Spirit of the Lord touched my very soul. … There was no mistaking the message for me and for my sweetheart. We were to serve a mission, and the time was now. When I … looked at my wife, I realized that she had received the very same impressions from the Spirit.” What had brought this strong simultaneous response? The Holy Ghost.”

Opposition in All Things by Elder Dallin H. Oaks

“God rarely infringes on the agency of any of His children by intervening against some for the relief of others. But He does ease the burdens of our afflictions and strengthen us to bear them, as He did for Alma’s people in the land of Helam (see Mosiah 24:13–15). He does not prevent all disasters, but He does answer our prayers to turn them aside, as He did with the uniquely powerful cyclone that threatened to prevent the dedication of the temple in Fiji; or He does blunt their effects, as He did with the terrorist bombing that took so many lives in the Brussels airport but only injured our four missionaries.”

The Power of Godliness by Elder Kent F. Richards

“In many temples, temple presidents are welcoming newly called and endowed missionaries, young men and women, to serve for just a short time as ordinance workers before going to the MTC. These young people are not only blessed to serve, but “they enhance the beauty and spirit for all serving in the temple.””

Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders among You by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“The author of Hebrews warned us of this when he wrote, “Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions.” That post-illumination affliction can come in many ways, and it can come to all of us. Surely every missionary who has ever served soon realized that life in the field wasn’t going to be quite like the rarefied atmosphere of the missionary training center.”

Obey with Exactness

mormon missionaries talking to a womanThe success of a full-time missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is largely measured by their ability to find, teach, baptize, and confirm new members and to help them become faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Mormon missionaries are generally young, they are mostly independent, companionships of two working alone each day in their assigned area, and therefore, a strict daily schedule and an exhaustive handbook of rules has been developed to help them be successful in reaching those goals. As missionaries obey with exactness, they will have the Lord’s Spirit more fully and they will be guided to the success the Lord desires for them.

Obedience is an Act of Faith

The mission rules and schedule can only help missionaries if they are obeyed. This is why missionaries hear repeated talks and lessons about the importance and blessings of obedience. And to drill in the point, missionaries are often taught about exact obedience, a phrase which comes from the Book of Mormon prophet Helaman in this recounting of the 2,000 stripling warriors. Said Helaman: “Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness” (Alma 57:21). And we know that due to their faith, bravery, and their exact obedience, though they fought in many battles, none of these 2,060 young men lost their lives.

This is what the Church teaches missionaries in the Preach My Gospel (PMG) study guide: “As a missionary, you are expected to keep the commandments willingly, to obey mission rules, and to follow the counsel of your leaders. Obedience is the first law of heaven. It is an act of faith. You may sometimes be required to do things you do not completely understand. As you obey, you increase in faith, knowledge, wisdom, testimony, protection, and freedom. Strive to be obedient to the Lord, the living prophet, and your mission president” (PMG p. 122).

Blessings of Obedience

I had the importance and blessings of obedience with exactness reinforce in me during my mission from the time I was in the MTC. As a result of an excellent lesson from an MTC teacher, I set a goal that stayed with me throughout my mission to work hard, obey, and love others. I was also lucky enough to have a great trainer in my first mission area who taught me through word and deed to keep the mission schedule and all the missionary rules and we were blessed with much success. In another area in my mission, I learned the importance of exact obedience when, even though it was difficult, we left our apartment on time in the morning, and if we hadn’t, we would not have met Juan Carlos Lopez, who was converted and baptized. I know that the success I had as a missionary was a result of my efforts to be obedient to the commandments and the mission rules.

Great blessings is what the Lord has said we can expect from obedience to His commandments. In fact, the Lord has said that any blessing we receive from Him is a result of obeying the heavenly law that it is based upon. It’s in D&C 130: 20-21 “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated— And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

Speaking to missionaries, Elder L. Tom Perry spoke of the blessings servants of the Lord can expect when they are obedient to mission rules. “The discipline contained in daily obedience and clean living and wholesome lives builds an armor around you of protection and safety from the temptations that beset you as you proceed through mortality” (Elder L. Tom Perry, “Called to Serve”, May 1991).

Joseph Smith was Taught to Obey with Exactness

Joseph Smith was taught by the Angel Moroni of the importance of exact obedience. The follow story is related by the Prophet’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith:

“On the twenty-second of September, 1824, Joseph again visited the place where he found the plates the year previous; and supposing at this time that the only thing required, in order to possess them until the time for their translation, was to be able to keep the commandments of God—and he firmly believed he could keep every commandment which had been given him—he fully expected to carry them home with him. Therefore, having arrived at the place, and uncovering the plates, he put forth his hand and took them up, but, as he was taking them hence, the unhappy thought darted through his mind that probably there was something else in the box besides the plates, which would be of some pecuniary advantage to him. So, in the moment of excitement, he laid them down very carefully, for the purpose of covering the box, lest some one might happen to pass that way and get whatever there might be remaining in it. After covering it, he turned round to take the Record again, but behold it was gone, and where, he knew not, neither did he know the means by which it had been taken from him.

“At this, as a natural consequence, he was much alarmed. He kneeled down and asked the Lord why the Record had been taken from him; upon which the angel of the Lord appeared to him, and told him that he had not done as he had been commanded, for in a former revelation he had been commanded not to lay the plates down, or put them for a moment out of his hands, until he got into the house and deposited them in a chest or trunk, having a good lock and key, and, contrary to this, he had laid them down with the view of securing some fancied or imaginary treasure that remained.

“In the moment of excitement, Joseph was overcome by the powers of darkness, and forgot the injunction that was laid upon him. Having some further conversation with the angel, on this occasion, Joseph was permitted to raise the stone again, when he beheld the plates as he had done before. He immediately reached forth his hand to take them, but instead of getting them, as he anticipated, he was hurled back upon the ground with great violence. When he recovered, the angel was gone, and he arose and returned to the house, weeping for grief and disappointment.” Chapter 18, History of Joseph Smith By His Mother

joseph smith when lord commands do itThrough this, and many other experiences throughout his early life, Joseph learned the importance of obeying with exactness. In fact, he made obedience his motto. Said he, “I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it” (History of the Church, 2:170).

Follow the Spirit with Exactness

In conclusion, please know that as a missionary and throughout your life, perhaps the most important commandments from God are the ones you receive through the Holy Ghost. It is, then, equally important to obey the promptings of the Spirit with exactness, which is a principle recently taught by President Russell M. Nelson. He said, “My first recommendation is to learn for yourselves who you really are. Ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, how He feels about you and your mission here on earth. If you ask with real intent, over time the Spirit will whisper the life-changing truth to you. Record those impressions and review them often, and follow through with exactness. I promise you that when you begin to catch even a glimpse of how your Heavenly Father sees you and what He is counting on you to do for Him, your life will never be the same!” (Becoming True Millennials).

Preparing to Receive the Melchizedek Priesthood

One of the requirements to serve a mission is for young men to be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood which John Taylor, third President of the Church, called “simply the power of God.” (from The Gospel Kingdom by G. Homer Durham) Receiving the priesthood, therefore, is not something to be taken lightly, and all young men should do their duty to prepare beforehand. Four things that all young men can do to prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood are:

  • Gain a testimony of the restoration of the priesthood
  • Receive and magnify the preparatory priesthood
  • Study the scriptures, including the oath and covenant of the priesthood and the duties of an elder
  • Learn how to perform priesthood ordinances

Gain a testimony of the restoration of the priesthood

priesthood restoration statueOn May 15, 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery went into the woods on the banks of the Susquehanna River and prayed to God with questions about the ordinance of baptism. Their prayer was answered and the resurrected John the Baptist, the same who had baptized Jesus Christ, appeared, laid his hands on their hands, and ordained them to the Aaronic Priesthood. Some weeks later, Peter James and John, all resurrected beings, came to Joseph Smith and ordained him and Oliver to the higher, Melchizedek Priesthood. (On a side note, the Church recently opened a Priesthood Restoration visitors center in the spot where the Aaronic Priesthood restoration occurred.)

Having a testimony, or receiving your own spiritual witness, that these priesthood restoration events really happened is an important part of preparing to receive the priesthood. It is through the priesthood that the Lord does his work, blesses mankind, and administers the ordinances that will seal them up to eternal life. It is a privilege and a blessing to hold the priesthood, and it is also a calling to serve. Missionary work is an inherent part of the duties of priesthood holders. Gain a testimony that the priesthood of God has been restored and you will also know that the Lord will give you the power to accomplish His work.

Receive and Magnify the Preparatory Priesthood

In the church, there are two priesthoods, or rather, two major divisions in the priesthood. The first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood and “the second priesthood is called the Priesthood of Aaron, because it was conferred upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations. Why it is called the lesser priesthood is because it is an appendage to the greater, or the Melchizedek Priesthood, and has power in administering outward ordinances.” (D&C 107)

The Aaronic Priesthood is often called the preparatory priesthood because it gives young men the opportunity to perform services that will prepare them to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, to serve a full-time mission, and to continue in lifelong service to the Lord. President Henry B. Eyring, in his October 2014 talk titled The Preparatory Priesthood, said “the time we are given to serve in the Aaronic Priesthood is an opportunity to prepare us to learn how to give crucial help to others.” Young men who are preparing to go on a mission should take seriously their duties in the Aaronic Priesthood and seek to magnify that calling to prepare themselves for the Melchizedek Priesthood and full-time missionary service.

Study the Scriptures

In the same Henry B. Eyring talk referenced above, he said “the scriptures are so important to prepare us in the priesthood. They are filled with examples. I feel as if I can see Alma following the angel’s command and then hurrying back to teach the wicked people in Ammonihah who had rejected him. I can feel the cold in the jail cell when the Prophet Joseph was told by God to take courage and that he was watched over. With those scripture pictures in mind, we can be prepared to endure in our service when it seems hard.”

Studying the scriptures is an important part of preparing to receive the priesthood. The Church’s seminary program, with it’s focus on learning the scriptures, is a great thing for future missionaries to be a part of. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma has a great discussion of the priesthood in Alma Chapter 13. The Doctrine and Covenants is full of important scriptures about the priesthood. One in particular that you’ll want to study is D&C 84, in which the Lord describes the oath and covenant of the priesthood:

“For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God… And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood. Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.” (D&C 84:33-34, 39-40)

Other scriptures you’ll want to focus on are ones that outline specific duties of the offices of the priesthood. Young male future missionaries, who know they will need to be given the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordained to the office of an Elder, can read what the Lord has said are the duties of an Elder in D&C 20:38–45, D&C 42:44, D&C 46:2, D&C 107:11–12, and elsewhere in the scriptures.

Learn How to and Perform Priesthood Ordinances

confirmation priesthood ordinanceMissionaries are called upon to administer many priesthood ordinances like passing the sacrament, and performing baptisms and confirmations. Additionally, many missionaries are also asked to perform ordinances such as the laying on of hand to heal the sick, consecrating oil, conferring the priesthood, ordaining someone to a priesthood office,  giving blessings of comfort, and other ordinances.

All of these ordinances are sacred acts performed by the authority of the priesthood and should be conducted in a dignified manner. In order to accomplish that, young men should be taught how to do these ordinances and be given the experience of actually doing them whenever possible. Of course, all brethren who perform ordinances and blessings should prepare themselves by living worthily and striving to be guided by the Holy Spirit. You can also refer to the Church’s Handbook 2 or the Family Guidebook for more detailed information and instructions on performing priesthood ordinances and blessings.

Doing these things will help young men be better prepared to receive the higher priesthood and help them be better prepared to magnify their calling unto the Lord.

Related Article: Young men must be 18 years old to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood