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Mission Prep from General Conference Oct 2013

Welcome to Conference – President Thomas S. Monson

I am happy to announce that two weeks ago, the membership of the Church reached 15 million. The Church continues to grow steadily and to change the lives of more and more people every year. It is spreading across the earth as our missionary force seeks out those who are searching for the truth.

It has scarcely been one year since I announced the lowering of the age of missionary service. Since that time the number of full-time missionaries serving has increased from 58,500 in October 2012 to 80,333 today. What a tremendous and inspiring response we have witnessed!

…To help maintain our ever-increasing missionary force, I have asked our members in the past to contribute, as they are able, to their ward missionary fund or to the General Missionary Fund of the Church. The response to that request has been gratifying and has helped support thousands of missionaries whose circumstances do not allow them to support themselves. I thank you for your generous contributions. The need for help is ongoing, that we might continue to assist those whose desire to serve is great but who do not, by themselves, have the means to do so.

Hastening the Lord’s Game Plan! – Elder S. Gifford Nielson

worn out missionary shoes bronzedI walked into the stake president’s office for the initial meeting that weekend, I noticed a pair of tattered-looking, bronzed shoes on the credenza behind his desk, accompanied by a scripture ending in an exclamation point. As I read it, I felt the Lord was aware of my study, had answered my prayers, and that He knew exactly what I needed to soothe my anxious heart. I asked the stake president to tell me the story of the shoes.

He said: “These are shoes of a young convert to the Church whose family situation was strained, yet he was determined to serve a successful mission and did so in Guatemala. Upon his return I met with him to extend an honorable release and saw his shoes were worn out. This young man had given his all to the Lord without much, if any, family support.

“He noticed I was staring at his shoes and asked me, ‘President, is anything wrong?’

“I responded, ‘No, Elder, everything is right! Can I have those shoes?’”

The stake president continued: “My respect and love for this returning missionary was overwhelming! I wanted to memorialize the experience, so I had his shoes bronzed. It is a reminder to me when I walk into this office of the effort we all must give regardless of our circumstances.

serve with enthusiasm alongside the full-time missionaries exclamation pointI know we each must develop and carry out our own personal game plan to serve with enthusiasm alongside the full-time missionaries—EXCLAMATION POINT!

Put Your Trust in the Lord – Elder M. Russell Ballard

Sister Ballard and I recently returned from an assignment to five countries in Europe. There we had the privilege of meeting with many of our missionaries, perhaps some of your sons and your daughters. Since President Thomas S. Monson’s announcement of the lowering of the age for our young men and our young women to serve, I have had the privilege of meeting with over 3,000 of them. The Light of Christ radiates in their faces, and they are eager to move the work forward—to find and teach, to baptize, to activate, and to strengthen and to build the kingdom of God. Meeting with them, one quickly comes to know, however, that they cannot do this work alone. Today I want to speak to all members of the Church, because there is an urgency for each one of us to be engaged in sharing the gospel.

…Brothers and sisters, fear will be replaced with faith and confidence when members and the full-time missionaries kneel in prayer and ask the Lord to bless them with missionary opportunities. Then, we must demonstrate our faith and watch for opportunities to introduce the gospel of Jesus Christ to our Heavenly Father’s children, and surely those opportunities will come. These opportunities will never require a forced or a contrived response. They will flow as a natural result of our love for our brothers and sisters. Just be positive, and those whom you speak with will feel your love. They will never forget that feeling, though the timing may not be right for them to embrace the gospel. That too may change in the future when their circumstances change.

reach out to just one between now and ChristmasPreach My Gospel reminds all of us that “nothing happens in missionary work until [we] find someone to teach. Talk with as many people as you can each day. It is natural to be somewhat apprehensive about talking to people, but you can pray for the faith and strength to be more bold in opening your mouth to proclaim the restored gospel” ([2004], 156–57). You full-time missionaries, if you want to teach more, you must talk to more people every day. This has always been what the Lord has sent missionaries forth to do.

…We are not asking everyone to do everything. We are simply asking all members to pray, knowing that if every member, young and old, will reach out to just “one” between now and Christmas, millions will feel the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. And what a wonderful gift to the Savior.

The Doctrines and Principles Contained in the Articles of Faith – Elder L. Tom Perry

The tenth, eleventh, and twelfth articles of faith instruct us on how to conduct missionary work and share the gospel in a world of many nations and various laws. We learn about the gathering of Israel in preparation for the Second Coming of the Savior. We are instructed that men and women are agents unto themselves, and they can either accept or reject the word of God according to their own conscience. Finally, we learn as we spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the four corners of the earth that we must respect the governments of each nation we enter.

Ye Are No More Strangers – Bishop Gérald Caussé

Because of the increased availability of transportation, speed of communication, and globalization of economies, the earth is becoming one large village where people and nations meet, connect, and intermingle like never before. These vast, worldwide changes serve the designs of Almighty God. The gathering of His elect from the four corners of the earth is taking place not only by sending missionaries to faraway countries but also with the arrival of people from other areas into our own cities and neighborhoods. Many, without knowing it, are being led by the Lord to places where they can hear the gospel and come into His fold.

Called of Him to Declare His Word – Elder Randy D. Funk

One of many outstanding missionaries with whom Sister Funk and I served was Elder Pokhrel from Nepal. After being a member of the Church for only two years, he was called to serve in the India Bangalore Mission, an English-speaking mission. He would tell you he was not well prepared. That was understandable. He had never seen a missionary until he was one, because no young missionaries serve in Nepal. He did not read English well enough to understand the instructions included with his call. When he reported to the missionary training center, instead of bringing nice slacks, white shirts, and ties, he packed, in his words, “five pairs of denim jeans, a couple of T-shirts, and a lot of hair gel.”

…Though missionary work was new and challenging for Elder Pokhrel, he served with great faith and faithfulness, seeking to understand and follow what he was learning from the scriptures, Preach My Gospel, and his mission leaders. He became a powerful teacher of the gospel—in English—and an excellent leader. After his mission and some time in Nepal, he returned to India to continue his education. Since January he has served as a branch president in New Delhi. Because of the real growth he experienced as a missionary, he continues to contribute to the real growth of the Church in India.

How did a young man who had never seen a missionary become one with such spiritual strength? How will you receive spiritual power as a missionary to open the doors, in-boxes, and hearts of those in the mission where you will serve? As usual, the answers are found in the scriptures and the words of living prophets and apostles.

…My young fellow servants, doors and hearts open daily to the gospel message—a message that brings hope and peace and joy to the children of God throughout the world. If you are humble and obedient and hearken to the voice of the Spirit, you will find great happiness in your service as a missionary.17 What a wonderful season it is to be a missionary—a time when the Lord is hastening His work!

Bind Up Their Wounds – President Henry B. Eyring

sister missionary treasure up the words of lifeIn your service as a full-time missionary, you will go to thousands of people in great spiritual need. Many, until you teach them, will not even know that they have spiritual wounds that, left untreated, will bring endless misery. You will go on the Lord’s errand to rescue them. Only the Lord can bind up their spiritual wounds as they accept the ordinances that lead to eternal life.

As a quorum member, as a home teacher, and as a missionary, you cannot help people repair spiritual damage unless your own faith is vibrant. That means far more than reading the scriptures regularly and praying over them. The prayer in the moment and quick glances in the scriptures are not preparation enough. The reassurance of what you will need comes with this counsel from the 84th section of the Doctrine and Covenants: “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.”

True Shepherds – President Thomas S. Monson

The bishop of each ward in the Church oversees the assigning of priesthood holders as home teachers to visit the homes of members every month. They go in pairs. Where possible, a young man who is a priest or a teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood accompanies an adult holding the Melchizedek Priesthood. As they go into the homes of those for whom they are responsible, the Aaronic Priesthood holder should take part in the teaching which takes place. Such an assignment will help to prepare these young men for missions as well as for a lifetime of priesthood service.

Power in the Priesthood – Elder Neil L. Andersen

Sincerely asking for and listening to the thoughts and concerns voiced by women is vital in life, in marriage, and in building the kingdom of God. Twenty years ago in general conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard related a conversation he had with the general president of the Relief Society. There was a question raised about strengthening the worthiness of youth preparing to serve missions. Sister Elaine Jack said with a smile, “You know, Elder Ballard, the [women] of the Church may have some good suggestions … if they [are] asked. After all, … we are their mothers!”

Mission Prep Webinar Series Announced

After much consideration, I have decided to hold a series of Mission Prep webinars starting in January 2013. The webinars will basically be online classes, firesides, or devotionals. My hope is that the webinars will be informative and practical for mission prep, and also spiritual and motivating to help young people have a desire to serve.

Each webinar will be about an hour and we will cover a variety of Mormon missionary preparation topics both temporal and spiritual. There will also be time in each webinar to ask questions and get answers. The series will consist of three webinars: Preparing to Serve a Mission, Receiving the Call to Serve a Mission, and Gearing Up to Serve a Mission.

  • Gaining a Desire to Serve a Mission: In this webinar, we will discuss getting Young Men motivated to serve, the worth of souls in the sight of God, why the Church needs many more missionaries, and the blessings of missionary service.
  • Preparing to Serve a Mission: This webinar will discuss requirements to serve a mission, worthiness, the mission cost, and other items around temporal and spiritual preparation.
  • Receiving the Call to Serve a Mission: In this webinar we will discuss the mission call process, paperwork, the revelatory process for missionaries to be called by God, and other related topics.
  • Gearing Up to Serve a Mission: In this webinar we will discuss missionary clothing and other supplies you’ll need, reading lists, the MTC, teaching by the Spirit, and your purpose as a missionary.

Several factors have prompted me to start up these online classes, not the least of which is the new lower age requirement for missionaries. Since that announcement, there has been a great demand for mission prep classes. The Church has an official Mission Prep class offered through LDS Institutes. Many stakes and wards teach the class too. But many young people aren’t able to take this 14 lesson course, or their stake or ward doesn’t offer it.

I highly recommend that all future missionaries, if you are able, to take the full mission prep class from the Church. While my mission prep webinars do not take the place of the Church class, they will be very helpful to those who are unable to take it. And even for those who have taken or will take the Church mission prep course, I hope you join us for the webinars as well. I think everyone considering a mission will benefit from them.

The plan is to do one webinar per week. In order to hold the webinar at the best time for most people, I ask that you respond to the survey above. In late December or early January I’ll be sending out more information on dates, times, and how to sign up for the webinars. Thank you.

Mothers’ Role in Mission Prep

Friberg Helaman Stripling Warriors In the Book of Mormon, in Alma Chapter 56, the Nephite and Lamanite nations are engulfed in war.  A group of Lamanite converts to the Church, known as the people of Ammon, wanted to help defend the Nephite people.  The Ammonite adults, though, had made a covenant never to go to war again, so it was their sons, 2,000 of them, that volunteered to go to war to defend their families.

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

The mothers of the 2,000 stripling warriors, like latter-day saint mothers today, had a profound influence on their children, which gave them faith to overcome all obstacles.  Just like with these youth in the battles of the Book of Mormon, mothers today are preparing their children to do a great work and there is probably no more vital role in mission prep.

jimmy and heather smith kids Many mothers, my wife included, may not realize the great work they are doing.  It is so easy to get caught up in the mundane, day to day routines with raising children, that we neglect to see the great work we are doing.

I want to talk today about what so many good mothers are already doing, sometimes unwittingly, to prepare their children for missionary service. Four things come to mind that my wife does daily with our children that is teaching them faith and skills that will help them become great missionaries some day.  (There are actually more than four things, but for now we’ll focus on these four.) She teaches the children to:

  • Get Along with Others
  • Be Clean and Tidy
  • Obey the First Principles of the Gospel
  • Read the Book of Mormon

I suspect most latter-day saint mothers are also doing these four simples things as well, and in the process, they are teaching vital missionary skills and doing a wonderful job raising the next generation of Mormon missionaries.

kids playingGet Along with Others

When playing with siblings or other children, my wife has two rules for our kids: be kind and be safe.  These two rules have been found to cover a multitude of situations, and they teach our children how to get along well with others.  I have talked about the important missionary characteristic of sociability in the past.  This is what Elder S. Dilworth Young said in General Conference in April 1972, “faith-building begins in the cradle…In the formative years your boy will need to learn how to give and take, how to get along, how to put up with inconveniences, how to be patient and tolerant, how to resolve differences with playmates and, later, with missionary companions.”

Be Clean and Tidy

Like any good parents, we have our children do daily chores of cleaning their rooms and other household tasks.  Helping your children learn now to stay clean and organized will help them be more productive and spiritual throughout their lives.  Again, quoting Elder Young, he says missionaries “will need to learn that bodily cleanliness goes with spiritual cleanness and that the body is the expression of the spirit…he should learn that the dusty, ill-kept room with its unmade bed is the devil’s best means of discouragement.”

Obey the First Principles of the Gospel

Like most parents of small children, we try, frequently unsuccessfully, to maintain their attention once a week for Family Home Evening.  We focus on basic gospel principles such as faith in Christ, and obedience to the commandments.  These basic gospel principles will form the foundation of what they will be teaching people across the world as they go forth as missionaries.  Again, quoting Elder Young, he says the future missionary should “learn to know that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will give men reason for their repentance from sin, which is the great doctrine that brings hope; that baptism by immersion is both a covenant and a sign of acceptance; and that the gift of the Holy Ghost is what makes him, and his father and his mother, different from the world; and that it will make those he converts different also.”

Read the Book of Mormonmother reading to children

Nightly, my wife gathers the family for scripture reading in the Book of Mormon.  We quickly went through the illustrated versions, and though our children are still small, we have moved on the full version now.  Nightly reading of the Book of Mormon, though it may only be a a few minutes, teaches the children the importance of that book in our lives.  And though they do not understand everything, the Spirit of the Lord is there, teaching and testifying things they will not forget.  Elder Young says that by reading the Book of Mormon with your children and helping them gain a testimony of the truthfulness of that book, “you will have him on his way to becoming a missionary…He will not consider the Book of Mormon dull reading if you will make it live for him while he is growing.”

Conclusion

The mothers in the Church are doing a wonderful job of raising the next generation of missionaries.  I can’t thank my wife enough for the work she does, often without recognition, in raising our children and teaching them the principles that will help them succeed on their missions, in life and in the eternities.

And here are some concluding thoughts from Elder Young: “These young folks may become great of themselves, but with the faith and teaching of their fathers and mothers they will become greater…He depends on us to teach our children truth that they may better serve the Father of their spirits and live.”

The future missionary “will be taught these lessons at the home evening, at the dinner table, at bedtime, in camp, on hikes and journeys. And driven home at all these stages will be the theme that the greatest adventure a boy can have is to go on a mission and learn to depend on the Lord when faced with a bitter, cold, or hostile world, and that the greatest joy he can experience is to give of his all in the service of the Master in bringing souls unto him.”

Quotes from: Missionary Training Begins Early S. Dilworth Young, Gen Conf, April 1972.

Practical Steps for Mission Prep

“Practically Out the Door” is the name of an article in the April 2009 New Era magazine. It contains practical advice for teenagers preparing to go to college, but I think it is equally applicable to young men and women preparing to go on a mission. The article makes great suggestions for young people, such as:

  • Learn the Secrets of Time: Manage your time and bring order to your life by organizing it.
  • Learn How to Manage Your Own Life: Handle freedom wisely, and make spirituality a priority.  Start making your own decisions and solving your own problems.
  • Harness the Power of Practical Skills: Master the mysteries of money, learn how to cook, and remember, there is no laundry fairy.
  • Have the Right Attitude: Take responsibility.

The tips about managing money, learning to cook, and doing laundry struck a cord with me.  All were important skills my parents had taught me prior to my mission, and I was so grateful for them when I arrived in Argentina.

Managing Money

When I arrived in my first assigned area in Argentina, a branch called Gazano in the city of Parana, my companion was named Elder Loesener, a native Argentine from Buenos Aires.  Elder Loesener, within the first couple of days, told me to take $100 and put it in an envelope in my suit case, and save it for an emergency.  That $100 was more than a third missionaies loesener and jimmy smithof our monthly allowance, but he assured me that we would make it through the month.  He then said we would pool our resources, and so we did.  And as I recall we ate well that month, and after a few weeks of famous Argentine beef, I even put on a few pounds.

Throughout my mission, I always kept that $100 reserve.  And though I can’t recall any major emergencies, there were times when our monthly allowance was late arriving and I was very glad to have some extra cash to get by on.  I heard stories of missionaries running out of money half way through the month, but that never happened to me because of good money management skills I put into practice.

Learning to Cook

In some areas of my mission, we ate at members home nearly every day.  In other areas, there were few members and we were rarely fed.  It was in those times that I was sure glad I knew how to cook.  Making pancakes from scratch was not something I realized I’d be doing very often, but breakfast cereal was rare in Argentina, and the native breakfast beverage of Mate was off limits for missionaries.  Pasta, hamburgers, pizza, French toast, crepes, and no-bake cookies were a few of the other things I whipped up from time to time. missionary cooking asado argentina

Perhaps this is also a good time to mention the need to learn to like a variety of foods.  I was taught by my parents that missionaries are always grateful for the meals given to them and they always eat was is in put in front of them.  In that spirit, I found myself at the home of a member family in the branch in Gazano early in my mission.  They served us “giso” for lunch, a type of stew, and as I put my spoon in the bowl, I noticed something strange floating around.  There were bugs in my soup!  Now I didn’t want to offend this humble, generous family, so I dutifully ate the whole bowl of giso.  It probably made me no sicker than the water there (which we drank all the time), but later in my mission I learned that it was okay to turn down food with bugs in it.  But aside from bug-infested stews and the like, I think it’s a good idea for missionaries to learn to be polite and eat the food that is so generously served to them.

Doing Laundry

Prior to my mission, I knew how to do laundry, or so I thought.  I knew how to separate the lights from the darks, load the washing machine, put in soap, turn it on, and then switch the clothes to the dryer when it was complete.  But when missionary laundry argentinaI got to Argentina, I found no washing machines and no dryers.  In some of my areas, we paid a woman in the ward to wash our clothes, but in as many as half of my areas, I had to wash my own clothes, by hand.  Needless to say, with me doing the laundry, it didn’t take long for my white shirts to turn a shade of gray.  Nonetheless they were clean, thanks again to Elder Loesener for teaching me the wash board method of doing laundry.

I’m not sure what the conditions are like in Argentina now, more than ten years since I left.  But it is likely that there, and in other parts of the world, missionaries are washing their own clothes by hand.  So when you are learning to do laundry with the washing machine and dryer, you may also want to ask your mom for some tips on doing it by hand with a wash board, and hanging the clothes out to dry.

Mission Prep from General Conference April 2009

As I listened to the General Conference talks last weekend, I paid particular attention to messages that would be of benefit for young men and women preparing to go on a mission.  Below are a few mission-prep-related excerpts from the April 2009 conference talks:

Revealed Quorum Principles by Michael A. Neider

“The quorum assists you in strengthening and preparing God’s sons” for missions, marriage, etc.  “We should be earnest students of revealed priesthood and quorum principles. Our goal is to correctly use inspired direction from God and His prophets to maximize the virtues and blessings of the quorum and strengthen young men and their families. The work of the quorum is to increase faith in Christ, prepare and save young men, and eliminate mistakes and sloth in implementing God’s will. As we seek wisdom from God, let us also be students of revealed quorum principles.”

Learning the Lessons of the Past by Elder M. Russell Ballard

Elder M. Russell Ballard“Learn from the experience of others. Many professions require internships, during which aspiring professionals shadow seasoned veterans to learn from their years of experience and accumulated wisdom. Rookies in professional sports are often expected to sit on the bench and learn by watching experienced players. New missionaries are assigned to work with a senior companion whose experience helps the new missionary learn the right way to effectively serve the Lord.”

Counsel to Young Men by President Boyd K. Packer

President Boyd K. Packer“You young men should not complain about schooling. Do not immerse yourself so much in the technical that you fail to learn things that are practical. Everything you can learn that is practical—in the house, in the kitchen cooking, in the yard—will be of benefit to you” now, on your mission and throughout your life.

“Four young men, all grandsons, came to visit us. Three of them had young ladies on their arms—one to talk about his coming wedding, two of them to announce their engagements, and the stray to talk about his mission call to Japan. We talked to them about the fact that one day each of you will take a pure and precious daughter of our Heavenly Father to the temple to be sealed for time and for all eternity. These young grandsons must know what Alma taught: that the gospel plan is “the great plan of happiness” and that happiness is the end of our existence.”

We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf“In response to every temptation to lose focus or lower our standards—the standards of God, we responded, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.””

The Lord seeks “those who, when faced with opposition and temptation, say in their hearts, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.””

“When faced with trial and suffering, they respond, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”  When faced with ridicule and reproach, they proclaim, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.””

Our Heavenly Father “seeks those who will not allow the attraction of ease or the traps of the adversary to distract them from the work He has given them to perform. He seeks those whose actions conform to their words—those who say with conviction, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”

Be Your Best Self by President Thomas S. Monson

President Thomas S. Monson“This is not a time for fear, brethren, but rather a time for faith—a time for each of us who holds the priesthood to be his best self. Although our journey through mortality will at times place us in harm’s way, may I offer you tonight three suggestions.”

  1. Study diligently. “Every holder of the priesthood should participate in daily scripture study. Crash courses are not nearly so effective as the day-to-day reading and application of the scriptures in our lives.”
  2. Pray fervently. “With God, all things are possible. Men of the Aaronic Priesthood, men of the Melchizedek Priesthood, remember the prayer of the Prophet Joseph, offered in that grove called sacred. Look around you and see the result of that answered prayer.”
  3. Live righteously. “Isaiah, that great prophet of the Old Testament, gave this stirring charge to holders of the priesthood: “Touch no unclean thing. . . . Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.” That’s about as straight as it could be given.”

Get On with Our Lives by Elder Steven E. Snow

Elder Steven E. Snow“Too often we are reluctant to enter the next stage, begin the next challenge. Maybe we are too comfortable, fearful, or lacking in faith…Our parents’ basement, with unlimited video games, may be more appealing than college, marriage, or a career (or a mission I might add). How can we then best prepare for the changes we must inevitably face as we progress through life?”

  • First, follow the prophets. “Prophets often raise a voice of warning but also provide steady, pragmatic counsel to help us weather the storms of life.”
  • Second, keep an eternal perspective. “We as mortals undergo a series of changes, challenges, trials, and temptations as we proceed through life. Only then are we properly tested.” Remember, this life is “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25).
  • Third, have faith. “In Moroni we read that “without faith there cannot be any hope” (Moroni 7:42). We must exercise faith to take on life’s challenges and changes”
  • Fourth, be of good cheer. “Many of our members across the globe are facing challenges, economic and otherwise.” The Lord counseled, “Be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you” (D&C 61:36).

Bring Souls unto Me by Elder L. Tom Perry

“Member missionaries—both you and I—are the shepherds, and the full-time missionaries, like the search and rescue team, are trying to do something almost impossible for them to do alone. Certainly the full-time missionaries will continue to do the best they can, but woul
dn’t it be better if you and I stepped up to do a job that is rightfully ours and for which we are better suited since we know personally those who are lost and need to be rescued? I would like to focus on three objectives for members of the Church.”

  • D&C 88:81 “And it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.”
  • D&C 33:8 “Open your mouths and they shall be filled.”
    • “We should declare our belief in Jesus Christ and His Atonement.”
    • “We should tell in our own words the story of the First Vision.”
    • “Let us testify of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”
  • D&C 18:15 “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!”