When I was in the Missionary Training Center (the MTC), one of my instructors challenged us missionaries in the class to write down three personal goals that would guide us in our daily missionary efforts. This request came on the day when they introduced us to the Missionary Handbook, commonly called the “White Bible”. (Can someone tell me if they still have the White Bible, or if those rules have simply been included in the Preach My Gospel Manual?)
The MTC instructor wrote on the chalk board: “As a missionary, I, always and without conditions:” and then asked us to fill in the blanks. These are the three goals I chose:
- I will work hard
- I will be obedient
- I will love others
Daily striving to live up to these three goals served me well on my mission; it brought success, safety, and joy. Living by these goals has also brought blessings to my personal and professional life after my mission.
A good work ethic was something my parents always taught me to have. I can remember my father telling me a story from his mission how he had to be in the hospital for a few days and he regretted not being able to be out on the streets working. He encouraged me to make the most of every day on my mission by working as hard as I could. While I can’t claim perfection in this area, with very few exceptions, I did work as hard as I could each day, and I attribute much of my joys and successes to that attribute.
“I was not well when I arrived. Those first few weeks, because of illness and the opposition which we felt, I was discouraged. I wrote a letter home to my good father and said that I felt I was wasting my time and his money. He was my father and my stake president, and he was a wise and inspired man. He wrote a very short letter to me which said, ‘Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter. I have only one suggestion: forget yourself and go to work.’ Earlier that morning in our scripture class my companion and I had read these words of the Lord: ‘Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.’ (Mark 8:35.)
“Those words of the Master, followed by my father’s letter with his counsel to forget myself and go to work, went into my very being. With my father’s letter in hand, I went into our bedroom in the house at 15 Wadham Road, where we lived, and got on my knees and made a pledge with the Lord. I covenanted that I would try to forget myself and lose myself in His service.
“That July day in 1933 was my day of decision. A new light came into my life and a new joy into my heart. The fog of England seemed to lift, and I saw the sunlight. I had a rich and wonderful mission experience, for which I shall ever be grateful” (“Taking the Gospel to Britain: A Declaration of Vision, Faith, Courage, and Truth,” Ensign, July 1987, 7).
President Ezra Taft Benson also talked about the need for missionaries to work hard: “I have often said one of the greatest secrets of missionary work is work! If a missionary works, he will get the Spirit; if he gets the Spirit, he will teach by the Spirit; and if he teaches by the Spirit, he will touch the hearts of the people and he will be happy. There will be no homesickness, no worrying about families, for all time and talents and interests are centered on the work of the ministry. Work, work, work—there is no satisfactory substitute, especially in missionary work” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson , 200).
Obedience, to the commandments and to the mission rules, is a vital component of faithful missionary service. Great power comes to missionaries that are obedient, and therefore your mission leaders will stress the importance of keeping the commandments and rules in the Missionary Handbook. I know that I was protected by keeping the missionary rules, and the Lord blessed me, my companions and our investigators in the process.
Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander of the Seventy spoke of the importance of obeying the mission rules: “Mission rules are important in the same way commandments are important. We all need to keep them, understanding that they give us strength, direction, and limits. The smart missionary will learn the intent of the rules and make them work for him. Your mission is a time of discipline and single-minded focus. You will be required to go without some things common to your current lifestyle: music, TV, videos, novels, even girls. There is nothing wrong with any of these things, …but then again, there is nothing wrong with food either, unless you are fasting, in which case even a teaspoon of water is improper” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 59; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 43).
Missionary work is one of the purest acts of love we can do for our fellow beings. We must love the people we have been called to serve in order to be effective servants of the Lord. We should give sincere friendship and treat others with love and kindness, even if they do not immediately accept the gospel.
Early in my mission, a leader shared the insight that if we are not having joy, then we are not doing missionary work correctly. I found that to be true. When we do missionary work out of a sincere love for our fellow beings, we enjoy it, for we are helping others receive the magnificent blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, blessings of happiness in this life and in the eternities.
The following scriptures are what the Lord has said regarding love and missionary service.
- D&C 12:8 “And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care.”
- D&C 18:15-16 “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! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”
- D&C 121:41 “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.”
As a missionary, you will have many rules, but perhaps the most important may be the ones you set for yourself. Work hard, obey and love others served me well, and perhaps it will help you to. But in the mean time, be thinking about this question, in case one of your MTC instructors asks you to fill in the blanks: “As a missionary, I will always and without conditions: ________.”