When any person shares the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to others, both the sharer and the receiver are greatly blessed. This category of posts is all about the blessings that come to those who participate in missionary work.

The Joy of Service

I was asked to give a talk in church about the joy of service in relation to a recent trip I made to Houston, Texas with other members of our congregation to help in the cleanup effort in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. I thought the joy of service was a good topic for mission prep, so I’m sharing the talk here.

Hurricane Katrina Cleanup – 2005

Before talking about the Houston trip after Hurricane Harvey, let me take you back 12 years to the fall of 2005. My wife and I were living in Memphis, TN, and we had two small children. Hurricane Katrina had just hit New Orleans and other cities near there on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. There was an announcement at church that our congregation was one of many throughout the south that was asked to send a team of workers to New Orleans for a weekend to help clean up. I was excited about the chance to go participate in the hurricane cleanup. The announcement struck me as a rare opportunity to do some great service, and I immediately volunteered. My only hesitation was leaving my wife at home for a long weekend alone with the children, but I knew I would have her support.Hurricane Katrina Relief Trip to Waveland Mississippi October 2005

I went with dozens of other men from LDS Church congregations in and around Memphis. On that first of three trips I made to the Gulf coast for Hurricane Katrina relief, we mostly cleared brush, sawed up fallen trees, and hauled yard debris out to the street for many homeowners in the town of Waveland, Mississippi. About a month later, we were called on again, and again I went down to the Gulf coast, this time to the city of Slidell, Louisiana. We spent the bulk of our time on this trip in mucking out a few homes. Then, about a year later, I went to the Gulf coast a third time for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, and this time we were in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, part of a crew that replaced the roof of a woman’s home.Hurricane Katrina Relief Trip to Slidell Louisiana November 2005

Each of us who went on these trips made many sacrifices of our time. We would leave around 6pm on a Friday night and make the six hour drive to New Orleans, arriving around midnight. We would sleep either in tents on an LDS Church property or in sleeping bags on the floor inside the church. We would work all day Saturday and the first half of the day Sunday. Then we would drive back to Memphis, arriving late Sunday night, so we could all go back to our regular jobs Monday morning. While it was hard work, it was also satisfying and enjoyable to help those in need. I also formed special bonds of friendship with the other men who went on the relief trips. The blessings went both ways, to the givers and receivers of the service, and I was glad I went on every one of those service weekends. At the time I volunteered, I wasn’t sure if I would ever have the opportunity to participate in a massive service project like that again, so I wanted to take advantage of it. As it turns out, 12 years later I would have a very similar opportunity.Hurricane Katrina Relief Trip to New Orleans Louisiana December 2006

Hurricane Harvey Cleanup – 2017

A few months ago, Hurricane Harvey struck the Houston, Texas area, bringing wind damage and much flooding all along the Gulf coast in that region. Once again, the LDS Church sent out a call for volunteers, and once again, when I heard the request, I jumped at the chance to go and help. This time I was able to bring, Abe, my now 13-year-old son, with me on the relief trip. We got up very early on a Saturday morning in September and made the four-hour drive from the Dallas area to Houston. By mid-morning our crew, of about 12 men and women and youth were pulling up the wet and rotting floors of in a home owned by a couple named Barry and Jennifer. In the afternoon, we went across the street to pull wet sheet rock out of the house of a single woman named Beverly. That night, our team of workers were taken care of by some very nice members of the Church who fed us and gave us a comfortable place to sleep. We headed back out to work on Sunday morning after a church service with the sacrament, a couple of testimonies, and a stirring rendition of the hymn How Great Thou Art by a quartet of three women and one man. We did some more mucking and debris removal from the home of a woman named Carolyn, and then we drove back home to the Dallas area on Sunday afternoon.

Hurricane Harvey Cleanup Houston Texas September 2017

Service Brings True Joy

When I was asked to talk about the weekend in Houston and the joy of service, I pondered about what I could say. The thought occurred to me, and I think it was inspiration from the Spirit of God, that perhaps I should talk about what inspires me. What inspires me to drop everything in my life at short notice, drive hundreds of miles, and work all day in hot and dirty conditions to help people I have never met before? Honestly, my next thought was who wouldn’t want to go and do service projects like this. These were wonderful experiences. For me, there is nothing better than to truly help people who have a sincere need.

My father taught me in my youth, by word and example, of the importance of serving others and the joy it brings to the recipients as well as the providers of such service. And I suppose, due to those lessons that I learned in my youth, it has led me throughout my life to seeking out and enjoying opportunities to serve others. Perhaps this is why President Monson has given a similar message to young men and women of the Church. He said:

“Learn in your youth the joy of service in the cause of the Master. …As we look heavenward, we inevitably learn of our responsibility to reach outward. To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves. No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow man. Service to others is akin to duty, the fulfillment of which brings true joy.”(The Joy of Service, New Era, Oct 2009).

Sacrifice Brings Light. Christ’s Light Brings Hope and Happiness.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has also recently spoken about the joy and other blessings that come to both the givers and receivers of selfless service. He said:

“Every time you notice someone in need and sacrifice your own comfort to reach out in love, the light [of God] expands and swells. Every time you reject temptation and choose purity, every time you seek or extend forgiveness, every time you courageously testify of truth, the light chases away darkness and attracts others who are also seeking light and truth.”

“Christ’s light brings hope, happiness, and healing of any spiritual wound or ailment. Those who experience this refining influence become instruments in the hands of the Light of the World to give light to others. They will feel what King Lamoni felt: “This light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and … the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul” (Alma 19:6). (Bearers of Heavenly Light, Gen Conf, Oct 2017)

The Widow’s Heart

There is one more thing I have felt inspired to mention regarding the blessings of serving others and that is a lesson that stems from the Savior’s story of the Widow’s Mite. With the estimated damage in the billions of dollars from these natural disasters that I talked about above, my relatively measly contribution to the cleanup and recovery would certainly equate to no more than a mite or two. But one of the points of the widow’s mite story is that God has a different way of measuring, compared to the rest of the world, when determining the value of our actions and contributions.

Most of us are very familiar with this story of the widow with her two mites. It’s found in Mark 12:41-44 and goes like this:

“41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: 44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”

While we often call this the story of the widow’s mite, I feel it might be better if we referred to the story as “the widow’s heart.” The point of the story isn’t the money, it’s that by giving all her money the widow demonstrated that she had given her whole heart and soul to God. The wealthy people may have put in a lot of gold and silver into the treasury, but that was not something of much value to God. God doesn’t need our gold and our silver, He can command the elements and create a planet full of gold and silver. What God values is our souls (see D&C 18:10 and Moses 1:39). And the widow, in giving all that she had, demonstrated that she was giving her entire heart and soul to God and that’s why Jesus said that she put in more than all the other rich people.

Now, how does this relate to the joy of service? Elder O. Vincent Haleck explained this concept of the widow’s heart during his recent general conference talk, and he explained how it relates to the joy of service. He talked about the Latter-day Saints of the Pacific and how through the years he has seen them serve and sacrifice, despite their poverty (or as the scripture puts it, their “want”), and as a result they have received great blessings of joy and happiness. He said:

“The heart of the widow who gave her two mites is a heart that will give all by making sacrifices; by enduring hardship, persecution, and rejection; and by bearing burdens of many kinds. The heart of the widow is a heart that senses, feels, and knows the light of truth and will give anything to embrace that truth. It also helps others to see that same light and come to the same measure of eternal happiness and joy. …Let us join as worldwide Saints in doing that which is necessary to have the widow’s heart, truly rejoicing in the blessings that will fill the ‘want’ that results.” (The Heart of the Widow, LDS General Conference, October 2017)


Brothers and Sisters, I know that in our service to others is found the key to receiving joy and happiness. Our duties and our covenants compel us to give freely of our time and talents in the service of others (see Mosiah 18:9), and all the commandments and the whole gospel plan is designed to bring us the greatest joy possible (see D&C 14:7). In John 15:10-11 Jesus explained that this is why he has given us the commandments to love and serve each other: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” I know these things are true.

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.

17 Blessings of Missionary Service

sister missionaries knocking at a gateI was recently reading a talk Elder Carlos E. Asay, former member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Presidency of the Seventy, gave a talk on the blessings of sharing the gospel. This is what he said:

“Perhaps your desire or will to serve would increase if you understood more fully the blessings associated with missionary service. God often reveals commandments and blessings together. For example, he gave the Word of Wisdom listing the commandments, and, at the same time, he recited a number of blessings that those who obeyed the commandments would receive. I would like to discuss with you some of the blessings associated with full-time missionary service. I can’t list everything, for there are so many blessings that I cannot number them, but I will share those that appear to be most common.”

He then listed these 17 blessings of missionary service:

  1. Eternal Life: “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” (Matt. 19:29)
  2. Leadership Training: “Returned missionaries provide valuable leadership in the Church, especially in the developing countries of the world.”
  3. Building the Kingdom; Preparing a People for Christ’s Second Coming: “Wherefore, may the kingdom of God go forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come.” (D&C 65:2, 6.)
  4. Memorable Experiences: “President Kimball has referred to missionary service as high adventure. He did so because the work is stirring and exciting.”
  5. Establishing Abiding Friendships: “The friendships we establish in the mission field with companions and converts become eternal.”
  6. Developing Love and Understanding of People: “Missionaries gain a love and understanding of others through their service.”
  7. Rendering Service: “He doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you.” (Mosiah 2: 23–24.)
  8. Being a Peacemaker: Elder N. Eldon Tanner said: “If every member of this Church would accept the call of our prophet today …and become missionaries in very deed, we could contribute more to the cause of peace than all the power that might be gathered together by all the governments.” (Conference Report, Oct. 1962, p. 69)
  9. Developing and Polishing Character: Stephen L Richards, formerly of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, talked about the influence of missions upon the Latter-day Saints. “The fundamental character of our manhood and womanhood has been improved,” he said.
  10. Forgiveness of Sins: Elder George F. Richards, also a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve, said: “In the name of the Lord I want to promise you that in the acceptance of the mission call and the dedication of yourself to the work, the Lord will forgive you of past transgressions.”
  11. Growth of Testimony: “Missionaries teach and testify… Each time they do, they invite the Spirit, and the truths they proclaim become more and more deeply ingrained in their own souls.”
  12. Companionship of the Holy Spirit: “Of all the companionships established in the mission field, the most cherished is the companionship of the Holy Spirit.”
  13. Closeness to the Lord: “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served?” (Mosiah 5:13.) “No one will ever fully understand the Savior’s work until he has invested in the business of saving souls, for that was the Savior’s role.”
  14. Growth in Faith: Mission “experiences plant seeds of faith in their hearts.”
  15. Growth in Knowledge of the Gospel: “Missions are schools of gospel learning, even schools for the prophets.”
  16. Peace of Conscience: Elder George Albert Smith taught that missionary work brings “peace and happiness beyond all understanding.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1922, p. 53.)
  17. Joy: President Heber J. Grant testified: “[I] had more joy while in the mission field than ever before or since.”(Improvement Era, Oct. 1936, p. 659.)

“I have given you seventeen blessings that result from missionary service. There are more—the list is almost endless. Please understand that these blessings and more can be yours, if you become converted to the service and make yourselves available to respond” (Carlos E. Asay , “The Blessings of Sharing the Gospel,” Prospective Missionary Conference in Provo, Utah, September 1984).

President Spencer W. Kimball once said that “missionary work, like the tithing, will pour out blessings, as Malachi said, so many blessings that there’ll hardly be room enough to receive them (See Mal. 3:10.)” (Area Conference Report, Korea, Aug. 1975, p. 61).

I know that missionary service requires sacrifice, but I also know that “sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven” (“Praise to the Man,” Hymns, no. 27). I add my testimony to Elder Asay’s and President Kimball’s that as you faithfully serve a full time mission, the blessings of the Lord will be poured out upon you. You and your family will receive blessings of both temporal and spiritual nature which will grant you joy in this life and in the eternities.

Marks of a Man

This story, written by an anonymous author and cited in the book “Raising the Bar” by Ed J. Pinegar, is a favorite of many missionaries. I think it captures well the signs and feelings of a missionary who faithfully served the Lord and is returning with honor.

Marks of a Man

As I jumped on board my flight from Miami to Salt Lake City, I paused for a moment to catch my breath. Seated near the front of the plane was an excited young man, probably 19, sitting with his parents. His hair was short, his clothes new and sharp. His suit was fitted perfectly; his black shoes still retained that store bought shine. His body was in good shape, his face and hands were clean. In his eyes, I could see a nervous look; his movements were that of an actor on opening night.

He was obviously flying to Utah to become a missionary for the LDS church. I smiled as I walked by, and took pride in belonging to the same church where these young men and women voluntarily serve the Savior for two years. With this special feeling, I continued back to where my seat was located.

Marks of a ManAs I sat down in my seat, I looked to the right and to my surprise saw another missionary, sleeping in the window seat. His hair was also short, but that was the only similarity between the two. This one was obviously returning home, and I could tell at a glance what type of missionary he had been.

The fact that he was already asleep told me a lot. His entire body seemed to let out a big sigh. It looked as if this was the first time in two years that he had even slept, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.

As I looked at his face I could see the heavy bags under his eyes, the chapped lips, the scarred and sunburned face caused by the fierce Florida sun.

His suit was tattered and worn. A few of the seams were coming apart, and I noticed that there were a couple of tears that had been hand sewn with a very sloppy stitch. I saw the nametag, crooked, scratched, and bearing the name of the church he represented, the engraving of which was almost all worn away.

I saw the knee of his pants, worn, and white, the result of many hours of humble prayer. A tear came to my eye as I saw the things that really told me what kind of missionary he had been. I saw the marks that made this boy a man.

His feet, the two that had carried him from house to house now lay there swollen and tired. They were covered by a pair of worn out shoes. Many of the large scrapes and gouges had been filled in by countless polishing.

His books—laying across his lap—were his scriptures-the word of God. Once new these books which testify of Jesus Christ and his mission were now torn, bent, and ragged from use.

His hands, those big, strong hands which had been used to bless and teach, were now scarred and cut from knocking on doors.

Those were indeed the marks of a man. And, as I looked at him, I saw the marks of another man, the Savior, as he was hanging on the cross for the sins of the world.

His feet, those that had once carried him throughout the land during his ministry, were now nailed to the cross.

His side, now pierced with a spear, sealing his testimony with his life.

His hands, the hands that had been used to ordain his servants and to bless the sick were also scarred with the nails that were pounded to hang him on the cross.

Those were the marks of a great man.

As my mind returned to the missionary, my whole body seemed to swell with pride and joy because I knew, by looking at him, that he had served his Master well.

My joy was so great that I felt like running to the front of the plane, grabbing the new missionary, and bringing him back to see what he could become, what he could do.

But, would he see the things I saw? Could anyone? Or, would he see just the outward appearance of that mighty elder, tired and worn out, almost dead?

As we landed, I reached over and tapped the returning missionary to wake him up. As he awoke, it seemed like new life poured into his body. His whole frame seemed to fill as he stood up, tall and proud. As he turned his face toward mine, I saw a light that I had never seen before. I looked into his eyes. Those eyes. I will never forget those eyes. They were the eyes of a prophet, a leader, a follower, a servant. They were the eyes of the Savior. No words were spoken. No words were needed.

As we unloaded, I stepped aside to let him go first. I watched as he walked, slow but steady, tired but strong. I followed him, and found myself walking the way he did.

When I came through the doors, I saw the returning missionary in the arms of his parents, and I couldn’t hold it any longer. With tears streaming down my face, I watched these loving parents greet their son, who had been away for such a long time, and I wondered if our parents in heaven would greet us in the same manner. Will they wrap their arms around us and welcome us home from our journey on earth? I believe they will. I just hope that I will be worthy enough to receive such praise, as I’m sure this missionary will. I said a silent prayer, thanking the Lord for missionaries like this young man. I don’t think I will ever forget the joy and happiness he brought to me that day.

A Mission Prepares You for Temple Marriage

Last year, when I wrote about Mission Companions, I mentioned that learning to get along with your mission companion is excellent practice for learning to get along with your eternal companion, your wife. Today I’d like to elaborate more on how a mission prepares you for temple marriage.

mormon-temple-marriage The Importance of Temple Marriage

Those who are sealed in the temple have the assurance that their marriage will continue forever if they obey their covenants. They know that nothing, not even death, can permanently separate them.

Our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, said, “Make certain that the marriage in your future is a temple marriage. There is no scene so sweet, no time so sacred as that very special day of your marriage. Then and there you glimpse celestial joy. Be alert; do not permit temptation to rob you of this blessing.” (From Whom Shall I Marry?, New Era, Oct. 2004)

Heber J. Grant, 7th president of the Church, emphasized the importance of every young man and woman starting their life together with a temple marriage.

I believe that no worthy young Latter-day Saint man or woman should spare any reasonable effort to come to a house of the Lord to begin life together. …The blessings and promises that come from beginning life together, for time and eternity, in a temple of the Lord, cannot be obtained in any other way and worthy young Latter-day Saint men and women who so begin life together find that their eternal partnership under the everlasting covenant becomes the foundation upon which are built peace, happiness, virtue, love, and all of the other eternal verities of life, here and hereafter (Heber J. Grant, “Beginning Life Together,”Improvement Era, Apr. 1936, pp. 198–99).

Jacob’s Efforts to Marry in the Covenant

rachel_meets_jacob The story of Jacob marrying Rachel has always seemed to me as a good example of the making every possible effort for a temple marriage.  When Jacob was ready to get married, his father, Isaac, instructed him not to marry any of the daughters of Canaan because they were not of their faith. Rather, Isaac instructed Jacob to go to his uncle Laban’s home and seek a wife there, among people of their same faith (see Genesis 27 & 28).

So great was Jacob’s desire to marry someone of his faith that he traveled a great distance to meet Rachel, the daughter of Laban. They met at a well, feel in love, and Laban promised they could get married if Jacob would complete seven years of service. Genesis 29: 20 says, “And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.”

A Mission Prepares You for Temple Marriage

Elder Richard G. Scott said that mission “experiences will develop a foundation for the later blessing of your being a strong husband and father.”

Now may I speak from my heart of what an honorable full-time mission has meant to me personally…I fell in love with an exceptional young woman. At a critical point in our courtship, she made it very clear that she would only be married in the temple to a returned missionary. Duly motivated, I served a mission in Uruguay. It was not easy. The Lord gave me many challenges that became stepping-stones to personal growth. There I gained my testimony that God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, did in fact visit Joseph Smith to begin a restoration of truth, priesthood authority, and the true Church on earth…At the same time, my future eternal companion, Jeanene, was being molded to become an exceptional wife and mother by her own mission. Most important, all that I now hold dear in life began to mature in the mission field. Had I not been encouraged to be a missionary, I would not have the eternal companion or precious family I dearly love. (From Now Is the Time to Serve a Mission! Elder Richard G. Scott, Ensign May 2006)

Elder Gene R. Cook of the Seventy also explained how a mission prepares you for temple marriage:

May the Lord bless you to go forward humbly, prayerfully, and worthily to the mission field and serve as instruments in bringing many souls to him. Know clearly that there are hundreds of thousands who have done so, who have served and are serving faithfully and worthily in the work of the Lord. While you are young, set a pattern of worthiness and faithful service. Do so with all of your heart, and the Lord will greatly bless you, not only in the mission field, but through the rest of your life, your temple marriage, and right into the eternities. (From Worthy to Serve by Elder Gene R. Cook, New Era May 1994)

jimmy-heather-temple-marriage My Temple Marriage

I know that my faithful missionary service helped prepare me for a temple marriage. It helped me learn to get along with others, to work together for common goals, and it helped me grow spiritually and provide a sound foundation for a Christ-centered life along with my wife. I love my wife with all my heart, and I am eternally grateful that we started off our marriage the right way, being sealed by priesthood authority with a temple marriage. I know that as you strive to do your duty as a missionary, the Lord will bless you with a stronger marriage, and a happier life on earth and in heaven.

The following is a great little video with Elder Packer and Elder Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, talking about the blessing of a temple marriage.

Missionary Work Cleanses Sin

the-Crucifixion-of-jesus-christ One of the blessings of missionary work is that it cleanses sin. Of course only our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has the power to cleanse us of sin, but what I mean when I say that missionary work cleanses sin is that by faithfully doing missionary work, we naturally do the things that are necessary to put the atonement to work in our lives.

When I arrived in Argentina and had my first interview with my mission president, he shared this scriptural concept and it has always stuck with me. I wish I had written down the scripture he shared with me that day, but perhaps it’s better that I can’t remember what it was because it has caused my to do my own scripture study of the subject.

The following are scriptural examples I have found as evidence that missionary work cleanses sin:

  • To early Church missionaries the Lord said, “And in this place let them lift up their voice and declare my word with loud voices, without wrath or doubting, lifting up holy hands upon them. For I am able to make you holy, and your sins are forgiven you.” D&C 60:7
  • To the early pioneers of these latter days the Lord said, “And I give unto you, who are the first laborers in this last kingdom, a commandment that you assemble yourselves together, and organize yourselves, and prepare yourselves, and sanctify yourselves; yea, purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean.” D&C 88:74
  • Praying about the 12 apostles he chose in the ancient Americas, our Savior said, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast purified those whom I have chosen, because of their faith, and I pray for them, and also for them who shall believe on their words, that they may be purified in me, through faith on their words, even as they are purified in me.”3 Ne. 19: 28
  • When the ancient Jared rejected the prophet Ether after he was sent by God to exhort the people to believe in God, the Lord said, “If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.” Ether 12:37
  • Ezekiel 33:9 “if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.”
  • James 5: 20 “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” (The sins being hid could be interpreted as those of the converter or the convertee.)

jesus christ in america

Which, if any, of these scriptures was the one my mission president shared with me all those years ago, I do not know.  But it seems to me, through studying these scriptures, that sincere, true missionary efforts naturally leads to forgiveness of sins.  By being a worthy missionary and helping others come unto Christ, we ourselves are brought closer and receive His cleansing power.

It’s not the doing missionary work gives you a free pass from your sins.  It’s that to do true missionary work requires the individual to go through the God-given steps of faith, repentance, and cleansing Priesthood ordinances of salvation which make us worthy and able to return to live with God.

The main purpose of missionary work is to help bring others to Christ, but and importance secondary purpose is that it brings the missionaries themselves closer to Christ.  I thank Heavenly Father for this wonderful blessing of missionary work with its dual effect of gathering those into the restored gospel who previously did not know of it, and its ability to cleanse and purify the missionary workers themselves.

Why Mormon Missionaries Serve

From its beginnings, the Mormon Church has been a missionary oriented church, sending out missionaries to all parts of the world. Perhaps you have wondered why the Church asks so many missionaries to serve a Mormon mission?  And perhaps you have also wondered why so many young people (and some older missionaries too) are willing to put their life on hold and work to spread the gospel?  I thought I would devote today’s post to explaining why Mormon Missionaries serve.

Go ye therefore and teach all nations Harry Anderson

It’s a Commandment

Missionary work is a commandment from the Lord.  When the resurrected Jesus Christ met with his apostles he said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matt. 28: 19)  The Lord has reiterated that commandment in modern times when he said to Joseph Smith the Prophet, “Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor” (Doctrine & Covenants 88:81).

It Brings Us Joy

When we experience the blessings of living the gospel of Jesus Christ, we naturally want to share those blessings with others. The Lord spoke of the joy that comes into our lives when we shaalmada family parana argentinare His gospel when he said, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God…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!” (D&C 18:10,15).

The Book of Mormon also has a great illustration of this principle. In his vision of the Tree of Life, when Lehi had partaken of the fruit and tasted of its goodness, his first desire was to share it with his family. (see 1 Nephi 8: 12)

Why I Served My Mission?

I served a full-time mission for the Church in Rosario Argentina from 1995 to 1997.  Prior to my mission, there were several factors to contributed to why I wanted to serve.  I had been raised in the Church and had actively participated in Church activities all of my life.  I believed the teachings of the Church to be true. I knew Christ was my Savior, and that the Mormon Church was His Church.  I know Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon was the word of God.  I knew I had a priesthood duty to share the gospel with others. godoy family CAKE rosario argentina

During the mission, my reasons for serving grew and developed.  The reasons above are more in line with the commandment to do missionary work, but as I was engaged in the work, the joy of missionary service took over.  I realized that I had been called to serve a mission to bring the joy of the gospel to the Almada family in Parana, Argentina, and the Godoy family of Rosario, and dozens of other individuals and families.  Helping these people to know of the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, of the reality of our Heavenly Father, and of the eternal joy of family life, not only helped them, it also brought me joy and satisfaction beyond description.

Restoration of the Priesthood

John Baptist Aaronic Priesthood Joseph SmithToday marks the 180th anniversary of the restoration of the priesthood of God.  It was May 15, 1829 when Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery went into the woods on the banks of the Susquehanna River and prayed to God to for the authority to baptize.  Their prayer was answered and the resurrected John the Baptist, the same who baptized Jesus Christ, descended from heaven, laid his hands on their hands and ordained them to the Aaronic Priesthood.  This event is recorded in section 13 of the Doctrine and Covenants and this is what John said:

“Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”

Restoration of the Priesthood Video

Below is a video that I found depicting the restoration of the priesthood.  The video seems to be a 1970s seminary video produced by the LDS Church, but it’s good and short (about 6 minutes).  It portrays John the Baptist restoring the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery followed by Peter, James and John coming to restore the Melchizedek, or higher Priesthood.

elder david a bednarMissionary Work Inherent in the Priesthood
Elder David A. Bednar, in his Nov 2005 talk called Becoming a Missionary, said:

“All of us who have received the holy priesthood bear the sacred obligation to bless the nations and families of the earth by proclaiming the gospel and inviting all to receive by proper authority the ordinances of salvation…Proclaiming the gospel is not an activity in which we periodically and temporarily engage. And our labors as missionaries certainly are not confined to the short period of time devoted to full-time missionary service in our youth or in our mature years. Rather, the obligation to proclaim the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is inherent in the oath and covenant of the priesthood into which we enter. Missionary work essentially is a priesthood responsibility, and all of us who hold the priesthood are the Lord’s authorized servants on the earth and are missionaries at all times and in all places—and we always will be. Our very identity as holders of the priesthood and the seed of Abraham is in large measure defined by the responsibility to proclaim the gospel.”

Blessings of the Priesthood

So on this anniversary of such an important occasion as the restoration of the priesthood, I hope that we priesthood holders remember that missionary work is an inherent part of the priesthood we hold.  I also pray that we remember what a privilege and a blessing it is to hold the priesthood.  It is through the priesthood that the Lord does his work and blesses mankind.  And by being faithful in our priesthood callings, we prepare ourselves and become eligible to receive magnificent blessings from the Lord ourselves.

As it says in the oath and covenant of the priesthood found in D&C 84:33–34 “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”