This category of blog posts contains articles designed to help members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in preparing for a mission. The articles are on a variety of topics containing both practical tips for preparing physically as well as many posts on spiritual topics designed to help missionaries be prepared with knowledge and testimony of the restored gospel.

The History of LDS Seminary as It Celebrates 100 Years

First LDS Seminary near Granite High SchoolThe LDS Seminary and Institute programs are wonderful tools in helping young men and young women prepare for full-time missionary service. The year 2012 marks 100 years since the first Seminary class was establish. To commemorate this anniversary, the Church held a worldwide Seminary Centennial Broadcast on Sunday, January 22, 2012 with President Boyd K. Packer as the featured speaker.

A Brief History of the LDS Seminary Program

  • 1912: The first Seminary class is held at a home near Granite High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. Thomas J. Yates was hired as the first teacher and taught afternoon classes to 70 students.
  • 1920: Seminary enrollment was 2,982.
  • 1925: Seminary enrollment was 8,527.
  • 1926: President Heber J. Grant initiated “collegiate seminaries” which would later be called LDS Institutes of Religion.
  • 1938: There were ninety-eight functioning seminary programs in the following US states:  Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.
  • 1950: The early-morning seminary program began in California. The first early-morning seminary classes were taught before school in Church meetinghouses near public schools. Seminary enrollment was 28,677.first LDS seminary class in Brisbane Australian 1969
  • 1962: Early-morning seminary was introduced to Finland and Germany (a total of 34 students) in response to requests for programs outside of the U.S. and Canada.
  • 1967: The first home-study seminary classes begun in scattered rural areas for students are held in Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois.
  • 1975: Seminary enrollment was 183,670.
  • 1980: Sequential Scripture Teaching, the program to use the four books of scripture (Old Testament, New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants) for the four years of seminary, was introduced emphasizing the importance of using the scriptures in the lives of students.
  • 2010: Seminary enrollment was 369, 373.
  • 2012: 100 year anniversary of LDS Seminary.

Patriarchal Blessings

As I mention in my post on the mission application timeline, if you have not received your patriarch blessing by the time you begin to fill out your missionary paper work, you should make arrangements at that time to get it. Missionaries are required, per the instructions in the mission call letter, to receive a patriarchal blessing before they serve a full time mission.

What is a Patriarchal Blessing?

Jacob or Israel blessing his sonsA patriarchal blessing is a special blessing given to worthy members of the LDS Church by ordained patriarchs. Patriarchal blessings contain personal counsel from the Lord which a person can use throughout his or her life as well as a declaration of a person’s lineage in the house of Israel. As a person studies his or her patriarchal blessing and follows the counsel it contains, it will provide guidance, comfort, and protection.

Every Mormon can receive a patriarchal blessing once in their lifetime. There is no set age, but it is frequently done when the person is a teenager or soon after being baptized if they are an adult convert to the Church. The requirements for receiving a patriarchal blessing are that the person should be worthy and that they should be old enough to understand the significance of it.  The blessing is considered highly personal, and recipients are counseled not share their blessings with people outside of family members.

Importance of Patriarchal Blessings

A patriarchal blessing can reveal talents and strengths which the person should develop during life. Often, individuals receive guidance about weaknesses or temptations they may face. Sometimes prophecies may be made regarding the person’s life, and generally other blessings are promised which are contingent upon the faith and obedience of the individual.

The ancient apostle Paul wrote about patriarchs (he referred to them as “evangelists”) and the purpose and importance of patriarchal blessings in Ephesians 4:11-15

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”

James E. Faust Talk on Patriarchal Blessings

“As moved upon by the Holy Spirit, the patriarch declares by inspiration the lineage in the house of Israel of the recipient, together with such blessings, spiritual gifts, promises, advice, admonition, and warnings the patriarch feels inspired to give. The patriarchal blessing is, in essence, a prophetic blessing and utterance.

“A patriarchal blessing from an ordained patriarch can give us a star to follow, which is a personal revelation from God to each individual. If we follow this star, we are less likely to stumble and be misled. Our patriarchal blessing will be an anchor to our souls, and if we are worthy, neither death nor the devil can deprive us of the blessings pronounced. They are blessings we can enjoy now and forever.

As with many other blessings, patriarchal blessings should ordinarily be requested by the one desiring the blessing. Responsibility for receiving a patriarchal blessing rests primarily on the individual when he or she has sufficient understanding of the significance of a patriarchal blessing. I encourage all members of the Church having this maturity to become worthy and obtain their blessings. By their very nature, all blessings are conditional on worthiness, regardless of whether the blessing specifically spells out the qualifications. The patriarchal blessing is primarily a guide to the future, not an index to the past. Therefore, it is important that the recipient be young enough that many of the significant events of life are in the future.

…Patriarchal blessings should be read humbly, prayerfully, and frequently. A patriarchal blessing is very sacred and personal, but it may be shared with close family members. It is a sacred guideline of counsel, promises, and information from the Lord; however, a person should not expect the blessing to detail all that will happen to him or her or to answer all questions. The fact that one’s patriarchal blessing may not mention an important event in life, such as a mission or marriage, does not mean that it will not happen. In order to receive the fulfillment of our patriarchal blessings, we should treasure in our hearts the precious words they contain, ponder them, and so live that we will obtain the blessings in mortality and a crown of righteousness in the hereafter.” From Priesthood Blessings by James E. Faust

Patriarchal Blessings: Video from October 2011 General Conference

The following is a video montage and transcript of words and testimonies from the living apostles during the October 2011 General Conference regarding patriarchal blessings:

President Boyd K. Packer, Counsel to Youth

“Against the certainty that I would be drafted, I joined the air force. Soon I was in Santa Ana, California, for preflight training. I did not then have a firm testimony that the gospel was true, but I knew that my seminary teachers, Abel S. Rich and John P. Lillywhite, knew it was true. I had heard them testify, and I believed them. I thought to myself, “I will lean on their testimonies until I gain one of my own.” And so it was.

“I had heard about patriarchal blessings but had not received one. In each stake there is an ordained patriarch who has the spirit of prophecy and the spirit of revelation. He is authorized to give personal and private blessings to those who come recommended by their bishops. I wrote to my bishop for a recommend. J. Roland Sandstrom was the ordained patriarch living in the Santa Ana stake. He knew nothing about me and had never seen me before, but he gave me my blessing. In it I found answers and instruction.

“While patriarchal blessings are very private, I will share a short quote from mine: “You shall be guided through the whisperings of the Holy Spirit and you shall be warned of dangers. If you heed those warnings, our Heavenly Father will bless you so that you might again be united with your loved ones. That word if, though small in print, loomed as big as the page. I would be blessed to return from the war if I kept the commandments and if I heeded the promptings of the Holy Ghost.”

Elder Russell M. Nelson, Covenants

“Some of us are the literal seed of Abraham; others are gathered into his family by adoption. The Lord makes no distinction. Together we receive these promised blessings—if we seek the Lord and obey His commandments. But if we don’t, we lose the blessings of the covenant. To assist us, His Church provides patriarchal blessings to give each recipient a vision for his or her future as well as a connection with the past, even a declaration of lineage back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Elder Robert D. Hales, Waiting upon the Lord

“We may not know when or how the Lord’s answers will be given, but in His time and His way, I testify, His answers will come. For some answers we may have to wait until the hereafter. This may be true for some promises in our patriarchal blessings and for some blessings for family members. Let us not give up on the Lord. His blessings are eternal, not temporary.”

Elder David A. Bednar, The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn

“I encourage you to study, to search out your ancestors, and to prepare yourselves to perform proxy baptisms in the house of the Lord for your kindred dead (see D&C 124:28–36). And I urge you to help other people identify their family histories.

“As you respond in faith to this invitation, your hearts shall turn to the fathers. The promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be implanted in your hearts. Your patriarchal blessing, with its declaration of lineage, will link you to these fathers and be more meaningful to you. Your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase. Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding. And I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives.”

 

Missionary Requirements

A reader emailed me and asked what are the requirements to serve a mission. It was then that I realized that I had never put all the qualifications for full-time missionary service in one place, so here we go.

Requirements to Serve a Full-Time Mission in Your Youth 

Missionary putting on name tagThe Lord expects every young man who is able, and as many young women as have the desire, to prepare spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially and to serve a full-time mission. Full-time missionary service is a privilege, not a right, and in order to qualify for this privilege, young men and women should meet the following qualifications:

  • Be worthy: The Lord expects young men and women to keep themselves clean and worthy, repent, keep the commandments, and live a righteous life. By so doing, they can have His Spirit and represent the Savior and His Church. For more information on this topic, see my post on what it means to be worthy to serve a mission.
  • Age requirements: Men should be ages 18 through 25 and able to serve for 24 months. Women should be ages 19 and up and able to serve for 18 months. There are some rare exceptions to the 18 year old rule for young men. If a young man’s father is a mission president, they may be able to go at a younger age.
  • Be single and unmarried. People who have been divorced, young men who have fathered a child, or young women who have given birth to a child are not normally recommended to serve full-time missions. If exceptions were to occur, you would need to speak with your bishop to get his endorsement.
  • Be spiritually prepared: Spiritual preparation means reading the scriptures and praying regularly, building faith in Jesus Christ, and developing a testimony of the Lord’s true Church. It also means living the commandments and being an example to others of what it means to be a true follower of the Savior. Preparing spiritually also includes studying and understanding gospel principles, attending Church meetings regularly, and honoring the priesthood if you are a young man.
  • Be physically prepared: Missionary work can be very physically demanding. Many missionaries have to walk or ride bikes for as much as twelve hours a day. Before serving, a doctor must certify that the potential missionary is physically able to handle the work. A prospective missionary who has a physical disability or medical limitation may or may not be recommended to serve a mission depending on the severity of the issue. In many cases, people with physical disabilities or serious medical conditions can still be called to serve, but they often have restrictions placed on exactly how or where they go, or in some cases they are able to serve Church Service Missions.
  • Be financially prepared: Future missionaries should begin at as early an age as possible to save money to pay for their mission expenses. Missionaries and their families should be prepared to make sacrifices to provide financial support for a mission. However, young people who are worthy should not be prevented from serving a mission solely for financial reasons when they and their families have made sacrifices according to their ability. See this article for ideas for earning money and saving for a mission.
  • Be mentally and emotionally prepared: A mission requires young people to be of sound mind and emotionally capable of living and working independently. Candidates for missionary service who have previously had significant mental or emotional challenges must be stabilized and confirmed by a medical professional to be fully functional before being recommended for a mission. Young people who have severe mental or emotional challenges are honorably excused from missionary service, though many of them can, if they desire, participate as a Church Service Missionary.
  • Able to receive the Temple Endowment. Future missionaries are instructed to go to the temple to receive their endowment prior to starting their mission. This usually happens within a few weeks or a month of entering the MTC. This requirement also means, by implication, that potential missionaries should be a member for at least a year prior to beginning their missionary service.
  • Melchizedek Priesthood Ordination for young men. Young men should be given the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordained to the office of an Elder prior to going on a mission and prior to receiving the temple endowment. Receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood, like many of the other steps above, requires preparation and worthiness.
  • Receive a patriarchal blessing. For many youth, they will receive their patriarchal blessing long before, sometimes years before, going on a mission. There is no set age for receiving a patriarchal blessing, but missionaries are required to get it before entering the mission field.

Young men and women who meet these requirements can set up an interview with their bishop, begin filling out the mission paperwork, and complete the other steps of the mission call process.  Please remember that while full-time missionary service is a priesthood responsibility of young men, women should not feel obligated to serve missions.

Senior Couples’ Full-Time Missionary Requirements

Senior couples’ requirements to serve a mission are similar in many respects to the young people, with some differences.

  • Age requirements: There really aren’t any, so long as the couple is physically, mentally, and emotionally able. There is a great variety of assignments that senior couples can be given ranging from some that are physically demanding to other that are not.
  • Married. The couple should be married (obviously otherwise you wouldn’t be a couple). Elderly single women can serve full-time missions, but elderly single men usually do not.
  • No children at home. The couple shouldn’t have any dependent children still living at home.
  • Able to serve for between 6 months and 2 years. Senior couples have the flexibility to choose the length of a mission that works for them.
  • Retired. Neither one of the couple should be engaged in full-time employment.

What Does It Mean to Be Worthy to Serve a Mission

Youth going to the templeLet’s talk about what it means to be worthy to serve a mission. The prophets have long taught that every worthy young man should serve a mission, and that every young man should strive to be worthy. Worthiness requirements for missionaries are set forth in the scriptures and through the living prophets. Let’s first discuss what it means to be worthy to serve a mission according to the scriptures.

Worthiness Requirements from the Scriptures

Missionaries who represent the Lord and His Church must meet the qualifications revealed in section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord said: “O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day… And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work. Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence” (D&C 4:2, 5-6). The scriptures also discuss how missionaries are required to be morally clean. See D&C 38:42 where the Lord said “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.”

Repentance of Serious Transgressions

A prospective missionary who has been guilty of serious sins such as violations of the law of chastity, drug abuse, serious crimes, or other sexual sins or serious transgressions must repent completely before they can be considered worthy to go on a mission. If this applies to you, your bishop and stake president must confirm that you have been free of transgression for sufficient time to manifest sincere repentance. This time period is generally one year from the most recent occurrence of a serious transgression, but could be as long as three years for multiple serious violations. You must show evidence of a broken heart and contrite spirit and demonstrate a lasting change of behavior, and follow the revealed steps of repentance.

Temple Worthy

Young people must also be worthy to enter the temple before they can be considered worthy to serve a full-time mission. We won’t go into detail on all the temple recommend topics here, but let’s hit the highlights. You must…

  • Believe in God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
  • Have a testimony of the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ.
  • Have a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators.
  • Be honest in all you say and do, attend Church meetings, and live in harmony with the teachings of our Savior and His Church.
  • Live the law of chastity.
  • Be a full-tithe payer.
  • Keep the Word of Wisdom.
  • Not support or affiliate with anti-Mormon groups or individuals.
  • Resolved any serious sins or misdeeds with priesthood authorities.

Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

Keeping the Sabbath day holy is one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for a mission. As you keep yourself unspotted from the world through proper Sabbath Day observance (see D&C 59:9), you will draw closer to the Lord, and you will find yourself more willing to make sacrifices in order to further the work of the Lord through missionary service.

When Moses came down from the mountain with the ten commandments, this is what the Lord said, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work.” (Exodus 20: 8-10) Modern prophets have taught us that keeping the Sabbath day holy also means not shopping or playing sports on Sunday. I’d like to share three stories with you about the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy. I hope these examples fortify your desire to always keep the Sabbath day holy, and to continue to prepare yourselves to serve a faithful mission to help bring others to Christ.

  1. Eli Herring, a BYU football player who turned down the NFL because he wouldn’t play on Sunday.
  2. An experience I had that taught me the importance of not working on Sunday.
  3. Clayton Christensen, who missed his championship basketball game because it was held on Sunday.

Eli Herring Football CoachEli Herring: Said No to the NFL and Sunday Football

Eli Herring went to High School in Springville Utah where he participated in football, basketball, wrestling and track. He was the captain of the football team and earned All-Region and All-State honors and led his team the state championship. He was recruited to play football by several universities but choose BYU because it was the only school that did not withdraw a scholarship offer when he announced his plans serve a Mormon mission.

After his freshman year at BYU, Eli Herring was called to serve an LDS mission in Salta, Argentina. Brother Herring served honorably and came back from his two-year mission stronger, faster, more coordinated, and even more ready to play football. Brother Herring played the position of offensive tackle and earned honorable mention from the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) in 1993 and made the second team All-WAC in 1994. In addition to football, during his time at BYU, Brother Herring earned a bachelors degree in mathematics and got married to his sweetheart, Jennifer Anderson.

Brother Herring was projected to be a first round draft choice in the 1995 NFL draft, but he made the decision to forgo a professional career. Brother Herring wouldn’t play football on the Sabbath, and he wrote letters to each NFL team saying so. Regardless, he was still drafted in the sixth round by the Oakland Raiders. Raiders’ assistant coach Bruce Allen flew to Provo and offered Eli a three-year, $1.5 million contract, but he rejected it.

Eli Herring and his wife Jennifer now have seven children. Brother Herring works as a school teacher and assistant football coach at Mountain View High School in Orem, Utah. His starting salary as a high school teacher was around $22,000 a year, which, at that pace, would take him over 20 years to earn what the Raiders would have paid him in a single season. Without hesitation, Brother Herring says he does not regret his decision to stand by his principles rather than have a professional football career. (See the Wikipedia article on Eli Herring)

Jimmy Smith: Learned to Not Work on Sunday

When I was in high school, I had a job at McDonald’s. I always liked working the cash register, but they always had me in the back making the hamburgers. I was one of the fastest hamburger makers they had, so they almost never let me be a cashier. My first month on the job, I got the employee of the month award. It was a good after school job. It helped me save money for my mission, and the fringe benefits were nice…free hamburgers, french fries, and milk shakes.

One Sunday, I was sitting at home after church when the phone rang. It was the manager of my McDonald’s asking me to come into work. Now I had told the people at McDonald’s from the beginning that I wouldn’t work on Sunday, so they never scheduled my regular shift on the Sabbath. But this particular Sunday, they said, was an emergency, because several workers didn’t show up and they really needed someone to come in and help.

I asked my parents if I could go into work just this one time because it was an “emergency.” My parents left the decision up to me, and I decided to go in and work. While there, cooking up Big Macs and Quarter Pounders in the kitchen area, I noticed several of my school friends walk into the restaurant. These friends knew of my Mormon faith and I had remembered talking to them about my beliefs, including keeping the Sabbath day holy. I was embarrassed for them to see me, and luckily, they didn’t. On that day, for once, I was glad to be in the back cooking, rather than up front working the cash register.

I immediately knew that I had made the wrong decision to break the Sabbath and go into work that day. From that time forward my faith and determination was fortified to avoid working on Sunday and to keep the Sabbath day holy. And I am grateful that the Lord has always blessed me for keeping that commandment. I know my life before, during, and after my mission has been blessed by keeping the Sabbath day holy.

Clayton Christensen: No College Basketball For Him on Sunday

From President Thomas S. Monson’s October 2010 General Conference Talk, The Three Rs of Choice… “May I share with you an example of one who determined early in life what his goals would be. I speak of Brother Clayton M. Christensen, a member of the Church who is a professor of business administration in the business school at Harvard University.

“When he was 16 years old, Brother Christensen decided, among other things, that he would not play sports on Sunday. Years later, when he attended Oxford University in England, he played center on the basketball team. That year they had an undefeated season and went through to the British equivalent of what in the United States would be the NCAA basketball tournament.

“They won their games fairly easily in the tournament, making it to the final four. It was then that Brother Christensen looked at the schedule and, to his absolute horror, saw that the final basketball game was scheduled to be played on a Sunday. He and the team had worked so hard to get where they were, and he was the starting center. He went to his coach with his dilemma. His coach was unsympathetic and told Brother Christensen he expected him to play in the game.

“Prior to the final game, however, there was a semifinal game. Unfortunately, the backup center dislocated his shoulder, which increased the pressure on Brother Christensen to play in the final game. He went to his hotel room. He knelt down. He asked his Heavenly Father if it would be all right, just this once, if he played that game on Sunday. He said that before he had finished praying, he received the answer: “Clayton, what are you even asking me for? You know the answer.”

“He went to his coach, telling him how sorry he was that he wouldn’t be playing in the final game. Then he went to the Sunday meetings in the local ward while his team played without him. He prayed mightily for their success. They did win.

“That fateful, difficult decision was made more than 30 years ago. Brother Christensen has said that as time has passed, he considers it one of the most important decisions he ever made. It would have been very easy to have said, “You know, in general, keeping the Sabbath day holy is the right commandment, but in my particular extenuating circumstance, it’s okay, just this once, if I don’t do it.” However, he says his entire life has turned out to be an unending stream of extenuating circumstances, and had he crossed the line just that once, then the next time something came up that was so demanding and critical, it would have been so much easier to cross the line again. The lesson he learned is that it is easier to keep the commandments 100 percent of the time than it is 98 percent of the time.” (Thomas S. Monson, “The Three Rs of Choice,” October 2010)

Here’s the video version of President Monson’s story about Brother Christensen:

The Mother’s Role in Mission Prep Part 2

Last year, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared this story as an indroduction to the vital role that mothers play in preparing their sons and daughters to be missionaries: “I was in charge, chairman of the Priesthood Executive Council. We’re together and talking about how we can get more young men on missions. And Elaine Jack raised her hand. She was then Relief Society president. She said, ‘Elder Ballard, why don’t you ask the women? Perhaps we could help; after all, we are their mothers’ ” (A Conversation on Counseling Together in the Workplace, June 9, 2010).

A Mother and SonToday I’d like to talk more about the mother’s role in preparing their sons and daughters to be missionaries. I say ‘more’ because a couple of years ago I talked about the mothers’ role in mission prep, when I wrote about how most Latter-day Saint mothers were already doing many things to help their children become great missionaries some day–things like teaching them to get along with others, to be clean and tidy, to obey the first principles of the gospel, and to read The Book of Mormon.

A note to fathers: most of the content, though specifically addressed to mothers, is equally important and applicable to fathers. You may also be interested in an article from a couple years ago in which I asked my dad to talk about what he did to prepare his sons for a mission.

President Hinckley to Mothers: Nurture Your Children with Love and Counsel

“Nurture your sons with love and counsel. Teach them the importance of personal cleanliness, of neatness in their dress. Sloppy ways lead to sloppy lives. Instill in them a sense of discipline. Keep them worthy of service to the Church as missionaries. Give them things to do so that they may learn to work. Teach them to be frugal. Labor and frugality lead to prosperity. Teach them that nothing really good happens after 11 o’clock at night. And do not spoil them. If they go on missions, they may be compelled to live in circumstances that you would not wish for them. Do not worry about them. Give them encouragement” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “To the Women of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 2003).

Elder Ballard’s Counsel for Happy and Successful Missionaries

Elder M. Russell Ballard, when serving as a mission president, asked his missionaries to answer this question: “ ‘What could my mother have done to better prepare me?’ They said: ‘Somehow Mom should have insisted that I pay more attention when she was trying to teach me about housekeeping—cooking, cleaning, laundry, bargain shopping, personal hygiene, mending, quick recipes.’” Elder Ballard then gave this counsel: “Mothers, teach your children to be sensitive and aware of the needs of others. Teach them to know and to practice basic principles of good human relations. … Put your arms around your children, look them squarely in the eye, and tell them to learn these skills because you want them to be happy and successful on their mission” (Conference Report, Oct. 1976).

President Benson to Young Men: Draw Close to Your Mother

“My young brethren, I counsel each of you to draw close to your own mother. Respect her. Honor her. Receive your mother’s counsel as she loves and instructs you in righteousness. And honor and obey your father as he stands as the head of the home, emulating his manly qualities” (President Ezra Taft Benson, To the “Youth of the Noble Birthright”, Ensign, May 1986).

Heavenly Father Will Be There When Mothers Can’t Be

Elder Hugh B. Brown told how his mother helped him to rely on the Lord during his mission in England. She said to him as he left: “ ‘Hugh, my son, do you remember when you were a little boy you often had bad dreams, nightmares, and you called out to me as I was sleeping in the next room: “Mother, Mother, are you there?” Do you remember I always said, “Yes, my son, I’m here. Just turn over and go to sleep. Everything is all right.” ’ She said, ‘My boy, five thousand miles must now separate us, across a continent and an ocean. You are not going to have bad dreams only at night, but many times, in the daytime, you are going to want to call for help and comfort. Son, when you are beset with difficulties, when you meet temptation, when you are confused and don’t know where to go, call out and say, “Father, are you there?” ’ She said, ‘My boy, I promise you He will always answer and you need not fear’ ” (The Abundant Life [1965], 202–3).

Parents: Teach Your Children to Have Faith in God

“Parents, do you realize what great power you have in the lives of your sons? When you teach them that there is a just God and that He wants every able and worthy young man to serve a mission, your sons will have the faith to answer the Lord’s call” (H. Byran Richards, “As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord”, General Conference, October 1998).

Lessons Learned from Sheep and a Shepherd

shepherd with sheep leon fieldingThe Savior uses sheep and shepherd analogies throughout his teachings and throughout the scriptures. To understand these teachings better, my co-workers and I recently visited a sheep farm in Huntsville, Utah. We spoke with the shepherd and learned much about lambs, sheep, and shepherding.

A Good Shepherd Risks His Life for His Sheep

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10: 11)

The name of the shepherd we spoke with was Leon Fielding. Brother Fielding told us many stories about how he sacrificed sleep and risked his life to care for and protect his sheep. He said in the time of year when the sheep give birth, he will go days without sleep, so that he can be there to take care of the new lamb when it is born. He has also stayed up all night in a tree on his farm to protect his flock from coyotes.

Coyotes Attack the Strongest Sheep First

sheep llama shepherd“He that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.” (John 10: 12)

Brother Fielding doesn’t have to defend his flock against wolves; where he lives coyotes are the prevalent predators that try get his sheep. Brother Fielding mentioned something interesting about the coyotes if they ever happen to get in the sheep pasture: they attack the strongest sheep first. He speculated that this is because the coyotes enjoy the challenge. It may also be due to the fact that with the strongest sheep gone, the smaller, weaker ones will be easier to get. (Note the llama in the photo helps protect the sheep from coyotes.)

I think the same is often true within the Savior’s flock, that Satan frequently attacks the strongest among us. I saw many investigators on my mission that, as they started to progress in the gospel, they frequently would begin to encounter trials and temptations. Those of great faith would conquer those trials and come through even stronger in their testimony (like the Almada family).

A Good Shepherd Knows His Sheep

shepherd calling sheep“For behold I know my sheep, and they are numbered.” (3 Nephi 18:31)
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” (John 10: 14)

Brother Fielding knows exactly how many sheep are in his flock. He knows if the coyotes get one, and he knows if a stray sheep finds its way into his flock.  He knows his sheep, their names, and their personalities. He knew that there was one sheep in the flock that would rub up against him and have Brother Fielding scratch his neck all day if he would let him. And sure enough, as soon as he called them over, that sheep came to him for a back rub.

Sheep Recognize the Shepherd and Follow His Voice

sheep eating from hand of strangerJesus said this of the shepherd: “The sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” (John 10: 3-5)

As soon as me and my co-workers walked up to the gate outside the field, the sheep all walked to the far side of the field. We were wearing strange clothes and we were talking in voices they did not recognize. But once their shepherd, Brother Fielding, called for them they came right over, walked among us, and some of the sheep even took food from people in our group. (And you better believe the llama was keeping a close eye on us throughout.)

In the mission field, you represent the Savior and therefore your voice is his voice in gathering His sheep into the fold through baptism. In my mission, I learned that those who are true followers of Christ will recognize that the restored gospel we preach comes from the Good Shepherd, and they will want to join the Church. “Ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.” (D&C 29:7)

A Good Shepherd Finds the Lost Sheep

two lambs“And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” (Luke 15:3-5)

Sheep are quick to flee and panic in the face of stress which makes shepherding a difficult task for the untrained shepherd. But sheep also have a natural inclination to follow a leader, though in the absence of a shepherd a leader is often simply the first sheep to move.

So it is with people, particularly young people. With proper leadership and examples, youth tend to live up to expectations and follow righteous paths. But frequently young people follow the crowd or the example of friends and peers. It is often in these times that they get lost from the Savior’s fold. Thankfully, we have parents, home teachers, and other Church leaders who will leave the ninety and nine to go rescue the lost sheep.

Feed My Sheep

shepherd feeding sheep“Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (John 21: 15-17)

It goes without saying that a good shepherd feeds his or her sheep. May we all feed the Lord’s sheep, both those in our families, in the Church, and throughout the world. We can feed the Lord’s sheep by being good parents, holding regular family home evening, and daily family prayer and scripture study. We can feed the Lord’s in our wards and stakes by magnifying our callings, being faithful home teachers and visiting teachers, and fulfilling other assignments. And we can feed the Savior’s other sheep throughout the world through faithful missionary service.

All photos in this post are courtesy of Patti Rokus.

Respect for Women

Learning respect for women is an important part of mission prep. A young man who holds the priesthood of God and is preparing to be a missionary needs to understand the high calling of women and the importance of honoring them. I recently put together the following presentation on respecting womanhood for the 11-year-old Scouts in my ward. Feel free to download it and use it yourself.

Download: Teaching Young Men Respect for Women
View more presentations from Jimmy Smith.

The presentation discusses 10 ways that young men can honor women:

  1. Show respect and courtesy to young women
  2. Show gratitude to the women in your life
  3. Be virtuous and chaste in word and deed
  4. Faithfully attend to priesthood duties
  5. Prepare for marriage and fatherhood
  6. Honor thy father and thy mother
  7. Be an example of the believers
  8. Keep the commandments
  9. Serve a full-time mission
  10. Avoid pornography

Show respect and courtesy to young women

“You young men must cultivate a considerate attitude toward women of all ages. The young women asked me to tell you that they want you to respect them and show them common, sincere courtesy. Do not hesitate to show your good manners by opening a door for them, taking the initiative in inviting them on a date, and standing as they enter a room.” –M. Russell Ballard, “Purity Precedes Power,” Ensign, Nov. 1990

Show gratitude to the women in your life

“You young men need to know that you can hardly achieve your highest potential without the influence of good women, particularly your mother and, in a few years, a good wife. Learn now to show respect and gratitude… Thank her and express your love for her… The influence of your mother will bless you throughout life, especially when you serve as a missionary.” -Russell M. Nelson, “Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women,” April 1999

Be virtuous and chaste in word and deed

“Use language that uplifts, encourages, and compliments others. Do not insult others or put them down, even in joking. Speak kindly and positively about others so you can fulfill the Lord’s commandment to love one another.” -For the Strength of Youth

Faithfully attend to priesthood duties

“I know the immense joy and happiness that come from loving, cherishing, and respecting my precious wife with all my heart and soul. May your use of the priesthood and treatment of the important women in your life bring you the same satisfaction.” -Richard G. Scott, “Honor the Priesthood and Use It Well,” Ensign, Nov. 2008

We who bear the holy priesthood have a sacred duty to honor our sisters. We are old enough and wise enough to know that teasing is wrong. We respect sisters—not only in our immediate families but all the wonderful sisters in our lives. As daughters of God, their potential is divine. Without them, eternal life would be impossible.” -Russell M. Nelson, “Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women,” April 1999

Prepare for marriage and fatherhood

“ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. …By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” -The Family, A Proclamation to the World

“In the celestial glory there are three heavens…in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into …the new and everlasting covenant of marriage.” -Doctrine and Covenants 131:2
The apostle Paul counseled: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). Start now to obey that commandment by…

  • Respecting your mothers and grandmothers.
  • Respecting your sisters and aunts.
  • Respecting the women and young women in your ward.

Honor thy father and thy mother

The 2,000 Stripling Warriors honored their mothers: “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

Our Savior honored his mother. “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother… When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” -John 19: 25-27

Be an example of the believers
Be a good example to your friends and always show respect for women. “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” -1 Tim 4:12

Keep the commandments
“Let us speak about our worthy and wonderful sisters, particularly our mothers, and consider our sacred duty to honor them…if one dishonors the commandments of God, one dishonors mother, and if one dishonors mother, one dishonors the commandments of God.” -Russell M. Nelson, “Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women,” April 1999

Serve a full-time mission

“Missionary service is a priesthood duty—an obligation the Lord expects of us who have been given so very much. Young men, I admonish you to prepare for service as a missionary. Keep yourselves clean and pure and worthy to represent the Lord.” -President Thomas S. Monson, As We Meet Together Again, October 2010

Young women in the Church are taught to respect young men and encourage them to serve a full-time mission. Young men can honor those young women by faithfully serving a full-time mission.

Avoid pornography
“I warn against pornography. It is degrading of women. It is evil. It is infectious, destructive, and addictive. The body has means by which it can cleanse itself from harmful effects of contaminated food or drink. But it cannot vomit back the poison of pornography. Once recorded, it always remains subject to recall, flashing its perverted images across your mind, with power to draw you away from the wholesome things in life. Avoid it like the plague!” -Russell M. Nelson, “Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women,” April 1999

Scripture Mastery and New Seminary Site

lds seminay site screen shotI’d like to talk today about Scripture Mastery, both the Seminary program by that name and the concept of mastering the scriptures in order to be a more effective missionary.

First, though, I’d like to put a plug in for the new LDS Seminary website.

Visit the New LDS Seminary Website

The Church recently completely revamped the Seminary site. The site has downloadable songs and sheet music from the Doctrine and Covenants, this year’s course of study, as well as music for the other books of scripture. The site has Scripture Mastery games and activities to help you become more proficient in your knowledge of the scriptures.

The Church’s Seminary and Institute programs help youth understand and rely on the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Active participation in Seminary and Institute serves as great mission preparation and also prepares youth to return to live with our Father in Heaven and have eternal life.

Scripture Mastery

For those of you in high school and enrolled Seminary, you know that studying the scriptures is a vital part of that program. The Scripture Mastery verses will help you (no surprise here) master the scriptures. If you do your Scripture Mastery faithfully for your four years in seminary, you will come away having memorized 100 very powerful scriptures.

Having the words of the scriptures, the “words of life,” (see D&C 84: 85) at the top of your mind will make you a better prepared missionary. Missionaries who know and use the scriptures will teach more powerfully, will be more likely to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and will be more effective in bringing souls unto Christ.

This is what Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said about knowing important scriptures by heart:

“I suggest that you memorize scriptures that touch your heart and fill your soul with understanding. When scriptures are used as the Lord has caused them to be recorded, they have intrinsic power that is not communicated when paraphrased. Sometimes when there is a significant need in my life, I review mentally scriptures that have given me strength. There is great solace, direction, and power that flow from the scriptures, especially the words of the Lord” (Richard G. Scott, in Conference Report, Oct. 1999, 112; or Ensign, Nov. 1999, 87–88).

My young brothers and sisters, I cannot stress enough the importance of becoming familiar with the scriptures prior to your mission. Read from the scriptures daily, even if it is only a few verses. You will learn the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and you will build your own testimonies. Perhaps at no point in your life will you have more ample time and reason to study the scriptures than on your mission. Take advantage of that time, read and study, ponder and pray about the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the other standard works.

Receiving Your Own Testimony of the Scriptures

If you haven’t received your own personal testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and the other scriptures, begin now to read them and pray to God to know if they are true. There is a scripture in Moroni chapter 10 verse 4 that, as a missionary, you will use frequently in your teachings. You can use it on yourself to come to know the scriptures truly are the words of God:

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:4).

With a personal witness that the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and the other scriptures are true, you will be able to go forward with more faith and confidence. You will be able to teach and testify with the Spirit and power of the Lord. And the more fully you come to know the scriptures, the more fully you will be able to tap into that intrinsic (built-in or natural) power of the word of God spoken of by Elder Scott.

The MTC Experience – KSL Video

This video shows what happens on the inside of the Missionary Training Center (MTC). In 2011, the Provo, Utah MTC celebrated it’s 50th Anniversary. This video is a short version of the one that was presented by KSL’s Carole Mikita on Sunday, April 3rd, 2011.