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.

Missionary Preparation Class

youth-mission-prep-classSpencer W. Kimball, 12th President of the Church, once asked this of future missionaries: “Will you be a valiant and effective one or merely a set-apart missionary? This will depend on your preparation.” (from Advice to a Young Man: Now Is the Time to Prepare)

A missionary preparation class is a great way for young men and young women to further their mission prep. Missionary preparation classes are usually available from several sources:

  • From your ward or stake (branch or district). If you are under 18 and would like to take a mission prep class, talk to one of your local leaders (your young men’s president, or bishop, etc.) to see if your ward or stake offers a class.
  • From a Church college (BYU, etc.). If you are attending a Church-sponsored college, see about signing up for one of the mission prep classes they offer.
  • From an LDS Institute of Religion: If you are attending another college, see if there is an LDS Institute of Religion nearby. They likely offer a missionary preparation class.

Mission Prep Institute Classes Open to All: Ages 18-30

According to the Church’s Institutes of Religion website, single and married young adults, postsecondary students, and all young single adults (generally 18-30 years old) are also welcome to attend Institute classes. That means that if you are a young person thinking about going on a mission in the next year or two, if none of the other sources of a mission prep class are available, you could attend a course at Institute. Institute classes are free of charge, and you can find one near you with Institute of Religion Locator. Now is a great time to sign up for a mission prep class as new classes start in January at many Institutes.

Topics Covered in the Missionary Preparation Class

Whether you take the class from your ward or through an official Institute class, your teacher will likely use the official Church Mission Prep Student Manual. Subjects covered in this official Missionary Preparation course are:

  • Understanding the call to serve a mission
  • Learning the gospel by study and also by faith
  • Teaching about the Apostasy, the Restoration
  • The importance of living prophets and latter-day scripture
  • Understanding, recognizing, and teaching with the Holy Ghost
  • Personal worthiness and developing Christ-like attributes
  • Physical preparation and using time wisely
  • The conversion process and preparing investigators for baptism

Online Mission Prep Webinar

For those of you who cannot attend a mission prep class, please check out my Mission Prep Webinars. You can watch the video presentations or download the PowerPoint slides.

For the Strength of Youth Standards

strength-of-youth-pamphlets The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet is a wonderful booklet for all youth, and it is especially important for young men and women who are preparing to go on a mission, containing a description of the Lord’s standards of behavior for youth. It has topics around dating, dress, media (TV, movies, music, internet, etc.), worthiness, chastity, and much more.

For the Strength of Youth summarizes standards from the scriptures and from the writings and teachings of our living prophets and other leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These youth standards are viewable the Youth website, in print as the For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet, and as a wallet-sized card. These standards serve for the guidance, strength, and blessing of the youth of our Church or any youth who chooses to live by these divinely inspired guidelines.

Strength of Youth Principles Prepare Missionaries Spiritually

Elder M. Russell Ballard, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recently said, “I also recommend that youth study and follow the guidelines in For the Strength of Youth. Missionaries need to be morally clean and spiritually ready. If they live the principles in For the Strength of Youth, they will be spiritually prepared to be great missionaries.” (New Era, March 2007, How to Prepare to Be a Good Missionary)

Summary of the For the Strength of Youth Principles

For your reference, here is the text of the For the Strength of Youth wallet card, which provides an excellent summary of the full text found in the pamphlet.

  • Agency and Accountability: Choose righteousness and happiness, no matter what your circumstances. Take responsibility for the choices you make. Develop your abilities and talents, and use them for good. Avoid idleness and be willing to work hard.
  • Gratitude: Have a spirit of gratitude in all you do and say. Thank God for your blessings, and express appreciation to others who help you.
  • Education: Prepare to be an influence for good in the world. Obtain an education, and be enthusiastic about learning. Attend seminary.
  • Family: Do your part to build a happy home. Honor your parents, and strengthen your relationships with your brothers and sisters.
  • Friends: Choose friends who share your high standards. Treat everyone with kindness and respect. Invite friends of other faiths to Church activities. Reach out to new converts and those who are less active.
  • Dress and Appearance: Dress modestly to show respect for God and yourself. Never lower your dress standards for any occasion. Do not disfigure your body with tattoos and body piercings.
  • Entertainment and the Media: Choose uplifting entertainment. Avoid anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Commit to keeping God’s standards.
  • Music and Dancing: Listen to music that helps you draw closer to Heavenly Father. Do not listen to music that encourages immorality, glorifies violence, or uses offensive language. When dancing, avoid full body contact or suggestive movements.
  • Language: Use language that uplifts, encourages, and compliments others. Use the names of God and Jesus Christ with reverence and respect. Do not use profane, vulgar, or crude language or gestures.
  • Dating: Do not date until you are at least 16 years old. Date only those who have high standards. When you begin dating, go in groups or on double dates. Plan activities that help you remain close to the Spirit of the Lord.
  • Sexual Purity: Keep yourself sexually pure. Do not have any sexual relations before marriage. Do not participate in talk or activities that arouse sexual feelings. Do not participate in homosexual activities. Seek help if you become a victim of rape, incest, or other sexual abuse.
  • Repentance: Through the Savior’s Atonement, you can receive forgiveness and be cleansed from your sins when you repent. Confess your sins to the Lord and to those you have wronged. If the sins are serious, you also need to confess them to your bishop.
  • Honesty: Be honest with yourself, others, and the Lord. Do not rationalize that dishonesty is right.
  • Sabbath Day Observance: Use the Sabbath to worship the Lord, attend church, draw closer to your family, and help others. Do not seek entertainment or spend money on the Sabbath. When possible, avoid working on Sunday.
  • Tithes and Offerings: Willingly pay a full tithe. Attend tithing settlement. Obey the law of the fast.
  • Physical Health: Keep the Word of Wisdom. Eat nutritious food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Do not use hard drugs, alcohol, coffee, tea, or tobacco products. Do not abuse prescription or over-the-counter medications.
  • Service to Others: Serve others in your Church assignments and in your home, school, and community. Seek daily the guidance of the Holy Ghost to know whom to serve and how to help meet their needs.
  • Go Forward with Faith: Be true to the Lord and to His Church. Regularly pray in private and read the scriptures. Keep your covenants and listen to the whisperings of the Spirit. The Lord will help you meet your trials and challenges.

I know that as you keep these standards, the Lord will bless you and strengthen you. You will keep yourself worthy to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and stay worthy to serve an honorable mission, and to have a temple marriage. By maintaining your worthiness, and listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the Lord will guide you and bless you in every aspect of your life.

Church Video on Standards for Youth Dating and Maintaining Virtue

Funny Video with Captain America Enforcing Strength of Youth Standards

And this hilarious video comes from some of our Saints down under in Brisbane Australia.

Reading The Bible

Picture of the Holy Bible The Bible is an extremely valuable tool in missionary work. It provides a common foundation between Mormon missionaries and other Christians and other people that believe the Bible to be the word of God. By reading the Bible, current and future missionaries can come to understand its doctrines and history, and gain a testimony of gospel of Jesus Christ that is taught within its pages.

Love and Revere The Bible

I feel for the Bible what Abraham Lincoln expressed when he said: “This Great Book … is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong” (Speeches and Writings, 1859–1865 [1989], 628).

I also echo the words of the Lord’s apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, when he said, “We love and revere the Bible…The Bible is the word of God. It is always identified first in our canon, our ‘standard works.’” (from “My Words . . . Never Cease”, General Conference, April 2008)

Reading the Bible Cover to Cover

Earlier this year I finished reading the Bible cover to cover. It is a feat that only took me about 15 years 🙂  I had read many parts of the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, throughout my youth, in seminary and in family scripture study. On my mission, when I was in the MTC, I decided I should read the Bible in its entirety. I started with the New Testament, and actually finished that before I left the MTC.

Then, when I got to the mission field, I started on the Old Testament. I think, by the end of my mission, I got through the first five books of Moses. When I got home from the mission, I neglected to continue reading it straight through, favoring instead the reading of the Book of Mormon and other scriptures.  After graduating from BYU, I picked up where I left off, and got over half way through the Bible. But once again, I got side tracked due to life and circumstances.

When I began working for the LDS Church a couple of years ago, I decided that I better finish my quest.  I was riding the bus to and from work each day and this gave me time to get through the remainder of the Bible. It was not easy to read. There were many chapters that I didn’t understand and were tough to get through. But I am grateful that I did it. I know the Bible is the word of God, and I can say that now with more power than ever before, having actually read every word in it.

President Kimball Read the Entire Bible as a Boy

When the 12th President of the LDS Church, Spencer W. Kimball, was a young 14-year-old boy, at the counsel of a Church leader he read the Bible from cover to cover, and was forever grateful that he completed that goal. Here is what he said:

“Let me tell you of one of the goals that I made when I was still but a lad. When I heard a Church leader from Salt Lake City tell us at conference that we should read the scriptures, and I recognized that I had never read the Bible, that very night at the conclusion of that very sermon I walked to my home a block away and climbed up in my little attic room in the top of the house and lighted a little coal-oil lamp that was on the little table, and I read the first chapters of Genesis. A year later I closed the Bible, having read every chapter in that big and glorious book.

“I found that this Bible that I was reading had in it 66 books, and then I was nearly dissuaded when I found that it had in it 1,189 chapters, and then I also found that it had 1,519 pages. It was formidable, but I knew if others did it that I could do it.

“I found that there were certain parts that were hard for a 14-year-old boy to understand. There were some pages that were not especially interesting to me, but when I had read the 66 books and 1,189 chapters and 1,519 pages, I had a glowing satisfaction that I had made a goal and that I had achieved it.

“Now I am not telling you this story to boast; I am merely using this as an example to say that if I could do it by coal-oil light, you can do it by electric light. I have always been glad I read the Bible from cover to cover” (in Ensign, May 1974, 88).

The Holy Bible is a Miracle

Just like it is important for every missionary to gain their own testimony of the Book of Mormon, every current and future Mormon missionary should read and study the Bible and gain their own witness of its truthfulness. It teaches of Jesus Christ, and how to live worthy to return to our Heavenly home. A deeper knowledge of the Bible will help missionaries and members alike come unto Jesus Christ. As Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has said:

“The Holy Bible is a miracle! It is a miracle that the Bible’s 4,000 years of sacred and secular history were recorded and preserved by the prophets, apostles, and inspired churchmen. It is a miracle that we have the Bible’s powerful doctrine, principles, poetry, and stories. But most of all, it is a wonderful miracle that we have the account of the life, ministry, and words of Jesus, which was protected through the Dark Ages and through the conflicts of countless generations so that we may have it today. It is a miracle that the Bible literally contains within its pages the converting, healing Spirit of Christ, which has turned men’s hearts for centuries, leading them to pray, to choose right paths, and to search to find their Savior.”

“…My brothers and sisters, we must help all people, including our own members, understand the power and importance of the Holy Bible. The Bible is scripture that leads us and all mankind to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. May God grant us the desire and capacity to accept and live His teachings.” (The Miracle of the Holy Bible, General Conference, April 2007)

Below is a video excerpt from Elder Ballard’s talk, The Miracle of the Holy Bible.

Overcoming Pornography

Pornography addiction is one of the greatest plagues of this generation of future missionaries. For any young person who has fallen prey to this evil device, overcoming pornography is something they will have to do prior to becoming worthy to serve a mission. In the text below and video above are some quotes from recent general conference addresses from our living prophets on how to avoid and overcome pornography:

Pres. Thomas S. Monson: Pornography will destroy your spirit. Be strong. Be clean

“Extremely alarming are the reports of the number of individuals who are utilizing the Internet for evil and degrading purposes, the viewing of pornography being the most prevalent of these purposes. My brothers and sisters, involvement in such will literally destroy the spirit. Be strong. Be clean. Avoid such degrading and destructive types of content at all costs—wherever they may be! I sound this warning to everyone, everywhere. I add—particularly to the young people—that this includes pornographic images transmitted via cell phones.

My beloved friends, under no circumstances allow yourselves to become trapped in the viewing of pornography, one of the most effective of Satan’s enticements. And if you have allowed yourself to become involved in this behavior, cease now. Seek the help you need to overcome and to change the direction of your life. Take the steps necessary to get back on the strait and narrow, and then stay there.” (Until We Meet Again, President Thomas S. Monson, April 2009 General Conference)

Pres. Gordon B, Hinckley: Priesthood holders must rise above pornography

“With this priesthood comes a great obligation to be worthy of it. We cannot indulge in unclean thoughts. We must not partake of pornography. We must never be guilty of abuse of any kind. We must rise up above such things. “Rise up, O men of God!” and put these things behind you, and the Lord will be your guide and stay…The computer is a wonderful instrument when it is properly used. But when it is used to deal with pornography or so-called chat rooms or for any other purpose that leads to evil practices or evil thoughts, then there must be self-discipline enough to turn it off.” (Rise Up, O Men of God, President Gordon B, Hinckley, Oct. 2006 General Conference)

Elder D. Todd Christofferson: Are you free from lustful desires?

“The Savior was critical of some of the early Saints for their “lustful … desires” (D&C 101:6; see also D&C 88:121). These were people who lived in a non-television, non-film, non-Internet, non-iPod world. In a world now awash in sexualized images and music, are we free from lustful desires and their attendant evils? Far from pushing the limits of modest dress or indulging in the vicarious immorality of pornography, we are to hunger and thirst after righteousness. To come to Zion, it is not enough for you or me to be somewhat less wicked than others. We are to become not only good but holy men and women. Recalling Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s phrase, let us once and for all establish our residence in Zion and give up the summer cottage in Babylon (see Neal A. Maxwell, A Wonderful Flood of Light [1990], 47).” (Come to Zion, by Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Oct. 2008 General Conference)

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: The most deadly of the seven deadly sins—Lust

young man with laptop computer“Remember that those young wives said their husbands’ infidelity began with an attraction to pornography, but immoral activity is not just a man’s problem, and husbands aren’t the only ones offending. The compromise available at the click of a mouse—including what can happen in a chat room’s virtual encounter—is no respecter of persons, male or female, young or old, married or single. And just to make sure that temptation is ever more accessible, the adversary is busy extending his coverage, as they say in the industry, to cell phones, video games, and MP3 players.

If we stop chopping at the branches of this problem and strike more directly at the root of the tree, not surprisingly we find lust lurking furtively there. Lust is an unsavory word, and it is certainly an unsavory topic for me to address, but there is good reason why in some traditions it is known as the most deadly of the seven deadly sins.

Why is lust such a deadly sin? Well, in addition to the completely Spirit-destroying impact it has upon our souls, I think it is a sin because it defiles the highest and holiest relationship God gives us in mortality—the love that a man and a woman have for each other and the desire that couple has to bring children into a family intended to be forever. Someone said once that true love must include the idea of permanence. True love endures. But lust changes as quickly as it can turn a pornographic page or glance at yet another potential object for gratification walking by, male or female. True love we are absolutely giddy about—as I am about Sister Holland; we shout it from the housetops. But lust is characterized by shame and stealth and is almost pathologically clandestine—the later and darker the hour the better, with a double-bolted door just in case. Love makes us instinctively reach out to God and other people. Lust, on the other hand, is anything but godly and celebrates self-indulgence. Love comes with open hands and open heart; lust comes with only an open appetite.” (Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, April 2010 General Conference)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks: Pornography threatens our spirituality, and our families. But there is a way out.

“We were concerned to see the inroads pornography had made in the United States while we were away. For many years our Church leaders have warned against the dangers of images and words intended to arouse sexual desires. Now the corrupting influence of pornography, produced and disseminated for commercial gain, is sweeping over our society like an avalanche of evil.

At our last conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley devoted an entire talk to this subject, warning in the plainest terms that “this is a very serious problem even among us” (“A Tragic Evil among Us,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2004, 61). Most of the bishops we meet in stake conferences now report major concerns with this problem.

My fellow holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and also our young men, I wish to speak to you today about pornography. I know that many of you are exposed to this and that many of you are being stained by it…

Pornographic or erotic stories and pictures are worse than filthy or polluted food. The body has defenses to rid itself of unwholesome food. With a few fatal exceptions, bad food will only make you sick but do no permanent harm. In contrast, a person who feasts upon filthy stories or pornographic or erotic pictures and literature records them in this marvelous retrieval system we call a brain. The brain won’t vomit back filth. Once recorded, it will always remain subject to recall, flashing its perverted images across your mind and drawing you away from the wholesome things in life…

Pornography impairs one’s ability to enjoy a normal emotional, romantic, and spiritual relationship with a person of the opposite sex. It erodes the moral barriers that stand against inappropriate, abnormal, or illegal behavior. As conscience is desensitized, patrons of pornography are led to act out what they have witnessed, regardless of its effects on their life and the lives of others.

Pornography is also addictive. It impairs decision-making capacities and it “hooks” its users, drawing them back obsessively for more and more. A man who had been addicted to pornography and to hard drugs wrote me this comparison: “In my eyes cocaine doesn’t hold a candle to this. I have done both. … Quitting even the hardest drugs was nothing compared to [trying to quit pornography]” (letter of Mar. 20, 2005)…

My brethren who are caught in this addiction or troubled by this temptation, there is a way.

First, acknowledge the evil. Don’t defend it or try to justify yourself. For at least a quarter century our leaders have pleaded with men, and also with women and children, to avoid this evil. Our current Church magazines are full of warnings, information, and helps on this subject—with more than a score of articles published or to be published this year and last year alone.

Second, seek the help of the Lord and His servants. Hear and heed President Hinckley’s words:  “Plead with the Lord out of the depths of your soul that He will remove from you the addiction which enslaves you. And may you have the courage to seek the loving guidance of your bishop and, if necessary, the counsel of caring professionals” (Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2004, 62).

Third, do all that you can to avoid pornography. If you ever find yourself in its presence—which can happen to anyone in the world in which we live—follow the example of Joseph of Egypt. When temptation caught him in her grip, he left temptation and “got him out” (Gen. 39:12)…

Finally, do not patronize pornography. Do not use your purchasing power to support moral degradation. And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you.

Please heed these warnings. Let us all improve our personal behavior and redouble our efforts to protect our loved ones and our environment from the onslaught of pornography that threatens our spirituality, our marriages, and our children.” (Pornography, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, April 2005 General Conference)

Additional Pornography Addiction Help

For more resources for overcoming pornography, please visit the site recently launched by the Church called, Overcoming Pornography. It has help for individuals, spouses, parents, youth, and leaders to prevent and overcome pornography.

Boy Scouts Prepares Young Men for Missions

Boy-Scouts-Prepares-for-Priesthood-ServiceFor over 100 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints partnered with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), incorporating the BSA program into it’s youth program for young men.The Church did this because the Scouting program is designed to teach and train youth, to develop character, and to become self-reliant to help them become more well-rounded citizens–all qualities that would also help them become better Latter-day Saints.

While the formal relationship between the Church and the BSA ended at the end of 2019, many Latter-day Saints may still choose to become Scouts because of the positive benefits of the program. Immediately below I will discuss briefly why the Church was so fond of Scouting and then further below, I will discuss why Scouts may still serve as a good mission prep tool.

A Brief History and Reasons Why the Church Participated in Scouting

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints formally affiliated with the Scouting movement in the United States in May of 1913 as its first institutional sponsor. …By providing opportunities for boys and young men to put into practice the gospel lessons they learn in the home and at Church, Scouting programs have supported the priesthood. …Scouting helps young men develop desirable character traits, citizenship, and physical and mental fitness. The Scouting program teaches young men how to rely on themselves, serve and lead others, prepare for emergencies, conserve natural resources, and become actively involved in community, school, and Church service projects.” (from an LDS Church statement on the History of Scouting in the Church)

Here are some statements from past presidents of the Church on the value of Scouting.

President Thomas S. Monson: “In this world where some misguided men and women strive to tear down and destroy great movements such as Scouting, I am pleased to stand firm for an organization that teaches duty to God and country, that embraces the Scout Law. Yes, an organization whose motto is ‘Be prepared’ and whose slogan is ‘Do a good turn daily.’ The Aaronic Priesthood prepares boys for manhood and the weightier duties of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Scouting helps our boys to walk uprightly the priesthood path to exaltation.” (“The Upward Reach,” Ensign, Nov. 1993).

President Gordon B. Hinckley: “I love the Scouting movement. The promise of the Scout Oath and the twelve points of the Scout Law point young men along the path of being prepared for the 21st century. They provide a solid and powerful magnetic force toward development of a well-rounded and noteworthy character that counts. If every boy in America knew and observed the Scout Oath, we would do away with most of the jails and prisons in this country. If each of us would live up to those few words, ‘On my honor, I will do my best,’ whether it be in school, whether it be in our social life, whether it be in our business or professional life, if I will do my very best, success and happiness will be mine” (Boy Scout Jamboral, Fillmore, Utah, Sept. 27, 1996).

President Ezra Taft Benson: “Give me a young man who has kept himself morally clean and has faithfully attended his Church meetings. Give me a young man who has magnified his priesthood and has earned the Duty to God Award and is an Eagle Scout. Give me a young man who is a seminary graduate and has a burning testimony of the Book of Mormon. Give me such a young man, and I will give you a young man who can perform miracles for the Lord in the mission field and throughout his life” (Ensign, May 1986, 44–45).

Scouting Helped Prepare Me for My Mission and It May Still do the Same for You

As indicated by President Benson, Scouts helped prepare me for my mission to Argentina (1995-1997). I enjoyed Scouts from an early age and set a goal for myself to earn my Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Boy Scouts. I was blessed with good parents that not only supported me, but helped guide me through the Scouting program. The perseverance and hard work it took for me to earn the Eagle rank was well worth it and prepared me for the perseverance and hard work needed to be a good missionary for the Lord.

Below are ten reasons why participating in Boy Scouts may still help young men in the Church be better prepared when they arrive in the mission field. The reasons come from research conducted by Rushford Lee, owner of Research Emotion Design (RED), in Utah. Lee had surveyed local Church leaders, asking them why they valued Scouts and what were the most important outcome of Scouting.

10-reasons-lds-church-boy-scouts

10. Learn to serve others

Boy Scouts teaches duty to God and country and the importance or serving in our communities. Scout “service projects” are a core part of the Scouting program, including the boys’ capstone Eagle Project. Mormon missionary service is also all about service. Our common vernacular of “serving” a mission is exactly right, a mission is a two-year act of service to God, the Church, and the people in the area where a missionary goes.

9. Provide young men with good role models

From his research, Lee explained, “Our young men need heroes to look up to. They need role models in their lives, at home and as they grow. Our goal [in the Boy Scouts] is to help them become men such as the great leaders and teachers around them.”

8. Develop a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ

Gary Stevenson, Presiding Bishop of the LDS Church, said “Duty to God is the heart of Scouting. It is a founding principle as old and deep as the organization itself.” (See BSA Annual Meeting Keynote Speech 2013) Duty to God and the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ is at the heart of the Church’s involvement in Scouting. In the survey, one leader described it this way, “If we take our young men to outdoor activities and forget to have them bear their testimonies around the fire, we’ve missed the purpose of Scouting.”

7. Teach real life skills

Going through the Boy Scouts program teaches young men many practical skills that will help them throughout the rest of their life. The Scouting program is well known for teaching boys how to camp and thrive in the great outdoors, how to build fires and how to find their way in the woods, etc. But most Scouts live in cities or suburban areas and the Boy Scouts teaches practical skills for them as well, such as economics, budgeting, computers, home repairs, plumbing, communications, gardening, first aid, law, and physical fitness. You can see how many of these skills will help in the practical aspects of a mission and mission prep. On top of that, Scouting helps boys to be well rounded and teaches social and cultural skills such as the theatre, social media, painting, poetry, chess, movie making, and many more.

6. Teach strong work ethic

As a young man goes through the Scouting program, he learns the value of hard work and gains a strong work ethic. He learns of the satisfaction that only comes through hard work and perseverance as he earns merit badge, makes rank advancements, and eventually earns his Eagle. One of the survey participants noted that Scouts aids in “learning how to do hard things, gain confidence and preparing for the future.”

5. Prepare to be a husband and father

Because of many of the aforementioned benefits, teaching real life skills and a strong work ethic, Boy Scouts prepares young men to be better husbands and fathers. Additional, the core values of Scouts teaches boys to be morally straight and prepares them to be faithful to their future wives and children. One surveyed Church leader described it this way: “Life is full of difficult experiences. Teaching resilience in the early years is very helpful preparation for missions, marriage, and parenthood.”

4. Prepare to go on a mission

Church leaders who responded to the survey consistently pointed out that Boy Scouts is great mission prep. In fact, fourth highest on their list of desired outcomes for the boys in the Scouting program was that it would help them be better missionaries some day. I think if you look at this list of benefits of Scouting, physical, spiritual, and emotional, it’s easy to see why it is such a great missionary preparation system.

3. Provide opportunity to connect and interact with others

Young men’s ability to be social and connect and interact with others will make them better missionaries and Scouts helps build those skills. To quote another Church leader from the survey: “Many young men don’t have the opportunity to connect with others. They don’t have strong family ties, they may not make friends easily, don’t fit in well at school. Scouting provides an atmosphere where the kids can fit in with their peers. Our leaders try and do a variety of activities that interest all of the boys. Gives leadership a chance to reach the one.”

2. Become spiritually minded

The spiritual aspects of Scouting are at the root of the program. One survey respondent explained the purpose of Boy Scouts this way: “To develop young men through faith in God, hard work, problem solving, achievement, and character-building activities.” Lee further clarified, “this is what Scouting is meant to be; bringing God into Scouting in a large way and making this tie together. It’s time to make the purpose of Scouting clear.” Scouting helps young men be spiritually minded and I have often thought that to be spiritually minded (see Romans 8:6 and 2 Nephi 9:39) is the key to success in the missionary training center and throughout your mission.

1. Provide young men unique experiences

Number one on church leaders list of reasons for participating in the Boy Scouts is that is gives young men unique experiences that they wouldn’t otherwise have. In the survey, a Church leader said:  “There are life learning experiences in an outdoor environment with other boys and men that give the boys a unique experience outside of the home that support what’s going on inside the home.”

In my own personal experience as a Boy Scout in my youth, I participated in service projects, went on hikes and camp outs, learned a wide variety of skills, interacted with many other men and boys, and had countless other experiences that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. This is why the Boys Scouts of America provides young men with wonderful experiences and is an effective missionary preparation tool.

Lesson on What is the Priesthood

Download What is the Priesthood presentation.
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Lesson Activity

ordinary-flashlightMy calling in my ward is an assistant scout master with the 11-year-old Scouts.  As the boys turn twelve, they move on to do their Scouting with the 12-year-old deacons, and they are ordained to the priesthood.  I recently realized that I was with these boys for an hour a week in the year prior to getting ordained to the priesthood, yet we had never talked about this important step in their lives.

So last week I wrote the post What is the Priesthood? in preparation for a lesson on that subject that I gave to my 11-year-old Scouts. If you have interest in teaching a similar lesson, below is an outline and instructions that should be helpful. Do reach out to me if you have further questions.

Lesson and Preparation

priesthood-power-circuit-in-partsFor the lesson, I decided it would be a fun, interactive, attention activity to make an electric circuit with a batter, a cord, a switch and a light bulb. So I went to the store and I bought an ordinary flashlight and took it apart. I pulled out the battery, and the light bulb.  Then I bought a light switch and a short cable. I cut the cable into three sections and stripped the ends of each.  I hooked both of the cables up the switch and with the third section of cable, I hooked it up to the light bulb.  But I left the rest of the circuit disconnected so the Scouts could do it during the lesson.

priesthood-power-circuit-put-togetherAs we started the lesson, the boys were extremely curious about all the electric parts.  I asked them to help me assemble the circuit, and with a little help they were able to do so.  The boys really enjoyed putting the light circuit together, and I think it was a great way of introducing the topic of the priesthood.  And to parents who might be concerned about the safety of this activity: do not worry.  The batter only supplies 6 volts of electricity, which is a very small amount and completely safe to handle.

Tips for the Lesson

  • Keep it simple. The priesthood is a difficult concept to really understand, for adults as well as youth.
  • Don’t mix metaphors. The light circuit example isn’t perfect a analogy; it is simply a metaphor to help us understand the priesthood. We invited the bishop of our ward to attend when we gave this lesson and he was very helpful in explaining concepts and we are glad he came. At one point, though, he started comparing the priesthood to the power of attorney, which is a good analogy in and of itself. But trying to explain multiple metaphors seemed to only confuse the boys.  I think it’s best to save other analogies for other lessons.
  • Have For the Strength of Youth pamphlets available. When we began talking about how priesthood holders need to be clean and worthy to use the priesthood, I wished I had For the Strength of Youth pamphlets to hand out to the boys as we discussed standards for behavior, dress, and media. These 11-year-olds had some concept of worthiness, but it was clear that this was somewhat of a new topic for them.what-is-the-priesthood-bookmark
  • Print out the bookmark to hand out. I created a What is the Priesthood bookmark that has the diagram of the light bulb, switch, and battery on one side, and on the other side has what the five elements represent in the priesthood analogy. Feel free to download it, print it out, and use it in your lesson.

What is the Priesthood?

When I was a student at Brigham Young University, I took a class on the Doctrine and Covenants with a professor named Dennis Wright.  It was one of the more difficult religion classes I ever took, but it was also probably one in which I learned more than most.  I remember studying some sections on the priesthood, and professor Wright introduced the topic by asking the class: what is the priesthood?

what-is-the-priesthood-battery-light-switch-diagramHe then showed a diagram, like the one to the right, and asked, which of the five elements represented the priesthood:

  1. The battery
  2. The cable carrying the electricity
  3. The light switch
  4. The light bulb
  5. The light emanating from the light bulb

After different students in the class raised their hands and guessed all five different answers, Professor Wright said that his was a bit of a trick question.  He said all the students were right because, depending on the context in which we use the word, any part of the diagram could be representative of the priesthood.

The battery symbolizes that God is the source of all priesthood power.

The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God.  John Taylor, third President of the Church, said that “the power manifested by the priesthood is simply the power of God.” (from The Gospel Kingdom by G. Homer Durham).  Elder Bruce R. McConkie, in his book Gospel Doctrine, stated that “the priesthood is the power of God delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family.” The Doctrine and Covenants is replete with scriptures that explain how priesthood power is the power of God. Here are just a few:

  • D&C 107: 8 “The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the church in all ages of the world, to administer in spiritual things.”
  • D&C 121: 36 “The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and … cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.”
  • D&C 128: 8 “Now, the nature of this ordinance consists in the power of the priesthood, by the revelation of Jesus Christ, wherein it is granted that whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.”

The wire reminds us that we must be clean and worthy to carry priesthood power.

Metals are used for electric wires because they are good conductors, that is, they conduct the flow of electricity very easily. Through metal wires, electric power is channeled from the power source to wherever it needs to go. We can think of the priesthood as that channel that allows the power of God to flow to us on Earth, but that power only flows through good conductors. To be a good conductor of priesthood power, priesthood holders must be clean and worthy.

aaronic-priesthood-holder-sacramentPresident Thomas S. Monson, in his April 2009 talk called Be Your Best Self, said, “Each man and each boy who holds the priesthood of God must be worthy of that great privilege and responsibility. Each must strive to learn his duty and then to do it to the best of his ability. As we do so, we provide the means by which our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, can accomplish Their work here upon the earth.”

God gives His priesthood authority to worthy men, and that priesthood can and should only be used in righteousness. This is how the Lord said it in D&C 121: 41 -42, “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.”

The light switch is like priesthood keys: The power to turn on and off the power.

Priesthood power can only be used when it has been turned on, or authorized, by some who holds priesthood keys.  Priesthood authority is governed by those who hold priesthood keys such as a bishop, who holds the keys in his ward, or the President of the Church who holds the priesthood keys for the whole Church. The Lord explained, in D&C 132: 7, that it is only the President of the Church who has all priesthood keys: “I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred.”

Jesus Christ holds all the keys of the priesthood, and he has given the prophet and apostles in the Quorum of the Twelve the keys that are necessary for governing His Church. Only the senior Apostle, the President of the Church, may use (or authorize another person to use) these keys for governing the entire Church. The President of the Church delegates priesthood keys to other priesthood leaders so they can preside in their areas of responsibility. Priesthood keys are bestowed on presidents of temples, missions, stakes, and districts; bishops; branch presidents; and quorum presidents (even Deacon and Teachers Quorum Presidents). (From LDS.org: Gospel Topics: Priesthood)

The light bulb is like priesthood holders: Men such as Apostles, Bishops, Deacons, etc.

melchizedek-priesthood-holders-gift-holy-ghost God gives priesthood to men in the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of His children. All worthy male members of the Church are eligible to receive the priesthood and be ordained to a priesthood office. Aaronic Priesthood offices include Deacon, Teacher, Priest, and Bishop. Offices of the Melchizedek Priesthood include: Elder, High Priest, Patriarch, Seventy, and Apostle.

Here is what Elder M. Russell Ballard said about understanding priesthood offices:

Priesthood offices are not status symbols but opportunities for service. High priests and elders are equally responsible to serve faithfully in the offices to which they have been called. All priesthood holders assist our Heavenly Father in accomplishing His divine purpose: ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.’ (Moses 1:39.)…Although we speak of the Melchizedek Priesthood as the greater priesthood, we must not misunderstand the importance of the Aaronic Priesthood. The service given by a faithful bearer of the Aaronic Priesthood is just as important in the eyes of the Lord as the service given by one holding the Melchizedek Priesthood. (From The Priesthood: A Lifetime of Service)

Former Church President Joseph Fielding Smith said in the June 1971 Ensign, talking to priesthood holders, “We are the Lord’s agents; we represent him; he has given us authority which empowers us to do all that is necessary to save and exalt ourselves as well as his other children in the world.” And another former Church President Harold B. Lee said in the July 1973 Ensign, “When we [act] in the name of the Lord, as holders of the priesthood, we are doing it in the name and in behalf of our Heavenly Father.”

The light shining is like priesthood blessings in our lives.

mormon-family-dinner Priesthood holders can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation such as baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and otherwise bless people on this earth.  President James E. Faust, former counselor in the First Presidency, in a talk called “Priesthood Blessings”, said these priesthood “blessings are available to all who are worthy through those authorized and even appointed to give priesthood blessings…Priesthood blessings do not just involve men. They bless equally and fully the women and children of the family.”

In D&C 84: 20- 21, the Lord explains that “In the ordinances [of the priesthood], the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh.” Gospel ordinances of salvation that bless our lives on earth and in Heaven include baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, the Sacrament, Temple Marriage, Anointing the Sick, Blessing a Baby, and many others.

The most important use of the priesthood takes place in the family where each husband and father in the Church should strive to be worthy to hold the priesthood. With his wife as an equal partner, he presides in righteousness and love, serving as the family’s spiritual leader. He leads the family in prayer, scripture study, and family home evening, and gives priesthood blessings for direction, healing, and comfort. Though many members do not have faithful priesthood holders in their homes, through the service of home teachers and priesthood leaders, all members of the Church can enjoy the blessings of priesthood power in their lives. (once again, from LDS.org: Gospel Topics: Priesthood)

View and download a Lesson on What is the Priesthood that I put together.

Climb Higher

Years ago I clipped this ad from a magazine. I can’t remember what the original advertisement was for, but I was struck by the applicability of the principles for many different aspects of life.

We’ll give you the training,

the tools, and the challenge.

How high the climb is up to you!

Today let’s apply this to preparation for a mission and how it will help you climb higher. It’s the perfect analogy.

1. The Training

Though you are being trained daily as you make righteous choices, study the scriptures, choose good friends, keep commitments, and work hard, the formal missionary training will be in the Missionary Training Center.

In a letter from President and Sister Smith (president of the Provo, Utah MTC and his wife) to prospective missionaries, they share great information about the experience you might have at the MTC:

“As you achieve goals, keep commitments, and stay focused on what really matters, you will receive excellent training to prepare you for your MTC experience.”

2. The Tools:

In the April 2010 General Conference President Thomas S. Monson taught us about the tools that prepare us for missionary service:

“Young men, I admonish you to prepare for service as a missionary. There are many tools to help you learn the lessons which will be beneficial to you as well as helping you to live the life you will need to have lived to be worthy. One such tool is the booklet entitled For the Strength of Youth, published under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It features standards from the writings and teachings of Church leaders and from scripture, adherence to which will bring the blessings of our Heavenly Father and the guidance of His Son to each of us. In addition, there are lesson manuals, carefully prepared after prayerful consideration. Families have family home evenings, where gospel principles are taught. Almost all of you have the opportunity to attend seminary classes taught by dedicated teachers who have much to share.” Preparation Brings Blessings by President Thomas S. Monson

a. For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. Have you read it recently? Challenge: take 5 minutes before bed every night and read through one of the topics. Double Challenge: set a goal to improve on 1 principle taught. Triple Challenge: choose 1 principle a month to work on.

b. Lesson Manuals. Preach My Gospel is an excellent tool to study NOW to prepare yourself. Scriptures are the best lesson manuals ever. Challenge: commit to study 10 minutes a day out of the scriptures. Double Challenge: commit to 15 minutes a day study time. Triple Challenge: commit to 30 minutes a day study time in the scriptures and lesson manuals.

c. Family Home Evening: Do you participate in family home evening? Are you attending with a pleasant attitude? Challenge: If your family isn’t having them regularly, YOU initiate it. Plan a lesson. Keep it simple and fun. Double Challenge: Offer to teach a lesson once a month. Teaching gospel principles NOW will prepare you for teaching the gospel on your mission.

d. Seminary. This is a great place to learn the scriptures. Memorize the scripture mastery scriptures. Participate in class discussion. If you have early morning seminary, this is great practice for rising early. Make it a habit now! Challenge: commit to graduate from Seminary. Make it priority NOW.

3. The Challenge

The Challenge is to BECOME… become a disciple of Christ… become a valiant example of gospel principles.

“Brethren, the challenge to become applies precisely and perfectly to missionary preparation. Obviously, the process of becoming a missionary does not require a young man to wear a white shirt and tie to school every day or to follow the missionary guidelines for going to bed and getting up, although most parents certainly would support that idea. But you can increase in your desire to serve God (see D&C 4:3), and you can begin to think as missionaries think, to read what missionaries read, to pray as missionaries pray, and to feel what missionaries feel. You can avoid the worldly influences that cause the Holy Ghost to withdraw, and you can grow in confidence in recognizing and responding to spiritual promptings. Line upon line and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, you can gradually become the missionary you hope to be and the missionary the Savior expects.” David A. Bednar, “Becoming a Missionary,” Ensign, Nov 2005

As you TRAIN daily,

utilize the TOOLS,

and accept the CHALLENGE to become,

you are choosing to be like those described by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“What we need now is the greatest generation of missionaries in the history of the Church. We need worthy, qualified, spiritually energized missionaries who, like Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors, are ‘exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity’ and who are ‘true at all times in whatsoever thing they [are] entrusted’ ( Alma 53:20 )” (The Greatest Generation of Missionaries by Elder Ballard in Ensign, Nov. 2002).

Climb Higher

How high the climb is up to you! Make it a worthwhile journey!

The view from the top is excellent and well-worth the hard work.

(Dead Horse Point, Utah, image used with permission from Ivan Makarov)

Brilliant at the Basics

When Vince Lombardi took over as coach of the Green Bay Packers football team in 1958, one of the first questions the local press asked him was, “What are you going to change to turn this team around after a string of failures and losing seasons?” His reply provided a window into the process of how to be successful when faced with a challenging situation.

Lombardi’s response was: “I am not going to change anything. We will use the same players, the same plays and the same training system. But we will concentrate on becoming brilliant at the basics.” In nine seasons his Green Bay Packers won five NFL Championships and two Super Bowls.” (see Being Brilliant at the Basics, by Rick McCormick)

This same principle of “Being Brilliant at the Basics” applies to preparing for a mission.

  • The players = missionaries.
  • The plays = principles of the gospel.
  • Training System = parents, leaders, mission president, personal revelation, obeying the commandments.

Challenge: Concentrate on 3 Gospel Basics

My challenge to you is to pick three things you will do that will prepare you in the gospel basics for your mission. These three goals could be in any of these areas: physical, social, mental, emotional, or spiritual preparation. Don’t just pick the easiest ones. Choose three things that will build, strengthen, and change you for the better. Decide on something that is measurable so that you can do it with exactness. You’ll be glad you did!

Here are a few ideas:

  • 15 minutes studying the Scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon.
  • Morning & Evening Prayer
  • Exercise for 30 minutes a day
  • Take time every day to listen to a friend.
  • Start up a conversation with a stranger (if you tend to be a quiet or shy person. This would be great -practice for a mission.)
  • Save a pre-determined amount of $$ out of every paycheck. Or, if you don’t have a job, find a way to help earn money for your mission.
  • Be on time for meetings and activities.
  • Memorize scriptures and study the Preach My Gospel handbook.
  • Be worthy of the priesthood.
  • Do your own laundry for one month.
  • Cook dinner once a week for your family.
  • Do something everyday that you don’t want to do, so that you can learn self-discipline.
  • Have good grooming and cleanliness habits. Begin observing missionary grooming standards such as hair length and proper dress.

(Note: Some of these ideas were gleaned from all-encompassingly.com, Preparing for a Mission.)

PRECISION – not Perfection

“Live … so that you’re brilliant in the basics… You think in terms of precision, not perfection.” (Julie B. Beck, Aug 2009, CES Training).

Remember, you’re aiming for PRECISION :

pre·ci·sion : pri-ˈsi-zhən : noun

the quality or state of being precise : exactness

Don’t Get Discouraged

Don’t get discouraged if you miss a day on your “Brilliant at the Basics” goals. Pick yourself back up and Carry on! Once again, you’ll be glad you did! One of President Gordon B. Hinckley’s favorite sayings was this: “Keep trying. Be believing. Be happy. Don’t get discouraged.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign, June 1995, p. 4.)

WHY?

Why should you make efforts to be brilliant at the basics of the gospel? You want to know the gospel, not just the missionary lessons. Elder M. Russel Ballard explains:

“We need you. Like Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors, you also are the spirit sons of God, and you too can be endowed with power to build up and defend His kingdom. We need you to make sacred covenants, just as they did. We need you to be meticulously obedient and faithful, just as they were. …

“Listen to [these] words, my young brethren: valiant, courage, strength, active, true. We don’t need spiritually weak and semicommitted young men. We don’t need you to just fill a position; we need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate missionaries who know how to listen to and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t a time for spiritual weaklings. We cannot send you on a mission to be reactivated, reformed, or to receive a testimony. We just don’t have time for that. We need you to be filled with “faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 4:5). – Elder Ballard – Gen Conf Oct 2002 – Priesthood Session

LET’S DO IT!

If you’re ready to take this challenge, please leave a comment about what you picked. Then, in a few months, check back in with us and let us know how it’s going and how being “brilliant at the basics” has helped you in your mission preparation. “Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!” D&C 128:22

Seminary and Institute

seminary and institute 2 The LDS Church Seminary and Institute programs are great mission preparation services that all future missionaries should take advantage of. This is what our former prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball said about seminary and institute and how they aid in missionary preparation.

“Young men having planned for 19 years to fill a mission will be more fruitful, more effective, and more successful when they serve and more people will come into the Church and will create more enthusiasm and there will be a chain reaction….Can you imagine what would happen to the seminary and institute programs with so many wonderful young men who have been planning for missions from birth until seminary days? Seminary and institute buildings would be crowded with a new kind of maturity and seriousness that would give the Church a new image. The morality of the youth would greatly increase. They would be taught cleanliness and righteousness in a way that they have never been taught before…I wish every boy and girl could go to seminary, because that is where they learn many of the truths of the gospel. Seminary is where many of them get their ideals settled in their minds about what they are going to do, and they go on missions.” (President Kimball Speaks Out on Being a Missionary, New Era, May 1981, 46)

Testimonies of Seminary and Institute

The January 2009 Ensign article called Nourishing the Soul through Institute as has some great testimonies of mission preparation aided by seminary and institute.seminary and institute

José Araujo, said “Among the many blessings I have received by attending institute are improved family relationships and an increased interest in the scriptures. It has also increased my testimony. Before attending institute, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to serve a mission. Now I know that serving a mission is what I need to do.” (“Strengthening My Testimony,” Ensign, Jan. 2009, 54)

Malinda Morrison said, “My love for institute started back in seminary. I joined the Church at age 14, and I had a thirst for knowledge. I enjoyed learning about the gospel and loved the admirable friends and teachers I met along the way…Just as seminary enriched my life when I was a teenager, institute has enriched my life during my young adult years. I have treasured up the words of Christ in my heart and in my mind (see D&C 6:20; 84:85). These teachings helped me serve the Lord more effectively as a missionary. I am grateful for institute and know that it is an inspired program because I have seen its blessings in my life.” (“Showing Faith,” Ensign, Jan. 2009, 55–56)

presidentthomassmonson_thumb[1] Make Seminary and Institute a Priority

President Thomas S. Monson has said the following regarding institute, but I believe it applies to seminary as well:

“I ask you to make participation in institute a priority. Married students and other young adults are also welcome and encouraged to attend. Think of it. Friends will be made, the Spirit will be felt, and faith will be strengthened. I promise you that as you participate in institute and study the scriptures diligently, your power to avoid temptation and to receive direction of the Holy Ghost in all you do will be increased. Divine favor will attend those who humbly seek it. That is a promise which I leave with you.” (April 21, 2009).

Elder L Tom Perry 2

And Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave this prophetic promise: “Don’t neglect the opportunity of attending seminary and institute classes. Participate and gain all you can from the scriptures taught in these great religious-education settings. They will prepare you to present the message of the restored gospel to those you have opportunity to meet.” (“Raising the Bar,” Ensign, Nov. 2007, 48.)

How Do I Find an Institute Program Near Me?

Visit the Institutes of Religion site for information about any of the more than 500 institute locations worldwide. In many cases, you can register for classes online. If you don’t have Internet access, ask your bishop or branch president for a list of institute locations.

Videos
Here are a couple of videos I found on the LDS Institute program and the blessings, promised by a prophet, if we attend.