Not too long ago, I was home teaching and taught a lesson on the importance of every young man serving a mission. I asked the 16-year-old boy in the family if he plans to serve a mission. He said yes, he was planning to go on a mission, but he said he wasn’t sure about a certain friend of his in the ward. If he were placing odds, he said there is only a “20% chance” that his friend will serve a mission.
When I heard that my heart sunk. I felt like there had to be more I could do to help people like this young man in my ward feel motivated to serve a mission. As I was pondering how to motivate young men to have the desire to be a missionary, I happened to read a talk by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In it, he was speaking to the youth of the Church, and said:
“We need you. Oh, how the Lord needs you! … My plea to you this morning for leadership has never been more critical in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than it is today. I now understand abundantly why the prophets have said that the Lord reserved for this last day some of his very choice spiritual sons and daughters. I understand why you have been reserved to come forth now: because he needs you. He needs you desperately in the building of his kingdom.” (M. Russell Ballard, “You—the Leaders in 1988”, Ensign, Mar. 1979, 69–73)
That message rang true to me as a message of motivation for young men to serve a mission. Young men, we need you! The world needs you and the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ you will bring. The Church needs you, and your goodness, and your leadership. The Lord needs every one of you to be a full-time missionary.
The Harvest is Great but the Laborers are Few
In Luke Chapter 10 it says that “the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few.” (Luke 10: 1-2)
Young men, the harvest is great! There is no greater blessing that you can bring to people than the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The population of the earth is approaching 7 billion people, most of whom do not have a knowledge of the gospel. A great many of those are honest and good people waiting to hear the message that only true servants of the Lord can bring.
“For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.” (D&C 123:12 )
Spiritual Starvation that Missionaries Can Alleviate
In 1975, Spencer W. Kimball, 12th President of the Church, gave a talk in which he referred to the scripture Amos 8:11: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” Then President Kimball said:
“We need to prepare all within our homes to serve beyond our homes as calls and opportunities come to provide leaven for the world. The world wants and needs what we have. In the beautiful prayer by Brother Holland, he mentioned the famine in the world—famine not of bread, not of the ordinary needs, but a famine for the word of the Lord; and you are the custodians of the bread of life, you take it to your families so that they can share it with the people of the world.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Men of Example, from an address to CES religious educators, 12 September 1975)
As missionaries, you bring the bread and water of life, the gospel of Jesus Christ, to a world that is dying of spiritual thirst and starvation. There is no greater joy than to teach a family that is hungry to know the truths of eternity, and as a missionary, you will have many such opportunities.
I hope that all young men within the sound of my voice (and the reach of my written word) will realize how much we need them to prepare and serve faithful full-time missions. As I watch the news and see the events of the world, my heart is often saddened. Crime is rampant, family values and morals continue to decline, and the influence of Satan seems to keep growing. But I know the answers to all of life’s problems are in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The key to lasting happiness in this life and the next is to follow the teachings of our Savior. And I know that you young men, if you rise up and answer the call to be a missionary, can help gather the harvest, show people the way to eternal joy, and bring souls unto Christ.
The Greatest Generation of Missionaries
I’ll leave with another quote from Elder M. Russell Ballard. It is another impassioned and powerful plea for more full-time missionaries to step up and go to battle for the Lord:
“While we are profoundly grateful for the many members of the Church who are doing great things in the battle for truth and right, I must honestly tell you it still is not enough. We need much more help. And so, as the people of Ammon looked to their sons for reinforcement in the war against the Lamanites, we look to you, my young brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood. 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.
“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). (M. Russel Ballard, “The Greatest Generation of Missionaries,” October 5, 2002)