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).
Today 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 , 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).