“As I pondered this question, I thought about our young American missionaries who served among us during those years. They had left the safety of their homes half a world away and traveled to Germany—land of their recent enemies—to offer divine hope to our people. They came not to blame, lecture, or shame. They willingly gave of their young lives without thought of earthly gain, wanting only to help others find the joy and peace they had experienced.
To me, these young men and women were perfect. I am sure they had flaws, but not to me. I will always think of them as being bigger than life—angels of light and glory, ministers of compassion, goodness, and truth.
While the world was drowning in cynicism, bitterness, hatred, and fear, the example and teachings of these young people filled me with hope. The gospel message they offered transcended politics, history, grudges, grievances, and personal agendas. It gave divine answers to important questions we had during these difficult times.”
“I had another exceptional teacher while attending Ricks College many years ago. I was preparing to serve a mission and thought it would be helpful to attend a missionary preparation class. What I experienced changed my life.
From the first day of class, I realized I was in the presence of a master teacher. The teacher was Brother F. Melvin Hammond. I knew Brother Hammond loved the Lord and he loved me. I could see it in his face and hear it in his voice. When he taught, the Spirit enlightened my mind. He taught doctrine, but he also invited me to learn it on my own. That invitation helped me clearly see my responsibility to learn the Lord’s doctrine for myself. That experience changed me forever. Thank you, Brother Hammond, for teaching in the Savior’s way.
Brothers and sisters, everyone deserves to have this kind of learning experience both at home and at church.”
“A family from Africa now living in the United States said, “From the first day, Church members were friendly and welcoming. Everyone made us feel at home. No one looked down on us.” The father said, “The Holy Bible teaches gospel fruits come from gospel roots.” “And the missionaries,” the father and mother said, “we want our son and daughter to grow up like those missionaries.” Brothers and sisters, may we each warmly welcome all to His Inn.”
Our home was not only small in size, but it was a dark place. Before meeting with the missionaries, we attended different churches every Sunday. It was clear that our parents were seeking for something that the world could not provide.
This went on until we met with Elder and Sister Hutchings, the first senior missionary couple called to serve in Zaire (known today as DR of Congo or Congo-Kinshasa). When we started meeting with these wonderful missionaries, who were like angels that came from God, I noticed that something started to change in our family. After our baptism, we truly started to progressively have a new lifestyle because of the restored gospel. The words of Christ began to enlarge our souls. They began to enlighten our understanding and became delicious to us, as the truths that we received were discernible and we could see the light, and this light grew brighter and brighter daily.
“The young men who are priests and the young women of the same age are at a very important stage in their lives and development. During a short period of time, they make decisions that have significant lifelong implications. They determine whether they will qualify for the temple, serve a mission, strive to be married in the temple, and prepare for their life’s work. These decisions, once made, have profound spiritual and practical implications for the remainder of their lives. Bishops, please know that a relatively short time spent with a young priest, young woman, or young adult can help them understand the power available to them through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It can provide a vision that will have a profound influence upon their entire life.
One of the best examples I have seen of a bishop who helped provide this kind of vision for his youth was Bishop Moa Mahe. He was called to be the first bishop of the San Francisco Tongan Ward. He was an immigrant from Vava‘u, Tonga. His ward was located near the San Francisco, California, airport, where he worked.
The ward had a large number of youth, most from families who had recently immigrated to the United States. Bishop Mahe not only taught them in word and by example how to be righteous disciples of Jesus Christ, but he also helped give them a vision of what they could become and helped them prepare for the temple, missions, education, and employment. He served for almost eight years, and his dreams and desires for the youth became a reality.
Nearly 90 percent of the young men in the Aaronic Priesthood quorums served missions. Fifteen young men and women were the first members of their families to attend college…
The young people knew that the bishop loved them. Sadly, Bishop Mahe passed away while serving as bishop. I will never forget his touching and inspiring funeral. There was a huge crowd. The choir was composed of more than 35 faithful young members who had served missions or were attending college and who had been youth during his service as bishop. One speaker expressed the intense feeling of appreciation from the youth and young adults in his ward. He paid tribute to Bishop Mahe for the vision he had given them in preparing for life and righteous service. But most important, Bishop Mahe had assisted them in building faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the foundation of their lives.”
“Forty-one years ago, two missionaries from our Church felt led to a house in New Jersey, in the United States. In time, miraculously, both parents and all 10 children were baptized. In the prophet’s words, they “let God prevail” in their lives. I should say “our lives.” I was the third child. I was 17 years old when I decided to make a permanent covenant to follow Jesus Christ. But guess what else I decided? I would not serve a full-time mission. That was too much. And this could not be expected of me, right? I was a brand-new Church member. I had no money. Besides, although I had just graduated from the toughest high school in nearby West Philadelphia and faced down some dangerous challenges, I was secretly terrified of leaving home for two whole years.
But I had just learned that I and all of humanity had lived with our Heavenly Father as His spirit sons and daughters before our birth. Others needed to know, as I knew, that He longed for all His children to enjoy eternal life with Him. So, before anyone was on earth, He presented all with His perfect plan of salvation and happiness, with Jesus Christ as our Savior. Tragically, Satan opposed God’s plan. According to the book of Revelation, “there was war in heaven”! Satan cunningly deceived a third part of Heavenly Father’s spirit children into letting him prevail instead of God. But not you! The Apostle John saw that you overcame Satan “by the word of [your] testimony.”
Knowing my true identity, helped by my patriarchal blessing, gave me the courage and faith to accept President Spencer W. Kimball’s invitation to gather Israel. It will be the same for you, dear friends. Knowing you overcame Satan by the word of your testimony before will help you love, share, and invite now and always—to invite others to come and see, come and help, and come and belong, as that same war for the souls of God’s children rages on.”
“Some years after this tragedy, two young missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came to our farm. They began teaching the truths found in the Book of Mormon and the Bible. These truths include the assurance that Ann now lives in the spirit world. Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, she too will be resurrected. They taught that the Church of Jesus Christ has once again been restored on earth with a living prophet and twelve Apostles. And they taught the unique and remarkable doctrine that families can be bound together forever by the same priesthood authority Jesus Christ gave His chief Apostle, Peter.
Mum instantly recognized truth and received a witness of the Spirit. Dad, however, wrestled for the next year between doubts and spiritual nudges. Also, he was reluctant to change his way of life. One morning following a sleepless night, while pacing the floor, he turned to Mum and said, “I will be baptized today or never.”
Mum told the missionaries what had happened, and they immediately recognized the flicker of faith in my father that would now be either lit or extinguished.
That very morning our family traveled to the nearest beach. Unaware of what was happening, we children had a picnic on the sand dunes while Elders Boyd Green and Gary Sheffield led my parents into the ocean and baptized them. In a further act of faith, Dad privately committed to the Lord that come what may, he would be true all his life to the promises he was making.
…Many years later Dad told me that if not for Ann’s tragic death, he would never have been humble enough to accept the restored gospel. Yet the Spirit of the Lord instilled hope that what the missionaries taught was true. My parents’ faith continued to grow until they each burned with the fire of testimony that quietly and humbly guided their every decision in life.”