Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Calling of a Missionary

David O. McKay with his mission call to Scotland

First, the bishop or branch president interviews the young man or young woman and makes a recommendation. Then the stake or mission president interviews the person. Most missionary applications are sent electronically to Church headquarters. A photo accompanies the application. When the application arrives, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles looks at the photo and carefully reviews the prospective missionary’s attitude as evidenced by what the local priesthood leaders have written, the young person’s grades, and any expressed willingness to learn a language. The Apostle also considers the needs of all 344 missions around the world and then receives a spiritual impression of where the missionary should serve. All this is done under the direction of the President of the Church, and the call comes from him. (M. Russell Ballard, “How to Prepare to Be a Good Missionary,” New Era [March 2007]: 9-10).

For a number of years it was my opportunity to serve as a member of the Missionary Executive Committee and to profit from the leadership of President Spencer W. Kimball, who was the chairman of the committee. On one occasion I remember having read the detail on a particular missionary candidate, and President Kimball indicated that the young man should go, I believe to London, England. Then he said, “No. That is not correct. Send the young man to the Denmark Copenhagen Mission.” I looked on the form and noticed that I had overlooked reading a very important statement from the stake president. I said, “President Kimball, have you ever seen this particular form before?” “No,” he replied. “Look at what the stake president has written,” I continued. “’The grandfather of this missionary candidate is an immigrant from the land of Denmark. He is our stake patriarch. The missionary candidate was promised in his patriarchal blessing that if he lived true and faithful he would return to the land of his forbears, that he might preach the gospel in that particular land.’” President Kimball nodded his approval and said, “The Lord’s will has been made known today.” (Thomas S. Monson, Be Your Best Self, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979, p. 170).

All my life, from the time I have been a young boy and as far back as I can remember, I have had experiences feeling the Holy Ghost. . . But I’ve never felt what I felt as I have. . . participated in the assigning of missionaries. . . .

“We go into a room, and. . .it will be a two- or three-hour session and sometimes longer. Because of technology, it is possible for us to have your picture and the information about you displayed. And then quickly, on that same screen, all the missions of the Church with all of their needs are displayed. Within minutes, and sometimes less than a minute, the impression comes so powerfully that it would be, if it were a single instance, something that you could never forget. Can you imagine sitting there for hours at a time, having that happen time after time without interruption? I testify to you that it is real. . . .

“. . .In a world so large, the Creator. . .somehow not only knows you but loves you enough to ensure that your call is where He needs you to go to teach the children of our Heavenly Father. (Henry B. Eyring, “Called of God,” Provo Missionary Training Center Devotional Address, 26 August 1997 quoted in New Era [March 2007]: 17).

Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. (Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1902, 6:364).

We have calls for Elders from sea to sea and from the rivers to the ends of the earth. The time has come when we must rise up and sow—go forth and scatter the Gospel seeds throughout the lands. The inhabitants of the earth are ready to hear it, and it is our duty, and it is made the duty of the Twelve Apostles, and especially you have made it the duty of the missionary committee, to hunt up Elders and send them abroad to preach the Gospel. We have had a good deal of difficulty to find them as fast as they have been wanted. One mission in the South called for one hundred extra Elders. We have a thousand or more in the field; but there is wanted a great multitude yet to go everywhere, and we are seeking through Israel, almost with lighted candles, to find men of suitable spirit and faith—men that can go and preach the word of God to the nations of the earth. (Franklin D. Richards, Conference Report, 5 April 1896).

I have many times reflected upon the ready response that each and all of the Elders give to a call to go on foreign missions, and I have remarked both in public and private, that it seemed to me there is but one duty devolving upon the Latter-day Saints that is fully and completely complied with by all who are in a position to do so, and that one duty is to respond to a call to go on a mission. If we were as diligent in discharging every other obligation and as ready to make sacrifices in every other direction as in this, we would be more united, have more of the Spirit of God and the blessings of God would be enjoyed more than at the present time. We find men ready and willing to sacrifice business interests, to leave their families and friends and all that is near and dear to the heart of man, for a period of from two to three or four years, going without hope of pecuniary reward to the nations to proclaim the Gospel, to be ridiculed of many, to be persecuted, to have their names cast out as evil; and they do this because of the testimony of truth. (Heber J. Grant, Quarterly Conference, 1 September 1889).

The brethren who have been called upon foreign missions we expect to respond to the call cheerfully. (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young. sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1941, p. 322).

If God would grant me one wish—just one—it would be this; that each missionary felt and enjoyed the spirit of his calling. (Hugh B. Brown, quoted by Carlos E. Asay, Ensign, [November 1976]: 41).

Some of the people whom you will teach may not believe in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ or have a Christian tradition. Many of these people, however, will have beliefs, practices, and places which they hold sacred. As a servant of God, it is essential that you show proper respect for their religious beliefs and traditions. Do not do anything that would show disrespect for that which is important to them.
You may wonder how you should adjust your teaching approach to these people. It will be helpful to remember that in order to be converted, all of God’s children, regardless of background, must develop faith in Jesus Christ, repent, receive the ordinances of baptism and confirmation, and endure to the end in keeping the commandments and giving service. The principles that help others build faith in Jesus Christ are the same in all cultures.

You can help people gain a correct understanding of God as our Heavenly Father and develop faith in Jesus Christ by helping them have personal experiences rather than simply telling them about the nature of God. For example, you will help people gain this understanding as they:

· Gain a spiritual conviction that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith.

· Hear your sincere teaching and testimony of the gospel, including why you chose to follow Jesus Christ.

· Frequently hear you and other members talk to Heavenly Father in a simple, heartfelt prayer.

· Pray with you and on their own.

· Come to learn how you feel about the scriptures as you read and discuss them.

· Read God’s word from the scriptures daily (especially the Book of Mormon).

· Attend church so they can see how we worship the Lord.

· Meet members of the Church who can explain how they came to believe in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

· Keep the commandments.

These activities are beneficial for all people you teach, but they are essential when teaching those without a Christian background because these people are less likely to have had these experiences previously.

Many converts from non-Christian backgrounds report that they did not understand much of what the missionaries were saying but that they felt the Spirit and wanted to do what the missionaries asked. You must do all you can to help investigators understand the doctrines of the gospel. Be patient and supportive, as it may take some time for people to learn and identify and express the feelings they have inside. You may need to adjust the pace and depth of your teaching to help them understand. As you prepare to teach those without a Christian background, the following suggestions may help:
Provide simple overviews and reviews for each lesson.

Ask them to tell you what they understand and what they have experienced.

Take to time to define essential words and principles. Those you teach may not be familiar with many of the words you will use as you teach.

Return to a previously taught lesson to teach the doctrine more clearly. This may be necessary any time in the teaching process. (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 191).

When a man is called to go on a mission and a field of labor assigned him, he should, I think say in his heart, not my will be done, but thine, O Lord. (Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourse, 6 April 1884, 25:100).

We now have more [missionaries] serving in the field than we have ever had, but we do not have enough. The world, with its four billion plus people, is a very large world. And while we do not have access to many millions of these, the numbers we are free to work with are still very large. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, [May 1988]: 92).

The Elders, it must be said in their favor, go forth, as a rule, full of this desire to acquit themselves as men and to cleanse their garments of the blood of this generation, by bearing faithful testimony of the truth. It is most gratifying to see our young men respond as they do to the calls that are made upon them to go here and there, wherever the authorities of the Church direct as missionaries, to carry the message of salvation and glad tidings. (George Q. Cannon, General Conference, 3 April 1892).

I read in the first section of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, in the Lord’s preface to this book, that He, the Lord, knowing those things that would happen in the last days, the judgments that would come, war and pestilence, etc., spoke through his servant, the Prophet Joseph Smith and addressed to the whole world through this humble instrumentality, revealing the fulness of the everlasting Gospel, giving command that the elders of the Church should carry this message and warning, that this is the hour of God’s judgment, and the Lord had provided the means of escape through the restoration of the everlasting Gospel, and that elders of the Church were to carry this message to the islands of the sea and to the nations of the earth (See D&C 1:1-16). I believe, as we review the efforts of our brethren—our fathers, our grandfathers, who have endeavored to perform this duty, that they stand with their skirts clear of the blood of this generation. By thousands and tens of thousands have they gone to the islands of the seas, to the lands of the earth, to the countries where they were not wanted, where they were imprisoned, and from which they were exiled, and many of them have given up their lives there, through being martyred or through disease. They have given their best. Nothing has deterred them. None of the things of the earth that are attractive to men have swerved these brethren from the discharge of their duty; so that we have, I believe, a record that is clean and clear, and we have performed our duty towards the world. (Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report, June 1919, p. 86).

What kind of miraculous persuasion is it that would have a young man, vigorous, active, interested in life itself—-at the one time when he, by virtue of normal appraisal, ought to be more interested in material things—-be willing to respond to a call to serve on a mission, pay his own way, give a tithing of his life, two years, preaching the gospel? Miracle? Oh, yes; but we have over 25,000 of them.

You know, as I was presiding over the New England Mission, we had two missionaries who were 2,000 miles away from mission headquarters. And I thought one day, “That’s an interesting process. You take a common, garden-variety, teenage young man; you call him on a mission; you set him apart; you give him another teenager as a companion; and you send him out someplace with a certain amount of money a month provided by himself. You then give him a simple list of instructions: no dating, rigid mission rules—spend all your time preaching and proselyting—and so on.”

Ofttimes, too, he’s provided with an automobile. Well, it’s insane when you think about it. It couldn’t possibly work. The only justification is that it does.
The two missionaries, 2,000 miles away, could be depended upon because somehow they had come to know that it’s their church too, and He’s their Lord, and this process of sustaining—the process, the simple process, of revelation relating to the call—is an operative principle of life in this church. (Boyd K. Packer, “Called of God by Prophecy,” New Era, [September 1978]: 33).

When missionaries rise to speak in the name of Israel’s God, if they live in purity and holiness before Him, He will give them words and ideas of which they never dreamed. (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 14 April 1867, 12:21).

The priesthood represents a mighty army of righteousness—even a royal army. We are led by a prophet of God. In supreme command is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our marching orders are clear. They are concise. Matthew describes our challenge in these words from the Master: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:19-20). Did those early disciples listen to this divine command? Mark records, “And they went forth and preached every where, the Lord working with them” (Mark 16:20).

The command to go has not been rescinded. Rather, it has been reemphasized. What a thrilling and challenging time in which to live!

Those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood and honor it have been reserved for this special period in history. The harvest truly is great. Let there be no mistake about it; the missionary opportunity of a lifetime is theirs. The blessings of eternity await them. How might they best respond? . . .

First, a desire to serve. Remember the qualifying statement of the Master: “Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind” (D&C 64:34). A latter-day minister advised: “Until willingness overflows obligation, men fight as conscripts rather than following the flag as patriots. Duty is never worthily performed until it is performed by one who would gladly do more if only he could” (Harry Emerson Fosdick).

Isn’t it appropriate that in the Church we do not call ourselves as missionaries? Isn’t it wise that our parents do not call us? Rather, we are called by God by prophecy and by revelation. Each call bears the signature of the President of the Church.

It was my privilege to serve for many years with President Spencer W. Kimball when he was chairman of the Missionary Executive Committee of the Church. Those never-to-be-forgotten missionary meetings were filled with inspiration and occasionally interspersed with humor. Well do I remember the recommendation form for one prospective missionary on which the bishop had written: “This young man is very close to his mother. She wonders if he might be assigned to a mission close to home in California so that she can visit him on occasion and telephone him weekly.” As I read aloud this comment, I awaited from President Kimball the pronouncement of a designated assignment. I noticed a twinkle in his eye and a sweet smile on his lips as he said, without additional comment, “Assign him to the South Africa Johannesburg Mission.”

Too numerous to mention are the instances in which a particular call proved providential. This I know—divine inspiration attends such sacred assignments. We acknowledge the truth stated so simply in the Doctrine and Covenants: “If ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work” (D&C 4:3). (Thomas S. Monson, Be Your Best Self, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979, pp. 59-60).

No person but the President of the Church has the authority to call missionaries to preach the gospel, others may suggest or recommend, but they do so to him, and he issues the call. (Joseph F. Smith, Juvenile Instructor, 37 [1902]: 82).

When I ponder the lists of names submitted to me, I realize that these are not just names; they are real people, individuals, and I want to know something about them. I want to fulfill my responsibility with that same spirit of prophecy. No callings in the Church are given more careful consideration than are those for the mission field.
A prospective mission president once asked me,” Do you have a department to help me get my affairs in order?” I replied, “Yes, we do. It is the Lord. If you will go to him prayerfully, and humbly, he will help you get your affairs in order.” That mission president returned to tell me that I was right. (Harold B. Lee, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 27 June 1973).

To no other group of men in all the world is given a better opportunity to engage in the noblest calling in life than that which is afforded the elders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To establish salvation and peace to the extent of their individual efforts, their lives are dedicated; to make the world a better and a fitter place for man, their talents and means are consecrated.

Just be associated with men striving toward such an aim is a joy; and to assist them in their quest, an inspiration. Unselfishly, they are trying to serve their fellow men in love. Thus far, at least, they are true followers of the Master; for "at the very heart of the Christian faith, the most sublime of its teachings, and to him who penetrates its deepest sense, the most human is this: To save lost humanity the invisible God came to dwell among us, in the form of man, and willed to make himself known by this single sign: Love."

God bless the elders, and women as well, who, if not with perfect love, at least with a desire to bring joy and peace to others, are engaged in the noblest calling in life!

Worthy servants of Christ, you are! Teachers! Followers of the true Teacher, the great Exemplar of all! On with your noble work! There is none greater, none more righteous! Yours is the joy promised by the Savior. (David O. McKay, Millennial Star 86 [3 April 1924]: 216-217).

"We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof."

In accordance with this policy, each missionary is called of God through the president of the Church. This is the way Aaron received his call. Moses, the Lord's prophet, gave him the call from the Lord.

In the assigning of missionaries, there are numerous factors to be considered, the chief one being the inspiration received by the Missionary Executive Committee. Members of this committee review carefully and prayerfully all of the recommendations sent to them by the stakes and missions. As they make recommendations, they consider such factors as worthiness, age, experience, military status, home finances, health, language ability, desires, quotas, limitations of countries, requests, nationality, general attitudes, and the needs of the various missions. When all these factors have been duly weighed, a sincere effort is made to ascertain where the person can make the greatest contribution, and the inspiration of the Lord is earnestly sought. The tentative assignment is made subject to approval by the president of the Church, who then signs the call and has it mailed to the prospective missionary. (Spencer W. Kimball, "How is the Missionary's Place of Assignment Made", Answers For Young Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977, pp. 38-39; New Era, [February 1972]: 37).

The First Presidency message in Preach My Gospel provides great motivation to missionaries. Perhaps it will encourage you in your own missionary efforts. It states: “There is no more compelling work than this....Preach My Gospel is intended to help you be a better-prepared, more spiritually mature missionary and a more persuasive teacher....We challenge you to rise to a new sense of commitment to assist our Father in Heaven in His glorious work. … The Lord will reward and richly bless you as you humbly and prayerfully serve Him.” (Preach My Gospel (2004), v.)

Can you catch the vision? You’ll be as excited as I am when in your personal life you begin to understand and use this missionary tool. Unlike prior full-time missionary resources, Preach My Gospel is available to any leader or member through Church distribution. (Richard G. Scott, “The Power of Preach My Gospel,” Ensign, [May 2005]: 29).

We now have very clear direction for success in missionary service. It is provided by the guide Preach My Gospel and the resources developed to accompany it. The highly effective new missionary lessons are based upon teaching by the Spirit rather than rote memorization. They have greatly improved sharing the gospel worldwide. Each mission president has been carefully taught how to implement the new materials. The result is a core of highly capable, devoted, enthusiastic mission presidents with the capacity to inspire and powerfully motivate their missionaries.

The worldwide study and application of the concepts in Preach My Gospel by every missionary has strengthened our capacity to proclaim the message of the Restoration and to teach the plan of salvation and other gospel principles. Raising the bar of worthiness has had far-reaching consequences. There is more devoted service in the field, stronger companion relationships, much more effective teaching, and improved retention of converts. (Richard G. Scott, “Now Is the Time to Serve a Mission!” Ensign, [May 2006]: 87).

You are assigned to do the Lord’s work in a specific area. He wants you to watch over your area with love and great care. Your purpose is to help others come unto Him through baptism and confirmation.

Do all you can to leave your area stronger than you found it. Meaningful goals and careful planning will help you accomplish what the Lord requires of you. As you care for the people in your assigned area, you will account to Him and to your mission leaders.

Your missionary call letter states: “You will also be expected to devote all your time and attention to serving the Lord, leaving behind all other personal affairs. As you do these things the Lord will bless you and you will become an effective advocate and messenger of the truth. We place in you our confidence and pray that the Lord will help you meet your responsibilities in fulfilling this sacred assignment.” (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 137).

In 2002 we raised the bar for missionary service. That means the requirements to be a worthy missionary need to be understood and lived by young people early on. They need to avoid the mischief of the world. Of course, repentance is possible and is a great blessing. But those who stumble must make their repentance true and complete, and that could take time. It may even require First Presidency clearance before they can serve. Raising the bar doesn’t exclude anyone; it just requires more thorough-—and sometimes very difficult—-repentance. I plead with the youth, don’t get into that! Don’t put yourself through that. Just stay worthy.

Now, there may be some young people who consider themselves unworthy or incapable of serving in spite of what they hear from their bishops or branch presidents. But here’s the reality: priesthood leaders have the keys of endorsement. If the priesthood leaders indicate that a person is worthy and he or she is called, then he or she should exercise faith in that call and serve the Lord in full confidence that he or she is worthy and able. (M. Russell Ballard, “How to Prepare to Be a Good Missionary,” New Era [March 2007]: 10).

O elders of Israel! How great is your calling! How important the message which you bear! Never were men entrusted with missions whose results were of greater magnitude than those which will surely follow your testimony! Arise, then, with all the vigor of youth, with all the power of your Priesthood, with all the energy of your souls, with all the might and wisdom of the Spirit, and thrust in your sharp sickles and reap while the day lasts; for the sun of this world is nearly set, the great Saturday evening of creation, with frightful rapidity, is closing upon us. (Orson Pratt, Masterful Discourses and Writings of Orson Pratt, Compiled by Nels B. Lundwall, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1981, p. 48).

Every one of you is so important to this cause. Without you the Church would not grow; it would just go along in a static way and finally it would fade and dwindle and die here. You are what keeps it alive with a constant infusion of new blood, of converts who come into the Church who bring with them their strengths. You are so very, very, very important. Do not ever think that what you are doing is not important. It is so very, very important. You may not bring very many converts into the Church during your mission. I do not care about that so long as you try, so long as you work hard. If you will work hard, the matter of converts will take care of itself. I am satisfied of that. Give it your very best. (Gordon B. Hinckley, The Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997, p. 357).

Men cannot legally and authoritatively go forth to preach the gospel until they are sent; and men cannot hear the word and be converted by the same unless they hear it through the mouth of a preacher who is sent, and who has power to administer in the ordinances of the gospel. (Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-Day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 23:78).

When you are set apart by priesthood authority, you received the right and privilege to represent the Lord. You received a ministerial certificate that verifies that authority to the world. President Spencer W. Kimball said: “The setting apart may be taken literally; it is a setting apart from sin, apart from the carnal; apart from everything which is crude, low, vicious, cheap, or vulgar; set apart from the world to a higher plane of thought and activity. The blessing is conditional upon faithful performance” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 478).

Along with your authority comes a responsibility to live worthy of your calling. As the Lord’s representative, you are to be “an example of the believers” (1 Timothy 4:12). Strive to live according to God’s commandments and keep the covenants you made in the temple; know the scriptures; be courteous, on time, and dependable; follow missionary standards of conduct, dress, and grooming; love the people with whom you serve and work. Honor Christ’s name by your actions.

In addition, to authority, you are also to exercise power in your work. The authority that you have received can lead to power. Indeed, spiritual power is one evidence that your authority is real. Spiritual power is a gift that makes it possible for you to do your work more effectively. Missionaries are to go “in the power of the ordination wherewith [they have] been ordained, proclaiming glad tidings of great joy, even the everlasting gospel” (D&C 79:1). You have authority to preach the gospel. If you hold the priesthood, you have the authority to administer the ordinances thereof. As you prayerfully and worthily exercise that authority, you will receive spiritual power, which is evident of the reality of your call. Do not be afraid or shy about fulfilling this commission. Just as the sons of Mosiah, you are to teach with the power and authority of God (see Alma 1:2-3). (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 4).

In the work of the Lord there should be no serious mistakes. The most important point of your planning should be on your knees. (Benson, Ezra Taft. Ensign, [May 1977]: ).

When missionaries first come into the field, they usually lack self-confidence. So we put them with good companions, and those companions teach them the way of missionary work. In a few months, they are filled with the Spirit. They are filled with the joy that comes from bringing souls to Christ. They understand that they are helping Heavenly Father and the Savior I the great work of redemption. When they realize that, they are on fire.

This empowerment comes from their obedience, dedication, hard work, and enthusiasm. If they are not obedient, if they are not working hard doing the best they know how every day, they won’t have the same impact as those who radiate the spirit of the gospel.

You know, oftentimes I’ll ask new converts when they knew for the first time that the Church is true. It is not unusual for them to say, “I came to know the Church is true when I was taught by the elders or sisters and felt the power of their belief and saw the radiance of their countenance.” If you’re not actively and anxiously engaged, the Spirit won’t be empowering your missionary service as it will if you are. (M. Russell Ballard, “How to Prepare to Be a Good Missionary,” New Era [March 2007]: 10).

Every young man seeking to please his Heavenly Father would be willing and anxious to give approximately a tithe of his life at the age of nineteen or twenty to go into the world to preach the gospel. He would save his money for this; he would plan his life’s program around it; he would keep himself physically, mentally, and morally alert, as well as spiritually strong, to be prepared for this great and sacred responsibility.

While in the mission field he would be “anxiously engage” in the work of the Lord (see D&C 58:27), willing to give freely of his time, his talents, his strengths, and his substance to bless the lives of others. He would guard against wasting his time or diminishing his effectiveness through engaging in activities that might in any way be out of harmony with his great and sacred call. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “To Please Our Heavenly Father,” Ensign, [May 1985]: 49).

A few weeks ago, joy and nostalgia dominated our conversation as Sister Haight and I drove to the airport to see our eleventh grandchild leave for his mission. . . .
Our hearts were filled that morning as we again witnessed the miracle that had already begun and which we knew would continue--not only for the next two years, but for the rest of the life--the transformation of a fine young man into a powerful proclaimer and believer of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our gratitude for and trust in the missionary program of the Church--in all of its spiritual dimensions--and for its continuing influence on our family were deepened and strengthened.

Which watching family expressions of love and joy and tears at the airport, I thought of the hundreds of young men and women and couples who, week after week, leave our missionary training centers around the world to embark on the grandest experience of their lives--going forth to serve our Heavenly Father with all of their heart, might, and mind, and strength. That is indeed one of the great miracles of our time. (David B. Haight, CR O'93, Ensign, [November 1993]: 51).

In the calling of missionaries, I have interviewed many people in my organizing of stakes in the past 30 years, and I have been surprised to find the number of good men who are now in stake presidencies, high councils, and bishoprics who are middle-aged, yet have never filled a mission. I have frequently in my surprise asked them why not and far too often they have said that they were never invited to go on a mission. Many of them had hoped for a call, but were never invited by their bishop and felt they were not to call themselves. I hope that you Regional Representatives and General Authorities will make it clear to every bishop that he must give opportunity to every boy in his ward. Let them prepare themselves with a mission in mind, and when they are sufficiently cleansed and purified and ready, then they can be called into the mission field. Let the bishops understand it is not their right to stand off at a distance and decide whether a boy could go on a mission or should stay home and go to school or whether his mother could support him or whether his parents need his help, but let the boy make his own decisions, and the bishop will give every boy his opportunity. (Spencer W. Kimball, "Lengthening Our Stride," Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 3 October 1974).

You are part of a great miracle that’s occurring over the earth. I never get over the fact that what we are doing is in very deed a remarkable miracle: to send out young men and young women into a world that is unreceptive, generally, to their message, and to teach that world and to have one here and another there give attention. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 24 June 1995).

These young men are instructed that they go out as Representatives of the Church, and that a representative of any organization--economic or religious--must possess one outstanding quality and that is: trustworthiness. He was right who said, "To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved." And whom do these missionaries represent? First, they represent their parents, carrying the responsibility of keeping their good name unsullied. Second, they represent the Church specifically the ward in which they live. And third, they represent the Lord Jesus Christ, whose authorized servants they are. (David O. McKay, Conference Report, October 1949, p. 120).

I should like to name four things which each missionary who has been called should strive to be:

First: I would say he must be worthy of the call to represent our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—the one perfect gentleman who ever walked the earth. Worthiness to represent him, and worthiness to represent the ward, is essential.

Second: He must be converted and have a knowledge that the gospel is the greatest thing in all the world. A man must know what he teaches before he can effectively bring others to see it.

Third: Service. He should have a willingness to serve others; a willingness to go out of his way to help others. Whenever you have something to do—something that you love, something you are interested in—you want somebody else to share that joy with you. It is the same with the gospel. If you feel, and you know it, and sense its glory, you want somebody else to have it. So the third point is willingness to serve.

Fourth: Inspiration, the seeking of divine guidance through prayer. When one senses the glory of the gospel, when one realizes how comprehensive it is, what a great guide it is to a true philosophy of living, he senses his own need for help and guidance. Christ himself, perfect as he was, always sought his Father, particularly before any great event happened. When he fed the five thousand miraculously, God guided him to his own exercise of that power. Then he left on the Sabbath and spent the night in prayer, told the disciples to cross the lake in the boat and he would join them later. That was when the great miracle of walking on the water occurred.
That is the fourth help in the performance of missionary work—guidance through prayer! Once you sense that you can receive an answer and guidance, your difficulties will be overcome.” (David O. McKay, “The Calling and Obligation of a Missionary,” Instructor, [July 1968]: 253).

No person but the President of the Church has the authority to call missionaries to preach the gospel; others may suggest or recommend, but they do so to him, and he issues the call. (Joseph F. Smith, Juvenile Instructor, 37 [February 1902]: 82).

The missionary recommendations that arrive daily at Church headquarters present a spectrum of preparedness. Let me share with you just one or two comments gleaned from the period I served on the Missionary Committee. One recommendation form contained this comment written by the bishop: "John is very close to his mother. She would be happy if he were assigned to a mission close to their home so she could phone weekly and visit him on occasion." As I read this comment to President Spencer W. Kimball, who assigned the missionaries then, I wondered what his reaction would be. Would he assign the young man to California or Washington that he might be near his Oregon home? Without raising his eyes from the assignment sheet, President Kimball said, "Please assign this young man to Johannesburg, South Africa."

Another missionary recommendation contained the comment from the stake president: "This young man was instrumental in bringing his stepfather into the Church about a year ago. His stepfather told me it was because of Jerry getting up each Sunday morning and going to church that caused him to wonder what kind of a church could have that much influence on a boy." (Thomas S. Monson, CR O'87, Ensign, [November 1987]: 42-43).

It has been my privilege and pleasure to be on the Church Missionary Committee for many years and to have held in my hand missionary recommendation forms. I remember one on which the bishop had written: “This is the finest young man I have ever recommended for a mission. He was the valedictorian of his high school graduating class, lettered in track and football, was president of his deacons quorum and his teachers quorum, and secretary of the priests quorum. I have not recommended a more outstanding young man.” Then he added, “I am proud to be his father.”

On another occasion, the bishop had written: “This elder is a very quiet young man. This element of shyness leads an observer to conclude wholesomeness. Although this is not consequential, the conclusion is correct. This elder is a very worthy Latter-day Saint, ready to serve. He has been well trained in manners, etiquette, the gospel, and social graces. He comes from a home where the family continually strives to improve in spiritual strength. He has a testimony of the gospel. He is very sincere, a hard worker. His shyness precludes his displaying the ability he has as a leader. I feel confident that a mission will produce one of the stalwart leaders of the Church in this young man. I highly recommend him for a mission.”

Isn’t that a beautiful tribute to a young man? The stake president added these comments: “Oldest son in a large family. Clean, alert. His shyness covers a lad with talent and devotion. He is spiritually oriented. Please treat him well, and he will be a great servant of the Lord. He is healthy enough for any assignment. I know of no limitations. Treat him well, train him well, love him as we love him, and the Lord will bless him.” These are the finest tributes to a candidate missionary I have ever read. This young man will demonstrate his love of God by how well he serves Him. (Thomas S. Monson, Live the Good Life, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988, pp. 106-107).

We send our elders to preach the gospel. Who sends them? President Woodruff? In one sense no. The God of Israel sends them. It is his work. There is no mortal man that is so much interested in the success of an elder when he is preaching the gospel as the Lord that sent him to preach the people who are the Lord's children. (Lorenzo Snow, Millennial Star, 56 [7 April 1894]: 451).

Our great need, and our great calling, is to bring to the people of this world the candle of understanding to light their way out of obscurity and darkness and into the joy, peace, and truths of the gospel. (Spencer W. Kimball, "Are We Doing All We Can?" Ensign, [February 1983]: 5).

There can be no greater or more important calling for man than that in which the elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are engaged when in the discharge of their duties as missionaries to the world. They stand as teachers, counselors and leaders to the people. They are commissioned with the word of life and "the power of God unto salvation," to minister unto this proud, conceited, self-righteous, but benighted and degenerate world. (Joseph F. Smith, Millennial Star 37 [25 June 25 1875]: 408).

It is my conviction that the present devastating scourge of war in which hundreds of thousands are being slain, many of whom are no more responsible for the causes of the war than are our own boys, is making necessary an increase of missionary activity in the spirit world and that many of our boys who bear the Holy Priesthood and are worthy to do so will be called to that missionary service after they have departed this life. (Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, October 1942, p. 73).

This call to missionary service does not leave us any choice or option as to the course we should pursue. It is not merely a permissive invitation which allows us to spread the gospel message on a voluntary basis, or if we find it convenient to do so. The decree is mandatory. We have no choice about it, if we are to retain the favor of God. (Bruce R. McConkie, Conference Report, October 1960, p. 54).

My assignment is to talk about the calling of missionaries. The Lord has given us the injunction to preach the gospel. That message is repeated more than eighty times in the scriptures--more than eighty times: "Preach the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people," and that surely is reason enough to do it. I would like to add another reason to call missionaries. I think that if we understood, if we could grasp the importance of it, it would compel us to a greater determination to see that every young man be worthy to receive a mission call. Save only for those few who have some overruling physical impediment, every young man must be made worthy to receive a mission call. (Boyd K. Packer, "Principles," Ensign, [March 1985]: 6).

The early missionaries of the Church went forward; beginning with Samuel H. Smith, only a few days after the Church was organized. The number increased until the message was carried to all parts of the then known United States--into Canada, and by 1837, missionaries were on the Eastern Hemisphere. Even during the dark days of Missouri and Illinois and in the pilgrimage across the plains, missionaries went forward with their work. At times it was interrupted slightly, but always there was that urge and desire on the part of the elders of the Church, who had burning within their souls the testimony of the truth--to carry the message of the restored gospel to the people of the world. After the Saints arrived in the valley, it was not an uncommon thing to have read long lists of names of men attending the general conference of the Church who were called to go into the mission field and carry the message of the restored gospel. In later years it became the custom to issue the calls by letter. (Ezra Taft Benson, So Shall Ye Reap, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1960, p. 40).

What is it that causes our young missionaries to want to go out and serve without any hope of material reward? I interviewed one of them down in a California stake recently, and we couldn't accept him because he wasn't old enough. He broke down and cried. He said, "Brother Benson, ever since I was a deacon, I have wanted to go on a mission." And he told how his parents had prayed that the time might come that he would be considered worthy to go out and represent the Church in the world. What is the impelling force back of it?

How did the Prophet Joseph know as a young man that men and women would respond to the call to fill missions, to go out into the world representing an unpopular cause, to carry this glorious message? How did he know that the Saints, when and if they accepted the gospel, would respond to the call of gathering and come to Zion? Yes, the spirit of this work is a precious and priceless thing. (Ezra Taft Benson, So Shall Ye Reap, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1960, p. 58).

I have had occasion to be thrilled with the willingness of the church membership to respond to the call of missionary work, whether it is local or foreign. Every man, almost without exception, and particularly every woman says he or she is ready to respond to any call that the Church makes. I don't know of anything more impressive in this church than this response to call to serve by these faithful members. When you think of thousands of missionaries, most of them men, but many of them women, who are giving their time, their means, in response to calls of bishops, stake Presidents’, and others in the service of this great church, it is wonderful. Many have said, "I will make any sacrifice in order to fulfill the call to duty." (David O. McKay, Conference Report, April 1966, p. 153).

Although our missionaries are strengthened, elevated, and magnified by their service, that is not their primary purpose, and neither they nor their families nor their leaders should regard a mission as the solution to unresolved problems. The Lord needs our best; He needs those who can run, not just walk--but to run physically and spiritually--those who can wield eternal influence with purity and strength and conviction.

Does this mean that those who are not yet ready should be turned away or rejected. Of course not! It means that our young people, their families, and their leaders should each accept the personal responsibility for preparing worthy, able, and committed volunteers for the Lord's royal army. (David B. Haight, CR O'93, Ensign, [November 1993]: 62).

Young men, young women, older men, and older women, stand ready to respond to a call of the Church and to make any sacrifice necessary in order to give the call of the Church preference in preaching the gospel, not only a missionary call that requires a sacrifice to duty, but the rendering of finances, sometimes reaching millions of dollars, in order to make the call more successful as a service to the Church. (David O. McKay, Conference Report, April 1966, p. 154).

There are certain standards by which we should be guided in calling our missionaries. First call no young man or young woman, for the purpose of saving him for her. The young man is getting wayward and you think a mission would do him good. It would. But that is not why you are not sending him out. Choose the young men and young woman who are worthy to represent the Church, see that they are sufficiently mature, and, above all, that they have character. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, April 1950, p.176).

Now I would like to mention another matter, the priesthood. I have noticed sometimes in missions that it has slowed down and that all the brethren are not coming to priesthood as their age and experience would indicate. Every child should be watched as he grows in the Church from babyhood to eight years of age. And every child should be baptized on or near his eighth birthday.

Branch Presidents’ should be watchful to be sure that when that little boy becomes twelve years of age, he is ordained a deacon in the Church. It is a tremendous development for a little boy to have this responsibility and to grow in power. Then he soon become fourteen years of age, and after being a faithful deacon for two years, he becomes a teacher. Branch Presidents’ and parents should be sure that their little boys are given this opportunity.

And then at sixteen he becomes a priest. Think of sixteen-year-old boys being made priests in the Lord's kingdom; they are given the privilege every week of breaking the bread and blessing the bread and water for the sacrament.

Now during all of these years these little boys will have been indoctrinated by their parents, and by the branch officers, and by the branch Presidents to anticipate serving missions. And when these young men are approximately nineteen, they are called on missions. And then, after the missions, they return home to their education, to their courtships, to their marriages, to their families, and to other facets of life. (Spencer W. Kimball, Hong Kong Area Conference, 13-14 August 1975).

It annoys me when men whom the Lord blesses with great abundance are not willing to do their full duty. (Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, comp. by G. Homer Durham. Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1941, p.107).

Many young men today interrupt their formal schooling to fill a mission or to serve their country. Such an experience should not be feared, but cherished. They have the privilege of standing before the world as a beacon on a hill—even a light unto the world. Will they falter? Will they fail? Or will they return with honor? The choice is theirs. Their attitude will make the difference. . . .

From a missionary,

Dear Brother Monson: Today was the greatest day in my life. I am the happiest man in the world. You remember I spend much of my time in a wheelchair and have done since a bout of polio long years ago, At 7:00 p. m, in this glorious state of California, my companions wheeled me to the edge of the baptism font. I lifted myself from the wheelchair and, with effort, lowered my weak legs and crippled body into the font. I took the hand of one who had found the truth and pledged to live it and repeated the baptism prayer, then immersed him in those waters which cleanse soiled and troubled lives. He thanked me. I thanked God. (Thomas S. Monson, Pathways of Perfection, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979, pp. 136-137).

It does not matter if it interrupts your schooling or delays your career or your marriage--or basketball. Unless you have a serious health problem, every Latter-day Saint young man should answer the call to serve a mission. Even mistakes and transgressions must not stand in the way. You should make yourself worthy to receive a call. (Boyd K. Packer, CR A'84, Ensign, [May 1984]: 42).

Every man and woman who goes forth in [missionary] service blesses the lives of all he teaches. Furthermore, his or her own life is enriched by this selfless labor. Who has not witnessed the miracle of a missionary who has grown in a wondrous way while engaged in the work of the Master?

Priesthood leaders and fathers and mothers should begin while a boy is very young to point him in the direction of missionary service. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Miracle Made Possible by Faith,” Ensign, [May 1984]: 46).

We go where we are called to serve. I would plead with you to be yourselves--be your best shelf. You are a son of God, you are a daughter of God and He has endowed you with characteristics and mannerisms and sensitivities. Recognize that He knows your attributes, He knows your qualifications, and He inspired your call to meet just the people whom He would have hear your testimony and feel your spirit. (Thomas S. Monson, Church News, [25 June 1994]: 4).

When the call comes for us to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with our Father's other children, it will be our privilege as well as our duty to put our own affairs in order, and like Joseph Smith and the men who were in the beginning with the Church in the early days, and go where we are called to go. (George Albert Smith, "Looking Ahead into A New Century," Church News, (20 December 1947): 1).

Young men, look forward to full-time missionary service. Show your love and commitment to the Lord by responding to His call to serve. Know that the real purpose in going into the mission field is to bring souls unto Christ, to teach and baptize our Heavenly Father's children so that you may rejoice with them in the kingdom of our Father. (See D&C 18:15.) Prepare now for your mission by doing these things we have discussed this evening. (Ezra Taft Benson, “To the Young Men of the Church,” in Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice, Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book, 1990, p. 5).

You will be under call from the Lord Jesus Christ. What a marvelous thing it is to have the confidence of the Lord, your bishop, stake president, all of the General Authorities, and President Hinckley to honor you with a call. You will be a servant of the living God and an ambassador of the Church.

Most of our missionaries are young and inexperienced in the ways of the world. Nevertheless, the Lord said: “He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all.”

Despite our shortcomings and our inadequacies, we need to be reminded that the God who called you to serve is the “possessor of all things; for all things are subject unto him, both in heaven and on the earth, the life and the light, the Spirit and the power, sent forth by the will of the Father through Jesus Christ, his Son. “But no man is possessor of all things except he be purified and cleansed from all sin.” (James E. Faust, Conference Report, April 1996).

I am confident that the time will never come when we shall not need vigorous men and woman of faith to go into the world as missionaries for this cause. We have never found, and I think we never shall find, an adequate substitute for the situation in which two wholesome young men meet with a family, reason with them, teach them, testify to them, and pray with them. We shall always need missionaries. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference Report, April 1959, p. 120).

You never can foretell the consequences of that which you do. And the man or the woman, or the boy or the girl, on whom you call today, with whom you speak, with whom you may leave a Book of Mormon, who may turn you down, may later become interested and come into this Church. … Strange are the ways of the Lord in touching the hearts of people. You never can tell the consequences of that which you do. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Boston, Massachusetts Missionary Meeting, 22 March 2002).