Sunday, October 7, 2007

Preaching with Love

Heber J. Grant dedicates Japan for missionary work 1901

It is a time-honored adage that love begets love. Let us pour forth love—show forth our kindness unto all mankind, and the Lord will reward us with everlasting increase; cast our bread upon the waters and we shall receive it after many days, increased to a hundredfold. Friendship is like Brother Turley in his blacksmith shop welding iron to iron; it unites the human family with its happy influences. (Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1978, 5:517).

I love the missionaries of this Church. I have been one and I have worked with them and I love them. And I mean that. To me it is an ever-refreshing miracle that a boy from a dusty little town like Parowan and a girl from a dusty little town like Vacaville could come out into the world and touch people’s hearts and change their lives. It is a miracle. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Washington D.C. North and South Missionary Meeting, 12 November 1995).

I have preached this gospel in sunshine, in dust, through the mud, I have wandered in the cold of winter, as well as the heat of summer, and have sought men. No man can do that who does not have in his heart a love for the souls of men. I love them. I would stay these dreadful days; but I cannot. All I can do is to warn them, that they may repent and find the salvation which we offer them. The wedding is prepared. We are bearers of the invitation calling men to come to the wedding feast. Let us not be slack in continuing to give ourselves freely, as our fathers have done, not only to send our sons, but give ourselves, and discharge this great obligation, which yet rests upon this Church. (Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report, April 1925, p. 136).

I love the missionaries of this Church. I have been one and I have worked with them and I love them. And I mean that. To me it is an ever-refreshing miracle that a boy from a dusty little town like Parowan and a girl from a dusty little town like Vacaville could come out into the world and touch people’s hearts and change their lives. It is a miracle. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Washington D.C. North and South Missionary Meeting, 12 November 1995).

During my last year at the university, I looked forward to the prospects of a fine professional future and had my life very well outlined. Then a kind and thoughtful Lord placed a bombshell in my little world. Her name was Jeanene Watkins. Her father's election to the Senate had brought her to Washington D.C., where I lived. The more I came to know her, the more fascinated I became, and each opportunity to be with her deepened the growing love within my heart. One evening as we conversed about the important things of life, she innocently said, "When I marry, I'll marry in the temple, a returned missionary." That comment struck me to the core. It began a process of reflection, contemplation, and prayer that resulted in my receiving a call as a missionary to Uruguay.

I thought myself ill prepared to teach the gospel to anyone. I had an intellectual understanding of some of the gospel principles that I recognized needed to be converted into heart-centered, Holy Ghost-inspired, burning testimony of truth. I struggled to communicate with the Lord my feelings of gratitude for the privilege of service, for the blessing of righteous parents, and for the love of one of His most precious handmaidens. I asked Him to help me become an effective servant in His hands. I strained to forget self, struggled to help others, and in the process, skeleton of the teachings I had received took on new life and meaning.

I discovered that we are not left alone to face the challenges of life, but can receive guidance and strength from a loving, understanding God in heaven. I bathed my pillow with tears of pleading for the mercy of the Lord to forgive a wayward soul or to fortify a family in need. I pled that a heart could be softened or a struggling father could be given a personal witness of truth, and discovered the limitless breadth of love.

Familiar scriptures, through prayer and application, guided me to new depths of understanding and appreciation. I had read the words many times. They now took on new meaning:

"And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all...

"But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him." (Moroni 7:45-47).

What a priceless message for any that would enjoy the comforting circle of true friendship. How I wanted then, as I do now, to share those exquisite feelings of love and appreciation--of belonging. (Richard G. Scott, "The Comforting Circle of True Friendship," Ensign, [July 1983]: 64-65).

We manifest our love for others by standing "as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places" (Mosiah 18:9). The great missionary work of the Church is a testimony to our love of our fellowman. The gospel of Jesus Christ restored to the earth in these latter days is the great hope for individuals, families, communities, and the world itself. We say to our friends, "Come unto Christ, enter the purifying waters of baptism, receive the Holy Ghost, and your lives will be transformed in the light and life of the Spirit." (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Two Guiding Lights,” Brigham Young University CES Fireside for Young Adults, 1 February 2004).

There is no power on earth by which we can penetrate the souls of men, the equal of that radiation of love and affection which will naturally pass from us to those to whom we bring truth and light and knowledge and understanding. (Henry D. Moyle, Conference Report, April 1953, p. 127).

There is no substitute for love. Successful missionaries love their companions, their mission leaders, and the precious persons whom they teach. Often this love is rekindled in youth by a mother, expanded by a father, and kept vibrant through service to God.

In the fourth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord established the qualifications for the labors of the ministry. Let us consider but a few verses:

. . . O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind, and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.

And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.

Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence. (D&C 4:2, 5-6.)

Well might each of us ask himself: Today, have I increased in faith, in virtue, in knowledge, in godliness, in love?

When our lives comply with God’s own standard, those within our sphere of influence will never speak the lament: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jeremiah 8:20).

Through our dedicated devotion at home or abroad, those souls whom we help to save may well be those whom we love the most.

Several years ago, while touring the California Mission, I interviewed a missionary who appeared rather dejected and downcast. I asked him if he had been sending a letter home to his parents each week. He replied: “Yes, Brother Monson, each week for the last five months.”

I responded: “And do you enjoy the letters you receive from home?”

Came his unexpected answer: “I haven’t had a letter from home since I came on my mission. You see, my dad is inactive and mother is a nonmember. She didn’t favor my accepting a mission call and said that if I went into the mission field she would never write me nor send a dime.” With a half smile which didn’t really disguise the heartache, he said: “And she has kept her word. What can I do, Brother Monson?”
I prayed for inspiration. The answer came. “Keep writing, son, every week. Bear your testimony to mother and to dad. Let them know you love them. Tell them how much the gospel means to you. And serve the Lord with all your heart.”

Six months later when I attended a stake conference in the area, this same elder ran up to me and asked: “Do you remember me? I’m the missionary whose parents didn’t write.” I remembered him only too well and cautiously asked if he had received a letter from home. He reached into his pocket and held out to my view a large handful of envelopes. With tears streaming down his cheeks he declared proudly, “Not one letter, Brother Monson, but a letter every week. Listen to the latest one: “Son, we so much appreciate the work you are doing. Since you left for your mission our lives have changed. Dad attends priesthood meeting and will soon be an elder. I have been meeting with the missionaries and next month will be baptized. Let’s make an appointment to all be together in the Los Angeles Temple one year from now as you conclude your mission. Sincerely, Mother.”

Love had won its victory. Serve the Lord with love. (Thomas S. Monson, Pathways of Perfection, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979, pp. 102-103).

Love for the Lord, love for His servants the missionaries. Missionary work is a work of love and trust, and it has to be done on that basis. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Mission Presidents' Seminar, July 1995).

Untoward feelings of any kind become a barrier against the ministrations of the spirit. Proselyting is a labor of love--a love for the work and a love for mankind, and only when this love is present can inspiration from on high be expected. Happy is the elder who rises each morning with a thrilling affection for his ministry and a genuine concern for the spiritual welfare of those who live about him. ("The Spirit of God," in The Missionary's Handbook, Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing Co., 1937, p. 36).

Missionary work is based upon sincere love for our fellowmen. I realize the Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist, the Baptist, the Episcopalian, and the other churches, I have brothers and sisters that I love. The are all my Father's children, he loves them and he expects me and he expects you, to let our lights so shine that these other sons and daughters of his, seeing our good works, will be constrained to accept all the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord. (George Albert Smith, Sharing the Gospel with Others, Salt Lake City: Deseret News, Press, p. 4).

Brigham Young counseled us: “Go on until we are perfect; loving your neighbor more than we love ourselves.” It is folly in the extreme for persons to say that they love God when they do not love their brethren. And the Prophet Joseph Smith advised: “A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”

This is the kind of love which fills the hearts of our missionaries, in response to a call from God’s prophet, leave the comfort of their own families and homes and go into the world to share the most precious message given to man.

I saw a typical missionary rendering faithful service far off in the islands of the sea. I know his mother and father and his family. I know that there is love in their home. Father was a bishop in the Holladay Stake. This young man could have remained home with his family in their lovely home; he could have continued to pursue his education at the university; he could have chosen to advance his economic standing and enjoyed the association of his friends, and, incidentally, the good cooking of his mother. But the call came. He answered. He has learned how to live on coconuts, taro, boiled green bananas, and other items he never before heard of. He has learned how to walk miles on end in a downpour of torrential rain. He has learned to endure all kinds of deprivations. Yet is he unhappy? When I asked him how he was getting along he answered, “I’ve never worked harder, nor longer hours, nor under such unfavorable circumstances. But I have never been happier in my entire life. Tell my Mom and Dad that I love them, I love this people, and I love my mission.” Does he love as Jesus loves? (Thomas S. Monson, Pathways of Perfection, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979, pp. 182-183).

I love the English people. No one can sell the English short in my mind because I labored with them, I lived with them, I was in their homes at their firesides, I learned to know their hearts, and I learned to love them.

I have learned to love the people of Asia. I spent 11 years among them, and I love them. To me, I love them as much as I love anybody because of the experience I have had as a missionary, as it were, among them.

There’s something wrong if a missionary doesn’t come back with a great love for the people among he labored. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Gifts to Bring Home from the Mission Field,” New Era, [March 2007]: 3).

There are at least twenty-seven sections of the Doctrine and Covenants that refer to missionary work. The first great responsibility placed upon this Church in our day was to carry this message to the world. It is still a major responsibility. It is going on here on earth and it is going on in greater volume on the other side, and whether you do it here or over there doesn't make very much difference, just so long as you are missionaries. If you are laboring as you should, if you love this work, you will be engaged in helping to save the souls of the children of man throughout eternity until they have all heard it. And so it is the greatest work in all the world. There isn't anything like it in magnitude, in importance, in size, in promise. (Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1973, p. 66).

Help your missionaries see that they must come to love the things the Lord loves. Their obedience, their service, their commitment will then grow from love for the Lord and not from fear, or habit, or desire to measure up to parents' expectations.
This begins to stretch their hearts to love God's children...Let us never forget that love is the essence and evidence of a true disciple. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, Church News, [30 June 1990]: 4).

Not only should a mission be regarded as a priesthood duty, but every young man should look forward to this experience with great joy and anticipation. What a privilege--what a sacred privilege--to serve the Lord full time for two years with all your heart, might, mind, and strength (D&C 4). 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). (Ezra Taft Benson, CR A'86, Ensign, 16 [May 1986]: 44).

President Harold B. Lee once instructed a group of new mission Presidents to "save the missionaries and they will save the people." The key to saving anyone is to love them. It is still true that "a person doesn't care how much you know as long as he knows how much you care." (Ezra Taft Benson, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, Salt Lake City, Utah, 25 June 1986).

You could not have said anything to please me more than that you love the members of the church wherever you have found them in the mission. You have learned to look for virtues rather than faults, and of course one always finds that which he seeks, love for humanity is indispensable in missionary labors. Especially are those entitled to our affectionate service who by virtue of their strong faith have sacrificed much to join the church of Christ. (John A. Widtsoe, The Successful Missionary, Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1947, p.61).

Now our missionary work is so set up through the world that we do respect the people, and not only that, we learn to love them....The countries in which we serve are inhabited by people whom we learn to love. We cannot preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the children of our Heavenly Father in their native tongue and in their native land without sensing a deep appreciation for the good that there is in them. There comes to us very definitely a realization of the relationship which exists between us and them because after all, we are all brothers and sisters, children of our Heavenly Father, (Henry D. Moyle, Church News, [3 September 1960]: 4).

Learn to love and serve the people among whom you work. You should pray daily for them that the Lord will fill you with love as you serve them. If you do not love them, you will have difficulty teaching them.

A lonely young Persian student was in Munich, struggling to find meaning to life in postwar Europe. He heard a knock at the door one day, and two Mormon missionaries stood before him. He was not the least interested in religion. The only thing that interested him about these two young men was their accent. He had mastered four languages, but English was not one of them.

He invited them in, but as soon as they began their discussion, he cautioned, “I don’t want to hear about God, nor how your religion got started. I only want to know one thing: what do you people do for one another?”

He waited as the elders exchanged glances. Finally, one of them said softly, “We love one another.”

Nothing the missionary could have said would have been more electrifying than this simple utterance, for the Holy Ghost immediately bore witness that these missionaries were true servants of the Lord. Shortly thereafter, he was baptized into the Church. (James E. Faust, Conference Report, April 1996).

I was interviewing a missionary not long ago. In the privacy of a small room in the meetinghouse he asked me, "Brother Ashton, do you think I can make it as a missionary?" I've been out here fourteen months. My father is an alcoholic. My mother's been divorced twice. Can I make it as a missionary?"

I asked, "How do you feel about your dad? How do you feel about your mother?"
His chin quivered as he replied, "I love them."

I felt impressed to say, "You'll make it. With patience and love like that you can't fail. (Marvin J. Ashton, What Is Your Destination?, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book , 1978, p. 164).

You must develop a love for the people among whom you labor. Your hearts must go out to them in the pure love of the gospel, in a desire to lift them, to build them up, to point them to a higher, finer life and eventually, to exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God. Emphasize the fine qualities of the people you are to teach. Love the people as children of God, whom the Lord loves. (Ezra Taft Benson, "Keys to Successful Missionary Work," Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 20 June 1979).

There is a way to reach every human heart, and it is your business to find the way to the hearts of those to whom you are called on your mission. (Lorenzo Snow, Improvement Era, [December 1899]: 128).

You will not be an effective missionary unto you learn to have sympathy for all of our Father's children--unless you learn to love them. People can feel when love is extended to them. Many yearn for it. When you sympathize with their feelings, they in turn will reciprocate good will to you. You will have made a friend. And as the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, "Whom can I teach but my friends." Yes, love the people. (Ezra Taft Benson, "Keys to Successful Missionary Work," Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 20 June 1979).

When I was in the mission field interviewing missionaries I thought it was a very important thing for them to have love in their hearts if they were going to preach the gospel and be Representatives, ambassadors, of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I asked those missionaries every time if they love the Lord, and they said yes. And I said, "How does he know?" And they said, "Well, we have told him."

"The Lord said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (See John 14:15.) That's the way he knows. (N. Eldon Tanner, Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1973, p. 42).

Missionary work has a distinct spiritual equivalent. In it lies a spiritual principle. I create and develop within myself, when I give of my time and means and talents to the preaching of the gospel, a love for my fellow men, brotherly love. God is love. Without love we can do nothing in the building of his kingdom. (John A. Widtsoe, Conference Report, April 1940, p. 39).

Missionaries return home with a love for the people they have served and taught. They are true ambassadors spreading goodwill for the peoples in whose countries they have lived and worked. They are not concerned with income levels and have no racial bias. They are not out to build any worldly kingdoms. They are in the words of Mormon, "the peaceable followers of Christ." (Moroni 7:3). The only kingdom which interests them is the kingdom of our Lord and Savior which He will establish at His return. Their only hope is to prepare us for that great day. Until then, our missionaries, as well as members of the Church, will be "subject to kings, Presidents, rulers, and magistrates," and be found "obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law." (Article of Faith 1:12). (L. Tom Perry, CR O'89, Ensign, (November 1989): 71-72).