Sunday, August 10, 2008

Doing All We Can for Our Boys

Elder LeGrand Richards near the close of World War II gave an April 1945 General Comference report describing why he went on a mission and the value of a mission. It is a bit long but very motivational:

We have a new generation of boys coming along, the boys of the Aaronic Priesthood of this Church, and I truly hope that every bishop and every father and mother will see to it that these boys grow to manhood with a desire to fill a mission for the Church. It is not only a great responsibility that the Lord has placed upon the Church, to see that the gospel is preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, but the great missionary system of this Church does more for the membership of the Church individually and collectively than any other activity of the Church, in my judgment. When I was a boy, I desired with all my heart to go on a mission. I remember two returned missionaries reporting their missions in the little country town where I was reared as a boy, and as I have said many times, if they did not do unusually well that night, the Lord did something for me, because when I went home, mere boy that I was, I got down on my knees and asked the Lord to help me to be worthy to go on a mission when I was old enough. When the train finally left the station here in Salt Lake, and I bade farewell to my parents, I told them it was the happiest moment of my life. There were many tears shed upon that occasion, but there were a great many more tears shed in little old Holland when I left there to return home nearly three years later. When we were set apart for our missions, President Anthon H. Lund made a statement to us boys I will never forget. He said, "Brethren, the people will love you when you go into the mission field. Now," he said, "don't get lifted up in the pride of your hearts and think they love you becase of who you are. They will love you because of what you are. You are servants of the Lord. You are clothed with his Holy Priesthood and that is what the people will love." I did not realize fully the meaning of those words until I went to bid farewell to the Saints in Holland. One little mother, whose daughter came to America only a few weeks before, said, "Brother Richards, it was hard to see my daughter leave, but it is much harder to see you go." A brother old enough to be my own father, knelt down and kissed my hand an affectionate good-bye. As I closed my ministry, I shed tears all the way traveling from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, as I thought of how marvelously the Lord had sustained and blessed me, and what that mission meant to me.

Then President Lund made another statement I could not help thinking of today when we heard Brother Kirkham telling about the boy on the street corner in Boston bearing his testimony. President Lund said, "Boys, if you ever lack for words to speak when you are called upon, just arise and testify that you know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God and the Book of Mormon is true, and I promise you that you shall not want for words to speak." There isn't time to tell you how literally that was fulfilled. I remember one large conference held in Rotterdam where we had about fifteen hundred people present. Some of the leaders of the town came with their stovepipe hats and walking canes, and the mission president had promised me if I would take the minutes--I was secretary of the mission--he would not call on me to speak. Well, President Grant happened to be on the stand and he said, "Call Brother Richards next," and so I spoke unexpectedly. Now, I want to bear testimony to you here this day that the words of Presient Lund came to my mind, and I walked up to the pulpit and bore testimony to the restoration of the gospel, and the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Lord did something for me that day; he lifted me up until I felt that the floor could have passed from under my feet, and I would still have been there preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Later, when some of our people were baptized and I happened to be in that baptismal service, they told me that my talk that night, which I knew came from the Lord, was the thing that started them on the way to investigate the gospel.

Now, brothers and sisters--there are sisters on the air--I know of nothing in this world that can do for your boys and girls what a mission can. Jesus said, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent'' (John 17:3); and there is no way I know of in the world where men can learn to know God as they can in the mission field. I have heard President Grant say that the experience of his life that he regarded as richer to him than any other in his Church work was the time he spent in Great Britain as a missionary.

I would like to recommend to the bishops this thought, that every boy in the Aaronic Priesthood who lives worthy to go on a mission, be interviewed by the bishop, for a mission call initiates with the bishop. Do not attempt to be the judge whether he is financially able to go or not until you have interviewed him in the presence of his parents. I have tried that. I remember in one home we did not think they could possibly send their boy. We told the mother-the father was not a member of the Church-All we knew was we would be proud to have their boy represent our ward in the mission field, but we did not know whether they had any rich uncles or aunts, or grandparents that could help or not, and the mother said, "Bishop, if you will call my boy on a mission I will see that he gets the money if I have to work every day he is gone to provide it." Now, brothers and sisters, I feel that if we promote this spirit, keep it alive in the hearts of our people it should not be difficult at all for us to have one percent of our ward population in the mission field. We proved this could be done in two wards where I had the privilege of presiding. We have some ten to fifteen percent in the armed forces. The boys will bless you forever for the privilege that comes to them; and if they cannot go they will be stronger Latter-day Saints, proud of the fact that their bishop had interviewed them and given them an opportunity to go.

God bless us to do all we can for our boys.

I have thought about this quote and thimk that a mission helps our children more than anything else to reconfirm their belief and develop a culture of service and caring for others. It is hard after serving a mission not to want to help others. People like LeGrand Richards inculcated us in my generation to do things for the right reasons out of love for others. He constantly stressed that we need to love those among whom we serve. I have found that as I interact with other people I develop a respect and sometimes a love for them. By encouraging our youth to serve missions we keep alive a hope that this world won't be as selfish or materialistic and that people are intrinsically good.

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