Brothers and Sisters, Missionary Work is defined by Jesus Christ in Matthew 28:19-20 when he declares unto his apostles “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”. Therefore, missionary work, simply put, is helping others to learn and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. This missionary work can be carried out in many different ways, including setting a Christ-like example to those around you.
Today I wish to speak on how each of us can carry out missionary work among the youth of the church. As quoted by Elder Holland “There is no battle more crucial and evident “than that being waged for the minds and morals, the personal purity of the young.” Satan knows that the youth are the future of this Church, that they are our future Bishops, Teachers, Quorum and Class Presidents, that they are our Future Missionaries. But in order for us to win this battle for the purity of Youth we must follow the instructions stated in Mosiah 18:9 to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in”. By doing so, we support and encourage the youth of our generation to prepare to serve as member and full-time missionaries; We help those who will come after us to flood the Earth with The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and the wonderful blessings that it has to offer us.
Parents obviously have a key role in preparing their children to be our future missionaries. Harold B Lee said “The most important of the Lord’s work that you will ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own home.” The example that parents set for their children therefore is the most influential example that children will have in their lives. It is this example that will set the course that the youth of this church are to follow, for better or for worse. No wonder the role that parents play is referenced so periodically in the Scriptures.
The Family: A Proclamation to the world states “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another [and to] observe the commandments of God.” By doing so, parents perform Missionary Work among their own children and prepare their children to perform missionary work among those of the world.
*** “Young men are sowers. Young women are sowers. Who trains and guides these sowers? Who points out to them which is the right grain to place in the sower’s bag? Who teaches them how to place the sower’s bag on their shoulders? Who teaches the young sower going out into the field for the first time whether the season is right, or how far to scatter the seed? Hopefully, a caring father, a loving mother, teachers and quorums, or other loved ones will guide their footsteps.” David B Haight
So how do parents rear their children in love and righteousness? To begin with, parents must be unified in the teaching of their children. This unity can be developed by “companionship study” of the scriptures, by “companionship prayer”, and as we work as a companionship to achieve common goals. Preach My Gospel pg 178 says “The Lord has commanded, “Ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel, two by two” (D&C 42:6). Your teaching will be more powerful... if you and your companion work together in unity... Support your companion by offering a second witness to the truths of which he or she has testified. Follow your impressions when the Spirit prompts you to say something.” As children see the unity that has been developed among their parents, they will have a greater desire to follow the counsel and direction that their parents have given them. They will see that their parents are guided by the Holy Ghost and that the counsel that they receive from each individual parent will not vary from the counsel that they would receive from their other parents or from that of their Heavenly Father.
Elder Holland, in talking about those who are being taught by missionaries said “These [children] are not lifeless objects... They are children of God, our brothers and sisters, and they need what we have. Be genuine. Reach out sincerely. Ask these [children] what matters most to them. What do they cherish, and what do they hold dear? And then listen. If the setting is right you might ask what their fears are, what they yearn for, or what they feel is missing in their lives. I promise you that something in what they say will always highlight a truth of the gospel about which you can bear testimony and about which you can then offer more.” Brothers and Sisters, as you show sincere concern for your children they will see that you love them, that you want what is in their best interest, and that you will always be there to help and guide them on the path through life. You will have more opportunities to teach them to follow the commandments of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a whole. Your children will be prepared to preach the Gospel because they will have seen and felt the love of Christ in their lives and desire to share that same love with those around them.
*** “The interpersonal relationships between missionaries are among the choicest blessings we receive as the result of missionary service. The friendships and the positive influence of one missionary upon the other can be eternal.” James M Dunn
Next, Parents are to provide for the physical and spiritual needs of their children. I am reminded of the story of Alma the Younger. His father obviously carried out this act of providing for the needs of his son when it is stated that he and his people “did walk uprightly before God, imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs and their wants.” However, for the time being, Alma the Younger did not pay heed or appreciate the counsel of his Father, for he went around destroying the Church of God and leading many souls unto destruction. In this act he, and his friends, were visited by an Angel. Later, while recounting this experience, Alma the Younger states the the Angel said unto him “the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.” We all know the story of Alma the Younger. We know that he repented of his ways, that he began to follow the counsel of his Father. But most important of all “Alma began from this time forward to teach the people, and those who were with Alma at the time the angel appeared unto them, traveling round about through all the land, publishing to all the people the things which they had heard and seen, and preaching the word of God... And thus they were instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer.” (Mosiah 18:29 ; 27:14,32,36) This is the result of a loving parent providing proper and complete spiritual nourishment for their child. The simple prayer of a loving father was exactly what Alma the Younger needed in order to change the course of his life and give selfless missionary service for the remainder of his time on this Earth. Each of us has the opportunity of providing this same outcome for our children as we carry out daily family prayer, daily family scripture study, weekly family home evenings, and other family activities.
A Similar story of lifelong missionary service as a result of proper spiritual nourishment comes from the story of Enos who said “Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it... and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.” Here we can see that the Father of Enos had spent much time bringing him up in the ways of the Savior, teaching him his duties and responsibilities as a Priesthood holder. We see that Enos was conscious of the time and effort that his Father had dedicated to his spiritual nourishment. And as a result, after his conversion, Enos says for himself, “I, Enos, went about among the people of Nephi, prophesying of things to come, and testifying of the things which I had heard and seen... Having been wrought upon by the power of God that I must preach and prophesy unto this people, and declare the word according to the truth which is in Christ. And I have declared it in all my days, and have rejoiced in it above that of the world.” (Enos verses 1,3,19,26) Brothers and Sisters, the spiritual nourishment you provide for your children will extend far beyond the lives of your children. It will extend to those who your children encounter as they place their lives in the service of their God. The missionary service you provide now, to your children, through proper care and nourishment, will effect countless generations to come.
I remember my Mom sending me a letter a few months ago. She told me that my Dad had given her, as a Mother's Day present, a book titled “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands”. Although she wasn't particularly thrilled with the gift my Dad had given her, (and actually wanted to throw it out) she found, several years later, that this book was actually very beneficial to her progress as a wife and mother. We similarly have a book that can help us to become better missionaries, Mothers and Fathers, Sons and Daughters. It could be titled “The Proper Care and Nourishment of Children, but in reality is called “The Book of Mormon”. Do not waste this precious resource that you have been given as a gift from your Heavenly Father. It will provide the guidance that you need in order to Provide for the physical and spiritual needs of your children. Read it Daily, as individuals and as families. This alone will greatly increase your ability as a spiritual and physical provider for your family.
*** Regardless of needs or problems, all people are best helped as they accept and live the gospel. You will be able to adjust your teaching as you listen to the promptings of the Spirit... Make sure that you ask enough questions and listen carefully to their answers so you have a firm understanding of how quickly and how well the investigator is learning and applying the doctrines you are presenting... Trust in the promise that the Spirit will give you “in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say” -Preach My Gospel Pg 177
*** Elder Russell Nelson told me once that one of the first rules of medical inquiry is “Ask the patient where it hurts. The patient,” he said, “will be your best guide to a correct diagnosis and eventual remedy.” If we listen with love, we won’t need to wonder what to say. It will be given to us—by the Spirit and by our friends. -Elder Holland
It is the Duty of Parents to teach their children to Love, Serve and Keep the Commandments. The Proclamation to the World: The Family, says “Successful marriages and families [and missionaries] are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” (Proclamation to the World) These principles were taught to me very well by my own parents. One example of this that comes to mind is the service that my Mother asked me to provide to a neighbor named Denise Termini. Here is some background on her situation.... Lives alone....Cancer..... Shoulders...... I remember the countless opportunities that I had to give her rides to Church each Sunday (and when she could not attend church, to bring her the Sacrament), an opportunity that she had not had the privilege of having for most of her later years due to medical issues. She has since passed on, but has left a lasting sense of love, compassion, and service in my heart, which is something that I greatly wish to carry on to my future children. I am grateful for the opportunity and encouragement that my Mother gave me to provide service for Denise and I know that those experiences have been a blessing to me during my missionary service. They are experiences that I can look back on and say “My service means something to someone. No effort is wasted. Don't give up now, even when doors are slammed in your face, or you are run off a porch, or you are threatened for the service you wish to provide. Your hard work, the love you share and the desire you have to share it, your service, means something to someone”. I know for myself that this is the result of a loving father and mother who taught me to Love, serve, and keep the commandments of God.
Brothers and Sisters, I know that as you similarly teach your children the standards that have been put forth by our Heavenly Father, that your children will “Wax strong in the knowledge of the truth... [become men and women] of a sound understanding [who have] searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God” and become as the Sons of Mosiah who “had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.” (Mosiah 17: 2-3)
I know that as we Rear children in love and righteousness, provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and teach them to love, serve, and keep the commandments, that they will become successful missionaries in times to come. As you continue to teach them “Their faith, happiness and expression will be sufficient to awaken the interest” (Elder Holland) of those whom they will teach. As Elder Holland said “We can all do more to transmit this tradition [of missionary service] to those who come after us”, for, As Joseph Smith stated, “After all has been said, our most important duty is to Preach the Gospel” (Joseph Smith).
I want to leave you with one last quote from Preach My Gospel from the section “No Effort is Wasted”. When people choose not to investigate the restored gospel, your work is not wasted. Your consistent efforts in serving and teaching as many people as you can is one way God prepares His children to eventually receive His servants. He often reaches out to His children through you. Even when people do not accept the opportunity to learn the gospel, your service and words are evidence of God’s love for them and may plant seeds that future missionaries and members of the Church will harvest.
When people do not accept the gospel, do not be discouraged. You have raised a warning voice. You have given them a clear choice. Disciples of Christ feel sorrow when people choose not to repent, but they maintain a vision of who they are and what they are doing. They continue to diligently move forward.”