My Come, Follow Me studies for this week were about missionary work. Missionary work is growing in my family. My husband, both our sons, and three of our four sons by marriage have served missions. Our oldest grandson will be home from his mission in less than two months, and our oldest granddaughter will be opening her mission call tomorrow. Several of our children are planning to serve missions with their spouses after retirement.
The lesson discussed the mission calls of four men who had been members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for a month or less. In the fall of 1830, there were no long-term members of the Church of Jesus Christ because the Church itself was organized only six months previously in April 1830. However, there was a pattern in those mission calls that remains today: When you know enough to accept the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, you know enough to share it with others.
Of course, the Church of Jesus Christ does not call people on missions who have been members for a month or less. In fact, missionaries are required to obtain their temple endowments before entering the mission field, and converts must be members for at least a year to be endowed. This is true under most conditions, but there were some adjustments made during the current pandemic. Some missionaries were allowed to enter the mission field without their endowment because the temples were all closed. However, they were expected to go to the nearest temple to receive their endowment as soon as a temple was available.
One of the principles taught in this lesson is “I am called to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Many of the words given to the early missionaries in Doctrine and Covenants 30-36 apply to members today. We do not need a formal missionary calling to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. We just need a desire to serve and a willingness to open our mouths. Doctrine and Covenants 30:5-8 issues a missionary call to all members even though the message was directed to Peter Whitmer.
5 Behold, I say unto you, Peter, that you shall take your journey with your brother
Oliver; for the time has come that it is expedient in me that you shall open your mouth to declare my gospel; therefore, fear not, but give heed unto the words and advice of your brother, which he shall give you.
6 And be you afflicted in all his afflictions, ever lifting up your heart unto me in prayer and faith, for his and your deliverance; for I have given unto him power to build up my church among the Lamanites;
7 And none have I appointed to be his counselor over him in the church, concerning church matters, except it is his brother, Joseph Smith, Jun.
8 Wherefore, give heed unto these things and be diligent in keeping my commandments, and you shall be blessed unto eternal life. Amen.
Missionaries are called to teach the people in a certain area, but members of the Church of Jesus Christ are to open our mouths and teach whoever is available. Missionaries are required to pay attention to their senior companion, district leader, zone leader, and mission president – who answers to the prophet. Members are assisted by local missionaries, mission leader, and bishop. Since we never know who will accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are to open our mouths to declare the gospel wherever and whenever possible.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about the importance of missionary work and why we always focus on declaring the gospel to others.
Missionary work isn’t the only thing we need to do in this big, wide, wonderful Church. But almost everything else we need to do depends on people first hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ and coming into the faith. Surely that is why Jesus’s final charge to the Twelve was just that basic – to “go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” [Matthew 28:19]. Then, and only then, can the rest of the blessings of the gospel fully come – family solidarity, youth programs, priesthood promises, and ordinances flowing right up to the temple. But as Nephi testified, none of that can come until one has “enter[ed] into the … gate” [2 Nephi 33:9]. With all that there is to do along the path to eternal life, we need a lot more missionaries opening that gate and helping people through it” (“We Are All Enlisted,” Ensign, Nov. 2011, 46-47).
Elder Holland was not the only Apostle asking members to be missionaries. Elder L. Tom Perry (1922-2015) gave members some reasons why they should be missionaries.
It should be “with great earnestness” (Doctrine and Covenants 123:14) that we bring the light of the gospel to those who are searching for answers the plan of salvation has to offer. Many are concerned for their families. Some are looking for security in a world of changing values. Our opportunity is to give them hope and courage and to invite them to come with us and join those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord’s gospel is on earth and will bless their lives here and in the eternities to come (“Bring Souls unto Me,” Ensign, May 2009, 110).
This brings us to a second principle in this lesson: “As we faithfully serve the Lord, our families are blessed. The words given to Thomas B. Marsh as he was called to serve a mission have brought comfort to many modern-day missionaries. Doctrine and Covenants 31:1-6 states the following.
1 Thomas, my son, blessed are you because of your faith in my work.
2 Behold, you have had many afflictions because of your family; nevertheless, I will bless you and your family, yea, your little ones; and the day cometh that they will believe and know the truth and be one with you in my church.
3 Lift up your heart and rejoice, for the hour of your mission is come; and hour tongue shall be loosed, and you shall declare glad tidings of great joy unto this generation.
4 You shall declare the things which have been revealed to my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun. You shall begin to preach from this time forth, yea, to reap in the field which is white already to be burned.
5 Therefore, thrust in your sickle with all your soul, and your sins are forgiven you, and you shall be laden with sheaves upon your back, for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Wherefore, your family shall live.
6 Behold, verily I say unto you, go from them only for a little time, and declare my word, and I will prepare a place for them.
Thomas Marsh and his wife, Elizabeth, had three sons, ages nine, seven, and three. Elizabeth was converted the next year and fulfilled the promise that his family would “be one” with him in the Church. The Lord’s promise to bless his family would have given Thomas the strength to leave them. Similar promises are available to missionaries today. Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared the following experience.
One [full-time missionary] couple worried about leaving their youngest daughter who was no longer active in the Church. Her faithful father wrote: “We prayed for her continually and fasted regularly. Then, during general conference, the Spirit whispered to me, ‘If you will serve, you will not have to worry about your daughter anymore.’ So we met with our bishop. The week after we received our call, she and her boyfriend announced they were engaged. Before we left for Africa, we had a wedding in our home. [Then we gathered our family together and] held a family council…. I bore testimony of the Lord and Joseph Smith … and told them I would like to give each of them a father’s blessing. I started with the oldest son and then his wife and proceeded to the youngest … [including our new son-in-law].” …
… As the faithful father in this story blessed his family members, his son-in-law felt the influence of the Holy Ghost. The father wrote: “By the end of our first year [the] heart [of our son-in-law] began to soften toward the Church. Just before we returned home from our mission, he and our daughter came to visit us. In his suitcase was the first set of Sunday clothes he had ever owned. They came to Church with us, and after we returned home he was baptized. A year later, they were sealed in the temple” (“Couple Missionaries: Blessings from Sacrifice and Service,” Ensign, May 2005, 40).
When a missionary enters the mission field, the Lord opens the windows of heaven and blesses their family. The blessings may be financial, or they may come in other ways. My husband’s parents always struggled with finances, except while my husband was in the mission field. Somehow, they always had the $100-$150 to pay for his mission. His mother told me, “We always had the money to send to him, but we did not have any extra money after he returned.” The Lord blessed them by helping their money to stretch enough for the mission.
Other missionaries have the blessing of converting one or both of their parents. Every missionary family that I know has been blessed. When our boys were serving their missions, we never struggled to pay the $350-$400 for their missions. Things always worked out for us financially. Besides, there was an increase of love between siblings and a special spirit in our home. When a missionary sacrifices his time and money to serve the Lord, the Lord in turn opens the windows of heaven to bless the missionary’s family.