Elder Yamashita of the Seventy, in his talk titled, “Missionaries are a Treasure of the Church,” shared his experience of being converted and confirmed a member of the Church. He recalled:
“First, the sister was confirmed by Elder Lloyd. I sat down with the other members, closed my eyes, and quietly listened. Elder Lloyd confirmed her and then began to pronounce a blessing on her. However, Elder Lloyd stopped talking, so I opened my eyes and looked at him with an intent gaze.
Even today I can clearly remember that scene. Elder Lloyd’s eyes were overflowing with tears. And for the first time in my life, I experienced being enveloped in the Holy Spirit. And through the Holy Spirit I gained a sure knowledge that Elder Lloyd loved us and that God loved us.”
Elder Yamashita continued by addressing all the missionaries currently serving:
“Your attitudes and the love that you show toward others are very significant messages. Even though I didn’t immediately grasp all the doctrines that the missionaries taught me, I felt of their great love, and their many acts of kindness taught me important lessons. Your message is a message of love, a message of hope, and a message of faith. Your attitude and your actions invite the Spirit, and the Spirit enables us to understand the things that are important. What I want to convey to you is that through your love, you are imparting the love of God. You are a treasure of this Church.”
Then Elder Yamashita spoke to those of us preparing to serve missions.
“It is necessary to bring three things with you on your mission.
- A desire to preach the gospel.
- Develop your testimony.
- Love others”
Using this as an outline, I will briefly share with you what I have been doing to prepare to serve a full-time mission. But first, I would like to address another topic that I think is important in preparing for a mission.
So watching the movie Napoleon Dynamite taught me that “girls like guys with skills,” and attending BYU for a year taught me that girls like guys that are missionaries, so I guess that means missionaries have skills.
Some of the skills that I have been working on in my preparation include learning to play hymns on the piano, developing an appreciation for mission appropriate music, how to do laundry, and preparing to embrace the new culture I will be immersed in for two years.
Since there was only one other piano player in my final semester of seminary in high school, I took the opportunity to start learning hymns on the piano. I’ve played trumpet for almost 9 years, so I have a good amount of musical knowledge, but more importantly, I knew that God would bless me as I spent hours and hours trying to learn a simple hymn because it was for a worthy cause. I’m also grateful for the opportunity I’ve had on occasion to play the opening hymn in Priesthood. I’ve not only gained an ability to play some hymns on the piano, but also a greater appreciation for all of the piano players in our church that make it look so easy and a stronger connection and love for the hymns of our church.
This past year I not only learned how to do laundry on my own, I also learned what not to do. While doing laundry in college, I even discovered that in the dryer, chapstick achieves its boiling point, which is not good for your clothes.
I’m grateful that my Mom would listen to Music and the Spoken Word and other Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD’s every Sunday morning, it exposed me to some very wonderful and uplifting music that I can take with me on my mission. During stressful times at college, I found that listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was a great way to relax and even invite the spirit.
I had a great Resident Assistant this past year at BYU. He had served a mission in Japan, so I spent many hours with him learning about the culture, the language, and what to expect on my mission. It wasn’t much, but I’m sure that knowing how to ask in Japanese where the restroom is will come in handy on my mission.
A Desire to Share the Gospel
To develop a desire to share the gospel, it is important first to understand what the gospel is. In 2 Nephi 31, Nephi shares what he refers to as the doctrine of Christ. In essence, what Nephi outlines are “the first principles and ordinances of the gospel,” which are: “first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Then Nephi shares this empowering verse:
20 “Wherefore,ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightnessof hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall pressforward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thussaith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.”
This goes hand-in-hand with the Purpose of a Missionary stated in Preach My Gospel, which is to “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”
Doctrine and Covenants11:21 teaches us that it is important to know the gospel before we are able to share it.
“Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.”
Doctrine and Covenants chapter [Section] 4, verse 3 states, “Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;”
So when we know what the gospel is, how do we develop a desire to share it? We live it.
Develop Your Testimony
By livng the gospel we develop not only a desire to share it, but a testimony of the truthfulness of it. Elder David A. Bednar described testimony as “a personal knowledge of spiritual truth obtained by revelation. A testimony is a gift from God and is available to all of His children.”
With this gift, like many gifts, there are a number of things we can do with it. You can be grateful for it, take good care of it, and share it with others, or you can be ungrateful that it isn’t the one you wanted, set it up on the shelf, or even try to return it.
In this past conference, President Monson suggests “a formula that will ensure our success” in missionary work; “first, search the scriptures with diligence; second, plan your life with purpose; third, teach the truth with testimony; and fourth, serve the Lord with love.”
If we want to enjoy the success of the plan President Monson has outlined, we ought to develop and increase the gift of testimony that has been given to us so that we are more capable to use it to teach the truth.
As one of my good friends wrote in a letter to me while he was in the MTC, “One of the best things you can do to prepare (for a mission) is gain a love for the scriptures and have personal experiences where the scriptures have taught you.”
Starting in 9th Grade with seminary, I did just that. I began to read the Book of Mormon on my own for the first time, and honestly, when I finished it, I didn’t have that dramatic life changing moment I was sort of hoping for. There are numerous stories throughout it of people experiencing a mighty change of heart in dramatic ways, but in continuing to read daily, only missing a handful of days over the years, I can now look back and realize that God was doing more with me than I had previously realized.
By consistent reading of the Book of Mormon, I was continuously increasing my testimony. In my life, I’ve had a handful of faith building experiences, but none of those single experiences quite match the power of reading the scriptures daily, living the gospel, and being obedient to God’s commandments.
Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon saw an angel, yet they were not obedient and did not develop their testimonies.
This past conference, President Monson also shared that, “A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God.”
To live the gospel, develop a desire to share the gospel and to strengthen our testimonies, we must be obedient to God’s commandments.
My mission prep teacher, a former mission president in Tennesse, told our class frequently that, “There is always a good reason to break a rule, but there is always a better reason to be obedient.”
This is true, not only on a mission, but with all of God’s commandments. I don’t claim that in preparing for my mission that I’ve been perfect, but I’ve been improving and developing my testimony by attending all of my meetings (trying to be on time to those meetings), reading scriptures daily, saying my prayers, going hometeaching, offering to collect fast offerings or pass the sacrament, and when I messed up, I began the process of repentance in regards to that error.
President Benson stated that “When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power.”
This power is real, and is vital for missionary service.
I know this isn’t easy, and there are constantly struggles and doubts that may come, but if we listen Elder Holland’s advice and “hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes,” we will be blessed and better off to have been tried than if we were to just give up or weren’t even tempted.
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,and with all thy mind… and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thyneighbor as thyself.”
It seems to me that if we truly keep these two commandments, everything else in life will fall into place. Elder Yamashita felt the spirit through the love of God he felt through Elder Lloyd, but sometimes loving others is not easy. Sometimes those we love most are the ones we show our love the least to.
Living with others can be hard. Both home and college has proved it’s challenges, but when you love those you are with, life becomes much more enjoyable. This love is best shown by small and simple acts of kindness such as keeping your room clean, thanking others, resolving disagreements peaceable, and saying, “I love you Mom and Dad,” on a regular basis.
In closing, I’d like to briefly speak on the temple. President Rasband, my stake president at BYU, said in a potential missionary fireside, “the temple endowment comes first, a mission is not a saving ordinance, but it is a manifestation of our covenants.”
Elder Richard G Scott has stated “Any work you do in the temple is time well spent.” My brother recently said that, “we all claim to be busy all of the time, but we all still find an hour in the day to watch video of cats on Youtube.” I’m not suggesting that we all spend time watching cat videos, but we all do make time for things we want. If we truly take to heart the challenge to “attend the temple more often” that our stake presidency has made, we will be spending meaningful time, serving God, learning from on high, and increasing our testimonies.
I’m grateful for all of my church leaders, teachers, quorum members, ward members, and friends throughout the years. Their many examples and lessons have helped shape the person I’ve become. I’m grateful for all of those who have set the example by serving a mission, and to all of those who have been faithful Latter-Day Saints. Most importantly, I’m grateful for my loving family. All of my siblings, in-laws, niece, and nephews are just truly wonderful. I love you Mom and Dad. I’ll be eternally grateful for all you have done for me and taught me.
Book of Mormon
Thomas S. Monson