In a recent sacrament meeting a retirement-age couple were asked to speak about the blessings of the temple. They told how missionaries had taught them the gospel as young parents with four children, he an Army officer and she a busy homemaker. They expressed the joy they felt when they heard the message of the restoration, and then learned that families can be together forever. As they shared their sacred memories of being sealed to their children in the temple, those present felt the Holy Ghost bear witness of the gloriousness of this blessing. Three generations of their posterity were there in the meeting to hear their parents tell the story.
This couple then told of sharing that blessing with others by serving a full-time mission themselves in recent years. The joy of the gospel has filled their hearts with so much love, they want everyone to share in the happiness.
This is why we send our sons and daughters out into the world to unfamiliar places to serve missions. This is why we as adults serve in our retirement years. We know the happiness the gospel brings and want others to know it, too.
Are All Required to Serve?
When asked if all members are required to serve missions the Church made this statement on mormon.org: “There is a strong tradition of missionary service in the Church. The Savior taught, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations’ (Matthew 28:19). Church members consider it a privilege to show their love for other people and the Lord by sharing the gospel.”
On this site members were invited to share their answers to the question. Here are a few of their comments.
A young man, Taylor, said, “Quite simply, no. The young men of the church have been strongly encouraged to serve a mission at age 19, and the sisters are able to serve at age 21, but no one is required to serve. We do it because we want to! Who in their right mind would give up two years and pay – that’s right, missionaries pay their own way – to go somewhere they had never been and do all that they do? We serve missions because we know that Jesus is the Christ, and we want the happiness that knowledge brings to be available to everyone! So no, Mormons are not required to serve a mission. It’s a personal choice to share the happiness and joy they’ve received from the Gospel.”
Another man, Mark, answered, “No. But as one who has served a mission, I count it as one of the greatest blessings of my life. It has affected who I am as a person, a son, brother, husband and father.”
A returned missionary sister, Brooke, answered with, “I chose to serve a mission because I wanted to share the happiness I have received from having the gospel in my life. I believe my mission was one the most influential experiences of my life & helped me become the person I am today. “
A young missionary, Jordan, answered, “No, but it’s the single most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in life. I love it. I have seen myself grow in so many aspects of life. I’ve learned to be more social. I’ve learned what Love means. I learned how to serve my fellow brothers and sisters and do it just because I love them, even if I don’t know them.”
Message from a General Authority
Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita, of the Seventy spoke at General Conference Oct. 2011 where he told of his own conversion when he was 17 years old. He told about being baptized on a very hot day in a handmade baptismal font the missionaries had built. A woman was also baptized that same time.
He said, “We were confirmed right after we were baptized. 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.
“Then it was my turn to be confirmed. Again it was Elder Lloyd. He placed his hands on top of my head and confirmed me a member of the Church, bestowed the gift of the Holy Ghost, and then began pronouncing a blessing. And again he stopped talking. However, I now understood what was happening. I truly knew through the Holy Ghost that the missionaries loved me and that God loved me.”
Think of it! Through the work of dedicated missionaries others can know the blessings of the Holy Ghost. What an amazing gift to be able to bestow on others, a gift that teaches them of God’s love, a gift that will bless them throughout their lives, as it does all of us who remain faithful.
A Young Convert Shares her Story
On her blog a lovely young woman, Al, shared her conversion story, taken from a talk she gave in her ward. Recalling her first meetings with the missionaries she said, “The life they led was unheard of to me. It wasn’t that it seemed unattainable, but non existent. Me, like every nonmember, asked many questions on the standard living of their life and was hung up on the fact people actually live this way. But my missionaries glowed every time I saw them. I craved their presence so that whatever they had, I could have too.”
She continued meeting with the missionaries. “According to my missionaries, I was a prime investigator making progress. According to my friends and my family, I was in the process of being brainwashed. And According to me, I was simply following that happiness that kept getting stronger and stronger.
“That’s what happens when Christ becomes a reality in your life. You change, not because you’re told to, but because then, you want to.
“Living these standards’ that the missionaries had and taught allowed me to then receive my testimony. My standards are my testimony.
“My greatest blessing from living those standards, the commandments, is one of the greatest of all, being worthy of baptism. To me, being baptized was a new commitment, to a new way of living with the eternal promise of happiness-that happiness that has yet to stop growing. The blessing of receiving the Holy Ghost, that when I did, I physically felt it. I physically felt my whole body receiving nothing but a sacred, personalized, gift from God that is mine to have, mine to use, and mine to maintain.
This is why we serve missions.
And So Many Other Reasons
Besides being eligible to receive the blessings of ordinances that qualify us for exaltation, being a member of this Church is filled with continual side benefits. Once again we came to know personally of the love of the saints and of the blessings of the auxiliary organizations. For example, consider the blessings Relief Society brings to those in need. After serious back surgery, we were showered with meals and loving visits by the sisters of our ward.
It wasn’t just food that came our way, it was the gift of love that came with it. And with each came the expression of “You’re in our prayers,” and sometimes, “I put your name on the Temple prayer roll while I was there.” They not only gave us their love, but their faith in our behalf. What a blessing! They were like angels at our door.
The blessings of the priesthood were poured out upon us as well when young priests brought and blessed the sacrament for us. Home teachers prayed and assisted in giving priesthood blessings. We were surrounded by God’s love because we are members of His Church.
We cannot help but rejoice at the benefits of our Church membership. Our children all live away from us, some very far, and they have told us of the many times their ward members have been there for them, giving physical, emotional, and spiritual support. How grateful we are for the blessings fellow members bring into our children and grandchildren’s lives. And how grateful we are that it provides opportunities for our posterity to serve others and grow in their testimony of Jesus Christ.
Now as we serve a part-time mission at the Missionary Training Center, we rejoice in every opportunity to help the missionaries, young and older, prepare to bring this same happiness into the lives of those they are called to serve. It would take an endless book to recount all the blessings that come to each of us as a result of being members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Because of these blessings we understand the words of the sons of Mosiah, after repenting and experiencing the joy of the Atonement. In Mosiah 28:3 we read: “Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thought that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.” Once they knew and understood the blessings of the gospel, their hearts yearned to bring this light to others.
That is the heart of our purpose, that we may bring souls unto Christ that no “human soul should perish.” That is why we serve missions.
Many Kinds of Missions
For those of us in the later years of our lives, there are many varieties of opportunities to serve missions. Whatever it may be, whether it’s a mission with humanitarian service, temple service, Church Education System (CES) teacher, employment center, family research, historical sites, medical service, proselyting, member leadership support, or multiple others we may choose from, it’s the same. By serving a mission in this Church we are assisting in bringing souls to Christ and opening the door to greater happiness and peace than we and those we assist have previously experienced.
Through prayer, preparation, and a conversation with your bishop, every person can know when it’s time to serve. The Lord will guide us as we seek to assist in His important work.
We close with the words of The First Presidency from Preach My Gospel, p. v.:
“We challenge you to rise to a new sense of commitment to assist our Father in Heaven in His glorious work. Every missionary has an important role in helping to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’ (Moses 1:39).
“The Lord will reward and richly bless you as you humbly and prayerfully serve Him. More happiness awaits you than you have ever experienced as you labor among His children.”
[For information about Gary and Joy Lundberg visit www.garyjoylundberg.com]