Dear Elders and Sisters,
I love the Lord’s words of encouragement to Thomas B. Marsh less than a month after he was baptized. He had been ordained an elder and called on a mission! You can easily imagine his feelings of inadequacy and weakness. However, the Lord said to him, “Lift up your heart and rejoice, for the hour of your mission is come…” (D&C 31:3). I hope each of you feel the same sense of praise and support from your Savior. Each of you has planned and prepared to serve a mission and now your time is here. It should be a time of rejoicing!
However, missionary life is rigorous. Shortly after arriving in the field, missionaries realize that there are many things that seem to keep them from having a sense of delight and satisfaction in their labors. There is much to assimilate, learn and do. Elder Gerrit W. Gong, our Asia Area President, has written, “Missionaries who want to be perfect now may become anxious or discouraged if learning their mission language, seeing people baptized, or receiving mission leadership assignments do not happen fast enough. For capable young people accustomed to accomplishment, a mission may be life’s first great challenge” (Becoming Perfect in Christ, July 2014 Liahona).
Often our lack of joy in the work is a result of unrealistic expectations, some that may be self-imposed, some that may be imposed by others. As your mission president, I realize that my expectations, or an interpretation of my expectations, may lead to comparison with others, discouragement, or anxiety. Perhaps I have not clearly explained my expectations or desires, or maybe other mission leaders have not communicated them clearly to you. This can result in feeling unsuccessful in accomplishing what you feel I expect or require of you.
In reality, we are all in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose name we display on our nametags. He has called us to our field of labor and promised to bless and help us. He has admonished us to, “be anxiously engaged… and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in [us] wherein [we] are agents unto [ourselves]” (D&C 58:27-28). The responsibility is placed on each of us, to work diligently and do all that lies in our power 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” (PMG, p. 1).
There are many acts of righteousness that help others to come unto Christ that are impossible to capture in statistical reports. There are many things that we do, “in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly” (3Ne. 13:4). Each missionary needs to know for him or herself that the Lord is pleased with their efforts. Only He can give that commendation. As the Lord taught Oliver Cowdery, “Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart” (D&C 6:16). I have no way of measuring whether you did your best last week or were anxiously engaged in bringing others closer to Christ. Statistical reports can help me understand where your time is being spent only to a degree, and lacks the ability to measure the intents of your heart.
I invite each of you to, as Paul invited the Saints at Corinth, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (2Cor. 13:5). Ask yourself and, more importantly, ask the Lord: 1) Are my vision, goals, and plans realistic? 2) Are my efforts pleasing to the Lord? 3) What lack I yet? If you ask with real intent (a desire to know and act) the Lord will answer your honest inquiry.
Mentor of Champions