In both conferences this year, a resounding excitement toward missionary work was addressed in multiple talks including references to coming unto Christ, repenting, obedience, standing strong, gaining testimony, preparation, and in these two talks we will discuss today, the literal responsibility of each member of the church to do missionary work. For the last 90 years, since the church addressed the negative public opinion in the British mission - instructions were sent out to the members of the church stating
“Throw the responsibility upon every member of the Church that in the coming year of 1923 every member will be a missionary. Every member a missionary! … Somebody will hear the good message of the truth through you.”
David O. McKay reiterated this same sentiment in April of 1923 when he challenged the conference audience again – Every member a missionary. He says: “That is the responsibility of every man and woman and child who has listened to this great and wonderful conference,” President McKay said. “God help us to be true to our responsibility and to our callings.” And now, 54 years later, we again hear this same message ring out.
When I graduated high school, I left home and moved to San Diego, California. I loved it. I especially loved it because I had quick and easy access to the beach. Now, I am not a surfer, but I loved to play in the water and boogie board, and body surf. The thrill of that push of the water rushing beneath you is exhilarating. Anyone who has been to the beach and stood at the water’s edge has felt that same pull as the tide came in and out. So what does that have to do with anything? Elder Russell M. Nelson relates to us that there is a wave coming at us now. It is the surge of missionary work caused in part by the influx of missionaries now in the mission field due to the change in age requirements, and the response of valiant youth who have responded to President Monson’s call to serve. The numbers speak for themselves at this October’s conference – In one short year, the number of full-time missionaries has gone from 58,500 to 80,333, which is an increase of 21,833 missionaries, or 61 missionaries a day.
Now, surfing of any kind is not easy. You fall a lot. The next day you realize you have muscles you never knew about!! You have to paddle out into some deeper water and then watch the waves come up behind you so that you can decide which wave to catch. Some waves are 3-4 feet tall which was perfect for my beginner, still learning, body surfing trials. More experienced surfers look for waves 6-10 feet tall, and then there are professionals who look for the really scary 20 foot+, tsunami sized waves that most people avoid. This same analogy is true for missionary work!!! Every righteous member of the Church has thought about how to share the gospel. Some share the gospel naturally, and we can learn a lot from them. Some struggle and wonder how to do better, wishing that guilty feeling we sometimes feel would find somewhere else to go.
Discussion question: How can we catch this wave if we are not serving a literal mission?
Beginner surfers - young men and women will catch this wave as they strive to be worthy of mission calls. I love that he specifically addresses concerns about going to college! He says: your education is ever important—to us, to you, and to God. Where feasible, if you wish to attend a college or university your mission, we encourage you to apply to your institution of choice beginning your mission. Many institutions of higher learning will grant an 18- to 30-month deferral to prospective missionaries. This will enable elders and sisters to serve without worrying about where they will begin advanced education. This as a wave of truth and righteousness.
But beginner surfers are not just youth! For any of us who want to improve our ability to catch waves – we must embrace church curriculum and teach one another the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Now is the time to prepare to teach others about the goodness of God.
Neil A Anderson says in his talk, it’s a Miracle; the Lord is also awakening the minds and opening the hearts of more good and honest people to receive His missionaries. You already know them or will know them. They are in your family and live in your neighborhood. They walk past you on the street, sit by you in school, and connect with you online. You too are an important part of this unfolding miracle.
If you’re not a full-time missionary with a missionary badge pinned on your coat, now is the time to paint one on your heart—painted, as Paul said, “not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.”
Semi-experienced surfers –
You parents, teachers, and others, catch the wave as you prepare our rising generation to be worthy of missionary service. Meanwhile, your exemplary lives will attract the interest of your friends and neighbors. Be ready to give an answer to those who ask why you live as you do. Be ready to give a reason for the hope and joy that they see in you.
Let’s talk for a minute at the difference between the beginner and the experienced surfer – it’s this middle area where quite a few of us exist. We have a basic knowledge and testimony of the Gospel, and feel comfortable answering basic questions, but sometimes those 8 foot waves look like the 20 foot waves!! It can seem very scary or daunting to try and open our mouth to share the gospel, even though we know it can bless another’s life.
When such questions come, borrow advice from Elder Russell and respond by saying, “Let’s ask the missionaries! They can help us! And if you desire, I will be at your side as the missionaries respond and teach you.”
With the confusion and commotion of today’s world, it’s not surprising that fewer people are attending their places of worship. Although many want to be closer to God and to better understand the purpose of life, they have unanswered questions. Many have hearts open to the truth, but as the prophet Amos described, “they are running to and fro seeking the word of the Lord, and cannot find it.” You can help answer their questions. In your everyday conversations you can add to their faith in Christ.
The Savior said: “Hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up.”
Semi-experienced surfers can catch the wave with help for the spiritual, physical, and financial preparation of future missionaries too. Pinching pennies for piggy banks becomes part of your practice. Senior singles and couples, plan for the day when you can go on your mission. We will be most grateful for your service. Until then, perhaps some of you could send your dollars on missions by contributing to the General Missionary Fund, as suggested by President Monson.
Experienced surfers –
Increasing numbers of selected men and their dear companions catch the wave as they are called to preside over missions of the Church. In that service they will shape the destiny of generations born and unborn. Mission presidents hold keys of responsibility for the welfare, safety, and success of their missionaries. After consulting with stake and district presidents in his mission, each mission president assigns missionaries to serve in specific stakes, wards, and branches.
Stake presidents and bishops catch the wave as they spend more and more hours interviewing prospective missionaries. These priesthood leaders hold keys of responsibility for missionary work in their units, and they inspire members to participate.
On the ward council is the ward mission leader. Ward mission leaders have been called by the bishop to lead missionary work in the ward. And some wards are so successful that an assistant has also been called to help. They work along with others on the ward council, to identify less-active members, part-member families, and interested neighbors. They meet regularly with assigned full-time missionaries. They act to advise and assist the missionaries. The ward mission leader, is connecting link between members and missionaries in this sacred work of rescuing God’s children.
WE can act as an experienced surfer role too!! We can help the missionaries to fill their daily planners with focused and meaningful teaching opportunities. This is our responsibility. Our role is crucial, truly crucial to the success of this work. If we catch the wave with faith and enthusiasm, others will also.
No matter our surfing ability, Elder Anderson reminds us:
Our inquiring friends and neighbors not of our faith can also catch the wave. We encourage them to keep all that is good and true in their lives. And we invite them to receive more, especially the glorious truth that through God’s eternal plan, families can be together forever.
This wave of truth and righteousness is wondrous! It is man-made! It comes from the Lord, who said, “I will hasten my work in its time.”
We can follow the Savior’s example by inviting them to “come and see.” Some will accept our invitation, and others will not. We all know someone who has been invited several times before accepting an invitation to “come and see.” Let’s also think about those who once were with us but who now we rarely see, inviting them to come back and see once more.
We respect each person’s choice and timing. The Lord said, “Let every man choose for himself.” A person’s lack of interest need not diminish our bonds of friendship and love. Whether or not the invitation is accepted as you invite others to “come and see,” you will feel the approval of the Lord and, with that approval, an added measure of faith to share your beliefs again and again.
For those using the Internet and mobile phones, there are new ways to invite others to “come and see.” Let’s make sharing our faith online more a part of our daily life. LDS.org, Mormon.org, Facebook, Twitter—all provide opportunities.
To share the gospel, young members in Boston started several blogs. Those who joined the Church began their learning online, followed by discussions with the missionaries. This experience also helped the youth have greater faith in talking about the gospel in person.
Elder Anderson shares a story of
You may not live in Mozambique, but in your own way, in your own culture, you can share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Together, members and missionaries invite all to learn of God, of Jesus Christ, and of His gospel. Each inquiring individual should seek earnestly and pray fervently for the assurance that these things are true. The truth will be manifest by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Elder Ballard said this wave is a tsunami, it is not a small 3 or 4 foot wave, it is forty feet or more and rushing to fill the whole earth. It will be as it says in Doctrine and Covenants section 65: Helping to roll that stone, which was cut out of the mountain without hands”. We are going to fall a lot. We’re going to feel those new muscles as they develop, but like all of those who live the surfing life, making it to the top of that wave makes all the unsuccessful attempts worth it. In preach my Gospel it says “Members who share the gospel experience joy and have the spirit of the Lord more abundantly. As we share the gospel, we appreciate how precious and meaningful it is to us and feel a greater love for God and others.”