A call to serve

It didn't happen every week, but neither was this an atypical Sunday.

The stake presidency had heard three recently returned missionaries report to the stake priesthood executive committee that morning.They had served in Italy, New York City and Alaska.

In separate sacrament meetings that same day, they heard two 19-year-old young men - one called to serve in Texas, the other in Argentina - bear testimony before leaving for their fields of labor.

"Seems like we've got the world pretty well covered," one of the stake president's counselors thought to himself.

With 303 missions in the Church and nearly 50,000 missionaries, these five missionaries, of course, were only representative of the magnitude of the work. But they were an actual, living testimony that the stone cut out of the mountain without hands is indeed rolling forth to fill the entire earth. (See Dan. 2.)

To help bring that about, elders, sisters and older couples from every background and walk of life are doing their part by being worthy and accepting a call to serve - and then serving with "all their heart, might, mind and strength." (See D&C 4.)

In all dispensations, the Lord has called missionaries to spread His gospel. The scriptures are replete with examples of great missionary service. And now, in the dispensation of the fullness of times, we, too, have the opportunity to serve.

For as Paul wrote to the Romans, "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14)

One of the great blessings of missionary work is that it strengthens both the teacher and those taught - providing a unique double benefit to the Lord's children.

Who is to say who benefits most - the missionary or the convert - from the efforts of a diligent missionary?

The convert, of course, is introduced to eternal truths and blessed with essential saving ordinances.

The missionary, while already aware of the gospel teachings and having received some of the ordinances of salvation, often becomes truly converted while in the mission field. Further, he or she enjoys countless opportunities in preparation of becoming a leader and teacher in the Lord's kingdom.

And what about the family members - parents and children - of worthy hard-working missionaries?

"We are so thrilled that our parents chose to serve a mission together," said the daughter of a faithful missionary couple. "Sure we miss them, but we feel so blessed by what they're doing."

"Having a son in the mission field has brought a spirit to our home like none other we've ever experienced. We look forward to him coming home, but we will certainly miss having a son in the mission field," said a grateful mother.

For younger missionaries, a mission also provides a priceless opportunity to step out of the world, and, while turning their thoughts to others, improve their own spiritual and temporal lives.

Proving the Savior's declaration that "he who loseth his life for my sake shall find it" (see Matt. 10:39) these young men and young women soon realize that by serving others, their own lives are brought into sharper perspective. They leave for their fields of labor at a time when critical decisions loom. While serving, they have time to mature - spiritually, and emotionally.

When they return home, they are in a far better position to make wise choices in those critical decisions that literally determine their future.

But beyond that, missionaries have the joy and satisfaction of knowing they served as Heavenly Father would have them serve. They increase in their love of God and of their fellow men. They feel, to at least a small extent, the happiness of Ammon, Aaron, Paul and the thousands of other great missionaries.

Truly the Lord is kind and merciful for blessing us with such a great opportunity.

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