With imagery drawn from the game of basketball, Elder Daryl H. Garn of the Seventy urged that young men, with their fathers' help, prepare themselves to serve missions.
He spoke of a talk given at a recent stake conference by a returned missionary who used the analogy of a father saying to his son: "I will be happy when you play in your first basketball game so you can learn to dribble and shoot the basketball." The missionary then compared that example to a father saying to his son: "I will be happy when you go on your mission so you can learn to be a good person and teach the gospel."
"I believe it is appropriate to compare the game of basketball to missionary work," Elder Garn said. "The game of basketball includes not only the time you compete with another team on the court, but also the hours of proper training and practice. The greatest work of saving souls is not limited to the two years that you serve a mission, but rather, it requires years of righteous living and preparation in order to meet the standard for full-time missionary service."
He identified two aspects of raising the standard for missionary service: developing skills and attributes that will prepare them for service and developing personal worthiness through keeping the commandments of God.
"Some young men have had the notion that they can break the commandments, confess to their bishops one year before they plan to go on a mission, and then be worthy to serve," he said. "We often hear this question of one who has transgressed: 'How long will I have to wait before I can go on my mission?' Keep in mind that repentance is not simply a waiting game." He cited 3 Nephi 9:30, the Savior's commandment to offer as a sacrifice a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
"Now is the time to kindle that fire," Elder Garn urged, citing President Gordon B. Hinckley's statement, "We simply cannot permit those who have not qualified themselves as to worthiness to go into the world to speak the glad tidings of the gospel. (First Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 11, 2003.) Elder Garn warned, " We now understand from the First Presidency's statement on missionary work that there are transgressions that will disqualify young men and women from missionary service."