How Elder Rasband overcame disappointment about his mission call and what it means for missionaries today

TEMPE, Arizona — Reilly Ward, 22, felt Elder Ronald A. Rasband looked right at her when he invited young Latter-day Saints to attend Institute classes during a devotional on Sunday night at the Tempe Institute of Religion, even though she sat on the very back row of the stage in the gym with nearly 1,700 people between her and the apostle standing at the pulpit in the chapel.

“I want, in the name of the Lord, to promise that if you make Institute a part of your busy life you will be blessed in every other aspect of your life,” Elder Rasband said. “In your educational pursuits, in your occupational pursuits, you will be blessed and prospered by accepting the Lord’s invitation to attend institute.”

He said his late former boss, Jon Huntsman Sr., regularly asked him a question about the factories he visited as a leader for Huntsman Chemical: “Are they running at capacity?”

“We need to operate this Institute at capacity,” Elder Rasband said.

Ward, a student at the Avalon School of Cosmetology in Mesa, was enrolled in an Institute class this fall but had not attended yet. She said the invitation moved her.

“I’m going to go this week,” she said. “I’ll be there. With a friend.”

Young adults attend a devotional given by Elder Ronald A. Rasband at the Tempe Arizona Institute of Religion on Oct. 20.
Young adults attend a devotional given by Elder Ronald A. Rasband at the Tempe Arizona Institute of Religion on Oct. 20. Credit: Nick Narducci, Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Elder Rasband issued a second invitation while saying that now is the time for young adults to create patterns and foundations in their lives.

He led them on a survey of the scriptures that showed prophets warning of the last days using words like “perilous,” “rage” and “calamity.”

“Welcome to our day,” he said. “All you have to do, and you do it more than anyone, is look on your smartphones or mobile devices. You are bombarded by those words and many others like them. The adversary truly is raging in our day.”

“The scriptures,” he added, “also tell us ways that we can find a refuge and renewal in these times.”

He urged the students to stand in holy places, including their homes, apartments, chapels and temples.

“Here’s my second invitation tonight: For those of you preparing to go on a mission, for those of you who’ve come home from your missions, I want to invite you to serve as ordinance workers in the temple, as your circumstances allow.”

Elder Ronald A. Rasband greets members following a devotional at the Tempe Arizona Institute of Religion on Oct. 20.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband greets members following a devotional at the Tempe Arizona Institute of Religion on Oct. 20. Credit: Nick Narducci, Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

His wife, Sister Melanie Rasband, supported his message, urging students to make good decisions about marriage and more.

“How grateful I am,” she said, “to know that our Savior and our Father in Heaven know each one of us, love us and are anxious to have us return home to them safely tucked in the covenants of the temple.”

Ward’s friends, Matt Anderson, 24, a student at Arizona State University Polytechnic, and Dallan Larson, 22, a supply chain major at ASU, rallied to Elder Rasband’s message.

“Those two invitations are so important in our lives right now,” Larson said. “Doing those helps me think much clearer, and makes the decision-making process much easier.”

Elder Rasband also spoke to the Arizona Tempe Mission at the Institute building on Saturday, Oct. 19, with Elder Paul B. Pieper, General Authority Seventy, and Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé. He told the missionaries that as a young man he wanted to serve a mission in Germany like his father, brother and brother-in-law. When he opened his mission call at the mailbox of his home, he was disappointed to learn he’d been called to the Eastern States Mission. He didn’t want to show his disappointment to his parents, so he went inside and opened the scriptures before they came home.

He read Doctrine and Covenants 100:2-4. He said he received his first scriptural revelation.

“Done,” he said. “I knew it. I had a prompting. ‘The Lord wants me to go to the Eastern States Mission. That’s where I’m supposed to go,’ and I’ve never looked back.”

Elder Ronald A. Rasband speaks at a devotional at the Tempe Arizona Institute of Religion on Oct. 20.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband speaks at a devotional at the Tempe Arizona Institute of Religion on Oct. 20. Credit: Nick Narducci, Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

He encouraged the missionaries to read his April 2010 talk, “The Divine Call of a Missionary,” and spoke more about how apostles assign mission calls.

“The Lord called you through his prophet,” he said. “A member of the Quorum of the Twelve assigned you to this mission.”

“From one who questioned his own call and received a witness, you are all here because this is exactly where the Lord wants you to be. Put it out of your heart, put it out of your mind forever more, and know this is the right place for you to be.”

He said the same inspiration applies to assigned mission companions and assigned areas and told a story about serving as president of the New York New York North Mission. He said his heart broke when a missionary told him at the end of his service that his mission had been perfect until the end, and he questioned the assignment from then-President Rasband to serve in the Norwalk area in New York.

Elder Rasband said he has not seen the missionary again but looks forward to it, because 18 months after the missionary returned home, a woman called the Norwalk missionaries’ apartment asking for that elder. She said he’d given her a Book of Mormon and that a month earlier while in the midst of despair, she saw it on her shelf and picked it up. The missionaries offered to teach her and she and her children were later baptized. 

He said he looks forward to seeing that missionary so he can say, “Elder, you have no clue about the consequences of your mission and your service.”

“And neither do any of you,” he told the Tempe missionaries. “Every good deed you do, every helpful thing, every sweet testimony you offer, every act of service is planting a seed. Some of you will be able to harvest those seeds. Some of you will get transferred before there’s a baptism. Has that happened to any of you? And some of you will be transferred into a baptism. It’s all one work. It’s the Lord’s harvest. Some plant seeds. Some nourish the seeds. And some reap the harvest. But it’s all one work. When anybody in this mission has a baptism, the whole mission should celebrate it.”

He left three messages — all missionaries are where they are by revelation, the mission president continued to exercise revelation on their behalf and every good thing they do is recorded in heaven.

“And you’ll not see the harvest of some or much of what you do on this mission,” he added.

He also told them he met with President Russell M. Nelson in the temple on Thursday and shook his hand and received directly a message for the missionaries.

President Nelson told him to tell the missionaries he loves them, he is grateful for their service for the Lord Jesus Christ and they are needed.

“We love you, we thank you, and we need you, every one of you,” Elder Rasband said.

Sister Olfa Haji, 20, of Bucharest, Romania, was grateful Elder Rasband shook hands with each missionary. He told her he’d been to Bucharest. She said when she received her mission call, “I knew for sure God knew where He was sending me.”

Elder Pieper told the missionaries they are carrying the Restoration to people one by one so the gospel they loved in the premortal world can be restored in their mortal lives.

Young adults gather for a devotional given by Elder Ronald A. Rasband at the Tempe Arizona Institute of Religion on Oct. 20.
Young adults gather for a devotional given by Elder Ronald A. Rasband at the Tempe Arizona Institute of Religion on Oct. 20. Credit: Nick Carducci, Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

“Conversion is restoring the gospel to the life of someone,” he said.

He advised the missionaries to always ask the people they are teaching, “Is there a question you would like us to answer today?”

“When they tell you, it will be a hint about where their heart is open,” Elder Pieper said.

He also told the missionaries to always ask, “What’s been on your mind since we last met? What have you been thinking about?”

He said the missionaries should answer through the scriptures. He said they should help people download the Gospel Library app as soon as possible. After they read a scripture together, they should ask, “What is it telling you?” and then, “What do you think you should do?”

That way, he said, “They are restoring the gospel a principle at a time.”

Sister Riley Merritt, 19, of Star Valley, Wyoming, wept after the meeting as she described the Spirit she felt as Elder Rasband talked about the inspiration behind her mission assignment, invoked an apostolic blessing on her and the other missionaries and shared President Nelson’s message of love for the missionaries.

But she smiled when she talked about Elder Pieper’s suggested questions, saying they were spiritually based practical tools that she knows will help her missionary work.

“We did that in a lesson just a bit ago,” she said excitedly. “We asked, ‘What do you need to do now?’ The woman said, ‘I need to go to church.’”

Bishop Caussé directed the missionaries to consider how they will respond to President Nelson’s invitation to prepare for the bicentennial year of the beginnings of the Restoration in 2020.

Read more: 2020 a ‘bicentennial year,’ with April conference ‘different from any previous conference’

“I’m really a child of the Restoration,” Bishop Caussé said. “The Restoration has made a big difference in my life and the life of my family. If I have to answer that question, how the Restoration has made a difference, it has made all the difference.”

He said the Restoration, while ongoing, originally consisted of three main sets of events: the First Vision, the translation of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of priesthood keys. He asked the missionaries to ponder how those three make a difference in their lives so they can testify about them more powerfully.

The messages were specific and needed, said Tempe Mission President Mark Goaslind, who now lives in the same home he did as a teenage boy when his late father, Elder Jack H. Goaslind, was the Tempe Mission president.

“This was fabulous. A lift,” President Goaslind said of the meeting. “I think it was a healing time for the missionaries through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”