Citing the examples and teachings of prophets and apostles from ancient scriptures to latter days, Elder Ronald A. Rasband invited missionaries worldwide to understand what rejoicing is and to rejoice in the Lord and His call to them to assist in the work of salvation.
“Rejoice is an important word for you to have in your mission vocabulary … you have great cause to rejoice,” said the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in a Thursday, Jan. 14, devotional streamed worldwide to missionaries via their online portal.
He explained that the Lord and His Prophet have trusted missionaries to gather His children to Him in the last days of this dispensation.
“President Russell M. Nelson has said, ‘That gathering is the most important thing taking place on earth today. Nothing else compares in magnitude, nothing else compares in importance, nothing else compares in majesty.’”
Elder Rasband titled his devotional remarks “Rejoice! The Lord is King” and cited lyrics and messages from the hymn of the same name. He also drew upon prophets and apostles from the New Testament and Book of Mormon as well as from early Church history and modern days.
Joined by his wife, Sister Melanie Rasband, the Apostle prerecorded his devotional address in a chapel in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in front of a select number of sister missionaries from the Utah Salt Lake Temple Square Mission.
Sister Rasband spoke briefly about the Doctrine and Covenants — the volume of scripture featured in the 2021 “Come, Follow Me” curriculum — and shared personal, tender experiences from the time the Rasbands presided over the New York New York North Mission.
Elder Rasband highlighted an example from the early days of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints involving Wilford Woodruff, who as a young man desired to preach the gospel. His prayers were answered with the first of what would be several missionary assignments for the future Church leader — to serve a mission to the Southern United States.
Departing on foot from Missouri and averaging 40 miles a day, he and his companion faced many challenges — bears and snakes, muddy walkways and swollen waterways and days on end without food or lodging.
One day, when Elder Woodruff took lame with a sharp pain in his knee and couldn’t go on, his companion abruptly returned home, abandoning him, as Elder Woodruff described, helplessly “sitting in an alligator swamp.”
“I knelt down in the mud and prayed, and the Lord healed me, and I went on my way rejoicing.”
Said Elder Rasband: “I love that phrase, ’I went on my way rejoicing.” Just picture him in the swamp, alligators everywhere and he cannot walk or run away. What did he do? He turned to the Healer of all mankind, and then Elder Woodruff, ‘went on his way rejoicing’.”
Why rejoicing? asked Elder Rasband. “Because of his faith in Jesus Christ. He was on the Lord’s errand to bring souls unto Him and he was not going to be deterred.
“Every time you get discouraged in the mission field; every time you wonder if your efforts will bring anyone into the fold of the Good Shepherd; every time you question your own ability or your companion’s, for that matter, I want you to think of Elder Woodruff and the alligator swamp and go ‘on your way rejoicing.’
“Firmly resolve to be about the Lord’s business facing alligators in whatever form they take. Square your shoulders and live up to the Lord’s revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants, ‘O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength’” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:2).
The Apostle acknowledged that missionaries will face disappointment. “There will be those who inquire about your message of treasures in heaven but cannot let go of what they prize on earth,” he said, repeating the statement twice for emphasis.
“Missionary work is all about changing hearts and lives and turning them to the Savior, the Messenger of Salvation, who has said, ‘… be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven’” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:37).
Elder Rasband spoke of Peter and Paul, of Lehi and Nephi, and of Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove and later the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon in the Kirtland Temple — experiences they all had, often of the most divine, which helped them witness of their rejoicing.
He emphasized Paul’s own description of his service: “this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:13-14).
Elder Rasband then added: “Some of you may need to do some forgetting of those things which are before so that you can now press forward in Christ.”
He recalled a personal experience of rejoicing — a 20th anniversary celebration several years ago of the first branch organized in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood — a branch that Elder Rasband helped create as the local mission president. The celebration was not about a building or a unit as much as it was about the people themselves, he said.
“Those members in Harlem — and others just like them all around the world taught by many of you, have received a personal witness of the truths of the gospel and of ancient and modern scriptures. They believe the Lord has called prophets and apostles today. They seek the Savior who loves so perfectly, and so completely, that He gave His life that they might live with the Father in eternity.
“And that, elders and sisters, is cause to rejoice.”
Elder Rasband repeated his “Go on your way rejoicing” message to the missionaries.
“Rejoice that you are immersed as a missionary in day-to-day, full-time service to the ‘Redeemer of the World.’ Up to this point your Church involvement has been worship on Sundays, the blessing of partaking of the sacrament, youth councils and activities, seminary, family home evenings and prayers on your knees.
“Now the Lord has asked you to join full-time in the work of salvation finding those who seek Him, the Creator, the Bright and Morning Star, the King, the Lord of Hosts.”
Missionaries could begin by honoring their assignment with the respect and diligence of a well-known Book of Mormon proclamation, he said.
“‘I will go and do’ (1 Nephi 3:7) is the simple charge to be a willing disciple,” Elder Rasband said. “Focus your thoughts and actions on eternal principles and study daily from the scriptures and the teachings of His prophets. Observe mission rules, keep a cheerful countenance and pray. Pray all the time. Be Christlike.”
Elder Rasband extended invitations and promised blessings that tied to his message of rejoicing.
“May you live each day with gratitude for the gospel, for our Savior Jesus Christ, and for your Father in Heaven. May you be humble, diligent, Spirit-driven, and joyful as you see the work of the Lord move forward and may you rely on the Lord’s promise to His missionaries, ‘Lift up your hearts and be glad for I am in your midst’ (Doctrine and Covenants 29:5) My dear friends, go ‘on your way rejoicing.’ ”
Elder Rasband left an Apostolic blessing on the missionaries that their service would be fruitful and fulfilling, their strength would be sustained and they would be filled with the love of God.
“I promise you that as you diligently pursue your missionary assignment as a true disciple of Jesus Christ, you will go on your way rejoicing every day, for the Lord will be with you, guiding you and blessing you and lifting you up every day.”
He also blessed them to gain understanding of the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to teach them simply and sincerely with a heart full of love.
“I bless you that every day you will find reasons to rejoice — for the Lord is King and this is His work in the Kingdom of God on earth,” he said.
“I know that God lives, I know that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ lives. I bear my witness that He is our advocate with The Father, our friend, and our Redeemer. And I say to all of you dear missionaries that the Lord Jesus Christ is no stranger to the leaders of the Church.”
He concluded by telling the missionaries “we love you, we thank you, and we need you in the great work.”