The updated communication policy for full-time missionaries represents an extraordinary opportunity for missionaries and their families to be more closely linked and more fully aligned in the work of gathering Israel. President Russell M. Nelson has invited members to be anxiously engaged as part of the “Lord’s Battalion” in the latter-day work of ministering and gathering. The availability of weekly communication through various technologies should be applied specifically to strengthen missionaries, bind families and increase faith through united purpose.
For example, rather than an email that reads like a checklist of what happened during the previous week, missionaries can engage in specific conversations about the work and invite the faith, prayers and efforts of their family members more specifically into their work.
In the past a family might hear about a discouraging week, struggling investigator, difficult area, upcoming challenge or even wonderful spiritual growth well after everything played out. Rather than simply receiving backward-facing report emails, a family can engage in forward-facing, faith-filled efforts to demonstrate devotion to the work in their own lives. Sharing principles from the home-centered, Church-supported curriculum can create space for the sharing of testimonies and opportunities for missionaries to invite family members to study the gospel and seek personal inspiration.
The efficiencies brought about by technological breakthroughs have been deployed by the Lord’s servants to advance the Lord’s work from the beginning of time. In rolling out the new communication options, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught the change is designed to be a motivating force and not a distraction. He stated, “This is an addition which brings more confidence, more peace.”
The additional communication options should not bring about the abandonment of old-school, but incredibly meaningful, modes of communication. Our greatest learning, deepest spiritual moments and most heart-felt messages are often found in handwritten notes, letters and journal entries. There is an effectiveness in writing something in your own hand that cannot be duplicated by the efficiencies of phone calls, video chats, text messages or emails.
For over a decade I have encouraged the young men in the priests quorum to always carry and be prepared to write their thoughts, testimonies, questions, answers and inspiration in a simple discipleship journal. Writing what they know, what they believe, what they wonder and what they learn in private study and personal prayer is perfect preparation for missionary service. Despite the options of texting, emailing or electronically recording, the words of Nephi in describing his writing on the small plates are still applicable today.
“And upon these I write the things of my soul, and many of the scriptures which are engraven upon the plates of brass. For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children. Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard” (2 Nephi 4:15-16).
There is something unique and uniquely powerful in writing the things of our souls. Writing by hand with a pen is different than texting from a phone or typing on a keyboard. Writing connects to a different part of the brain and often creates a clarifying connection to the things of the soul. There is a deeper understanding to be gained when you are free to write the things of your soul without autocorrection or predictive text. Deeper expressions and greater wisdom will emerge in the absence of emojis, memes and animated characters.
Sending missionaries out with a ream of paper and a good pen, that they know how to use, will enable them to think clearly, reflect deeply and express more fully their faith and faith-promoting experiences in their full-time service for the Savior.
Technological efficiencies and handwritten effectiveness may be the perfect combination. To gather scattered Israel the prophet’s call for technologically, emotionally and spiritually connected missionaries to bless their families, (and their families to bless them), while demonstrating their desires to serve as disciples and representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ. Missionaries and their families can then fulfill the words of Nephi. “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26).
Home-centered, Church-supported, technologically assisted and pen-enabled missionaries and families will be united in the work in a most wonderful way.
Boyd Matheson is the opinion editor and head of strategic reach at the Deseret News.