Over 56,000 strong, the missionaries are a force for good in the world. Through their efforts thousands of new converts come into the church every year. These missionaries provide invaluable service to the Church and to people the world over.
But what is the value of a returned missionary to the Church? And, why is it so important that the youth of the Church serve full-time missions? The answers to these questions provide a powerful case for parents, priesthood leaders and youth to significantly increase the number of young men and women serving full-time missions in the Pacific Area. Preparing more faithful missionaries is how real growth happens in the Church. It is evidenced not only by the number of new converts that result from their service, but also by the impact the mission experience makes on each missionary, and that positively shapes the rest of their lives.
To qualify for full-time missionary service, a young man or woman must prepare themselves spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally. Faithfully serving a mission develops deeper personal understanding of the doctrines and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and provides a strong foundation for lasting conversion to the principles and ordinances of the gospel.
Missionary service typically leads to temple marriage and the establishment of loving eternal family relationships. Couples sealed in the temple place greater importance on eternal families. They tend to have more children, and those children are more likely to become faithful adult members in the Church.
Consider this important point: a young man who faithfully serves a mission will likely marry in the temple and a raise a righteous family. His children, and their children, will also likely grow up to be active faithful members of the Church. In three generations that young returned missionary’s posterity will probably account for over eighteen active adult tithe-paying members. By tragic contrast, a young man who does not serve a mission will likely not have the same opportunity to learn and embrace the gospel principles. He is more likely to become less-active; possibly would not receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, or the blessings of temple marriage. Sadly, his family is less likely to be active in the Church, and if that occurs, in three generations his posterity will account for less than one active member. This is a very sobering example of the value of a returned missionary.
However preparing more faithful missionaries will do much to save the rising generations of the Church. Missionary work is much more than growing the Church through new convert baptisms. It is how we successfully prepare faithful, dedicated fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, and future Church leaders. Seventy-five percent of all stake presidents, and sixty-six percent of all bishops and elder’s quorum presidencies are all returned missionaries. There is no better training ground for future Church leadership, at every level, than a full-time mission.
Faithful children mostly come from faithful parents striving to live the principles of the gospel in their home. The single most important things parents can do is to make and keep sacred covenants, and to strive to raise their children in truth and righteousness.
However, there are a lot of difficult challenges facing parents and families. Even faithful parents have children who struggle, notwithstanding their efforts. Extraordinary young men and women can come from homes and families struggling to live the gospel, and many will return and embrace the gospel later in life through the faith and prayers of parents and others. Still—the gospel of Jesus Christ blesses families.
All families experience challenges in raising righteous children, and need the support of loving and caring priesthood and auxiliary leaders. The Church provides the organization and means for teaching the gospel. Priesthood and auxiliary leaders, including teachers, can assist individuals and families by teaching and testifying of the pure doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They strengthen individuals and families in their efforts to keep their sacred covenants; and provide counsel, support and opportunities for service.
How can priesthood and auxiliary leaders support the efforts of parents in raising righteous sons and daughters who are worthy, prepared and willing to serve full-time missions?
Frequent interviews with priesthood leaders. A wise bishop will make sure this happens early, and often.
Ordain every young man at the appropriate age. Active participation in the Aaronic Priesthood is the best way to prepare for the Melchizedek Priesthood and missionary service.
Encourage all young man and young women to complete their secondary education. There is a clear relationship between education and missionary preparation. Education is a sacred duty; it prepares our youth for successful missionary service and to be self reliant parents.
Encourage every young man to achieve the Duty to God Award, and every young woman to achieve the Personal Progress Award. This is how we establish testimony, personal growth, and service in our youth. They develop faith by doing.
Encourage every young man and woman to attend and complete seminary. Seminary helps our youth learn to love the scriptures, understand the doctrines and become fully converted, and recognize the importance of the Holy Ghost in their lives.
Encourage all young men and young women to attend Missionary Preparation Classes – even if serving a mission is not a near term goal, it will still greatly enhance their spiritual development.
As we instill within our young men and women, at an early age, a vision of the great privilege they have to serve, and the marvelous blessings which result from missionary service, we help them chart the course for the most important decisions in their lives.
The words of the Lord to John and Peter Whitmer apply to each of us and especially to the young men and women of the Church: “And now, behold I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father” (D&C 15: 6, 16:6).
A mission experience will prove priceless to them, and to their future families. “…the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10). Serving a mission is how we save our youth; and how they save their own souls. It is one of the many mighty miracles and tender mercies that evidence Our Heavenly Father’s perfect plan of happiness. As we work and fight and pray to help each of our young men and women prepare to serve a full time mission, we are truly growing the Church and preparing a righteous generation for service in the home and in the Church. The value of a returned missionary who is truly converted, is priceless.