David A Bednar put it best in his October 2005 Priesthood talk when he said:
“The single most important thing you can do to prepare for a call to serve is to become a missionary long before you go on a mission.”
I’d like to lay out a couple key things I did, am doing, or wish I had done up to this point in order to do as Elder Bednar instructs and become a missionary well before now, before my call, before my papers were even submitted.
The first of these is from one of my all time favorite scriptures, Alma 37.
6 Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
7 And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.
This idea of small and simple things has always appealed to me. I’m not a very wise man, most of you here can vouch for that, but through God, and through my faith, my little actions can be magnified.
When the youth went down to the Manti Temple, my fellow Elders and I were able to be the priesthood and the voice for the baptismal and confirmation ordinances, and I was the last one to baptize. Just before I got out of the font, the workers handed me a towel, and said that they’d appreciate it if I’d wipe down the font. As I was doing this small, almost insignificant task to keep the beauty and cleanliness of the Temple complete, the spirit reminded me of the power of what small things can do.
My first experience with Small in Simple things happened back when I was a newly turned 8 years old. My mom took on the Saturday night shift at the hospital, and my dad was busy with school and other things, so my siblings and I were left alone every Sunday to choose whether to go to church, or stay home and sleep in. Now, I love to sleep. However, my primary teacher at the time took it upon herself, possibly unknowingly, to give me a desire to go to church, even if it meant waking myself up, walking alone, and often sitting alone during Sacrament Meeting. She did little things, like having a contest of who could finish the Book of Mormon first, who could memorize the most scriptures, and if we met a certain amount of attendance days, we would have a pizza party. What started as going to church to earn pizza became the start of my testimony and love for this Gospel.
My mom when I first entered junior high gave me some incredibly good, wise, and unfortunately probably ignored advice; she told me that “coolness doesn’t rub off.” By this she meant that being nice to someone who may not appear to be someone you’d want to be friends with, and extending a hand of friendship to them won’t possibly make you “less cool.” Simply saying hi to someone, inviting them to sit with your table, or asking them other such things could not only lead to a great friendship, but also change their entire lives. When I first moved into this area, I was not necessarily the most welcoming looking guy, but because of a couple young men who knew the power of small and simple things, like extending a hand of friendship by inviting me to sit at their table during lunch, even if it meant watching Parker drown all of his food in chocolate milk, I am where I am today.
Now, sometimes, the Lord doesn’t work by small and simple things, like in the story of Ammon, where he cuts off arms, knocks people out with the spirit, and basically turns an entire city into converts. However, my next principle is not by large and extreme things are larger and extremer things brought to pass, my next principle is giving thanks and recognizing God’s hand in everything, which Ammon is a perfect example of in Alma 26.
11 I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.
12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.
As many of you know, last year I was able to spend 8 weeks on the Stanford Campus in a Summer Program. For the first time ever, I was thrown into a situation where, like President Monson, I had to “stand alone.” I was the only member in the program, and therefore, got many questions. One guy who seemed the most curious asked me: “doesn’t it suck to say God did everything? Like, if you work really hard to do something, and it’s still only because of God you were able to succeed?”
Now, this thought wasn’t foreign to me at all. As a kid, I remember thinking it a lot, actually. In ninth grade, however, we watched a talk by President Eyring from the October 2007 General Conference, in this talk he talked about how he started keeping a journal to document the times he had seen the Lord’s hand during the day. I was inspired, and starting doing the same. That experience of every night sitting down and thinking back on my day built my testimony of so many things, most importantly that the Lord’s hand really can be found in every single aspect of my life. Because of this experience, when my friend Sean asked his question, I was able to, without hesitation, explain to him that the fact that Heavenly Father is there to help, and that every good thing comes from Him was actually a comfort! Knowing that if I did my best, the Lord would make up the difference, and if he didn’t, being comforted to know that it’s the Lord’s will, and that whatever he has in store for me instead will be oh so much greater!
Again, what does this have to do with being a missionary? Our savior, of course, is a perfect reference. In the premortal existence, two people stood up as volunteers. One was Christ, the other was Lucifer. Now, there were probably many differences between their plans, but the one most evident in their words is to whom the honor would go to. One, Christ, declared “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” While the other, Satan, said “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” As missionaries, we are commissioned by Jesus Christ to preach his Gospel. Who better to emulate than he who sends us? My amazing Missionary Prep teachers once said:
“As soon as you see the miracles and conversions as because of you, your mission will start sucking.”
My final one is to keep the end in mind. We are conditioned throughout growing up to just do things; we learn addition and subtraction, without ever being told one day we’d learn multiplication and division. We learn how to read, without ever being told that one day, we’ll be expected to read a book, and find symbolism and read what’s not said. This type of thinking is not a bad way to learn, line upon line, precept upon precept. However, when we’re the teachers, it pays to remember that someday, the lessons I teach will have to be applied later for a greater understanding and knowledge to be attained. This applies to the Gospel, if each investigator, all we do is focus on baptism, or each street contact all we think about is a lesson, we miss the big picture. The Temple. A family sealed forever.Just recently, I was able to go with a friend to a birthday party of one of her dad’s investigators. Very few return missionaries that I know are able to see the fruits of their labors as clearly as him. This family, which started with one woman deciding to be baptized, had turned into a huge family; a family that had multiple temple marriages, missionaries, future missionaries, and even a son in the Quorum of the Seventy. Now, being able to envisage this picture, instead simply focusing on a baptismal number to put on your monthly record, is how we turn ourselves from a teacher, to a missionary