Let me share another experience which is close to me which relates to both missionary work and temple work. While on my mission, I was transferred to Albany NY. During my first week there, my companion took me 30 miles south, to Ravina, a small town, to meet with a man and a woman who lived in a trailer. He expressed the belief that nothing would really come of our visits with this family, but they had promised to return after the first discussion.
This was the first time I met with Harley and Mildred Alderson. Harley was in a wheel chair, the victim of a stroke. He also had an amputated leg, heart problems and diabetes. We visited the family almost every week, however my companion was transferred after just one month. I grew to love that family greatly. Harley's testimony started to take hold. Because of his stroke, his emotions would always come to the surface and many times he would weep during our discussions as the Spirit would touch him. I remember once, when he wept and said that he wished he could have an experience like Joseph Smith. We gave him a large print Book of Mormon and he would spend hours each day at his kitchen table reading the book and telling his wife about the stories. Harley couldn't talk very well, but his mind was totally there. He amazed us when we would test his knowledge of the book. I believe that he almost knew the book better than I did.
Finally, it was very clear that he had a strong desire to be baptized. What would the ward think? Would they see this as a burden? Yes, some did, however others grew to love Harley. Harley's wife didn't drive, but I was amazed to find out that Harley did the driving and he would drive over 40 miles one-way to attend church! We figured out a way to baptize Harley. His baptism was very special. Right after I baptized him, still holding him in the water, he asked me if he was baptized. I told him yes, and while weeping he cried, "I'm a Mormon, I'm a Mormon!" He shook our hands over and over again.
Harley really blossomed in the church. He was very excited when he received the Aaronic priesthood and he would have his wife fill in the answers to his priesthood manual every week. His wife followed him in baptism about a month later. Before I left Albany after eight months, Harley had read the Book of Mormon seven times, had read the New Testament and many church books. He attended church as often as his health would let him, and more than anything else, he then desired to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.
My former companion was amazed to find out that I had baptized several people, including Harley, who he never thought would really come into the church. I just always tried to visualize every person I taught as a future member of the church.
About seven months later, in the final week of my mission, word came to me that Harley had passed away. I was saddened, but I also knew that if there was ever anyone who I had taught who would have eternal life, that it would be Harley.
A year later, I returned for a visit to NY and I met with Harley's wife, Mildred who had fallen into inactivity. We shared our fond memories of our visits with Harley and discussed his great desire to receive the higher priesthood and attend the temple. Before I left, I received written permission from her, to submit Harley's name for his temple work. When I returned, I visited church headquarters and received permission to submit his name.
During the same session that my wife first went through the temple, I took Harley's name through the temple and did his work for him. I stood in his place when he was ordained to the higher priesthood. What a joy it was to do his work for him on that special day. There was, of course, no doubt in my mind that Harley was there in spirit, accepted the work, was very grateful, and was weeping with joy.
As President Hunter has said, "All roads lead to the temple," meaning that all our work in the church points to the great work that needs to be done in the temple, including our great missionary efforts.
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I've been asked to share the missionary experience that I had as a youth in the church. I shy away from telling personal experiences on the net, yet I think this group is safe, especially since I have three other family members on the list.
As a youth, I fell among some good friends who had a positive influence on me. We only had about 10-15 members of the church in our high school in the Seattle area but they were a great group of kids. For some reason I felt peer pressure from my friends to do missionary work. This is what I am interested in helping the youth in my ward feel. Elder Wirthlin stated on Saturday that we have more people coming into the church who are "youth" ages than any other age group, so some areas of the church are being very successful.
I recall one day being in biology class, talking to one of my member friends about MIA (now called Mutual). A non-member friend later asked me, "What is MIA?" I became flustered and embarrassed and said, "Oh, nothing." My member friend overheard my response and only said "Romans 1:16." (This was a scripture we were both very familiar with which states "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.") Boy did I feel like a dope, and I vowed never to react that way again.
I saw my member friends bring non-members to church and I tried, and brought a friend or two to church, but without any real results. A girl my age had her boyfriend meet with the missionaries and he soon joined the church. I wished that I could have a similar experience. When she broke up with this boy, he quickly fell away from the church and I learned how important it was to help a person come into the church for the right reasons.
Well, as a young 17 year old boy, I prayed for a missionary experience. Little did I know how powerful those prayers would be. During my senior year, I associated with a group of non-member friends who liked to spend their lunch hour in the library discussing various topics. Religion was a frequent topic and I was the resident expert on that topic. In November I had a private conversation with one of these friends who asked me questions about our church's organization. I talked with Ken all through the lunch period and I could see a sparkle of interest in him. I had never before had this experience, discussing the church with someone who had a true interest. I was very excited, and the Spirit burned within me and pressed me forward.
On the following day, I brought him "The Joseph Smith Story" to read and we again talked all through lunch. He read it that night and on the next day was full of excitement and burning with questions. Things started to make sense to him, why the Lord needed to restore his church. On the next day, I brought him a copy of The Book of Mormon and he started to read it. However, probably because I didn't prepare him to read the book and also because he soon became very busy, within a week he started to lose interest. Because I was timid, I didn't press the issue. Three months later, I had another conversation with Ken about the church and I became convinced the he would never join the church. I had failed again. This greatly discouraged me.
The school year neared to a close and excitement was building for my graduation. Early in May, I was invited to attend a going away party for a couple that would be married after graduation. During the party, I started to again discuss religion with Ken. As we rode home together, he told me that he wanted to be a Mormon, which totally shocked me! He said that he liked our life styles, but he didn't see the need for an organized religion. I could see that he was yearning and seeking for the truth and I decided that I wasn't going to give up this time. Thoughts of a John Taylor quote came to my mind, "If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those you might have saved, had you done your duty."
On the following Sunday, I told the missionaries about Ken which was a very good move because they kept putting the pressure on me to get the courage up to ask him to take the discussions. During the next two weeks, I tried, but had not real luck. I tried inviting him to church, but he was going to the race track to bet on the horses.
Finally, I knew I had to make an all out effort when he wrote in my year book,
"Dave, thanks for your help in my quest for theological answers. I am still looking around for the right religion, but if you're not born Mormon, it's a big step to take--but I haven't ruled it out, in fact it's still number one. I just need time, but thanks for your help. Good luck on your mission and don't lose touch with all us Washingtonians that choose to stay."Wow! This dashed all my fears away.
That Sunday, I decided to invite Ken to church. He replied that he would really like that. Ken did come, and I could tell that he was very nervous and felt out of place. The babies always seem so noisy when I would bring someone to church. After Sacrament meeting, Ken said that he had to go. I felt the Spirit pushing me forward and I worked up enough nerve to ask him if he would like to take the discussions. I could tell that he really didn't want to, but out of politeness, he said that he would. We set up the appointment with the missionaries, and strange feelings of guilt started to enter me as I thought I was getting him into something that he really didn't want. However, I realized that these feelings were ridiculous because this was in fact, the very thing he was searching for. I was overjoyed.
The school year came to an end, and on the evening of our last day of high school, Ken had the first discussion taught to him over at my house. The discussion went well and Ken understood everything. He gave the closing prayer and the missionaries remarked to me afterwards that anyone who gave a prayer like that, would surely receive a witness and would come into the church.
We had graduation rehearsal at school and it seemed as if Ken was avoiding me. Later he called me and invited me to a graduation party at his home. He told me he was reading The Book of Mormon. We talked about the first discussion and for the first time I bore my testimony to him. I encouraged him to pray and told him that I had felt the Holy Ghost many, many times. I later went to my room and poured out my heart in prayer and to my joy I received a VERY strong answer, an assurance that Ken would be baptized. I had no doubt anymore. I wrote to a friend who was on his mission and asked his to fast and pray for Ken.
The second discussion was held over at the church. During it, the missionaries asked Ken if he had been praying to know that the Book of Mormon was true, and asked him if he would do that. Somehow, he misunderstood them and started to pray right there. The Elder gave me a surprised look. The Spirit filled the room and Ken had felt the power of the Holy Ghost. He later told me that he had never felt anything like it before, that it made him want to smile.
Ken's life started to change. The discussion went great and I would help the missionaries teach them to him. Finally, Ken told me that he wanted to be baptized. He said that he wanted baptism to be just the start, not the end. He said his life had already been changed, how now he had a purpose for life and that everything was getting clearer. I was over-joyed. We finally fasted together over a Sunday to help Ken know that this was the right step for him. He received the burning witness that he was seeking for.
He later shared with me excerpts from a journal he had started to keep:
"I went to the missionaries tonight. I have so much faith that I'm ready that I was ecstatic. I am so grateful to have a purpose in life and something to live for; I've never been able to say that before now. At my lesson all the answers came to me so easily and it all made so much sense, all that I've learned is now so obvious and logical. Since June 6th, my life has changed dramatically; I used to be melancholic and confused and today, only 23 days later, I'm happy and confident. Confident that there is a God, that He has a Son who died for our sins, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, that The Book of Mormon is true, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true church. For the first time in my life I am looking forward to living--living as a Mormon and striving for perfection."
Preparations were made and Ken chose me to baptize him. Five days before the baptism, I received a card from him in the mail that said this:
"Dave, the reason I'm sending you this card is because I have a hard time thanking people in person. Although I don't have anything to thank you for except a new life, and a new perspective on nearly all aspects of God, Jesus Christ and life in general. Dave, the help you've given me is unreturnable. You've been a most unique and true friend. You have cared enough about me and my future to reach out and guide me. I can't thank you enough for what you've done. If it wasn't for you, I would still be the same person. Now I'm so much more alive and open to the ways of God. When I am baptized by you it will be the single most important day of my life and I feel it is very appropriate and right that it is you that baptize me, the one who opened the door to the righteous and holy life."
July 3, 1976, was one of the greatest days of my life. It far out-shadowed my high school graduation several weeks earlier in importance. I baptized Ken into the church, my first and greatest baptism. It was a very important day in both of our lives.
Ken continued to grow in the church. He bore his testimony in church that week and on the following Sunday, he was ordained to the Priesthood. Before every ordination in our Priest Quorum, my bishop (my Dad) would always go over the steps for the ordinance. He seemed to go over the steps with extra care this time. He then turned to Ken and said anyone in the room could ordain him, who did he want to do it? To my terror and delight, he chose me. My Dad later that day interviewed me for ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood and he told me that very few young men were able to have an experience like I had and able to use their priesthood like I had, as a young Priest.
Well, this story is getting too long. I went away to BYU and Ken went to Pacific Lutheran University and met some good friends at the institute. We exchanged many letters. One such letter included:
"I want you to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. Going to PLU has been great. I have never had to search things out for myself before. Now I do and my testimony has grown. Jesus is the Christ and I want nothing more in the world than to go on a mission and declare his true gospel. I've prayed about it Dave, and Father in Heaven wants me to serve a mission so I must begin to prepare. There's not much time left and we've got to use every second to prepare. Dave, I am sure I've gotten the point across but I don't want you to ever forget that you opened up the gate to the path to eternal life and glory...It's a rare opportunity when you can lead someone into the waters of baptism and I am so grateful that you saw the potential in me and took a chance in approaching."
Ken wished to leave on his mission at the same time I would. He had a problem with funding. His non-member parents didn't really want him to go but committed to support him a little bit. We worked together in the sewers that summer. (Really we did.) I decided that I would donate half of my sewer money toward Ken's mission. He was flabbergasted when I told him of my decision and handed him the check. And then I learned about the wonderful blessings that come as we help missionaries financially. Miracles happened in my life.
OK, we submitted our mission papers and on a lunch break from the sewers we discovered that we both received our mission calls on the same day! He was called to Spain and I was called to Upstate NY. About a month later, we both went to the temple for the first time, on the same day in Provo. In the Celestial room he said to me, "You would never have believed a year and a half ago that I would be here." No, I didn't.
The story isn't over...I flew back to Seattle to keep working in the sewers until time to leave on my mission. My family was away, so I did what any teenager would do: I threw a party at my house. Ken and I invited all of our close high school friends to our "going away party." As a last minute addition, Ken asked me, "What about Tom?" I said, "why not?" We had a great party and Tom did come. During the party he asked us what a mission was and what we would be doing. Before the night was over, Ken and I had arranged to teach Tom the first discussion. We didn't know the rules, that we should have had the full-time missionaries teach him. Since we both knew the first discussion, we thought we would teach him ourselves. A few days later, Ken and I taught Tom the first discussion. As I was telling him the Joseph Smith story, tears ran down Tom's face and he said that was him in the story. He had been searching so hard for the truth. Tom was excited and thanked us over and over again. He even remarked that he wanted to go on a mission too. We turned Tom over to the missionaries and to say the least, the Elder were slightly excited to receive a referral like this.
Tom's first time attending church was on the day of my missionary farewell. He sat on the front row and I was told he had his "mouth hanging open in awe" the entire time. We made sure our friends staying behind would take him under their wings. A few days later, both Ken and I left for Utah, to go on our missions. As I was studying in the mission home in NY, on the first week of my mission, word came to me that Tom had been baptized. A year later, he left on his mission.
Time to finish...I visited Ken a few months ago for the first time in about seven years. It was a great reunion. He has a wonderful wife and two great sons. He serves in his bishopric and his wife is the Relief Society President.
This little experience had a significant impact on my life as a youth. How can we encourage our youth in the church to have similar experiences? Not only did I taste the joy of missionary work, but I also witnessed miracles and received a strengthening of my testimony which has lasted a lifetime.
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I wrote the following handout many years ago when I was a mission leader for the first time. I would give this handout to families who we asked to friendship the families who the missionaries are teaching. I always make sure each family has a friendshipping family assigned.
"There are two parts to every conversion -- The doctrinal part (which is generally taught by the missionaries) and the fellowshipping part, or by you might say, loving people into the church. A social transition must come into the life of almost every person who joins the Church. People need friends. We all do. And when they give up one way of living, and some of their friends, too, they need social and emotional support through genuine friendship." (Franklin D. Richards, "Ensign," Oct 1977, p.42)
The full-time missionaries cannot give the people they teach this social transition but must rely upon the members of the church to friendship these people through this transition. YOU have been chosen to be a special friendshipping family in the missionary program to help assist the full-time missionaries in bringing many of the "pure in heart" into the church. The Lord will bless you greatly for your service and you will experience great joy in watching a new friend progress in the gospel and enter the waters of baptism. The following is an explanation of what type of things you can do to be a great support in the missionary effort.
Your ward mission leader or your priesthood leader will contact you when the missionaries start teaching a family which they would like you to help friendship. They will provide information to you such as the family's address, names, ages, interests, and any other information which they feel might help you in establishing a friendship.
As soon as possible after the missionaries start teaching the family, they should introduce you to the family. The most convenient way for this to take place is for you to be present when the missionaries teach the family the second discussion. The missionaries will try to set an appointment for a time which they feel will be convenient for a member family to be present. You may have to adjust your personal schedule at short notice to make this appointment. Another way for you to meet the family is for the missionaries to take you over at a time other then a scheduled appointment to briefly introduce you to the family.
Many times it helps greatly to have a family be taught in the home of a member. The non-member can see how a member of the church lives and they can feel the Spirit in the home. If appropriate, invite the family to be taught the remaining discussions in you home.
The missionaries will try to teach the family once or twice a week. It is very important that you be with them at each of these discussions. This is the time when you family will feel the Spirit the strongest and these times need to be a common bond between you and the family. There are several things that you should remember:
1. Ask the missionaries in advance what you can do to help.
2. Let the missionaries lead the discussion. They have been called by the Lord and have been trained in their responsibilities.
3. Let the missionaries commit the investigators to hear the next discussion, pray, read, live the commandments, and be baptized.
4. Bear your testimony. You can help strengthen the commitments that the family makes by sharing your feelings about how the gospel principles are important to you and help you in your lives.
The family will need almost daily contact from the missionaries or from you. You should make friendshipping visits to the family as advised by the missionaries. You might invite them over for dinner, go out and do something with them, take them to a visitor center, or just call them up and see how things are going for them.
Sometimes the biggest hurdle to get over is for the family to attend church for the first time. They really don't know what to expect and usually feel uncomfortable about the idea of coming to a strange place. You will be a tremendous help in getting over this hurdle by inviting the family to attend church with you. You will be there by their side at church to help them to have a good experience. You might even offer to give them a ride to and from church to help them keep their commitment.
Prepare a talk on Baptism or the Holy Ghost which you can use at the family's baptism or at the baptism of another family. The family will want you to be apart of the service. If you are a priesthood holder they may ask you to perform the baptism or perform the confirmation. What a happy day that will be for them and for you!
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Missionary work will continue right into the Millennium. There will still be other churches on the earth for awhile after the second coming. (Brigham Young, JD 2:317) The Lords church will continue to reach out to those who need repentance and bring them into the fold.
"There will be wicked men on the earth during the thousand years. The heathen nations who will not come up to worship will be visited with the judgments of God, and must eventually be destroyed from the earth." (Joseph Smith, Teachings 268-9)We need to understand that the Prophet was referring to those honorable men of the earth as "wicked" because they are still under the bondage of sin.
"The gospel will be taught more intensely and with greater power during the millennium until the inhabitants of the earth shall embrace it. (Joseph Fielding Smith, AGQ 1:110)