I have written before about the life changing experience of leaving the city and converging on a piece of ground in southern Utah to build a homestead. That was back in 1976 and both a memorable and momentous time for me and my family. But interestingly, as noteworthy as that memory was, it was not the most important experience of my life occurring at that time. The most significant experience occurring at that time that would alter my life happened 800 miles away to a person I had never met. Realistically speaking, I would not come to know and appreciate the significance of this event for ten more years, but it changed my life and that of my posterity and many others. And it still is.
This most important occasion involved missionaries serving in Ventura California and the baptism of my future wife. I have come to refer to these fine elders as the greatest missionaries I never knew. These elders’ sacrifice and faithfulness changed my life as well and that of my wife and our posterity for eternity. I cannot articulate or even comprehend the importance of their service and my yet incomprehensible joy and appreciation because of their contribution to my life story.
Just days ago, my wife was attending the Provo temple and a swarm of missionaries passed her. One elder stopped to speak with her and express his appreciation for this experience he is having.
With tears in her eyes she exclaimed “I know you have been prepared to go into the mission field to find someone just like me, who is waiting for the blessings of the gospel in their home and among their loved ones. Joining the Church changed my life forever.” What she felt but could not say at that moment was because of her baptism, her mother and many of her friends joined the Church. After high school, she left the fine universities in southern California to come to Utah and attend BYU. It was there that she met her husband and was sealed in the Salt Lake Temple.
She has been blessed with a home and beautiful children and grandchildren. Her family is united for eternity. And as we welcome new grandchildren into our home, I too am constantly grateful to the missionaries and families that sacrificed so much to provide a gift we can never repay. That is the message missionaries are sharing with the world—the gift they are revealing—that the Savior Jesus Christ came to earth, lived a perfect life, and wrought the Atonement to fulfill the requirements of the great plan of happiness. Only he could do this. And he successfully accomplished this critical role because of his love for you and me. And tens of thousands of missionaries all across the world share this message of hope every day and bring the joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ to people of all nations.
The blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ are apparent every day. We are stronger, healthier, happier people because the gospel was restored and fills the earth today. Despite our challenges, it secures our salvation and blesses us now and every day of our lives. The apostle Mark understood this when he recorded the following extraordinary assurance promised the followers of Jesus Christ:
“ And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,
But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. “ Mark 10:29,30
Relative to this promise and in light of these recent experiences with missionaries, I happened across perhaps one of the most articulate and moving discourses regarding missionary work that I have ever read. This discourse was delivered by Elder Jeffrey R Holland at the one of the Mission Training Centers somewhere around the world. The Miracle of a Mission Read it. You’ll be glad you did.
A few of my favorite excerpts follow:
- The most important thing you can do in the world, in time or eternity…a mission.
- You’re the most prayed for people on the face of the earth. I really believe that. I do not believe, collectively speaking, that there is any body of people that’s any collective circle of individuals are prayed for on the face of the earth (more) than the LDS missionaries.
- In two years my life was changed forever and forever and forever. Everything I hold dear, everything I cherish in one way or another, I owe to the experience that converged from my childhood, my lovely parents, and my good home. Converged and passed into my soul on a mission.
- I had a missionary ask me once if I would give my life for the Church. I said, “Elder, I am giving my life for the Church.” I know what he meant. What he meant was, “Would you die for it?” Well, that’s the easy part. That’s a snap! On some days it looks really appealing. That’s the easy part, to die for it. Well, what God needs is people who will live for it, people who will go the distance, people who are in this race we’re talking about that will go all the way to the tape. And some may die along the way and that’s wonderful, but He needs people who will finish the work. He needs people who will wrap this up, and that’s the pledge I make to you, and that’s the pledge He asked. We’re in this together.
- Plan right now! Plan right now for the stories you will tell your children about your mission. Live right now in every way to look them in the eye and put them on your knee and rock them on your lap and tell them as I am telling you, that you loved every day of your mission. That you worked your head off! That you’ve never worked so hard in your life. That you were tired and sweaty and dirty and hungry and you knew how Paul felt and you knew how Peter felt and you knew how Mormon felt and you knew how Moroni felt. And I promise you that your children will remember and never forget it, and they will cherish it and hold it dear for their mission and so the generations go. So life is lived and this dispensation is pursued, and the Kingdom comes and Christ does arrive, whenever that is.
Live now for those generations. Live now for the deacons and beehive girls who will one day have you return and sit up and watch you in Sacrament Meeting, who don’t have a blessed idea what a mission is, and have no idea what it means to go to Manaus or Belem or Belo Horizonte or Porto Alegre or wherever. And then you look them in the eye and say that they too can serve, that they’ve got to go take their turn in the relay race of eternity. They’ve got to step up and pace out their two years or eighteen months. You live right now in a way that you can pierce their hearts and touch their lives.
These are true exhortations and they apply for missionaries and returned missionaries and Latter-day Saints families, as well. We are all part of this work—the most important thing you can do in the world, in time or eternity. Run hard, and to the tape! You can rest later.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.