Recently I had the opportunity to attend a rehearsal and share a message with the choir that performed so beautifully at the General Women’s Session of general conference. I arrived early to visit and to see if I could be of assistance. I observed, with gratitude, priesthood and Relief Society leaders — along with choir members and Church-service missionaries — working together in, as Elder M. Russell Ballard once said, a “highly organized beehive” of activity.
I was intrigued by this sight and wanted to learn more. As I visited with some of the Church-service missionaries, I learned of the many ways they were assisting. Though their tasks varied, many shared spiritual experiences they had had while serving the Lord in seemingly small and simple ways on their service missions.
For example, I learned that Elder Bob Wylie and Sister Amy Wylie are the refugee services specialists in the Salt Lake Inner City Service Mission. Sister Wylie shared, “The gift of tongues works a lot of ways.” English is a second language for the refugees participating in the choir, and many spoke no English.
Sister Wylie explained that the missionaries helped choir members learn the words to the songs they would perform. She added, “Today in sacrament meeting we sang ‘As I Have Loved You’ and ‘Come, Follow Me’ so they’d become familiar with the music.”
She also noted, “In addition to helping with language and music, many service missionaries provide transportation to and from choir practices and they’re helping to feed the sisters.” I learned that a simple meal had been prepared by service missionaries for the sisters who had traveled a distance to attend rehearsals immediately following their Church meetings.
And, Sister Wylie concluded, “This is just a tiny piece of what service missionaries do.”
Sister Wylie’s comments reminded me of the truths taught by Elder Ballard about what happens behind the scenes of a literal beehive of activity. He said: “The bees depend on each other. Work that would be overwhelming for a few bees to do becomes lighter because all of the bees faithfully do their part” (“Be Anxiously Engaged,” October 2012 general conference).
This principle is exemplified in the service of Elder John Casperson and Sister Wendy Casperson. When they were called to serve in the Salt Lake Inner City Service Mission, their call was for one year. However, Sister Casperson, who participated in the choir, noted, “We’re just starting our fourth year as Church-service missionaries. We love the people so much. We feel the Savior’s love for them. They love the Lord. That’s why we’re all here. It’s because we love Him.”
The Caspersons understand what President Henry B. Eyring taught in the very meeting where the choir performed: “We grow closer to the Savior, as we, out of pure love, serve others for Him” (“Trust in That Spirit Which Leadeth to Do Good,” Ensign, May 2016).
This Christlike love has been the catalyst for 31,779 senior couples and individuals who are currently serving — including some young elders and sisters — with “desires to serve God” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:3) to engage in His work by serving as Church-service missionaries.
The Church-service missionary program works in harmony with the full-time missionary program. Church-service missionaries represent the Lord and wear a missionary name badge. They are called where they can use their skills and talents to serve in any number of ways. They may help with welfare, humanitarian aid, family history, Church hosting, public affairs, farming, canneries, food services and many other technical and professional pursuits.
Some Church-service mission calls allow members to work from home. Others serve part-time or full-time at a Church facility. And because Church-service missionaries typically live at home, many can also continue to serve in callings in their local ward or stake.
Sister Becky Sohm shared: “My husband was serving as stake president and I was serving in the temple, yet we felt we could do a little more. So we offered to help during general conference preparing meals for the thousands of volunteers who assist with conference. We have volunteered now for 11 years preparing sandwiches, slicing pies, and spreading frosting on thousands of brownies. With each opportunity, we have felt we were contributing to the kingdom and giving the Savior a little of ourselves.”
The experience of Ted Sandstrom, who served for 15 years at a cannery and pasta plant, also focused on serving the Lord by serving His children in small and simple ways. Brother Sandstrom said, “It brought me great joy to know that my efforts would provide food for people in need.”
Some may wonder if they should consider missionary service. President Russell M. Nelson has provided the answer: “If you are tempted to think you’re not needed, let me reassure you that you are” (“Senior Missionary Moments,” Ensign, April 2016).
Sean Marchant, president of the South Salt Lake Stake, certainly agrees. He says of the inner-city missionaries serving among his stake members: “An additional blessing that comes from having service missionaries is the power of their example. We live in an area where there are many single-parent households. For children and youth, it is a blessing for them to see these examples of happy and strong marriages.”
As we contemplate how our talents and skills could be used in the Lord’s service, we may ask, could I serve from home? Or maybe in a cannery or family history library? Part-time or full-time? Surely the words of Sister Linda K. Burton in the session where the choir sang apply: “Prayerfully determine what you can do — according to your own time and circumstance — to serve,” (“I Was a Stranger,” Ensign, May 2016) as do the words of King Benjamin: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).
For more information about serving as a Church-service missionary, seelds.org/callings/missionary/church-service-missionary. And for more information about how you can serve refugees, see IWasAStranger.lds.org.