Responding to the Call for More Missionaries: Fostering a Missionary Mindset at Home and in Church
By Heather Whittle Wrigley, Church News and Events
“Our youth have a right to expect that their parents and Church leaders and teachers will see that they know and understand the gospel of Jesus Christ.” —Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Bishop Victor Nogales of the Parque Chacabuco Ward, Buenos Aires Argentina Congreso Stake, sits in front of a bulletin board covered with pictures of the 37 young men and women in his ward. When one of them leaves for a mission, he puts a note by the picture.
“My young people get very excited when they come into my office and see the pictures and name notes,” he said. “It motivates them to prepare for their own missions.”
This ward in Buenos Aires exemplifies the spirit of missionary work. Since the beginning of 2012, 19 youth—14 of them converts—have left their homes and families to serve full-time missions in eight countries. More than 80 percent of the eligible youth have committed to serve missions.
In recent years the Brethren have made several requests that more young people serve missions. Today many families and Church leaders are taking these messages to heart and establishing a rich tradition of missionary service in their areas.
A Prophetic Priority
During April 2005 general conference, soon after the Church released Preach my Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles made a call for more missionaries.
He counseled families and leaders to foster a missionary spirit and prepare more to serve honorably by helping youth understand who they are and by teaching them doctrine.
Since that announcement, there have been several prophetic requests made on this topic.
During October 2011 general conference Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles announced the need for “tens of thousands of more missionaries in the months and years that lie ahead.” A year before, President Thomas S. Monson had reminded young men of the same need, and also addressed more mature members:
“We need many, many more senior couples,” he said. He thanked those who have served and then turned his attention to those not yet ready to serve. “As your circumstances allow … make yourselves available to leave home and give full-time missionary service,” he said.
Helping Youth Understand Who They Are
In answer to the question, “How have you been have able to prepare so many of your youth to be willing to serve?” Bishop Nogales responded, “When I was called as bishop, my first concern was the young people of my ward, and I made it clear to other ward leaders that we needed to be part of their lives.”
For example, all of the Chacabuco missionaries held callings in the ward prior to their departure. Often new converts and less-active members were invited to serve as teachers and in other areas, which helped them prepare to teach the gospel.
Bishop Nogales also arranged for youth to prepare spiritually for a mission by accompanying the local full-time missionaries each week.
As local Church leaders and members have committed themselves to the youth of the ward, they have been rewarded to see the missionary spirit grow immensely.
Garth and Eloise Andrus of Draper, Utah, USA, know what it means to have a missionary-minded family. They have 17 grandsons who have served missions, and they have served six missions themselves.
Fostering a spirit of missionary service in your family is something that begins from the time children are young, Brother Andrus said.
“You don’t leave serving a mission as a silent expectation, but you talk to your kids and grandkids about it like it’s not a question—when you go on your mission, not if,” Sister Andrus agreed.
Teaching youth who they are by setting an example of missionary service in our families is also important, Sister Andrus said. They accepted their first call in 1980, just as their youngest son was leaving on his mission. Brother Andrus served as president of the Manila Philippines Mission for three years.
“I’m sure that the e-mails that we sent home, the letters that we sent home [helped]—that’s why our children have served, because they saw the great experiences we had, and they wanted to have those same experiences,” she said.
Brother Andrus said he has always felt that serving a mission has had a much greater impact on his grandchildren than he could have had if he had stayed home and taken them to get ice cream.
One grandson wrote them after receiving some money they sent to help him prepare for his mission. “He thanked us, but said, ‘Far more important is to thank you for the example that you have set,’” Sister Andrus said.
Teaching the Doctrine
Some 6,000 miles (9,600 km) away from Buenos Aires, the rural Horseshoe Bend Branch near Boise, Idaho, USA, has also seen a dramatic increase in missionary service as families and leaders have reinforced efforts teach the gospel to their youth.
From a small branch of 75 members, nine young people are serving missions.
A letter from missionary Elder Dillon Flake, who is serving in the Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission, reads, “Serving a mission is the single best decision I’ve ever made and most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done with my life.”
Fellow member Elder Nicholas Greiner, serving in the Washington D.C. North Mission, expressed the life-changing effects his mission service has had on him thus far. “My mission has not only allowed me to feel the love of the Savior, but it has allowed me to feel, at least a little, how He feels about each and every one of us,” he writes.
Martin Walker, president of the Emmett Idaho Stake, noted, “Serving a mission places a young person on a course that will affect generations. … As a stake, we do everything we can to prepare young people for mission service.”
Part of that preparation includes teaching the youth the doctrine. Youth in the Horseshoe Bend Branch have access to a weekly missionary preparation class taught by a former mission president—training that further supplements missionary training provided by the stake’s monthly youth missionary preparation meeting and its annual Aaronic Priesthood Camp.
“Our youth have a right to expect that their parents and Church leaders and teachers will see that they know and understand the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Elder Ballard said. “The Holy Ghost will confirm the truth to their hearts and will ignite the Light of Christ in their souls. And then you will have one more fully prepared missionary.”
In Horseshoe Bend, two youth are anxiously waiting to be called to full-time missionary service. Their calls to serve will result in nearly 15 percent of the branch’s active membership participating in full-time missions.
LaRene Adams is one of Brother and Sister Andrus’s six children. She and her husband, Jim, served in the Copenhagen Denmark Mission from 2007 to 2009. She testified of the importance of teaching children the gospel in the home.
“One of the greatest things you can do to help your children build a testimony of missionary work is to hold your family home evenings and family scripture study,” she said. “If you give them that strong basis of gospel study and gospel knowledge, they are so much better prepared and know so much more about the gospel.”