Viewpoint: The Church Needs Senior Couples’ Maturity and Experience
Contributed By From the Church News
For many years, Church leaders have been encouraging members to serve as missionaries. In the opening moments of the October 2012 general conference, President Thomas S. Monson said: “We affirm that missionary work is a priesthood duty—and we encourage all young men who are worthy and who are physically able and mentally capable to respond to the call to serve. Many young women also serve, but they are not under the same mandate to serve as are the young men. We assure the young sisters of the Church, however, that they make a valuable contribution as missionaries, and we welcome their service.”
President Monson then called upon another contingent of potential missionaries: “We continue to need many more senior couples. As your circumstances allow, as you are eligible for retirement, and as your health permits, I encourage you to make yourselves available for full-time missionary service. Both husband and wife will have a greater joy as they together serve our Father’s children” (“Welcome to Conference”).
President Monson, on many occasions, has encouraged couples to serve as missionaries. In a written First Presidency message published in the January 2011 Ensign, he counseled:
“To the mature brothers and sisters of the Church, I remind you that the Lord needs many, many more of you to serve as full-time missionaries. If you are not yet at the season of life to serve a couples mission, I urge you to prepare now for the day when, as your circumstances allow, you and your spouse might do so. There are few times in your lives when you will enjoy the sweet spirit and satisfaction that come from giving full-time service together in the work of the Master.
“Now, some of you may be shy by nature or consider yourselves inadequate to respond affirmatively to the call to serve. Remember that this is the Lord’s work, and when we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help. The Lord will shape the back to bear the burden placed upon it.
“Others, though worthy to serve, may feel they have more important priorities. Well do I remember the Lord’s promise: ‘For them that honour me I will honour’ (1 Samuel 2:30). None of us will honor our Heavenly Father and our Savior more than by serving as a devoted, compassionate missionary.”
By way of illustration of such service, President Monson related the missionary experience of Juliusz and Dorothy Fussek, who were called to fill a mission in Poland.
“Brother Fussek was born in Poland. He spoke the language. He loved the people. Sister Fussek was born in England and knew little of Poland and nothing of its people. Trusting in the Lord, they embarked on their assignment. The work was lonely, their task immense. A mission had not at that time been established in Poland. The assignment given the Fusseks was to prepare the way so that a mission could be established,” President Monson said.
“Did Elder and Sister Fussek despair because of the enormity of their assignment? Not for a moment. They knew their calling was from God. They prayed for His divine help, and they devoted themselves wholeheartedly to their work.”
In time, President Monson—accompanied by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder Hans B. Ringger, then of the Seventy; and Elder Fussek met with the religious affairs minister of the Polish government. The government official told them, “Your church is welcome here. You may build your buildings; you may send your missionaries.” Then, pointing to Elder Fussek, he said, “This man has served your church well. You can be grateful for his example and his work.”
President Monson wrote, “Like the Fusseks, let us do what we should do in the work of the Lord. Then we can, with Juliusz and Dorothy Fussek, echo the Psalm:
“ ‘My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve said that when he served as president of the Canada Toronto Mission, he was amazed at the changes that took place in couples who served in the mission.
“Very often, they came to the mission field having sacrificed comfortable retirement expectations. But then a beautiful transformation began,” he said. “As I observed their faith and trust in the Lord, their involvement in the work, and their selfless giving, I felt as though I were watching budding flowers blossom into full bloom. These wonderful couples traded something good at home for something better in the mission field.”
Further, Elder Ballard said, “Missions everywhere need more couples. Their maturity and experience make them some of the best missionaries we have. Their special skills, honed over a lifetime of faithful service and living, enable them to train local leaders effectively, strengthen and reactivate members, and bring nonmembers to Christ by teaching and baptizing them. The importance of their work is almost beyond expression in words” (“Missionary Couples—Trading Something Good for Something Better,” Ensign, June 1988, 9, 11).
In the April 1979 general conference, Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve gave counsel that is still viable: “Some stakes are crowded with mature couples fully prepared to accept a mission call, who could not only enthusiastically help in spreading the gospel but strengthen new members in areas of the world where we are growing so rapidly. The thousands of newly baptized members now in the Church, with its somewhat strange, unfamiliar ways, could be encouraged and trained by someone who today is sitting comfortably at home. … If we could only transplant hundreds of our faithful, well-prepared couples out into one of the greatest chapters of their lives!” (“Feed My Sheep,” Ensign, May 1979, 62–63).
All missionaries are called by the Lord. Worthy couples who wish to serve as missionaries and have not received calls are encouraged to let their bishops or branch presidents know of their desire to serve.
Those who have questions about senior missions may call 1-800-453-3860, ext. 2-6741 (or 1-801-240-6741), or email SeniorMissionaryServices@ldschurch.org to receive a response to specific questions.