I have had several young people say to me: “I want to do something meaningful this summer; I want to participate in some cause. I want to help the needy if I can. Oh, I have other things I want to do, but I want to do that as well.”
In that context I would like to suggest some guidelines whereby members of the Church might effectively help other people. I believe that we should ask ourselves four basic questions:
Number one is, Am I helping, or am I part of the problem? Sometimes the people who are the most eager to help turn out to be the people with the problems. We must look to ourselves and say, “Do I have any serious problems that I must work out first? Is there any serious repentance that I must take care of before I go out and try to help someone else?”
Question number two should be, Is my family in need of help? Could my contribution be in their direction? Sometimes this becomes difficult because the closer we are to people, the harder it is to help them. But certainly if our family and loved ones are in need of assistance, we should do what we can for them first.
Third, Does someone need my help in the ward or branch? I honestly believe that the Lord and society expect us to take care of our own members before we go out into the world. In line with this I would suggest that when you go home this summer you, either personally or through your quorum president, contact your bishop or branch president. Find out if there is something that you can do, either individually or as a group. Somebody in your own ward, in your own branch, may be in need.
Then, finally, after we have looked at the members of the Church, we can turn to worthy projects in our neighborhood, community, city, or even at the national and international level. We do the best work, however, when we start with ourselves and progress outward.
I want to enlist you in a volunteer program where you can make a contribution that will be real and far-reaching. The volunteers who participated in this program last year changed the lives of 38,000 people in the United States and Canada. Worldwide, these volunteers changed the lives of 100,000 people. I do not know of a single program or combination of programs that has reached so many people, turned them in a direction that is both beneficial and good, brought more happiness and stronger family ties, and provided greater blessings and peace of mind. The program is not just temporary; it does not end after these volunteers leave. What it gives is permanent.
Maybe you have guessed by now that I am talking about the missionary program. Go home and become part of that volunteer force. Find a family this summer, will you? Take them the gospel of Jesus Christ. You will never have such an experience in your life of giving, of meaningful activity, and of seeing actual and literal change of a positive nature come into the life of an individual.
“How do I go about it?” Well, when you get home, contact your bishop or your branch president and ask him to put you in touch with the ward or branch mission leader. This individual will suggest how to get started.
This will not take your whole summer or all of your time. But if you are successful, you will have made a contribution this summer that will far exceed anything that you could have possibly done otherwise. This does not say that you could not participate in other projects. I am just pointing you to a program that really, honestly, sincerely makes a difference.