You’d really like to go on a mission but your children are small and you don’t retire for thirty more years?
Or you feel like a total failure in missionary work because you’ve never served a full-time mission?
Or the very thought of missionary work scares (or bores) you because you just can’t picture yourself “talking gospel” to anybody?
Try this self-quiz. It may give you some ideas you hadn’t thought of. And you might find you’re doing better than you think.
1. Can my neighbor see, by looking at my house, clothes, apartment, or car, that I have high standards of cleanliness, order, and beauty?
2. Do I refrain from belittling Church authorities or complaining about meetings, welfare projects, dress standards, etc.?
3. Do I refrain from gossiping, swearing, or telling vulgar stories?
4. Do I ever do anything extra nice for my neighbor?
5. Do I avoid a holier-than-thou attitude toward people who drink or smoke?
6. If I were offered a cup of coffee, do I know how to decline graciously?
7. Am I honest in my business affairs with others?
8. Do I let people I work with know I’m LDS?
9. Do I pray that nations and individuals will be receptive to the gospel?
10. Do I pray for help in recognizing opportunities to share the gospel?
11. Do I send copies of the Book of Mormon or Church magazine subscriptions to non-Mormon friends?
12. Do I contribute to the Church’s missionary fund?
13. Do I ever write letters to missionaries?
14. Am I saving money for a mission, and do my children have their own mission savings accounts?
15. Am I teaching my children basic housekeeping, cooking, and interpersonal skills they might need as missionaries?
16. Am I trying to overcome any racial or cultural prejudices I might have?
17. Am I developing missionary skills by serving willingly and well as a home teacher, visiting teacher, or in other callings?
18. Do we pray and study the scriptures individually and as a family and hold home evening weekly to prepare for missions?
19. Do I welcome new neighbors? Do I become and stay friends with them whether they’re interested in the Church or not?
20. Are my neighbors and I good enough friends that we could call each other for help?
21. Do I include non-Mormon neighbors in family or church activities?
22. Do I correspond with non-Mormon friends or relatives?
23. Do I look for appropriate times to bear my testimony to others?
24. Have I prayerfully selected a non-Mormon friend or family to introduce to the missionaries? Do I send referrals?
25. Have I invited anyone to learn more about the Church?
If you just skimmed the quiz, you may be feeling overwhelmed; but if you really kept track of your answers, you probably found that you have more yesses than nos—and that in some areas you’re doing quite well.
The ideas in the quiz can be grouped into five kinds of duties, identified by Elder Carlos E. Asay, of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Executive Director of the Missionary Department.
1. “Live.—I am living and modeling the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Although you don’t have to do anything extra to be honest, kind, and chaste, example is one of the best missionary tools there is. Ernest Eberhard, Jr., former president of the Utah Salt Lake City Mission, says that when he asked people why they joined the Church, the answer generally began, “Well, there was this friend. … “President Spencer W. Kimball has said, “No greater service can be given to the missionary calling of the Church than to exemplify positive Christian virtues in our lives” (Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 6).
2. “Pray.—I pray that the doors to nations and the hearts of men will open.”
Praying is also already part of our lives. And it’s not difficult to include in our prayers President Kimball’s request: “We … hope that all people—parents, youth, children—will join in a serious, continuous petition to the Lord to open the gates of the nations and soften the hearts of the kings and the rulers to the end that missionaries may enter all the lands and teach the gospel” (address at June Conference, 27 June 1975, p. 3). Three years later, he made that request stronger: “I’m hoping that, beginning now, … we will never think of praying except we pray for the Lord to establish his program and make it possible that we can carry the gospel to his people as he has commanded” (Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 46).
That’s something everybody can do no matter who or where he is.
3. “Send.—I am sending sons, money, etc., on missions.”
Every mother’s ambition, according to President Spencer W. Kimball, “should be that her newborn son will develop in cleanliness and worthiness to become part of the ranks to teach the gospel, … and let every mother and father spend much of their time and efforts in training that lad to fill his mission” (address delivered at Regional Representatives’ seminar, 30 Sept. 1977, p. 12).
Sending contributions to the general missionary fund, sending names and addresses of friends to the missionaries, and mailing copies of the Book of Mormon are ways of being actively involved in missionary work without even leaving home. And giving friends subscriptions to Church magazines is easier than ever now that the Ensign, New Era, and Friend are offering six-month as well as twelve-month subscriptions.
4. “Serve.—I am serving as a member-missionary and am preparing to serve a full-time mission.”
Preparing ourselves for missions means keeping a mission firmly in mind as we go about living normal lives: working hard, praying, studying, saving money, staying healthy, and learning to love and serve others.
President Kimball is asking that more mature couples serve missions after retirement. And Elder David B. Haight of the Council of the Twelve has said, “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. … Couples who have a desire to serve the Lord need not wait for the bishop, but should knock on his door and say, ‘We feel we are ready to go.’” (Ensign, May 1979, pp. 62–63.)
Serving as a member-missionary is something you can do at home—no official call, no visa necessary. It involves prayerfully selecting someone you’ve already had good experiences with and inviting him to learn more about the Church.
When the nonmember Wilson family moved into the Howards’s neighborhood in Boise, Idaho, Chuck and Collette Howard went right over to meet them because Collette “was feeling at the time that I really needed and wanted to have a good friend nearby.”
A beautiful relationship quickly evolved: “Pam Wilson wanted a friend, too—and it’s just plain fun to know her!”
The subject of religion came up when Pam and her children were planning a visit to Pam’s father. Collette encouraged her friend to collect information for a family history while she was there, and Pam liked the idea. After that, Pam went to church a few times with Collette, but then decided to quit going. They were still good friends, though.
Six months later, when Pam’s father became ill with cancer, she really began struggling with the possibility of her father dying. Close enough to her friend to sense what she was suffering, Collette phoned her one day. They talked about death and about the eternal nature of the spirit—and Pam’s testimony began to grow.
After attending Sunday School and sacrament meeting a few times, Pam remarked, “You know, I’ve gained something.”
“Peace?” Collette asked.
“Yes,” she nodded. “Now I can even accept father’s death.”
Pam was baptized February 1979—because somebody sincerely wanted to have and be a friend.
Sharing the gospel with neighbors and associates will be natural if you’ve already made the effort to be friends. Then if they decline an invitation to know more, friendship will still keep you close. And if they accept the invitation and are baptized, gospel brotherhood is a dimension added to that friendship.