President Ezra Taft Benson has counseled all members of the Church to become more involved in building the kingdom of God: “We are to testify of the greatest event that has transpired in this world since the resurrection of the Master—the coming of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ to the boy prophet. We are to testify of a new volume of scripture—a new witness for Christ.” (Ensign, Sept. 1990, p. 7.)
President Benson outlined “four proven keys” in member-missionary work: striving to obtain the Spirit, acquiring humility, loving people, and working diligently.
As Church members all over the world follow the prophet’s counsel, they experience the joy of missionary work as they not only see loved ones grow in the gospel but also see a strengthening and refining of their own testimonies.
It was their son, Jon, who impressed upon Annette and Darrell Andersen the importance of the Spirit in missionary work. The Andersens had just recently moved to Nevada when their son left on his mission. A few months later, the couple were called to be stake missionaries in the Las Vegas Nevada Green Valley Stake. Frightened by the prospect of approaching strangers, Annette shared her feelings in a letter to her son.
She later recalled: “I was worried about offending others, about not having all the scriptures memorized, about not knowing all the answers, about not doing things right. But then Jon wrote us, thrilled with our new calling and with a little word of advice: ‘Mom, the most important thing for you to remember is that you’re being led by the Spirit. The Holy Ghost will touch the people—you just have to be willing to follow his guidance.’
“You know,” Annette continues, “that’s so true. We’re certainly not perfect, but as we strive to follow the Spirit, doors are opened, lives are changed, testimonies are gained and strengthened. We are finding people who want to meet with the full-time missionaries and hear the discussions.”
The Andersens have found that most of their missionary work is done by living as good examples and by always letting others know that they are members of the Church. They have been able to make several appointments for the full-time missionaries to teach the gospel.
Even before they were called as stake missionaries, they had seen lives changed by the gospel message. “One of my first experiences was with my hairdresser, a woman in her thirties who didn’t seem the type to be interested in religion at all,” observes Annette.
Before long, however, she confided to Annette that she was frustrated with her life-style and wanted to make some changes. She started to take the missionary discussions, and baptism soon followed. In January, she was married in the temple.
“We just start out by letting people know we are Latter-day Saints. The rest usually follows,” Sister Andersen continues. “They’ll often have a question about the Church, and that opens up the door of conversation. You take it from there, listening to the Spirit and taking advantage of opportunities to share the gospel. There is always a fireside, a broadcast, an activity, a family home evening, or a Church meeting that you can invite your friends to attend. You don’t have to say a lot. Just rely on the Lord and the Spirit.”
“As a very young boy, I can remember wanting to be a missionary like Dr. Livingstone and some of those other great missionaries in the past,” recalls Alan McGlashan. “I dreamed of doing missionary work in the African countries, or something of that nature.” However, Brother McGlashan’s first missionary experiences would come much later in life and in his native Scotland.
Alan has learned the importance of the second key: acquiring humility. Owner of an engineering consulting business and a member of the Dumbarton Ward in the Glasgow Scotland Stake, he was introduced to the Church some years ago by missionaries tracting in his neighborhood. His interest in missionary work was reawakened as he saw the missionaries humbly doing the Lord’s work, but after joining the Church he discovered he was too old to serve as a full-time missionary. He resolved to play his part in whatever other ways might be open to him, and he prayed for guidance and missionary opportunities. Just months later he was called to serve as the ward mission leader.
As he has sought humility, Alan has been blessed with many opportunities to schedule appointments for friends and acquaintances to listen to the full-time missionaries teach the discussions. One of his experiences includes sharing the gospel with his friend who lives in Greece.
“I hadn’t seen him since I joined the Church about five years previously,” he remembers. “I had planned a holiday with him and his family, and prior to leaving I fasted and prayed about how best to approach the task. So confident was I that the Lord would open the way that I even packed white clothing for the baptism and took the mission home address with me.
“When I arrived, things didn’t go quite as planned and the hope of achieving my goal began to recede.”
However, Alan had an opportunity to meet with the mission president, who explained the challenges that potential converts to the Church sometimes face as a result of leaving their established churches.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to put my friend through that, or whether our friendship would weather it,” he recalls.
However, when the missionaries came to visit, Alan introduced his friend to them. “He started asking questions, and the teaching began. It was the best missionary discussion that I have ever witnessed. My friend is not yet baptized, but a firm foundation has been laid. And I received a witness that this was what the Lord wanted of me.”
Brother McGlashan works closely with the full-time missionaries, often calling them to ask for copies for the Book of Mormon or giving referrals as he travels and meets people who are interested in finding out more about the Lord and his church.
For John and Beth Powell, sharing the gospel is a family affair. They frequently have missionaries over for meals, and the whole family loves fellowshipping investigators. Recently, their six-year-old son gave out eight copies of the Book of Mormon by himself. But the Powells believe that the greatest missionary work they do is within the walls of their own home.
“Really, the most important responsibility we have here on earth is to help our children understand Heavenly Father’s plan,” notes John. “Sharing Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation with others is just a natural extension of that.”
The Powells have learned the importance of President Benson’s third step: loving the people. And along with that love has come patience.
“Our responsibility as member missionaries, as I see it, is to let people know we care about them,” observes John, “and that we believe this is the true path back, and that this is the direction they ought to consider. But if they don’t take it, we love them anyway.
“Several of the people we have worked with have taken years to accept the gospel,” he continues. “Some still haven’t. But there is an old Chinese proverb about a tree that is planted. You water it and nurture it for five years, and nothing happens. But in the sixth year it grows one hundred feet. A testimony can be like that. Sometimes we water and nurture for years before seeing any growth. But the watering and nurturing is what being a member missionary is all about.”
“You know,” Beth observes, “President Benson has a few recurring themes as he counsels and leads us. For instance, reading the Book of Mormon. I think one of those recurring ideas has also been sharing the gospel. I take that very seriously, our lives center on that. And our children know and have seen that people have happier lives when they know who the Lord really is and that there is a meaning to this life.”
Like the Andersens, the Powells have found that an effective way to do missionary work is to live the gospel and to bring up the topic of religion naturally. “The first time we ever became involved in missionary work was when a colleague and I were driving past the temple and he started asking questions. You can’t really set a time or a place for missionary work because it crops up at all different times. We just have to be ready for it, ready to answer the questions as openly and straightforwardly as we can.
“Missionary work is a part of living,” concludes Brother Powell. “I can’t imagine being a member of the Church and not being a member missionary.”
Working diligently at planting and nurturing gospel seeds is something Zack and Lynn Galaviz are familiar with. Thirteen years ago, they joined the Church because Church members faithfully fellowshipped and loved them. Since then, they have shared that same fellowship and love with others.
“I won’t say it’s easy,” says Zack, who believes that his straightforward approach to life is also an asset in missionary work. “The hardest thing about missionary work is the time it involves. There’s nothing hard about doing the work, but it takes time.
“It takes time to invite people over to dinner. It takes time to notice new people at church and welcome them. It takes time to take people to Church activities, firesides, programs, and meetings. It takes time to schedule appointments with the full-time missionaries and have the discussions taught in your home. It takes time to call people on the phone, asking them about their day. It takes time to talk to them when they call you. But love and caring is what this is all about.
“But the time is worth it because I’ve seen the changes in people. I’ve seen the changes in my own family. The time is definitely worth it.”
Lynn agrees. “It does take time and effort on your part,” she observes. “Friendships take time. The easy part is asking someone if they’d be interested in learning more and if they are willing to meet with the full-time missionaries. The hard part is getting to that point.
“A member missionary is more a friend, not necessarily someone who teaches lessons—that’s the calling of the full-time missionaries. Becoming a member missionary really means for us to become more aware of the simple things. Things like greeting people and talking to them, really talking to them about what is going on in their life.
“Missionary work increases my faith,” Sister Galaviz continues. “As you live the gospel and get excited about missionary work, it’s like being reconverted. And when somebody you know gets interested in the gospel, it’s like you’re going through the conversion process again. We can get lukewarm sometimes. Getting involved in missionary work converts us again, strengthens our own testimonies, and gives us courage to share those testimonies.”
“I bear witness that God lives,” President Benson has said. “He hears and answers prayers. … I bear witness that this is the Lord’s church. … He presides over it and is close to His servants. He is not an absentee Master. Of that you can be assured. …
“May God bless us to testify effectively, to bear a strong testimony to the truthfulness of this glorious message.” (Ensign, Sept. 1990, p. 7.)