I am grateful to the Brethren of the First Presidency for the call extended me to serve in the First Council. I pledge my best efforts to fulfill this call honorably.
Our beloved president formerly supervised South America. As I have traveled in this area, scores of members have asked me to express their love to you, President Kimball. I am happy to bring you their “saludos y gran amor.”
In these lands there are hundreds of young men striving to fulfill President Kimball’s request to serve full-time missions. Meager funds, scarce resources, hard life, and devastating inflation make this extremely difficult. Jobs are available, but pay is low. Where a young man has no family resources on which to draw, it would require many years to earn sufficient to finance himself completely.
Other difficulties compound the challenge: some young men are a financial support to their family. Merely losing a breadwinner in order to fill a mission constitutes a tremendous sacrifice on the part of the whole family. Sometimes the young person is the only Church member and lacks parental support.
Of course, some families can and do support their sons. Remember, however, that the Church is new in these lands. In five of the eight missions where I serve, the Church is less than twelve years old. In the other three it is less than twenty, with the major growth occurring recently.
Indeed, the Church is new to all families who have recently joined. They have not yet developed Latter-day Saint traditions. They have not had years to look forward to and prepare for missions.
In future years we can and will become better prepared. And yet, it is Church policy not to call anyone to serve a mission who has not made substantial personal and family sacrifice. We have literally hundreds of young men who through great sacrifice can procure only part of the funds necessary to finance their missions. Still, these fine young people present themselves to their leaders with a seriousness of purpose. They are ready to serve with deep spirituality and testimony, ready with their native language—a greater blessing than most of you can appreciate—ready with everything we require except sufficient money.
In the Church we do not send bills. There are times, however, when it would be appropriate to make known a special need. You no doubt would want to know, therefore, that the First Presidency has established a Church missionary fund. Presently it is being methodically depleted. Since we do not normally appeal for money over the pulpit, I wouldn’t do that. Now that I have carefully avoided asking for funds, you should nevertheless be advised that if you were to put something in the mail for the missionary fund, it certainly would not be refused.
Let me tell you of some young people I know who have tried to provide for their missions, to whom you might provide additional help. A mother approached a mission president with this plea: “Could I get my son on a mission somehow? He’s my only hope! Unfortunately, his father is unable to provide well for the family. We have eight children. Our income is very meager. We eat only two meals a day. But this is a good boy. He wants to serve a mission. If we are very, very careful, we can provide a few pesos per month. Isn’t there some way he could serve a mission?”
Another young man lived on the outskirts of a large metropolitan area. There were no lights or water in the thin-walled, modest structure that served both as a home and a small shop. After his family’s conversion he attended seminary and developed an insatiable desire to learn. With great effort he entered the university, working part-time to buy books as well as to help support the family. When the desire to go on a mission became overwhelming, he had to double his efforts to save money for his mission. So he carried his books under one arm and his bag of wash rags, wax, and sponges in the other. Between classes he would go out and wash cars, then return for another class. The Lord blessed him with work. He multiplied his income until his leaders felt he had made the necessary sacrifice to help sustain himself.
There are scores of others, each one a lesson to all in the principle of obedience and sacrifice. A young lady with a great desire to fill a mission was counseled to buy ingredients, make cookies, and sell them at school during lunchtime. She did so. Then she bought more flour, baked more cookies, and continued this process for weeks, making a small amount of money each day to help toward her mission.
Are there not thousands of you listening today who are ready to match these two precious years of a young man’s life with sufficient additional funds from your abundance so that he can have the privilege of service? In this way, could you not become “nursing fathers and mothers” to these children of promise?
I call this matter to your attention for two reasons: First, time is of the essence! We need to get moving with the things of real import. The world must hear the gospel. Paul asks: “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Rom. 10:14–15.) And I ask, how shall they be sent today without sufficient means?
The second reason is the Lord counsels rather specifically about the wise use of property. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33.)
“Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
“But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
“And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches … to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.” (Jacob 2:17–19.)
How blessed we would be if we could pattern our conduct after the Nephites described by Alma:
“And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church.” (Alma 1:30.)
In our day the Lord has warned us sternly, “And again, I command thee that thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely.” (D&C 19:26, italics added.)
My brethren, we have been too casual about these matters in the past. There is work to do. We need your help to do it. The word is urgency and the time is now. Many of you have the power to open doors of opportunity for the service of others. May you see this opportunity as a means to wisely use the property with which the Lord has blessed you to help His work and to save your souls. I know many of you already contribute. I know He will keep His promises to you if you will keep your promises to serve. I testify that God lives. Jesus is the Christ. This is His church. This is His earth—and all things in it. We are but stewards over His goods. May we delight to share them, and may we realize the promise that “he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.” (D&C 59:23.) In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.