When I was a young man, before I was even ordained a deacon, I went to one of our ward meetings, and two missionaries reported their missions in the Southern States. When I left that meeting, I felt like I could have walked to any mission field in the world, if I just had a call.
And I went home, went into my bedroom, and got down on my knees, and I asked the Lord to help me to live worthy so that when I was old enough I could go on a mission. And when the train finally left the station in Salt Lake and I was headed for the land of Holland, the last thing I said to my loved ones was, “This is the happiest day of my life.”
Before I left on that mission, President Anthon H. Lund (1844–1921), who was then a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, talked to us missionaries, and he said, “The people will love you. … They will love you because of what you bring to them.” I did not understand that then, but before I left Holland, I went around saying good-bye to the Saints and the converts whom I had brought into the Church, and I shed a thousand tears, as compared to what I shed when I told my loved ones at home good-bye.
For instance, in Amsterdam I went into a home where I had been the first missionary there, and the mother, looking up into my face with tears rolling down her cheeks, said, “Brother Richards, it was hard to see my daughter leave for Zion a few months ago, but it’s much harder to see you go.” Then I thought I could understand what President Lund meant when he said, “They will love you.”
I went to tell a man good-bye. He stood erect in the uniform of his country. He got down on his knees and took my hand in his and hugged it and kissed it and bathed it with his tears. And then I thought I could understand what President Lund meant.
Now I have labored much with the missionaries. I have been on four missions and presided over two, and I have toured many missions. I love to hear those young missionaries bear their testimonies. For instance, a young man in Oregon in our testimony meeting said there wasn’t a company in this world that could pay him a large enough salary to get him to leave his missionary work.
I received a letter here from a missionary from Idaho. He wrote this:
“There is no greater work than that of missionary work. … My life is dedicated to serving the Lord. My heart is overflowing as are the tears of joy that are now coming from my eyes. There is nothing so wonderful—nothing—as tasting the joy and success of missionary labors.”
After all the missionary service I have had, I wouldn’t want to raise a boy and not have him go on a mission, for his good and because I think we owe it to the world to share with them the truths of the gospel.