Lesson 19: Preparing and Encouraging Missionaries

The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part A, (2000), 138–44


The purpose of this lesson is to teach us how to help our youth prepare for and fulfill mission calls.

Preparing Our Youth for Missions

Presidents of the Church have asked for more missionaries to carry the gospel to the world, but they have emphasized that they must be better prepared than ever before. President Spencer W. Kimball said: “Every boy and many girls and couples should serve missions. Every prospective missionary should prepare morally, spiritually, mentally, and financially all of his life in order to serve faithfully, efficiently, and well in the great program of missionary work” (“Advice to a Young Man: Now Is the Time to Prepare,” New Era, June 1973, 9; italics added).

President Kimball emphasized that the responsibility for training missionaries rests primarily with the family. He asked us to train our missionaries “much better, much earlier, much longer, so that each anticipates his mission with great joy” (“When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974, 7).

  • How can we prepare youth at a very early age for missionary service?

  • Display visual 19-a, “A young boy counting the money in his mission fund box.”

Elder S. Dilworth Young gave some helpful suggestions for preparing young children for missionary service. He said we should pray often with our children, asking our Father in Heaven to make a mission possible. We should tell stories of our own family missionary experiences. He also suggested that we help youth to become familiar with the scriptures, teach them obedience, and give them chances to serve others. Elder Young suggested that these great truths could be taught during family home evening, around the dinner table, before bedtime, and during times of family recreation. (See Conference Report, Apr. 1972, 82–84; or Ensign, July 1972, 76–77.)

Elder Franklin D. Richards said:

“When I was a young man, one of the things I aspired to was to go on a mission. … I am certain my family was an important factor in my decision.

“I remember listening to my grandmother, Jane Snyder Richards, telling me stories about my grandfather. … I admired him very much. He had been a great missionary, going on several missions during his lifetime. I’m sure that influenced me” (“Have a Dream,” New Era, Jan. 1978, 4).

  • Display visual 19-b, “A mother preparing her son for missionary life by teaching him to prepare proper meals.”

We should help our teenagers become strong physically so they will not tire in missionary service. They should learn to prepare simple but nutritious meals and to shop wisely. Good eating habits are essential if they are to keep well and have strength for their labors. We should teach them to wash and iron and repair their clothing. We should also teach them how to keep their living quarters clean. They can learn to take pride in proper dress and grooming. They can be taught to save money, delay serious courtship, gain and bear a testimony, and follow the steps of repentance. All this they can do before leaving for the mission field.

  • How can we encourage youth to earn and save money for a mission?

Elder M. Russell Ballard, when serving as a mission president, asked his missionaries to answer this question: “‘What could my mother have done to better prepare me?’

“They said: ‘Somehow Mom should have insisted that I pay more attention when she was trying to teach me about housekeeping—cooking, cleaning, laundry, bargain shopping, personal hygiene, mending, quick recipes.’”

Elder Ballard then gave this counsel: “Mothers, teach your children to be sensitive and aware of the needs of others. Teach them to know and to practice basic principles of good human relations. … Put your arms around your children, look them squarely in the eye, and tell them to learn these skills because you want them to be happy and successful on their mission” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1976, 130; or Ensign, Nov. 1976, 88).

  • How can we help our children be aware of the needs of others at home? in friends’ homes? in public places?

To fill their callings as the Lord requires, missionaries must learn the principle of work. In the Book of Mormon, those who preach the word of God are counseled to teach “with all diligence” and labor “with [their] might” (Jacob 1:19). The missionary who applies himself or herself and works hard is happy and productive.

Another former mission president, Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone, told this story:

“An elder in our mission has had some pretty serious health problems. … When I arrived in the mission, he was sleeping in to avoid becoming weak and catching the flu. Then when he came in for lunch, he was sleeping for a couple of hours to keep from catching a cold or the flu. His companion was frustrated and called me.

“I called the elder’s doctor. He said, ‘Well, his condition is bad, but it’s better than it was when he came into the mission field. It’s not going to change much no matter how many hours he works.’ I called the elder into the office and suggested that I would rather see him sick with the flu legitimately than always worrying about it. I discussed with him the principle of … simply going to work and doing what the Lord had called him to do. …

“He took the counsel and put it into practice. He has become one of the top missionaries in the mission. He … discovered how to … work” (“Self-Denial,” New Era, Nov. 1977, 7).

  • How can young women influence young men in their preparation for a mission?

Young women can greatly influence the behavior of young men. A young woman should set high moral standards in dress, speech, and actions. She should set an example of righteousness. Speaking to young women of the Church, Elder David B. Haight said:

“You young women have a vital role in this preparation and pretraining of our young men. …

“You, a daughter of Zion, can be a shining light as you set the right example. Refrain from early dating or going steady. … Develop your minds and personalities. … You both have talents to develop and to share.

“Read great books. Listen to good music. Study and discuss the blessings contained in the Word of Wisdom. …

“Read the scriptures. …

“You can encourage, influence, and even shield a young man at a critical time in his life. … You demonstrate your love for the Lord when you help a young man remain worthy and prepared to serve the Lord” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 86–88; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 57–58).

It is important for young women to respect young men and encourage them to serve a full-time mission. Any thoughts of marriage should wait until young men have completed a mission.

Helping Missionaries Fulfill Their Callings

We often think of the missionaries we have known, especially those who may have first taught us the gospel. We appreciate their sacrifice and example. We can show our gratitude to them and to our Father in Heaven by helping other missionaries fulfill their callings better. When our young women and young men are serving missions, they need our continued help and support. We can pray for them and make sure they understand the importance of prayer.

Elder Hugh B. Brown told how his mother helped him to rely on the Lord during his mission in England. She said to him as he left: “‘Hugh, my son, do you remember when you were a little boy you often had bad dreams, nightmares, and you called out to me as I was sleeping in the next room: “Mother, Mother, are you there?” Do you remember I always said, “Yes, my son, I’m here. Just turn over and go to sleep. Everything is all right.”’ She said, ‘My boy, five thousand miles must now separate us, across a continent and an ocean. You are not going to have bad dreams only at night, but many times, in the daytime, you are going to want to call for help and comfort. Son, when you are beset with difficulties, when you meet temptation, when you are confused and don’t know where to go, call out and say, “Father, are you there?”’ She said, ‘My boy, I promise you He will always answer and you need not fear’” (The Abundant Life [1965], 202–3).

  • In what other ways can we help missionaries fulfill their callings?

There should be mail from home. Elder Gordon B. Hinckley gave the following advice on writing to missionaries: “My heart goes out to a missionary who does not receive regular mail from home. Generally a letter once a week is a good rule. But on the other hand, too much mail can be damaging to a missionary’s morale. To be effective a missionary has to move away from home; so the kind of mail he receives will make a vast difference in what he does and how he feels. Letters that set forth the problems at home, that dwell on the difficulties, hurt the morale of the missionary. Wise letter writers will be sure to state their positive feelings—how proud they are to have a missionary in the field, how the Lord is blessing them because of his work in the ministry. Such letters bless the life of a missionary” (quoted by Brian Kelly in “A Visit with Elder Gordon B. Hinckley about Missionary Work,” New Era, June 1973, 32).

  • What kinds of letters should young women write to missionaries?

Young women should share spiritual experiences with the missionaries, as well as tell them cheerful news of friends and home.

  • What are some ways we can help the missionaries in our area?

We can introduce nonmember family members and friends to the missionaries. We can also be careful not to infringe on the missionaries’ time. When we invite them to our homes for meals, we can serve them promptly. Then we can encourage them to leave and continue their work. We should not expect or allow them to help with dishes. We should not invite them to watch television with us. We can learn mission rules and help the missionaries observe them.

Young women especially should refrain from taking the missionaries’ time in trivial activities. Young women should never be alone with a missionary or encourage a close relationship with him. Young women should not correspond with or telephone missionaries in their area.

As we all show respect for the missionaries and their callings, we will help them teach the gospel to others.

Conclusion

Elder Gordon B. Hinckley said that “missionary work has never been easy, and yet the joyful rewards cannot be equaled by any other experience. Anything so precious as the gospel of Jesus Christ is worthy of all the effort and sacrifice of time and means employed to teach it” (New Era, June 1973, 30).

As women in the Church, we should do all we can to help our youth prepare for and fulfill mission calls. Our efforts may make a difference in whether or not they go on a mission. Our encouragement makes a great difference in their performance in the mission field. We can help our missionaries prepare to experience the joy of bringing salvation to our brothers and sisters. (See D&C 18:15–16.) We should evaluate our efforts often, consult with Church leaders and other members for ideas, and ask our Father in Heaven for inspiration as we help our missionaries carry the gospel to the world.

Challenge

Reread this lesson at home. Choose some ways to help your children or yourself prepare for a mission. Evaluate your associations with prospective and full-time missionaries, and determine how you can be a greater support for them. Have a family project to write regularly to a missionary in the field.

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Study Gospel Principles chapter 33, “Missionary Work.”

  2. 2.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.