Lesson 14: A Missionary All Your Life

"Lesson 14: A Missionary All Your Life," The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual, (1996)


Class members will be motivated to be missionaries all their lives.


  1. 1.

    Prepare two posters or write on the chalkboard the following:


    “1. A desire to serve;

    “2. The patience to prepare;

    “3. A willingness to labor.”

    Thomas S. Monson

    “First, fill [your] mind with truth;

    second, fill your life with service;

    and third, fill your heart with love.”

    Thomas S. Monson

  2. 2.

    Prepare lettered slips of paper with the following scriptures to be given to class members to read at the appropriate time:

  3. 3.

    Each class member should have a copy of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants.

Suggested Lesson Development



Do you remember singing in Primary the song “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission”? (Children’s Songbook, p. 169). You are getting closer to the age when you can fulfill that hope.

Every worthy young man has been asked to serve a mission. Older couples who have raised their families are encouraged to serve missions. Young women may serve a mission if they are worthy and have the desire.

  • What did President David O. McKay mean when he said, “Every member a missionary!” (in Conference Report, 6 Apr. 1959, p. 122)? Did he mean every member over nineteen? (Accept class member answers.)

An official mission call to go on a full-time mission comes from the President of the Church. However, all of us have been asked to be missionaries all our lives.

Poster or chalkboard

Display the first poster or write on the chalkboard.

Elder Thomas S. Monson said that there are three things we should cultivate in order to be good missionaries: “1. A desire to serve; 2. The patience to prepare; 3. A willingness to labor” (Be Your Best Self [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979], p. 59).

First, a Missionary Must Have a Desire to Serve

The scriptures tell us, “The Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind” (D&C 64:34). In fact, Doctrine and Covenants 4:2, given as instruction to missionaries, says, “O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength.”

  • Why is this an important requirement for missionaries? (If your heart isn’t in it and you don’t have a real desire, you cannot be truly effective as a missionary.)


Have a class member read Mosiah 28:3, 5.

The sons of Mosiah had a great desire! Through their teachings and example, some of the most hard-hearted were touched and converted and baptized.

Alma the Younger also had a great desire.

Have a class member read Alma 29:1.

Alma added, “But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me” (Alma 29:3).

  • Why do you think the Lord chooses men instead of always sending angels to declare his word? (Accept all good answers, but lead the class members to see that men must take part in building the kingdom of God if they wish to have part in it after the final judgment. If men could always be taught by angels, they would not develop faith. Joseph Fielding Smith said, “It is contrary to the law of God for the heavens to be opened and messengers to come to do anything for man that man can do for himself. … You cannot point to anywhere in the scriptures where a messenger has come from the heavens and bestowed upon man something man could do for himself, but angels have come and told men what to do and sent men to do it” [Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 1:196].)

You probably do not know any young men who have given up kingdoms to go on missions. There are many, however, who have given up valuable jobs, family comforts and associations, and scholarships, both academic and athletic, to go serve the Lord. Some of them have had the desire to go on a mission most of their lives. Others have done as Elder Monson said and have cultivated that desire.


Tom had two great desires. All his life he had planned to go on a mission as his brothers before him had done. In fact, he hadn’t thought much about it as it was something he had just taken for granted. On the other hand, his other desire was a dream and a fervent wish. As a strong linebacker on his high school football team, he dreamed of being recruited by the outstanding college in his area and maybe then going on into the pros—professional football. He wanted to be good enough to see this dream come true. He was. How excited he was when he was asked to come and play for the very university he had dreamed about! That is, he was excited until the recruiting coach, knowing he was a Mormon, said, “You wouldn’t be thinking of going on a mission for your church, would you?” It was then he learned which desire was the greater. His “yes” answer to the coach ended the coach’s interest in him. Tom often wondered later what his life might have been like if he had chosen the scholarship, but he never regretted his decision to go on a mission because his life was filled with a goodness he might never have attained had he not gone. In fact, football became much less important when he began to see life in its true perspective.


In the early 1950s, every fever a child developed struck icy fear in the hearts of parents. “Please don’t let it be polio,” they prayed. Some polio victims died and many others were seriously crippled or made invalid for life. Very few came through unharmed.

In 1954, just six months before a vaccine was discovered, little fourteen-month-old Debbie was stricken with the paralytic variety of polio. Although it left her seriously crippled, she and her parents were grateful that her life had been spared. Debbie was beautiful, but those first years were especially hard. She went through twenty-two very serious surgeries.

Until seventh grade, most of her schooling took place at home where she was taught between surgeries by teachers from the school district. In spite of her dependence on braces and crutches, which she had struggled to learn to use, she did well in school and church. Her personality sparkled, and her love of life was contagious. She had many good friends and was included in their parties and activities. She developed and used her musical talents.

Her parents were determined that she not develop any self-pity and that she should learn to be as independent as possible. This meant doing all she could for herself. In fact, under some very trying circumstances Debbie completed college.

After college, Debbie didn’t spend her time wishing she could walk so she could go on a mission. Walk or not, her great desire was to go on a mission and share the gospel.

Debbie went, and she wasn’t just a good, average missionary. She was an outstanding missionary. Many lives were changed and brightened because she fulfilled that deep desire to serve the Lord.

Second, We Need the Patience to Prepare for a Mission

  • If it is examination day and you haven’t prepared for the test, how do you feel when the teacher passes out the papers? (Frightened, frustrated, ashamed.) If you are on a program to play an instrument, give a reading, or sing a solo, and you have not taken the time to practice and prepare, how do you feel?

The Lord says, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30). In fact, if you are prepared, you are usually excited about what you are going to do. You are ready and enthusiastic. Our preparation and feelings for a mission are like that—if we have prepared, we want to go; if we aren’t prepared, it frightens us.


Lead a brief discussion about how each of the following will help prepare class members to be missionaries:

  1. 1.

    Study: If we study the scriptures and the words of present Church leaders, we can know the doctrine and how to teach it.

  2. 2.

    Prayer: Through prayer we can receive the Spirit and know of the truth.

  3. 3.

    Service: Through service we find joy.

  4. 4.

    Participation in seminary, Sunday School, priesthood, and Young Women classes: We learn and grow by participating.

  5. 5.

    Righteous living: Living the commandments prepares us for all that the Lord has for us and makes us a good example of our teachings.

  6. 6.

    Money management: Saving will help provide for the expense of the mission.

  7. 7.

    Good health and nutrition: Obeying the Word of Wisdom, learning and following good nutrition, and keeping our bodies exercised will help prepare us physically to be missionaries.

Third, We Must Cultivate a Willingness to Labor

Each of the seven things (study, prayer, service, etc.) requires effort, either physical, spiritual, or intellectual effort, or a combination of these. Willingness to labor is important in preparing and in laboring in the actual mission field.

Scripture discussion

Have a class member read Doctrine and Covenants 58:26–29. (Explain that “not meet” means “not desirable.”)

  • How does that sound your labor as a missionary should be done? As a duty only? (No, it should be done willingly.)

We Can and Should Be Missionaries All Our Lives


  • What can we do now to be missionaries, even though we haven’t as yet received a formal call from the prophet to be such? (Answers should reflect that we can live righteously and thus influence others.)

Missionaries tell us that their most enthusiastic investigators and converts are those who have been acquainted with good Latter-day Saints, people who showed by their example the benefits and joys of the gospel. Every year many thousands join the Church because they see the good lives of members who live the principles of the gospel. There are many who don’t join because they see members whose lives are not good examples of Christlike living.

  • If you were looking for a religion, a way of life, what would you look for in those who practiced it? (Answers might include such things as kindness, humility, examples of Christian love, goodness, joy, courage, faith, thoughtfulness, good habits, happiness.)

  • If someone were looking at you, would he find these qualities? (No answer is expected; have them think of it to themselves.)

Poster or chalkboard

Again Elder Monson gave some good advice about influencing others.

Display poster 2 or write the statement on the chalkboard: “First, fill [your] mind with truth; second, fill your life with service; and third, fill your heart with love” (Thomas S. Monson, Be Your Best Self, p. 168).

We Can Be Missionaries to Church Members

We can be missionaries to friends and neighbors who already are Church members. Why should we devote our time, energy, and love only to nonmember friends and ignore the needs of those members who are less active or less dedicated? They also need gospel blessings they might be missing.


Mark and Ken were good friends, but in their early teen years, Ken was influenced by some friends considered to be popular and started smoking. Mark could have gone along with them or he could have drifted away from Ken and let him go his way. But he didn’t. He said, “Ken, I wish you wouldn’t smoke. We’ve been good friends for a long time, but it bothers me when you smoke.” He was doing as the Apostle Paul prayed to do, to “speak boldly” (Ephesians 6:20). Ken changed his habits because Mark spoke up lovingly.

The Lord said, “If it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!” (D&C 18:15). He didn’t say that it has to be the soul of a nonmember. The soul in your Sunday School or seminary class is just as precious to the Lord as the souls of those you might travel across oceans to save. It could even be the soul of a member of your own family. It could be your own soul. We cannot strengthen others without our own lives being blessed.

Testimony and Challenge

Let us never forget that the gospel is a precious gift and that it is our duty and privilege to share it with others. A prophet of God asked us to be missionaries all our lives. We should cultivate a strong desire to do that. And we should prepare ourselves with prayer, study, and righteous living, showing courage in always doing what is right. As Elder Monson said, we should fill our minds with truth, our lives with service, and our hearts with love. In that way, we let our light so shine that others recognize our lives as being righteous, helpful, and happy and desire to have their own lives follow the gospel and be blessed as we are.

Bear testimony of the importance of the commandment to be missionaries and of the remarkable influence this class can have if they live it.