A line from the musical South Pacific says, “You gotta have a dream,” then explains: “If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?” What are your dreams? What do you aspire to?
When I was a young man, one of the things I aspired to was to go on a mission—a dream that I think is a worthy goal for any young man or woman in the Church. At that time, missions weren’t emphasized in the same way that they are today; I was the youngest of six children, and 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 had been named for him, and even though he died before I was born, I admired him very much. He had been a great missionary, going on several missions during his lifetime. I’m sure that influenced me.
Another factor was my older brother. He had been in the Eastern States Mission when his mission president died, and he was asked to act as mission president until a replacement could be found. His diligence and testimony greatly impressed me as a young man.
So I think my heritage in the Church influenced me deeply as I made my decision, but it was not the only factor. I had already begun my college education when I was interviewed by the bishop relative to going on a mission. In addition, I had previously received a very flattering and tempting offer: an appointment to the Naval Academy at Annapolis where I knew that I would receive one of the finest educations available at that time. I remember sitting down in my room and thinking, “Well, Frank, where do you want to go? Where will Annapolis take you? And where will a mission take you?”
Fifty-five years later and with a testimony much strengthened by a lifetime of experiences gained by serving the Lord, I know that I made the right decision and have frequently been grateful to my Heavenly Father that I had enough faith in Him and enough love for the Church that I was willing to make that decision.
I realize that not everyone has the blessing of coming from a home where testimonies are actively nourished; but to someone raised in a nonmember or an inactive family, I’d say the same thing that I’ve told my own children: “By the time you get old enough to go on a mission, I may not be here. But if I should not be here, remember the advice I’m giving you now. If it were I, and I had the choice to make between a mission and college and could just have one or the other, I’d take a mission because I think two things happen: (1) You have experiences on a mission that you’d never have in a university, and (2) I think you get more joy and happiness because you’re serving other people.”
My wife and I have felt such deep joy and pride in our children as they’ve grown up and we’ve seen them make right decisions. Our two sons and one of our daughters went on missions. We’ve still got the letters—really terrific letters—that they wrote on their missions, just radiating joy and happiness at their blessings from being able to serve the Lord in that way. Our youngest son was called to preside over a mission two and a half years ago, and we feel such happiness and gratitude for the wonderful experiences he and his family are having.
President Kimball was inspired when he asked every worthy young man to go on a mission—and asked every young man to live so as to be worthy to go on a mission. Of course, young women are not encouraged to go on missions in the same way that young men are. If a young lady is in love with a worthy man, we don’t feel that their relationship should be interrupted by a mission call to her. However, many young women are not in that situation, and if they desire and are worthy to go on a mission, they could be called.
My experience has indicated that sister missionaries are as effective as elders in leading people to baptism and that a mission gives a woman as much benefit in her later life as it does to an elder. She becomes a better wife, a better mother, a better Relief Society president—just better in every way.
So a mission is a worthy goal for any young Latter-day Saint to aspire toward.
I recall reading a story written by John Burroughs, the famous American naturalist, containing a most touching experience. As I remember, the details went like this: His brother was rather timid, somewhat below the average in those powers and qualities that insure worldly success. He was the kind of man that is “so often crowded to the wall.”
This brother had his plans for going west. Somehow that land of the West would be different. There he might leave the causes of his failure behind. He kept his suitcase packed continuously, ready to go at a moment’s notice—whenever he really firmly made up his mind to go.
John Burroughs told how once he actually started and got as far as White Pigeon, Michigan. There his courage gave out and he came back. Still he kept his suitcase packed, but the end of his life’s journey came before he was ready to go west again.
It was not really the West on the map that he was longing to visit. What he longed for was the dream of a far greater freedom. The dusty suitcase he left behind him was evidence of what had consoled him through the years of his long defeat. It meant for him that his dream was waiting to become a reality somewhere. At any moment he could break away and find what he had never found before.
Let’s not stop in White Pigeon, Michigan. Let’s not let the end of our lives—or even the end of this year—find us with our suitcase packed but unused. Have a dream—a righteous dream. Aspire to all of the powers and progress worthy of the child of our Heavenly Father that you are. And make those dreams come true!