As I look back over my life and remember the difficult decisions, one stands out far more than others: Should I go on a mission? Mom and dad want me to go. The bishop tells me I should go. Some of my friends are going, but others tell me it would be a mistake. They say: “Think of the fun you’ll miss.” “What about your education?” “How about your girl friend?” It just seems that there is so much going on that I can’t give up two years. What should I do?
If you are faced with this decision, I plead with you to listen to your heart. The Lord speaks through your heart: “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart” (D&C 8:2). In another verse he says, “Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind” (D&C 64:34). Don’t listen to outside influences that can easily persuade you to go contrary to the Lord.
President Kimball has said, “Every young man should fill a mission” (Ensign, Oct. 1974, p. 8). He has also suggested that young men should grow up with a strong desire to serve a mission. If this happens, of course, the decision is made long before the age of 19 and is therefore not so difficult. I bear my witness that President Kimball is a prophet. He tells you and me what the Lord would have us hear. Listen carefully, and your heart will tell you what you should do.
Why should you serve a mission? Several things come to my mind as I think about the answer to this searching question. Surely, the answer is easy: The Lord says you should; the prophet has given repeated emphasis to this; your family, Church leaders, and others encourage you to serve—but they are not you. I remember having these thoughts. I also remember how good I felt, from the inside out, from the soles of my feet to the crown of my head, when I finally said yes. I received a confirmation from the Lord that what I had done was good. It was right, and I knew it. For once in my life I had started thinking about others instead of “number one” (me), and that gave me a feeling I have yearned for every day of my life since. It’s rewarding to give of yourself that others might be blessed. This is one of the reasons why our Savior made the following statement: “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matt. 10:38–39.)
We are not asked to carry the cross the Savior bore, but we are asked to carry the love he gave to all of our Father’s children. You see, had he not carried his cross in obedience to the Father’s will, the great plan of redemption would have failed for all mankind. But because he did fulfill his divine mission, we can receive complete forgiveness of our sins if we sincerely repent; we will gain immortality through the universal resurrection; and eventually, by keeping the commandments, we can receive a glorious inheritance in the celestial world with the Father and the Son—which is the greatest of all the gifts of God, even eternal life. When we take up our cross as missionaries, it becomes our sacred responsibility to teach our Father’s children how these marvelous blessings can be obtained.
My mission experience at age 19 not only gave to me the opportunity to serve my fellowmen, but brought to my life a balance I am sure I could not have achieved in any other way. I gained confidence in myself and in the Lord, for I came to know that my prayers were heard and answered. I gained a stronger testimony of the gospel through experiencing the power of the priesthood and through seeing firsthand the influence of the Holy Ghost as it bore witness to those things my companions and I shared with our investigators. I learned better than ever before the meaning of charity, as the prophet Mormon speaks of it—“the pure love of Christ” (Moro. 7:47). That love seemed to penetrate my whole soul, and because of this it became easy to express the feelings that I felt so strongly.
I gained true respect and love for my parents, and my confidence in them greatly increased. It was there before but never like it came to me in the mission field and since. I learned to love my fellowmen, and I desired with all my heart, might, mind, and strength to share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ. You see, as never before I realized the gospel’s meaning and influence in my life. I formed friendships with some of the best people in the world—my mission president, my companions, and the wonderful families we taught and baptized. I became a better student, not only in the mission field, but upon my return home. Under the influence of the Holy Ghost I had things come to my mind in a miraculous way to assist me in teaching. Above all else, through the sweet and gentle Spirit of the Lord, there came in answer to my study, labors, and prayers a confirmation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Many might say that these things can come without serving a mission, but I ask, is this what the Lord wants? It seems clear to me that President Kimball’s charge, “Every young man should fill a mission,” is meant for you. Listen to your heart and find the happiness that comes from service to your fellowmen.
“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
“And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!
“Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.
“And if it so be that you should labor all your days … and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
“And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me … how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” (D&C 18:10, 13–16.)
The decision to serve a mission is sometimes difficult, but I bear my sacred witness to you that it is right. It is what the Lord would have you do. It is a commandment with a promise and great blessings. Indeed, the seeming sacrifice fades into insignificance in the light of the marvelous blessings that come from missionary service. This decision, when made as the Lord has directed, will make future decisions—like marriage, schooling, and occupation—much easier, and there will be far less chance of error. You will know, as never before, “that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Hel. 5:12).