- The letter is signed by the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the first two sentences read as follows: “You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the ______ Mission.”
- Please note that the first sentence is a call to serve as a full-time missionary in the Lord’s restored Church. The second sentence indicates an assignment to labor in a specific place and mission. The important distinction expressed in these two sentences is essential for all of us to understand.
- In the culture of the Church, we often talk of being called to serve in a country such as Argentina, Poland, Korea, or the United States. But a missionary is not called to a place; rather, he or she is called to serve. As the Lord declared through the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1829, “If ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work.”
He emphasizes the idea that where we serve is secondary to the fact that we have been called to serve.
- Assignments to labor in a specific place is essential and important but secondary to a call to the work.
Why he addresses this topic is talked about. He then follows it up with a great story of the life changing message that this understanding can have on someone's life.
- I have learned over time about the concern, the worry, and even the guilt felt by many missionaries who for various reasons were reassigned to a different field of labor during their time of service. Such reassignments sometimes are necessary because of events and circumstances such as physical accidents and injuries, delays and challenges in obtaining visas, political instability, creating and staffing new missions, or the evolving and ever-changing needs around the world in the work of proclaiming the gospel.
- I recently spoke with a faithful man who shared with me the deepest feelings of his heart. In a meeting, I had just explained the difference between being called to the work and assigned to labor. This good brother shook my hand and with tears in his eyes said to me, “The things you helped me learn today have lifted a burden from my shoulders that I have carried for more than 30 years. As a young missionary, I was initially assigned to a field of labor in South America. But I was unable to obtain a visa, so my assignment was changed to the United States. All these years I have wondered why I was unable to serve in the place to which I had been called. Now I know I was called to the work and not to a place. I cannot tell you how much this understanding has helped me.”
He shares that guilt and heartache should never be part of our missionary service. We should never have to carry that burden due to circumstances outside our control.
- Not a single member of this Church should carry an unnecessary burden of misunderstanding, uncertainty, anguish, or guilt about an assignment to labor.
He talks about a lot of emphasis being put on missionary service. He reminds us that personal worthiness and temple covenants are just as important to our spiritual preparation to serve a mission as service a mission itself.
- Working as a missionary certainly is one but not the only important building block in the process of creating a strong foundation for a lifetime of spiritual growth and service. Priesthood and temple blessings, both of which precede arriving in an assigned field of labor, also are necessary to fortify and strengthen us spiritually throughout our entire lives.
- Personal worthiness is the single most important requirement for receiving the higher priesthood. A lifetime of selfless priesthood service lies before you. Prepare now by frequently rendering meaningful service. Please learn to love being and remaining worthy. Be worthy. Stay worthy.
- Going to the temple and having the spirit of the temple go through you precedes effective service as a full-time missionary.
Elder Bednar concludes by reminding each of us that we are missionaries at all times in our lives. We don't have to have a badge to be spreading the gospel message.
- Young men, each of you is a missionary now. All around you, every day, are friends and neighbors “who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.” As you are directed by the Spirit, you can share a thought, an invitation, a text or tweet that will introduce your friends to the truths of the restored gospel. You need not and should not wait for your official call to become anxiously engaged in missionary work.
Elder Bednar really clarifies the role of a missionary and what a calling from the prophet really means. The distinction that we are called to serve is more important than the place that we serve clarifies the need to be flexible with the directions that the Lord has given. I appreciate the emphasis that missionary preparation includes living worthy and preparing for the temple. I think sometimes we put so much emphasis on preparing to physically serve that we forget that the spiritual preparation is just as important.