“Missionary Work Made Easy,” Ensign, Oct. 1977, 20
A strange thing happens to many of us whenever we hear the phrase “every member a missionary” (with the emphasis on every) and we are reminded that we should not only “lengthen our stride” in missionary work but quicken that lengthened stride as well.
We sometimes form a mental picture of ourselves standing on a soap box above a sea of shouts and hostile faces, futilely trying to call a street meeting to order. Or we may imagine ourselves debating gospel principles alone and helpless against a panel of secular ministers, or being rudely rebuffed while going door to door with a handful of tracts, or perhaps approaching strangers on the street. Or we imagine ourselves offending our neighbors in some sort of activity that may make us seem strange or not so friendly to them.
Images like these have no doubt turned a lot of us away from missionary work many, many times. It’s not that we doubt that the work is true or think that the presidents of the Church, our prophets, have asked something unreasonable or impossible. It’s simply that sometimes we are timid and find it hard to see how we, individually, can do it. And when we feel uncomfortable about it, other activities expand in importance to fill up our hours and we let our moments of missionary opportunity slip away.
But that’s not the way it should be. And, best of all, that’s not the way it has to be.
It is true that everyone needs to be actively engaged in missionary work, but there may be as many different approaches to missionary work as there are individuals, personal styles, circumstances, and inspiration. Living the gospel and helping to spread it to others should be joyful. And when we find out what the Church really expects—that we don’t all have to be aggressive proselytizers—being a missionary will not seem such a scary thing. Suddenly we may begin to see how we, individually, can be actively involved.
Following are some of the programs that have grown naturally out of the missionary efforts of the Church. These are a few of the things that any of us can do; they make it easy for every member to be a missionary. Study them. Maybe you’ll begin to form a different mental picture of you as a missionary—in the way most suited to you.
How to do it through the family-to-family program.
Two years ago a teenage girl in Saigon, South Vietnam, received a copy of the Book of Mormon through the Hong Kong Mission. Inside was a photograph of a Salt Lake City woman along with a note testifying that the Book of Mormon is true. The girl was impressed enough to read the entire book.
A short time later, the sister in Salt Lake City received a letter from this Vietnamese girl, the first she had ever written in English. It explained that she and nine other members of her family had been baptized into the Church, and that two others still too young for baptism were anxiously preparing. Later the girl and her family were forced to flee during the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, and she is now a student at Brigham Young University.
This is only one instance among thousands where families have been converted to the gospel through the family-to-family Book of Mormon program—a program that the First Quorum of the Seventy is now recommending for use by all the seventies quorums of the Church. A discussion of how it should work was included in the seventies departmental sessions of the 1977 regional meetings.
The family-to-family Book of Mormon program is based on a simple, well-known fact: the Book of Mormon is a powerful missionary tool. It can convert people to the gospel if they will read it.
That’s why one of the best and easiest ways to be a missionary is to make a gift of the Book of Mormon. And in the case of the family-to-family program, it would be a “personalized” copy of the Book of Mormon, a copy with a picture of you and your family along with your written testimony tucked inside the front cover.
Why the personalized copies?
Because it sometimes happens that when a person chances to pick up a Book of Mormon, he glances through it quickly and sets it aside. It’s just another book to him. Knowing nothing about it beforehand, he doesn’t realize that it could be the most important book he might ever read in his life.
But when that person opens the book and finds a picture of a real family accompanied by a written testimony that the book is true and that it will change his life if he will read it, suddenly his contact with the Book of Mormon is personalized. He’s much more likely to examine it closer and read it—especially if the picture and testimony are from someone he knows. Already he’s in touch with a living testimony, and that warms up his approach to this sacred book.
The purpose of the family-to-family Book of Mormon program, therefore, is (1) to have families in the Church either send personalized copies of the Book of Mormon to people they know or provide them for missionaries to use in finding prospective members, and (2) to encourage members to establish family-to-family correspondence with these prospective members as a friendshipping activity.
Here’s how you do it. First you obtain a photograph of your family and paste it at the top of a blank note card that you have cut to a 4 1/4″ by 6 3/4″ size. On the bottom part of the card you write or type a testimony that you and your family have composed. Then from your ward mission leader or seventies president you obtain an insert entitled “23 Questions Answered by the Book of Mormon” and a “Feedback Slip.” (These are obtainable from local distribution centers: “23 Questions,” stock no. PFFS0104; “Feedback Slip,” stock no. PFFS0090.) These three things are then inserted inside the front cover of the Book of Mormon you will be giving as a gift. It is very important, however, that you also include a self-addressed envelope with a sheet of paper inside; with this the person who receives the book can write back to you, and a correspondence can begin.
Once your books are prepared, there are a number of things you can do. You can give them directly to your friends as part of your friendshipping efforts, and then later introduce the missionaries when the time is right. Or you can give them to your ward mission leader or seventies president to be used by full-time and stake missionaries within your stake or district. They will be taken to special nonmember friends you specify, or, if no names for recipients are given, they will be given to other investigators who show a special interest in the gospel message. In areas where there is a limited opportunity for local missionary work, members who wish to participate in the program may simply provide the cards bearing their photographs and written testimonies, along with $1 for each Book of Mormon they wish to give, to the First Quorum of the Seventy, 50 East North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150, USA. These cards will then be inserted along with the other necessary materials into copies of the Book of Mormon and distributed worldwide in stakes and missions where they would most appropriately be sent.
In the past ten years, nearly 300,000 copies of the Book of Mormon have been sent out in this manner on an informal basis, with remarkable success. The stakes in one mission provided the mission president with 26,000 personalized copies of the Book of Mormon! An especially good approach has been to make it easy for families to obtain portraits by asking a ward member to take pictures for all interested families.
Getting the entire family involved in writing testimonies and putting them on cards with family portraits can be a great home evening activity. It’s one of the very best ways to make “every member a missionary” a reality. And later, when correspondence begins to come back from your family’s new contacts, an occasional home evening might be spent in answering letters—again with everybody getting involved, especially teenagers who will soon be full-time missionaries and children who are growing up to be missionaries. Such contact with other families can have a profound impact on your own family.
One Primary teacher had the children in her class bring pictures of themselves to class and helped them write their testimonies. Those books went to several locations around the world. One copy went to Holland, where a ten-year-old girl received it. She later wrote back, saying, “Dear Brother Mike, I am a member of the Church now.” She and her whole family were baptized.
Bill Bradshaw, who heads the family-to-family Book of Mormon program operating in the Temple Square Visitors Center, tells of a personalized Book of Mormon he received from a seven-year-old boy: “He put in a color picture of himself. He was redheaded and freckle-faced, and he started writing his testimony down in one corner of the card and ended up in the other. It read, ‘To whom it may concern: I’m giving you this Book of Mormon. I know it’s true because my parents have read it to me and they told me it’s true. And if you have any more questions about this church, you write to me and I’ll answer them for you.’
“Well, a man came in here one day, and when I gave him that book and he read what the boy had written, tears came to his eyes and he said, ‘I would give anything for that book.’”
The Spirit of the Lord works on people when you share the Book of Mormon.
In another instance, a nonmember who was a scientist began a correspondence with a well-known Latter-day Saint scientist as a result of a Book of Mormon contact. That man and his family all joined the Church.
A seminary class in Kearns, Utah, undertook a project and contributed 3,600 copies of the specially prepared Book of Mormon.
One group of widows who met together weekly as a home evening group began to send some copies of the Book of Mormon out in this way. They soon began to get numerous letters back, and as a family home evening group they answered them all and now have a steady correspondence going.
And the examples of gratifying success go on and on.
Is this the right kind of missionary activity for you or your family? If you think so, your ward mission leader or seventies president can help you get started. See him soon.
It’s a friendly way to show others what Mormon life is really like.
Imagine for a moment that you and your family are nonmembers and that you live next door to a Latter-day Saint family. Perhaps you have been mildly interested in knowing what they believe. Which of the following ways of encountering the gospel would you be more likely to receive willingly?
1. You’ve been given to understand that your neighbor is sincerely interested in converting you to his religion. He seems a rather zealous fellow and occasionally talks about an “apostasy” of some kind. One day he said to you, out of the blue, “We’re having a special meeting at our church tonight. You’ll love it. We’ll be by to pick you up at six-thirty. Okay?” It wasn’t really okay, but you went. The next morning while you were raking leaves, he came around the fence with an earnest look on his face, seized your hand and shook it, and pressed some tracts upon you.
2. Your neighbor, a friendly and helpful sort of guy, seems to lead a peaceful and happy life. There always seems to be … well, life in his home. The kids in the neighborhood seem to be drawn to their backyard. You wonder what makes them that way. Your wife and his chat occasionally, and once you went over to help when he couldn’t get a new sprinkler head installed right.
A few days ago he invited your family over for a barbecue and an evening of fun—“family home evening” he called it. Your wives got together in advance and planned a little talent show for the kids. It was great fun. The children ran a little wild, but it was a touching moment when their small daughter sang a song that began with “I am a child of God …” and then taught everyone the words. It seemed quite natural for them to begin and end the evening with prayer.
When you asked what it was that made them so peaceful and happy, he said that it was a way of life that grew out of their activity in their church. You planned to get together again sometime soon, and he would try to get a film or two to show for the occasion.
Is there any doubt about which approach would be more effective in introducing a family to the gospel? Generally speaking, if a person can be shown the possibility of greater happiness for him in a particular life-style, he’s much more likely to listen than if he is approached directly with preachy exhortations.
And that’s exactly the strength of family home evening used as a missionary tool. Without undue forwardness, you make it possible for your good friends and neighbors to draw near for an unhurried look at how the gospel works in your home with no uncomfortable strings attached. You show rather than preach.
But the family home evening for nonmember guests is seldom effective when it is a surprise event—one where you are obviously and hastily trying to discharge your duty to be a missionary. It takes a little wise groundwork. The idea of having a nonmember family over for a special home evening should arise naturally out of a more complete friendship and teaching approach. Perhaps an outline for such an approach would look like this:
1. Decide which family or families among your friends and acquaintances you’d like to try to friendship.
2. Get to know them better through shared activities: family outings, hobbies or talents—whatever enjoyable things you have in common.
3. When the time is right (and if you’re sensitive to the situation, you’ll know the right moment), invite them to your home on an evening other than Monday for a special family home evening.
4. Other activities together may well follow; and in time, their inquisitiveness about the things that underlie your family’s happiness may well lead to many opportunities to introduce them to the gospel.
This kind of plan calls for nothing more than honest friendship and a desire to share that which is most precious to you. This is important. For if your motives are not genuine in every way, you cannot succeed; your efforts will take on the character of conniving tactics. Facades, phoniness, and “hard sell” will almost always fail in family missionary work. Be yourselves and enjoy every minute of it.
What kinds of activities are best for your special home evenings with nonmembers? That would depend strictly upon your interests and the interests and life-style of your prospective family. You must be prayerful, sensitive, and inventive—but never unnatural. You might have just a get-to-know-you-better kind of social activity. You might have an evening of barbecue and backyard fun. An entertaining film or filmstrip might be just the right thing at first; a more gospel-oriented one might comfortably fit in later.
Some structure is usually desirable, so that it becomes clear to your guests that there is a difference between a planned family night in your home and an evening of simply lounging around the living room in front of the TV. One way of programming the evening would be the following:
1. Opening prayer
2. Fun singing
3. A brief lesson presentation on a topic like honesty or service to others; or perhaps a talent show or discussion
5. Closing prayer
One important thing to focus on is the “familyness” of family home evening; it is a time to get together in a congenial atmosphere and discuss family relationships, family responsibilities, family problems, family projects, and so on.
Through this special family home evening it should become obvious to your guests that the gospel has a unique effect on families, that your family is happy in a way that would not be possible without it. Perhaps then you could give the nonmember family a copy of the home evening manual to give them some ideas about how they might start having family home evening on their own.
Who might you begin to prepare for an invitation to a special family home evening in your home? Here’s where the prospects are exciting. There are more possibilities than just the people who live in the house next to yours. Think about these:
Relatives who are nonmembers
Professional acquaintances—people you work with
Families your children are good friends with
Someone who has asked you questions about the Church
Families who have just moved into your neighborhood
Someone who has visited your church meetings
People who visit your home often.
The possibilities are almost unlimited. Your family can do it: your whole family can “go on a mission” by beginning to friendship others in preparation for a special home evening where you can share yourselves, your joy and happiness, and the peace and security that come from living the gospel.
Whenever they’re ready, day or night, this missionary is there.
One day some months ago a member of the Church happened to be talking about religion with a fellow worker, a nonmember, who said, “Do you mean that you really believe there is prophecy today, and a living prophet?”
“Yes, we do.”
“All right, what has he prophesied about lately?” the man said—not always a simple question to answer, because we receive so much counsel from our leaders that it can be hard to think of specifics on the spur of the moment.
But the member said, “Well, I can let you read some of the things he has told us recently.” And the next day he brought a copy of the conference issue of the Ensign, plus another issue with a First Presidency message in it. When the man read the words of the President of the Church, he was deeply impressed.
In another instance, a mother reported that her family had two subscriptions to the Friend because both of her children looked forward to working the puzzles and drawing the dot-to-dot pictures each month. Then a new family with a girl the same age as hers moved in next door, and the children all became good friends. So the mother ordered a third subscription as a gift for the new little girl, and then each month they all eagerly anticipated the arrival of their three copies of the Friend. The parents of the neighbor girl considered it very thoughtful of this woman to have given a gift of the Friend, and they were happy for their daughter to receive it. It led to opportunities for conversations about the gospel and the Church.
These examples illustrate two good ways to use the Church magazines as missionary tools: (1) occasionally sharing your copies of the Ensign, New Era, or Friend; and (2) giving gift subscriptions, either the regular one-year subscription or the now-available special six-month gift subscription.
Both methods of using Church magazines have definite advantages in common. First of all, Church magazines give the prospective member an accurate and appealing view of what life might be like for him in the Church, and how the Church is oriented toward helping solve life’s problems. Equally important, however, is the fact that he can get a look at the Church in the privacy of his own thoughts and at his own unhurried pace, with no one peering over his shoulder, saying, “Well, how about it? Do you want to see the missionaries now?”
Everyone can feel good about this kind of approach to the “finding” effort, because it’s a natural way to share information and beliefs without any undue aggressiveness or forwardness; no one feels threatened. Which is one important reason why the magazines are almost always received gladly by nonmember friends.
One woman from Scotland wrote, “We were recently given our first Ensign. I was so completely fascinated by it. I’ve never read a magazine so beautiful, and so full of loving, human kindness.”
And from a young Latter-day Saint woman going to school in Norway: “There is one other American in the school here, and I started showing her articles from the New Era once in a while. Now she practically eats them up before I even know they have arrived.”
Probably the most common way of sharing a copy of one of the Church magazines is to bring to someone’s attention an article that deals with a topic that has come up in everyday conversations. The great variety of articles and subjects covered in the Church magazines makes it easy for you to focus in on the interests of people with whom you are in contact. Special issues of the magazines are especially helpful in this regard.
But there are literally hundreds of other ways to share individual copies of the Ensign, New Era, and Friend.
A doctor reported, “We have made all three Church magazines available in our waiting rooms, and I am amazed at how many people read the articles while waiting for an appointment.”
One girl keeps her New Era in the locker she shares with a nonmember friend at school. One college student does the same with the Ensign and has brought several friends into the Church.
“My nine-year-old daughter took copies of the Friend to school to use in assignments,” wrote a brother from Australia, “and her teacher (a nonmember) was so impressed by it that she bought two subscriptions, one to use in class and one for her own children. She now gives copies as prizes for good work.”
Another good idea is to simply keep copies of the magazines in your home for visitors to read. A young man from Hawaii, whose parents are nonmembers, said, “I remember many a time walking to my aunt’s and uncle’s house just to read through the New Era.” Since that time he has joined the Church and served a mission.
As you can see, these are easy ways to participate in laying missionary groundwork.
Sharing the Gospel Month after Month!
Giving gift subscriptions is just as simple as giving an individual copy, and has an added advantage: it helps people get used to the Church’s perspective over a longer period of time, while giving you the important opportunity to follow up by talking or writing to them and being sensitive to indications of sincere interest.
Gift subscriptions can always be given to family members away from home; and birthdays, weddings, and other occasions are good times for making gifts of the magazines to friends.
Giving a gift subscription nearly always comes at a natural time within a developing friendship. One woman told of a friend who answered all her questions about the Church with a quiet air of firm testimony. When her inquiries continued, he began to bring her books to read, especially when she had a question he couldn’t answer. Often a magazine article would have just the answer she needed, and he would lend her a copy to read. She says, “Of course I’d end up reading the whole magazine before returning it. It seemed that almost every article pertained to my situation. There were very few that didn’t touch my heart.” After a few good experiences with the magazines, she considered it a great compliment when he gave her a subscription as a gift.
Another young woman had a subscription to the Ensign when she was in college. Her roommates, all nonmembers, frequently read an article or two with great interest. After graduation, she ordered subscriptions for each of her roommates as going-away gifts.
Copies of the Church magazines in the homes of nonmembers or part-member families can have great impact when particular needs arise. For example, a stake missionary from central Washington reports, “We received an invitation to teach a part-member family. The nonmember wife had read one special issue of the Ensign and was tremendously impressed with what she found there. She is now taking the discussions and will be baptized.”
How to Order a Gift Subscription
If you are like most persons, you have several friends right now who could be further interested in the Church if they were to receive a Church magazine in their homes.
You may now give either the regular one-year subscription at the regular rates, or a special six-month subscription at half the cost—$2.50 for the Ensign, $2.00 for the New Era or Friend. This is a gift you can give any time of the year, not just during your ward or branch renewal campaign. But with the Christmas season drawing near, now may be the time to think of those you wish to remember in this way. The special form inserted into this issue of the Ensign explains how you may order.
You will want to know that the first issue of the gift subscription will contain a special gift card telling those who receive the magazine that the gift is from you.
The subscription you give might begin with any recent month, because back issues often are still in stock. So if a recent issue would be of special interest to the family or individual you have in mind, simply indicate on the order form that you would like to have the subscription begin with that issue, if possible.
If you have no particular nonmember in mind, you can still participate by donating money for a subscription to your ward or branch magazine representative. The stake or full-time missionaries, in cooperation with the representative, can then supply the name and address of an investigator whose introduction to the gospel could be enriched by such a gift.
Gift subscriptions can have a lasting impact even when the receiver isn’t immediately interested in joining the Church. One new member wrote that he was not baptized until seven years after he was first taught by the missionaries. Throughout that long period, the Ensign and New Era were his only contact with the Church. In them he found a source of strength and guidance many times when he was feeling down.
“I wouldn’t have much to do with the Church,” he said, “but I always read the magazines and always got something out of them. They have played a strong part in finally bringing me into the true Church.”
It’s an effective way to explain some gospel themes and messages.
A 1976 survey of new converts to the Church showed that a sizable number of those whose first contact with the Church had been through a visitors center or other form of public media were impressed in a definitely positive way. In fact, in this study visitors centers were behind only that most potent of all positive influences, personal contact, in impact on the prospective investigator.
But if we put together personal contact and a visitors center experience, what have we got? A very strong likelihood indeed of a favorable impression of Latter-day Saint living.
You and your family provide the personal contact, and the Church provides the visitors centers.
Presently, there are forty-eight visitors centers in various locations, most of them equipped with such teaching media as paintings, translites, dioramas, statues, electronic projection devices, and murals, and most of them staffed by trained guides who present the gospel message and answer questions.
Although there are different approaches in different centers, such basic messages as the importance of the family, an introduction to the Book of Mormon, and an explanation of the apostasy and restoration are usually among the messages presented. The attempt is to present a balanced view of what the Church is all about.
One feature that makes the visitors centers comfortable places to go with your friends is the absence of “hard sell” proselyting. The hosts are not going to pressure them. They are there simply to answer questions and present the history and doctrines of the Church briefly, amiably, and sensitively.
Where can you find visitors centers? Almost always by a temple. The visitors centers at temples in Alberta, Mesa, Hawaii, Idaho Falls, London, Los Angeles, Manti, New Zealand, Oakland, Ogden, St. George, Salt Lake City, Switzerland, and Washington, D.C., welcome thousands of visitors annually.
Many of the visitors centers are in connection with Church historic sites, and the guides also explain the important events in Church history that took place there.
Historic sites with visitors centers include Brigham Young’s Beehive House in Salt Lake City and Brigham Young’s winter home in St. George, Utah; the Carthage Jail in Carthage, Illinois; the Hill Cumorah near Palmyra, New York; the John Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio; Independence, Missouri; the Jacob Hamblin home in Santa Clara, Utah; the Joseph Smith home in Palmyra, New York; the Joseph Smith Memorial in South Royalton, Vermont; the Thomas L. Kane chapel in Kane, Pennsylvania; Liberty Jail in Liberty, Missouri; the Martin Harris farm at Palmyra, New York; and the Nauvoo Visitors Center in Nauvoo, Illinois, which also operates such additional Nauvoo sites as the Brigham Young home, the Jonathan Browning home, the John Taylor home, the Heber C. Kimball home, the Lucy Mack Smith home, the Seventies Hall, the Times and Seasons Building, the Edwin D. Webb Blacksmith and Wheelwright Shop, the Wilford Woodruff home, and the print shop. There are also visitors centers at the Peter Whitmer farm in Waterloo, New York, and at the Mormon Battalion Monument in San Diego, California.
Stakes operate facilities at the Box Elder Tabernacle in Brigham City, Utah; the Cody, Wyoming, chapel; the tabernacle in Paris, Idaho; the tabernacle in Vernal, Utah; and the West Yellowstone chapel in Montana.
Information and tours are also available at five other sites: the Church Office Building and Welfare Square in Salt Lake City, the Hyde Park chapel in London, England, a visitors center in Kwang Ju, Korea, and the Church offices in New York City.
Your approach to inviting your neighbors and other nonmember friends to a visitors center will probably depend upon exactly which kind of facility is nearest you. If, for example, the visitors center closest to you is adjacent to a site that is significant in Mormon history, it’s quite natural for you to say, “Let’s go over to __________ for a picnic and a look at the monument there. Our family really loves it.”
Or suppose you live near a center that has several media displays related to the family as an eternal unit and you have friends who really work at having a good home environment. That’s an ideal situation, and chances are you’ll have many opportunities to extend an invitation. Because visitors centers are interesting in themselves, a simple explanation that the visitors center contains some really interesting displays and information is usually enough, and then it’s simply a matter of bringing two compatible elements together naturally.
Plan to take your family to the visitors center before you take your nonmember friends. This is because some visitors centers, such as the one on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, have many different things to do and see, including tours, displays, and films. And if you go beforehand, you can decide in advance that “the Draytons must see this fantastic rotunda, and The First Vision film and the family home evening exhibit, too.” You’ll see right away that children are especially captivated by the automated exhibits.
A trip to the visitors center in advance will also help you know how to prepare your friends to observe the standards of the Church while there. You’ll know, for example, that you wouldn’t normally plan to drop by the visitors Center on the way to the beach when everyone is dressed in swim suits. There are very few restrictions, of course, but a little preparation can prevent those small embarrassments that are always dreaded by friendshippers!
Sometimes you won’t be able to go with your friends to a particular center or historical site when you know they’ll be in the area. But you can certainly recommend that they visit. If friends are going to San Francisco, you can say, “Oh, you ought to see the Oakland Temple while you’re there. It’s so beautiful at night from across the bay.” If you can give them the address or directions on how to get there, so much the better!
One Colorado family had nonmember friends who were going east for a summer vacation. Knowing that their teenage son was very much interested in archaeology, they suggested that they stop for a visit in Nauvoo where they might get to see some teams of archaeologists and students excavating and restoring historic Mormon sites. The family did go, and it was a wonderful experience for them.
Most of the visitors centers and other sites are operated directly under the Missionary Department of the Church, but they aren’t just for nonmembers. Part of their objective is to reinforce the faith and testimony of active members and to help reactivate less active members. However, don’t underestimate the good effect they can have on your nonmember friends, too.
Remember, the combination of an honest personal interest in your friends and an experience at a visitors center can be a powerful one—an excellent way for your member-missionary family to do missionary work.
It’s an investment you’ll never regret and here’s how to get those blessings yourself.
The principle of sacrifice applies to all of us, especially as we do missionary work. And that means not only the sacrifice of time and talents, but of our temporal resources as wall.
Let’s simplify it as an equation: time + faith + money = a good missionary in the field. The time is donated by the missionary; the faith grows constantly; he may need help with the money!
As with other temporal concerns, the handling of money for missionary purposes is a part of family financial preparedness. And when young men or women are thinking about going on a mission, the same welfare principles that apply to his or her family’s financial preparedness apply to their support as missionaries:
First, the missionary and his family are expected to do everything in their power to pay his way on a mission. People need to do all they can themselves. For this reason, no one is ever called on a mission unless either he or his family is providing at least some of the money for his support.
Second, when individual and family resources aren’t enough, the prospective missionary may call upon the Church—his ward or priesthood quorum—for help.
That is the order in which a prospective missionary should look for support. But what about you who want to give support?
First, you should use the resources at your disposal to further the missionary activities that you and your family (both your immediate family and your close relatives) are involved in.
Second, when you have any money to spare, you can share it with other Church members for their support in missionary work.
Committing Resources through Your Family
Probably the best way to see that your family has enough money for missions is simply to plan ahead, making saving for missions a part of your personal and family preparedness over the years. Then when each child is ready for a mission, there will be enough money.
Grandparents and single or childless aunts and uncles might well make arrangements so that they can contribute, too, when the time comes.
Another great way to commit resources to family missionary work is through family organizations. Several families in the Church have formed large organizations that operate family missionary funds, to which all the individual family units contribute according to their ability. Then whenever a young person is ready to go on a mission, he assembles his own savings and other resources, which are often considerable, and the family fund makes up the difference. When each child returns from his mission, he begins putting money back into the fund, so that there will be perpetual support for those who come later.
If your family is not organized on such a large scale, you might still find ways to lend support to your young relatives whenever you have the means. Even a small amount that can be counted on will be a valuable help!
Helping Others on Your Own
A sister in Provo, Utah, who wanted to give some money for the support of a missionary found out that a young man in her ward was almost ready to go on a mission, but that he didn’t have all of the clothing he needed to take with him. So she sent an unmarked envelope to his home with a gift certificate inside for him to use at a local store that specialized in clothing for missionaries. He and his family were profoundly grateful, even though they still have not found out who the anonymous donor was.
Many and varied are the stories of such anonymous giving, made all the sweeter because the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing, as it were. (See Matt. 6:3.)
One older couple partially supported a grandson who was on a mission. After he was released and returned home, they continued to contribute the same amount for the support of another missionary from their town who needed it badly. There is no better way for people who have resources beyond their needs to consecrate their surplus to the service of the Lord than by contributing to missionary work!
Giving through the Church
But what about you who wish to make contributions for the support of missionaries but don’t personally know anyone who is in need? The Church provides an opportunity through three principal funds: (1) ward missionary funds, (2) quorum missionary funds, or (3) the general missionary fund of the Church.
The ward and quorum missionary funds are especially important in one regard: they are the only means of supplementary support from the Church for missionaries called from the fully developed areas of the Church. It is expected that missionaries from these areas who need financial help will receive it from their wards and quorums.
To donate to your ward missionary fund, simply use the standard donation slip that you use when you pay tithing and other contributions. There is a place on it that says “missionary fund.” When you make a donation in this way, the money will be used for the support of missionaries sent out from the ward. If your ward were sending $100 a month to a missionary, for example, the money you give could be part of that monthly amount.
If it happened that your ward had excess money in its missionary fund—money that might not be used within a reasonable time—your bishop might forward it to the stake president for use in a stake missionary fund. Other wards in the stake could then have access to that money in case of need.
And in the event that the stake has a continuing excess of money in the missionary fund, that excess might be sent to Church headquarters to be placed in the general missionary fund.
In any case, your money will not sit idle.
Melchizedek Priesthood quorums frequently establish funds for missionary support. For example, a high priests quorum or an elders quorum might agree to support a certain number of missionaries each year. They would then include the necessary amount of money in their quorum budget and request appropriate donations from quorum members.
Seventies quorums are especially involved in quorum missionary funds, and many of their donations are specifically earmarked for the Church’s general missionary fund.
One caution if you intend to donate money to a ward or quorum missionary fund: In the United States, it has been against the law to donate money for missionary purposes and count it as a tax deduction if you indicate a specific missionary that the money should go to. It has been necessary to make it a no-strings-attached donation if it’s to be tax-deductible. This has been true for donations to the general missionary fund as well. Tax laws constantly change, however, so you may wish to check with a tax consultant or with the appropriate tax publications before you make the deduction.
The general missionary fund is used primarily to support missionaries in the less developed countries of the world, where it is needed most.
As it happens, there are visa restrictions and quotas in many of the underdeveloped countries that make it very difficult for missionaries from North America to serve. Therefore, local missionaries are relied upon heavily in these countries, which is just the way it should be. But in many cases, local missionaries and their families just don’t have the financial resources to support them on missions. In such cases, the missionary family, friends, and branch members sacrifice all they can. Then, if funds are still lacking, the stake president or mission president may solicit money from the general missionary fund to make up the balance. The money contributed to the fund is welcomed and put to very effective use in these areas—an interesting application of the principle of “unto whatsoever place ye cannot go ye shall send.” (See D&C 84:62.)
Once again, the principle involved is: support your own first, and then branch out to help others when resources permit. However much your resources allow you to contribute, sending money on a mission can be one more way for you to fulfill your responsibility to share the gospel!