Couple Missionaries: ‘Too Wonderful for Me’

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“Couple Missionaries: ‘Too Wonderful for Me’” Ensign, Sept. 1998, 15

Couple Missionaries:

“Too Wonderful for Me”

Our generation must do something that no other generation has ever done. We need thousands of missionary couples, who add immeasurably to the success of the work.

The Church needs a great host of missionary couples. Mature couples add immeasurably to the missionary force.

Job said, “Therefore have I uttered [what] I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not” (Job 42:3). These words about learning “things too wonderful … which I knew not” describe the experiences couples have while serving missions. And Jeremiah said, “But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones” (Jer. 20:9). The testimonies these couples have to share could not be described more beautifully in words than “wonderful” and “as a burning fire.”

Some couples have a great misconception that missionaries must be doctrinarians, scriptorians, and proselyters and have missionary experience. Some mistakenly feel they will knock on doors all day and be subjected to the same hourly commitments and disciplines which younger missionaries are expected to abide. This is not so.

Couple missionaries may be assigned to the office if their skills lean in that direction; these couples are at the very heart of missionary activities. Their roles are exciting and stimulating. Other couples will be involved in supportive leadership callings. Imagine the joy of being assigned to a branch to strengthen it. Other couples have the wonderful opportunity to visit less-active and part-member families. A couple’s maturity opens doors that younger missionaries often find closed.

Just being there and being available is a tremendous blessing to the branch. The couple’s experience weighs heavily in their behalf. Often they teach part-member families and reap the rewards of seeing people baptized, families united in the Church. And while good health and a sound financial foundation are important, the most vital requirements may be love and a willing heart.

The Lord said in Doctrine and Covenants 31:5 [D&C 31:5]:

“Therefore, thrust in your sickle with all your soul, and your sins are forgiven you, and you shall be laden with sheaves upon your back, for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Wherefore, your family shall live” (emphasis added).

Our generation must do something that no other generation has ever done. We need thousands of couples desperately. You recall the words to a great song:

Give me some men who are stouthearted men,

Who will fight for the right they adore;

Start me with ten who are stouthearted men

And I’ll soon give you ten thousand more.

(“Stouthearted Men,” words by Oscar Hammerstein, music by Sigmund Romberg [1928])

Let our missionary ranks swell to tens of thousands of couples. This is one of the great solutions to the evil in our generation. Our generation can and will make a difference in this great world. Let us all examine our hearts and prove to the Lord that we “will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for [we] know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Ne. 3:7).

Consider the power and influence this will have in the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Tom Hair was a wonderful missionary who served in the Texas San Antonio Mission when I presided there. He is one of 17 children. Ten of the sons and three of the daughters in the family have served missions. The parents, Dale and Mary Hair, recently served in the New Jersey Cherry Hill Mission. They received excellent counsel from all 13 returned missionaries on how to be successful. They are young at heart, the missionaries loved them, and what a contribution they made! Can you imagine how the Lord feels about a family of people like that who have faithfully paid their tithes and offerings and also tens of thousands of dollars to support their own missionaries? I am confident we cannot get in the Lord’s debt, but I know the Hairs have done something for their children and grandchildren “too wonderful” for words.

Boyd and Dale Lake are from California. Boyd has served as a stake president,and his wife has a background of faith and testimony. Their call came and it was to Africa. They were wonderful there. They returned home for a short period, then again submitted their papers. They were called to the Philippines. That is where we served together. They completed a third mission in Salt Lake City at the Temple Square Mission and now are serving a fourth one, this time in Russia.

God bless the Lakes; they have surely sensed an urgent need for couples and have done much more than their part. How the Lord must be pleased every time they submit their papers for another mission. He will not withhold His blessings from the children and grandchildren in this family.

Sister Vi Rindels served as a missionary in the England Manchester Mission. Divorced for many years, she raised a son and daughter, filled numerous callings, was the family breadwinner, and sought to guide herself constantly by the teachings of the Master. What a monumental work she has done in England! Her maturity and commitment made her a wonderfully successful missionary. That mission will be the crowning event in her lifetime of service to her family and the kingdom. In my judgment, she is an elect lady of God.

Not long ago when I was visiting a stake in the northeastern United States, the stake president pointed out a woman and said: “That sister is a nurse. She is divorced and has a son and a daughter. Her former husband is a rascal; he has not paid one penny of child support or alimony. Her son and daughter are both on missions. She is giving $750 a month to support them in the mission field, and she is paying a full tithing and contributing to fast offerings.”

I had an opportunity to meet and talk with this noble, wonderful woman for a few brief moments. I was moved to tears with emotion as I thought about her love and devotion to this Church. All I could say with the emotions I felt was, “Thank you, thank you, thank you; I love you and I know how much God must love you.”

Think about what her rent, utilities, phone, food, and other costs would be, including a car, auto insurance, and so forth. Then add $750 a month in addition to her tithing and we get some small idea of her love for the Lord. I wonder how long it has been since she bought herself a dress or any other clothing. Yet neither she nor any of us can get in the Lord’s debt. I know He will make her blessings ring down through the generations.

Jeremiah recorded:

“Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks” (Jer. 16:16).

It is wonderful when we have mature, skilled, experienced fishers and hunters. Moroni helps us to understand how important this work is:

“And he hath said: Repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, and have faith in me, that ye may be saved.

“And now, my beloved brethren, if this be the case that these things are true which I have spoken unto you, and God will show unto you, with power and great glory at the last day, that they are true, and if they are true has the day of miracles ceased?

“Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?” (Moro. 7:34–36; emphasis added).

Imagine—as long as “the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man”! We ought to cry out with Joshua: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).

Oh, my dearly beloved mature couples, let’s rise up as a generation and do magnificent and wonderful things, “things too wonderful for me.” Collectively, in going into the mission field by the thousands and thousands, we as couples can lay one more great spiritual contribution on the altar of God. Remember the promises following repentance: “Your sins are forgiven you” and “Wherefore, your family shall live” (D&C 31:5). What greater lasting and wonderful commitment can be demonstrated to our families than to serve as mature couples in the mission field?

Go to your bishop; let him begin the process of a mission call. You can express your feelings where you would like to go, but be willing to go wherever you are called. The time will pass as an instant, but your mission will have eternal consequences for you and your posterity. Let us carry into the new century the greatest thrust of couple missionaries ever in the history of the world. What a marvelous and sacred legacy we could bestow upon our children and our children’s children.

Let us march forward as a modern army of couples, our banners waving with gospel truths as fair as the sun and clear as the moon (see D&C 5:14). Let us say, as we sing in our hymn:

I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord,

Over mountain or plain or sea;

I’ll say what you want me to say, dear Lord;

I’ll be what you want me to be.

(Hymns, no. 270)

What Our Leaders Have Taught

President Spencer W. Kimball: “We could use hundreds of couples, older people like some of you folks, whose families are reared, who have retired in their businesses, who are able to go and spend their own money, to teach the gospel. We could use hundreds of couples. You just go and talk to your bishop—that is all you need to do” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 551).

“We have rather forgotten, we older people, who have been retired and who have found an easy place to go with our camping outfit and with our other opportunities. We have found an easy way to satisfy our own thoughts and our own consciences that the work must go on—we will send our boys, we say.

“All of us have this responsibility. Not all of us are able, but many, many of us are. Hundreds of thousands of Latter-day Saints are able to preach the gospel in a careful, splendid way” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1979, 117; or Ensign, May 1979, 84).

President Ezra Taft Benson: “Many older couples could serve missions. In so doing, they will find that a mission blesses their children, their grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren in a way that could not otherwise be done. It will set a great example for their posterity” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 99; or Ensign, May 1986, 78).

“We urge you to seriously consider serving a full-time mission. … Many couples have provided distinguished service and stability to various missions in the Church” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1985, 8; or Ensign, May 1985, 8).

Elder David B. Haight: “Mission presidents all over the world need the maturity, knowledge, and personal skills of retired couples to help strengthen their missions. … Couples add stability to a mission. They are role models for younger missionaries, and they offer mature thinking” (“Couple Missionaries: ‘A Wonderful Resource,’” Ensign, Feb. 1996, 7).

“The Brethren hope that many, many more couples will make themselves available for full-time service to the Church. The need is great! Hundreds of thousands of new members join the Church each year, and they need to hear a friendly voice of support and comfort from experienced members” (Ensign, Feb. 1996, 12).

Background: photo by Fay P. Andrus; left: photo by Quentin C. Gardner Jr.

Background: photo by Peggy Jellinghausen

Background and inset: photo by John Philipson

A wide variety of assignments are available to couple missionaries—strengthening members, proselyting, office work, welfare and humanitarian service—and all of it is vital, all of it advances the work of the Lord.