“Advice to a Young Man: Now Is the Time to Prepare,” New Era, June 1973, 8
My son, you will be a missionary because you will want to be.
Now the question arises, “Will you be a valiant and effective one or merely a set-apart missionary?” This will depend on your preparation.
The Lord gave us a revelation on the importance of missionary work:
“And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!” (D&C 18:15.)
I greet you as one who loves young people and believes in them and wishes to help them to grow to their ultimate and glorious destiny.
I see you as an individual in a great body composed of young men who will be giving leadership to the Church in the decades ahead.
I am informed that there are about 165,231 young men in the Church today ages 12 through 18 and about the same number of young women. This averages approximately 16,500 a year. While some young women will fill missions, the greater responsibility rests on the young men who bear the priesthood. Every normal boy in the Church should keep his life righteous so that he could fill a mission.
If we reduce the number of 165,231 by 5,231 for the handicapped, and if all others were worthy, we could have 16,000 young men serving on missions each year or 32,000 constantly. If we had about 20 percent as many girls going out for 18 months, that could be about 4,800 more, and if we could have another 1,000 couples or 2,000 persons more for one year, there could be nearly 40,000 missionaries out constantly instead of the 17,000 we have. Such a record we could strive for.
A mission is not only a privilege and opportunity, but a solemn duty and obligation. My son, you are heavily obligated for the numerous blessings you enjoy, none of which you have provided yourself, like brains and faculties, sight, hearing. You are the recipient of accumulated “blessings of the ages” and more particularly of the century. More than 140 years your people have suffered and sacrificed to bring our culture to its present height. Your faith and knowledge of truth are the result of missionary work of days gone by which you can repay only by giving to others the same opportunities. Hence it is well for every worthy and prepared young man, as he grows up, to desire mightily to fill a mission. Of course, there is no compulsion. Each person makes up his mind on this matter as he does in receiving the priesthood, paying his tithes, marrying in the temple, serving in the Church. He ought to do all these things but has his free agency.
The Lord has made clear through our prophets that we must take the gospel to the nations of the world—that all must be taught in their own language, even to the ends of the earth. There is no one else in the world to teach the nations except ourselves. And since there are a limited number of young men, it is proper that every member be a missionary, and to that end the Church has launched a great new program to cover the earth in accordance with the injunction of the Lord:
“Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.” (D&C 88:81.)
Hence it is incumbent upon each person to prepare himself for that solemn obligation and privilege. As he learns the alphabet, times tables, and things prerequisite to his college work, he will be preparing for his life’s work. In the same manner he should be preparing all the days of his childhood and youth for the great mission of his young adulthood and his life’s spiritual growth.
His preparation consists largely of efforts in three areas:
1. Keeping his life clean and worthy and remaining free from all the sins of the world.
2. Preparing the mind and the spirit—to know the truth.
3. Preparing to finance his mission so it may be his own contribution, so far as possible.
1. As to his moral life, it is expected that everybody will have been taught from the cradle to his mission the fundamentals of the gospel and the need for the pure life. While total perfection is not expected, it is hoped that through family training, home evenings, father-son relationships, and other learning-training, he shall have resisted every temptation to do evil and shall have gone through these younger years totally free from the vices of the world—that every kind of moral vice shall have been bypassed and that he will have remained clean and pure and be able to look his bishop in the eye many times during his growing up years and tell the bishop truthfully that he has been the proper master of his desires, urges, and passions and is worthy to carry the sacred message of the Lord.
Should there have been incidents that would make him unworthy, there must be total and sustained repentance for a sufficient period to satisfy the bishop, stake president, and the General Authority that he is like Saul, “a new man” with “a new heart” and ready to honorably carry forward his duties. In the matter of forgiveness, every person who has transgressed seriously should seek earnestly to learn the real meaning of repentance—to learn that it means far more than mere desire to do better. We know that forgiveness can never come to any soul except there be adequate repentance, and Alma explained to us that “repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be …” (Alma 42:16.)
There must be a deep consciousness of guilt before repentance gets under way, and in that real consciousness of guilt may come suffering of the mind, the spirit, and even the body sometimes. The constant teachings from infancy should leave every person to realize that he cannot commit sin without leaving himself unclean and scarred.
2. One should study, ponder, learn scriptures, and build his testimony so that he may be prepared to teach and train. The Lord has said, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear,” and it is our hope that from infancy through all the years of maturing that the lessons taught in the auxiliaries, in the seminaries and institutes, in the home evenings, in the sacrament meetings, and elsewhere may bring every youth to a preparation that will eliminate fear. Every person approaching a mission should be schooled, trained, and indoctrinated for immediate and proper participation in proselyting. Gospel, doctrine, or organization illiteracy should never be found among our youth. Proper scriptures can be learned well and permanently by children; doctrines can be taught and absorbed by youth.
Why is it that some young folks are almost overly conscientious in their school work, even to neglecting their Church responsibilities, when the spiritual should have priority in the study time of every person? If preference must be given, however, there is time for fulfilling every need.
To arrive at mission age and be illiterate, gospel-wise or otherwise, would be an unthinkable travesty. Certainly by the time a young man reaches his nineteenth birthday, he should be prepared to step from his conventional role at home into the important role of the missionary without a total reorganization of his life, his standards, or his training.
3. The financing of a mission should be undertaken, under parental guidance, when the male child is born. How wonderful it would be if each future missionary could have saved for his mission from birth. It would be ideal if the parents would establish for him a savings account or other investments and then remind the child every time money comes into his hands that part or all of it should go into his mission fund. This not only builds the mission fund but is psychologically firm. The boy is constantly reminded of his oncoming mission. This will encourage the boy to work. Side jobs and numerous services can be used to finance his mission. This could discourage the selfish growing up of many who have only their immediate desires in mind. If the child is permitted to spend his all on himself, that spirit of selfishness may continue with him to his grave.
How wonderful it would be if every boy could totally or largely finance his own mission and thereby receive most of the blessings coming from his missionary labors.
Of course, if the boy is a convert in his teens, his years of saving are limited. If he lives in a country where the economic standards are low and opportunities are severely limited, he can still be governed by this policy and do the best he can.
Next to the contribution of the missionary comes that of his immediate family, and no missionary will receive a call who is totally supported outside of this program of family and self.
In countries where the pay for labor is much less or where the family has other serious financial problems that render their participation more difficult, then we have the quorums of priesthood in district, ward, branch, stake, and mission, one of whose principal functions is to raise funds for missionary purposes, and the Church has two funds that can be used in emergencies.
Every boy and many girls and couples should serve missions. Every prospective missionary should prepare morally, spiritually, mentally, and financially all of his life in order to serve faithfully, efficiently, and well in the great program of missionary work.
This is the time to prepare.