“The Power of Example,” New Era, Oct. 1978, 4
The bell rang. It was late at night. We did not expect anyone that evening, and I was wondering who it could be. I opened the door, and to my amazement, there stood the two missionaries who were teaching in the neighborhood.
The elders asked quickly if my boys were available so they could ask them a question. They were not. This was the time for them to be in bed for they were only 14 and 15 years old. The missionaries looked at each other, and the senior, obviously gathering his courage, asked me if I would talk to my boys and tell them to behave well at school because they were teaching one of the boys’ schoolmates. It was important that they, the missionaries, be able to tell their young investigator that my boys were members of the Church and then ask her if she had noticed any difference! What a terrible thing it might have been if my boys had not been behaving well! I promised the missionaries that I would forward the message and discuss the challenge with my boys.
The elders left, reassured, and as I closed the door, a scripture came flashing through my mind. I had used it often in the past years in meeting with the missionaries. “Go forth … that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls.” (Alma 17:11.)
It has already been more than 30 years since I came in contact with the missionaries. What a thrill, what an example they have been in my life! I was 16, I remember, when I met with them for the first time. During the summers we children had the habit of sitting at the front window with our mother and greeting our neighbors and friends as they walked up the hill in front of our house. That day we noticed two young men pushing their bikes. They were different from the usual young people. In spite of the heat, they wore coats, white shirts, and ties. We deduced that they were Americans from the way they looked. We were intrigued. What were they doing here in our city?
The next day they came and knocked on our door. We rushed, the four of us, to satisfy our curiosity. We let them in, and we learned quickly who they were and what they were doing. It was the beginning of an eternal story. Their smiles, love, enthusiasm, desire to help and to serve, obedience to the commandments, and love for the Lord impressed us greatly. We looked forward more and more to their presence, their spirit. They were not only teaching us about Indians and the Book of Mormon but also sharing their talents in the arts and sports. We started an eternal friendship.
Here I am 30 years later. Because of the example of these fine young men my life has changed, my perspective of life has changed. I have gained a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ; I have learned to live according to the commandments of a living God; I love to follow a modern-day prophet and know his words come from God. Now I am responsible to see that the chain does not get broken, an eternal chain that was once started by Jesus Christ himself: “This is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do.” (3 Ne. 27:21.)
As the youth of the Church, your influence, your example can be a determining factor in someone’s conversion to or lack of interest in the message of the restoration of the gospel. Watch your physical appearance, your thoughts, your language, your actions.
This is the time to prepare to be called on a mission, and you had better start directly. The younger you are, the easier it is to develop good habits. William James said: “A repeated action becomes a habit, a range of habits builds a character; it is the character that decides the destiny.” It is not only our destiny that is in question, but the destiny of our neighbors and our friends.
How well I realize what two young boys can do to help the missionary work. How important it must have been for Joseph Smith, at the same age as my boys, to be such an example that his work could be recognized by its fruits. Truly, Joseph Smith is one of the great examples of faith, and the existence of the Church today is a product of that faith.
The power of example is a strong motivator. Knowing this should help us to realize our power of conversion and use it in a divine way. Christ has told us, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19.)