“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, June 1989, 17
New Era Answer:
Missionaries come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and personalities and with different talents. Some come into the mission field bold; others are shy. Some have been good students in school; others haven’t. Some have played high school sports, while others have avoided athletics.
This variety in missionaries is needed to reach all the people in the world. It sometimes happens that a nonmember family will have several missionaries visit, with no results. Then one day a new missionary will come, and for some reason, that one missionary is able to help the family go through the steps which lead to a testimony of the gospel and a desire to be baptized.
You may be able to reach particular people in the mission field when others might not.
Also, being shy isn’t the worst thing in the world. Moses was shy. When the Lord called Moses to bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt, Moses felt totally inadequate. He said: “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.”
How did the Lord answer him? Did he say, “Okay, Moses, I guess I made a mistake. I’ll go get someone else”? Of course not. This is what the Lord said to Moses: “Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say” (see Ex. 4:10–12).
Jeremiah was shy too. When the Lord called him, he said, “Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.”
The Lord answered Jeremiah, “Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord” (see Jer. 1:6–8).
People do not join the Church because of the great persuasive arguments of the missionaries. They join the Church because they are touched by the influence of the Holy Ghost, which the missionaries have in great abundance if they are faithful. You can bring that powerful influence with you on your mission. It is more effective than anything else to touch people’s lives.
Besides, why do you suppose the Lord sends inexperienced young men and women into the mission field anyway? Why doesn’t he send only the most learned and bold to teach his gospel? Because more than anything else he needs his missionaries to be humble and prayerful. This is what he has said:
“Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;
“And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets—
“The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh— …
“That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers” (D&C 1:17–19, 23; emphasis added).
So the question is this, if your shyness and the fact you haven’t done well in school isn’t a problem to Heavenly Father, if he is willing to work with you as you serve him with all your heart, might, mind, and strength—then why should you let these things prevent you from serving a mission?
Finally, read what the Lord has promised those who devote themselves to his service: “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).
That’s a promise from the Lord to you. If you are humble and have faith and work hard on your mission, he will make weaknesses become strengths. You will not be the same person when you return from your mission as you were when you left. Moses developed in the service of God. Jeremiah changed as he served with all his heart, might, and strength. You will change too in ways which will bless you for the rest of your life.
The Lord needed Moses and Jeremiah even though they both felt inadequate. The Lord needed a 14-year-old boy with very little formal education by the name of Joseph Smith. The Lord needed the 2,000 sons of Helaman who had never fought before but had faith that the Lord would bless them. The Lord needed the young shepherd boy David to fight a giant named Goliath.
And also, the Lord needs you.
I understand exactly how you feel. I’ve asked myself the same question. But as I thought about this, I went to the scriptures. In Doctrine and Covenants 31:3 it says: “Lift up your heart and rejoice, for the hour of your mission is come: and your tongue shall be loosed, and you shall declare glad tidings of great joy unto this generation.” [D&C 31:3] This scripture really helped me answer this question. I feel all our fears will be easier to overcome with the help of our Heavenly Father.
Judi Sweeney, 17
I would do my best. I would try to pray all of the time about it. Even if I think I can’t learn or memorize the scriptures, I would read them every day and go over them and over them. Talking to strangers isn’t really as hard as you think. Being in the Church you meet a lot of new people, and it’s like going up to them and talking to them or making new friends. I know this Church is true, and one day I want to go on a mission.
Lynne A. Kuhne, 12
Study, pray, and keep your thoughts on a mission. At first it will be hard, but the Lord will help you. Don’t worry about being able to learn. This will all happen as you grow through seminary and individual study. When you can’t achieve something by yourself, just do your best and the Lord will help you. Don’t let your shyness be an obstacle either. Just make sure your testimony grows, and the rest of you will follow. And always ask for help from our Father in Heaven.
Heber Carrasco, 17
Your shyness doesn’t have to be a stumbling block. Remember that when Moses was called he wasn’t perfect, either. He didn’t think he was capable of performing the mission he had been assigned. But with God’s help, Moses succeeded. I know that you too can have the help of God if you really want to preach the gospel. You don’t need to be a great orator or a great scholar. What you need is the desire to serve. Trust in the Lord, and in those moments when your own talents fall short, the Spirit will put words in your mouth with which you can communicate your message.
Norah Beltran, 18
La Paz, Bolivia
The most important thing is that you want to go on a mission. A lot of people have trouble memorizing the scriptures. It takes time and practice. A lot of missionaries are shy in the beginning, and you’ll get over it.
Rebeka Baird, 16
Feeding Hills, Massachusetts
Don’t worry too much about your shyness. Don’t worry about the doors you will knock on or the people you will speak to. Each time we accept a calling from God we develop something that he has put in the heart of every person, and that something is love. Love overcomes all obstacles to service. If we love God and want to help him in his work, we need only to express this love to others through sharing the gospel. You will feel your heart burn when you stand in front of someone and say, “I am a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ and I have come to teach you about his plan.” You will have in your hands the opportunity of changing lives and making people happy. No one has this opportunity to the same extent as missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Elder Lugo, 20
Venezuela Caracas Mission
It isn’t a question of what you can do, but of what God can do. He is all powerful. I know that when we make the effort to develop an ability that contributes to the growth of his work, he blesses us in our efforts. I too had many doubts and insecurities when I began my mission. Many times I didn’t know what to say at the door. I was speechless. My companion had to speak for me. But I began to exert myself, to push myself. This is the key. In truth there are certain things in life that we cannot learn except by putting them into practice. There are manuals that teach swimming, but until a person jumps into the water, he will never swim. And so it is with the work of God. If we truly want to do it, our Father in Heaven will bless us. I know this to be true.
Elder Garcia, 20
Venezuela Caracas Mission