Saturday, November 21, 2009

Every Member a Missionary

We interrupt the regularly scheduled but infrequently posted Thanks posts for a Sunday School lesson. I really just wanted to post a couple of quick quotes because what really struck me about the lesson was a talk in General Conference that connects very well with the theme of the lesson.
The full talk is here, but I pulled out the story that impressed me.

On April 6, 1974, the Church sustained a new prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball. That same day I received my call to serve as a full-time missionary in Finland. I wasn’t aware at the time that President Kimball had just delivered a landmark address that week to the General Authorities and regional representatives of the Church. Later I learned that in that address President Kimball prophetically outlined his vision as to how we as a church would accomplish the Savior’s charge to “teach all nations.” In his address, President Kimball invited the members of the Church to lengthen their stride and enlarge their vision. He asked that every worthy young man prepare to serve an honorable full-time mission. He encouraged the members in each country to prepare to supply their own missionaries, and he called upon “able men to assist the Twelve [Apostles] to move out into the world and to open the doors of every nation” (“When the World Will Be Converted,Ensign, Oct. 1974, 10).

In response, we as members of the Church began to pray regularly in our families, in our sacrament meetings, and in our stake conferences that the hearts of the leaders of nations would be softened and the doors opened to our missionaries. The members began to see more clearly their responsibility to share the gospel. Our young men stepped up, and a great army of missionaries was gathered. We witnessed President Kimball’s vision begin to unfold.

While serving in Finland, I learned that my mission president’s wife, Sister Lea Mahoney, was a native of Finland. As a young girl she had grown up in the eastern portion of Finland in a city named Viipuri. As the ravages of war engulfed Finland and other countries during World War II, she and her family left their home, and Viipuri became part of the Soviet Union and was renamed Vyborg. In our zone conferences, Sister Mahoney would tell us of those left behind in Viipuri and of her desire that the gospel be taken to them. Following President Kimball’s challenge, we unitedly prayed that the hearts of the leaders of that nation would be softened so that the gospel could be taken by our missionaries into the Soviet Union.

We would go to the border between Finland and the Soviet Union and see the guard towers and the fences, and we would wonder who those brave young men and young women would be and when they would cross that border to take the gospel to the people there. I must admit, at that time it seemed like an impossible task.

Three years ago, our son Eric received a mission call to serve in the Russia St. Petersburg Mission. In his first letter home, he wrote something like this: “Dear Mom and Dad, I have been assigned to my first city in Russia. Dad, you may have heard of it before. It is called Vyborg, but it was previously a Finnish city named Viipuri.”

Tears came to my eyes as I understood that Eric was in the very city we had prayed about 32 years earlier. Eric found a chapel there and a branch of faithful Saints. He was living and serving in a place that to me as a young man had seemed impossible to enter.

I did not realize those many years ago, as we prayed for the borders to open and the missionaries to go in, that I was praying for our son. Most importantly for you of the rising generation, our son Eric did not realize that he and his companions were the answer to the prayers that had been offered by thousands of faithful Saints so many years ago.

That story brought tears to my eyes, especially as I thought about my own boys and this quote from President Monson from October Conference 2008:
It has been my privilege during the past six months to meet with leaders of countries and with representatives of governments. Those with whom I’ve met feel kindly toward the Church and our members, and they have been cooperative and accommodating. There remain, however, areas of the world where our influence is limited and where we are not allowed to share the gospel freely. As did President Spencer W. Kimball over 32 years ago, I urge you to pray for the opening of those areas, that we might share with them the joy of the gospel. As we prayed then in response to President Kimball’s pleadings, we saw miracles unfold as country after country, formerly closed to the Church, was opened. Such will transpire again as we pray with faith.

Though the lesson talked about many ways we can be missionaries, from preparing our children, inviting our neighbors, serving as senior couples and encouraging the newly converted, I keep thinking about this one thing. What kind of miracles are we going to see in the next thirty years? How will it change our lives if we routinely pray for those miracles to happen? I can see each of us becoming more aware of missionary opportunities, just because we are keeping those ideas in our minds. So pray for the missionaries, pray for the places that don't have missionaries, pray for the miracles to come so our children may serve in places we can't even imagine.

1 comment:

jendoop said...

I loved that story too. Thanks for that quote from Pres. Monson, I didn't remember it.

We need the spirit so strongly a part of our lives to be brave and tactful enough to share the gospel. I'm working on my people friendly, strike up a conversation about the church, skills. (Could have talked to the lady who walked in on me in the department store dressing room today.)