The sons of Mosiah—Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni—and the brethren who accompanied them on a mission to their enemies in the lands of the Lamanites were empowered to do something that no other prophet, king, or leader had been able to accomplish in the previous 500 years. Because of these courageous young missionaries, “thousands were brought to the knowledge of the Lord” (Alma 23:5). As one of the “Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Family Home Evening” for the June 29-July 5, 2020 Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families suggests, an important question for each of us to discuss and consider is “how we can each be ‘an instrument in the hands of God’” (Alma 29:9).
Preconceived Expectations or Individual Spiritual Guidance
Each mission call has individual challenges, rewards, and purposes. In a May 18, 2020 Church News article, Scott Taylor warned: “Preconceived missions” are when missionaries go into their service with fixed, predetermined anticipations and expectations, often based on mission experiences of family members, friends or others … rather than missionaries adapting to unexpected circumstances and following Spirit-led promptings” (“Scott Taylor: What I know about pandemic-period missionaries and ‘preconceived missions’”).
The COVID-19 pandemic clearly teaches that missionaries need to be encouraged, “Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit … I will impart unto you my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy” (Doctrine and Covenants 11:12-13).
Spiritual guidance is the key to dealing with a mission’s many unpredictable variables: assignment and training locations, length of service, area types, residential accommodations, relationships with companions and mission leaders, appointed positions of responsibility and leadership, transportation modes, teaching frequency, convert numbers, wars, sickness, etc.
A Companion’s Serious Illness
While serving in West Germany in the 1970’s, my mission companion Elder Brown was diagnosed with a serious medical condition that required surgery. For a while, he contemplated flying home for medical treatments. After prayerful counsel with both the mission president and his parents, he decided to have the surgical procedures completed at the university clinic in Düsseldorf, Germany. During his lengthy post-recovery stay in the hospital, he was able to share the gospel with a roommate who was also convalescing from serious illness.
Shortly after their discharge, Elder Brown was able to participate in the baptism and confirmation of this German man as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elder Brown later shared with me the joy he experienced in finding an individual whom the Lord wanted him to find.
In a country and time where we spent most of our time knocking on doors and baptisms were few, Elder Brown regarded the experience of teaching this man the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as a miracle.
Who Should Go?
Near the end of my mission, I experienced a personal crisis when my missionary companion received notification that he was to be transferred. The Sunday before receiving the transfer, a young woman walked into our branch’s sacrament meeting and expressed a desire to be baptized. She had recently completed working as a nanny for a member family in another city. She had read the Book of Mormon that they had given her and knew it was word of God.
Since I was new to the area, my companion believed that it was very important that he stay in the area in order to involve branch members in teaching her the missionary lessons. Together, we decided to phone the mission president and inform him of our concerns. His response was, “I will let you know when I see you at our mission conference tomorrow.”
During that zone conference, the mission president approached me, put his hand gently on my shoulder, and quietly said, “We have decided to transfer you.” After he said those words, I worried that I had questioned his leadership. I felt guilt-ridden.
Later that day, I had a scheduled interview with Elder Hartman Rector Jr., of the First Council of the Seventy. I expressed my concerns to him about questioning a transfer. After listening carefully, he noted that my companion and I had simply provided important information to the mission president, and we were willing to follow whatever counsel he subsequently gave us.
Then, Elder Rector opened his scriptures and showed me a section where mission calls in the early days of the Church had been changed because “Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good” (Doctrine and Covenants 56:4-7). Elder Rector concluded, “Sometimes the Lord doesn’t care who goes as long as somebody goes.”
Those words comforted me. The next day I left for my new assignment singing “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord” (Hymns, no. 270). Three weeks later I completed my mission with the joyful news that the nanny investigator was scheduled to be baptized later that week.
Let Us Glory in Christ
As we face the uncertainties of dealing with COVID-19, riots, natural and man-made disasters, or other trials, we can be inspired by the examples of the sons of Mosiah. They completed a mission that no one thought was possible: they helped bring thousands of the Lamanites to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and be “gathered into the garners, that they are not wasted” (Alma 26:5).
Those Book of Mormon missionaries who taught the Lamanites personify how God will guide everyone “according to the spirit of revelation and prophesy, and the power of God working miracles in them” (Alma 23:6).