Today I thought I'd talk about great missionaries. And as I thought about it, and I decided to talk about what I believe is President Teshima’s favorite missionary first. John Taylor said this of the man named Joseph Smith: D&C 135:3 Joseph Smith was the first convert of this restored church, and through him millions more have known the light of Christ.
I was reading through Alma a couple months ago, and I remember getting to one of my favorite parts as a child; and that of course is when Ammon starts chopping the arms off of a bunch of thugs. This time through however, I noticed he wasn’t just trying to show off his manliness like Chuck Norris or something. He did it just because he wanted to do his job well. He’d promised to serve the king, and he wasn’t about to let a few bandits stop him from getting the work done. And it was this kind of undeterred service that opened up the heart of King Lamoni, so that he would listen to the gospel. In Alma (18:10), the King went on to say this of Ammon, when he “heard….them.” Apparently Lamoni never had anyone actually follow all of his directions before. But this worked out pretty well for Ammon, while he most likely didn’t know that just by serving the king to the best of his abilities, he would inevitably convert thousands of the Lamanites, he did listen to the spirit. I suspect he just listened to what it told him to do, and trusted in his Lord to make everything turn out for the best. I plan on taking the lesson Ammon taught me in to the mission field. And I hope some of you will take it into your own lives. That sometimes to get others to soften their heart and listen, all you need is to listen to the spirit on how to best serve them.
And yet, there are times when even great missionaries do their best, and the hard-heartedness of the people refuses to give. In Alma 20:30, it talks about Aaron and his brethren, and how, “as it happened… place.” So even if a member does everything they can, that is only one half of the lock and key. While a missionary can offer a person the key to their salvation, if the person being taught refuses to offer up the lock, which is their heart, they can never be opened up to the light of Christ. Aaron and his brothers, Himni and Omner, didn’t give up, and because of the field that Ammon helped prepare, they were able to convince the father of Lamoni to the truth. This in turn led to many of the Lamanites in the land of Ishmael being converted, and their renaming to become the Anti-Nephi-Lehies. When speaking of this people, Ammon said “has there ever been so great a love in all the land? …Nay there has not, even among the Nephites.” These converted Lamanites are one of my favorite peoples in the Book of Mormon, because it’s a reminder that even those who seem like horrible people on first impression, can become even greater than those generally considered “the best”. And these people can never find their true potential, if we as members and missionaries, don’t search them out and give them a chance.
A friend of the sons of Mosiah, Alma the younger, also left his mark upon the world with the missionary work that he did. While he didn’t set off for far off lands, as his friends did, he made an important decision in following after his father and became High Priest among the Nephites. His title was never officially a missionary, yet as a leader of the church I’m sure he brought many people into the fold of God. We sometimes might live in places like Gideon, which said of the people that lived there: “I…. God.” Yet, at other times, we may able to relate more with Amulek, who lived in the city of Ammonihah. Ammonihah was a city where “Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people”, and Amulek was a citizen there, who helped Alma after he fasted for the city. The people of Ammonihah knew Amulek, and when he gave his testimony, that he knew Alma was called of God, he began to sway some of his neighbors. And while there were many that still scorned and ridicule him, Amulek was able to bring some of the people from his home to see what he himself saw; which is the hope of salvation through our Savior, Jesus Christ. So Amulek withstood the hate of many to save a few. Now I have long thought that I have never been afraid of preaching the gospel to someone. And I don’t believe I have ever turned the opportunity down, when it was explicitly given. But I think on occasion I could have been bolder. I could have gone out of my way to tell a friend or classmate about the truth in my life, that makes me happy more than anything else. I could have been a little more like Amulek and given my testimony that might believe, at the risk of mocked and insulted. Zeezrom, a man in Alma 10:31 says “was foremost to accuse Amulek and Alma”, was converted, by the two men of God’s teachings, with the help of the Holy Ghost to touch his heart. I hate to admit it, but sometimes I judge some people as already lost to the light of Christ; and that there’s no hope in bringing them back. Yet time and again, have not wicked men, sometimes people considered the worst of men, had their hearts turned back in the right direction, like Zeezrom? Saul of the New Testament, who essentially supported the genocide of Christians throughout the land, went on to become one of the greatest missionaries during the days after the resurrection. And so I hope all of us, myself especially, never forget that we should try to avoid thinking of some people as simply evil. And try to think that they just have a lack of God in their lives; a lack that can be restored, but might need the opportunity given to them.
I finished the Book of Mormon a couple days ago, for the first time. I experienced the feelings of wonder as Christ came, and the feelings of sorrow for Mormon, as his entire people were destroyed. And most of all, I felt that sorrow for Moroni who was left to live alone, until his time on this Earth came to an end. Yet, I noticed that what Moroni spoke of often in his book, was hope. Hope for the people that read his words, and for his Lamanite brethren, that they might come unto Christ. Moroni never got to see all these people face to face, but he had hope that his words might mean something, and that the Lord would bring them to individuals who would listen. Most every missionary in the field now has the scripture in Moroni 10:4 memorized saying: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” I can only hope I will have as much hope as Moroni did, during my two years of service. It will be hard work, but…. It seems ignominious compared to what Moroni had to go through.
Thinking about my mission, I’ve realized, even just preparing for it, that a mission is NOT easy. And I’m not sure anyone truly understands unless they are experiencing it, or recently finished one. In the book of Helaman, in the fifth chapter, two brothers, Nephi and Lehi, devote themselves to preaching. Now, I doubt they saw the troubles that were coming their way. When they went unto the land of Nephi, they were cast into prison, starved, and about to be slain. But in Proverbs 3:5, it says “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” These two men of God didn’t try to beg to be released, or think of some clever way to escape. They trusted that their Savior would protect them. This faith led to fire encircling the two missionaries, preventing their captors from laying hands on them, and the earth shook, and they were overshadowed with a cloud of darkness. This has been my greatest challenge thus far; is that I lean unto mine own understanding far too often. But I know in my soul, that if I can let that go, and trust in the Lord with all my heart, wonders such as what Nephi and Lehi saw will help me succeed on my mission.
Brothers and Sisters, in words inspired by the Lord given to Joseph F Smith, “We have a mission in the world… to preach the truth, to bear testimony of the truth.” I bear my testimony that I know it is our duty, as it was with the missionaries of old, to bring the world its truth; so that those around us, might have the opportunity to live better and happier lives. That they might know that they can be saved from physical and spiritual death, and inherit our Father in Heaven’s blessings, which he yearns to give to all of his children. I bear my testimony that our modern day prophets are great missionaries, bringing the hearts of thousands into the Savior’s fold. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.