There is a characteristic spirit that pervades the general priesthood session of conference, reflected in the beckoning line from a hymn, "Come, all ye sons of God who have received the priesthood," President Thomas S. Monson observed in the closing address at that meeting.
"Tonight there are many thousands of our number throughout the world who are serving the Lord as His missionaries," the Church president said.
"The holy scriptures contain no proclamation more relevant, no responsibility more binding, no instruction more direct than the injunction given by the Resurrected Lord as He appeared in Galilee to the 11 disciples. Said He: 'Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
"'Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world'" (Matthew 28:19-20).
President Monson commented, "This divine command, coupled with its glorious promise, is our watchword today as it was in the meridian of time. Missionary work is an identifying feature of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Always has it been; ever shall it be."
He noted that within two years, all currently serving missionaries will have returned home, and, for the elders their replacements are found in the ranks of the Aaronic Priesthood of the Church.
"Young men, are you ready to respond? Are you willing to work? Are you prepared to serve?" he asked.
President Monson suggested a formula that will ensure success in missionary work:
"First, search the scriptures with diligence; second, plan your life with purpose (and, I might add, plan your life regardless of your age); third, teach the truth with testimony; and fourth, serve the Lord with love."
1. The scriptures testify of God, contain the words of eternal life and "become the foundation of our message," he said.
"The emphasis of the Church curricula is the holy scriptures, programmed and coordinated through the correlation effort. We are encouraged, as well, to study the scriptures each day both individually and with our families."
President Monson cited Alma 17 containing the account of Alma's joy at being reunited with the sons of Mosiah and noting their steadfastness in the cause of truth.
2. President Monson remarked, "Perhaps no generation of youth has faced such far-reaching decisions as the youth of today. Provision must be made for school, mission and marriage. For some, military service will be included."
Mission preparation begins early, he said, adding that a wise parent will provide means whereby a son might commence a personal missionary fund. "He may well be encouraged, as the years go by, to study a foreign language, so that if necessary his language skills could be utilized."
He pointed out that missionary opportunities are not restricted to the period of a formal call.
"For those of you who serve in the military, such a time can and should be profitable," he said.
He added, "Do not overlook your privilege to be missionaries while you are pursuing your formal education. Your example as a Latter-day Saint will be observed, weighed and ofttimes emulated."
3. President Monson recalled an incident from when he was a mission president in Canada more than 50 years ago. Two missionaries called at the home of Elmer Pollard in Oshawa, Ontario. After they had presented their message he asked them to leave and not return, calling out after them in derision: "You can't tell me you actually believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God!"
One of the elders, a country boy, persuaded his companion to return. The inexperienced young man said: "Mr. Pollard, you said we didn't really believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I testify to you that Joseph was a prophet. He did translate the Book of Mormon. He saw God the Father and Jesus the Son. I know it."
The next day, Mr. Pollard telephoned and asked the elders to return. Later, as a Church member, he said, "Their message, coupled with their testimonies, changed my life and the lives of my family."
4. President Monson said, "There is no substitute for love. Successful missionaries love their companions, their mission leaders and the precious persons whom they teach."
Citing Doctrine and Covenants 4:2, 5 and 6, he said, "Well might each of you within the sound of my voice ask himself the question, 'Today, have I increased in faith, in virtue, in knowledge, in godliness, in love?'"
President Monson told of Craig Sudbury and his mother, Pearl, who came to his office many years ago prior to his departure for the Australia Melbourne Mission. Craig's father as noticeably absent. He as not a Church member. Craig expressed his love for his parents and his hope that in some way his father would be touched by the Spirit and open his heart to the gospel.
President Monson said he prayed for and received inspiration. It was to tell Craig, "Serve the Lord with all your heart. Be obedient to your sacred calling. Each week write a letter to your parents; and on occasion write to Dad personally, and let him know how much you love him, and tell him why you're grateful to be his son."
Some 18 months later, Craig's mother told President Monson how her son had written letters to his parents faithfully each week. She said her husband, Fred, had recently stood for the first time in a testimony meeting and surprised everyone by announcing his decision to become a member of the Church.
"He indicated that he and I would go to Australia to meet Craig at the conclusion of his mission so that Fred could be Craig's final baptism as a full-time missionary," the mother said.
"No missionary stood so tall as did Craig Sudbury when, in far-off Australia, he helped his father into water waist-deep and, raising his right arm to the square, repeated those sacred words [of the baptismal ordinance]," President Monson recounted. "Love had won its victory. Serve the Lord with love."