Tom Smart, Deseret News
The hand of the Lord has unmistakably been revealed — his hand and his heart. We can feel his pleasure, can we not, in this astounding flowering of missionary work?
It is easy to get caught up in the sheer volume of missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints entering the field — both young men and young women that recently totaled 75,000 — to marvel that 58 new missions have been established and that a new Missionary Training Center in Mexico City brings the number of MTCs worldwide to 15.
There is a literal excitement in the air, emanating from the hearts and homes of Saints who have embraced the call. The flowering of testimony, commitment and eagerness to serve is an individual thing, touching each spirit and infusing it with new life. This is not a "mass experience," but a richly and sacredly personal experience — made powerful by the thousands of times it is happening before our eyes.
I have been watching and listening. It is evident that the Lord is pouring out blessings upon the heads of his sons and daughters — each and every one. I listen to the farewell talks of these young women and young men. They reveal a depth of knowledge of the gospel, a maturity of purpose, and a discipline of self that is deeply touching. Heavenly Father is opening their eyes to see and their hearts to understand. He is giving them preparatory experiences. He is qualifying them to do his work, to go forth in mighty power and love.
To what purpose? Where will this lead? What will these changes bring forth?
First and foremost, this array of Mormon youths will march forward like an army of light, offering miracles of hope and truth wherever they serve. As I wrote in a seminary song some years ago:
It’s a cold dark world around us,
And it’s filled with fears and sorrows,
There are people out there groping,
With no faith in their tomorrows.
There are clouds and there are evils,
And the cries for help and answers
Seem to billow up,
Surge about me in the air.
Lest we forget, Heavenly Father is anxious to heal and lift, to reach the hearts of his children who are groping in darkness. As the Prophet Joseph Smith stated, "After all that has been said, our greatest and most important duty is to preach the gospel" (see "Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith," p. 113).
This is the hastening of the last great harvest. And what a gathering in will take place! Throughout the length and breadth of the earth, lives will be changed, hearts will be turned back to their creator, and priesthood will spread its blanket of love and authority to smother the darkness that is striving to engulf the children of God.
The vitality of the kingdom will increase, and knowledge of the Lord will spread into thousands of lives, into thousands of homes in every land.
The words of the song continue:
I have so little time here,
I could walk unfelt, unnoticed,
And leave the work for other hands to do,
But the Lord has richly blessed me,
And the burning deep inside of me
Will grow and spread,
If I bless others, too.
These young people know they are part of the work. They know who it is they serve. In the words of my young niece, Sister Chelsea Newitt, serving in the Australian Melbourne Mission: "There is such a strong Spirit that comes when others are invited to come unto Christ! That's our purpose as missionaries. When we do that, no matter what situation it may be in, we are being true missionaries and representing our Savior."
These members of the "army of Helaman" in latter days know they are needed — they know they are happy!
The song concludes:
I have it, why not share it?
Why not share it with my brother?
And see the joy within me shine
In someone else's eyes
I know it and I love it,
Why not share it with my brother?
And see the joy within me shine
In someone else's eyes.
Which brings us to the ongoing result of this phenomenon.
These young men and women will return — armed with a living faith, armed with a tried and honed obedience — and armed with a Christ-like love. They will have learned how to look unto the Lord in every thought — to doubt not, to fear not (Doctrine and Covenants 6:34). They will marry and begin families of their own — families established upon this unshakeable foundation. Often both husband and wife will have served missions. And where do they go from here?
They go to the 141 temples that have been raised across the world — at least two dozen more LDS temples in progress. The temples will keep them grounded. Temple attendance will continue to increase their wisdom, their strength and their joy. Here they will continue to experience a closeness to the Savior, who is the source and the heart of the work.
The late LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson said it well:
"Temples are places of personal revelation. When I have been weighed down by a problem or difficulty, I have gone to the House of the Lord with a prayer in my heart for answers. The answers have come in clear and unmistakable ways" (see “What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple,” Ensign, Aug. 1985, page 8).
Thus the mighty host of Israel will be armed and ready for the challenges of the last days. They will be ready to participate in preparation for the Lord's Millennial reign.
God has carefully planned it. We are privileged to be part of the unfolding of that plan.
He will continue to ordain, structure, empower and bless.
"Be of good cheer," the Lord promises in Doctrine and Covenants 78:18, " for I will lead you along."
Of this our marvelous youths can testify.
Susan Evans McCloud is author of more than 40 books and has published screenplays, poetry and lyrics, including two songs in the LDS hymnbook. She has six children. She blogs at susanevansmccloud.blogspot.com.
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