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Wright Words: What a temple trip can teach about missionary work

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 26 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Last week, my wife and I had the unique pleasure of going to the Washington D.C. Temple with four full-time missionaries: Elders Spencer Jensen and Jake Zaugg and Sisters Briana Moore and Skye Chapman. Elders and sisters in the Maryland Baltimore Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are allowed to attend the temple once every six months on a rotating schedule by stake and zone.

Inside the temple, we ran into other sets of Mormon missionaries we knew from previous service in and around our ward. It’s always a treat to watch missionaries reunite with one another, no matter where those meetings take place. But there was something spiritually electric about watching them shake hands and embrace in the house of the Lord.

As our temple work began, I stayed close to the elders and my wife to the sisters and we noted how odd it was to see them without their trademark nametags. Later, in the celestial room, I realized it wasn’t just unusual — it was highly instructional.

As they walked in, one by one, the missionaries whispered quietly and seemed to admire and appreciate the splendor of the room and the beauty of the moment. But the longer I observed them, the more their countenances changed.

They weren't missionaries, they were spiritual siblings gathered together to do the same work.

There were no nametags, no scripture bags in tow and no other telltale signs. They were our brothers and sisters engaged in precisely the same kind of work as my wife and me and the other patrons scattered around the room.

There we were doing the same critical work for those who've passed away and await the blessings of the restored gospel.

As we prepared to leave, I wondered what would happen as their nametags went back on and we exited the doors of the temple.

Our missions would revert, our callings would return and our relationship would slide back to the its traditional member and missionary tug of war.

But why should it?

What's so different about the work outside of the temple as our work inside the house of the Lord?

Historically, members and missionaries view their roles as night and day, nametag and no nametag.

"You do your thing," we tell the full-time missionaries, "and we'll do ours."

But why?

Are we all not commanded to hasten the work of salvation? Have we all not made covenants to proclaim the gospel?

The only difference between full-time missionary work and member missionary work is that they have an added layer of responsibility as set apart and full-time representatives of the LDS Church. They are removed from the distractions of the world that occupy the rest of us — family, work and other church callings — so that they might operate at a different level.

But don't we share their obligation to find, to teach, to invite others to come to Jesus Christ?

Missionaries in this particular mission have been challenged to talk to a minimum of 20 people a day and you can't get out of a restaurant, grocery store or gas station without the missionaries, at a minimum, handing out a Mormon.org card.

As a young missionary myself, I remember a similar thirst to talk to everyone.

Where did that thirst go?

Can't each of us find a way to invite a restaurant server to church? Can't we all hand a pass-along card to a cabdriver or the stylist cutting our hair?

Imagine how the work might change if members and missionaries fully appreciated that we are doing the same work on the same team with the same purposes.

By sheer scheduling coincidence, the very next day I had the opportunity to attend the temple again with a member of our ward going for the first time. There were missionaries in that session as well, and I had the opportunity to say hello and to be reminded of the impressions I felt just 24 hours earlier.

It was as if the Spirit were whispering to me that if I hadn't gotten the message yesterday, here it is on rerun.

Their work is your work and your work is theirs.

Yes, they are different. Yes, they are full-time dedicated and set apart servants of the Lord with the high honor of wearing his name on their chest.

But the work and the promises of Doctrine and Covenants 4 are for everyone — nametag or not.

Jason Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars" and "The Wednesday Letters." Learn more at jasonfwright.com, or connect on Facebook at facebook.com/jfwbooks or by email at jwright@deseretnews.com.

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