Farewell Talk: Why do we serve missions?
Good afternoon brothers and sisters, my name is Will Tenney. My parents are Jon and Liz Tenney and I am the second of four boys. My older brother Stephen is currently serving his mission in the Colombia Cali Mission. He just hit his one-year mark last week. I am the second boy and just finished my senior year at Woodbridge High School this past Friday. Next comes Mark, he is a sophomore at Woodbridge and likes to think he is taller than me. Last and certainly not least is Jared. Jared just finished 7th grade and is my favorite brother, sorry not sorry Mark.
As many of you may know, I am leaving on Tuesday to serve a two-year voluntary mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have been assigned to labor in the Chile Santiago West Mission. This means that I will spend the next two years in the Santiago, Chile area and westwards towards the coast. During these two years I will learn the Spanish Language, walk hundreds of miles, bike hundreds of miles, get yelled at, get chased by dogs, and most importantly I will find people to teach them the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now, why would I sacrifice two years of school, friends, family, TV, and other activities to do this? That is what I would like to talk about today. I must admit, I was tempted to have my mother prepare my entire talk, but she wouldn’t be able to capture the emotion that drives me and 85,147 other young men and women that put their lives on hold to serve a mission.
The number one reason that I am serving a mission is that it is a commandment from the prophet. We have a modern living day prophet that guides our church. He acts as God’s voice on the earth. So when the prophet tells me that it is my duty to serve a mission, it is the same as God telling me that is my duty to serve a mission. I do not know about you, but if God tells me to do something, I am going to do it. We see in the scriptures that good things happen to those who do what God says, even if it means leaving family. Abraham was commanded to take his only son Isaac and to offer him as a burnt sacrifice. Could you imagine that? Well, Abraham obeyed God’s commandment to him and was immensely blessed as we can see in Genesis 22 versus 17 & 18:
“ 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. “
Abraham was promised that his seed would be as the stars of the Heaven. I wanted to know how great this was, so the other night I started to count the stars. Unfortunately, I lost count after about 3 and half million, so I gave up. But let’s be honest thats pretty neat to be promised, right? And the second verse says that in his seed the nations of the earth will be blessed. All of those blessings from just obeying God. I think we can learn from this story that doing what God tells you is a good idea.
The second reason I am serving a mission is to spread the happiness that the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings to my family and me. The Gospel teaches us of our true relation to God and to our families. We are spirit sons and daughters of God. He is the father of our spirits, our Heavenly Father. He knows us individually and loves us just like a father loves his child, except that His love for us is perfect. Doesn’t this knowledge make you happy? God, the creator of all things knows who you are. He knows your struggles, your pains, your triumphs, and He is there cheering you on through all these moments. That knowledge makes me very happy. The Gospel also teaches us that our families can be together for eternity. When a couple is married in the temple, their marriage does not end at death, but continues into the eternities. This means that your family is an eternal unit, a family for time and all eternity. I asked my seminary teacher Brother Cazier to share an experience of how this knowledge that families are eternal helped bring happiness into his life after his sister died. He told me
“Crystal died suddenly, so it was a real shock to me. But I felt the strong influence of the Comforter the first few days after she died, which not only helped me feel a lot better myself, but also helped me be a strength to a lot of other friends and family. That strong comfort subsided over time, and at that point I really felt the sting of her death. But that sting was swallowed up with the knowledge that, thanks to Christ and our temple blessings, she is always my sister, our family is still whole, I would see her again, and that she was free from all of the hardships that we have to deal with down here. “
From this we can see how the knowledge of the family’s true relationship helped Brother Cazier overcome sorrow and brings happiness back into his life. I love my family and the knowledge that families can be together forever definitely brings happiness into my life. I cannot wait to share this knowledge and happiness with others.
Another reason I am serving a mission is found in Doctrine & Covenants section 18. In versus 10-11 we read:
“ 10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. “
Our worth to God is priceless and He desires that we all return to live with Him. This is only done through repentance by utilizing the atonement of Jesus Christ. Christ suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross for each and every one of us individually. He took our sins upon Himself so that if we repented we could be clean and return to Him. As missionaries, we find people who desire to repent and return to our Heavenly Father. This is the sole task of a missionary. The missionary “mission statement” or purpose states this:
“Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”
This is why missionaries talk to people in the streets, go knocking door to door, and serve missions. When we find these people, teach them, and see their progress through repentance it brings us great joy. If we keep reading verses 15 and 16 in Doctrine and Covenants in section 18 it says:
”15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me! “
When people repent and come unto Christ, it brings joy to those who helped them in the process. Missionaries are working with all their strength to find people, teach them about repentance, and help them come unto Christ, just as God wants. And more and more people are serving missions thus bringing more and more people back to God and Christ, just as They both desire.
Missionaries also serve missions to help hasten the Lord’s work. We read in the book of Moses, chapter 1, verse 39:
“39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
God’s work is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, or more simply put, to have his children repent and come unto Him. So what does it mean to hasten God’s work then? It means to speed up the process of bringing souls back to Heavenly Father. That is why we have missionaries, to go and find people rather than having them find us. The Lord told Joseph Smith that he would hasten the work in His own time. Over the years prophets have helped missionaries hasten the work by sending them to new countries all around the world. It is the same reason that the Book of Mormon is available in 110 different languages. All of this is done:
“59 For the purpose of building up my church and kingdom on the earth, and to prepare my people for the time when I shall dwell with them, which is nigh at hand.”
Recently the age at which young men and women could serve their mission was changed from 19 to 18 for men and from 21 to 19 for women. All of these changes and expansions allow missionaries to hasten the work.
As we can see, there are a lot of reasons why I, and hundreds of other boys and girls around the world, are choosing to put theirs lives on hold in order to serve a mission. We do it to help people repent and return God and Jesus Christ, we do it to help them find joy and happiness in this life, we do it because the prophet commands it. I am grateful for the opportunity I have to serve a mission, but I would be able to if it weren’t for my parents. Since the day I was born they raised me to be ready to serve a mission. If I didn’t have great seminary teachers, I wouldn’t have a more complete understanding of the Gospel and I wouldn’t be able to teach it to others. I’m grateful for the priesthood leaders that have taught me how to honor the priesthood and use it to hasten the work of God. I’d like to leave you with my testimony of this church. I’d leave to leave you with my testimony that God and Jesus Christ live, and that Jesus came to the earth and suffered for each and every one of us so that we could repent, be comforted, and be able to return to Him. I’d like to bear testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet that saw God and Jesus Christ, and that through Joseph Smith the Gospel was restored in it’s fullness. I Know that the Book of Mormon is the word of the prophets of the American Continents, that it is the word of God. I know that families are eternal and that this does and will continue to bring us great joy. I know that missionary work is true and that what the missionaries teach is true. No young man or women would leave their family and friends for two years to teach something that wasn’t true. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the true and living latter-day prophet. This testimony I leave with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.