As a young missionary, I took the counsel of Elder Marion D. Hanks, who visited us in the Eastern States Mission. …He challenged us to read an unmarked copy of the Book of Mormon at least two times. I took up the task. The first reading I was to mark or underline everything that pointed to or testified of Jesus Christ. I used a red pencil, and I underlined many passages. The second time, Elder Hanks said to highlight principles and doctrine of the gospel, and this time I used blue to mark the scriptures. I read the Book of Mormon twice, as suggested, and then two more times, using yellow and black to mark passages that stood out to me. …There was much more to my reading than just marking scriptures. With each reading of the Book of Mormon, front to back, I was filled with a profound love for the Lord. I felt a deeply rooted witness of the truth of His teachings and how they apply to “this day.” This book fits its title, “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” With that study and the spiritual witness that was received, I became a Book of Mormon missionary and a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
Our missionaries today are modern-day pioneers because they share this glorious message with people around the world, thus opening the way for our Heavenly Father’s children to know Him and His Son, Jesus Christ. Accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ opens the way for everyone to prepare for and receive ordinances and the blessings of the Church and the temple. Last general conference, President Russell M. Nelson reaffirmed “that the Lord has asked every worthy, able young man to prepare for and serve a mission” and that “a mission is also a powerful, but optional, opportunity” for “young and able sisters.” Dear young men and young women, your footsteps of faith will help you to follow the Lord’s invitation to serve missions—to be modern-day pioneers—by opening the way for God’s children to find and stay on the covenant path leading back to His glorious presence.
Together with our missionaries, we spent extended time with Jesus, studying Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John from the New Testament and 3 Nephi from the Book of Mormon. At the end of every missionary meeting, we found ourselves back in what we referred to as the “Five Gospels,” reading, discussing, considering, and learning about Jesus. For me, for Laurel, and for our missionaries, spending time with Jesus in the scriptures changed everything. We gained a deeper appreciation for who He was and what was important to Him. Together we considered how He taught, what He taught, the ways He showed love, what He did to bless and serve, His miracles, how He responded to betrayal, what He did with difficult human emotions, His titles and names, how He listened, how He resolved conflict, the world He lived in, His parables, how He encouraged unity and kindness, His capacity to forgive and to heal, His sermons, His prayers, His atoning sacrifice, His Resurrection, His gospel.
Today, when I think about the sequence of events that occurred, I see clearly how important the courage of my classmate was when he bore his testimony about the restored truth and presented me with tangible proof of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, even the Book of Mormon. That simple act, but of profound significance to me, created a connection between me and the missionaries when I met them.
…The opportunity for missionary service in our youth is unique! Please, young men, do not postpone your preparation to serve the Lord as missionaries. As you face situations that may make the decision to serve a mission a difficult one—such as interrupting your studies for a time, saying goodbye to your girlfriend without any guarantee that you will ever date her again, or even having to walk away from a job—remember the Savior’s example. During His ministry, He likewise faced difficulty, including criticism, persecution, and ultimately the bitter cup of His atoning sacrifice. Yet in all circumstances He sought to do the will of His Father and give glory to Him.
…The opportunities that await the worthy young men and young women of this Church in the mission field are unique. The privilege of representing the Savior Jesus Christ and His Church cannot be ignored. Participating in countless prayers, developing and bearing your testimony several times during the day, studying the scriptures for many hours, and meeting people whom you would never meet if you had stayed home are indescribable experiences.
Experiences like FSY conferences, camps, sacrament meetings, and missions can help to burnish our testimonies, taking us through arcs of growth and spiritual discovery to places of relative peace. But what must we do to stay there and continue to “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ” (2 Nephi 31:20) rather than slipping backward? We must continue to do those things that brought us there in the first place, like praying often, drenching ourselves in scripture, and serving sincerely.
I had been concerned with how to be a better missionary. This was the answer: to know Christ, to remember Him, and to serve Him. Missionaries throughout the world are united in this purpose: to “invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in [Him] and His Atonement” and through “repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.” To our friends who are listening to the missionaries, I add my invitation to come unto Christ. Together we will strive to know Him, remember Him, and serve Him.