Scouting can open a whole new world of opportunity for you. Scout high-adventure, service, advancement and leadership can significantly help prepare you to successfully hit the ground running when you enter the MTC and then the mission field. But, you can’t stop being a Scout once you receive your Eagle. You must continue to soar, practicing Scouting principles and leadership, until you receive your call as a missionary.
As a missionary, you will need to be courageous, confident, have a strong burning testimony, be worthy of the Lord’s spirit, and be willing to sacrifice all things… whatever it takes, in order to do the will of the Lord.
Let me tell you my story, and the story of my missionaries, that allowed for success to rule the day. I encourage each of you to connect-the-dots in your own lives, determining how you can apply Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting principles to hasten the Lord’s work when it is your time to have the baton passed to you as a Missionary in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I think back to a time in my life when I had just graduated from college at BYU and I had been selected to attend Marine Corps Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, Virginia. Successful completion of this three-month training program meant that I would be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.
I received a letter from the Commanding Officer of OCS congratulating me on my acceptance and then warning me that if I did not prepare well, that the probability of my failure would be almost certain. It was not uncommon for as many as 60% of the officer candidates to drop out of this Marine Corps training. It was described as the equivalent of trying out for a NFL football team, but much more stressful.
I made a decision the day that I received that letter that I would prepare myself well before showing up for the beginning of my training. Along with meeting rigid academic and leadership standards, physical fitness was one very important factor in successfully completing this training and receiving my commission to lead Marines. So, I would do hundreds of pull-ups, sit-ups, and other calisthenics each day. Endurance running was also important. I would get up early in the morning and run. I’d run to school, and to work. I’d run at night. I’d go on 7 and 10 and 12 mile runs up in the canyons and mountains above Utah Valley. I’d do wind sprints down at the BYU track and field facility, and up the football stadium stairs. I’d ride my bike on gruesome treks up mountain passes, and swim down at the pool for over a mile at a time.
As my stamina and strength increased through this exercise regime I turned it up a notch by trading my Nike running shoes for Vibram soled hiking boots. I took a small backpack and filled it up with canned goods from our pantry. I then would do the same intensive running regime as before but this time with boots and a loaded down backpack on. The end result was that when I showed up for OCS I had already prepared for and put myself through the same type of physical stress that I knew the Marines would put me through in training camp. It was still very hard and challenging. However, I knew that if I did my very best the Lord would see me through and I would be successful. Through proper preparation, I was able to survive the physical stress, successfully complete the training, and received my commission as a second lieutenant.
Preparing properly as a Scout, and an Aaronic Priesthood man, is what I want to talk to you about so that you will be ready for the extraordinary calling of Missionary in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Missionaries are warriors in the Lord’s Army. They are engaged in combat on the front-lines, bringing the gospel to a troubled world. Missionaries are the tip-of-the-spear! They directly represent the Lord’s prophet and apostles.
Missionary work is rigorous work. Make no mistake about it. It will most likely be the hardest and most challenging thing that you have ever done up to this point in your life. As Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Twelve has stated, “it is not for spiritual weaklings.” President Hinckley exclaimed, “missionary work is a discouraging work.” The same admonition applies here that I received in the letter from the U. S. Marine OCS commanding officer: if potential missionaries do not prepare well prior to their missions the probability of their failure will be almost certain.
Scouts who prepare properly will be able to exercise faith, courage, obedience, sacrifice, and work hard in the mission field. A mighty change occurs within them. They become strong, courageous, confident, and responsible. They develop burning testimonies of the gospel. They also taste the fruits of the spirit, and experience heavenly joy, as they are able to find, teach, and baptize precious sons and daughters of God. They come out on their missions as boys and return home, after honorable missionary service, as men; and, as a new generation of church, business, and community leaders.
On the other hand, those that do not prepare properly find themselves out in the mission field in a very awkward and unsettling situation. They are in a weakened state, struggling to develop the spiritual strength and confidence necessary to put their testimonies on the line day in and day out as they attempt to look for the elect of God. They may not always have the Holy Ghost to guide them, and comfort them, if they really never knew Him back home. In far too many cases, young men in this category, ultimately have to be sent back home. The scriptural proclamation, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear,” (D & C 38:30) applies so readily here.
So what can you do as a Scout and Aaronic Priesthood holder to prepare? There are many things that you must learn how to do (e.g., teaching, scripture and Preach My Gospel mastery, goal-setting, planning, companionship unity, cleaning your apartment, preparing meals, and laundering clothes); but, three things are essential, for preparing for a successful mission. They include:
- Being clean and worthy
- Having a burning testimony of the gospel
- Knowing how to work
(1) Being clean and worthy. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” It is absolutely essential that young men, Scouts, are morally clean before coming on a mission. Paraphrasing Elder M. Russell Ballard, “it is not enough to believe that you can be involved in serious sexual transgression until six months before your mission and then repent. Young men and women who have this attitude may not be allowed to go on a mission.”
Sexual sins are most grievous to the Lord. The prophet Alma counseling his son Corianton, who had been caught in sexual transgression exclaimed, “Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood….” (Alma 39:5) Although repentance will ultimately bring forgiveness, it does not automatically refill one’s spiritual lamp with oil. This will occur long after forgiveness is received. Regaining spiritual strength and comfort from the Lord must be earned. Unlike prepared missionaries whose lamps are filled to the brim with oil, and will be guided and sustained greatly on their missions, the “repent and go” missionaries may have to walk a long hard road before this spiritual sustainment returns to them.
My fellow Scouts I challenge you to be worthy. If you are already worthy stay clean. If you are not worthy, don’t wait another day. Counsel with your parents and priesthood leaders. Get your life in order with the Lord. Full repentance is required. You will need to fill your spiritual lamp with oil before you will be ready to serve as a missionary!
(2) Having a burning testimony. Testimony is the fire within each missionary that gives them the desire, courage, and confidence to face the World. It is a love for the Lord, and the people that they will teach. It is a spiritual strength and knowledge that comes by the Holy Ghost as they exercise faith, as they study and pray, walk in obedience, and are willing to make any sacrifice for the Lord. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, of the Twelve states, “Missionaries need to have burning testimonies of the Book of Mormon. Daily, prayerful study of the Book of Mormon is vital.”
Missionaries testify of Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the gospel, modern-day prophets and apostles, the Lord Jesus Christ and God our eternal Father. How can you expect to knock on doors, go up to people out on the street, or approach people in a myriad of other ways, if you are not sure? If you haven’t been truly converted to the gospel, you can’t. You will need a burning testimony in order to have the courage and the love to declare gospel truths to a troubled world.
I challenge you to read the Book of Mormon. If you have already read it, congratulations, read it again before you go on your mission. Read it slowly and with purpose. Don’t just read it, but treasure it up. Make it your book. Personalize your scripture study so that it provides direction to the challenges and opportunities that you are facing in life.
Fasting and praying while studying your scriptures can be especially beneficial. It can literally open the windows of heaven allowing you to have direct communication with your Heavenly Father. Jacob’s son Enos is an excellent example of someone who practiced these principles. “I cried…in mighty prayer and supplication…[raising] my voice high that it reached the heavens. My faith began to be unshaken…I prayed with many long strugglings…I prayed and labored with all diligence.” (Enos Chapter 1) As a missionary you will teach your investigators these precious principles.
Scouts, I challenge you to develop a burning testimony of the gospel. You need to know that Heavenly Father answers prayers, that the Book of Mormon is true, and that the restored gospel is on the Earth. This will only come through a confirmation by the spirit. The Book of Mormon is the primary instrument that the Lord has provided mankind with to gain this burning testimony and spiritual confirmation. You will rely on it in the conversion of others; you will need to put it to the test first in your own lives.
(3) Knowing how to work. Work is what missionaries do. Missionaries work, day after day, after day,…week, after week after week,…month after month after everlasting month. You need to know how to work. You must learn to stretch yourselves to your limit before you go out. The Lord has commanded, “Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.” (D & C 42:42)
As one of your goals for working, earn money for your mission. Make your offering acceptable to the Lord by paying for part, or for your entire mission. Like tithing, it is an outward expression of an inner commitment that you have made to the Lord. Almost without exception, those missionaries who were employed, and worked hard, prior to their missions, are much stronger, more productive, and happier missionaries, than those who did not have employment.
One of the best ways that you can prepare for a mission is by working at Scout Camps and Timberline NYLT courses. Summer camp staff experiences provide Scouts the ability to: lead, organize, teach, team-build, develop companionship unity, interact with adults, work hard, take care of themselves, and adjust to family separation. These attributes are necessary to develop in order to thrive in the mission field.
It is also important for you to learn how to do the work that missionaries call tracting (meeting and sharing the gospel with people spontaneously out in town, in neighborhoods, and on doorsteps). While you are still home go tracting with the missionaries as often as you can. Don’t just tag along, ask the missionaries to let you do door approaches, alternating with them. Learn how to hand out pass-along cards. Learn to be bold and urgent.
Remember, you are going to have to take a giant leap of faith, which will require a lot of courage, and the confidence that your Heavenly Father has your back, while going up to complete strangers and trying to share the gospel with them. Your MTC experience, and your transition into the mission field, will be filled with confidence and excitement if you prepare to share the gospel now.
Scouts, I challenge you to really learn how to work; to earn money for your mission; and, to experience now, how to do missionary work while at home.
If you will prepare yourselves properly for missionary service it will be one of the highlights of your entire life. You will make eternal friends. You will touch hearts by sharing the glorious message of the gospel. You will grow and blossom in ways unimaginable. President Hinckley says, “I cannot promise you ease and comfort. But, I can promise you that you will grow as you have never grown…I can promise you a happiness that will be unique and wonderful and lasting…that you will live closer to the Lord.”
In a letter to his parents, an Elder describes the miracle that has taken place on his mission.
Missionary Letter: The Miracle of my Mission
“I have learned what really is important. I have learned to forget myself. I have learned to work effectively. I’ve learned to love others. I have learned that God loves me and I love Him. In short, I have learned to live what I believe. I have learned about people and things. I have watched as tears of joy have come to people who never knew they were children of God. I have seen the prayers of the penitent be answered. I have seen people absorb the gospel of Jesus Christ and want to change into new persons all because of a feeling. I often dream about the plan of salvation. I think about the marvelous work and wonder that has taken place. I think about the power and force of angels that stand among us. I wonder at times how many of these are around me helping to bear testimony in a language that I thought I would never be able to fully understand. I ponder upon the peaceful things of immortal glory envisioned by Enoch. I am thankful to God to be who I am. My greatest blessing in life is to be alive in the service of our God, in this I find great peace and joy.”
In conclusion, I promise you that if you will prepare properly as a Scout and bearer of the Aaronic Priesthood, you will receive a higher commission than I did as a 2nd lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. Your commission will be as an ambassador of the Lord, as a leader in His army.
Elder Bruce R McConkie describes the Missionary’s Commission:
“I am called of God. My authority is above that of kings of the Earth. By revelation, I have been selected as a personal representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is my Master and He has chosen me to represent Him–to stand in His place, to say and do what He Himself would say and do if He personally were ministering to the very people to whom He has sent me. My voice is His voice, and my acts are His acts; my doctrine is His doctrine. My Commission is to do what He wants done; to say what He wants said; to be a living modem witness in word and in deed of the divinity of His great and marvelous latter-day work. How great is my calling!”
God bless you my dear Scouts as we go forward together in this mighty work. It is an exciting and sacred work. And, if you remain true and faithful, this will be just the beginning of your missionary service! For this work will continue to go forth into eternity. It is the Lord’s intent for us to play a valiant part in His work both in time and in eternity. “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39)
These insights I share with you as your brother, and in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Author: Steve Sutherland | Camping Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA. He served as President of the Texas Houston East Mission with his wife Brenda from 2002–2005